Saturday, June 30

Oral history lives on through puppetry at UNESCO site

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It has long been recognized that oral history has stood the test of time among Canada’s indigenous societies as a valid historical record. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been preserving this tradition through a puppetry initiative at the interpretive centre that will become part of the regular program this summer, according to marketing director Quinton Crow Shoe:

“The puppet show is something we want to push this summer because First Nations culture is an oral culture. Many of our stories, traditions and customs are passed down orally. We have taken it a step further – successfully – with puppeteers for school groups and visitors, and we are making this a regular program during the summer for guests to enjoy.”

The heritage site has also enjoyed much success with its tipi camp, which is booking up fast. This is an adventure for all ages, but it appeals most to families or recreational groups who get to spend the night in a canvas tipi and may, upon request, be part of camp set‑up to learn the traditional methods of assembling tipis, as part of an authentic Blackfoot experience.

Company focuses on the traveller

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Good Earth Travel Adventures has kept its energy solidly anchored in the Canadian Rockies and West Coast since the company was launched over a decade ago, but what distinguishes it from others in these iconic destinations is the fluidity of the relationship the company establishes with its customers. In owner J.P. Obbagy's view, tailor-made travel… means “tailor-made” throughout:

“There are a number of self‑drive packages on our website that we use as a template for people to pick the type of vacation that they are interested in. We take those templates and modify them according to what their real interests are. Our customers tend to be people who don’t want to travel as part of a group, who seek an independent experience. Yet, they like the idea of having the assistance in organizing the trip and the support while they are travelling.

“We go through a whole interview process with them – about 15 to 20 minutes – to find out what they like and what is important in their idea of a vacation. From this interview, we create a trip proposal which goes back to them. We go back and forth making refinements until it is what they want. If they accept, we put it together and make it happen. We specialize in multiple destinations and more complicated itineraries. We don’t focus so much on single destinations (like staying in Banff for a week) because that is where we provide the best value for a complete travel experience.”

Good Earth then delivers a single package with a price that includes car rental, accommodations, meals (if requested) and activities for each location.

“They have a whole menu of activities to choose from and a few possible upgrades available. For instance, they might prefer a private guide to hiking in a small group. We are buying at wholesale and we’re building in a mark‑up that covers our services. Within that, we include the assistance in helping them choose activities and the coordination between all the destinations – plus they can phone us at any time. It is an open door policy once they book with us.”

About three to four weeks before they arrive, Obbagy says customers receive a travel package with guide books, maps with the routes highlighted and (what he calls) a TravelJournal: “It is a custom‑bound document specifically tailored for them with driving directions, instructions specific to their trip and all the vouchers that they just tear off, with tips for each destination they are visiting. When they don’t have anything scheduled, they can explore on their own. We also include special short driving tours they might want to take or short hikes, walks, suggestions for local restaurants or coffee shops. We try to focus on the local stuff and stay away from chains, so we can really get them involved in the destination.

“The one final inclusion – and one of our biggest features – is our TripConcierge, whereby customers have 24/7 access to a live person while travelling, for whatever reason. We recently had some customers who had difficulty following driving directions or a map, phoning us twice a day for guidance. Or, something may be wrong at the hotel or they may not be happy with the room; we just tell them to call us, so they don’t have to worry about it. They can go out for dinner, enjoy the evening and it’ll be all taken care of when they get back. It is the support element in what we do that is probably one of the most important reasons why people choose us.”

Obbagy is well aware of the amount of preparation work required for people who travel independently. “I know there are a lot of folks who don’t have that much time on their hands. There are many FIT companies out there doing a good job, but I wanted to hit the next level of support that would allow people to have real choice. I very much believe in the concept of being a traveller, as opposed to being a tourist. I believe that there are many people out there who understand that difference, even if it is not constantly on their mind.”

Obbagy has given much thought to where tourism operators are headed as tourism experience crafters: “I believe the future lies in being able to empower consumers to customize their experiences through automated mechanisms, because what we are doing right now is very labour intensive. Some people will use us to plan a trip without ever booking. It is frustrating. I also have found it is very important to communicate properly the value your company is providing to consumers and to be very clear on what that value is.”

With this in mind, Obbagy’s team will be launching a new web storefront later this year to properly communicate that value to consumers. “They may not be able to book everything online, but if we can tailor our travel product acquisitions in the way we are able to buy computers online right now, with the proper knowledge of what the real destination is about (not just the touristy stuff but real insight into the destination), I think that is the future.”

