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What the Past Says About the Future #FSFS


Farming Smarter Field School 2017  #FSFS17

People that came to #FSFS17 found out just how effective it can be to take the long view in farming. Sometimes, it takes an Old Timer to give a real perspective on how much farming can change in one life time and offer logical predictions for future change.

The genuine Old Timer farmers on hand were Ron Svanes, President of the Prairie Tractor and Engine Museum in Picture Butte, and Richard Fritzler founding member of Southern Applied Research Association and Southern Alberta Conservation Association; which merged to become Farming Smarter. 

Richard Fritzler and Ron Svanes (right) shared southern Alberta farming stories.

They each have around 50 years of farming expereince in southern Alberta and watched as everything changed – equipment, crops, bugs, diseases, climate, government policy and faces in the industry. Along with the equipment Ron brought from the museum, these two offered a clear picture of life as a farmer over the recent past.

One of the areas that’s changed quite a bit in those years is how southern Alberta irrigates. Roger Hohm brought his 40 years experience in the irrigation sector and combined it with Shelley Barkley’s knowledge as a soil and water scientist with the Irrigation and Farm Water branch of Alberta Ag. These two gave a great overview of irrigation history in Alberta and technology emerging in the industry. This is one of the areas where agronomic, social and environmental considerations spurred rapid change in the past 20 years and that shows no sign of abating.

Dr. Tom Jensen covered the history, the present and what the future may bring for soil fertilizers and prairie soil management practices.


The sessions with Dr. Tom Jensen, Director with North America Program International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI ), Dr. Bob Blackshaw, Rob Dunn, Dr. Wayne Lindwall and Dr. Ben Ellert really offered a lot of related information around soil health, plant needs and agronomic care of soil and water for optimum crop growing results.


Rob Dunn and Dr. Bob Blackshaw got to the heart of soil health.



These sessions highlighted how farmers constantly innovate, diversify & reduce the enviromental impact of crop production. It’s a life long learning process and Farming Smarter helps regional crop producers with some of the big questions.

Such as how will precision planter technology change crop farming; which was the topic Farming Smarter General Manager Ken Coles addressed based on current Farming Smarter projects. This techology has the potential to change the way crops get planted and perhaps even provide innovations we can’t see yet as more people switch to these types of planters. 

Ken Coles, Farming Smarter General Manager, talked about the effect precision planting can have on plant growth.

 Dr. Reem Aboukhaddour talked about the five wheat diseases that have followed humanity through our agricultural history and how we developed breeds with resistance, but not cures that allow us to let down our guard. She also talked about management practices we’ve developed and the research that continues.

Finally, Wendy Aitkens enthralled us with a history of southern Alberta people and events that shaped our modern culture, landscape and industry.

Farming Smarter Field School is always a day packed with facts, ideas and sharing so it’s hard to capture it all in a few words. But 2017 was exceptional for the perspective it offered on the industry that populated the land in the Palliser Triangle.


Watch #FSFS17 videos