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SLWDB Agriculture Labour Focus Group

In November. I had the opportunity to participate in one of Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board’s focus groups to discuss the current and future workforce needs within the agricultural sector.

Harvesting insights, local agriculture employers roll up their sleeves to participate in one of our focus groups to dive deep into discussions about the current and future workforce needs. 

Thank you to all the passionate participants for cultivating insights and contributing to this vital project.

SLWDB December Newsletter


Two Lambton County grain elevators up for sale

Two grain elevators in Lambton County are up for sale. And agriculture leaders fear smaller farmers may bear the brunt of the closure of six southwestern Ontario grain elevators.

The announced closure of the Ontario Grain LP elevators announced by Sollio Agriculture on Sept. 21 will lead to greater transportation costs for farmers, said Lambton Federation of Agriculture President Gary Martin. He is especially concerned for smaller farmers who may not have easy access to semi-tractor trailers like their larger counterparts.

Six locations of Ontario Grain L.P including grain elevators in Dawn-Euphemia at Rutherford, Becher near Wallaceburg, Staples, St. Thomas, Princeton, and Palmerston are closing. While the company is exiting grain marketing in Ontario but Ontario Grain will honour all existing contracts and fulfill its obligations to farm customers, employees and business partners during the transition, the company said as it released the news.

It plans to continue serving clients during the 2022 harvest season at a reduced capacity.

Martin was surprised by the announcement, but had already been fielding calls from affected farmers in Lambton County by Thursday afternoon. The nearest elevators to Florence would be either in Inwood or Thamesville, he said.

The Becher elevator in Wallaceburg is the company’s flagship elevator, says Martin who added it had been rebuilt approximately seven years ago.

Martin is curious to see who buys the grain elevators. The elevators provide grain drying, cleaning as well as storage services for farmers. Ontario Grain will begin a sale process of its assets with prospective buyers. Sollio Agriculture is a major shareholder in Ontario Grains.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture will be discussing the changes made with the Ontario Grain elevators at its October meeting.

~Blake Ellis~
Petrolia Independent


Fundraising for Sarnia air ambulance helipad

Gary Martin often watches air ambulance helicopters flying over his farm in southern Lambton County on their way to and from the helipad at the Wallaceburg hospital he and his family uses when they need health care.

On Friday, the president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture and others with the organization delivered a $5,000 donation for the air ambulance landing and takeoff helipad under construction at Bluewater Health in Sarnia.

The donation was by both the Lambton and the Ontario federations.

When a member suggested the donation – a shared gift from the Lambton and Ontario federations – Martin remembered saying, “What – Bluewater Health doesn’t have a helipad yet?”

Martin said the local federation decided to support this good cause and, through the group’s provincial organization, embraced the opportunity to double the amount of the donation.

Gary Martin, president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, speaks with Laurie Zimmer, vice-president of clinical services at Bluewater Health, at the air ambulance helipad under construction at the hospital site in Sarnia. The federation, along with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, contributed $5,000 to the project. PHOTO BY PAUL MORDEN /The Observer

There are 134 hospitals in Ontario that already have a helipad, said Laurie Zimmer, vice-president of clinical services for Bluewater Health.

“This is a huge success for us and really completes our service delivery for the community,” she said.

Sarnia’s helipad is being built on land where a running track and playing field sat next to a former high school site on East Street that was acquired by the nearby hospital.

Concrete has been poured, a 125-metre walkway to the hospital is in place, fencing is up and shrubs have been planted as part of the approximately $900,000 construction project that began in June.

It’s expected to be completed in late August or early September, Zimmer said.

“We’re about three weeks behind with it just because we’re just waiting on some supplies,” including specialized lighting, she said.

Once the work is completed, the hospital will be able to apply for Transport Canada certification to use the helipad to transport patients to and from other hospitals, including those in nearby London.

Certification can take six to eight weeks, Zimmer said.

“It really does provide timelier access to critical-care patients,” she said.

It can take 45 minutes to an hour for an ambulance to drive to London’s hospitals, compared to 20 minutes by air ambulance, Zimmer said.