Obbagy has studied the power of relationships with one’s partners, and the importance of treating people fairly; he knows that some values just don’t come with an expiry date!

Having multiple activities pays off

(Originally published in TOURISM)

With its boreal location in Northern Saskatchewan, La Ronge’s Eagle Point Resort is a little off the beaten track for most prairie travellers. However, it has been doing steady business in short-haul markets over the years, according to manager Lolita Poirier, because of its efforts to offer guests a wide array of activities. “There are more groups wanting to experience different things throughout their stay. They don’t just want to stay in one of our cottages; they like to tour the area and take in activities like hiking and day tours to Nistowiak Falls. We make these activities possible for our guests."

"The operational watchwords at the resort are "never say no,” Poirier points out. “If they want it, I can get it for them. If I can’t, I’ll find the person or operator who can.” Poirier sees a trend emerging at Eagle Point towards more groups and family reunions. "Guests stay in cottages and RV sites, they eat at our restaurant, they just might do a mini‑golf tournament and may want to have a taste of the houseboat experience, or they may book one of our half‑day or supper cruises on Lake La Ronge. We are seeing a small increase in people coming from Alberta, while most of our guests are from Saskatchewan."

Making it easier for trade partners to do business with you

(Originally published in TOURISM)

CanaDream Campers president Brian Gronberg is looking forward to a strong summer, thanks to the fact people like Canada, he says, and to a forecasted recovery from last year’s challenges. “Germany is a significant growth market but all markets are reflecting growth,” he notes.

Gronberg’s mind never strays too far away from another factor that makes a world of difference in RV rental and other travel trade sectors: the need to make it easier for trade partners to do business with you. “We always work on technology aiming to make our product more accessible to our partners through their web programs. We focus on a He who gets the costumer first – wins! approach. And we make the technology work to bridge real time inventory and online bookings through our partners' sites, while supporting their efforts – and their brand – in the marketplace.”

There is one key factor in this equation that is beyond Gronberg’s control: the availability of flights to locations carrying his inventory. Even there, he remains optimistic: “There is good flight capacity to Canada this year, and this helps support awareness of Canada. In terms of our activities, the West is seeing the greatest increase, a result of that great relationship to flights.”

Communities tout cultural and heritage tourism

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Paralleling global and US trends, cultural and heritage tourism continues to grow in popularity in Canada. Not only is it among the mix of top tourism products, it is also a tourism development priority for communities across Canada, according to Grant Thornton LLP’s recently published Tourism Insights 2007 Study. Grant Thornton’s first national survey on local government and community perspectives on tourism development was initiated in response to the company’s growing number of business and government clients involved in tourism, and the importance of tourism as an economic sector in the Canadian economy.

Tourism Insights 2007 presents the viewpoints of 164 local and regional governments from multiple communities of various sizes and locations dispersed throughout Canada. The survey was completed by respondents at various levels of local and regional government of which a significant portion were chief administrative officers, councillors, and mayors. The number of senior‑level individuals who took the time to respond to the survey, as well as an overall enthusiastic response to the survey, is indicative of a strong interest in tourism development from communities across Canada. As well as collecting data, the survey sought to capture respondents’ personal accounts of issues, experiences, lessons‑learned, and best practices related to tourism growth.

Tourism represents one of the largest and strongest industries in the Canadian economy. The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) reports over 18 million overnight international visitors traveled to Canada in 2006, and spent approximately $67 billion. According to Tourism Insights 2007, tourism currently plays an important role in the economy of over 80% of the communities which responded to the survey, and will continue to do so in the future. When asked about the likelihood tourism would play a significant role in communities over the next three years, 42% indicated “extremely likely”, 20% indicated “quite likely”, and 21% indicated “likely”. On a regional basis, the majority of respondents that indicated “extremely likely” were from Central and Atlantic Canada.

A key objective of Tourism Insights 2007 was to identify emerging areas of specialized tourism opportunities in the Canadian marketplace. Respondents were asked to identify specific forms of tourism that their communities were either currently pursuing or intending to pursue. Following closely behind cultural/heritage tourism as a top tourism product opportunity for communities is sport tourism. This is not surprising as, according to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (CSTA), Canada’s sport tourism sector is worth approximately $2.4 billion and benefits a wide range of both small and large communities:

“The recent increase in activity in the sport tourism industry is a phenomenon that has been evident not only in major metropolitan areas, but smaller communities across Canada as well. Although major international events such as the Olympic Games tend to receive most of the media profile, the critical mass of activity in sport tourism continues to occur at the community level”.

