By Heather Cameron
Westwind Weekly News
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sean Kjos, Communications Coordinator for Farming Smarter, says that the mandate of Farming Smarter is to inspire and empower innovation in agriculture by bridging ideas, conducting practical research and sharing the knowledge they cultivate.
“We apply, adapt, and encourage adoption of innovative crop technologies and management practices that make farming more successful and sustain environmental, social and economic health,” Kjos said.
Kjos says that Farming Smarter conducts research projects with the goal of improving the resilience of crop production in southern Alberta, which includes testing new and existing management practices, technology, and crops to serve innovative producers, agronomists, and agricultural stakeholders while partnering with like-minded organizations involved in agriculture innovation, applied research and knowledge transfer in production agriculture.
“Our most exciting current projects are Upland Rice, exploring the possibility of growing rice in southern Alberta, our Saving Soils project which explores terminating cover crops in two unique ways to assist with crop growth, and our Tillage and Seeding Systems for Canola project which is just wrapping up its final year,” Kjos said.
Kjos says that those wanting more information on the research projects can visit: https://www.farmingsmarter.com/latest-projects.
“We focus on innovative research and industry extension – a large part of our knowledge transfer and network program is focused on communicating the research we’re undertaking and ensuring that relevant information lands in the hands of those who need it,” Kjos said. “We service farmers, researchers, and other industry members through online communications, a magazine which releases twice a year, and multiple events throughout the year both online and digital.”
Kjos says that Farming Smarter strives to produce relevant content at a consistent rate to keep their audience up to date and engaged.
“Our magazine has two publication dates, one in the spring and the other in the fall,” Kjos said. “The spring publication consists of a research review and highlights the data we’ve recorded from the previous year while the fall publication extends past our teams and covers stories from across the industry.”
The rest of Farming Smarter’s content, Kjos says, includes this mixture of industry-focused content as well as Farming Smarter specific content.
“Our podcasts and news articles shine a light on problems we’re seeing or provide updates on our research projects and advertise upcoming events or changes to the organization,” Kjos said. “We use the content to populate our newsletters and social media, as the former is the best way for us to reach our audience while the latter helps us cast a wider net to reach more people.”
Farming Smarter, Kjos says, is led by 10 full-time staff members and backed by a competency-based board of directors. Each summer, Kjos says, the team doubles in size as they hire students as seasonal employees to assist with the tasks of the growing season. Information about the team members, Kjos says, is available at the Farming Smarter staff directory: https://www.farmingsmarter.com/staff-directory.
“Agricultural professionals and the community appreciate Farming Smarter for the role they provide,” Kjos said. “We have been commended for the work Farming Smarter does by multiple members of the industry while attending other events on behalf of the organization.”
Farming Smarter, Kjos says, also hosts a two-day in-person Conference in February every year at the Lethbridge Sandman Signature Hotel to review agronomy research in southern Alberta.
“Here, we invite researchers from the region to share their results from the previous year as well,” Kjos said. “We also host field events throughout the summer to showcase the research we’re undertaking, and a community-focused event in August called Open Farm Days – which is part of a province-wide initiative to bridge the cap between agriculture and the public. The field events & Open Farm Days take place at our facility in Lethbridge.”
Additionally, Kjos says, Farming Smarter hosts two virtual events each year; our Pesticide Applicator Workshop where producers and agronomists can receive continuing education credits annually, and a Global Crop Production Virtual Conference which hosts agriculture professionals from across the globe to speak on the problems and research they’re undertaking in their corner of the world.
“All of our events are focused on effectively communicating agricultural research and informing the public, be it general or specifically agricultural,” Kjos said. “Our audience appreciates the opportunities to learn, receive professional development, and network with members of the industry at one event which has led to positive responses year after year. The work Farming Smarter does is important for the agriculture industry as they not only provide relevant, regional research but also provide extension and support for researchers in general. This industry is too fast paced to effectively keep up with itself. Without organizations like Farming Smarter championing extension opportunities, it would slow the advancement of the industry and only set it up for failure.”