Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show looks to lock in land base

GFM plans to buy research land for eastern Discovery Farm

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As Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show goes digital this week, its operator is preparing to secure its real-world footprint in southern Ontario and put that real estate to year-round work.

Glacier FarmMedia and the Ontario government on Tuesday announced their intent to work toward a land deal with the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO), which today leases Section 1 of its Woodstock Research Station to the media company for the show.

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The plan calls for Winnipeg-based GFM — the owner of this website — to buy the current 100-acre COFS site, lease “some adjacent lands” and set up what it plans to call Discovery Farm Woodstock.

A deal, expected to be finalized next year, “will not only secure the future of Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show but also bring new research and innovation infrastructure to southern Ontario,” GFM president Bob Willcox said in a release.

“Our intention with Discovery Farm Woodstock is to bring together key players from industry and science to find practical solutions to the key questions facing farmers today.”

The proposal calls for a sustainability and soil health centre to be set up at the farm show and field demo site, where Discovery Farm Woodstock would focus on “farmer-driven applied research and innovation in the area of sustainability and soil health using an in-field and classroom framework,” the company said.

“Key to our plan is establishing strategic partnerships,” Willcox said, to work on applied research projects and to help ensure knowledge and technology transfer.

The plan also calls for building “urban and rural connection” through a student demo farm with partners including Grain Farmers of Ontario, the province said Tuesday.

Discovery Farm Woodstock would also be a sister site to Discovery Farm Langham, which GFM operates at Langham, Sask., west of Saskatoon, and which hosts the company’s annual Ag in Motion outdoor farm show.

Closing the proposed deal is “contingent on fulfillment of the duty to consult and all legal requirements,” the Ontario government said in a separate release Tuesday.

ARIO chair Lorne Hepworth, in the same release, described the proposed deal as “a win-win-win” for farmers, COFS and the province’s ag sector.

“Through the proposed sale of the Woodstock Research Station, COFS will continue to provide farmers with the vital opportunity to learn about the latest and greatest farming practices and technology,” provincial Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman said Tuesday in the same release.

“Today’s announcement is good news for Ontario’s agriculture sector, which will have expanded access to that research, and is good news for our community and local economy, which will benefit from year-round activities on this site.”

Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch said city officials “have been working on this file for years to ensure that Canada’s largest outdoor farm show can continue to host this experiential learning event.”

Thanking the province for making the commitment to permanently secure the land in question, he said local officials “look forward to working with all of our partners to ensure the outdoor farm show remains a fixture in Ontario.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, COFS rebranded for 2020 as Canada’s Digital Farm Show, which runs online this week from Tuesday through Friday. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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