Additional opportunities that hold the most promise for communities included nature tourism, adventure tourism, conventions and conferences, and agricultural tourism.

Respondents also indicated key barriers they face in capitalizing on tourism product opportunities and tourism growth within their communities. Common constraints included insufficient funding for planning, product development, marketing and capital investment, as well as a lack of tourism marketing plans and tourism destination management plans. Interesting regional differences also surfaced in the survey: while the above barriers were common problems across all three regions (Western Canada, Central Canada and Atlantic Canada), a lack of facilities was reported as the second greatest problem in Atlantic Canada compared to the fifth greatest problem in the other two regions.

Tourism Insights 2007 also shed light on lessons learned, best practices and opportunities in the tourism sector. A prominent best practice that validates Grant Thornton’s experience in the industry, is the development of partnerships. Respondents indicated that smaller communities can achieve greater return on marketing investment by partnering with other neighboring communities on joint marketing that promotes the regional destination, that partnerships between various levels of government are important, and partnerships between government and operators are important:

“We have formed a joint tourism partnership of municipalities in the region where we are located, and we hope that through some joint marketing efforts we can see an improvement in the number of tourists coming to our area. It is difficult for a small population town to justify spending a large amount of money to attract tourists or potential residents to our community.” (Survey respondent)

Grant Thornton has found mutually beneficial partnerships are critical to the success of tourism‑related projects, destination development and marketing. Organizations in both the public and private sectors are forging innovative partnerships to further tourism growth. Grant Thornton has observed that:
  • Businesses are recognizing the advantages of creating partnerships with other businesses to create a thriving and diverse destination, rather than viewing each other as competitors;
  • Communities are recognizing the advantages of partnerships with neighboring communities to create a regional destination with pooled marketing resources, enabling more extensive marketing, rather than viewing each other as competitors;
  • Businesses and various levels of government are recognizing the benefits of working together to develop and market their tourism products and destinations; and,
  • First Nations and non‑First Nations businesses and communities are working together to develop interesting tourism products that respond to market demand.
In summary, Tourism Insights 2007 provides a range of perspectives and many common themes on tourism development from more than 160 communities across the country. The study will serve as a valuable tool for Canada’s local and regional governments, tourism businesses, tourism associations, and tourism stakeholders with regard to identifying growth opportunities and mitigating obstacles to tourism development.

The full report and executive summary are available on the Grant Thornton LLP Canada’s website at www.grantthornton.ca.

Yukon reaps rewards of Jeux du Canada Games exposure

(Originally published in TOURISM)

City of Whitehorse tourism coordinator Sheila Dodd is gearing up for her usual tourism year with “lots of traffic on the road that comes mainly by RV.” Yukon has enjoyed steady growth on the tourism front in recent years, unaffected by crippling event like SARS or 9/11.

Explains Dodd: “People seem to think this is a place where nothing like that could ever happen, and they are entirely right. “Visitors come from all over the States, from places as far away as Texas and Alabama. But this year we also have special things happening because we have just had the Canada Winter Games here, which gave us a much bigger profile across Canada because of the exceptional air time and media coverage that came with the event.”

As a result, Dodd says, her office is getting many more phone calls and emails from Canadians who have seen Whitehorse on TV during the Canada Games and from people who know someone who participated in the games. “They are now calling to find out how to get here and what it is like in the summer. That is the change we are seeing this year, which is fantastic because tourism is our #1 industry.”

A heritage museum where guests become the “hired help”

(Originally published in TOURISM)

For several years Upper Canada Village has been offering popular youth programs that allow children to immerse themselves in 1860s life. Now adults can also become a part of village life when they participate in an “Adult Overnight Live-In Adventure.” From Saturday afternoon until Sunday afternoon on select weekends in 2007, adults can become 19th century village inhabitants.

Upper Canada Village marketing officer Jancis Sommerville likes to remind people that the institution has been creating trends since it came into being in 1961: “We have always offered quality and award‑winning attractions at our living history museum where all interpreters wear period costumes. We have operational mills, farms and animals, right down to the gardens, so guests are able to step into the past," she continues. "We started this latest initiative last year. Adults can now come and get into costumes themselves and actually learn how to do some of the artisans' trades, work in the mills or engage in heritage cooking activities.”

Sommerville believes this is a natural evolution in terms of product offering for the institution, and a timely one as it allows guests to become part of the museum instead of only being invited to visit. “We are just getting one step deeper into it,” she concludes.

