Getting food seems like such a simple thing, doesn’t it?

An after-school snack and the country’s first-ever national food policy meet up in Christopher Mills’ winning young speakers’ entry.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Christopher Mills, 14, of Vauxhall, is the junior winner of the Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition. In his speech, he addressed the question: Food waste, food security and food policy: What is agriculture’s/aquaculture’s role?

It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I just came home from school and I am starving.

I decide to make myself an after-school snack. Kraft Dinner it is! I open the fridge and disappointment sets in. We are out of milk! I call my mom and ask her to grab a jug of milk on her way home from work.

My snack is going to have to wait, but a new jug of milk is on its way. With agriculture, it’s just that easy!

Agriculture plays an important role in the lives of all Canadians. In 2018, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada published a report to outline the priorities of people across the country for the first-ever Food Policy for Canada. This sector is essential, yet many who have not grown up on a farm don’t realize or appreciate the role Canadian agriculture plays in their lives.

Unfortunately, many today don’t stop to recognize where their food and milk are coming from. Getting food is as simple as a trip to the supermarket.

Canadians need to take the time to be familiar with who is producing the food and milk for the supermarkets, how it is grown and why Canadian agriculture is our future. Canadian agriculture doesn’t just feed us but it also feeds our economy. Agriculture employs many, and depends upon our farmers to take good care of their land to make sure there is a future for agriculture.

Taking care of your land is called environmental stewardship. Our Canadian farmers are growing so much more than just the food we eat.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, our country is the fifth-largest agricultural exporter in the world, and this industry employs one in every eight Canadians. So why does Canada need a Food Policy? Food systems in Canada — including the way food is produced, processed, dispersed, devoured and disposed of — directly affects the lives of Canadians.

As Canadians we can contribute to the future of our food by identifying the importance of environmental stewardship. We need to make sure that farmers are following the best practices for land to ensure that our farmland is well taken care of and that it will still be able to produce quality crops for years to come.

For example, my dad is a dryland farmer near Retlaw. Since we don’t have irrigation, we need to conserve every drop of moisture that we get. In order to do this, my dad runs a zero-till operation. He seeds directly into the unworked land. With zero till, he does not spread the weed seeds as much and ends up using less chemical on his crop.

He also uses the practice of chopping the straw out the back of the combine so that the straw fibres remain on the land and help to collect and maintain the moisture levels of the soil. My dad also rotates his crops yearly to keep the soil in good condition and to help maintain the nutrients.

These may seem like very simple practices but they have evolved over time and farmers have learned from the past. It is important to keep improving farming practices so that the future of our food supply does not become at risk.

According to the Food Policy for Canada, our government has a vision for the future of our food. It states, “All people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious, and culturally diverse food. Canada’s food system is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment and supports our economy.”

Realizing this vision will also help with food waste. Food waste refers to all food that is produced, harvested, processed, manufactured or prepared for consumption but never actually gets eaten by people. Food waste happens at all stages of the food supply chain, from farm to plate.

Farming today is so different than it was even 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. Many of today’s young farmers have a university degree in an agricultural field, they share farming tips on Twitter and Snapchat, and have equipment that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per machine.

A farming operation today is guided by a GPS system and allows you to continue seeding well into the wee hours of the morning and will seed entire sections of land without ever tilling the soil. It might look like the young farmer is just playing with his drone but he is actually doing a fly-by of all his fields to make sure that his crops are growing, and the weeds are under control. Everything on a modern farm is done to complete precision and guarantees environmental stewardship.

When I am older, I want to continue farming where my dad leaves off.

Canadian agriculture is working hard to improve practices, increase production and inform the population where their food is coming from so that this sector will continue to grow and keep Canadians and the world fed for all the generations to come.

Without agriculture there is no food security and the vision of the first Food Policy of Canada will never be met.

Without education and proper farming practices there is no way to combat food waste. Simply put… without agriculture there is no future.

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