Nuffield scholars say seeing the world makes it smaller

Scholars obtain insights into ag issues through program that allows them to study topic of their choice in countries around the globe

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Being a Nuffield scholar changed the way Crosby Devitt saw the world — and Canada’s place in global agriculture.

“My travels have been a time of personal and professional growth. I’ve made connections and friends from around the world — the world seems smaller now,” said the grains and oilseeds producer who farms near Lake Huron in Ontario.

“I didn’t expect such strong family connections from my Nuffield experience. We’ve hosted five scholars and others, some brought their families, and now my kids want to go to Australia to visit their friends.”

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Devitt was recently in Lethbridge as part of an annual gathering of Nuffield “scholars” — people who have received a grant from the non-profit organization to travel and study agriculture in other countries.

His studies in 2012 on research partnerships in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe, demonstrated the value of farmer organizations,” he said.

“We should embrace the opportunity we have to lead research and development,” he said. “I’m convinced the way ahead is through partnerships, public-private, national and international.”

Two of the three 2014 Nuffield scholars are Albertans and they heard from another Albertan, Brenda Schoepp.

Schoepp is a beef-marketing consultant and Alberta Farmer columnist and has become an advocate for gender equality on farms around the world because of her Nuffield studies last year.

“In Canada, a third of the land base is owned by women,” she said. “But around the world, 50 to 99 per cent of the food is produced by women and they make up 50 to 99 per cent of the agricultural workforce. These women are integral to feeding the world.”

Whether it’s obtaining sheltered toilet facilities for women, dealing with “daughter-in-law problems, or trying to obtain credit, many women around the world often face gender bias.

But Schoepp said she found men and women in farming want the same things and that information travelled easily between them. It reinforced her belief in mentoring, she said.

“Mentorship is empowering, inspiring, liberating and engaging a person,” she says. “It’s not guiding them. It is giving them the right tools to bring out what is already in the person and unconditionally accepting whatever that is.”

This year’s Nuffield scholars are Cheryl Hazenberg, Daryl Chubb, and Steve Wolfgram.

Hazenberg, raised on a farm in Ontario, now works for the Canadian Angus Association in Calgary. She’s still finalizing her study plans but is especially interested in consumers’ perceptions of their food and traceability.

Daryl Chubb was raised in Saskatchewan and is now an independent crop consultant based at Irricana, whose clients farm more than 30,000 acres, producing mostly small grains. He plans to study plant nutrient efficiency and other agronomic challenges of increased crop production.

Ontario veterinarian Steve Wolfgram said he plans to examine economic, environmental, sustainability and health issues — such as food safety and antibiotic use and resistance — in different livestock systems.

“I realize it’s more than I can do as a Nuffield scholar,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll narrow it down once I get travelling.”

The trio will gather with Nuffield scholars from around the world in Australia in February and will spend a minimum of 10 weeks outside Canada pursuing their studies.

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