Mini Diagnostic Day Introduces Members to Agronomy

By: Sara Harper

Southwest Crop Diagnostic Day is a full day event in early July put on by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in cooperation with the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. It promotes “hands on learning” experiences for those in agribusiness. The skills emphasized are troubleshooting, evaluation and management strategies. Industry professionals facilitate workshops based on common issues found in Southern Ontario and new technology available to help fight the issues. Participants are able to customize their day with the available 11 rotational sessions.

In the early 2000’s, one of the Diagnostic Day planners, Anne Verhallen, received an inquiry from local 4-H Lambton Field Crops Club Leader, Don Lunn, which marked the start of this great event. He wanted to know if there was a discount available to 4-H clubs to attend. When asked why he wanted his club to attend, Don responded, “I was looking for an educational field trip for our club.” Since space was limited, arrangements were made to create a mini version in the evening. This also allowed for more intermediate and senior members to attend since many had summer jobs during the day. Three facilitators presented their sessions to give the youth a taste of what the full day offered. Clubs meet at the Vet Tech parking lot, say the 4-H pledge and then load onto wagons that take the members to the research field. There, they are split into three groups and rotate through the sessions.

Attendance at the Mini Diagnostics Day has ranged from 20-90 participants since its inception, with parents also enjoying the experience. In 2016, approximately 65 members attended from Chatham-Kent, Lambton and Middlesex 4-H Associations.

Sometimes sessions are modified so that they can be better understood by the youth, but most facilitators keep them the same.

“I can remember having Dr. Gary Ablett speak on soybean physiology and wondering how he might simplify things,” recalls Verhallen. “When I checked with a couple of young members they said he had not “dumbed it down.” The members were excited, had completely followed his explanation and could repeat it back to me.”

The evening ends with a pizza party in the parking lot before heading home.

“This experience exposes members to current issues such as crop diseases, weed identification, and various bugs—both beneficial and destructive,” says past 4-H member and attendee Matt Smyth. “It also gives an introduction to proper sprayer set-up and boom height to reduce drift and improve application and safety of pesticides.”

Smyth’s favourite part of the Mini Diagnostic Day was being able to learn some leading edge things about agriculture. He feels that this event is a great way to spark interest in agronomy with 4-Her’s and helps them understand the basics of agronomy which is relevant in many aspects of agriculture. It also provides the opportunity to see the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, where many agribusiness personnel attend post-secondary studies.

The Ambassador Beat: Sarah Mutton

The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program provides youth with advanced level training in leadership, citizenship, communications and public relations. Ambassadors put their energy and 4-H experiences to work recruiting new members and sharing the 4-H story. Throughout 2017, each of 4-H Ontario’s six Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program is proudly sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc. and UPI Energy. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for your event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Sarah Mutton, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from East Parry Sound 4-H Association

My name is Sarah Mutton and I am a 4-H Ontario Ambassador for 2017. I have been a 4-H member for eight years now and have participated in a wide range of clubs, my favourites being Dairy Club, Karaoke Club, and Lego Robotics Club. Throughout 4-H I have had many opportunities to learn and strengthen my leadership skills, including many camps and junior leading our Lego Robotics club. This year I wanted to give back to the program that has taught me so much by becoming the East Parry Sound 4-H Association’s first 4-H Ontario Ambassador.

As an Ambassador, I have been able to take part in two events so far; College Royal at the University of Guelph, and Youth Forum Beef Show. I had an amazing time at both of these events and it has been a pleasure to see more of what 4-H offers youth across the province. I would like to thank our generous sponsors UPI Energy and GROWMARK, Inc. I am very excited to continue my journey as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador and see what the rest of this amazing opportunity has in store for our Ambassador team.

Another 4-H opportunity I had the pleasure of attending in May was the Dairy Sen$e® conference, which is co-managed by 4-H Ontario and Ontario Holsteins. This conference provided 45 attendees with the opportunity to come together and learn from many very knowledgeable experts in the dairy industry.

As soon as we arrived we were given jackets, binders and bags containing a wealth of information and some gifts from the generous sponsors of the event. These included the Managing Partners 4-H Ontario and Ontario Holsteins, Presenting sponsor Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), as well as EastGen, John Deere Canada ULC, Holstein Canada, Animal Pro Products, Select Sires GenerVations, CIBC, DeLaval Inc. – Canada, Ontario Dairy Youth Trust Fund and Collins Barrow. The Project is also funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Throughout the conference we were given the opportunity to hear from many speakers on a variety of different topics such as social media in agriculture, purchasing an ongoing operation, financial statements, succession planning, current developments from DFO and much more.

On the second day of the conference we had the opportunity to spend most of our day touring two farms, where we were able to ask the farmers questions as well as hear presentations from other guests who met with us at the farms. First we visited Bridon Farms Inc., where we had a tour and then information sessions about feeding a robotic herd, calf nutrition development and reproduction. Then we visited Larenwood Farms Ltd. where we were given another tour and had information sessions on the cost of expansion, buying or leasing equipment and proAction animal care cattle assessments.

One of the highlights of the conference was the preparation and presentation of case studies. Each day groups were given time to study and assess their assigned farm, perform a SWOT analysis and prepare a recommendation for their farm which would be presented on the final morning of the conference. This was definitely challenging, but it was also an incredible way to immediately put our new knowledge to work along with what we already knew. After the presentations, one group was awarded first place for having the best recommendation for their given farm and were invited on a trip to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Dairy Sen$e was a great opportunity and I strongly recommend you attend if you are interested in the agriculture industry and aged 18-25.