Green Hectares is the place for… beginning farmers?

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The 60s-era “Green Acres” television program might not be the best source of information on agricultural practices, but a new metric equivalent may be a way for young people to get a start in modern farming.

A group of under-30 agricultural enthusiasts has developed an idea for the Green Hectares Agricultural Training facility, a place where people can learn, and have the opportunity for hands-on experiences in agriculture.

Step two is to find a location, and organizers say they’ve found one in Strathcona County near Ardrossan. Now they must come up with funds to purchase the property by April 17, 2009.

“Two years ago we held a focus group with a bunch of young agricultural enthusiasts,” says Laura Bodell, chair of the Green Hectares board. “The discussion focused on why there’s an exit of young people from agriculture. Green Hectares was our solution to keep young people involved and make agriculture a viable business.”

Bodell says their target audience is 18 to 35. “But a 40-to 45-year-old farmer can use the information as much as anyone my age,” said Bodell, who is 26 herself.

The board responsible for planning the vision and development of Green Hectares consists of 12 members under 30, and six older adults who act as mentors.

Bodell says Strathcona was chosen as the location for the proposed facility due to the proximity to the capital region and support from the local councillors. “Learning opportunities for young people in agriculture need to be different,” Bodell says. “Most people are working off farm in order to support their farm.”

Green Hectares will offer courses, clinics and learning options people will be able to pursue on their own schedule. “In addition to the physical centre, we’ll make all our resources available online so people can access it from anywhere,” said Bodell.

Green Hectares wants to purchase a property which already includes facilities suitable for their needs. The prospective site includes two offices, several indoor arenas, a viewing area, a barn area with 51 stalls, and an area suitable for veterinary demonstrations. Other facilities already on site include a laboratory area, tack rooms, a machine shop, hay storage and parking facilities. The site will be used mainly to facilitate learning opportunities with cattle, horses or other livestock.

The group is also working on creating an interprovincial agricultural ambassadors group composed of young people from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. These people have come together on several occasions, including for the annual fundraiser. Green Hectares will also offer educational opportunities for urban people who want to learn more about agriculture.

Wendy Schneider, a board member and advisor says “It’s a completely youth-driven project. It’s their vision, strategy and their leads. The young people on this board lead us, and we’re getting good at following.”

The group is exploring the options for a second property, which will be used for people who wish to study crop production and gardening. Partnerships are also being formed with organizations such as the University of Alberta, Lakeland College, Olds College and the Alberta Research Council.

“We’re also open to any other relationships or potential partners that are looking to be involved,” says Bodell. To learn more see www.greenhectaresonline.com.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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