Delta youth need more to get that agricultural spark

Delta’s Agricultural Advisory committee will be looking to update and revise Delta’s Agricultural Plan over the next few months. The last plan was drafted in 2011 and much has changed locally that warrants such revisions.

Changes within the Agricultural Land Commission by the current government, cannabis production in Delta, education and other issues that affect farming in Delta need to be addressed.

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For me, I am concerned that we do not do enough to encourage youth to consider entering the business in some capacity.

Don’t get me wrong, Delta does far more than many other cities and towns in B.C. and elsewhere. Programs that are supported by the Delta School District, the City of Delta and other agencies and partners such as the Delta Agricultural Society, the Delta Farmers Institute and others are building a strong framework to ensure that some young people will get the spark needed to jump in.

In the next couple of years, the Southlands development will further contribute to Delta’s lead role as a city that truly buys in to the idea of Agri-Literacy. Yet, you have to ask yourself why a young person would want to become a farmer?

At high school career days, farming booths and information packages are rare. Purchasing farmland is just a dream at this stage of the game and lease and equipment costs, housing costs and finding a market for crops are all major barriers to entry.

I have spent quite a bit of time this past summer reaching out and engaging in collaborative discussions with other groups who have the same concerns as I do. All of these agencies and groups have their own idea of how students and potential farmers should and could enter the craft so that we can ensure the continuum of food producers.

Guess what? There is a common denominator in a sea of groups that want to do the right thing – yup, it’s money and it is tough to find.

The Ministry of Agriculture knows it needs to attract young farmers and the Ministry of Health wants to curtail mental issues amongst youth.

It is broadly recognized that outdoor activity and learning is important for mental health. I think it is time the ministries of education, agriculture and health sat down to hash out a plan to further develop the province’s curriculum and weave nutritional health and agriculture in to the mix from K-12. And if they don’t collectively have the budget to pull this off then they should work harder to pursue public private partnerships to build a mandate to kindle interest at a young age.

In my discussions this summer regarding Project Pickle, I have tried to emphasize that you have to get them early. That is, I think it is important to nurture interest in growing food at a young age and maintain that interest in the critical elementary years. A fraction of these kids may carry that interest with them to high school and perhaps pursue further development in the districts’ Farm Roots program. From there they are poised to explore further post-secondary studies or look for an opportunity to farm.

Time for government to walk the talk.

Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food. He is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador.

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