Ontario Soil Network
Strategic Advisory Group
Terms of Reference
December 19, 2018
Agricultural soils are a limited, non-renewable resource that underpins Ontario agriculture and therefore societal well-being. The productivity of those soils is at increasing risk as organic matter declines and nutrient loss is degrading our waterways. Improvements in soil health can contribute to more reliable and sustainable agricultural production, cleaner runoff water and reduced carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Farmers who innovate and demonstrate leadership in management practices that build soil health on their own farms can play an important role in broadening the adoption of such practices by other farmers through peer-to peer knowledge exchange.
The Ontario Soil Network (OSN) is a farmer-led initiative in Ontario with the goal of increasing the adoption of soil-building Best Management Practices such as cover crops, minimum-tillage and responsible use of soil amendments.
The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) is supporting the evolution of the Ontario Soil Network (OSN). It provided an organizational home for the pilot project in 2017 and pulled together a funding application for a project to grow the network regionally called the Ontario Soil Network 2019 Leadership Challenge.
Through this project OSN will connect and support 40 ‘early adopters’ in their collective outreach and peer-engagement efforts. This selected group of farmers will be chosen based on their demonstrated desire to provide leadership in advancing the high levels of soil care that are necessary to make agriculture sustainable and support the public interest in food security and environmental protection. This network of early adopters will create a group to provide peer to peer support that builds confidence to share, evolve and practice ideas. This group helps each other sustain beneficial soil health practice efforts when challenges are encountered with weather, neighbours, equipment, innovation, continuous improvement and more.
Participants in the leadership challenge will be supported to host education events on their own farms, speak at farm events across the province, participate in media campaigns and mentor other farmers who want to take the first steps towards improving soil health. To support their efforts OSN will provide training in leadership development, public speaking and presentation preparation. Participants (along with the SAG) will also be involved in evaluating the efficacy of their approaches, in order to become more effective influencers in the future.
Purpose of Strategic Advisory Group
The OSN Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) shall be appointed by the ROI to provide guidance for the agenda, priorities and operation of the Ontario Soil Network.
The OSN Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) supports the OSN by:
- identifying and providing soil health resources to the ROI liaison in support of farm leaders participating in the 2019 Challenge through their knowledge and expertise;
- recognize and share the existing positive practices that are being undertaken using the principals of working towards reduce soil disturbance, cover the soil, maintain living root systems, avoid nutrient loss and support continuous improvement;
- bringing new ideas, event opportunities and strategic considerations to the attention of the ROI liaison for the implementation team of ROI staff and sub-contractors;
- utilizing their networks to engage and communicate with people in the agricultural sector promote the success and sustainability of the OSN;
- providing input into the selection of farm leaders and decision-making regarding soil network management and facilitation (e.g. the SAG will apply criteria to prioritize which knowledge exchange activities can be supported within the resources available to the OSN)
- generating potential solutions for the sustainability and growth of the OSN over time.
Frequency of Meetings
It is anticipated that the SAG will meet a minimum of four times a year once per quarter.
Most meetings will be held by conference call with a minimum of one face to face meeting held in the City of Guelph
Membership and reporting relationship
The OSN SAG is advisory to the ROI designated liaison person who will initially invite/appoint the members. (NB conceivably the OSN may be hosted by another organization at some future date and then that organization may designate the liaison.)
- The SAG will be composed of a minimum of seven (7) and maximum of ten (10) members and a chair including a minimum of four active farmers.
- Terms shall be for two years
- Members may be reappointed and may serve a maximum three times e.g. 6 year total on the SAG
- The founding group shall have staggered appointments with half of the members at one-year and half at two years.
- The members will select a SAG chair
Membership will be drawn from supporting organizations and are anticipated to be a mix of Board and staff level individuals with an emphasis on practical agriculture experience from:
- Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
- Commodity organizations: e.g. GFO, Egg Farmers of Ontario, OFVGA
- General farm organizations: OFA/CFFO/NFU
- Other NGO’s: Innovative Farmers, EFAO, Organic Growers, Farms at Work, Woodlot groups, SCCC (Farmer)
- Agronomists/private consultants: OIA, Synthesis Agri-Food Network, industry CCAs (agronomist or Farmer)
- OSN farm leaders (Farmer, OSN Alumni preference)
- Soil health experts … University of Guelph, OMAFRA, MOECP staff, Conservation Authority staff
There are currently three “staff” roles as structured to support the 2019 Leadership Challenge project., (i.e OSN project manager (ROI staff liaison), Provincial OSN coordinator (ROI sub-contractor) and Public relations and training strategist (ROI sub-contractor) these individuals may participate in all SAG meetings but are not members.
- Proposed OSN activities/issues will be presented to the group by the ROI liaison for review and feedback. The SAG may recommend actions or activities to the ROI liaison.
- The OSN SAG does not have a public voice and shall advise in confidence to the ROI liaison who will be the official voice for the OSN.
- The SAG shall attempt to reach consensus in their advice. Failing that, the ROI liaison will duly consider issues raised in making decisions for the OSN.
- Meetings will be called as agreed by the ROI liaison and the SAG chair. Meetings may be at a location as arranged by ROI or by conference call.
- SAG members shall declare conflict of interest as may be appropriate.
- Members should provide due notice of any intention to cease acting as a member to allow for replacement.
Changes to the Terms of Reference
ROI may revise the Terms of Reference as appropriate and only after consulting the members of the group. Members may propose changes to the Terms of Reference. These terms are developed initially in relationship to the 2019 Leadership Challenge project for the purposes of the CAP#0082 funding agreement 2018-19 project and will be reviewed in February 2019.
Members of the group are not compensated for their time but may be recompensed for travel expenses at a rate commensurate with funding.
- proactively identify possible actions and opportunities related to the objectives of OSN and act as informal ambassadors for the network;
- provide a strategic perspective on priorities and issues that will advance the development of soil health in Ontario;
- provide leadership within their organization to promote soil health, at Board, staff and membership levels as appropriate;
- follow through on commitments made at meetings for any reading/review/actions between meetings;
- share information with fellow members and provide guidance and advice as needed
Member will not …
- act as official spokespersons for the OSN
- discuss matters publically beyond that noted in SAG meeting minutes/notes
- distribute draft documents not approved for public distribution
The SAG may appoint committees as required to assist in providing advice/recommendations to further the objectives of OSN. Committees shall be chaired by a member of the SAG and may include members from outside of SAG with relevant skills or experience.