ACORN Conference Program

All Workshops

Morning start Sarah Flack’s Grazing School

Monday, November 26, 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Full Day Grazing School Workshop Description:  The morning portion of this workshop will focus on creating a solid understanding of the basic principles of good grazing management systems.  Starting first from the plants perspective, we will look at the needs of perennial pasture plants and how to meet those needs by following the grazing guidelines.  From there we will do some group exercises and practice to learn how to measure the amount of feed in a pasture, calculate paddock sizes, stocking densities, stocking rates and understand what the ideal number of acres for a flock or herd is.  We will then look at some real on-farm examples to practice and learn more about perennial plant anatomy and physiology. 

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Finding the Sweet Spot on a Small Organic Farm

Monday, November 26, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM   

Gillian Flies and Brent Preston describe their ten-year journey from beginner farmers to operators of a profitable and sustainable organic farm. Guided by a set of core principles, Gillian and Brent have built a farm business that provides for their family’s financial and emotional needs; a farm that makes money, enhances the local environment and builds community. Learn how they analyzed many variables - scale, crop mix, production methods, markets, location and personal preference - to find a model that works. This workshop will include detailed crop production, marketing, sales and financial information.

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Regenerative, No-till Vegetables at Scale (FR)

Monday, November 26, 1:00PM - 2:00 PM   With Interpretation

Description to come.

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The Role of Grazing in Organic Farming

Monday, November 26, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM   

Full Day Grazing School Workshop Description:  The morning portion of this workshop will focus on creating a solid understanding of the basic principles of good grazing management systems.  Starting first from the plants perspective, we will look at the needs of perennial pasture plants and how to meet those needs by following the grazing guidelines.  From there we will do some group exercises and practice to learn how to measure the amount of feed in a pasture, calculate paddock sizes, stocking densities, stocking rates and understand what the ideal number of acres for a flock or herd is.  We will then look at some real on-farm examples to practice and learn more about perennial plant anatomy and physiology. In the afternoon we will look at pasture from the livestock perspective, learning techniques to meet their nutritional needs, maximize pasture dry matter intake, provide low-stress handling, provide the correct supplemental feeds and minerals, and when shade or shelter should be planned into the grazing.  We will also spend time in the afternoon discussing techniques to monitor and assess the health of the pasture ecosystem, and the performance and well-being of the livestock.

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Cannabis Chemistry and Its Potential as a Food Additive for Organic Value-added Products

Monday, November 26, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM   

Delta 9-THC and its up-and-coming cousin, CBD are currently the most popular molecules in the cannabis plant, despite the fact that the plant has hundreds of potentially beneficial chemicals. Join Av Singh, as he discusses some of the equally interesting compounds within the cannabis plant including other cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Av will present their medicinal benefits but also highlight some of the intended uses as ingredients in food and cosmetics.

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Finding the Sweet Spot on a Small Organic Farm

Monday, November 26, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM   

Gillian Flies and Brent Preston describe their ten-year journey from beginner farmers to operators of a profitable and sustainable organic farm. Guided by a set of core principles, Gillian and Brent have built a farm business that provides for their family’s financial and emotional needs; a farm that makes money, enhances the local environment and builds community. Learn how they analyzed many variables - scale, crop mix, production methods, markets, location and personal preference - to find a model that works. This workshop will include detailed crop production, marketing, sales and financial information.

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Varieties & Planting Schedules (FR)

Monday, November 26, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM   With Interpretation

Description to come.

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The Creative Application of Grazing Science

Monday, November 26, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM   

Full Day Grazing School Workshop Description:  The morning portion of this workshop will focus on creating a solid understanding of the basic principles of good grazing management systems.  Starting first from the plants perspective, we will look at the needs of perennial pasture plants and how to meet those needs by following the grazing guidelines.  From there we will do some group exercises and practice to learn how to measure the amount of feed in a pasture, calculate paddock sizes, stocking densities, stocking rates and understand what the ideal number of acres for a flock or herd is.  We will then look at some real on-farm examples to practice and learn more about perennial plant anatomy and physiology. In the afternoon we will look at pasture from the livestock perspective, learning techniques to meet their nutritional needs, maximize pasture dry matter intake, provide low-stress handling, provide the correct supplemental feeds and minerals, and when shade or shelter should be planned into the grazing.  We will also spend time in the afternoon discussing techniques to monitor and assess the health of the pasture ecosystem, and the performance and well-being of the livestock.

