Ken Coles has already traveled to Europe and expects to visit more countries this year
By Diego Flammini
Members of Canada’s ag community are experiencing agriculture abroad as part of the Nuffield Scholarship program.
Ken Coles, for example, is a farmer and the executive director of Farming Smarter, an ag innovation hub in Lethbridge, Alta.
He applied to be a 2022 scholar to gain additional experience he can bring back to Alberta.
“I felt it a good time to develop my own leadership skills and to join a group of passionate agriculturalists from around the world and see how they are dealing with similar issues regarding support for farmers and innovation,” he told Farms.com.
During their journeys, scholars examine and research and agriculturally relevant issue.
Coles hopes to change the way people farm by studying grassroots on-farm innovation organizations around the world.
His travels have already brought him to Scotland, England, Ireland and France.
While there, he witnessed how support from government, producer groups or private companies factor into agriculture.
“There’s a lot of innovation going on, but I think it’s stifled because of government (policy),” he said. “In some countries, 50 to 60 per cent of farm revenue comes from the government, so it dictates how farmers are going to farm.
“And some farmers told me they don’t pay attention to some of the innovation work that’s going on. You can invest all you want, but if it’s not relevant to the individual farmer or farm groups, there doesn’t seem to be any value in it.”
Coles will continue his scholarship this year with trips to Brazil and New Zealand in the works.
Once he’s completed his travels, he and the other scholars will make a presentation at Nuffield Canada’s annual general meeting.
Coles hopes his time traveling around the world helps him be a better leader.
“The one-month trip to Europe reinvigorated the passion for what I do and I want to be a better version of myself at the end of this experience,” he said. “If we want our ag policy to be the best it can be, we need people with strong voices to put the same amount of effort in as farmers do.”
Five other Canadians make up the rest of the 2022 Nuffield scholars.
Ingrid Johnston from 150 Mile House, B.C., will focus on how primary producers can market products and ship to consumers without a middleman.
Shawn Moen, CEO and co-founder of 9 Mile Legacy Brewery in Saskatoon, Sask., is studying how jurisdictions use a business incubation model to create communities where small ag businesses can thrive.
Odette Menart from Saint-Simon de Bagot, Que., works in Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. She’s studying to recognize and understand behavioural changes required to adapt soil health practices for the long term.
Lauren Park, a beekeeper from Forest Hill, N.S., is studying queen bee health and the queen’s impact on sustainability in the beekeeping industry.
And Mark Phillips, marketing specialist for the P.E.I. Potato Board, is learning more about issues producers face with respect to developing public trust and how to educate the public about ag practices and the reasons for them.
The application window is open for 2023 Nuffield Scholarships.
Anyone interested has until June 30 to apply.