NFU University

Past Classes

In case you missed our webinars, or want to catch up on previous NFUniversity classes, browse our NFUniversity library featuring all classes uploaded on our YouTube Channel.

Click a link below to locate a complete description of the previous NFUniversity course and materials that were made from it.

Agroecology: Scaling up Sustainable Farming in a Planet in Polycrisis

Agroecology seeks to emulate nature in agro-ecosystems.  It works in concert with natural flows and cycles and embraces diversity. It has been shown to enhance food production in small scale farming systems with low inputs and in the midst of climatic variability. But what does agroecology look like when scaled up to encompass diversified large crop fields and pastures?  What does it look like when practiced in drier places?  Does it imply or require larger social and economic shifts?  Join us as we delve into how to think of agroecology on a larger scale.

Miguel A Altieri, 2020
Presenter info

Miguel A Altieri studied agronomy at the University of Chile, where he received a BS. He also obtained a Masters on agricultural sciences at the National University of Colombia. He graduated with a Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Florida. In 1981 he became Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and after 37 years of service he now serves as Professor Emeritus.

At Berkeley he taught agroecology and urban agriculture, but he also serves as guest professor in numerous Universities in Latin America, Spain and Italy. He has conducted most of his research in California and Latin America working closely with farmers on implementing principles of agroecology to design productive, biodiverse and resilient farming systems.

Altieri served as a Scientific Advisor to the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Development (CLADES) Chile, an NGO network promoting agroecology as a strategy for small farm sustainable development in the region. He also served for 4 years as the General Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension Programme which aimed at capacity building on agroecology among NGOs and the scaling up of successful local sustainable agricultural initiatives in Africa, Latin America and Asia. He was the chairman of the NGO committee of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research whose mission was to make sure that the research agenda of the 15 International Agricultural Research Centers benefited poor farmers. He was Director of the US-Brasil Consortium on Agroecology and Sustainable Rural Development (CASRD), an academic-research exchange program involving students and faculty of UC Berkeley, University of Nebraska, UNICAMP and Universidad Federal de Santa Catarina. He also served as scientific advisor to the Food and Agriculture Organization Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) program, which is devoted at identifying and dynamically conserving traditional farming systems in the developing world. He was for 6 years the President of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology ( www.socla.co).

In 2006 he was awarded an Honorary Ph.D. 1996 Universidad Nacional de Cajamarca, Peru. In 2015 he received a Doctor Honoris Causa at the Universite Catholique du Lovain, Belgium. In 2017, he became Honorary Professor of the University of La Frontera in Chile. In 2018 he was inducted to the Earth Hall of Fame by the Kyoto Prefecture, Japan and received the Diploma de Reconocimiento ( recognition diploma) “Naturaleza, Territorio y Sociedad” from the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico. In 2022 he recived an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad Nacional Agraria de Habana, Cuba.

He has written more than 250 scientific articles and more than 40 books among them Agroecology: the science of sustainable agriculture, Biodiversity and pest management in agroecosystems and Agroecology: science and politics.

He is currently Co-Director of the Centro LatinoAmericano de Investigaciones Agroecologicas (CELIA –www.celia.agroeco.org) He is also a farmer in the hillsides of south west Antioquia, Colombia, where together with his wife Dr. Clara Nicholls established an agroecological lighthouse promoting food sovereignty projects in impoverished neighboring rural communities. Every year he serves as visiting professor at the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Spain , the University of Pavia, Italy and various Universities in Colombia and other Latin American countries.

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Colonial Roots of Modern Free Trade Agreements

This talk explores the colonial origins of modern international trade. Since the 1990s, the World Trade Organization, bilateral investment treaties, and free trade agreements have governed the international trade and investment regime based on free market ideology, but geopolitics, power relations, and corporate interests have shaped trade rules for over 500 years before they reached their current form.

The development of international trade and mercantilism at the dawn of colonialism resulted from an alliance between colonial states and companies that allowed them to shape international trade and investment rules until most states gained their independence after World War II. Today’s free trade practices reflect their colonial legacy, as the center of the global economy continues to dictate and shape activity in the periphery according to its own interests. A sound assessment of the nature of these trade and investment agreements is essential to addressing the problems they create.

