Category Archives: General

Volunteer Weather Observer Shocked by On-Farm Downpour October 11th, 2016

Posted in: General Watershed Moments

By Alan Wiebe at Seine-Rat River Conservation District

Harold and his brother were taken by storm last summer when they heard news that a deluge of rain dumped 2.81 inches of rain on their crop land near St. Elizabeth, Manitoba.

“We were in Winnipeg at the time and my brother phoned home to talk to my sister-in-law,” said Harold. “She said it was just pouring outside! We got home later and couldn’t believe what we saw. A storm cell had just formed and burst on our small area of land. You could have gone a mile in any direction from where we live and no one received any measureable amount of rain.”

The saying, “Rain doesn’t fall the same on all” certainly gives meaning to Harold, an avid CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer. Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a grassroots network of volunteer weather observers of all ages and backgrounds. They work together to measure and map precipitation, including rain, hail, and snow, in their local communities. The data they report is used to better understand where precipitation falls in our communities and how weather affects our lives.

Harold checks his rain gauge every day and reports weather information online using an app on his phone. The extreme nature of the isolated precipitation event he experienced on July 15, 2015 caught the attention of CoCoRaHS weather watchers, including Tiffiny Taylor, Provincial Coordinator for CoCoRaHS Manitoba.

“Tiffiny called me to find out if there was a reporting error. I laughed at the time because my brother was with me to verify the huge amount of rain we received. The bad part was that our area got another 1.88 inches of rain the next day.” said Harold.

Today, we are seeing more severe precipitation events in the amount of rain that falls in a storm – even though annual precipitation events are staying the same. This means that multi-day storms are increasing in frequency and extreme precipitation events are becoming more severe and damaging.

The health of Harold’s farm is deeply connected to the weather and the health of the Marsh River watershed. He says that the CoCoRaS website is nice for keeping track of localized precipitation in his area in the Municipality of Montcalm, just east of the Red River.

“I love the way you can go on the website and check the map to see how much precipitation the neighbours got. It’s a great way of tracking total rainfall amounts and how much precipitation you have on your farm for the season.”

CoCoRaHS is the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States. This network of volunteer observers report precipitation measurements throughout Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. The daily observations collected by volunteer observers are reported in real-time and are used to provide high quality data for natural resource, education, and research applications.

“Every drop counts for volunteer weather reporting,” said Tiffiny, “including reports of zero precipitation. That’s because organizations across North America use CoCoRaHS data every day to get the latest weather reports as they come in.”

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) uses CoCoRaHS data to help us model water flows in our watershed. Pete Hiebert is a SRRCD sub-watershed representative of the Manning Canal watershed. He is also a dedicated CoCoRaHS volunteer observer who is interested in checking how much moisture is in the snow. He believes that volunteer weather reporting is important because weather data is more accurate when there are more volunteer weather observers reporting.

The increasing frequency and severity of short-duration, high-intensity precipitation events means that volunteer observers play an important role in their communities. Organizations like the SRRCD benefit when there are more volunteers because they provide localized precipitation data that can be used to implement more effective surface water management strategies.

According to Tiffiny, “Managing erratic and extreme precipitation events, as well as longer, hotter, and drier growing seasons pose major adaptation challenges. That’s why precipitation data, and more of it, is really important. The data our volunteer observers provide tells us the story of our current climate conditions. More data gives us better tools to assess and address changes in our land and water systems. It also helps flood and drought forecasters, as well as decision-makers, make more informed decisions for managing risk, flood and drought mitigation, and building resilience in our communities.”

Joining the CoCoRaHS network as a volunteer weather observer is easy. Anybody with an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions can become a volunteer observer. Volunteers receive training and education on how to use low-cost measurement tools to report observations on the interactive CoCoRaHS website.

“I got involved with CoCoRaHS because I like tracking weather and precipitation. I am a farmer and it’s nice to see what my total precipitation amounts are for the year. The data we collect is also helping other organizations and this information is beneficial to everyone in the region.”

The SRRCD is pleased to partner with CoCoRaHS to measure and map precipitation data in our district. You can sign up to become a CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer by visiting www.cocorahs.org. You can also find out more by contacting the SRRCD at one of our offices in the southeast. We can be reached in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.

 

Sustainable Land Use Initiatives Gaining Momentum in Manitoba July 21st, 2016

Posted in: General Watershed Moments

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) was pleased to host the 2016 Manitoba Conservation Districts Association (MCDA) tour right here in our watershed. This annual event showcases the very best of the Manitoba Conservation Districts Program. Each year, one of Manitoba’s 18 Conservation Districts is invited to host the tour. Over 100 visitors from across the province came to attend this year’s event that featured sustainable projects by the SRRCD. The wealth of knowledge and the diversity of visitors enriched this event with meaningful discussions about alternative land use initiatives to build a more sustainable Manitoba.

