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 www.trufflemedia.com
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.
Farmers have had more than their usual share of challenges this year, as they work to feed us. While the rest of us chow down during Thanksgiving, many farmers will still be working to get their crops off the field. Unpredictable weather, tricky growing conditions, and plant disease have made production a challenge. Add in the Russian boycott of Canadian agricultural products and the debate over bees and pesticides, and it’s a tumultuous time. Normal conditions just don’t seem to exist anymore.
The unusual heat, then cold, then rain, then drought is prompting new policy-making discussions about climate change. And farmers want to be part of it. They want decisions to be research based. In Ontario, they’ve seen how research advancements from the University of Guelph have helped farmers adapt to new growing conditions and climates. The University of Guelph recently made a pact with the province to make agriculture and food one its top areas of specialization. Together with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they are major players in Canadian agricultural advancements.
Newly installed U of G President Franco Vaccarino spoke of some of these achievements at his installation address, and the later at Canada’s Good Food Innovation Awards. He noted research at universities can help us get through tough times, and find the upside of uncertainty. He’s right. It’s that way among farmers as well. They never throw up their hands and give in, no matter what the challenge may be. Consider their fortitude as the holiday approaches, and give thanks for their determination.
Read more about Canada’s Good Food Innovation Awards here and watch the President’s address below.
The anticipated late harvest in Ontario this year has some farm safety officials worried. Farm safety problems peak during harvest in the fall, when farmers spend long hours getting their crop off the fields in a short amount of time. Powerful and potentially dangerous equipment and 18-hour days can be a dangerous combination. The late harvest this year has created a smaller window, resulting in longer hours for farmers.
Farmers worry about a late corn harvest. Photo credit eastgwillimburywow.blogspot.com
Dean Anderson, Guelph-based agricultural program manager for Ontario Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, says farm safety problems get worse when farmers are in a hurry to harvest. To prepare, he has spoken to groups about farm safety, emphasizing the importance of the farm safety plan. But lately, equipment has been getting attention. Machinery manufacturers are starting to affix maximum speed, which can range from 55-100 km/h, signs on equipment that travels on public roads to inform other drivers. The trouble is these machines also display a slow-moving vehicle sign, marking them as vehicles travelling 40 km/h or less. It’s difficult for passenger vehicles to know what’s right, and shows that farm safety problems aren’t always confined to the farm.
Anderson and other farm safety experts will be discussing these problems and others at a workshop in Bingemans in Kitchener on Oct. 27. Among the agenda items are tractor safety, electrical safety around the farm, working at heights and vulnerable seasonal and foreign workers. Farmers work long, hard hours feeding us, and they need our support and understanding to be safe. And this year, they need it more than ever.