Additional resource and background: “How colonialism shaped free trade agreements” by Nicolas Roux.

Presenter info

Nicolas Roux is the coordinator of bilaterals.org, a website that tracks information on free trade agreements and resistance to them. He also teaches international trade at the Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, France. He was the trade spokesperson for Friends of the Earth France for almost 10 years and currently sits on the board of Attac France.

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Wetlands Destruction: What We Lose, and Quantifying Emissions

Wetlands are crucial centers of biodiversity. But in many parts of the country we are draining, plowing, and destroying wetlands. And when we do, they release greenhouse gasses. How can we protect wetlands and make that protection a core part of efforts to reduce emissions and increase biodiversity? 

Presenter info

Dr. Kerri Finlay, University of Regina and,

Dr. Colin Whitfield, University of Saskatchewan and Global Institute of Water Security

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Black Farmers and Black Farms Matter: The History of Black Farming on the Canadian Prairies 1872-1920

In the popular imagination, agriculture is often seen as a site of oppression and exploitation of Black people. However, Karina Vernon’s talk reveals agriculture as an important but under-celebrated site of resistance and freedom for Black people in Canada. By looking at examples of particular Black farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, their histories of migration, and their literary and oral cultures, this talk reveals how farms provided the ground for Black sovereignty, collective agency, and community resilience in Canada. Finally, this talk considers how the important memory of Black “freedom farms” are being kept alive in the present through story and song.

Karina Vernon
Presenter info

Karina Vernon is an associate professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she researches and teaches in the areas of Canadian and Black Canadian literature, Black aesthetics, archives, critical pedagogy, and Black-Indigenous solidarities. She is editor of The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology, released in 2020. The book publishes for the first time, writing that ranges from work by nineteenth- century black fur traders and pioneers to contemporary writing of the twenty-first century. These writings enrich our understanding of black Canada by bringing to light the prairies; black histories, cultures, and presences. She will soon publish a companion volume, Critical Readings in the Black Prairie Archives.

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Decolonizing the Climate, Biodiversity and Food Crises: Critical Indigenous Approaches

What do Indigenous perspectives tell us about interlocking Earth crises like climate change, biodiversity loss, and food injustice, and ways to respond to these?  How can work on climate, food and sustainability center Indigenous knowledges in ways that foreground Indigenous peoples’ decolonial struggles for land defense and land rematriation, biocultural diversity restoration, and the restitution of land-based sovereignty–including food sovereignty?  

Leonardo Figuero Helland
Presenter info

Leonardo E Figueroa Helland (PhD) (he/him/le’e) is Chair and Associate Professor of the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management graduate (MS) program at The New School university (Lenapehoking/Manahatta/New York City). He leads the Indigeneity, Decolonization and Just Sustainability Section of the Tishman Environment and Design Center. A decolonizing scholar of mestizo (mixed-blood) heritage (Indigenous Mesoamerican and Euro-American), his work underlines the centrality of Indigenous resurgence and revitalization in addressing planetary crises, achieving climate justice and materializing systemic change. He does so by articulating radical Indigenous approaches with other counterhegemonic liberatory perspectives to envision and enact decolonial sovereign (including food sovereign) futures against and beyond imperialist, settler colonial, neocolonial, patriarchal, anthropocentric, capitalist and state-centric orders.  His articles appear, inter alia, in the following journals: the NYU Environmental Law Journal (ELJ); Journal of World Systems ResearchPerspectives on Global Development and TechnologyStudies in Twentieth & Twenty-First Century Literature; Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial StudiesJournal of Critical Education and Policy Studies (JCEPS); and UNESCO Journal of Higher Education and Society/Educación Superior y Sociedad (ESS). His chapters appear in the following volumes: Social Movements and World-System TransformationInhabiting the Earth: Anarchist Political Ecology for Landscapes of EmancipationContesting Extinctions: Critical Relationality, Regenerative Futures; and forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Historical Sociology; as well as in Grassroots Resistances, Alternatives and Solutions to the 21st Century Climate and Global Ecological Crises: Voices from the Global South. He has recently edited two special numbers of Perspectives on Global Development and Technology on the theme of “Earth Crisis and the Global Environmental Movement”. His current projects include two books. The first one to be prospectively titled Indigenous Resurgence and Earth Crisis: Decolonizing Pathways to Liberation and Regeneration (book project under contract at Routledge). The second one is tentatively titled The Indigenous Shape of Worlds to Come: Decolonial Futures beyond Resistance (book project to be prospectively published by Daraja Press).

