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Scholarships, bursaries available for careers in agriculture

By Andrea McCoy-Naperstkow, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Two topics often make headlines when it comes to agriculture – the relatively high average age (56) of Canada’s farmers and the ongoing labour shortage that makes it hard to attract enough workers to fill the many positions available throughout the food system.

Current research suggests the worker shortage in agriculture could reach 123,000 by 2030, because of older workers retiring and the expected continued growth of the sector.

I’m both a farmer – my husband and I raise cattle and grow crops in the Eastern Ontario county of Lanark – and a professor at Algonquin College’s Perth Campus, where I teach agricultural business. That means I understand firsthand how important it is for our industry to encourage the next generation to choose a career in agriculture, whatever that might look like.

Traditionally, that has often meant on-farm jobs working with livestock or growing crops, but today, pursuing a career in agriculture offers a wide range of fascinating and fulfilling opportunities.

Beyond the farm, which I personally know can be a rewarding and fulfilling way of life, the career possibilities range from research, equipment maintenance, quality control, food safety, and construction to transportation, processing, product development, marketing, sales, business and beyond.

That’s before we include emerging fields like robotics, automation, artificial intelligence or gene editing, to name just a few, all of which offer exciting new potential for farming and food production.

As a professor, I also know how hard today’s students have to work at their education. It’s an expensive undertaking and many of the students I teach balance their course load with employment to put themselves through school.

That’s why scholarships and bursaries are important – and why I’m proud of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), where I serve as a board member, for actively supporting young people who wish to work in our sector.

One way the OFA does this is through our province-wide bursary program, which offers $2,000 each to three students in undergraduate programs studying agriculture, as well as to someone completing an apprenticeship and to an individual enrolled in a post-graduate or leadership development program.

Applicants are judged based on demonstrated leadership skills, involvement in the community, and their accomplishments in both school and the agriculture industry. The deadline to apply for this year’s OFA bursaries is August 31, with full details available at ofa.on.ca.

There are also substantial scholarships and bursaries for higher education offered by many of the OFA’s county and regional federations, as well as other agricultural organizations like Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ottawa Valley Seed Growers, 4-H, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers and many others.

Depending on the award, funds can be used to help pay for things like tuition, textbooks, housing and other educational expenses. Deadlines and criteria vary, but a full list of available opportunities can be found on the OFA’s website.

By investing in these types of opportunities, we are supporting future generations and offering a hand up to the young people who are looking to follow in the footsteps of those of us who have made our livelihoods in the agriculture industry – whether they come from a farming background or not.

Many of the big issues facing the world today, from climate change and emissions to food security and soil health, are complex but they have a connection to agriculture in that we are both impacted by them and can offer solutions for improvement.

There are no easy answers, so we need talented, smart, and enthusiastic people with fresh ideas and new perspectives to join our industry and help make a positive difference for our world.

If you know a young person who is returning to school in the fall, just starting into post-secondary education for the first time or considering their career options as they near the end of their high school career, encourage them to take a look at the opportunities agriculture can offer – and the support that’s available to help them achieve their goals in this industry.

Source : OFA

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