CORNER BROOK Despite a common perception that the agriculture industry is in the “doldrums,” Richard Donald is very optimistic about the future.
Donald, the associate dean of research in the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University, was the keynote speaker at the “Our Food, Our Future, Growing the Agriculture Industry in Newfoundland and Labrador” conference Friday.
The one-day event was an initiative of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland; the Department of Natural Resources, Agriculture Development Branch and the Research Development Corporation was held at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook.
While Donald’s talk highlighted a few things about Newfoundland he approached the topic from a broader sense and spoke on “Getting Aligned on Agriculture in Atlantic Canada.”
Following his presentation, Donald said the reason for the Atlantic approach is because he thinks it’s gonna take a lot of co-operation within Atlantic Canada to make the agriculture industry successful.
“One of the points I wanted to make in my talk was that the model for co-operation needs to be based on our reality of agriculture here, not on some other national importance and priorities.”
In his talk he highlighted the uniqueness of the region that requires special attention that may not be picked up in broad national programs.
Donald said moving ahead with the co-operation will be the tough part.
“It’s easy to say it, but it’s a lot harder to do it.”
However, he suggested three starting points.
“It can start with governments coming together to collaborate on the money that’s invested in agriculture programs.
“Two, universities can be more deliberate about working together to support agriculture through appropriate research. And three, looking at the federal government agencies here now, better co-operation between the provincial government, federal agencies and universities to make that happen.”
When looking at the industry as a whole, Donald called it “a recipe for complete success.”
He said it is an area with great products that are in and will continue to be in demand, has a skilled workforce and has support from government.
“If any other company had what we had in terms of opportunities, in terms of market and supply, or trained people, access to resources, they’d go crazy,” said Donald.
He said events like the “Our Food, Our Future” conference will be important to meeting the goal of fostering collaboration.
“Because I think it allows people to first of all get a sense of reassurance and enthusiasm in the industry to say ‘we can do this.’”
He said it’s often easy to say you’re going to do something, but that won’t happen until you get together and talk with like-minded people.