As well as better outcomes for patients, greater use of air ambulances will allow Bluewater Health nurses and other health-care staff who currently accompany patients travelling by ambulance to remain at the Sarnia hospital and be available to help patients there, she said.

Ornge air ambulances have their own medical equipment and critical-care team to care for patients while they’re being transferred, Zimmer said.

Ambulance crews currently handling out-of-town transfers will also now be available for other calls in the community.

Zimmer said the hospital currently transfers patients four to five times a week, but that number could grow once the helipad is open and providing access to Ornge air ambulance service.

“Once you build it, they will come,” she said.

Previously, patients from the Sarnia hospital would have to be transferred to the local airport by ambulance to reach Ornge helicopters.

Lambton County contributed $400,000 for the helipad project.

So far, just more than 60 per cent of the funding goal of nearly $1 million for the project has been raised, said Kathy Alexander, executive director of the Bluewater Health Foundation.

She thanked the two federations, the county and other donors.

“We’re really excited with that progress so far, but we still need the community to come together and help us build and to open this helipad that will really save lives and make a difference for so many in our community,” Alexander said.

~Paul Morden~
The Sarnia Observer


Net Zero Challenges

The City of Sarnia in collaboration with the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership and a number of community partners across Lambton County hosted an Energy and Environment Summit on the morning of May 17th at Lambton College’s Event Centre.

The summit was attended by seventy-five participants with a genuine interest in the success of the Sarnia Lambton community.

As Canada moves to net zero, energy and the environment will merge and ultimately drive economic development. Understanding how Sarnia-Lambton will embrace this goal will be the essence of this summit’s discussion.

The LFA was invited to speak about the challenges that the Net Zero goal will have on agriculture and how our sector will be able to help other sectors reach that goal.

UPDATE: A report on the results of the Sarnia-Lambton Energy and Environment Summit has been released.
Download the report here and watch Bryan Boyle’s Report to Sarnia City Council HERE.

YouTube player

Speech by Gary Martin, President of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture

(Check against delivery)

Welcome and thank-you for inviting me to speak on this very important topic.

My name is Gary Martin and I’m currently the President of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture.

The LFA was formed in 1941 to work on a local level to represent the voice of the farmer in Lambton County on issues relating to their farm operations, while bridging with the community and other sectors and partners and service providers.

We’re on the grow, this year supporting 1942 farm families, and in 2021 we supported 1927.

Our mantra is to “Advance agriculture and the rural community through partnerships, education and advocacy.

Energy and the Environment will be dominating the discussion in the years to come and I’d like to think that the 2nd largest industry in Lambton County should have a seat at the table in those discussions.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture acknowledges that Climate Change is happening and that it represents a real threat to agricultural production and the livelihoods of Ontario’s farmers.

Changes in our climate are already occurring as a result of rising global temperatures.

This is resulting in an increased frequency of extreme weather events and higher variability and instability in seasonal cycles that directly affects our ability to manage our crops efficiently.

We also recognize climate change is a global challenge requiring action and investment from governments, communities, businesses, and individuals.

Circling back to our mantra, the LFA are specifically looking for increasing partnerships, education and advocacy, with governmentscommunitiesbusinesses and individuals in the County and Ontario-wide on solutions towards the proposed goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions towards Net-Zero.

*The government has chosen to commit to achieve Net-Zero by 2050 and they have brought forward a few programmes to achieve that in the agriculture sector.

The Federal government has provided funding through the On-Farm Climate Action Fund and the Agricultural Clean Technology Program, helping farmers to adopt more sustainable practices such as cover crops, rotational grazing and fertilizer management; or to purchase more energy-efficient equipment.

Other provinces such as British Columbia also have programmes that specifically promote best management practices for: livestock and manure management, soil conservation and carbon sequestration, energy conservation and ‘fuel switching’, as well as on-farm energy production.

Quebec is also receiving funding for researching environmental sustainability and clean technologies, funded by the Federal AgriScience Programme.

