| Oct 30, 2008

Oct 30/08 - New Farm Project

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Feature Article - October 30, 2008 NFU Local 316’s New Farm ProjectBy Julie Druker

Supporters of the NFU's New Farm Project, l to r: Andrea Cumpson, Ron Vandewal, Diane Dowling, Ian Stutt, Grant Robertson and Ian Dowling.

The NFU’s "New Farm Project" was officially announced to the press at the National Farm Union’s Region 3 (Ontario) Convention that took place this past Saturday in Sunbury.

The “New Farm Project”, initiated by the NFU, is an internship program designed to “build a more sustainable local food system in Kingston and its countryside”, explained Andrea Cumpson, the president of NFU Local 316.

The project’s goal is to enable more people to get involved in farming through education, training and support, thereby strengthening the region’s farm community and the local food system.

The project will establish a new chapter of the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) which is made up of roughly 12 Ontario farms, each offering internships that provide training for the farmers of tomorrow.

The New Farm Project will help set up the first eight host farms for 2009 and will eventually include a total of 14 farms. The project anticipates that by 2012, 44 interns will have passed through the project and many will go on to future farming ventures.

A total of $250,000 over a four-year period will be made available for the project from Heifer International, a not-for-profit, donor organization that promotes self sustenance and reliability in communities around the world and whose goal is to end world hunger and poverty.

Ron Vandewal, a farmer himself and a councilor in South Frontenac, welcomed the new project and said, “The township is currently working on a new official plan review to designate some large tracts of agricultural land in South Frontenac to be used specifically for agricultural purposes. These lands include a large tract on Sunbury Road and some land in Portland as well.” He added, “If a program like this will encourage someone to take up the challenge of farming, that’s great.”

Grant Robertson, NFU’s Ontario Region 3 co-coordinator, spoke about the practicality of the new program especially in regard to the recent research that the NFU has accumulated. Robertson explained, “Over the last 15 years Ontario has lost 62% of our farmers under the age of 32 which is a demographic crisis we are heading for. So this program is very important to ensure that we have people farming in the community to feed the community.”

He explained that the project offers future farmers an inroad into farming without them having to invest considerable amounts of money from the start but, rather, to get involved and have a positive chance to succeed.

Ian Stutt, the New Farm Project’s co-coordinator, described the details of the project and its incentive to encourage both new and established farmers to gain practical experience and education in order to increase the amount of local food available to the local community. He said, “It’s a project with lots of moving parts, a 4-year project that will include workshops and conferences that will evolve gradually with the focus of supporting farms, new and established, and creating a greater supply of food grown and raised here for the local market.”

It’s also a project that is open to people of all ages who might be considering a future in farming but may have little or no experience. Interns can work over an extended period of time, probably from early spring until November. They will likely be paid a stipend and given room and board, but each host farm and intern will have the flexibility to set up their own terms.

There will be an opportunity for anyone curious or who wants to get involved in the project either as a host or hosted farmer at a fall gathering event on Saturday, November 29, location to be announced at a later date. More information about the new project can be found at www.newfarmproject.ca of by calling Ian Stutt at 613 767-6037

The viability of local farming was demonstrated in the lunch that was offered to the convention participants by local farmers Pat and Rick Dawson of Desert Lake Gardens of Sydenham, who served sandwiches, soups, cookies and muffins all made from local meat and produce, a practical and delicious reminder of the benefits that this new program has to offer.

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