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Agricultural Discovery Centre looking forward to new season

Posted on April 13, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Samantha Johnson

Commentator/Courier

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Agricultural Discovery Centre at Irvine School is getting ready to start its second year.

As the facility isn’t designed for winter use, the weather must progress fully into spring before the animals return.

“I’m becoming cautiously optimistic as I look at the weather forecast,” stated Nichole Neubauer, who worked with Prairie Rose Public Schools to make the ADC a reality. “Even by the weekend, things are going to improve substantially.”

While the warmer temperatures are slowly arriving, this past winter has been a vast improvement over the last few years.

“We’ve had some brown winters and dry summers of late. This year, it looks like there is potential for runoff. Certainly, the soil moisture at planting time will be very good for germination,” said Neubauer.

If weather co-operates, livestock should be back onsite the week of April 17. Last year at this time, most of the ADC livestock was at Neubauer Farms. This year, the steers, hogs and market lambs are all being housed at families of students attending Irvine School.

Neubauer has one cow who recently calved in her herd that is very tame and she might spend some time at the ADC as a representative of the cow/calf side of producer operations.

All the hens were sold at the Fall Gather and Production Sale held in September and this year laying hens are hard to come by. Neubauer is heading to Magrath this week.

“I found some fresh laying hens. They are a hot commodity item this year with the cost of eggs in stores. Suddenly everyone has started having hens that lay eggs to take to market from a farm direct perspective.”

The ADC was also raising funds to purchase a portable vermicomposting unit from TRAD Worm Industries. Due to supply chain issues, there have been delays in getting the unit, but it should be arriving when students return from spring break.

“We have a strategy for how we are implementing a school-wide waste reduction strategy where we’ll use the vermicompost to create soil amendments that we can use in our garden and, quite possibly, could sell at some point in the future,” explained Neubauer.

Vermicomposting will expand the educational opportunities of the ADC. Students will be learning about carbon credits, emissions, temperature, moisture levels and anything else needed to create the right environment for the worms to thrive.

As a year-round strategy, vermicomposting aligns with many concerns related to becoming more carbon conscious and environmentally aware and how each person can make better choices in terms of recycling waste instead of sending it to the landfill. The ADC will collect data and statistics on how it reducing its carbon footprint.

“We were fortunate to have so much community support so we could get this idea of the ground,” said Neubauer. “It’s very novel and easily duplicated at other schools.”

Near the end of April, members of the Irvine 4-H Beef Club will be spending time at the ADC for their community support project. Among other projects, the 4-H members will be doing some cleanup, prepping the garden and putting a floor in the greenhouse.

“They’ll help us get everything set up and ready. We’ll be starting plants for transplanting immediately after Easter and around the May long weekend the garden will go in. That can vary a bit depending on what the weather is doing. We can put some of our cool season crops in a little sooner than that,” explained Neubauer.

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