Supporting Youth in Agriculture

March 11, 2022 | Tom Tavani

Supporting Youth in Agriculture

The future is in the hands of our youth. This is especially true for our agri-food industry, and if we want it to be a productive, environmentally sustainable and caring future, we have to encourage our young people now.

Fortunately, there are many people and organizations who know this and are helping young women and men gain a real understanding and passion for our industry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a report in 2014 that highlighted several areas around the world where young people are receiving formal and informal education, on-the-job training and more. At nearly 100 pages, it’s a long read, but worth it to see how governments, non-profit organizations and even the youth themselves are stepping up to create a better tomorrow in food production.

Closer to home, there are several programs that provide young people with the tools they need to move forward in the industry. For example, 4-H has been a stalwart organization for more than 100 years. Its mission is lofty: “to empower youth to be responsible, caring and contributing leaders that effect positive change in the world around them.” Its motto is “Learn to do by doing.” It’s a motto that is grounded in practicality – a necessary quality for those of us in farming.

While 4-H operates in 70 countries around the world, here in Canada, there are 23,500 members and 7,800 volunteers. The work they do in Ontario is gaining recognition and support. Last summer, the federal and provincial governments invested $1.4 million in educational materials and programming for the Ontario chapter.

Earlier last year, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a $21.4 million investment in the Youth Employment and Skills program to create 2,000 jobs for youth in our sector. That’s double the amount previously committed. The Minister emphasized the double rewards of not only providing young people with eye-opening work experiences, but also relieving some of the pains of our current labour shortage.

The federal government is looking to fill vacancies of their own on the Canadian Agriculture Youth Council. A total of 25 members, aged 18 to 30, from across the country meet virtually to discuss challenges and opportunities in the sector, and to bring forward their ideas and recommendations. The deadline for applications is March 22nd.

Finally, we’re very proud at the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario to support our members’ children and grandchildren by offering four $2,500 scholarships every year. They are designed to help defray the costs of a post-secondary education in agriculture. Our current deadline is July 31st, so there’s lots of time to get your applications in!

Tom Tavani is General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.