Cassanda Hayward (20) grew up in Halifax, and is working on her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Political Science and Sustainability with Honours, at University of Kings College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She’s combining her love for politics and agriculture in hopes of drafting future food policies for the provincial government. She also volunteers with Parks Canada to help conserve the endangered Blanding Turtles.
Growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia — a city surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, which has a rich maritime history where most jobs are supported by tourism, ship building, government, or the Navy — there aren’t many agriculture jobs and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to interact with agriculture.
I never really knew much about agriculture but I was always fascinated by dairy farming. Growing up as an urban kid, I wanted to be a dairy farmer but without knowing someone directly in the industry there aren’t many opportunities to learn about it or try it out. I really wasn’t exposed to any agriculture at all. There were no courses in school to learn about it and there weren’t any school field trips to farms. If you wanted to learn about agriculture, you had to do it yourself.
So, recognizing there was a gap in what I was being taught in school and I wanted to learn about, I took action. I joined my local 4-H club when I was 15. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It helped quench my thirst for agricultural knowledge, and I was able find other like-minded people who shared my passion for agriculture. Through 4-H, I was able to participate in an educational exchange program where I travelled to Ghana to learn about West African agricultural practices and policy, and how they differ from Canada.
Throughout high school, I also developed an interest for policy and politics, and now paired with what I was learning in 4-H, I saw a potential career path. Knowing there was no chance of now becoming a dairy farmer, the next best thing I could think of was to develop food policy to help farmers and consumers in the future.
In Canada, and particularly Nova Scotia, we’re having an issue with young people not wanting to go back and work on the family farm. We’re losing our farmers because of the increasing costs associated with farming; it’s extremely cost-prohibitive. People are being forced to make poor lifestyle choices when it comes to food. Obesity and illness as a result of poor nutrition due to the rising cost of eating a healthy diet is also a huge issue. It’s cheaper to buy 2L of Pepsi than a litre of milk, so families gravitate towards a poor diet. I’m hoping to help change this trend in the future through policy.
The upcoming Youth-Ag Summit is going to be one of the tools that help me achieve my goals of developing better policies to support agriculture. It’s a rare thing to harness 100 bright young minds from around the world to help tackle food challenges. As someone that wants to focus on developing food policies in Canada, it’s important to understand what is working well in other countries and bring those ideas back home, and I believe that youth can make the changes our planet needs to ensure food security. There is a connection between the choices we make every day and how they impact people across the globe. I believe that better policies can help impact the choices consumers make, making the world a better place for all of us, one meal at a time.
About the Youth Ag-Summit
The Youth Ag-Summit is a global bi-annual conference designed to inspire and connect the next generation of young leaders in agriculture and related disciplines. In 2017, 100 young leaders aged 18 to 25 will meet in Brussels, Belgium, to create an open dialogue on one of the world’s most challenging questions: how to feed a hungry planet? Following previous editions hosted in Canada and Australia, this year’s Summit is the first to be held in a European city. The Youth Ag-Summit is part of Bayer’s Agricultural Education Program which aims to raise global awareness about farming and food supplies. Find out more about the Program at www.ag-education.bayer.com, www.facebook.com/BayerAgEdu/, or on Twitter @BayerAgEdu.