We love local! There is a reason that our local farms and food producers are thriving, and that is because we love good, nutritious food just as much as we love supporting our local food producers. The idyllic rural farm is not just a fantasy here in York Durham Headwaters—you can actually drive our country roads and see with your own eyes where your food comes from.
With such a growing demand on our local food producers, ClearWater Farm in York Region has piloted an innovative new program in partnership with Royal Bank of Canada: the Young Agripreneurs program. Here, the next generation of farmers are given the opportunity to grow their business from the ground up… literally! They get to learn about every facet of the agriculture industry, not just the food growing part. They also have the opportunity to be mentored in things like marketing, distribution, education… the list goes on and on. And the overarching theme of this program is regenerative agriculture, which is the science and practice of ensuring that the soil is made better than when you started farming on it.
We spoke to Colin Dobell, Executive Director of the Ontario Water Centre, about the program. For an overview of what Young Agripreneurs is all about, check out our post:
Now in its second year, the program has had the opportunity to welcome two batches of participants. Allow us to introduce you to four students taking part for the first time.
Holly Draper, 19
Holly’s family has been farming for seven generations. While tradition has always been a huge part of her upbringing, there is one tradition that she is eager to defy: that of farmers being a male-dominant industry. “Because my family is really old fashioned, it’s the guys who do the farming,” she says.
Holly has dug into the program with gusto, endeavouring to learn all aspects of harvesting and germination. With a background in field work, she has found work at ClearWater in the greenhouses extremely illuminating. “This has honestly helped me tremendously,” she states. “I’m excited to see where it takes me.”
What’s next for Holly? Well, as of now, she is interested in starting her own hobby farm.
Nancy Daniel, 23
For this Nigerian first-year Agripreneur, farming has come naturally, since Nancy grew up with her parents always growing things in the backyard. “We always had something going on,” she says, “from chickens to goats to tomatoes.” This way of life has resulted in a love for growing things.
For Nancy, that love has evolved into a certainty that food production was in her future as a career. But with such a diverse industry ahead of her, she didn’t know where to start. “That’s why I began searching for a place that would allow me to learn and grow these skills,” she recalls.
Nancy one day wants to own her own farm. And when she does, she’ll be able to point to her time at ClearWater Farm as the starting point.
Amanda Shier, 23
Just 30 minutes from ClearWater Farm is where Amanda grew up—on a dairy farm. So naturally, food production is in her blood. Wanting to learn more about greenhouses and vegetable growing is what drew this first-year to the Young Agripreneurs program.
“I’ve gained practical experience here,” she says. “I am also doing cost analysis on all the vegetables here because I am able to use all of my skills that I learned in school.”
As a testament to how diverse the participants’ interests are, Amanda would like to grow her experience into a career as an account manager for an agriculture farm.
Sarah Howland, 23
Sarah is a proud University graduate of an ecology and environmental sciences program. It’s no surprise, then, that she has been interested in the outdoors and exploring nature her whole life. “When I heard about the Young Agripreneurs program at ClearWater Farm, I was really interested in seeing this and being able to work outdoors,” she says.
In her first year, Sarah has done some “serious learning,” gaining knowledge and experience about what it’s like to work on a farm, and the production that goes into making sustainable food a viable option for the industry.
See article below to learn more about the Young Agripreneurs program at ClearWater Farm
For more information about the Young Agripreneurs program, visit https://clearwaterfarm.ca.
1614 Metro Rd. N.,
Willow Beach, ON L0E 1S0
Story by Katherine Ryalen