A Mid-Week Youth Ag Summit Recap: Goal Setting, Mentors and More



You’ve already heard a little bit about the Youth Ag Summit and my second Breakfast Television appearance (the first involving less talk, more dance). I have a little over an hour to try to drum together some of the happenings here at the summit, before we are shuffled back into presentations, sessions, breakout groups and networking.

The event kicked off Monday night after the arrival of 118 youth delegates and 24 mentors representing 20 countries. The youth chosen were some of roughly 500 applicants who submitted either a video clip or an essay addressing subtopics surrounding the overall challenge of global food security.

I was very honored to receive a letter on April 24th congratulating me on my submission, and even more honored now, on Day 3 of the summit.

It was all a little confusing at first (and not just because I have a hard time remembering what city I’m in anymore). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference – I’m not sure you ever are. But, Kim McConnell, our moderator (and also co-founder of AdFarm, board member of Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd and active mentor with Cattlemen’s Young Leaders and 4-H), provided us with a little background right off the bat.

“We have to feed these people, and sustainably…that is the challenge that has brought us here together,” emphasized McConnell, who reiterated the global population projections for 2050, and the concerns around “feeding a hungry planet.”

The last two days we have been hearing from guest speakers in the industry discussing some of the work they’ve done in an effort to improve food security.

Every day we are here has a theme. Tuesday’s theme was “Goal Setting.” So, after a delicious pancake breakfast at the Calgary Stampede grounds, introductions to Calgary Stampede’s Royalty, being “white-hatted,” having to learn to be an interviewee, and hearing from guest speakers (including a mister Mayor Nenshi), we were divided into our breakout groups for the first time. The idea behind the breakout groups (comprised of roughly 15 youth), is that each will develop an action plan to address one core issue facing food security.  At the end of the week, we will have five minutes to address the entire Summit with our proposal, and hopefully build a shared action statement from that work.

By the evening we were treated to a “speed dating with VIPs” session, followed by a showcase of Canadian culture. The Honorable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture attended the evening’s proceedings, and also used the opportunity to announce a $5million investment in 4-H Canada under the government’s Growing Forward 2 framework.

Click here to see images from Debra’s first two days of the Youth Ag Summit.

Yesterday’s theme was “Innovation,” and we heard from Dr. Marcus Weidler of Bayer CropScience and Dr. Stan Blade of Alberta Innovates BioSolutions. We also had the opportunity to tour three locations:

  1. Sunterra’s largest of nine market locations (complete with grocery store, restaurant and lounge)
  2. Cervus John Deere, where we learned about JDLink technologies and AgriTrend
  3. Alta Genetics, where we talked genomics and witnessed the intricacies of semen collection…

It’s been a long and fascinating few days. I’m going to have to sign off to work on one of the other outcomes of the week, or “Summit Deliverables.” In addition to developing a collective action plan, each delegate is expected to identify three personal actions to address food security once we return home. I guess I will start out by trying to figure out where “home” is.

Stay tuned for a more thorough account of the Youth Ag Summit, as well as some of the topics I will address as a result of conversations here, like: ag-education, the word “consumer,” and the role of urban farming in food security.

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