By Trevor Busch
The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) is looking for feedback and information from producers and water users in the area through an upcoming open house that will help inform future programming.
Being organized in conjunction with the Taber Irrigation District (TID) and Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA), the open house will be hosted at the Heritage Inn from 2-5 p.m. on January 31.
“We’re looking at producers, irrigators, people who are interested in land stewardship,” said Cody Spencer, watershed legacy program manager. “We’re going to be doing a little bit of a panel discussion on the future of agriculture, stewardship, challenges, solutions, and then we’re going to be breaking out into a little bit of a roundtable discussion where everyone gets to give their input on what they’d like to see happen, and perspectives.”
Spencer reported the information to be gathered will be used to inform and design the implementation of the OWC’s new rural programs.
“The Oldman Watershed Council does a variety of things, but one thing we focus on is supporting agriculture and conserving the use of water. We want to maintain a high water quality level. Our outcome is to see what people’s priorities are in the future, what they see coming down the pipe for agriculture, particularly in the social realms, in the economic realm, and environmentally. So from there, what we hear from people, we’re going to be crafting our next two years of rural programs, our agriculture rural support programs, along with some of our partners will be using the information as well. So the outcome will be how can we best support the agriculture community.”
The event session will feature a panel of local agricultural experts with updates on current stewardship projects in the area, and public roundtable discussions on the direction and future of agriculture in southern Alberta, and how the OWC can support the agricultural community and the rural way of life.
The event — titled as Voices of the Oldman: Agriculture Matters — will kick off with a presentation by TID district manager Chris Gallagher, followed by Jamie Puchinger, assistant manager of Farming Smarter. The panel of experts will be rounded out by PGA board chair Ed Vandenberg and OWC executive director Shannon Frank.
Spencer is hoping to see anywhere from 40 to 60 interested stakeholders attend the session.
“Anyone that has any input, and a valid perspective, and is involved in agriculture, land use, that kind of thing.”
Subsequent events are planned by the OWC for the Twin Butte Community Hall on Feb. 10 from 1-4 p.m., and the Stavely Community Hall from 2-5 p.m. on March 1.
“Taber is going to be the first one,” said Spencer. “We’re going to be doing one in Twin Butte on February 10, and then Stavely March 1.”
Gathering the kind of information it hopes to hear from producers and land users through the meeting format is extremely important for the OWC in formulating program offerings that more effectively meet the needs of those who use them.
“It’s extremely important, because we can speculate on what people want to see, or what people truly need help with, what they actually think the problems are, but until we hear it from people that are out on the land dealing with issues on a day to day basis — we need people to actually tell us what’s going on,” said Spencer. “There’s quite a bit of a rural-urban disconnect. People in the cities don’t exactly know what’s going on out on the land, and that creates a lot of problems. So if we can get this information straight from the producer’s mouth, that can go a long way in focusing our efforts.”
The OWC’s mandate is generally a focus on maintaining water quality in the Oldman River watershed.
“We have a pretty broad mandate, which is simply to maintain water quality in the Oldman watershed, working with all stakeholders while maintaining a neutral position on a lot of issues. We advise the government, but we’re not a division of the government,” said Spencer.
The event is free, but interested individuals need to register either by calling the OWC at 403-330-1346, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting the website at http://www.oldmanwatershed.ca to find the Eventbrite link.