Back in the saddle: Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisory Program stays in the race
A well subscribed farm advisor program for the Kootenay-Boundary region will be back for the next five years.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors approved the allocation of $45,000 per year — for the draft 2024-2028 Financial Plan budget — that allows the Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisor (KBFA) program to continue.
Since the program was first created in 2016, around 800 farms have reached out and received support from the program.
Developed through partnership with the RDCK, Regional District of East Kootenay, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, and Columbia Basin Trust, the KBFA provides farmers with free, technical production support and information.
This includes phone calls, emails and on-farm visits, said Sangita Sudan, RDCK general manager of Development and Community Sustainability Services. One-on-one support has been provided 2,804 times to a producer, and producers have been linked with experts 621 times. In total, KBFA advisors have made 551 farm visits.
The Kootenay Farmer Newsletter published by the KBFA has over 1,400 subscribers, said Sudan in her report to the RDCK board on Oct. 19, with the top three locations of subscribers being Nelson, Creston and Cranbrook.
“The RDCK Agriculture Area Plan (AAP) completed in 2011 identified a need for farmers to access agriculture extension services to support on farm practices and concerns,” said Sudan. “As a resource to farmers KBFA has become a “go to” for information about farms in the region.”
The board approve accepting the responsibility of managing the contract for KBFA through the RDCK development and community sustainability department. The funding from CBT, RDEK and RDKB has been approved.
A look back
The KBFA program formed in May 2016 and is a project developed through partnership with the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Columbia Basin Trust and the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK).
Two staff representing the RDCK — Stuart Horn and Sangita Sudan — along with one board member were appointed to the KBFA steering committee. Currently, director Kelly Vandenberghe (Area C) is the RDCK board representative.
With funding contributions of $60,000 per year by the regional districts and CBT, Keefer Ecological Services Ltd. was selected by the steering committee following a request for proposal process, and the contract was approved by all three boards and the CBT.
The contract with Keefer has since then been managed by the RDEK, while the service delivery has been informed through collaboration and consensus at the steering committee.
Source: RDCK Oct. 19 agenda
Keeping the faith
Some of the innovative and proactive work of KBFA includes soil health projects in collaboration with the University of B.C. and KBFA representatives have been invited to sit on a steering committee for the B.C. Climate Action Initiative — Irrigation Efficiency Project, said Sudan.
“KBFA representatives meet regularly with B.C. Ministry of Agriculture staff on numerous topics such as identifying extension activities in the region and provide feedback on … projects,” she said.