Celebrating 30 Years SARDA 1986-2016

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As SARDA’s logo has evolved and been refined, so has the organization. On April 29, 1986, SARDA was incorporated as a non-profit group directed by agricultural producers in the Municipal District of Smoky River. Their goal was to field test new technologies and practices, speed up the flow of ideas between industry, research and farmers through demonstrations, displays, seminars and workshops. This goal remains front and foremost in all SARDA endeavors even today.


The first general annual meeting of the Smoky Applied Research and Demonstration Association was held February 12th, 1986 at the Falher Arena Hall. Approximately 40 members attended the meeting and were updated on SARDA activities, the financial situation, and the operation.
The First Board included Paul Germain, Lucien Houle, Marcel Cloutier, Gaston Mencke, Andre Berube, Andre Gauthier, Gabe Turcotte, Marcel Lussier, Henri Paul Blanchette, Leo Nolette and Victor Begin. Marven Nakanechny (local DA), Rosemary Biggs (Regional Trade and Tourism), an ASB Representative and Betty Alexandre (Agricultural Fieldman) were recognized as advisors to the Board. Rene Labbe was hired in March 1987 as the first manager.

In 1994, the MD of Big Lakes ASB and the Big Meadows Soil Conservation Group joined and SARDA became responsible for the administration of the Environmental Programs in the MD of Big Lakes , the Big Meadows Soil Conservation Group area and the MD of Smoky River. Northern Sunrise County, previously known as the MD 131, also joined in 1994, formalizing the municipal cooperation.
In 2006, the MD of Greenview joined SARDA. The Board structure was updated to ensure the four municipalities had representation on the Board in addition to the nine producers that complete the full Board compliment. Of the nine producer members SARDA strives to have at least one producer from each municipality sit on the Board. This structure is still current today.
Our Municipal support continues to grow. The County of Grande Prairie producers have been receiving the Back Forty newsletters since April 2012 in exchange for financial support to produce, print and distribute the newsletters. In 2016, the County increased its level of financial support.


SARDA’s contribution to the community has been immeasurable. Over the 30 years, SARDA has accomplished over 1200 trial years and field tested more than 4000 varieties of crop throughout the south Peace Region. Variety trials have always been included in SARDA’s list of yearly projects.


Other projects have included many notable trials, which have influenced the agricultural practices of local producers. Soil Rippers, chain dikers, tillage trials, no-till drill trials, chem-fallow practices, fertility trials, long term crop rotation trials, manure injection trials, wood ash trials, triploid grass carp, dugout water quality demonstrations, advanced agronomy, faba beans, industrial hemp, silver carp, new product trials, pest monitoring, pesticide application trials, hail and water quality testing are included in SARDA’s illustrious list of trials.


During the years, SARDA has been blessed with strong support from the farming community through Board Members/Directors, and a stable employee contingent. During the 30 years, there has only been 5 managers and staff has stayed in SARDA’s employment for an average of 5 years. SARDA has been able to hire and maintain highly qualified and experienced staff. Staff and board have shown great dedication and willingness to attend training sessions and share experiences with other producers and research associations. In addition, industry, commissions, provincial government and fellow researchers, prairie-wide, have shown strong support by contributing funding, supplying contract work and collaborating on different research trials. Since 1988, SARDA has been the driving force behind the Smoky River Agricultural Trade Show. This trade show has become one of the premier events in the Peace Region, drawing in agriculture exhibitors from Canada wide, bringing in almost 5000 participants and visitors during the three day show. It provides a much needed opportunity for producers to view new products, talk to industry professionals and brings a tremendous boost to the local economy.

Extension has always been important in SARDA’s programs. SARDA has hosted many speakers and experts to help producers get the information they need to make informed decisions on their farms. Extension events have included tours, barbeques, cropwalks, field schools, workshops and seminars. In addition, SARDA has a long history of publishing its research, newsletters and articles of interest.


In May 2013, SARDA launched its own webpage, www.sarda.ca. The website allows SARDA to publish interesting articles, reports, SARDA publications, upcoming events, information about SARDA, its staff and links to other organizations and sources of information. The information is readily available to anyone who visits the site. It is continually evolving to better meet the needs of producers.

In conjunction with the website, everyone is encouraged to join our email notification service managed through Mail Chimp. SARDA staff sends notifications of events, website postings, and articles of interest to subscribers which include members, collaborators, partners, industry professionals, and producers Prairie wide. SARDA‘s Annual Report has been completed each year. It has evolved from a traditional business report including financials, chairman reports, and coordinator reports with a small portion devoted to research results, to a 150+ page document that is devoted almost entirely to SARDA research results. These reports were initially available to the membership only but are now available online to everyone.
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SARDA’s first newsletter, the Back Forty was published in 1991. Since then, SARDA has published 75 issues. Today, SARDA publishes 6 newsletters each year and sends out 5500 copies of each issue.
Congratulations to everyone that has been involved with SARDA and best wishes for many successes in the future.

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