- How can we engage the next generation of the UK agricultural industry?
- In what ways can we create agvocates among the general public?
- If you could do three little things to feed a hungry planet, what would they be?
At the beginning of October, 100 young people aged 18-25 years old, representing 49 different countries, congregated in Brussels for the third Youth Agricultural Summit.
Run by Bayer since 2013, in partnership with local young farmer organisations, this year’s Summit did not disappoint.
Right from the start, the delegates and their mentors were determined to shake off their jet lag and launch their creative innovative minds into tasks aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ultimately seeking to contribute to feeding a hungry planet.
Over a period of four days, and with only seven hours of break-out sessions, ten groups of ten delegates transformed from a collection of strangers to a close-knit team creating tangible solutions to solving world hunger. Each group shared some incredible ways that young people can help alleviate the challenges of world hunger from the perspective of gender equality, food waste, climate change, technology and innovation, and education.
The third Youth Agricultural Summit could not have come at a better time for the UK agricultural industry. With increasing pressure on the environment, and farmers all getting to grips with the implications of Brexit, reaching out and engaging with the next generation is crucial to ensure a thriving UK food and farming sector beyond 2020.
There were many messages that I took away from the Summit, both as mentor of the UK/Ireland delegates, and as a young person myself. Here are three take-home questions from the Youth Ag-Summit which need to be considered within the UK food and farming sectors…
I know it’s hard to imagine life beyond 2020 right now, but the Youth Ag-Summit delegates all share a deep passion for sustainable agriculture, and will be among the leaders making key decisions about the future of food when we eventually have 10 billion people sharing our planet by 2050.
So what is happening right now to ensure that these young people - and there is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of others like them – are aware of the career opportunities in our industry? And how will we retain and develop such innovative minds moving forward?
One of the speakers at the Summit was International Development consultant Hlami Ngwenya. She spoke about ‘AgriCOOLture’ and the importance of effectively communicating the plethora of careers out there in agriculture. Creating a culture where careers in agriculture are chosen as first choice rather than last resort is something I increasingly see passionately communicated in agricultural education nationwide. Hlami’s PERFECT acronym summarises well the current and future landscape of the agricultural workforce
Education and training
Finance and Farming
Extension & Advisory Services
Technology and Trade
This acronym certainly fits with the growing narrative of food system thinking, and I wonder how effective such an acronym could be in engaging our next generation of the UK food and farming workforce.
An ‘agvocate’ is, quite simply, someone who advocates for agriculture. The #agvocate hashtag played a powerful role in sharing the energy and excitement of the Summit. It fuelled the dialogue online and created so much attention that the Summit briefly trended in Belgium and grabbed a space on BBC’s Farming Today!
Social media can be an exceptionally positive force, giving passionate people a chance to be ambassadors for their community to an audience who may have never come across the perspective of a farmer before, either on- or offline. In the UK, we already have an invaluable and growing group of agvocates of all backgrounds, ages and locations nationwide who contribute to an incredible array of educational activities.
Where I think the agvocate concept has scope to spread even further is with those audiences who eagerly follow Countryfile on a Sunday night, are curious about where their food comes from, and have started to visit farms thanks to initiatives like Open Farm Sunday. Imagine how helpful and effective it would be if they were agvocates too!
One action that every guest of the Youth Ag Summit took away, regardless of their role, was ‘three little things’. These three little things could last as long as a few months or a lifetime, and could be on a local, national or global level.
So this question is for you. If you could do three small things to help feed a hungry planet, what would they be?
Here are mine:
1. Support people to tell their stories about UK agriculture to a wider non-ag audience
2. Be an Agvocate in Cambridge
3. Contribute towards building a more resilient sustainable food system
With a third Summit now complete and the ‘YAS 2019’ in Brazil to look forward to, it is quite amazing to see the ripple effect of well over 300 young agvocates from the three Summits ‘thinking big, working small’ together worldwide. And this number will only continue to grow!