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Social and Economic Impacts of Changing Land use and Land Tenure

Companies and individuals are increasingly seeking to buy land in Scotland to benefit from its ‘offsetting’ potential, while farmers and landowners are being asked to increase the positive environmental impact of land use. The Scottish government was concerned with the social and economic impacts on rural people of changes in land use and tenure, so it commissioned research to measure current trends and guide policy on land reform, net zero and other environmental goals, natural capital governance, and community engagement in decision-making. Naomi Beingessner’s presentation will provide examples of both small and large-scale change from Scotland and other Global North countries and assesses the perceived and actual impacts – both benefits and challenges – on rural communities, businesses, and land managers, offering considerations for land use transitions and highlighting concerns regarding equity and social justice outcomes.

Presenter info

Naomi Beingessner was born and raised in southern Saskatchewan, Treaty Four Territory. She completed an MA on alternative land tenure in Saskatchewan at the University of Regina in 2013 and a PhD on changing relations of agricultural land tenure and access in the Canadian Prairies at the University of Manitoba in 2022. She currently works as a social researcher at The James Hutton Institute in Scotland where her work focuses on socio-economic impacts of land use and ownership change on rural peoples. So far, this has included research on land reform futures, land use in a just transition, ‘green’ land investment, and community land rights. Her work often provides information and evidence for Scottish Government policy on land-related issues.

 

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Low-Hanging Fruit? What can farmers do to reduce emissions now?

Momentum is building for on-farm emissions reductions.  Farmers face an array of options. But what is practical and cost-effective now? What four or five things should farmers consider in the near term? How can government incentives and cost-sharing help? Listen in for a practical session with experts focused on near-term, on-farm actions.

Presenter info

Dr. David Burton, Dalhousie University, expert on nitrogen fertilizer

Dr. Hushton Block, AAFC, expert on enteric emissions from cattle 

Dr. Andrew VanderZaag, AAFC, expert on emissions from manure

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Resistência à grilagem de terras para plantações de eucalipto no Brasil

Junte-se a nós para ouvir os líderes comunitários da biozona da Mata Atlântica do Brasil que estão lutando para cultivar alimentos para suas famílias e comunidades em resistência direta à expansão de plantações destrutivas de eucalipto controladas pela grande empresa de celulose Suzano.

Os territórios indígenas e as terras ocupadas por quilombolas foram tomados para as plantações de eucalipto e a expansão ainda não terminou. As plantações industriais da empresa brasileira Suzano (a maior empresa de celulose do mundo) cercam e isolam muitas pequenas comunidades agrícolas, esgotando as fontes de água locais e expondo pessoas, plantações e animais de criação a pulverizações de pesticidas. As plantações de eucalipto secaram córregos, rios e até lagos em territórios onde os direitos à terra são disputados. As plantações substituem a floresta nativa e não sustentam nenhuma vida animal, exceto o pólen de eucalipto que alimenta as abelhas.

O Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) está retomando as terras de plantação e transformando-as em agricultura agroecológica e agroflorestal, argumentando que a terra pode ser produtiva para a agricultura e para as pessoas, em vez de para a produção de celulose e para a Suzano. As comunidades quilombolas estão lutando pelo reconhecimento legal de suas terras, já que a Suzano continua a invadir as fazendas locais e as terras tradicionais da comunidade.

O contato com esses líderes foi feito durante visitas a comunidades no Brasil, em maio de 2023, por Lucy Sharratt e Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt, da Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), como parte de uma delegação internacional para trocar informações sobre árvores geneticamente modificadas e plantações industriais. Clique aqui para obter informações sobre o intercâmbio.

