Rob Borsato, seen here during the opening of this year’s Fall Fair, is one of the guest speakers at the Kersley Farmers Institute’s winter workshop coming up Jan. 17-18 at the College of New Caledonia Quesnel Campus. (Observer file photo)

Kersley Farmers Institute’s winter workshop will focus on “farming for the future”

A Friday night new entrant networking event is being introduced this year

Rob Borsato, Amy Quarry and Serena Black are just some of the guest speakers who will be part of the Kersley Farmers’ Institute’s winter workshop Jan. 17-18.

“Changing Opportunities in Agriculture Farming for the Future” takes place Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18 at the College of New Caledonia Quesnel Campus.

It all kicks of with a new entrant networking event Friday, Jan. 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m This is a chance to meet other new and experienced farmers, learn about how to sell your products and learn about what programs are available and how to start from the ground up. Speakers for the event include Rob Borsato, Amy Quarry and George Powell.

The evening event is a new addition to the Kersley Farmers Institute’s winter workshop.

“In the past, it’s just been the day workshops on Saturday,” said Wilma Watkin, treasurer of the Kersley Farmers Institute. “[Ministry of Agriculture resource development agrologist Marisa Nightingale] has been the instigator to have an informal gathering for new entrants, so they know there’s a support system there in the community.”

Watkin says the evening will be an informal roundtable discussion and will be a lot about sharing information and gaining knowledge, as well as connecting new and experienced farmers.

“It’s to try to pull people who are starting out and to basically connect them because networking is huge,” she said. “Farmers are passionate about what they do and happy to share information.”

The new entrant networking event is free, but anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP by contacting Ministry of Agriculture resource development agrologist Marisa Nightingale at marisa.nightingale@gov.bc.ca or 250-267-2540.

The day-long winter workshop on Jan. 18 runs from 8:30 a.m. to roughly 3:30 p.m., with several workshops, networking opportunities and a lunch catered by Long Table Grocery.

The event features Ministry of Agriculture provincial soils specialist Dr. Dieter Geesing with a presentation called Why Bother Composting?, a presentation about Greenhouse Production by organic market gardener Rob Borsato, a session on Cash Crops You Can Grow by University of Northern British Columbia extension specialist Serena Black, and a presentation about Pests in the Cariboo, which includes what to look for, how to find them and what to do about various bugs, pathogens and weeds.

Lori Fogarty from the North Cariboo Rural Agricultural Development Advisory Committee will provide an update on agricultural education programs, Nicole Pressey and Marisa Nightingale will provide information about Ministry of Agriculture programs and services that are available, Community Futures North Cariboo will share information about their services, and Amy Quarry will be offering an update on the new Sprout Kitchen Regional Food Hub and Business Incubator.

This is the third year for the Kersley Farmers Institute’s winter workshop, and Watkin says it’s part of the supporting and building up the agriculture industry, along with the Sprout Kitchen Regional Food Hub, the new building at Alex Fraser Park and the possibility of taking agriculture courses at the college.

“This all as to do with promoting agriculture in the region to offset the economic drivers we are losing in forestry,” she said. “Quesnel is quite well poised for that.”

She says Quesnel has water and great accessibility through the highway and proximity to an international airport, but there isn’t a lot of infrastructure.

“To me, education is one of the keys so that people can be expert farmers,” she said.

The cost of the Jan. 18 event is $25 and includes lunch.

The day will begin with registration, payment, coffee and snacks at 8:30 a.m., followed by the morning workshops, updates at 11 a.m., and lunch at noon. More updates and afternoon workshops will follow, and the day will wrap up with door prizes. Watkin encourages people to come with a friend, family member or business partner and team up to gain as much information as possible, as workshops will run concurrently in the morning and afternoon.

Pre-register before Jan. 16 by contacting Wilma Watkin at 250-747-2757 or watkinw@quesnelbc.com. This will help organizers determine the catering needs.

Payment can be made by cash or cheque the morning of Jan. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

Watkin says they received funding and support from the federal and provincial governments, Community Futures North Cariboo and Harvest, the organizing body of the Quesnel Farmers’ Market, for the workshop.

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