Science now considered fun, cool

Science wasn’t always cool. But according to a new report from a group called Let’s Talk Science, a science education and outreach organization with an active chapter at the University of Guelph, the percentage of people who think science is “fun” has increased to more than 72 per cent, a 40 per cent increase over the past few years. This is both amazing and encouraging — if you appreciate science at a young age it’s more likely you’ll become an adult that understands the value of science-based policies and decisions while being able to ask questions.

Science and agriculture go hand in hand. The University of Guelph is always working on developing new innovations to improve the lives of people and animals, such as developing a crop that can be turned into flour that helps people slow their absorption of glucose. It would be a breakthrough for diabetics. New plant varieties developed at the University of Guelph, with the support of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and organizations such as SeCan, contribute more than $650 million a year to the economy and help farmers in all parts of Ontario prosper.

The challenge to science is to do what farming has done: capitalize on its good standing to attract some more new blood. I think people need exposure to what makes

Albert Einstein, one of history's most famous and well-known scientists. Photo credit

Albert Einstein, one of history’s most famous and well-known scientists. Photo credit

science not only fascinating but useful and enjoyable. Campaigns are underway now such as Research Matters to show how Canadian researchers are making meaningful contributions to society by addressing the challenges and opportunities before them. Scientist: What a cool occupation!


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Modern farming a mix of tradition and technology

Modern farming is a curious thing. On one hand it appears very traditional, allowing some farmers to capitalize on ideas like the local food movement. But on the other hand, many farmers are happy to leave behind the hayseed stereotype, and embrace modern technologies and methods. It’s not that they don’t have home-grown values; odds are, theirs is a family farm. But these family farms operate like a business, and policymakers need to understand that.

Proposed business activities where the focus of a Canadian Federation of Independent Business poll of 520 farmers across the country earlier this fall. The results were significant: a whopping 44 per cent of farmers in the poll said they were planning to expand their operations in the next three years, up from 40 per cent a few years ago. And farmers have their sights set on hiring more employees within the next three years, despite challenges finding help. More than half of the survey respondents said they are planning to adopt new and innovative technologies, such as robotic milking for dairy cows or GPS systems for planting and spraying.

Dairy cows being milked by a robotic milker. Photo credit

Dairy cows being milked by a robotic milker. Photo credit

The federation says Canadians can be proud of the country’s agriculture sector, as it provides an abundance of jobs and quality food using modern operations. The final bit of good news from the survey is family farms are poised to stay that way. More than 80 per cent of those who are passing their farm assets on in the next three years will pass it to a family member. Modern farming will indeed continue to have elements of traditions passed down through families, plus the benefits of technology that young people and their progressively minded parents bring to farming. Sounds like the best of all worlds, for agriculture and for consumers.


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Buyer’s market for jobs in agriculture

In agriculture, employers look far and wide for potential employees, including at the Ontario Agricultural College career fair held at the University of Guelph. With three jobs awaiting every Aggie graduate, it can be stiff competition for employers. Students start looking for jobs in third year to land a good position, of which there are many in the agri-food sector, particularly in the businesses and industries that support farmers. The pure and applied sciences learned at school combined with their communications abilities make them highly employable.

There's a wide range of careers in agriculture available. Photo credit to

There’s a wide range of careers in agriculture available. Photo credit to

Some of these graduates head back to help run their family farm, so there’s an even smaller pool. A little over a decade ago farm parents were reluctant to encourage their kids to return to the operation due to low prices. Now, with the farm economy more even, returning to the farm is a viable option. But this still leaves the industry struggling to find people to fill jobs. Though it’s technologically advanced, equal to both genders, and pays well, it’s still surrounded by stereotypes of manual labour for low wages in a male- dominated culture. This isn’t restricted to Canada either; a global look at youth, gender and agriculture will be presented Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the Guelph Public Library at 7 p.m., called “Who wants to be a farmer?”

Professor emeritus Ben White of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, will bring up thorny, difficult global issues such as gender inequality and income disparity between the rural and urban world. The timing is superb for his presentation, as harvest is upon us and the International Year of the Family Farm wraps up, which has received surprisingly little attention in Guelph. This is a good chance to give it some recognition.

For more information on the event click here.

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