Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day 9, Really Already? GIFS Today

Tuesday morning and I was back at the National Research Council building at the University, this time to meet the head of GIFS (Global Institute of Food Security) Dr Roger Beachy.  The organisation was only started in December 2012 and Roger has been tasked with setting up the organisation and then finding his replacement.  Roger, a former Chief Scientist to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; who was appointed by Barack Obama, has been in post since January this year.   Needless to say I was really privileged to get a meeting with him.  I was only supposed to stay for 30 mins but after an hour we had to stop the conversation.  GIFS has been set up with funding from Potash Corp,. of Saskatchewan Inc, ($35 million) along with $15 million from the Provincial Government of Saskatchewan over 7 years.  The idea is to bring three main streams of agriculture together to fund research and have an overall Ag strategy.  GIFS mandate is to 'Address the increasing global demand for safe, reliable food' The aims will be to help farmers cope with climate change at a time when farmers battle between improving productivity and maximising profit margins, while balancing long term sustainability.
Roger is adamant that times are changing, and food needs to be more nutritious which can be achieved with the help of the breeders.  Plant breeders, farmers, scientists and marketeers working together to develop, grow and then sell better food with less environmental impact has to be the way forward and it's great to have that vision.  It won't be easy to achieve but I have a feeling a lot of good will come from GIFS and I look forward with excitement to see what will be next.  It's just a shame that our government is unable to make those connections and link up the food chain.. Who knows if we produce better engineered, nutritious, food people will pay more for it, reducing our reliance on the CAP reform?
I drove down to Davison after meeting Garth Patterson for lunch, its about 100km south of Saskatoon to meet up with prominent farmer Gerrid Gust.  Gerrid and his family farm about 16,000 acres of wheat, canola, peas, and lentils.  The farm also owns it's own elevator, which they use as a grain store.  The elevator can hold up to 120,000 bushels of wheat and it was great fun to hoist myself up the man lift to the top to see the view of the farm and the surrounding area.  Gerrid's family have been farming here since the first settlements in around 1908.  I have been amazed at the strength and perseverance of the original settlers.  I can't image what they would have been letting themselves in for, arriving after a week and host, then a week on the train, before walking out to find their section of the prairie.  This land was free to settlers but they had to break 10 acres and build a house in the first 3 years.  It must have been hard!
Gerrid grows these crops with about 15" of rain fall which is quite dry although this year the weather has really been helping the crops with lots of rainfall, although temperature have been cool.  Gerrid's crop's grow to maturity and harvest in roughly 100 days, so when its go, it's go!  Here's the view from the top of his elevator looking down the train line with the Case dealership (centre top).  There is also a John Deere dealership across the road, as they always seem to travel in pairs!

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