Farmers, throughout their working lives, develop valuable expertise, especially about “what really works” on the farm. Working in groups multiplies the value of that knowledge as their members trade experiences with other farmers and engage in joint strategizing and problem-solving. The group context also greatly enhances the ability to learn from outside experts, published reports and government advisors.
This is not a new idea, but it has a modern twist to it. Rural Canada has over a hundred years’ worth of experience with soil and crop associations, plowing matches, country fairs, cattle clubs, and cooperatives, just to name a few examples. However, these days, it seems that farmers are thinking about the value of farmer-led groups in new ways. They are more focused on management techniques, innovation, reacting to evolving markets, finance and optimizing human resources. The group must provide the producer with a direct benefit to demonstrate value.