Saturday, July 13, 2024
Chris Judd

The seven bank accounts of a farmer: #3 continuous education

Why do we go to school? Grandpa would tell us it was to read, write, and do arithmetic. Eventually, we figure out that the main reason that we go to school, CEGEP, college, university, or any place of education is to “learn how to seek out answers to something that we don’t know.” We also find out that many of the answers change as time marches on. We discover that some of what we were taught in college has changed drastically before the ink is dry on that piece of paper that we hang on the wall that states that we graduated.
Thankfully, we learned how to look for answers to questions that become more complex as we learn that we didn’t learn everything. We also learned how to network with people who know a lot more about specific subjects than we do. Seventy years ago, almost every university had a very well-developed extension department which disseminated newly discovered information to anyone who expressed interest. Grants provided by provincial, state and federal governments were specifically given to universities for providing information to both students and the general public. Then, within a few years (in the ‘60s and early ‘70s), both research funding and much of the extension funding were handed over to private industry (seed companies, chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies, machine companies, etc.) by a system of shared funding where the government would pay about half and private industry would pay about half.
Before long, most of the private industry figured out how to slant those funding dollars into information that might benefit their bottom line more than that of the consumer. South of the border, those funding dollars continued to go directly to universities to be used for non-biased information dissemination to the public.
For farmers, continuous education has several advantages. First of all, it is either free or very inexpensive to attend these information days. The information is usually the most recent, hot off the press. The newest information on agriculture is usually from the U.S. or China. Canadians are usually welcome at all U.S. information days, or weeks. If you are internet savvy, even the Chinese research is in English because English is the language of research. Many of the U.S. agricultural universities provide their newest research free on their internet site.
A few years ago, when we were younger, Jeannie and I attended many week-long “dairy” vacations and conferences in different provinces and states. Those dairy vacations are usually attended by veterinarians, nutritionists, some of the world’s best dairymen, and government agricultural specialists. Talking to those people while sitting around the pool or partying in the evening, you can learn as much as attending the educational part of the conference. A large part of the expense of this continuous education can be used as an expense at tax time too. We always figured that the information learned at those info days or trips saved us more money than what the conference or trip cost. Many of the best agricultural trade magazines, (beef, dairy, forage crops, eco-agriculture, and even organic agriculture) from all over the world can be delivered daily or monthly right to your computer for free.
What we learned in an institute of higher learning is fast becoming yesterday’s news as we are faced with stopping and reversing climate change, using agri-tourism to reach out to our consumers to educate them about how their food is raised and why. Because they really want to know. They no longer have an uncle, grandfather or cousin who lives on a farm. Today’s consumers want to know what we are spraying on our crops, feeding and injecting into our animals and why. In today’s fast moving times, we must learn how to identify and address mental fatigue and stress levels for our neighbours, families, employees, and ourselves.
Continuous education is very highly-regarded by both software and computer companies. Many of those companies calculate in as much as 30 per cent of paid time of their employees. This time could include music, psychology, reading (not novels), exercise, and many other mind-expanding, new relaxing times.
On the farm, no one is responsible for our continuous education except ourselves. However, we are responsible for making sure that our consumers and all politicians are educated about why and how we do things on the farms.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.

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