Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture

Farm Technician Apprenticeship

The Farm Technician Apprenticeship Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is continuing its work towards a trade designation of Farm Technician. Sitting on the committee are, Chair Kimberly Stokdijk and members Denise Bekkers, Lauchie MacEachern, Gordon Jackson, Angus Ells, Matthew Harrison and Henry Vissers, with support from the staff of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. The TAC is currently working toward a presentation to the Apprenticeship board in November of this year.

The development of the Farm Tech Apprenticeship stems from a NSFA policy which identifies the lack of skilled labour as a critical issue for Nova Scotia farms. Once the Farm Technician trade is designated, farms will be able to enroll existing employees that are interested in enhancing their skills

Apprenticeship is a form of post-secondary education for both young and mature individuals who want to be certified to work in a skilled trade. It is a combination of on‑the‑job and technical training where skilled trades’ professionals (certified journeypersons) pass on knowledge and skills to learners (apprentices).

Apprenticeships such as Farm Technician begins with an agreement between an apprentice and an employer. The apprentice, who would already be working for a farm, agrees to enter the apprenticeship program in exchange for supervised, on-the-job training and experience, and the opportunity to participate in the necessary technical training. In the workplace, apprentices are supervised by a certified journeyperson who tracks both their hours and competence in the practical skills of the trade. A farmer can apply for and receive a certificate of competence that would allow them to take on the role normally filled by a journeyperson.

Technical training is offered in class and/or online and is administered and arranged by the agency. Upon completion of the apprenticeship program (including technical training, on-the-job hours and competency in workplace practical skills), apprentices are eligible to write the certification exam.

In addition, there are supports for employers, as well as financial supports that are available to assist individuals on their journey from apprentice to certified journeyperson.

What to keep in mind: Labour Edition

Having employees on your farm means there are many regulations you must comply with under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code, and for those hiring temporary foreign workers, the provisions set by the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) programs. This article will touch on just two key elements of these requirements: partial hours and the importance of documentation.

Partial Hours

Partial hours applies to those working for an hourly minimum wage. This means there is a requirement to round time up. Therefore, when an employee works over the hour but less than the half hour, they must be paid for hour and a half (e.g. 7hrs 16mins – 7hrs and 30mins). While working over the half hour, it must be rounded to the nearest hour (e.g. 7hrs and 34mins – 8 hours).


One of the most important things to keep in mind is documentation and record keeping. Ensuring there is documents to backup any changes or decisions that are made. This is of particular importance to those hiring temporary foreign workers under federal programs.  In Nova Scotia, it is the highest standard between the Labour Code and the worker contract that stands.

Reminder that if any of the following apply to you, you must have documentation confirming the employee agreed to these conditions:

–               Day of rest: record the employee agreed to waive the day of rest

–               Hours worked: record the employee agreed to work beyond the hours stated in their contract.

For more information on the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code or to speak with someone call toll free within NS: 1-888-315-0110.

Recently, NSFA applied for Labour Sector funding in order to increase our support to members. We’re excited to announce that we have received our funding agreement! This will allow us to bring on an advisor, solely dedicated to labour, which in turn will help us provide you with more tools and resources to support you as employers. Working to increase our advocacy and educational efforts to address labour shortages, labour gaps, skills training, labour legislation and more!

Policy Corner

Policy Progress


Labour – Letter to the editor

In March a letter was submitted to the Chronicle Herald highlighting the positive impacts of Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW).  The letter was in response to a reported comment made by an activist at a rally in Halifax on adequate housing.  This article can be found here.

Weed Advisory Committee

The NSDA Agricultural Weed Advisory Committee met with NSFA Staff to review proposed changes to the committee’s processes.  The Weed Advisory Act and associated regulations are slated for revision. Based on what was presented, a much-needed change is expected to streamline the processes for adding a plant to the Noxious Weed List.  Also, more educational resources on how to manage or eliminate particular weeds are expected and increased capacity for inspectors to ensure noxious weeks don’t get out of control.

SPCA Meeting

SPCA officers met with NSFA staff in early April.  The meeting was prompted by regular concerns from members with regards to animal welfare inspections for working dogs.  NSFA highlighted concerns around biosecurity and emphasized that working dogs are bred to do the job they do.  The meeting had positive and collaborative actions identified for both SPCA and NSFA.



Industry Issues



Resolutions were discussed at NSFA’s April meeting with Minister Colwell.  Minister Colwell requested further information on Gypsum which will be provided at the May meeting.

Rural Infrastructure

Rural infrastructure has been a priority area for NSFA over the years.  As a reminder, NSFA has a survey available on our website or by calling into the office. The survey is designed to identify the highspeed and cellular service gaps throughout Nova Scotia as well as the impacts that the gap is having on farms.

