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The Eco-Scholar Experience

2015 Guelph Organic Conference Eco-Scholars at the Big Carrot Booth

2015 Guelph Organic Conference Eco-Scholars

2015 Eco-Scholar Program winners: from left, Emily Peat, Kyra Lightburn, Victoria Kyle, Tomas Nimmo (Conference Manager), Gayl Creutzberg (Eco-Scholar Co-ordinator), Alex Sanders and Ranjit Singh Kalra.

By Alex Sanders, 2015 Guelph Organic Conference Eco-Scholar

The 2015 Guelph Organic Conference proved to be a place where I could see some friendly faces while meeting a few new ones. Meeting my fellow Eco-scholars made this latter point especially true. We came from varying backgrounds – cities and farms, Guelph and Waterloo, Canada and India – to share our unique thoughts, ideas, and aspirations that related to organic agriculture.

This education we received from each other occurred in parallel with the amazing workshops. Coming from a cash-crop operation, I instinctively leaned towards the field crop workshops. However, the urban orchard and market gardening presentations proved to be just as interesting and engaging. I suppose that understanding and learning from other facets of agriculture can only help and never hinder!

Despite these great experiences, the best part of the organic conference for me was the delicious dinner and the following panel discussion on issues facing Canada’s organic system. I believe that there will always be the argument that it all comes down to food. Food brings people together and allows them to swap ideas, be creative, and enter dialogue on current issues. This is exactly what happened at the conference dinner, where I was able to converse with the other Eco-scholars, representatives of The Big Carrot, and many other members of the organic sector.

Guelph Organic Conference 2015, Friday night dinner.

Eco-scholars enjoying the Friday night dinner.

A larger dialogue continued after the meal with the panel discussion. I experienced a few ‘a-ha’ moments while listening to proposed solutions to dilemmas facing organic agriculture. For example, the call to farmers to buy pedigree organic seed so as to gain more seed suppliers and more varieties was fascinating. Recognizing the large void between domestic organic food supply and demand, and the huge opportunity that exists in the sector, was just as interesting. Based on the talks, I left the lecture hall confident that the organic sector can confront and solve current problems and concerns.

Guelph Organic Conference 2015, Friday night forum.

Eco-Scholars enjoyed a stimulating organic trade discussion at the Keynote Forum Friday evening.

Overall, I thoroughly appreciated my experience at the 2015 Guelph Organic Conference. The fact that I was an Eco-scholar significantly enhanced the event’s impact for me. As a result, I would urge any young person who is at least interested in organics to apply for the scholarship. Advice that I can give everyone else is to not only see what you want to see at the conference, but to also attend a random workshop. Be open to every learning opportunity no matter the topic!

Alex Sanders - Guelph Organic Conference 2015 Eco-ScholarAlex Sanders is studying for a degree in agriculture science at the University of Guelph and in the summer of 2013, he completed a co-op internship at Meeting Place Organic Farm near Lucknow, Ontario. His involvement with organics began in 2008 when his family began pursuing certification of their 150-acre cash crop farm near Brussels, Ontario. Their grain yields have been slowly stabilizing, and even increasing. His keen interest in plants means that his future occupation will likely be focused on organic crop production and cropping systems.

To learn more about the Eco-Scholar program please visit here.