It’s not every day that a princess drops by an Alberta farm show, but that was the case at this year’s Farmfair International.
And Princess Anne was impressed by what she saw during her first visit to the province.
“Alberta does provide an extraordinary backdrop to this international discussion about agriculture, food, and farming,” said the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, more formally known as Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal.
“It’s a region recognized for its livestock and grain production. For many looking in, there seems to be a pretty strong base. What could go wrong?”
But in her remarks at the conference of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth earlier this month (which was held in conjunction with Farmfair), Princess Anne noted that Alberta and Canada share the same challenges as other Commonwealth countries. An aging farming population, a struggle to attract new entrants, land access, changing dietary trends, and environmental concerns are issues seen around the world, she noted.
Princess Anne is the president of the society, which has held biannual conferences around the world for more than half a century. This year’s event brought 175 delegates from 23 Commonwealth countries to Alberta. The society was created by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1957 and Princess Anne assumed the president’s role when her father retired in 2011.
“She has taken over, and like everything Her Royal Highness does, she takes a very active interest in every Commonwealth conference she’s been to since the one in Christchurch in 2008,” said Michael Lambert, an English farmer and the society’s honorary secretary.
“She comes to most of our annual general meetings, and some of the events we have done with Harper Adams, which is the largest agricultural university in the United Kingdom, which she is the chancellor of.”
Attendees had a chance to take a close-up look at Alberta agriculture. One tour offered a look at an entire supply chain — starting with a beef operation, then visiting Cargill’s hamburger plant in Spruce Grove (which supplies McDonald’s Canada), and then a McDonald’s restaurant, said Lambert.
Another pre-conference event was a special forum for about 70 ‘next-generation’ delegates, all agricultural leaders under the age of 40. The goal of the forum is to help them grow as leaders and create networks.
“It’s really starting to be an influential group of young people who are now part of the main conference. We’re part of that group, we’ve been to previous conferences, we’ve been on missions,” said Aled Jones, a Welsh farmer and forum facilitator.
Princess Anne attended some of the sessions and went through the barns at Northlands.
“It is difficult to perceive the scale of this farming until you see it,” she said.
While the Commonwealth isn’t a trading bloc, there is a lot of trade between its member countries, partly because deals are usually easier to negotiate as the nations tend to have similar laws and business practices, said Patricia Scotland, secretary general of the Commonwealth.
“With trade rebounding after a global slump about 10 years ago, we predict that inter-Commonwealth trade should reach $700 billion by 2020,” said Scotland.
The goal is to increase trade within the Commonwealth to $2 trillion by 2030, she said.