Youth unemployment in Canada (14-19 years of age) is almost double the general unemployment rate. Seniors have pushed young people out of the entry level jobs in fast food and retail.
At the same time 65,000 temporary foreign workers come to Canada each year to work on farms and help feed us all. Is there any way young people can be trained to do some of these jobs?
The above image is from a Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) study, Surrey’s Under-utilized ALR Lands, from around 2013. The smiling faces in the picture are in Vermont, learning how to be urban farmers.
You cannot take a fifteen year old used to spending hours on screen time, and put them in an orchard picking apples for 12 hours. Farm work is physically demanding and requires focus and good technique. Youth have to be eased into this kind of hard physical work. Where are young people going to learn these skills?
Urban farms are small in size but they need workers every year. They need skilled and motivated people. These young farmers pay a living wage and treat their workers really well. Urban farms are designed to supply a growing niche market for regionally sourced vegetables, both fresh and those stored for months eg. Carrots. Demand for workers on urban farms will increase and this is in addition to the conventional demand for foreign workers mentioned above.
Canada has around 194,000 census farmers, as of the 2016 Census; and BC had 17,500 census farms. Farm numbers in BC and Canada fell by 11.3% and 5.9% respectively and are set to collapse more, as the average farmer in Canada is almost 60. Who will replace them? The young farmers in training pictured above are the engines of future economic prosperity. Similar smiling young faces are in farmer training programs all across Canada, as well eg. The Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, North West Territories (NWT), Canada.
Each community from coast to coast to coast, with small parcels of under-used land and young people, can create youth employment. The young people pictured are learning to be farmers. The farm workers are trained by these young farmers. That is the best school for them and the farmers and society.
Finding enough well trained semi-permanent workers is a major challenge. Lack of farm workers severely limits our food production capacity in Canada.
Could this be a perfect fit for youth? Jobs that involve ecological action to capture carbon but too physically demanding for others?
Jobs for young people in urban farming can be started at the local level by consumers and farmers and community partners. Is this something Boomers could help Millenials and Gen Z work on together?