Ag’s promising future: Chelsea

Celebrating Canada’s Agriculture Day

Today marks Canada’s Agriculture Day, a day we are proud to be celebrating, as we think agriculture is the best sector in Canada. What better way to celebrate than to share with you one face of agriculture who we are certain to have a bright future, Chelsea Sutherland. Chelsea is a current Agricultural Economics Masters student in the College of AgBio, at the University of Saskatchewan. While Chelsea has been writing for SAIFood for the past two years, it’s about time we give her a formal introduction. After all, as a young member of agriculture and a future professional in the industry, it’s time for Chelsea to share with us all who she is and what has led her to pursue her interests in agriculture.

Hi, I’m Chelsea!

From the day I was born, agriculture has been a part of who I am. I grew up on a grain farm near Wilkie, SK where we grew wheat, barley, canola, peas, and lentils. Working on machinery maintenance, taking care of our two farmyards, gardening, and as we got older, operating the farm machinery ourselves, were just part of the regular summer activities for my three sisters and me. As we grew up, we understood the importance of the work we were doing, how the food we were producing impacted the rest of the world, and the important connection between the health of our land and soil and the ability to produce high-quality crops for years to come. We took pride in long days spent combining, hauling grain, or rolling our fields, and enjoyed working together as a family to bring the crop off each year.

Ag's young farmers, the Sutherlands

Ag's young farmers, the SutherlandsNow, I am blessed to farm with my husband only two miles away from the farm I grew up on. Our farm is small but growing. As grain farmers, we produce barley, canola, and lentils. We also work closely with our families’ farms and help out whenever possible. This sense of family and community is one of my favourite things about agriculture. Family, friends, and neighbours are always willing to help each other out wherever and whenever a hand is needed. As young farmers in our community, we feel so supported and encouraged in our farming journey.

My research and studies

I’m excited to be an Agricultural Economics M.Sc. student working on Dr. Smyth’s research team. My everyday life as a farmer drives my passion behind the research projects I’m working on. As a student researcher and a farmer, I know that to create meaningful policy changes that recognize farmers for their daily efforts to feed the world in an increasingly sustainable way, these on-farm management practices need to be documented, quantified, and communicated. That’s why I’m so excited about the Crop Rotation Survey. By quantifying the voluntary strides farmers have taken over the last 30 years towards the improved environmental health of their land, soil, and air, we can help farmers get the credit they deserve!

My hope is that, through our research, representation from the agriculture industry becomes more involved in policy discussions, especially regarding environmental issues. Agriculture and the environment are interconnected, especially since changes in the environment affect farm productivity, and simultaneously, agricultural production impacts the environment. Farmers understand the interdependency of this relationship as well as anyone, and they work hard to improve the health and viability of their land. Voluntary adoptions of management practices, such as zero-till, the use of less harmful chemicals, and diversified cropping rotations, not only provide benefits to the farmers themselves, but also to the environment in which they operate.

This message is not only important to share with policy-makers, but also with the public! Recent research shows that the knowledge-gap between consumers and agriculture is growing. Not only do consumers’ perceptions affect public trust in the industry, but they also impact public policy decisions. Building and maintaining trust between consumers and agriculture is important for protecting the use of technologies we rely on to produce our crops, maintaining adequate market access for selling our crops, and growing the industry in a positive direction.

What Comes Next?

Though I don’t know for sure what the future holds for my life and career in agriculture, I do know two things for sure: I am excited to grow my farm with my family right here in West Central Saskatchewan, and I look forward to continuing to share the positive messages of Canadian agriculture with the public. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be involved in the industry in two very different, yet interconnected ways. As we grow and expand our farm, the impact that policy decisions have on farmers becomes even more clear. I am proud to be both a researcher and farmer in the Canadian agriculture industry, and I hope that through these two roles, I can make a positive impact on the future of our amazing industry.

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