GROWING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LAND STEWARDS THROUGH FARM APPRENTICESHIPSCategory: 2019, Current, Grant, Land Use, Major Project
The 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on Climate Change and Land announced that 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the food system and calls for an overhaul to our agricultural practices. Given our planetary situation, we need a new generation of farmers leading a change by managing land in a way that mitigates climate change and restores ecosystems and watersheds. Farmers manage around 50.3 million acres in Alberta (Canadian Agriculture Census, 2016). Their decisions can either contribute to climate change and ecological degradation or be part of a solution. Given the right practices, agriculture is uniquely positioned to address some of the most major challenges facing our society.
Young Agrarians is working to grow a new generation of ecological farmers and land managers. The National New Farmer Coalition survey found that new farmers were more likely to be interested in ecological farming practices such as organic, regenerative, sustainable, holistically-managed, biodynamic, etc. (Canadian Food Studies, Vol. 5 No. 3). This report also found that 68 per cent of aspiring and new farmers who responded to the survey didn’t come from a farming background. Looking at current farmers, Food Secure Canada found that 75 per cent said they would be selling their farm in the next 10 years representing one of the largest land transfers in history. This points to a looming farm renewal crisis and questions about who will be managing the land in the coming years. However it is an opportunity for a new generation of ecologically-motivated farmers to create a massive change in improving how land is managed.
The Young Agrarians Apprenticeship program educates aspiring farmers by putting them at the heart of a regenerative farm where they receive training and mentorship on the practices of ecological land management. Participants learn about soil health, monitoring and managing ecosystems, promoting biodiversity, and restoring habitat. Apprentices participate in events that build their network of support to help them start their own business and connect them to land opportunities.