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On-Farm Events: Strengthening Organics and Building Profits

Monday, November 26, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM   

Gillian Flies, co-owner of The New Farm, near Creemore, Ontario, has capitalized on an explosion in interest in on-farm events to create an important new revenue stream for her farm business. Gillian has built a commercial kitchen and event space on the farm, and now hosts over 2000 visitors per year. Learn how fundraisers, tours, corporate events and restaurant pop-ups can generate marketing buzz, build profits and educate the public about organic agriculture.

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Post-Harvest Crop Handling & Storage (FR)

Monday, November 26, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM   With Interpretation

Description to come.

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The Grazier’s Tool Box

Monday, November 26, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM   

Full Day Grazing School Workshop Description:  The morning portion of this workshop will focus on creating a solid understanding of the basic principles of good grazing management systems.  Starting first from the plants perspective, we will look at the needs of perennial pasture plants and how to meet those needs by following the grazing guidelines.  From there we will do some group exercises and practice to learn how to measure the amount of feed in a pasture, calculate paddock sizes, stocking densities, stocking rates and understand what the ideal number of acres for a flock or herd is.  We will then look at some real on-farm examples to practice and learn more about perennial plant anatomy and physiology. In the afternoon we will look at pasture from the livestock perspective, learning techniques to meet their nutritional needs, maximize pasture dry matter intake, provide low-stress handling, provide the correct supplemental feeds and minerals, and when shade or shelter should be planned into the grazing.  We will also spend time in the afternoon discussing techniques to monitor and assess the health of the pasture ecosystem, and the performance and well-being of the livestock.

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The Transition Timeline (and Knowing the Rules)

Monday, November 26, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM   

Description to come.

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The Grazier’s Tool Box part 2

Monday, November 26, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM   

Full Day Grazing School Workshop Description:  The morning portion of this workshop will focus on creating a solid understanding of the basic principles of good grazing management systems.  Starting first from the plants perspective, we will look at the needs of perennial pasture plants and how to meet those needs by following the grazing guidelines.  From there we will do some group exercises and practice to learn how to measure the amount of feed in a pasture, calculate paddock sizes, stocking densities, stocking rates and understand what the ideal number of acres for a flock or herd is.  We will then look at some real on-farm examples to practice and learn more about perennial plant anatomy and physiology. In the afternoon we will look at pasture from the livestock perspective, learning techniques to meet their nutritional needs, maximize pasture dry matter intake, provide low-stress handling, provide the correct supplemental feeds and minerals, and when shade or shelter should be planned into the grazing.  We will also spend time in the afternoon discussing techniques to monitor and assess the health of the pasture ecosystem, and the performance and well-being of the livestock.

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What Works for Maritime Winter Green Production - Infrastructure

Monday, November 26, 4:30 PM - 5:30PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

But what do I do About the Weeds? ... and Other Burning Questions

Monday, November 26, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Certified Organic & Other Certifications as Part of Developing Your Brand

Monday, November 26, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

So You Have An Idea? ... Steps to creating a value added product.

Monday, November 26, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM   

Description to come.

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Irrigation How –To: Knowing when and how to apply water

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

This is a Farmer-to-Farmer session on irrigation scheduling geared towards producers. It will discuss basic soil and crop irrigation principles and some common ways to both measure irrigation water needs and to apply water to the crop.

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Plenary Speech: Making Good Food Accessible

Tuesday, November 27, 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM   

Gillian Flies is the co-owner of The New Farm, a profitable organic farm that sells vegetables to speciality retailers and many of the best restaurants in southern Ontario. But she realized early in her farming career that she wanted to be more than just a purveyor of salad to the 1%. What started as a small fundraiser in the barnyard in 2010 has grown into a multi-faceted program to make quality organic food accessible to all, a deep partnership with Community Food Centres Canada, and a fundraising effort that has now raised more than a million dollars. Learn how increasing accessibility can grow profits for small farms and strengthen the entire food system.

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Livestock & Grazing Management

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

 With nearly 400 slides, Joel walks you through the farm, from forestry to water systems to pigaerating, hay, grazing management, pastured pigs, pastured poultry, portable infrastructure, irrigation, and pasture cropping. Heavily how-to with a liberal dose of why this is as close to a farm visit as you can get.

