COVID-19: PCBFA moves away from in-person workshops to webinars

Daryl Chubb in the soil pit explaining how soil chemistry changes as you go deeper, how it affects plants and how to assess your soil health at the Peace Country Beef and Forage Association Ag Field Day at the Fairview Ag Research Farm Aug. 1, 2020. The association is now moving away from these kinds of in-person sessions due to COVID-19. CHRIS EAKIN/FAIRVIEW POST

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The Peace Country Beef and Forage Association (PCBFA) is hosting webinars to keep in touch with local producers while adhering to the rules around social distancing.

The association serves as a hub for producers to find out about innovations, allowing area farms and rural communities to stay sustainable.

Katie McLachlan, environmental and communications co-ordinator with PCBFA, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for them to shift their approach to workshops.

“Agriculture is an essential service and we got to keep going,” McLachlan said.

“We got to kind of adjust to the world, and farmers are no strangers to having to make adjustments to things out of our control.”

The first webinar for “The Organic No Till: Myth or Reality” workshop took place March 27 with one scheduled for every Friday until April 24. The webinar series focuses on how to reduce tillage for organic production and was initially supposed to be held in person.

“We feel it’s important that our extension efforts don’t slow down because of this (pandemic),” McLachlan said.

“With technology nowadays, we can just get a webinar going, we can get virtual meetings going and we can keep some quality extension going without having to get a couple of people together (in person).”

The March 27 webinar dealt with transitioning from a conventional system to an organic system and featured speakers from various certifying bodies.

The upcoming April 3 webinar will be on the organic inspection process.

Subsequent webinar topics include strategies to reduce tillage in organic production on April 10, livestock integration into organic systems on April 17 and a producer panel on April 24. All webinars begin at noon.

“Organic production is quite synonymous with tillage,” McLachlan added.

“Because you’re so limited on pesticides and herbicides, tillage is (typically) the only way you can really successfully deal with weeds in an organic system, so it’s thinking outside the box this workshop.”

The sixth annual Field Day at the Research Farm is still set for August but may transition to virtual tours depending on how the pandemic progresses.

McLachlan emphasized that agriculture could not slow down during the COVID-19 crisis but noted that farmers along with everyone else needed support.

“With markets going up and down and border uncertainty, it is very stressful times right now, so we are going to be rolling out some more stuff around mental health and mental health resources for our producers and everyone really,” she said.

“As far as long term goes, the world needs to eat and I’m really hoping agriculture comes out on the other side of this quite rosy, and there may really be an opportunity for public perception with everything that’s happening.”

To register or learn more, call 780-835-6799 ext. 3 or visit