Farm Management Canada (FMC) and the Canadian Association of Diploma in Agriculture Programs (CADAP) Award of Excellence in Agriculture Essay Question:
What top 3 priorities should Canada’s agricultural industry focus on in order to be a leading agricultural body going forward? How will you, as a new graduate, positively contribute to these priorities?
For many years, Canadians have lived off the land for a significant proportion of their food. Back in the times of “rough food” or a “winters diet”, communities were brought together by hard work and the need to produce enough food to feed themselves from their gardens. Canadians from all over produced a wide variety of crops, meat and dairy products from sheep, fowl, cows and fish to survive the next season coming. For generations, indigenous knowledge passed down as the land required special skills and knowledge within a certain adaptive strategy to yield a living.
As time went on, the need to be self-sufficient slowly diminished. Thanks to trade and globalization, we can now have oranges, peaches and mangos at Christmas along with our home-grown potatoes, turnips and jars of preservatives bottled in preparation for the winter seasons. We saw a decline in small farms and an increase in industrial agriculture production. Young people started to show little interest in gardening when they could easily buy whatever they needed at a store nearby. As a result, the cultural connections of gardening faded and much of community culture and history was forgotten, along with self-sufficiency activities such as hunting, household labor, diet and nutrition.
Agriculture in Canada has evolved in many ways. Thanks to science and technology, farm production has become more efficient and less labor-intensive, while showing a decline in small farms and young farmers. Farming today is heavily dependent on equipment and fertilizers to aid food production, and researchers look for different ways to help farmers overcome unwanted pests and diseases.
Recently, the self-sufficient aspect of rural life has received attention in the media, with buy local trending and the desire to lead a holistic lifestyle in memoir of the older generations. Intertwined in new gardening fads are the realizations of climate change and the emphasis on environmentally sustainable practices. The way forward for agriculture in Canada is to consider ecological principles when we study and design agricultural systems that are productive but also resource conserving. This means taking care of our soils which help us grow fruits and vegetables, and generate feed for our beef and dairy industries. For these reasons, I strongly believe that the top 3 priorities Canada’s agricultural industry should focus on in order to be a leading agricultural body going forward are:
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Engage Young Farmers
I believe these three points are vital for Canada’s future in agriculture as working with nature – through ecological agriculture and biodiversity conservation – and localizing our food systems is crucial for the future of food security in Canada. Food safety will always be a top priority in the industry to ensure that the food supply is safe – a main contributing factor to the health of Canadians. The need to mitigate the effects of climate change are inevitable and continue to challenge the industry to think of new ways to sustainably produce food. Finally, there is a need to engage more youth in agriculture than what there has been in the last decade or so. Fortunately, some youth are stepping up through local programs such as 4H and developing small gardening projects in elementary schools, which is what we need to secure Canada’s future in agriculture.
Growing up, I wish I had these opportunities to learn about agriculture in school as a child. Maybe then I would have started on this path a lot earlier in life. However, I never take for granted the decision to start my degree in Agriculture at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College) back in September 2011.
As a new graduate, I plan to positively contribute to these priorities by continuing my education in the field of organic agriculture and food systems. My goals include travelling to Germany in October as a Master of Science (MSc) candidate to learn more about agriculture and food systems on a global level. This opportunity will allow me to build partnerships and share knowledge of Canadian management practices with my colleagues in Europe, while gaining unique experience and training that will be useful to advance the industry here in Canada upon returning home. My further aspirations are to set a good example for youth in agriculture; to motivate and encourage them to follow their dreams, and to show them that in today’s society you don’t need to come from a farm to have a passion for agriculture.
(BSc Agricultural Business graduate 2016)