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Ontario Agricultural Conference 2024

FINDING NEW WAYS to be more efficient and net better results is always a priority for Ontario farmers; this is also true of the organizing committee behind the 2024 Ontario Agricultural Conference (OAgC) “From Good to Great”.

After three years of experimenting with new ways to deliver agricultural information and extension in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic — in 2021 and 2022, the Ontario Agricultural Conference was entirely virtual; in 2023, it was a hybrid online and in-person event held at Ridgetown, Kemptville, and Waterloo — this year, farmers will have more options to participate virtually or in-person at events in Ridgetown, Kemptville, or Waterloo.

HOW IT STARTED
In 2021, the organizers of the Southwest Agriculture Conference (SWAC), the Eastern Ontario Crop Conference (EOCC), and representatives from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (who formerly organized an agricultural conference annually in Waterloo and Guelph) joined forces to produce an online conference due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which prevented large crowds from gathering. The joint event was called the Ontario Agricultural Conference and featured more than 40 live and on-demand sessions highlighting top-of-mind agricultural topics and top-quality speakers from across North America and beyond.

“Coming up with a brand new way to get agronomic information, research results, and share information with farmers during the pandemic was challenging,” says Albert Tenuta, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs field crop extension plant pathologist and co-chair of the OAgC. “But, we found that when we worked together, we could accomplish a lot more, and found innovative ways to bring the learning from the SWAC, EOCC, and Guelph conferences to even more people across the province.”

The 2021 conference was a huge success and was repeated in 2022 due to ongoing restrictions on in-person gatherings. Featuring more than 40 live and on-demand sessions, the online format allowed conference registrants to watch them when and where convenient — wherever they had an internet connection — and the sessions were available for three months. The addition of TEC Talk Tuesday, a live, online meeting place for participants to meet and take a “deep dive” into specific conference topics and pick the brains of speakers and experts, was another example of the innovative approach to agriculture extension that the OAgC committee was able to execute.

Following feedback from the 2021 and 2022 conferences, an in-person conference option — a hybrid approach — was offered in Ridgetown, Kemptville, and Waterloo in 2023, returning to a more traditional, although limited, conference format where participants could meet, network, and learn from one another in addition to the online conference.

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