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A need to educate youth on farming

Last week I touched on how the Yorkton Exhibition Association has as one of its core mandates to educate about agriculture.The YEA of course is not alone in those efforts.

Last week I touched on how the Yorkton Exhibition Association has as one of its core mandates to educate about agriculture.The YEA of course is not alone in those efforts. One of the best aspects of Canadian Western Agribition, a livestock show in Regina which attracts an international crowd, is the education element it offers to high school students across the province.Over the years I have been the guest of Yorkton Regional High School traveling to CWA with the school's bus tour, and I can ensure anyone that students gained from the experience. Whether attending the planned sessions focusing on agricultural careers, or simply walking around looking at the displays, students had to gain insights about the industry of farming.The same column touched on how a planned Western Canadian Crop Technology Interpretive Centre for Yorkton could be a major asset in terms of education even as it is primarily a tourism attraction.Whether people walk in the front door on a stopover in Yorkton during a vacation trip, or whether on a school tour, the opportunity to learn about Western Canadian crops would exist.At the heart of it all is of course education.Moving forward that may be the most important word associated with the farm sector.There is a need to educate youth about farming in order to ensure those same young people at least consider the field of agriculture in terms of a career choice.Of course when you consider agriculture, it is a field which goes well beyond actually owning land and tilling the soil, although there will be a need for future farmers too.While farming may not have been the realm of university graduates in the past, many immigrants who opened the west were poorly educated, and back then hard work was enough to ensure success, that has changed.Today, farming requires a diverse skill-set, ranging from computer technology to market production, to understanding the impact of global positioning, and soil tests, through mechanical engineering to understand equipment, while maintaining a good work ethic. That may not be for everyone given the challenges of realizing a profit, but agriculture careers are far more varied.As an example, as farming moves forward there will be a growing demand for improved crop varieties.The idea of wheat crops consistently yielding 100-bushels-an-acre, of crops being tolerant to drought, to effectively be able to grow in saline soils, or be resistant to currently devastating diseases, will be critical to feeding a growing world population. To achieve such varieties will require the brightest scientists and geneticists, and that means the agriculture sector must attract youth to the field.In the past a child might have learned of farming and agriculture on the knee of their father or grandfather. Today, fewer and fewer families have a connection to farming more than driving down a highway and seeing a cow munching grass, or a field of yellow flowers and wondering what it is. In larger cities many won't even have that fleeting glimpse of agriculture.So, it will be paramount to find ways to make youth aware of the options in agriculture regarding careers, but in making sure the sector attracts the sharp minds needed to meet the industry's needs in the future.

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