As an update, Develop Nova Scotia (formerly the Waterfront Development Commission) held stakeholder meetings through Nova Scotia.  Develop Nova Scotia has a broader mandate to help drive strategic economic development across Nova Scotia. Designing and managing the implementation strategy for the internet for Nova Scotia is priority focus for Develop Nova Scotia.  Develop Nova Scotia is looking to align themselves with various funding opportunities (federal, provincial and industry) as part of this strategy.  Also during the stakeholder session, the question was asked about cellular service throughout the province.  While the presenters from Develop NS indicated that Cellular Service is an important component of economic development, the provinces Emergency Management Office is taking the lead on the cellular service file.

There was concern around the governance of Develop Nova Scotia since the board was primarily from the Halifax region.  Since the board mandate has changed, the board representation has changed to include representation from across the province for a wider perspective.

Local Procurement

The recent resolution on increasing the amount of locally procured goods is being explored.  At a recent Atlantic Federations of Agriculture Meeting, the New Brunswick and Newfoundland federations indicated that both of their provinces are working towards improving their local procurement policies.  The language around those procurement policies wasn’t yet made public, but NSFA will continue to watch for progress and roadblocks that may impact our efforts.

Business Risk Management Update

Many members will recall the BRM Roundtable Update from the April News and Views.  Since then, the other provinces held their own provincial consultations and the National Programs Advisory Committee reviewed the findings of the provincial consultations.  There was general consensus across Canada to include family labour, equipment leases and contract work as eligible expenses and look at commodity losses rather than whole farm losses.  The Canadian Federation of Agriculture along with the AgGrowth Coalition (a group of national commodity organizations focusing on changes to the BRM suite of programs) formulated positions and actions of what they would like to see come out of the BRM review.  The group formulated positions on funding processes, the need for such programming, need for robust changes to the programs, options for alternative programs and analysis to accompany the options, and a position on next steps.

New Roles and Responsibilities

NSFA Staff Take on New Portfolios

Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has announced new roles and responsibilities for three staff members; Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, Maxine MacLean, and Katherine Doyle.

Recently, NSFA went through a strategic planning process, developing a new strategic plan that will guide the organization until 2023. During this time, it became evident that in order to successfully support and engage our members, the organization had to shift.

Through the strategic planning process key issues for the organization were identified. It became apparent that NSFA was attempting to juggle multiple priorities and with the current structure, was out of balance, with many employees handling countless portfolios and projects. As an organization, the Federation has been delivering programs and services for a number of years. For example, the Environmental Farm Plan has been operating within NSFA for 20 years, and the Federation has been closely linked to Farm Safety since its’ inception. There is now a push for new initiatives such as industry led public trust and labour services. In order to balance these programs with NSFA’s core functions, adjustments were made to the internal structure.  This will afford the time for staff to focus on lobbying, advocating for policy change and managing issues.  We are excited about the opportunity to best serve our members with these essential programs and ramp up our efforts to influence and affect positive change for Nova Scotia’s agriculture industry.

With the goal of better serving membership, staff within the Federation have joined forces to focus on two core concepts – Operations and Outreach. The Operations Team, led by Associate Director; Wanda Hamilton will focus on the lobby, policy, and advocacy piece of the Federation – as well as government relations and issues management. The Outreach Team, led by Director of Outreach and Member Relations; Carolyn Van Den Heuvel – is made up of programs and communications and will be focusing on program delivery, member relations, as well as marketing, and member communication.

Below are highlights of the new roles for NSFA staff:

Carolyn Van Den Heuvel – Director of Outreach and Member Relations


Carolyn will be leading NSFA’s Outreach team and programs including, Farm Safety, Environmental Farm Plan, Labour and Public Trust.

In addition, she will also be managing NSFA communications, member relations, corporate members and the member benefits package.

We are confident in her leadership abilities and are excited to see where she takes our Outreach team.





Maxine MacLean – Policy and Research Coordinator


Maxine will be managing and monitoring industry trends, legislation, government policy, and research. As well as coordinating briefing notes, reports, papers, and adopted resolutions.

Maxine will also be lending a hand in government relations and issues management strategies, and supporting communications from an operational/policy perspective.

With Maxine’s passion for policy we can’t wait to see where she takes NSFA policy, lobby and advocacy efforts.





Katherine Doyle – Communications Coordinator


Katherine will be leading NSFA communication efforts including: marketing, promotions, branding and media relations.

In addition, she will be managing all websites, social media channels, organization messaging, media requests, event participation, our publications, and will to continue to provide support for Nova Scotia Young Farmers.

Katherine’s passion for the industry and her public relations background is sure to be a great asset for the NSFA!