Quebec's Eastern Townships: steeped in county living

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Quebec’s Eastern Townships region perhaps illustrates most vividly that quality of tourism experience expressed by the French word “villégiature”. "Villégiature" refers to the kind of bucolic holidaying around countryside and small villages that seem to emanate a deep sense of place – a sense of place powerful enough, it would seem, to rejuvenate the soul.

The Eastern Townships offers this, and more. The region boasts being the premier cycling destination in Quebec, with 500 kilometres of trails along the Véloroute des Cantons. (The route is divided into seven circuits designed to let cyclists enjoy the most picturesque corners of the region.) Furthermore, the Townships Trail is a new driving route that meanders around the countryside over 415 kilometres, crossing 31 municipalities from Ulverton to Bromont.

For an even more in‑depth experience of the Townships Trail, drivers can pick up a two‑CD pack which brings the region’s history to life, a history that plays a critical role in imparting a distinctive flavour to the region. After the American War of Independence (1775‑1783), the open lands that stretched along the border were surveyed by the British, and made available to exiled Loyalists from what became the United States of America. The regional architecture is heavily influenced by those first settlers, who came mainly from New England; after 1850, francophones started to settle in the region and today make up the majority of the population.

The Eastern Townships is home to quaint villages and a variety of remarkable tourism experiences where, for example, one can board the magnificent Orford Express Tourist Train and enjoy the compelling landscapes of the Sherbrooke, Magog, Eastman and Bromont regions, a pastoral landscape where mountains, valleys, prairies and lakes lend themselves to scenic enchantment.

One may also visit l’Argus Bleu, a museum dedicated to insects – with more than 1,600 species from some 50 countries – at Lac Drolet, not far from Lac Mégantic. At l’Épopée de Capelton/Capelton Epic (formerly Capelton Mines), visitors can go on a Tour du Prospecteur (Prospector’s Tour) and on Visites Nocturnes aux Flambeaux (Underground visits by flaming torch) in a decommissioned 140‑year old copper mine.

Reflections of an almost exotic heritage

This summer, at the Vignoble de l’Orpailleur, there will be workshops showcasing the craft of the cooper (barrel maker) and a new exhibition interpreting the harvesting of cork and how it is made into stoppers for wine bottles. There will be numerous activities this year throughout the 14 wineries along the Eastern Townships’ Route des Vins (Wine Route).

At the Village of Fitch Bay, romantics at heart can discover Bleu Lavande, the leading lavender producer in Canada with 220,000 plants. The company has added 10 new cosmetic and culinary products to the items on sale in the boutique for 2007. Every Tuesday in July and August, visitors can picnic in the lavender fields while enjoying the soothing strains of classical music: Les Mardi Bleu Classique (as the concerts are called) are produced in conjunction with the Centre d'Arts Orford.

It is fair to ask what factor has led to such a blossoming of regional tourism experiences in the Eastern Townships. We contacted Melissa Provencher of the Manoir Hovey at North Hatley. The Auberge Ripplecove & Spa and Manoir Hovey are two five‑star inns located on the shores of Lake Massawippi, just over one hour southeast of Montréal and 20 minutes from the Vermont border. The two institutions are launching a joint biking package in May, for which the inns' chefs will prepare a gourmet lunch of local delicacies, packed into an insulated picnic backpack (itself a gift included in the package price). By night, guests will enjoy guilt‑free gourmet dining at the inns' dining rooms, both of which overlook opposite ends of Lake Massawippi. After two nights at the first inn, guests will leisurely bike their way to the second inn along scenic back roads while their car and luggage are transported by valet service and await their arrival.

Provencher says the package can be tailored for people of all ages because the distance traveled is established by cyclists themselves: “We planned for about 20 kilometers from one inn to the next to get from the Manoir to Ripplecove Inn and Spa. For cyclists with ability for greater distances, we help them with their itineraries.

Diversifying the market

"We expect most people to come from Montréal, Québec or other points of origin," she continues. "Our inns have traditionally attracted quite a few people from the US, perhaps fewer for the cycling package. We are just starting with this package, but about 60% of our guests used to originate from the US and 40% were composed of Quebeckers, Germans and Europeans in general.”

Provencher says that with the exchange rate being the way it is (against the American dollar), there are fewer US visitors to the region and the effects are felt in nearby villages: “I have noticed some of the gift stores that rely on tourism have closed in places like Knowlton and Sutton, so we must continue to tap into the unique character of our villages to find new revenue streams. From the perspective of our inn operations, the reason why there seems to be so much going on in the Eastern Townships on the tourism front is a need we feel to reach a younger audience that is passionate about our roots because we are very much a historical village."

