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Not long ago, most Albertans had a personal connection to a farm. Whether it was where they currently lived, grew up, or within their extended family, for generations Albertans have had a strong link to agriculture. However, this is changing and many Albertans no longer having direct connections to ‘the family farm’. This means agricultural champions must step forward to share their story and the continuing importance of agriculture for rural Alberta.
One of these champions is Les Stulberg, a farmer and councillor in the County of Stettler. Les’ family has farmed in the area for 110 years. Being a farmer is a core part of Les’ identity, which has led him to serve as chair of his local Agricultural Service Board (ASB). ASBs provide advice to their municipality on how best to manage and support agricultural concerns, a responsibility Les is well equipped for.
As a result of the sometimes-distant relationship between urban Albertans and agriculture, there can be some misunderstanding of modern agriculture. Farmers like Les want to share their story about how food is grown on their farms, and the pride they place in their products. Canadians can be proud of the world class food produced right here that is produced in a sustainable and economic way. This both ensures the future of agriculture and feeds the world efficiently.
While agriculture is required to feed the world, it also provides much needed economic development in rural areas, as Les explains:
“Agriculture is huge for rural communities. Not only for employment on the farms, but also for the spinoff job opportunities. Agriculture creates so many jobs, whether it’s machinery sales, feed preparation, transportation, auction sale, there’s a huge variety. So anybody that has a passion for agriculture, but can’t own a farm may want to choose an agriculture-related field.”
All of this economic activity, coupled with the fact that we all need to eat to live, means growth for Alberta’s agriculture sector. As Les put it, “They’re finding new uses for agricultural products all the time. So, I think there’s a very bright future for agriculture.”
The role of agriculture in maintaining rural communities cannot be overstated. Agriculture adds stability to rural communities, with many farms moving between generations within the same family. For Les, this has meant being able to work the same land that his father and grandfather did. Agriculture also has a way of becoming a personal identity:
“Agriculture is more than a way of life. It is your livelihood and when it involves families and whole communities, it becomes pretty special.”