Pilot project prepares agricultural business student to tackle food security
By Mark Campbell
After a year of studying management and information systems, John Raymond realized he did not want to spend the rest of his life sitting in front of a computer.
“I was thinking about other programs to take and remembered a time when I did some gardening for one of my mom’s real estate coworkers,” he says. “I always enjoyed being outside and doing physical labour, and I was interested in the environment and sustainability. I thought if I studied agriculture, I could find a career I am passionate about and make a difference.”
Connecting with his passion
Raymond’s new path led him from Ontario, where he grew up, to the Agricultural Business program at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus. He quickly realized he made the right choice. “The intimacy of the classrooms, the opportunities to engage with professors, and the agriculture projects—it struck me that this was the place I needed to be to learn the skills I needed to advance my career.”
Over the course of his studies, Raymond discovered Cultiv8, an agricultural sandbox that supports students in building skills that enable the businesses they own or work for to make more informed decisions about how they operate. Students also gain knowledge in identifying and implementing sustainable business practices.
An eye-opening experience
Raymond’s expertise has grown through his work experience as Student Lead within the SUSTAIN by Cultiv8 pilot project, an experimental vegetable production market farm that seeks to build a culture of innovative, food-secure, climate-responsible horticulture on campus. Agriculture alumni are helping to grow the project with their donations, through the Dalhousie Fund.
“Through this program, I’ve gained knowledge about market farm production I wouldn’t otherwise have,” he says. “I’ve also been able to apply the practices I learned about in class. The experience has been a real eye-opener in terms of getting a sense of the markets that exist for different vegetables, specialty products I could grow, and value-added projects the community is interested in.”
As he completes his fourth year of the program, Raymond is thinking about how he could bring the Cultiv8 concept to a larger city like Halifax to improve food security and address environmental issues. “This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I can see myself doing something similar in the future,” he says. “The whole Dalhousie experience has really changed my path and opened up new opportunities for me to explore my passions.”