Wednesday, 3 October 2012

North American Forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture

Stacey Domolewski and Justine DeNure, animal science students in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, had the opportunity to attend the North American Forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture in September. The forum had many interesting and informative speakers that spoke about all five pillars of agricultural sustainability (human health, animal welfare, food safety, environment and economics) from the prospectives of producers to end retailers.

“For myself I took away the fact that I as an animal science student have an amazing opportunity to advocate for animal agricultural practices that are sustainable. We were shown a variety of studies that showed that farmers and scientists or experts in their field are the most trusted individuals.  I also really came to realize that to open conversation with people concerned about agricultural issues just shoving facts at them will not be enough, that as a soon to be graduate I have these facts but must be able to engage with consumers on a personal basis of shared values before they accept these fact.

As with many of my fellow soon to be agricultural graduates of the university I have a farm background but now am also equipped with a myriad of industry facts and knowledge due to my university education. This forum has shown me that we really have an opportunity to show the public what agriculture is really all about as we are in that group of most trusted individuals.

Another fact that I took home from this forum was that although consumers may demand more sustainable products, the fact of the matter is that they are not willing to pay for them and that they ultimately are more concerned with food costs than farm economics.

On the second day of the forum was a very informative panel of speakers representing the supply chain and how to manage issues throughout the supply chain. It was brought to our attention that there is a need to continue to improve the supply chain especially in the area of producing a more consistent product at the retail end and to do this we need communication and collaboration at all areas of the supply chain.

Through this experience I can definitely say that I have learned a lot and have been given a lot to think about, along with the chance to participate in helping to develop a proactive approach to advocating for the sustainability of animal agriculture.  I am very excited to have had this opportunity and to see what new ideas and programs arise from it.” 

- Stacey Domolewski

I personally found this to be a very interesting forum and a great experience. A couple of points that stood out to me were the idea of public trust and how we need to continually improve in order to be sustainable.

Firstly, I learned that in order to gain public trust we need to show the public through actions how we are being proactive, and we can not just use our words to tell them the problem and solutions to sustainable animal agriculture. Another way to earn the public’s trust I think is to educate and inform them more about farming practices and to be more transparent to allow the public to see what really goes on in the animal agriculture environment. Being from an urban background I would have loved to have had the opportunity to go to a farm and see how a dairy or poultry operation is run for example.

Secondly, I really loved how people realized that animal agriculture needs to continually improve in order to be sustainable. Just like every other industry, we need to be innovative and open to change because without changing our practices we will not be sustainable and will not be able to feed the world in 30 years. I liked the idea that was brought up on how farmers need to be the champions and invest within themselves to improve animal agriculture.

Lastly, I would like to thank Dean Mary Buhr and the College of Agriculture and Bioresources for this great opportunity and experience. I have learned so much and met some intelligent people.” 

-Justine DeNure

Monday, 2 April 2012

Why Agriculture?

Agriculture is not a new scientific field - it is as old as most of recorded history. It was one of the major factors in the development of human society as we understand it today. But agriculture is not glamorous or elegant. It often gets forgotten as an academic pursuit. Once an acquaintance asked me what I was going to grad school for, when I replied “Horticulture” he said “I didn’t even know you could go to school for that”. So why then would a person choose to immerse themselves in agriculture? The answer is not as simple as you might think. 

Many people choose agriculture as a career due to family history (myself included); some come for the love of food and others come for the prospect of lucrative jobs. But all people who work in the agricultural field have one common trait: they are hooked. Some are born with the infatuation - most likely because their parents were hooked. Some others get hooked at a young age and others later in life. But once you’re hooked on agriculture, there is no way to shake it. Why the infatuation is so strong has never been clear to me. Maybe it has to do the fresh air or the feeling of self-sustainability or possibly the taming of the landscape. I have seen people from all disciplines fall into the grips of agriculture: engineers, psychologists, linguists, medical doctors and the list goes on. No one is safe. 

My own personal infatuation started very early in life. Being the son of two horticulturists, you stand very little chance of escaping it. This has driven me from a small town in Newfoundland to one of the oldest and most respected agricultural colleges in North America, and still the infatuation grows. That’s the other thing, people with the infatuation must constantly consume more knowledge - how to grow better and faster with less inputs on less land. Soon your days are consumed with fertilizer regiments and developmental stages.

All joking aside, it is not an infatuation in agriculture that seduces people, it is passion. Few academic fields combine the social, political and scientific aspects of life in the same way that agriculture does. As I said from the start, agriculture is deeply intertwined into not only human society but the human conscious, to form a strange symbiosis.  And while my analogy to any infatuation is meant for entertainment, it is not so far from the truth. For example, my elderly grandfather passed away recently, and his biggest worry before he died was that he was no longer able to plant dahlia bulbs. This is a man who had had multiple surgeries, was taking medication and was finding it hard to move around, and his main concern was that he was unable to get his horticultural fix. 