Check out our first storybook map

The projects featured on the 2016 MCDA tour were designed for temporary water storage and are unique to each site. It is a privilege to showcase the benefits of effective water retention in our watershed and we are proud to provide you with an opportunity to revisit the project sites we encountered on our tour. Click here to view an interactive story map of the 2016 MCDA tour. We hope this map will inspire memories of the meaningful discussions and ideas that stirred our imaginations along the way.

We are also excited to share David Wiens’ story as it was featured in the Manitoba Co-operator. Click “Farmer sees water storage as ‘win-win,’ ” to read more about the remarkable history of the De Salaberry Crown Lands & Skyline Diary Water Retention project.

What are ecological goods and services?

The heart of our watershed initiatives are made up of grassroots innovators, like David Wiens, who give meaning to the value of ecological goods and services (EG&S). EG&S refer to the benefits provided to humans by healthy ecosystems. Ecological goods include things like clean air, fresh water, and the food we produce. The natural world provides us with essential ecological services that are necessary to sustain life, like water and air purification, flood and drought protection, pollination of crops and vegetation, and soil renewal. The value society places on ecological goods and services creates a demand for healthy ecosystems that can be met by private landowners.

Farmers are in the best position to use their land to produce EG&S. They also have unique opportunities to take leadership of environmental priorities in partnership with their communities. Sustainable land use initiatives that promote the provision of EG&S are gaining momentum in Manitoba. The Province of Manitoba recently announced its commitment to implementing a province-wide program based on the Alternative Land Use Services model to help reduce flooding and improve water quality and nutrient management. This is fantastic news for a more sustainable Manitoba!

SRRCD programs are custom designed for farmers

The projects featured by the SRRCD on the MCDA tour were initiated at the local level by people whose livelihoods are deeply connected to the health of our watershed. These innovative projects were custom designed to enhance farming operations unique to each farm. They also provide ecological goods and services to communities in the surrounding area. Our programs are welcomed by early adopters who believe in farming for the next generation. They are farmers, innovators, and leaders who are willing to take ownership of the health of their watershed for the long-term sustainability of their farming operations. The SRRCD is pleased to support their vision by doing the legwork behind the project planning and implementation of projects for sustainably-minded farmers, allowing them to do what they do best.

Visit us online at www.srrcd.ca to find out more about the programs we offer or sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can also stop by one of our offices in La Broquerie or Vita. Let’s chat!

SRRCD Wins Bajkov Award May 8th, 2016

Posted in: Environmental Education General Livestock Programming Rain Gardens Tourond Creek Discovery Centre / Rosenthal Nature Park Trees Water Quality Testing Water Storage/Retention Watershed Moments Wells

Spirits were highSRRCD Award photo - Chris Randall- Jodi Goerzen- Cornie Goertzen- Alex Salki-Larry Bugera at Fort Whyte Alive as representatives of Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) Board of Directors and staff were honoured with the 2015 Alexander Bajkov Award. The award is given annually by the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) to people who have worked passionately to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg.

“The Seine-Rat River Conservation District exemplifies the community collaboration necessary to create meaningful change for Lake Winnipeg. Its board, staff, volunteers and the community members who participate in its many projects are dedicated to sustainable watershed stewardship – and not afraid to get their hands dirty. It’s a great example of grassroots cooperation in action” said Alexis Kanu, Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s Executive Director.

The Bajkov award is named in memory of pioneering fisheries biologist, Dr. Alexander Bajkov, and commemorates his contributions and dedication to the understanding of Lake Winnipeg. The award is usually presented to a single individual who demonstrates outstanding efforts to protect and restore the lake and its watershed. It was awarded this year to a group of dedicated individuals whose outstanding community efforts were recognized.

Since 2002, the SRRCD has promoted sustainable watershed stewardship in an area of southeast Manitoba with some of the largest nutrient loads flowing into the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.  Many of their programs are aimed at re-establishing natural ecosystem capacity to reduce the high nutrient loads.  The district’s efforts have led to involvement of new municipal partners, and improvements in municipal cooperation and relations.  The SRRCD began as one RM and now involves the Municipalities of La Broquerie, Ste. Anne, Hanover, Stuartburn, De Salaberry, Ritchot, Taché, Reynolds, Springfield, Montcalm, Emerson-Franklin, Piney, City of Steinbach, Town of Ste. Anne, Village of St-Pierre-Jolys, and Town of Niverville.

Alex Salki, Chair of the LWF Science Advisory Council, nominated the SRRCD for this year’s award, “The SRRCD has been involved in many special projects and partnerships including water storage, abandoned well sealing, rain gardens, willow-bioengineering for erosion control, grassed waterways, tree planting, environmental education, water quality testing in local rivers, watershed assessments, and integrated watershed management planning. It is a grassroots organization working hard from the bottom up to bring about important changes necessary to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg.”