Provencher continues: "We are working hard to lure younger consumers while maintaining the relationship we enjoy with our regular clients who have been coming here for the last 20 years. It is like in any sector facing economic sustainability challenges; we must show innovation and we are coming up with new ideas and packages so we can acquire these new clients.”

Fortunately, Provencher says, the Eastern Townships region is putting extra emphasis on promoting regional products. Such products are inspired by culture, worldviews, landscapes, livelihoods through the ages, and the contrasts between what consumers experience in their day‑to‑day life, and the experiences enjoyed by folks who inhabit host destinations. Tourists seek a chance to become temporary inhabitants, where they are exposed to pleasures they can’t enjoy at home.

The Eastern Townships, it seems, can deliver these experiences, and deliver them with confidence and authenticity.

RV rental company gives consumers a break

(Originally published in TOURISM)

High fuel costs are prompting at least one RV rental company to come up with ways to give travellers a break on their final holiday tally. For a limited time only, Cruise America is offering a discount mileage special on all rental reservations made at any location in the US or Canada for travel through the end of 2007, according to a company release.

“The last thing we want Americans to do is cancel vacation plans over high prices at the pump,” says Mike Smalley, vice president of operations for Cruise America. “With this discount mileage special, families will still be able to afford the vacations and RV road trips they’ve earned – without cringing every time they fill up. At just 16 cents per mile, down from the standard rate of 32 cents per mile, this discount will more than offset increasing fuel costs.”

The release quotes a May 2 report by the Washington‑based think‑tank "Civil Society Institute", which suggests that 46% of Americans plan to cut back on summer and holiday travel in 2007 if gas prices reach $3.50 per gallon. With the US average now at $3.10 and some areas of California reaching $3.49 already, that price appears inevitable for much of the US.

Cruise America acknowledges in the release that the rise in gas prices isn’t the only subject on the minds of travellers: “As ‘green’ becomes a household term and carbon emissions data turns into water‑cooler conversation,” Americans have become increasingly concerned with their impact on the environment – particularly their travel habits.”

The release quotes George Monbiot in the May 7 edition of The Nation who notes, “the effects of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses released by jets during air travel are around 270% higher than those of average emissions caused by driving the same distance.”

This piece of common wisdom is regularly used by RV tourism promoters. However, the Cruise America release does not state whether Monbiot (a well‑known UK journalist and environmentalist) issued his comment as an official endorsement of RV touring as an alternative to flying.

Airline offers carbon offset option to its customers

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Air Canada is offering customers the choice to reduce the environmental impact of their travel in cooperation with Zerofootprint, a not-for-profit organization operating carbon offset programs.

"Air Canada is committed to giving customers the opportunity to reduce the environmental effects of their travel," said Charles McKee, vice‑president of marketing at Air Canada. “We not only want to make it possible for people to make good environmental choices, we also want to play our part in addressing climate change."

McKee explains that by working with Zerofootprint, Air Canada will make it easy for people to calculate the impact of their journey and “mitigate those effects with a small, voluntary additional payment to support environmental projects which reduce greenhouse gases."

According to the carrier, customers booking travel on Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz or their regional partners through www.aircanada.com will have an option to purchase a carbon offset for their trip. The website will display information about carbon offsets for customers; it will feature a calculator to determine the amount of carbon dioxide their trip will generate, the cost to offset it, and it will provide a convenient way to pay the cost of offsetting their trip either with their ticket purchase or at another time.

"Offsetting makes a real difference to the environment in three important ways," said Deborah Kaplan, Executive Director of Zerofootprint. "It balances out climate‑changing carbon dioxide that is put into the atmosphere by our activities, it highlights the environmental cost of goods and services we buy, and, when you offset with trees, it restores ecosystems, habitats, watersheds, greens communities and creates jobs."

Among other measures it says minimizes the environmental impact of its operations, Air Canada has instituted an active weight reduction program and adopted more fuel‑efficient procedures for take‑offs and landings, reduced engine usage on the ground during taxiing and ground delays and cut fuel consumption in the air with more efficient flight plans.

Morever, Air Canada says it has expanded its on‑board recycling program, employed hybrid technology for ground support vehicles, and continually upgraded its fleet (most recently with the addition of new Embraer and Boeing 777 aircraft, with a resulting 28% improvement in fuel efficiency since 1990 and 82% since 1970.

