Agriculture is my teacher — and I never fall asleep in class

Quinten Albrecht, who won the $500 first-place prize in the junior division of this year’s Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition, and competition founder Eric Dalke.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Quinten Albrecht, 12, of Holden, was the junior winner in the Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition at the Calgary Stampede. This year’s topic was: Working in agriculture is more than just farming.

Harvesting crops, haying, calving out cows, and riding horses. These are just some of the things that fill up my event calendar every year. But it is really more than just that.

Agriculture is more than farming.

I do so many things on our family farm year round. I am learning that agriculture is much more than “just” farming. I will tell you what agriculture is teaching me. I am beginning to realize that living in rural Alberta and working with my family on our farm is teaching me a lot. I am learning many life skills such as responsibility, teamwork, a good work ethic, public speaking, community spirit, industry and marketing, and being passionate about my work.

In a way, agriculture is like a teacher to me. It is very interesting, so I will never fall asleep (like in social class!). Agriculture teaches me how to be a good, responsible person. For example, in the summer when my dad is in the field and my mom takes my sister Kate to her riding lesson, I “get” to do chores!

Even though I am not always thrilled about it, I still do them because it would spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E if I didn’t. Responsibility and teamwork — two very important skills at my house. My dad always says that “teamwork gets the job done faster.” He and I tackle a lot of tasks together, like fencing and working in the garden. Many chores we tackle as a family. Examples of these would be daily chores, processing cattle, yard work, and everyone’s favourite — cleaning the chicken barn! These jobs are always easier with more than one person and it is more fun when you have someone to talk to.

One thing that my mom really enforces is a good work ethic. She says that you can’t get a good job without one. She also stresses doing things because they need to be done, and not waiting to be told to do them. I truly think that she is right. We are always expected to try our best, regardless of the situation.

Another skill that I am learning, which is priceless, is what I am doing right now: public speaking.

This is something that I love and truly enjoy. I started practising this through a great agricultural program called 4-H, which is also teaching me about community spirit. Whether it is painting panels, doing dishes for a graduation, or visiting the seniors’ lodge, our club is always active in and around our community. Our rural community teaches me that you always help a friend or neighbour in need. We rarely wait for people to ask for help; we see that it is needed and “pitch in.” This could mean anything from helping to fix farm equipment, moving cattle, or preparing a meal for someone who is very busy.

Another side of agriculture is the industry part of it. According to ATB Agriculture, a lot of revenue comes from the U.S. and China from Canadian exports. Some of Canada’s largest sales come from canola oil, prepared potatoes, and malt barley, which are sold to other top buying countries.

Agriculture is also the second-largest industry in Alberta. We are known all over for our trademark “Alberta Beef.” Now more and more restaurants are switching their place of purchase to all Canadian products. I am glad that they are doing this and hope that more restaurants continue to “buy from the best.”

I think something that we can all agree on is that agriculture is a way of life. Our neighbour who is 94 years old still lives on his own farm and raises horses. When I talked to him about his life, he said that if he had his life to live over again, he would not change a single thing. He is a true farmer who loves and cares for his animals and land in every way possible.

The world needs more guys like him; he worked hard his entire life, he respects the land he lives on, the farmers before him, and most of all he is grateful for his excellent health. He is an easygoing guy who loves nature. Man, do I ever hope to be like him some day — 82 years from now!

I have told you that I am enthusiastic about agriculture, and that being involved with it is teaching me a lot.

There is just one aspect about agriculture that really “ruffles my feathers.” The fact that the work on our farm keeps us busy is not unusual; most farms are busy. Unfortunately the other aspect of our family farm that is not unusual is the fact that both of my parents work off the farm — not because they want to, it is because they have to in order to keep it financially sustainable.

I interviewed the ag business lender at our local AFSC office. He stated that over 80 per cent of his clients have one or both partners working off the farm.

My family works hard at home to keep our farm afloat. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in our day. In addition to this, my mom works at a rural hospital and my dad drives truck and operates heavy equipment at two different jobs. I think that they both must work pretty hard as they often come home really tired and, to be honest, sometimes pretty grouchy.

Bottom line is they work so hard because they have to.

Also, were you aware that 60 to 80 per cent of family farm income is from off the farm?

Here we are, raising food for others, and my parents have to work off the farm to help us have the essentials. My dad says that “Farmers raise food for others, and that is a very noble thing. Yet, every day a farmer picks up his lunch kit to go to work to feed his family.”

I think that it is also noble to be so passionate about agriculture that the majority of farmers will do this. I sure wish that they didn’t have to.

Ladies and gentlemen, I love agriculture and I want to stay involved with it for my career. I have told you about many life skills that I am learning because I am involved with our family farm. I come from a long line of farmers and it just runs in my blood like oil runs in an engine.

I think that I am VERY lucky to be blessed with the privileges and opportunities that come with the family farm. Now you see ladies and gentlemen, that agriculture is really MUCH, MUCH more than just farming.

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