Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Feeding a Hungry Planet - Youth Ag Summit Musings of Day 1

Stepping into the Bow Valley, there is no question what the group is here to do. The energy is palpable and the group is on the edge of their seats to tackle the hardest issues on the planet head on.

This is truly an event like no other I've been a part of.  118 smart, articulate, passionate young (& sexy) leaders from 22 countries in Calgary finding solutions to feed a hungry planet. (The sexy is a reference to Ashton Kutcher - check my Tweets from this am). 

For me, it's near impossible to share what this experience means. There is no single word, so  I captured many throughout the day.

-intelligent, articulate and willing to share
- compassion, professionalism, love, bravery, normalcy, blessed, 
- resilience, power of people, make change
- Inspire, encourage and motivate. 
- passion, enthusiasm, familiarity, differences, pride

My role as a mentor is all about facilitating conversations, so I've worked hard at keeping the lens on the delegates and enabling them to engage with each other, dignitaries and speakers. In doing so, I've been afforded many take-aways and insights.

Some day 1 highlights that made me stop & think:

  • Potatoes are very organic matter and N-intensive. In NB, farmers have started to rotate with corn, which causes a yield boost in year 1, thanks to the organic matter, but it's not sustainable. If potatoes require more specialization, N and pesticides, how are farmers balancing this to sustain their soil? 
  • We are a "now" society. Are we thinking about what's after now?
  • Canadians do not pay enough for their food (a bold statement, no doubt). If farmers were guaranteed a fair return, they could invest in better research and improving practices. Today, they are driven solely by profit. What if the price of food was raised? Then what if we re-introduced healthy food prep into the classroom?
  • Food deserts create a inadequate food system in developed countries. Do we know what it's like to live in a community where food is purchased at 7-11?
  • There are still people interested in traditional crop breeding techniques, it's not all biotech.
  • The gap between food and farming is not shrinking. We need to do a better job listening to concerned consumers and considering their perspective, not dismissing it because they didn't drive a tractor or feed a herd of livestock that morning.

Finally, we were left with some incredible stories of human care and giving from the recent floods in Calgary. Calgarians helping Calgarians they'd never met should resonate with all farmers and those in the agri-food industry. It was stated repeatedly, when asked about the people they were helping, "I've never been to this neighbourhood before, but these people are my neighbours and they needed help and here I am." 

How fitting. We may never see those who are hungry and in need of our help. But on our increasingly small planet, arn't they neighbours? They need our help and are you there?

No comments:

Post a Comment