A new edition of Alberta’s Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workbook has been launched and will be in use in EFP workshops in across the province later this summer and early fall.
Producer participants use the workbook as the primary tool to complete an EFP, to assess the environmental impact of the production practices on their farms and ranches. Through this effort, they can gain a good understanding of how agricultural practices can affect the environment, and pinpoint areas of their operation that need to be addressed.
"We realize farmers are taking time out of busy schedules to complete the workbook and anything we can do to improve ease of use and make the process more satisfying will encourage more producers to complete it," says Therese Tompkins program director of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (AEFP) Company, the non-profit group which delivers the EFP program in the province.
"Since we started in 2003, we have been collecting feedback from producers and delivery team members at all stages of the process; workshop one, workshop two and at each EFP review. We have simply incorporated these suggestions into a new second edition of the workbook," says Tompkins.
"The most obvious changes are in design, which should enhance the EFP experience for participants."
It is now full colour, which provides more options for laying out charts and visual elements. The orientation of the pages has changed to vertical from horizontal or, what is known in computer terms, from ’landscape’ to ’portrait’ and the pages have been numbered sequentially from front to back for easy reference, rather than numbering each chapter individually.
"Most of the content changes are to make the workbook more user friendly," says Tompkins. Some sections were moved to streamline the process of completing the workbook. Some chapters were enhanced to improve clarity and references such as new resource material, publications, factsheets have been updated.
And new sections such as a new ’How To Use This Workbook’ section, developed in collaboration with farmer participants, and an area for farmers and ranchers to identify their environmental goals have been added.
"An obvious question about the second edition is what does this mean for producers who have completed a plan or are in the process of developing one using the first edition," says Tompkins.
"Because the two editions are so technically similar, there is no requirement for past participants to complete the new workbook. And when they return to workshop two to renew their plan, they can still use the original workbook. But if they wish to, they can return to workshop one to get the new edition for completion," she says. "At some point in the future, the first edition will be declared obsolete but that is not going to be any time soon."
The new edition was pre-tested with a focus group of farmers and facilitators before being launched province-wide. "The staff and delivery team have received hands-on training to familiarize themselves with the changes and the additions to the workbook. We will do further training through the summer for the team to completely prepare them to present it at workshops," says Tompkins.
More information on the new and improved EFP workbook is available on the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company Web site at www.albertaEFP.com.
Through the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), the Government of Canada provides major funding to the EFP program in Alberta, with the Government of Alberta providing additional in-kind support services to help the agricultural sector develop and implement Environmental Farm Plans.
Additional support has been provided by the Agriculture and Food Council, through the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Council and various ministries of the Government of Alberta. Contributions have also come from more than 100 local municipalities, businesses and agricultural organizations.