Usage of feed grain and forage listing service picking up

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Feed Grain and Forage Listing Service remains available to match producers with feed for sale with those with a feed shortage.

The service is available to farmers throughout Saskatchewan, as well as those from neighbouring provinces and states like Alberta, Manitoba, Montana and North Dakota – all at no charge to users.

The tool also provides postings for popular custom farm services such as grazing and feeding, cutting and baling, seeding, spraying, trucking, combining, grain drying and manure hauling.

“The season usually starts with the standing crops that are for sale,” said Andre Bonneau, a Forage Conversion Specialist with SAF. “I’m getting the sense this year that there is more interest in putting up custom grazing listings.”

The listing contains interactive maps that enable users to see, by rural municipality, where there are postings for available baled forage, standing forage, feed grain and various custom services. A complete listing for the entire province is also accessible.

“The nice thing about it is you can look at the whole province and compare prices,” Bonneau stated. “You can also get very close to home, to the point where you may very well know the person who is selling to you through the site.”

To advertise a product or service, or to browse the listings, internet users can visit the SAF website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca and click on “Feed Grain and Forage Listing Service” under the “Programs and Services” link.

Farmers who do not have internet access can call SAF’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 to have items posted for sale on their behalf or to have a copy of the listing sent to them.

For more information, contact:
Andre Bonneau, Forage Conversion Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3721

Irrigated pastures offer many benefits to producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the expansion of the livestock industry in Saskatchewan, many producers are searching for new ways to meet their forage and pasture needs. Depending upon the region of Saskatchewan in which they reside, irrigated pastures may be a good option for them.

Charlotte Ward, a Forage Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, states that a good irrigated pasture in Western Canada can produce more than 25 times the forage per acre that native grassland yields, and seven to 10 times more forage than cultivated dryland pasture.

“Irrigated pastures may still experience yearly and seasonal variations in forage yield and quality, but not to the same extent as dryland pastures,” Ward said. “The greatest potential for increased forage production is on good, well-drained soils where water supply is not restricted throughout the growing season.”

Grasses are quite often used as the basis of irrigated pastures because they are predictable and easy to manage. Legumes such as alfalfa have also been included, since they provide added nutritional value and decrease the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Using a legume such as cicer milkvetch eliminates the risk of bloat, which may be a concern if livestock are grazing young, vegetative alfalfa.

“Pastures need about 60 centimetres of water during the growth season,” Ward noted. “Very few areas in Saskatchewan can meet that requirement without the use of irrigation.”

On established pastures, the amount of water applied at once will depend upon the system’s capabilities. Ward says most producers have their systems set to administer between three-quarters and an inch of water in one application, usually applying 12 to 14 inches of irrigated water throughout the growing season.

“Because soil’s water-holding capacity varies with soil type, irrigation strategies will have to account for the fact that grasses get most of their water from the top 30 centimetres of the soil,” she said. “As a result, in sandy loam, the soil may only be able to hold a four-to-six-day supply of water to that depth at the peak demand of the season.”

It is also recommended that irrigation be timed to occur after grazing, haying or fertilizer treatment in order to ensure that moisture stress does not limit pasture regrowth. Watering can occur while cattle are grazing other paddocks to ensure that the soil-water capacity is being met.

On grass pastures, multiple nitrogen fertilizer applications will be required to maintain high yields. If legumes are included in the pasture, nitrogen fertilization will favour grass growth and decrease the quantity of legumes in the pasture. Pastures which contain at least 50 per cent legumes should not need nitrogen fertilization, but may require phosphorous and other nutrients if soil tests reveal deficiencies.

“Producers will want to carefully weigh the cost of fertilizer and application in relation to additional forage and animal production,” Ward noted.

Intensively grazed systems where livestock are moved frequently provide an opportunity for greater overall animal production per acre compared to extensively grazed, irrigated pastures. According to Ward, the timing of rotations is important to maximizing productivity.

“If cattle are allowed to graze forages too close to the ground, recovery after grazing will be delayed. If cattle are allowed to graze too lightly, forages will mature too quickly before the next grazing cycle,” she stated.

“A number of producers have had success limiting cattle to only two to four days worth of pasture at one time, which allows for longer plant recovery periods compared to pastures that are allowed to be grazed for durations of greater than a week.”

Some producers divide their pasture into multiple paddocks to allow for management of surplus forage in the spring. Another strategy to maintain the same herd size throughout the grazing season is to set aside one-third to one-half of the pasture area to be harvested once as silage or hay. This will allow usage of the forage before it is fully mature and allow timely regrowth for grazing later in the season.

