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North-Okanagan Shuswap farms benefit from watershed council grants

$59,961 in grants going to projects that contribute to protection of water quality
The Shuswap Watershed Council announced $59,961 in funding for five projects at local farms to reduce phosphorus run-off into local waterways, as it is a key contributor to algal blooms. (Shuswap Watershed Council image)

The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) remains committed to protect and improve local water quality with five grants being awarded to area farms for a total of $59,961.

The SWC’s Water Quality Grant Program offers funds to help farms, landowners and stewardship groups with projects to help in that effort, with the focus on mitigating risks associated with nutrients leaching from land into surface water.

“Agriculture is a significant part of the economy in the Shuswap and contributes greatly to local food security,” SWC chair Rhona Martin said in a media release. “We want to support the adoption of new and improved nutrient management strategies by local farms to help protect our water quality.

She added that while data shows that at this time the water is pretty good, this grant program allows the SWC to contribute to the continued protection and mitigation of risks.

“Our grant program is focused on phosphorus,” program manager Erin Vieira explained in the release. “Phosphorus is an important factor in water quality and soil health. It’s needed for productive crops, but it’s also a key factor in contributing to algal blooms. Our goal… is to help farmers and other land stewards keep nutrients on the land and in the soil, not running off or leaching into nearby creeks and rivers where it could contribute to water quality concerns.”

One grant recipient, Sunnybrae Winery and Vineyards, is using the funding to upgrade existing irrigation infrastructure to “fertigation,” a system that incorporates a precise amount of fertilizer with the water and applies it directly to the vines to reduce the risk of run-off.

Other recipients include Gietema Farms in Grindrod where the grant will be used to install a Precision GPS to improve accuracy in applying fertilizer and seed; Syme Farms in Salmon Arm where manure storage will be improved; Foxtrot Dairy in Salmon Arm where new livestock fencing will be built along an on-site creek; and for livestock fencing along Kingfisher Creek on a developing farm site owned and operated by Jeffrey and Kristy Czepil.

“We are proud to support these innovative projects to reduce nutrient run-off into the watershed,” Vieira added. “It is inspiring to see our grant recipients working to protect the environment for now and the future.”

The grant program is administered through a competitive process where applicants submit applications, with work getting underway later this year. The $59,961 in SWC grants will leverage other cash and in-kind contributions for a combined total value of $121,847.

The next round of grant intakes will open in November.

About the Author: Heather Black

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