Histórico: A empresa de celulose Suzano afirma ser proprietária de 1,4 milhão de hectares de plantações de eucalipto no Brasil. Isso inclui territórios indígenas e terras ocupadas por povos e comunidades quilombolas e camponeses. As plantações de eucalipto da Suzano são responsáveis por graves danos sociais, ambientais e climáticos, incluindo desmatamento, poluição, escassez de água e destruição de terras férteis. No estado do Espírito Santo, as famílias do Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) produzem mais de 100 toneladas de alimentos por ano em terras que retomaram dos eucaliptos da Suzano. Ninguém come eucalipto, e mais de 33 milhões de famílias passam fome no Brasil. Se os 1,4 milhão de hectares de plantações da Suzano fossem usados para a reforma agrária, seriam suficientes para garantir a sobrevivência de mais de 115.000 famílias. – Extraído de “O que você deve saber sobre a Suzano Papel e Celulose” Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicais, 2023.

Presenter info

 

Célio Pinheiro Leocádio é quilombola, nascido no Quilombo de Volta Miúda, em Caravelas, no extremo sul do estado da Bahia, no nordeste do Brasil. Ele é um mobilizador e ativista. Célio é Coordenador dos Movimentos e Articulações Quilombolas do Extremo Sul da Bahia e Presidente da Associação dos Produtores Remanescentes de Quilombos de Volta Miúda – Caravelas.

 


Diosmar Filho é doutorando em Geografia pela Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), no Brasil. É pesquisador e coordenador científico da Associação de Pesquisa Iyaleta, onde lidera a pesquisa “Desigualdades e Mudanças Climáticas”. Coordenou o projeto de pesquisa “Amazônia Legal Urbana – Análises Socioespaciais das Mudanças Climáticas (2020/2022)” e atualmente é co-líder do projeto de pesquisa “Adaptação Climática: uma interseção entre o Brasil 2022-2024”.

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Resisting land grabs for eucalyptus plantations in Brazil

Cliquez “FR” pour voir la version en français.

Join us to hear from Quilombola community leaders in the Atlantic Forest biozone of Brazil who are fighting to grow food for their families and communities in direct resistance to the expansion of destructive eucalyptus tree plantations controlled by the major pulp company Suzano. 

Indigenous territories and lands settled by Quilombola have been grabbed for eucalyptus tree plantations – and the expansion is not over. The industrial plantations of the largest pulp company in the world, Brazilian company Suzano, surround and cut off many small farming communities. They exhaust local water sources and expose people, crops and farm animals to pesticide spray. Eucalyptus tree plantations have dried up streams, rivers and even lakes in territories where land rights are disputed. The plantations replace native forest, and support no animal life except for eucalyptus pollen that feeds bees. 

The Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is taking back plantation land and transforming it into agroecological and agroforestry farming. They argue the land can be productive for farming and people instead of pulp production and Suzano. Quilombola communities are fighting for legal recognition of their lands as Suzano continues to encroach on local farms and traditional community lands.

Lucy Sharratt and Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) met with these leaders during community visits in Brazil as part of an international delegation to exchange information on genetically engineered trees and industrial plantations in May 2023. 

Background: The pulp company Suzano says it owns 1.4 million hectares of eucalyptus plantations in Brazil. This includes Indigenous territories, and lands settled by Quilombola and peasant peoples and communities. Suzano’s eucalyptus plantations are responsible for serious social, environmental and climate harm, including deforestation, pollution, water shortages, and destruction of fertile lands. In the state of Espírito Santo, families of the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) produce more than 100 tonnes of food per year on land that they have taken back from Suzano’s eucalyptus. Nobody eats eucalyptus, and more than 33 million families go hungry in Brazil. If Suzano’s 1.4 million hectares of plantations were used for land reform, it would be enough to ensure the survival of more than 115,000 families. – excerpted from “What you should know about Suzano Papel e Celulose”, World Rainforest Movement, 2023.

Presenter info

Célio Pinheiro Leocádio is a Quilombola, born in the Quilombo of Volta Miúda, in Caravelas in the far south of Bahia state, in the north-east of Brazil. He is a mobiliser and activist. He is Coordinator of the Quilombola Movements and Articulation of the Far South of Bahia and he is President of the Association of Remaining Quilombola Producers of Volta Miúda – Caravelas. 

