Some of us on the verge of retirement wonder at times who will be taking over the reins of leadership of agricultural organizations, agricultural academia, the government agricultural bureaucracy and the industry in general. It’s a real concern, as never-ending production efficiencies mean fewer and fewer people needed to produce more food. In addition, agriculture is just not that sexy a career choice for many smart, ambitious young people. It’s an even bigger problem in Alberta as the energy industry with its deep pockets regularly scoops up the brightest from universities.
However, a recent conference held in Calgary saw many of those doubts and concerns put to rest at an outstanding display of youthful exuberance, enthusiasm and commitment to agriculture on a global scale. The conference entitled “Feeding a Hungry World — Youth Ag Summit” was sponsored by Bayer CropScience and was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Canada and the 150th anniversary of the global Bayer company. Kim McConnell, prominent Alberta agricultural industry advocate and summit participant, put it all into perspective when he said at the event, “Agriculture is in good hands with these young people.”
At one session, the young delegates were tasked to come up with some ideas that would help alleviate hunger in the world. That’s a question that has plagued the human race for millennia, but these young folks were undeterred and came up with some excellent ideas. Those with old cynical attitudes (yes I am guilty) would dismiss many of the ideas as unrealistic, considering the political, economic, cultural and religious hurdles that play such a large part in perpetuating hunger around the world.
The delegates, some of whom were from developing countries, were well aware of the confounding realities that would frustrate the implementation of their ideas. What is encouraging is that a conference like this would seem to open possibilities, that yes these ideas are achievable, if only some effort were made to start the process — however small. If nothing else these ideas would seem to plant some seeds in these young minds that might grow, while they advance into leadership roles in their various countries.
Another real benefit is the networking connections that were built up by these young people. Unlike the past where further connecting was sporadic, today with blogs, websites and other real-time connections the conversation will continue. But the concern is will all this enthusiasm and hope just fade away with the memory of this conference? This was a costly event and it takes big sponsors to keep them going. Bayer CropScience got the ball rolling, now others will need to step up to the plate and join in. This type of youthful excitement over critical food issues needs to be nurtured now — it will pay off down the road for the entire human race. To further future related initiatives Bayer CropScience Canada and 4-H Canada announced that each organization will donate $20,000 to the cause. I would suggest such generosity and commitment will indeed help nurture the future of global agriculture leadership and yes help moderate world hunger. We need a lot more of that!