The Young Agrarians are hosting their first ever Central B.C mixer at Thompson Rivers University in WIlliams Lake this month. (Photo submitted)

COLUMNS: Young people and agriculture opportunities

Young people are the future of farming, David Zirnhelt says this week

Back in November, I gave readers in the area a “heads up” that the Young Agrarians of BC would be coming to Williams lake for one of the first “mixers” held between producers and would be young farmers across the Interior.

It is trite, I know, but true, that young people are the future of farming. We can get out of their way or we can help them. I think a supportive role by retiring farmers (mentorship) is one way to go, the best way perhaps.

Recently we heard from an agriculture student from a French University wanting to experience the culture of agriculture at our place. My feeling is that she deserves that opportunity.

The same goes for young agrarians and students from our own sustainable ranching program based in Williams Lake. Local farms and ranches can be hosts to students.

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Also, there are certainly things we can learn from French farmers. It is the openness to learning that I think is one of the strengths of youth.

The Young Agrarians (of Canada) are promoting a kind of “self-help” for young farmers.

Their mixer is designed for young farmers to meet both each other and more senior experienced farmers and ranchers.

Most of them won’t have the financial resources to get into the scale that most ranches need to be able to pay a modest living for the owners or operators.

The topics to be addressed include: Land Matching and Transition; Direct Marketing, Butchering, Licensing and Regulations for Meat; Organic Soils; Communications and Conflict Resolution; Management Intensive Grazing and Holistic Management; Cost of Production and Financial Analysis; The role of Regional Applied Research (on farm research); University of Northern B.C.’s Approach to Agriculture, and more topics.

For more information you can go to youngagrarians.org and the mixer comes up on the top of the menu. Or you can call Robin at 1-604-767-4627. The cost to attend is $50 to $100 on a sliding scale of whatever you can afford.

Existing farmers and ranchers just might find someone to hire, to mentor, to partner with or to lease some land to.

One thing is sure: there will be no shortage of enthusiasm for the future of food and farming here in B.C. That will be worth the price of admission!

I am going and will share our story of transition and succession planning as it is unfolding. I will be accompanied by a family member of the next generation.

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One of my messages is going to be that respect for what the older generation has done on the ranch is essential to starting the dialogue about the future: and a recognition of the amazing contribution that children make when they are growing up on a farm.

Then there is the grieving that has to take place as we place our trust in our successors to care for the land.

The place that we have been working and playing on for half a century is part of the family and the thought of “losing” it, or leaving it brings on grief.

But “letting” go is something we all have to do sometime and the sooner the better for the continued success of the ranch.

At a minimum, we have to really share the decisions and the care for the land (and livestock if you have any).

Sharing the care of the land with family and young farmer is rewarding and helps heal the grief of letting go.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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