Passion. It was a common thread among the attendees of the Nuffield Canada AGM. Passion for research and scholarship. Passion for new thinking and global perspectives. And an unwavering passion for the viability of Canadian agriculture.
Nuffield Canada (www.nuffield.ca) is a charity that has been "planting scholars and harvesting leaders" since 1950. Scholarships are provided to a select few each year and Canadian scholars currently receive $15,000. The funding enables them to travel internationally, foster individual leadership and accumulate knowledge, which will add value to agriculture in Canada.
There are other Nuffield organizations around the world in Australia, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Holland, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The program also interacts significantly with organizations in India, China, the US and Brazil. Each country has different levels of sponsorship and numbers of scholars. Study topics reflect both current issues in agriculture and the scholars' areas of interest. Regardless of what they farm or where they're from, you can bet that passion is something found in every Nuffielder.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held November 23 to 25 in Montreal, Quebec. Alumni dating as far back as 1975 were represented. As an incoming scholar, I'm one of three 'newbies'. My fellow 2015 scholars are Greg Donald from Kensington, PEI and Colin Hudon from Rosser, Manitoba. Even though we are new to the group, we didn't feel like outsiders. Whether it was handshakes or hugs, the alumni welcomed us with open arms.
One alumnus whom I spent a lot of time with was Clayton Robins, 2013 Scholar and Executive Director of 4-H Manitoba. At the AGM he was eager to offer advice and share his recent experience with me. "You're part of something special" he said.
Just earlier that day he had been reminiscing with another alumni about the "a-ha" moment. Essentially, it is when a Nuffield Scholar comes to an understanding of the magnitude of the study, scholarship and network that they are a part of. I can't describe it properly because I haven't experienced it yet. It's something I will have to wait for.
I may not have had the 'a-ha' moment Clayton was referring to (yet), but there is one key thing which I took away from my introduction to Nuffield Canada: it offers an opportunity to contribute something significant to the agriculture sector.
At the AGM, the presenting scholars (Gayl Creutzberg, Clayton Robins, Blake Vince, and Ryan Bonnett) covered four distinct topics. Some were science based, others more philosophical, yet each brought fresh ideas or suggested new approaches for agriculture and food in Canada. The experience is truly about applying what has been learned. Nuffield Scholars are engaged in the agri-food sector. They are in prime positions to implement their research. It will be put into practice on farms, or executed in organizational business plans.
It is incredible to think that as a Nuffield Scholar I will have access to great minds and innovative programming around the world. It is also extremely humbling to think that I have been given this opportunity.
I intend to use this experience to make a difference to Canadian agriculture. My goal is to address the challenge of labour shortages in the sector - focusing on recruitment for jobs across the food system.
To do this, I will investigate collaborative models of agriculture career education. I will explore how youth development organizations (e.g. 4-H, Young Farmers Clubs) can collaborate with the agri-food industry to attract the next generation of employees.
There are a multitude of programs in places such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. which are trying to address the same type of labour shortage we have here in Canada. These are the models I will explore over the next two years. Which activities are applicable to a Canadian context?
We have a strong foundation of organizations like Agriculture in the Classroom and 4-H Canada which are primed to play a larger role in inspiring young people to engage in agri-food careers. The agriculture industry is exploring ways to attract future employees. But more can be done. More needs to be done.
We can always learn from others and add value to our systems. That's the essence of the Nuffield program: expanding agricultural horizons, sharing our knowledge and feeding our passion.
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.