The 25-member group will provide policy advice and engage in industry-related dialogue
By Diego Flammini
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has unveiled the names of the young Canadians who will serve on the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council (CAYC).
Bibeau announced her plan to form the CAYC in January to engage with young people in the industry to discuss policy, challenges and opportunities within the sector.
The minister’s team received more than 800 applications and ultimately selected 25 people representing all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory.
The council’s first virtual meeting is scheduled for some time in August.
“I’m looking forward to virtually meeting the members of the first-ever Canadian Agricultural Youth Council,” Minister Bibeau said in a July 24 statement. “Each of these young leaders will bring a unique experience and perspective to the table. Together, the members will help shape the future of Canada’s sustainable agricultural industry.”
Among the council members is Easton Sellers. He’s a first-generation farmer originally from an urban community in Orlando, Fla. who grows 40 acres of fruit at Plum Ridge Farm in Teulon, Man.
He’s also a farm management adviser at the University of Manitoba.
He decided to apply to be part of the CAYC as an avenue for professional development.
“I thought it would be a great way to further my education, meet people and to focus on things I really care about in the industry on a larger scale,” he told Farms.com. “I figure only good could come of it and I will grow in some way.”
One of the topics Sellers hopes to include in council discussions is mental health – a subject he was studying and pursuing a career in before he joined Manitoba’s ag sector in 2014.
“There’s a lot about agriculture that demands a healthy mind,” he said. “It’s not an easy industry to be in and (mental health) is just starting to be spoken about formally. I’m by no means an expert but everyone has their own stories and advice and I feel like this is something we can all learn from.”
Another subject Sellers hopes to discuss in council meetings is unity within the ag sector.
Producers can get caught up in operational differences when they’re all trying to do the same thing, he said.
“I want the farm community to see itself as one community,” he said. “We spend a lot of time talking about organic versus conventional, but really we’re all farmers, we’re all doing this together and we can all learn from one another.”
Another member of the 25-person CAYC is Ila Matheson, who raises sheep with her parents at Springwater Farm in St. Peters Bay, P.E.I.
She’s also a student at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, N.S.
Applying to be part of the council seemed like a no-brainer, she said.
“I’m a farm kid who goes to farm school and I’m very into agriculture,” she told Farms.com. “I actually forgot about my application because I hadn’t heard anything, so I thought the selections were already done. But then I got the email saying I was selected, so that was pretty exciting.”
Canada is home to approximately 11,000 sheep farms. In contrast, Ontario has about 28,000 cash crop farms.
Matheson wants to use her place on the council to bring attention to issues in her industry.
“Sheep farming isn’t a big sector in Canada, so I want to be a voice for sheep producers and all the people who work in the sector,” she said. “In my classes we talk a lot about cows and pigs, but sheep deserve some attention too.”
A full list of the CAYC members can be found here.