In the end, I think it’s the nobility of agriculture that draws people in - it is truly the creation of something from nothing.  Most, if not all farmers, be their operations large or small are dedicated hard workers, who eat and sleep agriculture. These people produce the food the world lives on and for the most part are largely forgotten by the general public for providing it. It is this un-thanked dedication that truly defines agriculture and the people who work in it, be they academics or producers, and it is that feeling, that way of life, that provides the passion that makes agriculture so addictive.

“For of all gainful professions, nothing is better, nothing more pleasing, nothing more delightful, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

By James Dawson
Grad Student

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Answers to common questions about Master's degree programs

            My name is Kayla Lindenback and I am a first year Master’s degree student at the University of Saskatchewan. GO HUSKIES! I am studying flax breeding and my supervisor is (Helen Booker) CDC Flax Breeder. I hail from Leduc, Alberta (Hi Dad!) and grew up in cities all my life. So how did I develop an interest in agriculture and crop sciences you ask? Well, during the second year of my genetics Bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta I mistakenly applied for a job with Dow Agrosciences that had been posted as “Plant Genetics Assistant”, it turned out to be research field work but I fell in love with the job, atmosphere, people and let’s be honest... the pay cheques.
Over the holidays I went back home to spend Christmas with family and my boyfriend. My older sister and I are the first in our immediate family to get any university education, and I am the first to go past a Bachelor’s. Because of this, whenever I go home I am often fielding a barrage of questions. This is understandable because to be totally honest with you readers, even I didn’t know the difference between a Master’s degree and a PhD until two years ago! So I will use this blog to answer some common questions that I get asked:

What is the difference between a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree and a PhD?
  • A Bachelor’s Degree is what you take right after high school when you go into university. After you have completed a Bachelor’s you can apply to go into a Master’s or PhD program.
  • An agricultural Master’s takes typically 2-3 years (depending on the student) and can be an intermediate step between a Bachelor’s and a PhD.
  • Some people skip the Masters and go right into a PhD, this saves time in the long run but the transition can be difficult. A PhD in agriculture takes approximately 4-6 (or 7 if you are slow) years to complete but it is the Holy Grail, once you get it life is gooooood. If you have survived past this point you are now a doctor of both your field and of being awesome.
What are you doing all day if you don’t have classes?
Research graduate degrees don’t involve many classes, I only have to take 3 courses to complete my Master’s and they are courses that my supervisor and I both decide are cool enough to take. The majority of my time is spent working in the field, labs, and greenhouses.

Why don’t you just work during the summer and stop complaining about being broke?
Since most of our time is spent working we don’t get the summer off. We till, seed, spray, and combine just like the rest of you folks. Which reminds me, I have some plants that need watering!

Ciao for now readers!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Job Security

Hello! My name is Andrea De Roo and I am a third year student in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan.  I am currently majoring in agronomy and minoring in biotechnology, and I hope to do graduate studies after my degree.  

Outside of school I enjoy playing a variety of sports, training horses, and hanging out with my friends and family.  I grew up on a mixed cattle and grain farm near Moosomin, Saskatchewan which is what first sparked my interest in agriculture.  

My favorite part about studying agriculture is being able to apply my knowledge in my summer job.  I have worked for companies like Cargill and Monsanto, and loved helping farmers and working with those who are also passionate about the industry. The best thing about agriculture and working in the industry is job security! Everyone in the world needs to eat to survive and it’s scary to think the world population is continually growing and the world cannot keep up to the demand for food. As a grad from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, you will never be without a job! In fact there are on average 40 job offers for every one undergraduate student when they graduate and the seed industry alone needs 600 grads every year. 

The University of Saskatchewan is a great choice to study agriculture. You can study anything from ag-business and politics to animal, plant or food science. Another great option is the renewable resource management program that is essential for the protection of arable land and keeping the land in production.  There are so many areas to study in agriculture and the job possibilities are endless!

Please note - the facts I have mentioned are from presentations I’ve heard over the past year working for the Canadian Seed Trade Association. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Welcome to the University of Saskatchewan College of Agriculture and Bioresources Student Blog!  We have some interesting students lined up for the rest of the semester to share their experiences at the college.  

Photo by the University of Saskatchewan

Are you considering attending university in the near future? 

Perhaps you have thought about perusing a career in agriculture and bioresources. ...or maybe you are thinking agriculture and bio-what? 

Either way stick around and learn a bit about the college from students who have the first hand experience and reasons as to why the College of Agriculture and Bioresources just might be the college for you.