Another suggestion is to avoid grazing while the ground is still wet from irrigation. “Grazing wet ground will result in greater trampling and soil compaction, and may lead to a loss of desirable species,” Ward said.

“Also, as with all grazing, herd health must be monitored continuously, as concentrating livestock on a small area may lead to an increase in the incidence of diseases such as pink eye or foot rot.”

For more information, contact:
Charlotte Ward, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 867-5559

Partnership a win-win for agri-businesses and students

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A sustained partnership between the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) will continue to benefit both the provincial agri-food sector and post-secondary students this year.

Since the demand is high in the agriculture and agri-food industries for individuals with knowledgeable and creative marketing skills, the SCCD and the U of S are once again teaming up to provide agri-businesses with the opportunity to have a professional business and marketing plan crafted for their operations.

SCCD Value Chain Specialist Bryan Kosteroski says the demand for marketing skills is coming from a positive place.

“The agri-food industry in Saskatchewan is growing. A lot of product development has happened, and these companies are now looking at developing marketing strategies to move their commercialized product to the retail marketplace,” he said.

The program, the Agri-business Student Business and Marketing Plan Program, allows enterprises to access a comprehensive but affordable business or marketing plan, while at the same time allowing

U of S students to gain valuable hands-on experience.

Kosteroski says that is a win-win for both the students and the businesses.

“The students are doing a great job on these marketing plans. They are a stepping stone for the development of more in-depth marketing plans, so they are also giving some good focus to Saskatchewan agri-food companies,” he stated.

The plans are formulated by third- and fourth-year U of S students from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources who have studied this area of expertise. The students work alongside the clients to structure a plan that is tailored to the individual needs of their specific enterprise. The initiative is supervised by professors Bill Brown and Tom Allen.

The program will expand this year to include 15 business plans and 15 marketing plans produced in each of three upcoming school terms.

Participating businesses will pay $250 of the $500 total cost of the service, with the other $250 subsidized by SCCD through funding from the federal Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) initiative.

A further opportunity for both agriculture and agri-food businesses and the students is the new partnership between the Agri-business Student Business and Marketing Plan Program and the Agri-Value Marketing Internship Program funded by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF). This valuable link will connect graduates of the program with businesses looking for marketing assistance.

The Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP), which is administering the initiative on behalf of SAF, will keep a database of names and contact information on U of S graduates that businesses will be able to access when seeking employees.

Application forms for the Business and Marketing Plan Program will be available on the Value Chain section of the SCCD website at www.sccd.sk.ca/valuechains. More information is available by contacting SCCD toll free at 1-800-641-8256 or by e-mailing info@sccd.sk.ca.

Agri-food businesses requiring more information on the marketing assistance available through the SAF-funded Agri-Value Marketing Internship Program can visit the STEP website at www.sasktrade.sk.ca or call 1-877-313-7244.

For more information, contact:
Bryan Kosteroski, Value Chain Specialist
Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
Phone: (306) 975-6851
E-mail: kosteroskib@sccd.sk.ca

Grants available for rural women to make positive changes

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Grants are now available to rural and farm women who are willing to take action and make positive changes in their communities.

The main goal of the Rural Women's Issues Committee of Saskatchewan (RWICS) Action Grant program is to enable women to address the main concerns of their specific communities, create a vision and a plan, and then put that plan into action locally. Further steps include interacting on a provincial or national level to realize those visions on a larger scale.

RWICS released a report in 2004 entitled "Rural, Remote and Northern Women's Health," encompassing a study conducted across Canada. The report contained a number of recommendations to increase the body of research pertaining to rural and farm woman.

It was found that the role of rural and farm women often consists of a triple or quadruple workload, including duties such as care giving, managing farm employment, helping on the farm themselves, looking after the household, and contributing to the community.

One of the key concerns identified was that the health of rural and farm women is often adversely affected by where they live. "Negative effects such as lack of confidentiality and fewer choices for services play a part," said Joanne Havelock of RWICS. "In rural, remote areas, women are also more dependent on primary industries, which tend to experience a variation in income and often income difficulties. This has proven to be very stressful for women."

To further explore the area, RWICS organized several workshops that were held in the province over the past two years. These workshops looked at the concerns brought on by the report and uncovered further challenges that rural and farm women commonly face.

Among the topics discussed were leadership and networking among women, focusing on caring for themselves, the farm income problem, community kitchens, the environment and recycling, and the need to build links between farmers and city consumers, seniors and youth of all cultures.

