In Saskatoon, the sun rises early in July. This made the 1hr 45min drive from the south end of Saskatoon north just past Shellbrook an invigorating start to my day as I mulled over the plans for the demos and field tours that would make up the rest of the day’s agenda. The trip north was pleasantly uneventful. No wildlife threatened to leap across my path and traffic was almost non-existent. The hazy quality of the sky and the pink, almost Barbie-esk glow of the sun – a stark reminder of the fires that continued to burn across the not-so-distant landscapes to the north and west.
Arriving at our host farm – home to Kevin and Angela Potts and their family, I was pleased to see that there was no flurry of last-minute activity but rather the comfort of an organized host ready for the day. All I had to do was play my part. The well-kept yard and beautiful views across both nearby wetland and agricultural fields were warm and inviting even if the soils that had been a bit too long without rain resisted my attempts to dig samples and set up demos.
The arrival of our first ROO participants provided the comradery and muscle power I so desperately needed to finalize the demo set ups and allowed me to breath easy knowing I was among friends. As the participants trickled in the din of voices rose and I admit – I thoroughly enjoyed floating around the yard, moving from conversation to conversation as farmers from across SK and AB mingled and were joined by enthusiastic representatives from our partners at Nature’s Path – makers of delicious organic snack and breakfast foods, Riverside Natural Foods – makers of Made Good snack brand, MGM Seed and Grain – Saskatoon’s own gluten-free oat processing facility and Bay State Milling – mother company to MGM.
With everyone arrived, we gathered together for the first time under the purpose-ordered event tent to make introductions and turn the floor over to Ruth Knight – COG’s very own organic agronomy and educational consultant. That morning, a tent filled with nearly 3 dozen people listened intently as Ruth walked us through demonstration after demonstration linking the principles of regenerative agriculture with the influence of ecosystem processes and the importance of adaptive management always bringing it back to what that meant on the ground for the farms and the foods they’re trying to produce. Insightful questions and comments from the audience spurred along the conversation bringing together a group keen not only on learning but in sharing their experiences as well. A final, interactive demonstration of water infiltration wrapped up the morning and led to a delicious lunch (thank you MGM) and a buzz of conversations.
Although never listed as an item on our agenda for the day, it is those conversations that we know are the beginning of a comradery amongst a network of producers who are poised to be the SEEDs of change as they return to their communities – leading by example in their transitions to regenerative organic management.
For the afternoon’s events we gave thanks for the perfect weather (clear, bright sky with a nice breeze and not too much heat) and headed out caravan-style to visit sites where regenerative practices were already in play. The first few stops were lead by Ryan Potts (son of our hosts Kevin and Angela, ROO participant and MGM procurement officer). Ryan walked us through fields of oats intercropped with clover, alfalfa covers and borage fields as well as the meaning of the high Brix readings his crops were producing and some of the challenges and considerations that have gone into their incredibly well maintained fields. With energy and enthusiasm running high Ryan then passed the torch to Larry Marshall, seasoned regenerative farmer and ROO participant who introduced us to his hemp fields, red pine plantation, incredible garden crops and side by side trials they’re using to evaluate the effectiveness of newly available products. Although we spent hours in the fields looking at crops and discussing the significance of what we were seeing and how that related to the lived experiences on the farms of some of our other participants – time flew and we were soon several hours into the evening and late to supper!
We finished the day off eating together family style at a local restaurant (big thank you to Bay State Milling for sponsoring the supper). Getting to know the various players that make up the ROO program was invaluable. Although for me, the day lasted from sun-up to sun-down it was still too short! The ROO field day left me eagerly anticipating next year’s event where we’ll be able to tour new areas, see new ideas and most importantly – reunite with old friends and see which ideas they took back to their farms and see where their adventures in regen ag have led them.
July 14th, 2023
Author: Dorthea Gregoire
ROO Program Manager
Regenerative Organic Oats
Regenerative Organic Oats (ROO) is a three-year pilot project funded by Nature’s Path, Riverside Naturals Foods producers of the snack brand MadeGood and MGM Seed and Grain that supports and bolsters the growth of the Canadian regenerative organic oats supply in the face of climate change. ROO supports Prairie organic oat growers in adopting regenerative practices and transitioning to regenerative organic management.