The Next Five Years

Two years ago, under the direction of Council of Leaders, Simeon Roberts completed a member engagement survey. The results of this survey highlighted the concerns of members on a number of key issues. His follow up report entitled ‘As It Was Heard’ provided recommendations to NSFA on how to have a better connection and better serve our membership.

In response to this report, NSFA underwent a strategic planning process with Yvonne Thyssen-Post in 2018, to develop a strategy that would guide the organization over the next five years. The Steering Committee – made up of the three Executive Officers and three NSFA staff – met multiple times throughout 2018 and 2019 to review member and stakeholder feedback and determine the direction we would head until 2023. This included revamping our mission, vision, core functions and identifying key strategic priorities.

Thanks to consultations with membership, commodity groups, government and staff – the Steering Committee was able to gather the necessary input to create this plan.

In April, the draft of the strategic plan was presented to Council of Leaders, after discussion and a slight modification – it was approved.

Below are some of the key aspects from the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan.

Our Mission: To influence and affect change for the continual success of agriculture in Nova Scotia

Our Vision: A prosperous and sustainable future for Nova Scotia farms and farmers

Who we serve: The NS Federation of Agriculture serves NSFA members

After considering feedback from members in focus group sessions and at our 2018 AGM, our core functions are as follows:

  • Lobby/Policy/Advocacy
  • Member Engagement
  • Program and Service Delivery

To move the industry forward and help NSFA reach its vision and fulfill its mission, our strategic priorities are:

  • Connect and engage with members
  • Effectively influence government to affect change
  • To improve operational and governance structures of the organization

We are excited to implement this new strategic plan, with the goal of strengthening our relationships with members, improving our service to members, and increasing our collaboration with key industry stakeholders.

The next five years will be a process, and we’re glad to have you along for the journey.

We’re Hiring!

Are you between the ages of 15 and 30? Are you looking for summer employment? Are you passionate about the agricultural industry? Come work with us!

We’re now accepting applications for two summer positions!
Application deadline: Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Connect with your County Federations Online

Looking for a way to stay up to date on what’s happening within your county? Many of the County Federations across the province have created their own social media accounts (pages or groups) for county members to follow! Not sure if your county has created an account? Below are links to the Facebook pages and groups that we are aware of.

Annapolis County

Antigonish/Guysborough County 

Cumberland County

Pictou/North Colchester County

Kings County

Lunenburg/Queens County

Cape Breton County

2019 Water Workshops

Two water workshops were recently held in mid-March in Waterville and Truro to discuss water withdrawals, watercourse alterations, beneficial use of wetlands, biodiversity initiatives and some current research activities. The presentations sparked questions and discussions and have highlighted some areas for future workshop topics. The presentations and contact information for the speakers have been posted on the EFP website for anyone that would like to review the content presented. The information is available here. If you have any suggestions for future water related workshops, contact the EFP office at 902-893-2293 or email.


Telecommunications Survey

How many times have you cursed your internet connection – wishing you had the high speed and cellular reception that you can find in the city? Unable to contact your employees, friends or family due to the lack of cell reception?

For thousands of Nova Scotian’s living in rural areas across the province – this is a regular occurrence.

This is a challenge that farmers and rural business owners have had to face for years, and has been a barrier to the growth of their operation. Being able to conduct simple day to day e-commerce as well as embrace cutting-edge precision agriculture technology is vital to farmers in today’s agriculture industry.

In March the 2019 Federal budget was announced, with that was a commitment of $5 – 6 billion to provide high-speed internet to 100% of Canada by 2030 – it is encouraging to see this issue being addressed at the Federal level as this is a challenge nationwide.

If you attended our Annual Meeting in 2018, you will recall a resolution that was passed for NSFA to lobby for better cell phone and high-speed internet service in the province. One of our first steps in addressing this issue is to collect data from membership. At the bottom of this post you will find a survey that we encourage you to fill out. The information collected in this survey will allow us to better understand which regions have limited/ or no telecommunication services (cellular and high-speed internet), and the implications this has in rural Nova Scotia. With this data we will share the challenges and barriers you and other face with decision makers in the provincial government.

By completing the survey below, you understand that NSFA will report the survey results in aggregate – names and contact information will be removed. Any contact information provided will only be used to follow up on improvements and report back on lobby progress.

Link to the survey

Maple in the Mountains


Perched on top of Nuttby Mountain in Nova Scotia’s Colchester County, lies a hundred-acre woodlot and MacRae’s Rocky Ridge Maple. What once started out as a family endeavour to collect enough maple syrup for themselves – has morphed into a retirement hobby for Alec and Gayle MacRae.