"The women involved showed a great appreciation to get together, talk out these issues, and think about what they might do to act on them in a positive way to create a positive change," Havelock said.

"Our intent in providing the grant program is to give women in those communities an opportunity to take that action and start making those positive changes required for their local community."

Grants vary from $250 to $500 per project. "With these amounts, we are not expecting a huge initiative, but some local action that relates to the issues identified in the workshops," she added.

The type of projects that will receive funding will be focused on creating positive action towards a situation that enhances the wellbeing of women and their communities.

Havelock says it is important to give rural women a chance to do something that focuses on their needs. "Rural women are doing a lot of things for other people. I think they appreciate that role, but we need to look at issues from their viewpoint," she stated.

"These grants will give them an opportunity to work locally and to address some of the issues facing rural communities that have been identified as being significant."

Over 300 recommendations were generated by participants at the workshops. The report from the exercise is posted on the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence website at www.pwhce.ca. Readers are also able to look at the specific report for their particular area.

Rural and farm women who are interested in applying for the grants can contact Joanne Havelock at (306) 585-5727 or e-mail pwhce@uregina.ca. A short application package will be sent to them.

The final deadline to apply for funding is September 14.

"It is important that rural and farm women have a voice and that the diversity between them is used to promote positive changes in their local communities," Havelock said. "This program is giving women the opportunity to do just that."

For more information, contact:

Joanne Havelock, Policy Analyst
Rural Women's Issues Committee of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 585-5727

Saskatchewan fruit orchards: enjoy a mouth-watering experience

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The time of the year has come to prepare for a mouth-watering adventure. The Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association (SFGA) is once again presenting its annual Summer Tour and Field Day, to be held on July 7.

The event focuses on bringing awareness of the province’s commercial fruit orchards.

This year, the tour will highlight two farms in east-central Saskatchewan: one in the Preeceville area and one near Yorkton.

The first stop is Fatikaki Farms of Preeceville, owned by Pat and Jeanette Meerholz and managed by Herman Meerholz. “The farm offers quite a site – over 60 acres of Smokey, Thiessen, Honeywood and Martin saskatoons,” noted SFGA Executive Director Charon Blakley.

The farm also grows five acres of Valentine, Evans, Carmine Jewel and Mongolian sour cherries, and one-and-a-half acres of blue honeysuckle, as well as apples for their personal use.

A variety of equipment will be displayed, including a mechanical harvester and a tree planter, plus other equipment required for orchard management.

After a lunch served at Chris’s Place in Preeceville, attendees will head to the second stop, Prairie Dome Strawberries just outside of Yorkton. The farm is owned and operated by Elwin, Marie and Tonia Vermette and Kirk Flaman, and features a variety of fruit.

Attendees will experience the two-and-a-half acre deep-planted Smokey and Martin saskatoon orchard in various production stages, as well as two acres of newly planted and five acres of established Kent and Cavendish strawberries.

The farm will also display several pieces of equipment, including a complete line of strawberry production equipment, saskatoon spraying equipment, and drip and overhead irrigation systems for strawberries.

The tour welcomes both SFGA members and non-members. Blakley stated that the purpose of the event is to create a hands-on experience for individuals. “They will learn what it takes to grow a successful orchard and see how an established orchard functions,” she said.

“If individuals are looking to establish their own orchards, they will be able to take some good information home and apply it themselves. Even experienced fruit growers find they can pick up a few tips.” Individuals will also have a chance to speak with other attendees during the tour and learn from their experiences.

The tour will be led by Clarence Peters, the provincial specialist for fruit crops with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

“Individuals who have an interest in growing fruit and would like to learn more about what it takes should attend the event, as well as those who are just interested in taking a look at the processes used to establish a fruit orchard that grows produce available to the national consumer,” said Blakley.

The SFGA has been incorporated since 1988, and currently has over 150 members. It is a grower-directed association dedicated to the production and marketing of premium quality Saskatchewan-grown fruit, and the development of a strong and vibrant fruit industry.

To meet industry needs, the SFGA works with researchers, government, processors and consumers. They collaborate with these stakeholders on research, market development, quality standards and other initiatives.

If you are interested in learning more about the SFGA or registering for the annual Summer Tour and Field Day, visit the association’s website at www.saskfruit.com, or call toll-free 1-877-97-FRUIT (1-877-973-7848).

For more information, contact:
Charon Blakley, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association
Phone: (306) 743-5333