Engaging young farmers

GRAINS IN ACTION PROGRAM INVESTS IN ONTARIO'S YOUNG FARMERS

AS YOUNG FARMERS manage their crops this year they will be reflecting upon and using lessons learned from the 2011 Grains in Action program. The program provided insight into emerging markets and end uses of crops to consider variety selection, management practices and  knowledge of emerging markets.

inspiring future leaders
With the goal of bringing together potential future leaders for the organization, Grain Farmers of Ontario launched the inaugural Grains in Action program at the beginning of the year. “We selected young farmers from across the province to participate in the program,” says Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “The program taught them about the needs of the full value chain of corn, soybeans and wheat with the goal of improving these farmers’ bottom lines, understanding the marketplace and inspiring them to get more involved with GFO,” continues Senft. 

The program also provided an important venue for young farmers to network with both their peers and industry representatives. “Farming is often a very solitary business, but having a network of peers to talk about challenges and opportunities can be immensely valuable for someone just starting out,” says Senft.

experiencing the value chain
The 2011 program was a great success with 60 participants from across the province. The program began with an opening reception in Guelph and departed early the next morning for an action packed tour.

Grains in Action participants toured several grain processors and learned the ins and outs of these aspects of the industry. “Our participants were very interested in the tour of the Sarnia Grain Terminal and Greenfield Ethanol in Chatham,” says Valerie Gilvesy, Grain Farmers of Ontario’s member relations coordinator and Grains in Action program leader. “At the Greenfield site we also had an excellent question and answer session with Jim Smolik from the Canadian Grains Commission,” she continues.

The tour also heard from researchers at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus about current projects and important upcoming research. “All of the participating farmers were very interested in the researchers’ findings,” says Gilvesy. “They easily recognized the importance of agricultural research to their farm’s bottom line.” The group also toured the pilot biodiesel facility located on the campus. This facility is part of the Centre for Agricultural Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CARES) and provides a testing opportunity for an important end use of soybeans – biodiesel.

A family-run grain elevator and soybean roasting facility, Blythe Brae Farms was also a highlight of the tour. At the last stop, the participants learned about flour milling while they toured P&H Milling in Cambridge.

Throughout the program several staff from Grain Farmers of Ontario joined the group to share presentations and activities around their aspects of the business. The group also heard presentations from the Canadian International Grains Institute, Ontario Agri-Business Association, Agricorp, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada and as a highlight, an address from  Honorable Carol Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

class of 2012
Many memories were made at these two sessions of Grains in Action and both sessions closed with very special speeches from valedictorians chosen by the participants. “We’re very pleased with the outcome of these sessions,” says Senft. “It’s heartening to see such enthusiasm from  young farmers taking such an interest in the industry and the future of farming.”

Graduates from the program have become Grain Farmers of Ontario’s information providers in the countryside. During planting and through harvest, these farmer leaders from all 15 GFO districts of our province will provide weekly updates on activity in their regions. This valuable information populates Grain Farmers of Ontario’s interactive map showing the percentages of wheat, corn, and soybeans planted and harvested across Ontario. You can find the map at www.gfo.ca.

Because of the great success of this inaugural year, Grains in Action will now be an annual program for grain farmers under the age of 35 who are identified as potential future leaders within the industry. If you are interested in participating, or know someone who should be considered for this program, please forward their name to Valerie Gilvesy, vgilvesy@gfo.ca, 226-979-5581. •

About Meghan Burke 17 Articles

Manager, Communications, Grain Farmers of Ontario