By Mo Cranker
Alta. Newspaper Group
Medicine Hat College is adding a new program based around sustainable agriculture for the 2021 school year.
The Agroecology Technician diploma will educate students around producing food, forage, fibre and fuel using sustainable methods. Program co-ordinator Brent Smith says he is excited to build this course for students in the region.
“We want this program to serve the needs of southeast Alberta,” he said. “That includes Medicine Hat and the surrounding area. We want to collaborate with local landowners, with leaseholders, grazers, people who plant crops – what we want to do with this course applies to all of those people.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for me and for students in the region.”
Smith says food security needs to be a priority locally.
“One of the best things we can do is promote food security,” he said. “As climate change progresses, all of these major food producing regions that we import food from are going to see more and more problems – it’s already happening.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for food producers in our area to produce those same crops. And I think we can look at growing some of those crops in greenhouses year round.
“We need to look at this and see if we can do it sustainably and economically.”
One thing Smith wants to look at in the course is growing food in greenhouses without natural gas.
“Using plastic from Alberta, we can make greenhouses that are heated by the sun,” he said. “I’m not here to criticize greenhouse producers in the area, but we can definitely make greenhouse production more sustainable than it is right now.
“A lot of our production right now is based on non-renewable resources; we need to look down the line and into the future.”
The two-year program will offer students chances to work in the field and give them plenty of real-life experience.
“The goal, especially for second year, is for it to be completely hands on,” he said. “There is no way to do this other than to live and breathe it.”
Smith says there is an exciting future for agriculture in the region and that he is excited to be a part of it.
“I know students will leave the area to go to school in Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Alberta to learn about agriculture,” he said. “Having this program will allow students in Medicine Hat to study here and work here.”
Registration for the program opens Nov. 1 for the fall of 2021.
Smith is looking to partner with farmers and ranchers in the community for the course. Anyone looking to partner with the program can reach him at email@example.com