By Dave Harrison
Industry’s future is in very good hands
It’s now been some 28 years since I first sashayed (one of my shoes had lost a heel, hence the extended stride … ) into my career as a journalist. I’ve spent 15 years with a weekly newspaper and two years in a daily newspaper pressroom. For the last 11 years (and two months, two weeks, and a day or two, depending on Canada Post delivery dates) I’ve waltzed throughout the world of Canadian horticulture.
The world headquarters of Annex Publishing & Printing Inc. is full of young people, many of whom are the same ages as my daughters. If staff doled out nicknames, I’d probably be ‘Gramps.’
I live my age. My car is quite sedate and marginally capable of overtaking a farm vehicle, provided it’s pulling something rather heavy. I snack on a variety of fruits and veggies, all in my quest for optimal fibre intake. Many of my sweaters are cardigans, because trendy, stylistic fashion sense has long been sacrificed in favour of rustic, utilitarian comfort.
Young people ensure the continued success of any industry, and greenhouse production is no exception. Unlike so many other agricultural sectors, we have many multi-generational operations. Contrast that against other commodities with farms that are hard-pressed to support a single generation, even at the best of times.
What the whipper-snappers bring to the table … or rolling bench or raised trough, for that matter … are new ideas and boundless enthusiasm. The older family members, for their part, will temper that effervescence with reminders of market and technology realities. Harmony is maintained, and the company grows. (In any family disagreement, always defer the final and binding decision to grandma. This may not be formally included in CGA or MBA programs, but longtime students of family enterprises know where the most sage advice can always be found.…)
I’ve had the chance to mingle with some future industry leaders over the past few weeks.
First off, I toured the Niagara College greenhouses (March edition, pages 30-33) in mid-January. The visit was two-fold.
Primarily, I was there to learn about the school’s new and enhanced R&D capabilities. Among recent projects, the school, working with nearby Sunrise Greenhouses, investigated the use of lasers as plant-trimming tools. Among upcoming projects, the research team will work on applying photogenic technology to detect plant diseases well before they are visible to the naked eye.
Additionally, I used my visit for an update on the Greenhouse Technician program, now prepping its third graduating class. The program is highly regarded and the reputation is growing, especially among growers, who are increasingly sending their kids there. One major vegetable producer in the region hired four students from one graduating class, and that’s quite a vote of confidence.
Later in the month, I attended the sixth annual Flowers Canada (Ontario) research symposium. University of Guelph students carry out many of the projects, which all dealt with key industry challenges. Themes included advanced pest management studies, early disease detection strategies, and innovative crop optimization approaches. The work is all leading edge and grower-friendly.
Today’s grads will take industry to the next level of new crops, broader markets, and higher production and quality levels, and they will do so while dealing with energy and environmental pressures never before seen on such a sustained basis.
The schools are doing their job. The industry can respond by investing in their R&D and trialling projects, by serving on advisory committees, and by welcoming those highly trained and motivated job seekers.
And while welcoming the newcomers into your greenhouses or supply companies, politely ask them not to call you ‘gramps.’
And they’re not to make fun of cardigans.