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Premier praises successes at Agriculture Discovery Centre

Posted on September 14, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Samantha Johnson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Agriculture Discovery Centre at Irvine School says it was honoured to have Premier Danielle Smith come out for a visit on Aug. 31, with several trustees, members of the Prairie Rose Public Schools executive team, students at Irvine School and their parents coming out for the event.

The Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA had seen ADC’s display at the local Stampede this year and wanted to do a tour.

“I knew I needed to find out more about it,” Smith said. “I was telling Nichole (Neubauer) what we really need is for one of these to be in every junior high school playground in Calgary and Edmonton. I think that’s where there needs to be that little connector so that people know where their food comes from. It’s so nice that it’s here because then I’m going to be able to celebrate what it is you are doing and hopefully pass that information on and see a few more of these kinds of demonstration facilities across the province.”

Smith told those gathered that the province has invested $60 million from the tier fund for innovation (carbon pricing fund), to support technology projects that will reduce emissions and increase agriculture performance in a wide variety of sectors.

Her husband owns a restaurant in High River and Smith says is responsible for the herb garden located behind it, which consists of 11 boxes where herbs and produce are planted and used in the restaurant.

“To me, there is something about touching soil and watching something grow and seeing life sprout that is really such a great connection that we have with our planet,” the premier said. “Any school that teaches a love of gardening and agriculture is near and dear to my heart, especially those who are pursuing youth getting into this important field.”

Smith has written a mandate letter to all her ministers and each was asked to explore ways for ensuring 16- to 24-year-olds across the province understand what kind of careers are available in each sector.

“You are already doing that incredible job of demonstrating not only the direct growth of food but also all the additional types of careers that are available,” said Smith.

Agriculture is Alberta’s second largest economic sector, second only to the energy sector, and is growing and diversifying while also being under attack, the premier said. She believes this is largely due to a misunderstanding about how the industry works and the carbon cycle. Given that, she says, educating the next generation on how important that is, which the ADC is already accomplishing, is vital.

Smith shared a story regarding when she realized how disconnected young people are about where their food comes from. Several years ago, her niece saw a live chicken for the first time at a petting farm. Later that day her niece commented how there were two words for different things, a chicken on a farm and the chicken people eat.

“She became a vegetarian for a while when she found out they were actually the same thing, but I don’t think you should underestimate how far disconnected some young people in urban Alberta are from where there food comes from. I hope there is an opportunity for you to bring more folks down here so they can really get their hands dirty and see where their food really does come from.”

Neubauer, along with members of the ADC student executive, principal of Irvine School Trent Rayner and superintendent of PRPS Reagan Weeks gave Smith a tour around the facility, stopping at each of the animal pens and then wandering through the garden. The pumpkin patch particularly intrigued Smith, who commented that now she knows why her own patch never worked because they require more room than she’d given them. She spent time wandering through finding pumpkins and stopping to admire one that has grown to around 40 pounds. President of the ADC executive Georgia Howe and Neubauer presented Smith with a few gifts, including a pumpkin branded with ADC on it.

“I want to thank Nichole Neubauer, who I’ve been told is the founder and mastermind behind this centre,” concluded Smith. “People like Nichole are truly the lifeblood of our province. Where others might have looked out back and seen an empty space, she looked out here and saw an opportunity to build and invest and grow and inspire. That enterprising spirit is what Alberta is truly about, so I have no doubt that her amazing inspiration is going to encourage others to invest in Alberta and pursue amazing careers in agriculture.”

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