Droughts, elections, pandemics all offer turmoil
As my research team and I begin the kick off of another academic year, we recently learned that SAIFood is increasingly becoming a trusted source of information about modern farming practices. Thank you to everyone for your support! One metric known as Alexa, which assesses access to and impact of websites and assesses tens of millions of websites, has ranked SAIFood favourably. At the end of June 2021, SAIFood’s rank had improved to #7,061 in Canada and #210,004 globally. At the end of June 2018, SAIFood was ranked at #33,780 in Canada and #1,175,966 globally. This means that our weekly blog has risen to be ranked by Amazon as being close to the top 7,000 visited web pages in Canada. SAIFood is the top-ranked academic agriculture and food blog website in Canada, competing with American academic blog sites such as the University of Perdue’s agricultural news and the University of California’s Global Food Initiative. I would like to thank my research team and past students for their excellent blogs that are making SAIFood a trusted source of information about sustainability, agriculture, innovation, and food.
Returning to normal?
Faculty at the University of Saskatchewan had the option regarding whether to teach online or in-person. I have opted to teach my classes in-person and am looking forward to getting to know a new group of agriculture students. It’s my hope that some of the students I taught online last year will stop by and introduce themselves. It has been over 17 months since I’ve seen students face-to-face and I firmly believe this is the only effective way to educate students.
The class I teach in the fall term focuses on agricultural policy, which helps students understand what policies affect agriculture, the impact they have, and what the current state of affairs is with these policies. We discuss a wide variety of topics including: trade agreements, chemical use, intellectual property, and levels of R&D funding. I also invite a variety of guest speakers into my classroom to present on policy aspects of the agriculture industry, with speakers from government, research organizations, and commodity groups. Thankfully being able to return to the classroom means that our students will get to interact and ask questions to these guests.
Policy always a hot topic
The weather seems to be constantly capable of contributing to policy discussions. While eager about returning, there is also a significant amount of worry and concern for those in the agricultural industry grappling with this years’ drought. Grain, oilseed and pulse crops, forage crops, and livestock pastures have all been harmed. Livestock auctions are already reporting higher than normal numbers for their weekly sales. It will take more than a few months of above-normal precipitation for many farm families to recover.
The present Canadian federal election additionally offers an opportunity for students to ask questions directly to candidates seeking to be elected. As I’ve done in past elections, I have invited candidates from the main political parties to give short presentations of their party’s agricultural platform and then allow the students ample time to ask questions about that party’s policies, as well as the views of the specific candidate. Past students have told me this was one of the most valuable components of my course.
Hoping for the best
Given that faculty, staff and students are keen to return to classrooms and in-person lectures, worries about Covid will linger for many. We are not out of this pandemic yet, but if we keep doing our part to help reduce the spread, we can return to a new normal soon. It’s my sincere hope that vaccination rates continue to rise and that everyone considers not just their own health, but the health of those sitting next to them.