Cornie Goertzen, Chair of the SRRCD Board of Directors, was all smiles as he graciously accepted the award on behalf of his beloved District. “The heart of our watershed initiatives are made up of grassroots experts who go the extra mile to build meaningful connections on the local level. While the wellbeing of our waterways are intrinsic to the health of Lake Winnipeg, our programs are strengthened through meaningful partnerships that have the potential to transform local initiatives into grassroots movements.”

The LWF is an environmental non-governmental organization working to restore and protect the health of Lake Winnipeg through research, public education, stewardship and collaboration. For more information about the LWF and its watershed initiatives, visit them online at www.lakewinnipegfoundation.org

The SRRCD is a grassroots conservation group dedicated to supporting and promoting the sustainable management of land and water resources in southeast Manitoba. www.srrcd.ca.

Alex Salki and Cornie Goertzen

Farming a Legacy of Sustainability for the Next Generation March 8th, 2016

Posted in: General Watershed Moments

This post was submitted by Alan Wiebe of the Seine-Rat River Conservation District

Close up

Three generations of the Bugera family (left to right): Ivan, Sébastien, and Larry Bugera

Larry and Murielle Bugera, along with their son, Ivan, believe in farming for the next generation. The Bugera’s are third and fourth generation farmers who operate the organic acres of Ferme Larielle Farm. The farm is located east of the Village of St-Pierre-Jolys along the historic Joubert Creek.

The Bugera’s come from a long tradition of family farming. Larry’s grandfather, George Bugera, was among the first Ukrainian pioneers to start farming in the Stuartburn area in 1899. Murielle’s grandfather, the Honourable Albert Préfontaine, established the family farm in 1911. Today, it is designated as a Manitoba Century Farm. The amalgamation of the Bugera and Préfontaine family farms, as well as additional acres purchased throughout the years, make up the Ferme Larielle Farm.

The intergenerational legacy of the family farm gives deep meaning to the Bugera’s identity and connection to the landscape. They were looking for ways to keep the land and the farm in the family. The Bugera’s recognized an opportunity to improve the sustainability of their farm for future generations by transitioning from conventional to organic farming.

“Organic farming can help us enhance the health of our soil so that it’s better at absorbing and releasing water,” says Murielle. “It reduces our risk by building resilience to flooding and drought, and has lower costs of production. We also want to stay ahead of stricter farming regulations in the future.”

The Bugera family began growing alfalfa in 2004 to facilitate their transition and were certified for organic production in 2007. Alfalfa is one of the best options for making the transition to certified organic production in terms of weed control, soil fertility, and overall economics.

The process of going organic progressed a lot easier with help from Dr. Martin Entz and Dr. Gary Martens from the University of Manitoba. “They helped us develop rotational plans and a support network,” explains Murielle. “From there, we just started cropping the best we could and we learned as much as possible about green manure, intercropping, building soil health, and weed management.”

The Bugera family still use conventional farming methods as part of their long-term strategy to subsidize their transition to organic farming. Murielle isn’t saying conventional farming is bad, “We’re farmers – and we believe in what we do. We believe that farmers have a big role to play to reduce our carbon footprint. We like organic farming because it helps us to reduce our risk and build resilience by improving the health of our soil.” They are currently organically cropping red spring wheat, barley, and oats, with plans to diversify into flax and soybeans. It is also possible the family may pasture livestock on organic fields in the future so they don’t have to buy green manure or compost.

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Larry and Murielle Bugera

The Bugera family agrees that the biggest challenge in transitioning to organic farming is finding the specific information you need in order to incorporate growing methods that are right for the soil conditions unique to each farm. Organic farming requires growing methods that are different from conventional farming because organic farmers choose not to use any kind of pesticides or chemical fertilizers on their field. Fortunately, organic farmers are undoubtedly willing to share information about their farming practices. Larry explains that, “There are a number of ways to transition from conventional to organic farming. We learned by going to seminars, field tours, and talking with other organic farmers.” His son, Ivan, was one of the reasons for the organic transition.

Ivan recommends planning ahead and developing a strong network of people who have the knowledge and equipment you need to help you improve your soil quality. “You really need to know your soil and focus on building your soil. That’s the best way to build your resilience.” He adds that there’s a market for a lot of organic crops if you take the time to consider what you like and what you are good at growing on your farm.

The Bugera’s are passionate about sharing what they have learned with other people who are interested in organic farming practices. The family travels around the country to attend and present at organic conferences. Most recently, they attended a conference in Toronto where they heard first-hand how people from the city buy organic food because they think it’s healthier for them and the environment.

Making the transition to organic farming was intimidating at first, until they got used to the idea of implementing new farming practices. “It’s like changing jobs,” says Murielle, “The first time is scary – but after a while, you get used to it.”

The changes made to transition the family farm to produce organically grown crops has established a legacy of sustainability for the next generation of the Bugera family. “We have a responsibility to encourage the younger people,” says Murielle, “Especially if it makes sense for the people we are doing this for – like our son’s and grandson’s generation.”

You can find out more about Ferme Larielle Farm by visiting them online at www.fermelarielle.ca.