Ontario also conducts its successful Environmental Farm Program through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

*Communities need to realize the mix that different factors contirbute towards Greenhouse gases.

In Canada in 2019 for instance:

  • Agriculture in either Canada or the US contribute 10% of GHG emissions

Comparing that to:

  • Electrical generation, it contributes 8% in Canada (25% in the US)
  • Transportation contributes 25% (or 29% in the US)
  • Heavy Industry, including oil and gas contributes 37% (or 23% in the US)
  • Buildings contribute 12% (or 13% in the US)

*Businesses that are related to Agriculture can and are helping with the transition.

Fertilizer Canada is an industry association that is making great strides in the sustainability of fertilizer usage.

They have been mandated to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer by 30%, from their 2020 levels.

They have been implementing their ‘4R’ Nutrient Stewardship programme to make sure that fertilizer usage is coming from the RIGHT source, is applied at the RIGHT rate and RIGHT time and with the RIGHT placement.

Agricultural equipment manufacturers are also making more fuel efficient machines, and precision technologies ensure that all inputs into the farm are more efficiently placed as well.

*Individual farmers are natural managers of the carbon and nitrogen cycles on their farm (through fuel and fertilizer) and there is a lot of opportunity for agriculture to be a leader in fighting climate change.

The best solutions will be the ones developed by those farmers.

The individual farmer will have to bear the brunt of the costs to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions inherent in the industry, and that is where they need the supports from government and the marketplace.

It is important for the agricultural sector to do their part in reducing emissions and we know we have a responsibility.

As I said earlier, Heavy industry and transportation are larger contributors to overall emissions and therefore have a greater emissions reduction potential in a shorter amount of time.

Agriculture is a primary industry, rural based, and has less access to supports than other sectors receive, so I’d ask for a gentler touch in the push for net zero.

We would also welcome partnerships with Industry on providing feedstocks to help them reduce their emissions.

Thank-You for your time.


Shopping Local – Learning for Life

The Lambton County Library organized a panel discussion with Allan Calvert (Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce), Gary Martin (Lambton Federation of Agriculture) and Vicky Praill (Tourism Sarnia-Lambton) about shopping local and Q&A session to help you get prepared for making purchases that benefit our community.

Speech by Gary Martin, President of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture

(Check against delivery)

Hi all, my name is Gary Martin, and I’ve been president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture since January 2020, and I’ve been a director since 2015.

For those not familiar, the Lambton Federation of Agriculture is a non-profit general farm organization in Lambton County who helps and supports farmers dealing with issues relating to their farm operations. We also bridge with the community and other sectors, partners and service providers. We represent approximately 1900 individual operations who farm in Lambton County.

Well before I joined the LFA Board, the LFA started an initiative to provide an avenue for local producers to include their businesses on a Locally Lambton physical map that was distributed widely.

The initial map in 2006 was well received and they produced new versions in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
In 2019, we made the switch to an online (and mobile) version to include new features and increase the ease of accessibility.

The goals of the Locally Lambton map, and brand are still the same:

  • To provide support for the local farmers by connecting consumers to local primary producers;
  • To promote the importance of purchasing local to reduce the environmental footprint of goods;
  • To help Lambton residents increase their vegetable and fruit; and meat and cheese consumption, as well as promote physical activity through Pick-Your-Own farms and local farm-based attractions.

The ultimate goal? To help improve health status for Lambton County residents.

Shopping Local has been a focus of the Locally Lambton initiative from the beginning.

  • In this part of the season, supporting local in our gift-giving, decorating, and feeding our families, supports the agricultural sector directly or indirectly.
  • Purchasing food, flowers, greenery, and gifts directly from our local growers, producers and stores, helps our small business community and in turn allows them to survive the urge for all of us to purchase online from businesses from afar.
  • We have all of these types of vendors on our Locally Lambton Map as well as Farmers’ Markets where they all gather together.

I’d like to remind you that Local food extends beyond just fruits and vegetables.

