Two Young People from the Glendale Area of Northumberland Attend Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth Conference in Canada with Support from Agricultural Societies.
The Glendale Agricultural Society [GAS] and The Royal Smithfield Club have always focused on supporting the next generation, and this was shown in the 28th Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth Conference (RASCC), held in Canada in November.
RASCC has been held biennially across the world in Commonwealth nations since 1963 and gives attendees an experience of the agriculture industry in the region of the hosting country.
As part of the RASCC Next Generation [NG] Conference held in Edmonton – Elodie Straker from Belford, was sponsored by GAS, and Harry Huddart, from Lowick, was sponsored by The Royal Smithfield Club. Both were given the unique opportunity to meet with industry leaders and others in global farming, and to experience Canadian agricultural practices and the issues that face food production and farming communities across the world.
Both have a very strong interest in the future of farming, 22-year-old Elodie, has a degree in Business Management with Marketing from Harper Adams University and is now living back in Northumberland. Born and brought up in Lowick, 24-year-old Harry, has a degree in Agriculture from Newcastle University, and is an Assistant Farm Manager for Beeswax Dyson Farms in Lincolnshire.
Here, they look back on what was a hugely informative and inspirational tour.
Canadian businesses, especially, are known to be some of the most innovative and forward thinking in the world. In the pre-conference tour, the NG delegates learnt about the success of Alberta and Canada’s agriculture industries and visited enterprises across Edmonton.
They first visited Lewis Farms at Edmonton, which runs a 1,000 head herd of Simmental and Angus cows and has an auction ring where they sold their own bulls – this year was their 34th annual bull sale. Over at the Cargill Company Factory, they witnessed large-scale and impressive production of burgers for McDonalds Burgers in Canada. Cargill’s make all the meat patties [as they are called there] for the fast-food chain, as part of McDonalds’ decision to use only ethically-produced, Canadian ingredients.
Harry commented on Doef’s Greenhouses Ltd: “Here, they grew peppers and cucumbers, used technology to monitor production levels of both staff and vegetables, and assigned staff members tasks by using a tagging system. They also extract natural gas from beneath their land which they burn on site to produce heat, electricity and CO2 for use in the greenhouses. Using their excess capacity, they could double their present greenhouse size.
The co-operative they are part of – Sunfresh Farms – comprises of 6 farming businesses which feeds into the one packing and distribution plant. They have similar issues with supermarkets they supply as are experiences in the UK. At times, they are their best friend and their worst enemy, but as a co-operative, they work to help each other out when needed.
Recently, one of the six members experienced a failure of a beet crop. The group met together and told the unlucky farmer to plough his crop in, and that the collective would meet his payment. It was good to see how modern methods combined with traditional neighbourly support.”
Harry also noted that GM Canola Oilseed Rape is produced in Canada which makes the crop less dependent on chemicals, and more viable commercially – which, he added, “we are not allowed to do in the UK”. This theme was to be taken up in the main conference.
Elodie added: “I met many fascinating individuals on the pre-tour and came away feeling inspired by the farmers in Alberta. Their passion for food production and producing the highest quantity of food in a sustainable manner, with the constant challenges of modern day agricultural, was admirable.”
The two-day Next Generation Conference, which followed the tour, contained some real learning initiatives, led by RASCC facilitators Aled Jones and WillIiam Hyde, both successful role models in the Agricultural Industry.
Harry recalls Professor David Hughes from the UK, who produced a fascinating session entitled “Is Food Making the World Smaller?”:
“Today, he suggested you must think about mega-cities, not mega-countries – where a city like London has so many markets within it because of all the different ethnicities it contains. This means that mega-cities need global markets to supply them. Generally, global consumer trends are accelerating, and are being driven by younger consumers and their needs. One of the key issues he highlighted was Africa, which has one of the highest population growths and is facing the biggest consequences of climate change.”
Elodie was encouraged to hear about the different ways in which countries deal with problems that are common across the world – all teaching the message that a collaborative approach across the industry and the world is vital to ensure the sustainability of Food production.
The opening keynote speaker at the main RASCC was Robert Saik – whose book “The Agriculture Manifesto” explores key ideas about technology and farming. Harry described him as “An inspiring and leading North American Guru of GM crops”. One of his arresting statements is whether “Agriculture will be allowed to feed 9 billion people.” He delivered his vision of 10 key drivers that will take agriculture through the next 10 years – among them bio-engineering, sensor technology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and data. His support of GM crops led him to describe agriculture as the only industry that is not allowed to use the technology available to it.
Another highlight, witnessed by Elodie, was how agricultural shows can stay engaged with the wider community and maintain their role in connecting agriculture industry with the people. “By engaging them and increasing awareness of the industry, this will help to ensure the sustainability of food production and help it move forward to reduce food wastage”, says Elodie.
Elodie also brings ideas back from Lucinda Ross, Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. She took a closer look at the role of event operations in “From Gate to Garbage and Crowds to Cows; Managing the Complexity of Agriculture Events. This session highlighted the importance of preparation and planning for executing an event of any size.
Given her knowledge of Event Management, Elodie was also struck by the topic of Agritainment: “Entertainment has become an integral part of shows over the years. It is now an expectation of visitors that there will be a full programme that will appeal to all ages at shows. If the entertainment is positive, memorable and enjoyable it is more likely that they will return the year after.”
Post RASCC, Elodie has been asked to join the Glendale Agricultural Society committee: “I have attended the show most years throughout my childhood and it is fantastic to now have the opportunity to be a part of its future.”
Harry has been invited to become part of the Marketing Committee for the Royal Agricultural Society. “I will be continuing to bring the view of the Borders to the attention of the world, and probably vice versa,” he adds.
Both delegates believe they now have a more global outlook, having met others with a passion for agriculture who believe in ensuring the sustainability and profitability of the industry in the future.
Elodie concludes: “the hospitality we received from the Canadians was first class, they were so welcoming at every visit we were on and also at the conference. Harry concluded: “Everyone there wanted to listen and to learn about improving world agriculture.”
For the two, the RASCC was one of their most worthwhile experiences, and both thank their respective Societies for supporting them in attending. They would recommend anyone to apply for the opportunity in the future – with the next event in under 2 years, when the Conference comes to Norfolk, from 30th June to 11th July.
For details of GAS or to join as a member, please contact the Glendale Agricultural Society on 01668 283 868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information can be found at – www.glendaleshow.com.