Who are the NFU Youth?
The NFU Youth is a network of young Canadians committed to building a food system that is economically viable for family farms, socially just and locally focused.
The NFU Youth consists not only of young farmers but also their urban counterparts who are concerned with the future of food and agriculture in Canada and around the world.
The NFU Youth work to promote Food Sovereignty in Canada through their own unique political analysis, educational opportunities and partnerships with other organizations that share similar objectives including the Young Agrarians, the National New Farmer Coalition, and the Union Paysanne.
Our programming works to support and encourage new and potential farmers across Canada in order to build a better future for Canadian farm families. The NFU Youth also organize and participate in activities with the youth of La Via Campesina, a worldwide social movement that unites farm organizations from around the globe.
- The NFU Youth President is Alex Fletcher, B.C.
- The Youth Vice-President is Ayla Fenton
- The Region 1 (Maritimes) Youth Director is Michelle Fyfe, PEI.
- The Region 1, District 2 (NB), Youth President is Philippe Gervais
From the city to the farm
- Philippe Gervais, Youth President
Starting a career in agriculture is difficult for anyone but as a first generation farmer, the challenge is even greater. That is the reality I am facing. It is not a way of life that I am familiar with and knowing what to do is not always obvious. When you do not know where to look, who to approach, or even the different types of production happening in the region, it can be intimidating.
It’s been two years since I started farming and I have realized that there are many possibilities and I would like everyone to know they exist because we have an urgent need for agricultural succession in Canada, particularly in the Maritimes. Being aware of the opportunities that are available in agriculture is almost entirely related to the people we meet. The reality is that it IS all about who you know! I believe it’s important to share some of the organizations / groups that have helped me build my network and ideals so far in hopes that they can help those who are thinking about a future in agriculture.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm (WWOOF)
It all started with WWOOF on a trip to British Columbia. WWOOF is an excellent tool and network for learning about the lifestyle of agriculture if you are not completely sure if it’s the right choice for you. For me, it was obvious that after this experience I wanted to work on a farm.
Stewards of Irreplaceable Land (S.O.I.L.)
With little farming experience, it can be difficult to find the perfect employer who is able to offer a paid learning experience. So I participated in the Stewards of Irreplaceable Land program (S.O.I.L), which allowed me to come to an agreement with my first mentor.
Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN)
When I returned to Atlantic Canada, I started attending events organized by ACORN. It was at one of their events that I met my second mentor who had been one of the guest speakers. After listening to his presentations, I only had to take the bull by the horns and ask him if he had all his workers for the next season. The answer was no and he hired me. It is absolutely important to approach these potential employers who possess a wealth of know-how and who are real leaders in our farming communities. It is preferable if you can ask them in person if a learning / paid work experience is possible with them.
The National Farmers Union (NFU)
Afterwards, I wanted to engage politically and find a way to bring together and mobilize the new and the not-so-new farmers of the Maritimes. It was at this point that I joined the NFU, and was elected youth president for the Maritimes in August 2016. This official position has allowed me to travel and meet other young farmers from across Canada. To be witness this beautiful energy that exists all over the country has done me the greatest good. There is hope and things are changing little by little. We are not alone.
Farm Apprentice and Worker Network (FAWN)
While there are still many other organizations, I will finish this text by speaking of FAWN. It is a network that most of you may not know but that is, in my opinion, paramount. The purpose of this network is to bring together farm workers and apprentices of the Maritimes once a month on a different farm to create a space where a farmer can share his or her know-how for a few hours in exchange for a volunteer work bee. The whole is topped off with a farmer potluck and time to socialize and share with one another the experiences each person is having on the farm where they work. If you are not part of this network, as a farmer, worker, apprentice, or future apprentice, join today! The network will work with Young Agrarians in the coming months. Stay tuned!