Attracting young people to agriculture is a major concern for everyone involved with the industry. As a result, the Agriculture Research Extension Council of Alberta, (ARECA) has teamed up with Strathcona-based group Green Hectares to begin looking at potential initiatives to bring young people into the agricultural industry.
“Very few young people are becoming farmers,” says Dee Ann Benard, the Sherwood Park based Executive Director of ARECA. “We think there are people who have an interest, but don’t know how or don’t realize the business aspects. There are also people who take the leap into farming and then end up in over their heads and are struggling. We want to be able to gauge their needs.”
ARECA is conducting a survey to collect data to create programs to bring young people back to the land. The program, tentatively titled FarmCraft, will be delivered by ARECA, Green Hectares and ARECA’s membership organizations. The program may be modelled after FarmStart, a similar farm recruitment program in Ontario.
The proposed initiative will target marginalized groups such as women and immigrants. Benard said programming will likely include information nights, workshops and mentorships and will be geared towards people who have no prior experience with farming, people who are slowly getting farm experience and those who are transitioning into different aspects of farming.
Topics discussed in courses will likely include farm management practices, production management, marketing opportunities and alternative practices. Once the needs are gauged, ARECA will be able to apply for funding to implement the programming
Wendy Schneider, a member of Green Hectares, said there are many barriers for people who want to be involved in agriculture. She knows many young people involved in the industry who are concentrating on value-added businesses to supplement their farming income.
Green Hectares offers an intensive, multi-faceted approach to bring young people into farming. Benard said ARECA’s program will offer a low-risk approach for people who want to try their hand at farming. “They’ll be able to go out and work with a farmer and see if they like it,” she said. www.areca.ab.ca