Editor’s note: This is a special guest editorial from Kim McConnell, founder of AdFarm. The following was shared with his team at AdFarm after a week at the Youth Ag Summit, held last week in Calgary.
This past week, I had an opportunity to participate in an amazing experience. I moderated the week-long Global 4-H Youth Ag Summit – a summit involving 118 youth (ages of 18 and 25) from 22 countries. Co-sponsored by Bayer CropScience and 4-H Canada, the theme of the Summit was “Feeding a Hungry Planet”. It was excellent and exceeded our expectations substantially.
The youth delegates were bright, articulate and definitely not scared to challenge the speakers, traditional thinking or the status quo. They were selected as leaders within their country by an independent selection panel — about 1/3rd were former 4-H members and the remainder were leaders in universities, industry associations and community groups and all had an interest and background in the agriculture and food industry … and most have traveled extensively.
Theme days on Innovation, Sustainability and Leadership were highlighted with major league speakers and world-class tours. Speakers – both in-person and electronically including leaders from McDonald’s, Cargill, World Wildlife Fund, Bayer, Farm & Food Care Ontario, Maple Leaf Foods, ATB and AI Bio – and tours involving John Deere, Agri-Trend, Alta Genetics, Sunterra Markets and the progressive CL Ranches. These set the tone and stimulated robust discussion. Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi did an excellent job of challenging the youth at the beginning of the week, and Marc Keilburger, co-founder of the global inspiration ‘Feed the Children’ and ‘Me to We’ — the largest youth organization in the world – provided an inspirational message on how to start and maintain a youth movement to close off the Summit. And Bayer CropScience hosted an exceptional ‘Celebration of Canadian Culture’ at the Martha Cowan Theatre one evening. Throughout the summit the amount of social media activity was extensive — follow along at #youthagsummit
All the youth delegates left the Summit with a new perspective, great memories and two specific action items: 1) a list of “3 things” – 3 action items that they are taking back to their countries, communities and organizations that will enhance agriculture and feeding a hungry planet. And 2) a Vision the group will work towards over the next three years. They also elected a board of directors to champion this Vision and to keep this youth Movement alive. And Bayer CropScience, matched by 4-H Canada, provided seed capital support to help make the movement happen.
The global scope of the delegate body; the range of interest from production agriculture to the food industry, from policy development to communications and sustainability; the views and perspectives from the complete range of the political spectrum — all this and much more made for very interesting and robust dialogue. And the thoughts and ideas the delegates brought forward in their group sessions were absolutely excellent.
I have attended many conferences in my lifetime and I must admit that this was one of the absolute best and most inspiring events I have ever participated. The agriculture and food industry is indeed in good hands based on what I saw from the youth of the world this past week.