Wednesday September 03, 2014

Changing times for youthful farmers


It is always a sure sign of spring when the Spring 4-H Steer and Heifer Show takes place in Yorkton.

To start with I must throw some kudos to the Yorkton Exhibition Association for continuing to sponsor the event. To the credit of the YEA they have never lost sight of the fact agriculture was what brought them into existence decades ago, and while today they sponsor a range of entertainment events, they stay true their roots through events such as the Spring 4-H Show.

In that regard they are not unique as fair boards across the province and Prairies continue to support agriculture in a variety of ways.

The 4-H Show is also a time where an old farm boy like myself can find himself waxing nostalgic about his youth spent taking in livestock shows. Fairs were my ‘summer camps’. A trip to the Toronto Royal was a highlight of my formative years. The Canadian Western Agribition an annual November pilgrimage.

But I won’t go that route today.

The past, while something we need to remember, it is the future we should always be aspiring too.

The world of agriculture today is so much science fiction if one were to look at it from the perspective of my youth.

The thoughts of genetically modified crops, high clearance sprayers, global positioning technology, robotic machinery controls, would not have been believed by any save a few futurists, from the perspective of the 1970s.

When you analyze the developments we see as common place in farming today, the education required by a farmer is as diverse as any other field of endeavour.

A farmer, even as we have moved away from mixed operations, to more specialized farms, must today have skills that include marketing, computers, robotics, and a number of other skill sets my parents never had to imagine on the farm.

So as I walked around the 4-H event I found myself pondering what the young members involved in the show will see happen in farming in the decades ahead.

I am coming up on the 40th anniversary of my graduation from high school. Four decades in our age is a massive amount of time in terms of change.

We have all heard the statistics about more scientists alive today than in the combined centuries of our past. That means change, and massive amounts of it, in increasingly shorter spans of time.

As mentioned the last 40 years have seen huge change in farming. We only need to think of a landscape once spotted with wooden elevators, now basically gone, to see a very obvious example of that.

Now push the fast forward button on developments for another 40-years, and even someone who loves science fiction cannot imagine what will come in terms of agriculture.

Sure we know there will be more mouths to feed as the world population grows, but what crops and tech farmers will use to meet that reality is unknown, although it will be decidedly different than what is in place today.

That will mean those 4-H members who carry their interest forward as either farmers or in the broader field of agriculture, will need to be broadly educated, and highly adaptive to the changes which will be a matter of course in the years ahead.



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