The Young Agripreneurs Program run by the Ontario Water Centre provides hands-on experience for young people who want to work in agriculture
By Jackie Clark
The Ontario Water Centre’s Young Agriprenurs Program is one of 58 projects to receive funding from this round of the province’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program, according to a July 23 OMAFRA statement. The project provides training to youth interested in careers in regenerative agriculture.
“We're an educational charity for connecting youth to nature and water,” Colin Dobell, the executive director at the Ontario Water Centre, told Farms.com The organization runs programming at ClearWater Farm, located on Lake Simcoe in Georgina.
“We use that facility to both run educational programs, outdoor education, but also, it being a farm and all, we believed early on that there was a role for us to promote certain types of regenerative agricultural practices with youth,” Dobell said.
ClearWater Farms staff found that there was an interest among youth, who may not have grown up in an agricultural setting, to get involved in farming in Ontario.
The Young Agriprenurs Program currently has seven participants who “will, over the course of a five-year program be immersed in knowledge-building activities and also experimental experiences on the farm,” Dobell explained. “So over five years, the first year is really a process. They work for us full time” to acquire practical skills in the field.
The participants also connect with experts on topics such as agritourism, local food, and financing an agricultural business. The organization works to help participants begin their journey in an agricultural business by providing shared equipment and assisting with access to land.
“To the extent that we can find a symbiotic relationship, we can provide support for them,” Dobell said.
He hopes this program will give participants the experience to continue their agricultural work. They “develop a financial track record so they can then go to a bank and say ‘I'm viable, I've got staying power. I know how to manage a budget. I understand how the financing of an operation needs to work, I understand marketing,’ and they have more credibility,” he explained.
The Young Agriprenurs Program was founded on a grant from the Royal Bank of Canada, and the RED funds from OMAFRA are helping the project grow more quickly. The program is training these agricultural professionals who, in turn, will contribute to the rural economy.
“All of the people that are in this program, either tend to come from Georgina or you know, Durham or somewhere nearby. They live in Georgina, while they're doing this with us … they are more likely to settle there. So, there's a symbiotic relationship with the community,” Dobell said.