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Innovative Farming: Newest Tech & Tools

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Making Good Food Accesible: Community Panel

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Description to come.

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Cover crops for resilient organic farms, from the soil up

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Description to come.

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Herd & Flock Health

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM   

Description to come.

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Equipment Modifications

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 AM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Scaling Up for Wholesale

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM   

Brent Preston has abandoned the direct-to-consumer marketing model favoured by most small farms and built a profitable farm business by selling exclusively to wholesalers. Join Brent for a detailed description of the steps necessary to serve the

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Weed Management & Economic Thresholds

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 AM   

Description to come.

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Soil Health Management & Forage/Feed Production

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Description to come.

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Effective & Efficient Labour Models

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30PM - 3:30 PM   

Brent Preston has utilized a number of labour models on his farm near Creemore, Ontario - volunteer, part-time, unpaid interns, paid local staff and offshore workers. He now farms with a crew of seven full-time employees from Mexico. This workshop will explore the ethical, legal and financial questions surrounding small farm labour models, and how farmers can provide fair, safe and meaningful employment while maintaining profits.

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Rotations for Fertility Management

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Description to come.

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Ecological Design for On Farm Water Security

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

This presentation will begin by discussing the unique hydrologic cycle on PEI, including some natural drawbacks and benefits. Topics also discussed will include using surface water and groundwater on the farm, proper well construction and maintenance, erosion control/surface water management, and some new engineering methods to treat drainage effluent and sprayer rinsate.

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Market Opportunities & Economic Viability

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

Believing that a farm is not truly sustainable until it supports two salaries from two different generations, Joel starts with the couple, then adds children, then adult children, and then non-family members.  How to get along when you can't get away, how to add labour without employees, memorandums of understanding and building fiefdoms all create complementary community.  

We've all heard the adage:  "The middleman makes all the profits."  If that's the case, then why not be one?  Realizing that most farmers do not like people, Joel patiently explains how processing, marketing, and distribution add resilience and stability to production dollars.  This session addresses the assets and liabilities of different marketing venues and relationships, protocols for sales, and where trend lines in food interfaces.

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New Organic Products in the Canadian Market: Trends, marketing claims and innovations.

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

The presentation will look at new organic products introduced in the Canadian market and their attributes.

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Post Harvest Quality Management; A Buyer Perspective

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

Description to come.

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Agriculture in a Changing Climate: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Wednesday, November 28, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

The climate of Atlantic Canada is changing – it is getting appreciably warmer throughout the year. This is leading to longer growing seasons and more available heat, impacting the current crops being grown, and presenting opportunities for new types and varieties of crops. This workshop will examine the specific quantification of how climate is changing including agricultural climate indicators such as growing degree days, frost-free season lengths and accumulated precipitation. Using global climate models, projections of future climate over the next 100 years will be presented.

Interest in drone technology is skyrocketing, bringing a thrilling wave of novel uses for drones from saving lives to creating new entertainment. Initially known to many for their military use, drones have evolved quickly into tools for innovation and to help humans understand and protect their natural environment. The University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Lab has employed drones over the past four years to capture imagery in their efforts to measure coastal erosion. Now, with a fleet of six drones and multiple aerial sensors, the UPEI Climate Lab utilizes drones for monitoring sand dune movement, precision agriculture, waste management, wind turbine inspection and tracking endangered species. UPEI has just received $1.1 million to purchase new drones to expand the expertise developed at the UPEI Climate Lab to become an industry leader in the application of drone technology to environmental science for precision agriculture.  Discussions will be held on the opportunities available in this area and how they help address climate change impacts.

In addition, an overview of the Climate Lab’s recent assessment of vulnerabilities of the agricultural sector to climate change will be presented. Impacts include changes in yield, access to markets, water stress, nutritional composition of crops, and outbreaks of pests and diseases. Appropriate short-term and medium-term adaptation approaches to address some of the risks will be discussed. Participants of the workshop will be encouraged to ask questions and contribute to discussions during the Question and Answer period.

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Soil Microbiology

Wednesday, November 28, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Description to come.

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Overview of the Canadian Organic Industry: What the Latest Data is Telling Us

Wednesday, November 28, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

The presentation will provide an overview of the latest organic data on production and trade and highlight projects and initiatives throughout the country.

