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Young leaders grow where they're planted

In the latest 'Urban Cowboy', Owen Roberts takes a look at a company willing to stand up and say 'hold my beer, I'll put fuel in that rocket'
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Farm kids
A team of hardworking children and teens stand proudly in a corn field on a midwestern farm in America. Photo courtesy DuPont Pioneer

Calls abound for programs and leadership to help strengthen rural Canada, to make sure the voices of this country’s farmers are heard outside the farm gate, and to help urban people understand farmers’ crucial, daily role in feeding the world.

The question is, who’s responsible for developing leaders? Not everyone’s ready or willing to stand up and say 'hold my beer, I’ll put fuel in that rocket.'  

But maybe one answer to the leadership question is right under everyone’s nose. 

At least, that’s the thinking at DuPont Pioneer. Rather than reinvent the wheel and develop an entirely new leadership approach, the company – represented in Canada by Guelph’s Kahntact Marketing -- believes it’s effective to support and further develop programs and organizations that are already on the ground.

So, through its Canadian community investment program for youth in rural communities, it’s started a new initiative called Growing Today, Leading Tomorrow. 

The community investment program works to improve food security by advancing agriculture through science, education, and innovation. 

Says Ali Aziz, Communications Manager, Canada at DuPont Pioneer: “We want to help ensure that the next generation of farmers and leaders -- youth in rural communities -- in Canada have access to resources and support like education, safety awareness, and good nutrition, which they need for ongoing development, to be successful, and to have a bright future. “

Aziz acknowledges there are a number of local and national organizations across Canada that are working on these issues, most dependent on external sources of funding. 

“So we’d like to financially support them in making the agricultural future in Canada brighter, by helping our youth grow today, so they can lead tomorrow,” he says. 

It’s encouraging to see the areas of emphasis the company has chosen to support, those it believes can make the biggest difference to the farm sector. 

Its priorities start with educational programs dedicated agriculture, to help create awareness about the industry and develop competent, assertive agricultural leadership. 

Other priorities include farm safety for children, to promote safe choices and increase awareness of dangers for children living on farms, and nutrition and well-being. 

The latter could well be an urban program too. In North America, problems related to childhood obesity and avoidable nutrition-related diseases affect rural and urban kids alike.

Then there’s also the problem of accessing food. In a typical winter month, more than 35 per cent of those who use a food bank are children and youth, a figure that continues to rise. 

In fact, one in five children are now at risk of starting the school day on an empty stomach, due to a lack of access to nutritious food.

So, good on DuPont Pioneer for stepping outside the box and helping to address such serious issues, without the caveat of having to sell product to justify the investment. 

The company has a history of reaching out. In the past five years, it’s invested more than $500,000 in breakfast and student nutrition programs and emergency services. Through the years, it’s always been supportive of other measures to advance the sector, such as agricultural communications.

Traditional kinds of support for rural youth is important – such as investing in programs at agricultural fairs and shows – because future farmers also need to be encouraged and recognized for their prowess in producing food.

But today’s most successful young farmers will have as broad a scope as possible, and communication and management tools that help them meet modern demands. They’ll need such tools to be tomorrow’s leaders.