Young farmers begin making their mark in industry

As generational shift nears, more events are popping up with a focus on young producers who want to stay in the business

A buzz is building among young prairie farmers as more of them begin to take over the family farms.

Many of them recently met at Farm Credit Canada’s Ignite conference, the latest event to launch with a particular focus on young producers. It was hosted for the first time in Edmonton on Jan. 17 and is making stops across the country later this year.

While the conference focused on topics like succession planning, innovation, new technology and diversification, many young producers were there to simply connect and share ideas.

“The big reason I came down was for the energy,” said Ryan Denis, who runs his own grain marketing company, Full Acre Consulting. “When you get a group of young people together, there’s a different energy, a more positive energy.”

Michael Hoffort, FCC president, said FCC started Ignite because it’s looking for ways to support young producers.

“There’s a looming farm transition that’s going to take place,” he said.

“We need to look at how we can support young producers to get them thinking about where they are today and where they want to be in the future, and how they can actually get engaged with parents and grandparents or business partners in how they’re going to do this transition.”

This transition encompasses more than just succession planning, however. For many, it involves doing things differently on the farm, like diversifying and adopting new technologies and practices to become more efficient.

“It’s become a career path or a business option, rather than it being something that you have to do,” said Léona Dargis, who’s gone through succession planning and owns her own farm near Whitehorse. “Now it’s a lot more complex, more innovative, and I think Canada’s biggest opportunity will be getting into niche markets and doing different things.”

Canada is prime ground for innovation. Hoffort said farming will be needed now more than ever as demand for food grows in conjunction with the growing global population.

He said predictions show the country could grow exports by more than $30 billion in the near future.

“I think that puts us in a great spot, and it primarily comes down to the under-40s,” Hoffort said. “I think we need to dream big dreams as an industry, start small and scale fast.”

As for the event itself, Hoffort said FCC plans to host it again next year.

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