The thoughts, sights, and sounds of my summer as an EWB Junior Fellow

A Glimpse of Life on a (Larger-Scale) SW Saskatchewan Grain Farm

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Perhaps one of the things about myself which I hold most dear is my upbringing as part of my family’s grain farming operation. I believe I am in an extremely lucky and unique situation, to have been given the grounding perspective of being a member of a true family farm, yet given the opportunity to study engineering and spend an entire summer away as an Engineers Without Borders Junior Fellow. I recognize that my focusing on school and taking this summer away from the farm impacts my family significantly. It places an additional strain on my mom Laurel and dad Allan, older brother Sean, younger sister Angela, and younger brother Ian. They continue to plunge into another growing season with all drive, hope, and determination that is mustered every year, despite many mental, emotional, and physical strains. It is by their sacrifice that I am able to make these lifelong friends, be a part of the almost surreal atmosphere of intensity that is pre-dep, try to integrate into a completely new Ghanaian culture, connect with Ghanaian farmers, and potentially have impact in the agriculture sector in Ghana. For every thing I experience and learn, I ask you to understand that it is only made possible by the hard work, support, and selflessness of my family back home.

I would like to share with you a few glimpses of what I experienced when I was home the week before I came to pre-dep on Sunday. I hope this can provide a jumping off point for all of the insights I am soon to gain about what agriculture in Ghana can entail.

Amidst my preparations for leaving for the summer, I tried my best to help with the seeding preparations. The task I was set to was washing the windows, inside and out, on as many key farm implements as possible. I know. Washing windows? Is that really farm work? This struck me as ironic. In Ghana, my prediction is that this job is not likely to exist, due to absence of closed cabs on farm machinery, or rather due to the relative absence of self-propelled farm machinery.

Another day I got the chance to help my older brother move BIG rocks from a strip of land we are breaking for the first time this year. That job would be considerably more difficult without access to a front-end loader tractor.

Rather than packing the night before I had to leave for Saskatoon, I enjoyed a beautiful evening in the field with my family. The sheer size and technology of our implements allow us to farm over 9,000 acres spread over 120 miles. Concepts such as economies of scale greatly influence farm investment decisions. Larger, newer equipment is needed to be able to seed and harvest on time with unpredictable weather, but then an increase in land farmed is needed to be able to justify the new equipment investment. Large farms expand in this way, and smaller, less progressive farmers retire, often selling their land to investors or large local farms.

This is the reality that is a part of me back home. I am hoping to draw on my agricultural background over the summer, but also to not allow it to get in the way of being open to new ideas and appreciating the many nuances of agriculture in Ghana

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4 responses

  1. Raquel Vigueras

    You’re so luck to have grown up on a farm, and you will definitely bring a wealth of knowledge to the AVC team. I can picture you sitting around the fire in the evening with your host family, while they’re all listening intently to your upbringing, and asking you questions of what your farm is like in Canada! Safe travels and good luck. 🙂

    May 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

  2. Stephanie Laing

    I hope you have some printed pictures of your farm to show your family or they won’t believe what your farm looks like! I can’t wait to hear more from you in Ghana and hear what your family has to say about Canadian farms. Keep up the good work!

    May 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm

  3. minashahid

    hey alanna,
    i am super interested to hear about what you think of 1 acre farming in rural ghana! no tractors, no combines, just your hands and your hoe! also, can i work on your farm…?

    May 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    • alannahowell

      Absolutely you can work on our farm! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find people to help us! 🙂 I am very excited to meet some colleagues from my partner organization tomorrow, and then begin my stay in a village outside of Wa. Hopefully it won’t be long before I am weeding with a hoe!

      May 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm

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