Supporting industry sustainability and facing climate change head on

Agriculture Production Extension Program:  An Enduring Support for Industry  

Our longest running program, the Agriculture Production Extension Program, turned 20 this year. Over this time, Perennia has been helping farmers learn new skills, gain new knowledge and grow their farm operations under this unique program funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA). In addition to supporting farmers, our team also works with industry associations to advance initiatives that require our specialized production advice and knowledge and to provide agronomic support to the province.  

In 2020-21, on farm activity increased as we became better prepared to handle and understand COVID-19 precautions. We also continued to develop and offer resources and virtual information sessions.

Handling disruptions to supply chains, particularly in our livestock industries, was vital this year as Perennia worked with industry and commodity associations to manage the production and animal welfare issues resulting for the closure of Atlantic Poultry due to a COVID-19 outbreak. We know and understand these disruptions can be catastrophic to Nova Scotia producers and will focus on how we can support and proactively address such issues in the future. 

Developing mitigating strategies in response to our changing climate was also a persistent theme this year and will continue well into the future.  For example: 

  • we worked with Horticulture Nova Scotia on a trial exploring and assessing local soilless substrate options in an outdoor raised strawberry bed system.  By looking at more readily available materials with less costly transport fees, the environmental footprint of the production system can be reduced, while maximizing on-farm margins and longevity of the production setup 
  • we worked with industry partners, the NSDA and Nova Scotia Environment on climate adaptation teams conducting scans and assessments on the province’s beef and sheep, Christmas trees and horticulture sectors. Through this initiative, the hope is to identify areas of weakness and strength in each industry as we face a changing climate. 

Helping Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Producers Adopt New Practices to Address Climate Change 

There is no denying that climate change has and will continue to have an impact on our farming operations. Nova Scotia’s farmers have consistently adopted ways to mitigate the impact of farming on the environment.  Under the Canada Agricultural Climate Solutions Initiative, the federal government initiated the On-Farm Climate Action Fund seeking delivery partners across the country to put the fund into action.

Perennia submitted and completed the rigorous application process between September and December 2021. In February 2022, we were selected to deliver the program in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador which includes administering funding, developing producer resources, and delivering agrologist training.

The objective of this initiative is to support farmers in adopting beneficial management practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases. Just over $6 million will be available to producers until March 31, 2024 to improve nitrogen management and increase adoption of cover cropping and rotational grazing practices. 

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Supporting Employers With Temporary Foreign Workers during COVID-19 

Temporary foreign workers are highly skilled and vital for many farms and food processing businesses to remain in business. Facilitating workers to enter Nova Scotia during COVID-19 was challenging with both federal and provincial health guidelines changing often.  

 In 2021-22, Perennia was the main point of contact for employers bringing temporary foreign workers into the province. Essential to this role, was understanding and communicating any changes regarding testing, vaccinations and isolating requirements for workers entering and leaving the province. We also coordinated all logistics for incoming workers, including appropriate accommodation for the mandated 14-day isolation period. When needed, staff also greeted workers at the airport and co-ordinated transportation. We held 20 working group meetings with our partners, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

A Rapid Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Fisheries and Fishing Communities 

Fishing is one of the most profitable industries in Nova Scotia. Climate change is beginning to affect some of these fisheries and impacts are expected to increase. Understanding where and how local fisheries and communities are vulnerable to climate change is a critical step to guide planned adaptation. This was the premise for a study undertaken by the Centre for Marine Applied Research (CMAR), a division of Perennia located at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship on the Dartmouth waterfront.

The objective is to inform decision makers and stakeholders which fishing counties and coastal communities are at a greater relative risk to climate change, and to facilitate planned adaptation of Nova Scotia fisheries under a changing climate. 

This project included the development of two models: one for fisheries and a second for community vulnerability. The fisheries model considered fish harvesters and their respective fisheries and the second model considered community vulnerability where fish harvesters live and operate. These models were based on three indices of vulnerability – exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. A survey was distributed to fishing organizations across Nova Scotia to obtain fish harvesters’ perspectives on the effects of climate change on their livelihoods, with the data supplying the fisheries model.  

For many counties, the regional climate change threats to their fisheries were partially offset by access to resources, knowledge, and flexibility. The rapid assessment highlights the need for strategic cooperation between different levels of governance, industries, stakeholders, an citizenship for resiliency to current and accelerating climate change impacts. 

Helping Seafood Processors Adapt During COVID-19

This year Perennia continued to administer the Seafood COVID-19 Program. The program was funded by the Atlantic Fisheries Fund and provided financial assistance to commercial entities in the fishing, aquaculture, marine plant harvesting and seafood buying/processing sector in Nova Scotia. The fund supported companies in purchasing personal protective equipment and other safety materials and developing new protocols and procedures to ensure regulatory compliance and safety of employees who are essential to maintaining business operations.

The fund was open to all licensed processors, harvesters, buyers, and aquaculture lease holders and was successfully completed at the end of February 2022.

Nova Scotia Agri-Environmental Program: Thinking Ahead and Information Sharing

The Agri-Environmental Program is a three-way partnership between the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA), the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA) and Perennia. This year was the second year of the two-year program with an extension secured for another year. It is funded by the federal-provincial cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership. 

The program has four pillars – Environmental Farm Planning, Market Access, Research and Forward Thinking, and Resources and Information Sharing – with Perennia leading the last two. The objective of the program is for Nova Scotia to be recognized as a leader in agri-environmental sustainability by delivering a comprehensive, relevant program to reduce environmental risk on farm, increase public trust and expand market access. 

Here are some activities Perennia implemented this year as part of the program:

  • Developed workshops in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to educate beef, sheep, and dairy producers on deadstock disposal best management practices. This series presented producers with different disposal methods and methods to reduce environmental risks. An above ground burial demonstration site was also established to test an alternative method for disposal. 
  • Held virtual and in-person sprayer calibration sessions 
  • Established a cover crop grazing demonstration to show opportunities to extend the grazing season in the fall. A diverse cool season cover crop mixture was seeded late in the summer and beef cattle grazed the site in late fall. This type of grazing method can reduce feed costs and help improve soil health.
  • Developed various agri-environmental resources, including five fact sheets on topics including riparian zone establishment, manure storage systems and improving pastures
  • Participated in working groups with NSFA and NSDA providing a forum for resource development and collaboration