How does a farmer learn to farm? A scan of practical farmer training programs

By Laura Schreiner
February 2018

Doctors attend medical school, electricians go through apprenticeships—but how do farmers learn the practical skills of their trade? There are many different pathways into farming, but they aren’t nearly as structured—nor as well understood—as those of other occupations. In an era of aging and retiring farmers, understanding how the next generation is being trained is important, but there is very little research into it as yet.

To this end, in the summer of 2017, under the supervision of Theresa Schumilas and Charles Levkoe and with the guidance of our partner organizations, the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) and the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in SW Ontario (CRAFT-SW), I conducted a scan of practical farmer training programs. Practical farmer training refers to farmer-to-farmer education that has a significant on-farm (hands-on) component. The goal was to document and then categorize the various types of practical farmer training programs across North America, to help broaden our understanding of and contextualize the variety of training program models. Continue reading “How does a farmer learn to farm? A scan of practical farmer training programs”

Inspiring Change in Health Care

Since its inception seven years ago, the Therapeutic Garden at Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ontario has been a leader in the field. The brainchild of Louise Quenneville, Project Manager at HGMH, the garden has grown steadily by maximizing resources, including a three-year partnership with Project SOIL (a FLEdGE partner project—see the case study here). The garden has brought well-deserved attention to HGMH and Louise, now recognized as one of Canada’s health care innovators

Continue reading “Inspiring Change in Health Care”

New national report card provides comprehensive snapshot of the sustainability of Canada’s food systems

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WATERLOO – Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, Lakehead University and the University of Toronto have taken a first step toward producing a comprehensive report card on the sustainability of Canada’s food systems. Their new report, “Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card,” brings together 61 existing measures of social, environmental, and economic well-being to examine food systems at the national level. Unlike existing food systems report cards, which focus on isolated perspectives such as economic productivity or individual health outcomes, Food Counts builds on existing efforts to create an integrative set of measurements to assess whole food systems, taking a range of relevant factors into account, from ecological, economic, health, labour, and educational points of view. There are plans to update it regularly to track trends.

“The Food Counts report card highlights the limitations of existing indicators and the need to reassess the way we approach and advocate for social justice, ecological regeneration, regional economies and active democratic engagement,” said Charles Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and an assistant professor at Lakehead University. “There is a lot more research needed to understand the path towards sustainable food futures and this report card is a vital step in that direction.”

Some areas where Canada is doing well, from a social justice point of view, include that agricultural wages are going up while fatalities among farm workers are going down. More farms are using water conservation measures and more households are composting.

Areas where Canada is not doing as well include that fruit and vegetable consumption is going down and is lower than average among Indigenous peoples. A set basket of food is becoming more expensive and household food insecurity is going up, with food bank use also on the rise. There are fewer, older farmers on fewer, larger farms and they are in greater debt. Farmers are using more chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are going up.

“Developing sustainable food systems is complicated,” said Alison Blay-Palmer, director of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and an associate professor at Laurier and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. “We need to think about how our food is grown or harvested, who has access to healthy food, and how these things impact our environment and local economies. This report card helps us understand where we are doing well, where we can improve, and where we need more information.”

The report was produced with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada by the FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) research and knowledge-sharing partnership, which is hosted at Laurier. The report can be accessed online at https://fledgeresearch.ca/foodcounts/. Twitter: #FoodCounts.

CONTACTS

Charles Levkoe, Assistant Professor Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems Lakehead University 647-633-7447 or clevkoe@lakeheadu.ca

Alison Blay-Palmer, Associate Professor Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair in Sustainable Food Systems Wilfrid Laurier University ablaypalmer@wlu.ca

Southern Ontario Food System Case Studies are Now Available!

In the summer 2017, four graduate students in the Southern Ontario FLEdGE Research Node worked with FLEdGE community partners on three action research projects. These projects explored the tensions, compromises, and opportunities inherent in the scaling up and out of sustainable food system initiatives. FLEdGE is happy to announce that case studies from those projects are now available to the public on our websiteContinue reading “Southern Ontario Food System Case Studies are Now Available!”

World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges, FAO report warns

Without additional efforts, the target of ending hunger by 2030 will not be met.

Photo: ©FAO

Empowering small-scale farmers and providing them better access to information, markets and technologies is key to ensuring future food security.
Published by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Read the full report here.

22 February 2017, Rome – Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report out today.

Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.
Continue reading “World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges, FAO report warns”