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Seed to Seed; Closing the Gap in Sustainable Farming

Wednesday, November 28, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Saving seeds is an essential practice for maintaining a sustainable 'closed circuit' farm operation. Local food is only as local as the seed supply. Seeds are just as vital as healthy soil, clean water and market access. Regionally adapted and locally grown seeds are paramount to a secure food system. This presentation explores the benefits and challenges of incorporating seed saving into a small organic farm operation.

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Paying Farmers for Ecosystem Services and Climate Adaptation

Wednesday, November 28, 11:15 AM - 12:15 AM   

What would happen if agriculture held the keys to turning back the clock on our changing climate? Are farmers well positioned and prepared to reduce GHG emissions and sequester carbon? Prince Edward Island has been encouraging Island farmers/landowners to provide ecosystem services for the “public good” through a program called Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS). Farmers/landowners are incentivized through an annual payment on a per/acre, per/year basis, for stewardship practices above and beyond legislated measures. Many of the current ALUS program incentives relate to the stated program goals of reducing soil erosion and siltation of watercourses and wetlands, improving water quality, improving and increasing wildlife habitat and to reduce the impacts of climate change. Prince Edward Island remains the only jurisdiction in Canadian with a province-wide program. Workshop participants will get to learn more about how successful ALUS has been on Prince Edward Island in engaging farmers/landowners in a new conversation about the environment. Participants will learn about the challenging balance of regulations vs. incentive and how going forward, the ALUS program could be a useful tool for farmers wanting to adapt to climate change friendly practices that reduce GHG emissions and sequester carbon.

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Growing Your Farm by Saving Your Seeds; Basic Breeding for Success

Wednesday, November 28, 11:15 AM - 12:15 AM   

This workshop will focus on how the simple act of saving your seeds can increase yields, enhance product offerings and add value to any small farm operation. Through selection and basic breeding techniques, participants will also learn to help their crops adapt to changes in climate, pest pressures and disease. As the demand for local food increases, the need for locally adapted seed is more prevalent now than ever before. Learn to incorporate the ancient art of seed saving into your daily routine and help your small farm grow to meet this need head-on.

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Expanding Organics in the Region - What’s the Plan?

Wednesday, November 28, 11:15 AM - 12:15 AM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Adapting to Climate Change on Diversified Farms

Wednesday, November 28, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM   

Description to come.

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Mob Grazing for Soil Health

Wednesday, November 28, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM   

Description to come.

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The cut flowers you NEED to grow

Wednesday, November 28, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM   

The cut flowers you NEED to grow... 10 (or more, I love them all) of the best flowers to grow for cutting for use in the farmers market, florist and wedding sales. The best varieties, how to grow and post-harvest. Whipping up a bouquet recipe and how to make bouquets FAST! Examples of annual, perennial, bulb and woody choices.

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Expanding Organics in the Region - What’s the Plan?

Wednesday, November 28, 1:30PM - 2:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Cultivating Climate Resilience on Maritime

Wednesday, November 28, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

Mob Grazing: the Honest Practicalities

Wednesday, November 28, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

How to sell your beautiful blooms

Wednesday, November 28, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

How to sell your beautiful blooms. Different sales avenues for cut flowers. Innovative locations and how to build excitement that turns into sales. Direct to customers, florist, wholesale and being farmer florist, which is best for you?

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Using Financial Records for Effective Business Decisions

Wednesday, November 28, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Description to come.

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  • TBA

What we can learn from weeds for the development of ecological weed management

Wednesday, November 28, 11:15 AM - 12:15 PM   

Weeds can tell you a lot about your environment, soil and farming practices. Many of our farming practices create niches for which troublesome agricultural weeds are perfectly adapted. Ecological weed management seeks to minimize weed problems through an understanding of biological and ecological processes taking place in our agroecosystems. The first step to any integrated weed management program is accurate identification. Once identified, an integrated weed management program can be developed which addresses the current weed issues as well as the ecological conditions promoting it. Utilizing “many little hammers”, ecological and integrated weed management programs rely on multiple and diverse tactics such as critical periods, crop rotations and cover crops to manage weeds in the short- and long-term. Through well-organized planning steps, preventative measures, in-season control efforts and continuous adaptation, weeds can be managed in an ecological way that prevents current weed issues from becoming major weed problems.

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Program at a Glance