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Ag services board updated on area agriculture coalition proposal

Didsbury and Carstairs ag societies may have an interest in Olds society's idea
MVT aerial Olds Regional Exhibition grounds
An aerial view of Olds Regional Exhibition grounds. The organization is pitching the idea of a coalition to collaborate on issues such as facility use. File photo

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - The county's agricultural services board (ASB) has been updated on a proposal to create an agriculture coalition of regional agricultural societies and ag service boards.

The review came during one of the board’s recent regularly schedule meeting, held by teleconference.

Tracy Gardner, general manager of Olds Regional Exhibition (ORE), made a presentation to board members about the proposed coalition and answered questions about the project. 

The agriculture coalition would not see area agricultural societies’ merge, but would rather create a team approach to addressing the opportunities and challenges facing the region, she said. 

“We are talking about a unified voice to demonstrate to the minister that we are about regional collaboration and that we are about making sure that what is good for one is good for all,” said Gardner.

“One of our biggest challenges is really understanding how we can work together and what does the future really hold from a strategic perspective.

“Perhaps by coming together as a group the whole notion of prioritizing projects or bringing different ideas forward, maybe that’s exactly what our municipalities need help with and see how we can keep growing.”

The object of the coalition would include collaboration on funding requests, allocation and facility utilization, she said.

The coalition would work to attract events and programs to the region, which would have direct economic and tourism benefits to the region, she said. 

Once formed the coalition could also promote the use of infrastructure such as community halls in the district rather than having residents travel to use outside facilities, she said.

It could also showcase the county communities as destinations of choice for agriculture, she said.

Gardner told the board she believes Didsbury and Carstairs ag societies have an interest in exploring the agricultural coalition idea.

Craig Anderson is the president of the Didsbury ag society. 

“We are willing to work with Olds and the other groups for our events,” said Anderson. “For funding, we would rather do it on our own. We’d rather go to the county if we need funding, and not as a blanket (request). We are more than willing to work on events, but for funding we’d rather do on our own.”

County reeve and board member Bruce Beattie said ag societies in the region have traditionally focused on their respective communities. 

“I think that’s one of the areas that you are up against is the historical viewpoint that they are focused on the local community,” said Beattie. “People like to have certain amount of autonomy so you need to figure out a way to, at least in my view, retain that local autonomy while managing to cooperate and work together in concert.”

Made up of appointed public members and county councillors, the ASB accepted Gardner’s presentation as information.