 


Diosmar Filho is a PhD candidate in Geography at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) in Brazil. He is a researcher and scientific coordinator of the Iyaleta Research Association where he leads the “Inequalities and Climate Change” research. He coordinated the research project “Urban Legal Amazon – Socio-spatial Analyses of Climate Change (2020/2022)” and is currently co-leading the research project “Climate Adaptation: an intersection between Brazil 2022-2024.

 

 

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Government Ag Policy Capacity: Learning from the PFRA, Building a CFRA

What is the NFU’s proposed Canadian Farm Resilience Agency (CFRA)?  How will it function?  Why does the climate crisis require this type of all-out response?  How does the CFRA draw on, and update, the model of the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) established during the 1930s?  Join us as we look back on the PFRA and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and look ahead to a CFRA as a response to the challenges of the 2030s, and beyond.

Presenter info

Carl Neggers, former Director General, PFRA

Ann Slater, Former NFU VP and member of our CFRA Working Group

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Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships

What is the relationship between economic progress in the land now called Canada and the exploitation of Indigenous peoples? And what gifts embedded within Indigenous world views speak to miyo- pimâtisiwin ᒥᔪ ᐱᒫᑎᓯᐃᐧᐣ (the good life) and specifically to good economic relations? Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships draws on the knowledge systems of the nehiyawak ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐊᐧᐠ (Plains Cree people) to explain settler colonialism through the lens of economic exploitation. This talk looks at Indigenous knowledges and teachings on Indigenous economic relationships as tools that enable us to reimagine how we can aspire to the good life with all our relations.

 

Presenter info

Dr. Shalene Jobin is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Governance, and Director of the Indigenous Governance and Partnership program at the University of Alberta. Dr. Jobin’s most recent publication is the book  Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships: Nehiyawak Narratives. She is also involved in Indigenous Approaches to Governance in the 21st Century and the Prairie Indigenous Relationality Network, co-founded the Wahkohtowin Law & Governance Lodge, and is co-creator and founding Academic Director of the Indigenous Partnership Development Program. Shalene is Cree from her mother (Wuttunee family) and Métis from her father (Jobin family) and is a member of Red Pheasant Cree First Nation (Treaty Six).

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Energy and Materials Blindness: A Systems Overview

Nate Hagens explains the inter-connected relationship between energy, economic growth, human behavior, materials, and the environment and how what he describes as the Superorganism is both energy and materials blind.  Through a systemic view of these and other global factors affecting agriculture and driving our society, Nate discusses the challenges and opportunities we’ll face in the coming decades.

Presenter info

Dr. Nate Hagens is the Executive Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF). Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers, ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate is an author, educator, website editor, and host of the podcast The Great Simplification.”

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Interest, debt and inflation – who’s winning?

We often think of inflation as bad for everyone, but that’s wrong. Someone is getting and keeping all those extra dollars everyone is paying. Inflation is conflict: business vs business, industry vs industry, workers vs profits. Its a battle to see who gets all those inflation dollars. We saw this play out in the food supply chain last year as Frito-lay fought with Loblaws over who would capture inflation dollars. The Bank of Canada believes higher interest rates are the solution to inflation. In fact, higher interest rates are actually increasing inflation. Homeowners, businesses and farmers are being sideswiped by interest costs. Cheap debt was pushed onto anyone who would take it — but now, the implications of rising interest rates for farmers could be severe. CCPA economist David Macdonald examines who has won and who has lost from inflation in the food supply chain.

Presenter info

David Macdonald is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Senior Ottawa Economist. Since 2008 he has coordinated the Alternative Federal Budget, which takes a fresh look at the federal budget from a progressive perspective. David has also written on a variety of topics, from child care to income inequality to federal fiscal policy. He is a regular media commentator on national policy issues, often speaking to the CBC, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Canadian Press.

 

 

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From DDT to Climate Change: How warnings about environmental hazards have been ignored, dismissed, and disparaged

Despite the pressing reality of anthropogenic climate change and ongoing environmental destruction, misinformation and apathy continue to thrive in Canada and across the globe. As Dr. Naomi Oreskes explains, this dire situation is the result of a long history of efforts by corporate power to undermine climate action and scientific truth. She explores key moments and issues from the 20th century to help us better understand the current predicament we face.