  • “Local Food” includes a diverse range of commodities from the dairy and deli meat in your fridge, in addition to fruits, and vegetables in your crispers.
  • Other types of foods such as frozen vegetables, jams or canned pickles, beer, wine and ciders are all grown by farmers and processed locally.

We also promote businesses selling decorative items that are produced locally.

I’d like you to check out our “Discover” page at for suggestions on what you can look for when shopping local, and of course, the Lambton Map on the main page of our website at


British Columbia Flooding

LFA sending $2,000 to B.C. farmers hit by floods

The Lambton Federation of Agriculture (LFA) is lending a helping hand to some B.C. farmhands impacted by massive floods.

The organization is sending $2,000 to the B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) to help farmers in the province.

LFA President Gary Martin said the BCAC seemed to be the organization that matched their modus operandi for helping all farmers.

“One of [our] directors has some family out in B.C., and we noticed the devastation with the farms that are on the flood plain out there, and [they] just asked if the board would want to send out some aid to it.”

Martin said there’s a lot of farming activity in the areas that were hit in Fraser Valley.

“A lot of animal production and hay and all that. It’s fascinating to look at the maps to see the lay of the land there — it’s really flat and with the dike breaching, the water’s flowing in from the Fraser River.”

Martin said the LFA has helped other farmers across the country in the past, dealing with things like droughts and food shortages. He added that some local farmers donated some hay and organized a couple trucks to go up to the Thunder Bay area when the region was experiencing a drought.

To contribute to the B.C. Agriculture Council’s fund supporting farmers, click here.

~Colin Gowdy~
Blackburn News Sarnia


Shop local to combat rising food prices

The president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture (LFA) is encouraging residents to shop local in an effort to combat rising food prices.

Earlier this month, the United Nations food agency reported that world food prices reached a 10-year high in September.

Gary Martin said, in general, food prices will be going up across our region. He added that food prices are based on a number of factors farmers can’t control, including consumer demand.

“Most of the food prices are mainly based on population growth, the Canadian dollar, increased distribution centre closures, labour shortages, stuff like that. The farmers keep producing based on whatever they can produce, but food prices are based on other factors that are out of the farmers’ hands.”

Martin said other factors that could drive up prices include a lack of truck drivers and recent droughts in other parts of Canada, leading to less feed for cattle.

“So that’s going to affect the meat prices obviously. Meat prices have all increased, so that’s going to lead to the trend of all food prices increasing as well.”

Martin said it’s important for Sarnia-Lambton residents to buy from area farmers and retailers to help the local economy and to keep the farmers from exiting the market.

He said some technical advances will help combat the issue of rising food prices in the long term.

“Stuff like vertical greenhouses to counteract the weather problems, and smarter equipment and better seed quality, but that’s all going to take time, so I’m not sure what can be done in the short term.”

The Lambton Federation of Agriculture is a non-profit organization that helps supports farmers and issues relating to their farm operations.

~Colin Gowdy~
Blackburn News


Economic Development with the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership

An economic development campaign focused on helping agricultural businesses in the area recently kicked off in Sarnia-Lambton.

The $48,000 project, which includes 50 per cent funding through the Ontario Rural Economic Development (RED) program, involves one-on-one meetings with a consultant to discuss things such as marketing and succession planning, virtual farm tours and a video series looking at local agricultural businesses, and an upcoming seminar series also focused on those topics, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership officials said.

The program focusing specifically on agriculture – a key sector across Lambton County – is an “exciting” extension of the support the partnership already provides for main street businesses, manufacturers and others, partnership CEO Stephen Thompson said.

“The primary focus is to help to ensure that agriculture-related businesses continue to be successful and grow,” he said. “And certainly career pathways, ensuring that there’s a workforce, is critical to ensuring that these businesses are successful,” among other technical considerations like business and succession planning.

They “really are key to ensuring that businesses remain strong and grow and continue to be a driver of the Sarnia-Lambton area economy,” he said.

The Lambton Federation of Agriculture and the partnership are working together and contributing the rest of the funds for the project, said partnership economic development officer Shauna Carr.

