Sustainable practices for better yields
Governance and Mandate
The Agriculture Program has a District Board that deals with agricultural issues and funding applications. There is a Board representative from each First Nation that contributes into the program along with a representative from the Womens Commission. The Programs mandate includes the following objectives:
- To promote the interest of First Nations and their membership in the agricultural industry.
- To assist with technical information.
- To develop viable farm business units.
- To provide training in the different agricultural areas.
- To assist in financial management and funding requirements.
- To be proactive in developing new agricultural opportunities.
The Prince Albert Grand Council Agriculture Program has a contribution program to assist farmers from participating First Nation Bands. The following Bands contributed over $100,000 toward agricultural development this year: Wahpeton, La Ronge, Sturgeon Lake, Shoal Lake and Cumberland House. Over 45 projects were funded for our clients.
The main agriculture activity in the Prince Albert District is livestock production. Over the past year we have had a number of new startups and herd expansions. Most farmers managed to put up adequate hay for their livestock. There were several pasture expansions where we assisted with fencing materials. In addition, we have a District post pounder that we let farmers use. The post pounder is very well utilized from May to fall freeze up.
Another program that Prince Albert Grand Council provides is the Herd Health Program. It is an ongoing service that helps operators with their fall roundups, medication, vaccinations, marketing, etc. We also have purchased a gopher exterminator that is available to farmers with gopher problems.
Over the past year, we managed to access money from Canadian Agricultural Skill Service (CASS) Program. This program funds training for farmers to go to school or take courses. We have 20 farmers that received funding for over $320,000. Some of the courses taken were heavy equipment training, chainsaw operation, accounting, etc.
There are still a number of bison operations in the District. Prices for the animals are starting to increase. Viability of these operations is starting to get better. Cull animals are slaughtered and processed at the government-inspected facility in Drake (Drake Meats). A professional packaged product is then marketed throughout the province via Prince Albert Fine Foods. There also has been some interest from American hunters to harvest the older bulls that have a nice set of horns. The meat is distributed to band members.
American hunters are looking for opportunities to hunt deer, bear and moose in Northern Saskatchewan and this results in economic development opportunities for some of the Prince Albert Grand Council bands and members. Prince Albert Grand Council staff assists with sourcing proper hunting licenses, information, baiting and blinds, and booking hunters.
The First Nation owned wild rice processing plant in La Ronge processed 1,500,000 pounds of green rice in 2008. The plant is working well and will be changing from propane to natural gas when Sask Energy completes the line to La Ronge. Several improvements are planned at the plant as soon as the rice volume returns and finances allow. Saskatchewan Crop Insurance offered insurance on the 2007 wild rice crop and will guarantee 70 per cent of the last ten-year average crop. Saskatchewan Environment is starting to cancel wild rice properties if the annual fees are not paid in full.
Gardening is a very popular activity for our members. There are a number of community gardens and lots of individual gardens. La Ronge and Little Red had large potato production (over 10 acres) in 2006. We also held several gardening workshops throughout the north.
The Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation works closely with us to assist our clients with funding. We develop loan applications, training, and project implementation.
The Bands utilize our services for the land lease meetings with Indian Affairs and the farmers. We also assist our clients to access funding and services available from other federal and provincial government programs.