The program that has educated and trained Ontario farmers and pesticide vendors in the responsible and safe use of pesticides is going online. In the past 25 years, the Ontario Pesticide Education Program has trained over 21,000 farmers, and over 1,100 pesticide vendors in best management practices for pesticide use. As well, the course has trained 273 Certified Farmers who now provide on-farm pesticide safety training to their assistants and employees. Over 220 courses are planned for this winter and over 3,000 farmers will either renew their certification or certify for the first time.
Susan Kelner, Program Coordinator, says that this year farmers have an additional way to certify rather than attending face-to-face, day-long courses. Farmers may take the course and certify online. The first online participants were very satisfied with the new format. One participant noted “I am very happy to have the pesticide course offered this way. It definitely makes it more accessible to people.”
Much of the success of the program lies with the dedicated, local instructors. Many of them are farmers who have taught pesticide safety for over 20 years. Kelner notes that a key course topic this year is how to manage glyphosate-resistant weeds. In Ontario, three weeds have been confirmed resistant to glyphosate, giant ragweed, common ragweed, and Canada fleabane. Environmental protection is another main topic emphasizing ways to protect non-target plants and animals by reducing spray drift. Said Kelner, “Farmers and vendors continue to address stewardship concerns that we all share – responsible use, protection of personal and community health, food safety and protection of the environment.”
The program is overseen by a committee of industry and government experts and includes representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Food, and the Environment, Farm & Food Care Ontario, Crop Life Canada, Ontario Agri Business Association, and the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. Further support comes from industry sponsors: BASF and Dow AgroSciences as Platinum sponsors, N.M.Bartlett Inc, and Monsanto as Gold sponsors, FMC and Engage Agro as Silver sponsors, and Cheminova and Busy Bee Beekeeping Supplies as Bronze sponsors.
For a list of online or face-to-face courses available this season, visit www.opep.ca