Planting seeds for the future

Linda Browne
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Session hopes to grow agriculture sector

Hilltop Farms in St. Brides is considered proof that there is hope for the agriculture sector in this region. Submitted photo

If you are an agricultural producer or would-be producer in the Placentia-Argentia area, the first week of November will be critical to you.
Avalon Gateway Regional Economic Development Inc. will host an Agriculture Development Session at Bird Island Resort in St. Bride's Nov. 1-2.
The session will bring together producers in the region and representatives from local, provincial and national agricultural associations, as well as government representatives, to find ways to grow the agriculture sector in the region.
"One of Avalon Gateway's priority sectors for development is agriculture," says Michael Mooney, community development officer with Avalon Gateway.
"From the work that we've done over the last few years, we've identified some things like sheep as a priority. There seems to be a lot of possibility to increase the number of sheep in our zone. And fur farming is another growth sector that we think we can tap into."

Full slate of speakers
The first day of the Agriculture Development Session Nov. 1 will be open to the public and will feature speakers such as Placentia-St. Mary's MHA Felix Collins and Lionel Rodrigues of Rodrigues Winery in Markland.
Those who register for the entire development session will also hear speakers such as Merv Wiseman from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture and Dr. Alistair Bath from the department of geography at Memorial University.
Some of the topics of discussion during the second day of the session Nov. 2 will include funding programs available to agricultural producers as well as the role of co-operatives in agriculture.
Mooney says he would like to see more happening with co-operatives.
"Part of the lifestyle of living on the land is independence, and when people think of co-operatives, they kind of think they're going to lose their independence," he says.
"But I think there's room for a co-operative in agriculture where the people are loosely tied to it. It's just economies of scale, like if a lot of farmers got together and they were buying feed for example, they'd be able to get a much better price than if they go in individually. So there are all these little things that have been identified.

$500-million industry
Mooney says it's not Avalon Gateway's goal to create or increase the agriculture industry in the region, but rather to bring agricultural producers and industry representatives together to fuel this growth.
"Our role as Avalon Gateway is really as a facilitator. It's not our mandate to go out and increase agriculture per se. It's our mandate to go out and help people to grow it," he says.
"So we're not really doers. We're bringing together industry experts and government officials to help the people. So that's more of our role, to facilitate this growth."
Mooney says that there's lots of potential to grow the agriculture sector in the region and producers should take advantage of the opportunity since it has proven to be a lucrative industry.
"There is lots of potential. It's a $500-million industry in the province, 6,200 jobs and for every acre of crops you get 4.5 weeks of work," he says.
"So we have the land. There's been studies done on soil suitability and things like that, so there's no reason why we can't get a little more into it."

The Charter

Organizations: Avalon Gateway Regional Economic Development, Bird Island Resort, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Placentia-Argentia, Placentia, Markland

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