By: Bryn Brouwers, OHEA Student Member
Critical conversations are needed around agriculture and food systems
In 2019, Brescia University College introduced a course called “Agriculture and Food Systems: Critical Conversations”. This course, designed and taught by Dr. June Matthews, covers topics on the processes and practices of food production in Canada and focuses on the food system, with sustainability in mind.
This course is the first of its kind at Brescia. It involves guest lectures each week to engage students in critical conversations, challenging the traditional way of teaching in a classroom setting. It also involves completion of objective, balanced, and evidence-based online modules delivered from Ag-Scape.
What did you learn about food production in Canada?
With no farming background, I did not know what to expect from this course. I have always been interested in agriculture, policy, and how things are made, but finding factual information is difficult when you don’t know where to start.
So, what did I learn? A LOT.
I learned that Canada is the largest supplier of wild blueberries and that more than 50 per cent of Canadian potatoes are turned into French fries. I also learned that Canada has a unique and beautiful food system that is continuously growing. Researchers and farmers are constantly looking for new technologies and innovative ways to make this system more sustainable.
Our food system, food security and sustainability
In Canada, 97 per cent of farms are owned and operated by families, and research shows that farms are continuing to expand. Thanks to efficiencies, such as innovations in crop breeding, weed management, GPS systems, and the best management practices, we can do more with less. Not only has technology helped us improve crop yields and quality of life for animals, but Canadian researchers are currently finding ways to improve farming in Canada to become more sustainable. I am proud to call myself Canadian.
An example of innovation is finding a solution to combat environmental degradation. Environmental degradation is soil nutrient depletion/erosion and loss of biodiversity. Soil is a non-renewable resource and must be protected. Solutions include growing cover crops, which will leave plant residues like grass or roots to protect and supply nutrients to the soil, and growing tree windbreaks to prevent wind erosion.
Lessons from a ‘Sunny-side Up’ lecture
My favorite guest lecture was by Bill Mitchell from Egg Farmers of Ontario. He talked about how chicken laying farms work. I was amazed by how much effort goes into making a chicken comfortable in the farm environment. Water and feed are measured carefully for diets and an electronic temperature system notifies farmers when the ranges have changed. There are whole processes, systems, and people in different sectors working together to get one carton of fresh eggs in Canadian family’s home.
Reliable resources and information
I have learned a lot that I can apply to my future profession. I encourage all food and nutrition students to take a course like this! If you are not a student, I encourage you to explore Canada’s agriculture system and learn what Canadian farmers are doing to make sure we are all fed well.
My favourite resource in this class was Farm and Food Care. The people in this organization answered my questions and were extremely helpful. Farmers want to explain what they do and why they do it. Take the time out of your day to look at what these hard-working families do for us and ask questions.
After all, farmers feed cities, which includes you and me.