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Not Your Grandpa’s Farm – Youth in Agriculture

Not Your Grandpa’s Farm

We all see the commercials, Alberta Beef and Got Milk? but there is so much more to the industry that is such a major driver in Alberta’s economy. And as the industry develops, it needs young minds to continue the advancement of agriculture.

“When you think about the stereotype of agriculture, you think about tractors and cattle. You think about going around in the fields but in reality it is so much bigger than that. The agricultural exports and food products in Alberta were valued at over $14 billion in 2021.”

Donna Kirchner, CAREERS Agriculture Lead and Program Coordinator in southern Alberta, knows first-hand how rewarding the industry can be. She has helped countless Alberta teens discover how diverse agriculture is and the long-lasting a career it can lead to. 

“Outside of the obvious categories, like raising and processing Alberta beef, there are so many other agriculture avenues that youth can explore. Everything from beekeeping to vertical growth greenhouses – not to mention the technology that is integrated into the agriculture industry now.

There is over 50-million acres of farmland in Alberta and the way to preserve it has come along way. To sustain the land, it is vital to understand nutrient rotation and soil composition but beyond that it is important to grow the industry in new, innovate ways. Kirchner is working towards a solution to maintain the longevity of the industry and promote the career pathway to teens who might not have considered what agriculture has to offer.

“I think that’s appealing to the younger generation because it’s so much more science-based and technologically based than it used to be. And when we look at farms in general in Alberta, according to the 2021 census, only 5800 farms had succession plans where over 25,000 farms did not. That says to us that there are opportunities for the younger generation to become involved. Young people want to know where their food comes from and how it’s being produced and they want to know about the impact, the footprint, that it’s making on our planet.”

There is so much room to grow, no pun intended, in the agriculture industry and it is a perfect career path for youth who want to help shape where agriculture is headed. With today’s youth being so connected to technology, they are primed to be the generation to make big changes. And while you might think that it is a “He-man Woman Haters Club” just like in The Little Rascals, that’s not the case. Kirchner says that Alberta has the second highest percentage of women in agriculture across the country.

“We really need to start thinking about the non-traditional forms of agriculture if we want to grow the industry. Diversity not just with the type and production but the people involved.”

CAREERS has agricultural paid internships available across the province for youth under the age of 21. These opportunities are a great way to explore what agriculture has to offer and get a little money over the summer.

Working teen in greenhouse
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