Growing up on either side of Nuttby Mountain – one in Upper North River, and the other in Earltown – both lived on mixed farms, not far from one another. Prior to retirement, Alec worked as an Ironworker and before having children, Gayle was a Stenographer with the Department of Agriculture. Once the kids were older, Gayle returned to the workforce as an Administrative Assistant with the Colchester East Hants Health Authority (now Nova Scotia Health Authority- Northern Zone)

With almost 50 years of marriage under their belts, Alec and Gayle have two children, Elaine and Andrew, who help out on the family maple farm whenever they get the chance. Alongside them is Elaine’s husband Ryan and their two kids Shannon and Alexis. Elaine, graduated from Nova Scotia Agricultural College and is a Quality and Food Safety Specialist at Perennia Food and Agriculture, her husband Ryan is a Senior Web Designer with Nicom IT Solutions in Halifax, and Andrew graduated from Nova Scotia Agricultural College as well as North Carolina State University where he received both a Masters Degree and a Doctorate. Andrew works in North Eastern, U.S.A. as a Field Scientist with Dow AgroSciences.

“We love spending time in the woods and interacting with our fellow maple producers as well as customers – it keeps us active and social. Spending time with our family and being able to pass on the tradition to our grandchildren is fun as well.”

Into the Sugar Woods

As members of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia (MPANS) and Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA), the MacRae’s had an Environmental Farm Plan completed to help them access funding, as well as ensure they were incorporating environmental factors in order to keep their woodlot healthy. In addition to implementing an Environmental Farm Plan, they also follow the Best Management Practices outlined by Maple Producers of Nova Scotia which includes; production, food safety and packaging guidelines to producing a safe, quality product. Workplace safety is also important on their farm – although it is not required – they have a written and implemented Farm Health and Safety Policy in place.

Their advice to anyone looking to get into maple producing?

“Visit with a local maple producer and learn from them. If you are serious about going into production for yourself, become a member of MPANS – they have valuable educational sessions that will help you learn Best Management Practices for your sugar woods.”


Every year since their retirement Alec and Gayle have increased production by adding more taps.

What once started out as a few tapped trees with sap buckets on their woodlot has transformed into a much more extensive and modern operation. A new evaporator and a holding tank were installed in the existing sugar shack on the property, and the galvanized buckets and taps were replaced with news spiles and tubing.


How it Works

Did you know it takes roughly 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of pure maple syrup?


During the summer months, sugar is made by the leaves and stored as starch in the root tissues of the maple trees. Fast forward a few months – to the supposed “end” of winter – the MacRae’s begin tapping trees. As spring approaches, the warmer temperatures sweet-talk the trees into turning the stored starch back into sugar, the sap is created by the trees as they mix ground water with the sugar. The freezing and thawing of the trees due to temperature fluctuations in the changing seasons, builds up pressure in the trees which causes the sap to flow from the tap holes. MacRae’s Rocky Ridge Maple uses the modern sap collecting process of taps connected by flexible plastic tubing that interlink – the sap from the lines is quickly drawn back to their releaser building using a vacuum pump.


In the beginning, the sap was gravity fed from the trees to the building, but a vacuum pump system was later installed, which has increased production. Once the sap reaches the releaser building on site, the sap is pumped from the building and run through filters on it’s way into the holding tanks. When the tanks are full, the sap is put through a Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine, which filters the sap again and takes a percentage of the water from the sap before boiling – this will shorten the processing time in the evaporator.

The MacRae’s run their maple farm as sustainable as possible, using the water removed in the RO machine to clean, and harvesting the wood for their evaporator by only cutting dead or dying trees from their woodlot, which in turn helps keep their sugar maple healthy.

After passing through the RO machine, the sap is boiled in the evaporator – which is fueled with wood from their woodlot. As the water in the sap evaporates, the sap thickens and is boiled until it reaches between 66% and 68% Brix, which is the sugar content of the syrup. After reaching the desired sugar content the syrup is put through a filter press to separate solids from liquids, and then bottled at a high heat to maintain quality.

The MacRae family package and sell syrup – as well as maple butter – both at the door of their North River home, and by bulk.

“We are gradually expanding our operation and fine tuning as we go so that the next generation can carry on our maple tradition.”

Be sure to check out MacRae’s Rocky Ridge Maple’s website, and keep up with their season by following their adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


  1. Kings County Federation of Agriculture Summer Social with Nuffield Scholars

    July 2 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  2. SMART Annual General Meeting

    July 4 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
  3. Nuffield Scholar BBQ Meet & Greet

    July 4 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
  4. Community Day – Dalhousie Agricultural Campus

    July 18 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  5. NSFA Open House, BBQ & Social

    August 6 @ 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm


7 Atlantic Central Drive
East Mountain, N.S.
B6L 2Z2

Phone – 902-893-2293
Fax – 902-893-7063