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FALL 2016


Depression. Mental illness. People in rural communities used to be quiet about these conditions, and many still are. But there’s a growing movement of people who want to talk about depression—who realize how mental illness is affecting people in rural communities.

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The flexibility to sell the crop when markets are favourable, rather than when circumstances dictate, is a pillar of farm profitability. It’s one reason why farmers invest in grain storage. It’s also why many turn to the Advance Payments Program (APP) or cash advance funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

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Over the past few decades, craft beer in Alberta has gone from a myth, to a rarity, to a pervasive and positive force of change that shows no signs of slowing down. Now, another ambitious craft alcohol movement with a rich history in the province has emerged in the hopes of replicating craft beer’s success and enthusiastic following among Albertans. However, the brew being touted by these new craft acolytes is not beer. In fact, it’s much stronger stuff.

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There is nothing like the feeling of fall on the Prairies. The vibrant colours and sweet scents of another successful harvest before winter creeps in inspire festive get-togethers that are a farming tradition more than 10,000 years old. As we get set to give thanks this year, it’s fascinating to consider exactly where this year’s harvest originated.

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These days, a trip to the grocery store can be an overwhelming experience.

Gluten-free, GMO-free, MSG-free, free-run, cage-free, hormone-free, organic, all-natural, pesticide-free—the list goes on and on. Row upon row of descriptors and labels plastered on food packaging, all aimed at better informing the consumer.

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While federal and provincial lawmakers tried for more than 50 years from the late 1800s to early 1900s to discourage the consumption of alcohol in Canada, referendums and legislation— often limited in scope—appeared to have only marginal success.

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The research never stops—at the end of every experiment, there may be answers, but there are always more questions. It’s like the toddler who keeps asking, “why?” Is it because the more we know, the more we realize we don’t actually understand? That may well be the case, but it is the almost child-like curiosity of our best agricultural researchers that drives innovation. It’s all about incremental progress. The upshot is we all get to benefit from it in the end—whether we’re other scientists, growers or consumers.

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We all know the clichéd phrase about thinking globally and acting locally. In my experience, crop producers in Western Canada are the best example of this idea. You know how to manage the low spot in one field, but you are also aware of the weather in Australia and the political situation in the Middle East because all of these things may affect your bottom line.

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Travelling around Western Canada in rural and urban areas, you will often see signs for agricultural research centres and field or livestock research sites. You might also see people working with livestock, planting test plots, doing fieldwork, taking notes or harvesting research trial crops. These research activities are undertaken by universities, governments, institutes, private-sector companies and farmer-directed applied research organizations. Many people are unaware of the wide range of careers in agricultural research and the issues and opportunities addressed via the research activities of people working in a range of scientific disciplines.

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