Popular sessions at ag conference spark ideas for 2021

University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. BlackburnNews.com File Photo

Organizers behind the 27th annual Southwest Agricultural Conference are already looking ahead to 2021 after another successful year.

Co-Chair Peter Johnson said the two-day event at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus was sold out on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Roughly 1,350 people were in attendance for each day.

“The size of this conference was just massive,” he said.

Johnson said there were roughly 44 sessions and 70-75 speakers at the two-day event. This year’s featured speakers included Dr. Tom Deans, who spoke about ensuring success with a family farm, and Michael Landsberg who spoke about mental health.

“He’s really educating everyone on how significant the issue is,” said Johnson. “Agriculture is a community — a very small community… If you have a neighbour that still has corn out today, pick up the phone and just call them because they likely are under a lot of stress.”

A few popular discussion points at the conference included wheat, corn and soybeans. What was unexpected was how popular a session — led by a Ministry of Transportation representative — on road safety was. Johnson said some people even had to be turned away due to a lack of space.

“That’s cool because there have been so many changes over the last few years and you have to be legal but you also have to be safe,” he said. “We also had a speaker on tire technology, [something that has] changed dramatically over the very recent history.”

Based on some of the feedback received, Johnson said a lot of people were pleased with this year’s program and have already given suggestions for next year’s conference.

“I think what we’re going to start doing here is [something] called YEN — yield enhancement networks,” he said. “The researchers can work with a group of farmers … and we move the bar forward by the farmers helping themselves and also helping the researchers.”

Johnson mentioned that although the planning committee will be out attending conferences throughout the year to identify “hot topics” in the agricultural sector, they do appreciate insight from people on what they would like to see at future conferences.

“We need those ideas to put together a fresh program every year,” he said. “For really [well-known] keynote speakers, you have to book them essentially a year in advance or you may not get them.”

Registration for¬†Southwest Agricultural Conference always opens at the beginning of November and fills up quickly. For those who missed out on this year’s conference, Johnson said there will be some recorded sessions available on their website over the next three months.

-With files from Cheryl Johnstone