“The key part with all of this is there is no cost to the businesses we’re supporting, either through the workshops, seminars or the one-on-one meetings,” she said.

A consultant was hired with a budget to hold 50 one-on-one meetings, and plans are to hold six or seven seminars and workshops – subjects to be determined – before January, she said.

~Tyler Kula~
Sarnia Observer


Propane supply at risk if Line 5 pipeline shut down

With memories still fresh of propane shortages suffered during a 2019 railway strike, members of the Lambton County Federation of Agriculture added their voices to those calling on governments in Canada to work to keep Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline operating.

The Federation, which has more than 1,900 members in Lambton, voted at its recent annual meeting to call on governments and agricultural organizations to work with the new U.S. administration to keep the pipeline carrying western oil and gas operating through Michigan.

The state’s governor has revoked the easement allowing the pipeline to run along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, but Enbridge has challenged the order and says it will continue operating the pipeline that plays an important role supplying propane to both Michigan and Ontario. The company is also seeking permits and approvals to replace the crossing with a tunnel.

The pipeline enters Ontario near Sarnia after crossing Michigan.

Propane shortages during the CN strike are “fresh in the memories” of farmers, said federation president Gary Martin.

“I started thinking, ‘Wait a minute, if propane gets shut off all together it’s going to be a whole lot worse.’”

Plains Midstream Canada says Line 5 supplies all of the feedstock for its plant on Plank Road in Sarnia, which produces about 1,200-million gallons of propane and butane annually, with approximately 200-million gallons shipped to Michigan.

The company warned in a letter to the Michigan governor that closing the pipeline would lead to the shutting down of the plant, as well as Plains Midstream facilities serving Michigan.

Martin said the Sarnia plant is the main source of propane used in Ontario and Quebec.

“It’s going to be a dire circumstance if propane gets turned off,” he said.

Farmers using propane to heat homes, barns and commercial greenhouses, as well as to dry grain and power irrigation systems, are often in areas without natural gas lines.

Even if alternative supplies of propane are found, closing Line 5 could mean the fuel will be “so expensive we wouldn’t be able to use it on the farms economically,” Martin said.

If Line 5 shuts down, as the Michigan governor has ordered, rail and truck transportation of propane would “increase dramatically, not only in the U.S. but also in Canada and with no expectation that the current volumes achieved by pipeline transportation would be reached in the immediate term,” Nathalie St.-Pierre, president of the Canadian Propane Association, said in an email.

Finding the “thousands” of additional truck drivers needed would be challenging and putting that many additional diesel-powered vehicles on the road wouldn’t make environmental sense, she added.

“The closure of Line 5 would negatively impact refineries in Ontario and Quebec and the propane market through to Atlantic Canada, resulting in thousands of direct and indirect jobs being affected in Sarnia and throughout eastern Canada,” St.-Pierre said.

Ontario’s energy minister has said Line 5 is a “key artery” supplying the province with oil and warned of the economic damage that would result if it’s turned off.

“This shutdown will put over 4,900 jobs at risk, and jeopardize Ontario and Michigan’s energy supply that we rely on daily,” Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of energy, northern development and mines, said in a statement.

“Ontario’s four refineries ensure that Ontario, Quebec, Michigan and the entire Great Lakes region are supplied with essential products like home heating fuels, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel,” he said.

The Sarnia area is home to three of Ontario’s refineries, as well as several chemical plants, and local politicians and labour leaders have warned of the potential loss of jobs if Line 5 is shut down.

Local 663 of the plumbers and pipefitters union have initiated an online petition asking Canada’s prime minister to appeal to the new U.S. president to act to prevent Michigan from shutting down the pipeline. As of Saturday, it had more than 2,900 signatures.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley recently asked 44 Ontario cities and towns to support his call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act to save Line 5.

“The governor’s attempt to revoke and terminate the Line 5 easement is improper, unlawful and will negatively impact people, energy and economic security on both sides of the border,” stated a letter Bradley sent to the prime minister.

~Paul Morden~
The Sarnia Observer