Presenter info

Dr. Naomi Oreskes is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She is an author of eight books, including Merchants of Doubt in 2010 and The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loath Government and Love the Free Market in 2023, as well as over 150 scholarly and popular articles.

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Solid Biofuels: Agricultural Biomass and BECCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage)

Biofuelwatch’s Co-Director Almuth Ernsting will help NFU members understand emerging technologies such as Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and the possible demands on forests and farmlands and “agricultural residues” that may be called upon in the future to help fuel negative-emissions electricity production. While liquid biofuels are relatively well understood, solid biofuels are less so and raise a number of critical policy issues.

Presenter info

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Seeds of Sustainability

While industrial agriculture has brought certain advantages and conveniences, it is important to acknowledge the many ways the current food system fails to meet societal needs. Dr. Tatenda Mambo highlights how regenerative and agroecological practices can address some of the concerns arising from industrial agriculture systems, and move agriculture away from depleting the very resources it is dependent on. He  shares insights from a southern Alberta integrated farm research project where his team studies ways to cycle nutrients and recapture the value in “waste”. He also discusses ongoing on-farm experiments comparing the performance of locally saved seeds vs nationally distributed seeds and the productivity of different types of horticultural beds.

Presenter info

Tatenda Mambo is a postdoc in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape and an Instructor in the Sustainability Studies program at the University of Calgary. Mambo’s research explores sustainability, sustainable food systems, regenerative agriculture, and food security. At the Simon Farm Project his research team is using regenerative agriculture and agroecological principles to develop an integrated farm model that explores how a more local food system can use agriculture to address environmental problems and local food needs while modelling sustainability.

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The surprising history of peasant abundance

Like small farmers in Canada today, peasants have always suffered from bad press, often considered unproductive, synonymous with poverty, and forced to give way to more ‘efficient’ farmers. Historian Jim Handy shows that in fact, peasants have always been the most efficient producers, using the scarce resources available most effectively. He suggests that even in the face of almost constant persecution and repression, peasant communities provided numerous benefits and a livelihood that was often surprisingly abundant.

Handy’s exploration looks into the details of historical peasant productivity and repression with case studies from England in the late 18 th century to Kerala in the late 20th century. His research suggests we can ask new questions and keep learning from these stories today.

Presenter info

Jim Handy is a Professor of History at the University of Saskatchewan, where he has taught for 36 years.  The winner of numerous teaching awards, he is the author of more than 50 articles and chapters and five books.  Apostles of Inequality: Rural Poverty, Political Economy and the Economist, 1760-1860 (University of Toronto Press) and Tiny Engines of Abundance: A History of Peasant Productivity and Repression (Fernwood) were both published in 2022.

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Conserving Soil Carbon on Farms: An Ecosystem Perspective

How can we apply “systems thinking” to carbon as it flows through plants, animals, soils, crops, and the atmosphere?  How can we go beyond simplistic stories about sequestration?  AAFC’s Dr. Henry Janzen has many years of experience in studying and thinking about carbon as it flows through the biosphere and through farm fields. Join us to learn more about the world around us, what we can do on our farms, and what policies might be needed to build soil health, reduce emissions, and foster resilience.

Presenter info

Dr. Henry Janzen is an Honorary Research Associate with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, AB.  As a soil biochemist, he has studied the flows of carbon and nutrients through farmlands, looking for ways to sustain their many functions: furnishing food, providing livelihoods, maintaining biodiversity, and buffering climate. He has written extensively about the role of soils in mitigating climate change as well as soil nitrogen dynamics, whole-farm GHG modelling, restorative cropping systems, and the place of livestock in ecosystems.  More recently, he has contemplated how solar energy streams through ecosystems, impelling their various functions and renewing their health.  In all of these inquiries, he has sought a long-term view, reaching deep into the past and also trying to foresee how today’s choices shape the future.

