What inspires farmers and why is their job so important? Robert Walker explains:
Why did you want to be a farmer?
I didn’t always want to be a farmer. I wasn’t sure for a while growing up. It wasn’t until I did a co-op class at The University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus Agriculture school during my grade 12 year of high school. I got a job working for the soybean breeding program there. Which let me learn first hand about all the biotechnology in soybeans. I spent an entire summer working there and then they continued to let me work while I was actually attending post secondary education there. After learning more about developing new varieties of soybeans to combat disease, pests, climate and increased yield demands I was a lot more interested in farming.
What crops do you grow?
We grow soybeans, wheat and corn. My Dad is 79 years old and still actively farms. He bought his first farm when he was 19 years old, but had worked on one since he was a teenager. He wasn’t able to farm full time until he was in his 40’s, when he quit his job in town. Now we farm about 1350 acres in total of land we own between my Dad and I.
What impact do pests and disease have on your crops?
I have only been farming full time for about 12 years now, but what I have learned in that time combined with what I was taught and observed growing up is there will always be new challenges with pests, disease, weather, and now herbicide resistance
In general, how important is it to have access to crop protection/ biotech products?
It is very important for us to have access to crop protection products because our success depends on it. The world’s population is always increasing and everybody wants to eat. Even in the 12 years I have been farming I have seen our yield averages slowly increase thanks to better farming practises and genetically modified crops.
Biotechnology has drastically reduced the amount of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides we use. Insects such as wire worm, western bean cutworm, rootworm and aphids are common pests in our area and we use bt varieties to defend against them.
Why is your profession important in the challenge to feed the world?
Farmers need to use the latest products, strategies and technology available to keep up with the growing population of the world. I couldn’t imagine going back to a time where most crops grown were organic and we had to fight more diseases, pests, weeds and poor climate tolerances. It’s just not possible to produce the same quality of product or yields. You hear a lot about how some people have a fear of GMO food. But they really don’t understand the science behind it.
What inspires you about your job?
Lots of things inspire me about my job. The biggest thing I love about farming is getting to spend so much of my day outside. From working ground, planting a seed, taking care of it through the season as the plant grows, to harvest, and storage… It’s all interesting and keeps you challenging yourself. Every year is different.