Nuffield 2014 International Triennial Conference
A Canadian Experience from East to West
On 15th June, Nuffield Canada welcomed 130 delegates to the 2014 Nuffield Triennial Conference and Study Tour. For the organising committee, this was the culmination of many months of preparation. Richard Melvin (1982 Sch) from Nova Scotia, pegged the issue for the committee, "The triennial has many, many moving parts to deal with."
The conference started on the east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia, travelled through Prince Edward Island and flew to Ontario. From there, a smaller group of delegates were welcomed on a post-triennial tour in Alberta – approximately 5000km from the starting point next to the Atlantic Ocean.
The theme of the entire event was "Prosperity through Innovation." These two words are diverse in their definition and interpretation and have a strong impact on modern agriculture.
The main conference day further explored the theme of ‘Prosperity through Innovation’. There was strong consensus that you could not discuss this theme without expanding our topic to “Sustainable Prosperity through Innovation."
After a series of speakers explored the definition and provided examples, delegates eagerly delved into the following questions in small groups:
- From your experience, what are the key drivers behind innovation and how do you stimulate them?
- How do you know what you want to innovate and how do you balance the influence of technology?
- What public policies most encourage innovation and do we encourage development of these policies?
- What are the best examples of innovation and why are they successful – and would adaptation be needed for Canada?
- What would Nuffield need to do to be more actively involved in pursuing an innovation agenda beyond the efforts of individual scholars?
- How do we develop better innovators?
Conference day was followed with a banquet and Pete Luckett delivered the keynote address. Pete is an innovative grocer (Pete's Frootique) and vineyard owner who immigrated to Nova Scotia from England. His message focussed on the relationship with the customer, no matter what product is being sold. He also provided many innovative ideas for marketing from his business. He had even set up a London-style phone booth in the middle of his vineyard, where free calls are made anywhere in the world. This was so unique that Nova Scotia Tourism used this as their premier picture for tourism brochures – no doubt responsible for drawing many customers to the vineyard location.
While the main tour was proceeding, an alternate "budget tour" with ten participants (including a Global Focus Group of Scholars) were billeted in Annapolis Valley. They toured various sites and participated in the conference day and banquet. This was an experiment in an effort to attract more recent scholars to the conference who may not to be able to afford the cost or time to attend the full event.
Prince Edward Island
The following morning there were a few goodbyes and the remaining 90 delegates travelled to Prince Edward Island, stopping to view cultivated wild blueberries and the innovative harvesting equipment designed for the tough terrain en-route.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada's smallest province and the birthplace of Canadian Confederation (original discussions in 1864 took place in Charlottetown). The group travelled across the 13km ‘Confederation Bridge’ and upon arrival at the hotel, were greeted by Anne of Green Gables.
Delegates spent the next few days on different tours learning about innovative agriculture. The main focus was dairy, potato production and processing, halibut aquaculture, cranberry production, horse breeding equipment manufacturing and seed and garden operations.
Delegates also spent an evening at the horse racing (pacing) track and awarded the winning horse of the inaugural "Nuffield Pace." A few were quite successful in picking winning horses!
The rich history of PEI was also explored in Charlottetown and on the famous North Shore area. A visit to PEI was also a chance to savour their famous lobster and blue mussels.
On the final day in PEI, delegates were hosted by the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island and wrapped up the day with a Kitchen Party, hosted at the Culinary Institute of Canada. From a local story teller, the group learned about the two parts of the world – PEI (pop 140,000) and the rest (seven billion – 140,000), danced a jig and sampled quality food. The group also had an opportunity to meet the Minister of Agriculture and the current oldest living Nuffield Scholar – William Cairns (1952 Sch).
After further goodbyes, the remaining 55 delegates travelled to Ontario. The tour started in the Niagara region – Canada's premier growing area. Delegates visited Vineland Research Centre which is focused on introducing new crops to Ontario and innovative businesses connected to wine and fruit production.
After an evening of humorous authentic ‘Canadiana’ at the "Oh Canada" dinner theatre, the group visited a robotic dairy with family stories, a brewery farm and held an excellent discussion on farm succession at a local ginseng and tobacco farm. The final stay was at London (Ontario). The group split up the following day to tour Chatham-Kent and Huron Counties, and experienced salt mines, tornado destruction and rebuilding, cow girls, horse ranches, fruit production and finally Thompson's bean processing facilities.
Tired Nuffielders headed home to London (Ontario) for the final evening banquet. After farewell speeches and the official closing of the 2014 Nuffield Triennial Conference, delegates sang and danced with a tribute to Neil Diamond.
The hardiest of delegates who hadn't seen enough of Canada toured Alberta and British Columbia for an extra week. They were introduced to varied aspects of beef production, saw the Ponoka Rodeo, visited large grain and oilseed operations, demonstrating the diversity and vastness of agriculture in the west. One highlight of this trip was an evening picnic shared with western Nuffielders at Marilyn Sharp's (1985 Sch) near Lacombe, Alberta.
The most common feedback from delegates was that they were surprised at the wide diversity of agriculture that they saw on the tour.
Barry Cudmore (2004 Sch), Chair of the Nuffield Canada Organising Committee, said in closing: "We are so pleased to have hosted the 2014 Triennial and appreciate all the positive comments about delegates' experiences along the way. You stood up to the fast pace we set and the torch is now passed on to Roger Mercer and the UK Committee. See you all in 2017."
Photographs taken at the event can be viewed via this link (external site)