 

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Western Grains Research Foundation – How it works with and for farmers

The WGRF was established in 1981 as a permanent institution with a board made of representatives of 18 farm organizations, including the National Farmers Union. WGRF has a unique role and opportunity to direct research that takes the whole farm into account and address the full range of growing conditions across western Canada. It supports plant breeding and agronomic research, and invests in cross-cutting research, bringing together multiple research disciplines to better understand complex challenges farmers have identified.

Presenter info

Dr. Keith Degenhardt and his family raise purebred Angus bulls and mixed-angus cattle and pedigreed cereal, oilseed, forage and pulse seed on their intergenerational east-central Alberta farm. As Chair of the Western Grains Research Foundation board of directors, Keith brings his knowledge of farmers’ reality and aspirations to his role. He will detail how the WGRF achieves its mandate to carry out farmer-funded, farmer-directed crop research to benefit western Canadian grain farmers.

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Farm Building Energy Efficiency: Retrofits and Heat Pumps

What are the options for raising heating efficiency, replacing fossil fuels, and decarbonizing farm homes and buildings?  NFU member and Saskatchewan farmer Glenn Wright shares his hands-on, on-farm experience with ground-source heat pumps, building insulation, and solar panels. Alex Ferguson, from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) shares his expertise on air-source heat pumps and the challenges of deploying these heating solutions in cold climates.

Presenter info

Glenn Wright and his family grow grains, oilseeds, and pulse crops near Delisle, SK.  Glenn worked as an engineer for 20 years and recently became a lawyer.  Glenn and his family have installed a solar array, heat their home with geothermal energy, recently completed a deep insulation retrofit on their home, and have reduced domestic emissions by >50%.  Glenn and his family have also adopted low-input farming practices to reduce reliance on purchased inputs, reduce GHG emissions, and manage risks.

Alex Ferguson is a researcher at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Since joining NRCan in 2003, he has led efforts to integrate new envelope and heating technologies into residential buildings. In his work, Alex collects experimental measurements from laboratory testing and field trials, and integrates these into nation-wide models to energy, carbon and affordability impacts. Alex also works closely with colleagues from the National Research Council and Codes Canada to integrate these findings into our buildings codes.

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Nitrogen Fertilizer: The NFU’s new report and ways to reduce emissions and strengthen farms

The rapid increase in nitrogen fertilizer use is the primary reason agricultural emissions are increasing.  This increase is incompatible with commitments to reduce economy-wide emissions by 2030 and reach near-zero by 2050.  The NFU has published a new report that takes a big picture, long-term view of nitrogen fertilizer: how it underpins our civilization and our farms, its many benefits, its greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts, ways to reduce those emissions, and how a deep dive into “the nitrogen issue” begins to illuminate the transformations needed in our food systems and on our farms.

Presenter info

Darrin Qualman is the NFU’s Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action.  In his recent work with the NFU, Darrin is the author of several reports including Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis.  In addition to his current position, he served other roles with the NFU between 1996 and 2010 including Director of Research. He has been active in supporting many NFU campaigns including genetically modified wheat, the struggle to retain the Canadian Wheat Board, and work to keep the genetically modified hormone rBGH out of Canadian dairy supplies.  He is also the author of the 2019 book Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future which as recently been translated and released in China. He farmed with his family for two decades just south of Saskatoon. And he has academic degrees in history, biology, and political studies.

This class is available in English only.

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War and the food system

Our food system is under pressure – the COVID-19 pandemic, financialization and volatile commodity markets are already shaping global agriculture. Within this context, what are the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on our food supply, agriculture, and farmers? In this presentation, Dr. Sarah J Martin will examine the changing dynamics of global food markets, giving a big picture view and historical context for the present food crisis and the dynamics of agricultural infrastructures and markets.

Presenter info

Sarah J. Martin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is a political economist specializing in the global political economy of food and agriculture. Past research has explored food sovereignty movements, the political economy of foodservice corporations, and the interaction between finance and agriculture. She is currently researching the dynamics of food, feed and fuel in relation to agri-aqucultures, and recently, co-edited (with Ryan Katz-Rosene) Green Meat: Sustaining Animals, People and the Planet.

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Live Power in Agriculture: Working Equines and Bovines

Michele Vindum, Tony McQuail, Ken Laing, and Jim Gronau will provide an overview of several aspects of draft-animal-powered agriculture: social, economic, mechanical, political, and ecological. The presenters will explore what farmers can gain by using animals for farm work and some of the things farmers lost with the switch to fossil-fueled equipment.  Join us as we explore the practical, philosophical, and ecological aspects of draft animals and how farm work is powered.

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When Industry Writes the Rules

The corporate sector has worked tirelessly to give regulations a bad name: Red Tape. Regulations are powerful legal tools that create a framework of behavior of citizens or businesses. Regulation in the public interest promotes safety, transparency and fairness. But regulations can be barriers for small businesses and individuals when it is costly to comply. Governments have an easy sell when they promote red tape reduction – but when governments invite corporations to the table, the results are regulations that tip the scales in favour of big business. Bruce Campbell will speak about how corporations gain influence over government regulators, what this means for democracy and the public interest, and how we can change the situation and ensure the public interest is protected.

Presenter info

Bruce Campbell is an adjunct professor at York University’s faculty of environmental and urban change, senior fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression, and former executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He is the author of The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied, 2018; and author and editor of Corporate Rules: The real world of business regulation in Canada: How government regulators are failing the public interest, forthcoming April 2022.

View Bruce Campbell’s PowerPoint presentation: REGULATORY CAPTURE-GOVERNMENT COMPLICITY

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Agricultural GHG Emissions: The NFU’s New, Comprehensive Analysis

Join the NFU on March 10 for a deep dive into the sources of agricultural emissions. In order to take actions on our farms to reduce emissions, and in order to work with governments to create programs and policies that can support these on-farm actions, we need to fully understand the sources of emissions. The NFU has written a new report that provides more detail than previously available. Join us as we delve into that new report.

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Speaker: Darrin Qualman, NFU Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action

Darrin Qualman is the NFU’s Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action. He is the author of the 2019 report Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis and the 2019 book Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future. He farmed for two decades and has academic degrees in history, biology, and political studies.

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The Canadian Grain Commission – How does it help farmers?

The Canadian Grain Commission’s job is to uphold quality standards for Canada’s grain and to do this in the interests of farmers. The CGC was established over 100 years to bring fairness to Canada’s grain system. For those of us farming today, the CGC has always been there – but like a fish unable to perceive water, we may not fully realize the extent and impact of the CGC’s work. Join CGC Assistant Chief Commissioner Patty Rosher and Nathan Gerelus, Manager of National Affairs to learn more about the role of the Commissioners, the ways the CGC regulates grain companies and how this benefits farmers, the services CGC provides to farmers such as grading and dockage dispute resolution, as well as the value of the CGC’s grain-related statistics, research on grain quality and safety, the impact of CGC’s quality control system on Canadian grain’s international competitiveness, and other ways the CGC’s duty to act in the interests of farmers balances the power of multinational grain companies to make our system fairer.

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Patty Rosher is Assistant Chief Commissioner of the CGC. She grew up on a farm in Eatonia, SK. Prior to her appointment to the CGC in 2019 she was General Manager for Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), worked for Manitoba Agriculture, the government of Manitoba, and the Canadian Wheat Board. She has Masters degrees in Agricultural Economics and in Business Administration.

As the Manager of National Affairs, Nathan Gerelus supports the Commission in its efforts to foster effective relationships with its stakeholders.  Nathan has worked at the CGC since 2006 in various senior positions responsible for policy, national grain inspection and weighing operations, producer protection, and market access.  Nathan grew up on a grain and cattle farm near Shoal Lake, Manitoba and has a degree in Agriculture from the University of Manitoba.

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Can the Biosphere Fuel Us? Critical Perspectives on Biofuels

With growing awareness of the threats presented by climate change, we have seen the proliferation of policies supporting the use biofuels for transportation, biomass for electricity and a wide range of bioproducts encompassing what some refer to as a “bioeconomy”.  Indeed it is theoretically possible to make most anything currently produced with fossil fuels from bioenergy. But currently, even with the current policies in place, our global economy is fueled primarily by fossil fuels.  To displace fossil fuel use in any significant manner using biofuels would require vastly increasing their production.  But what are the implications of scaling up biofuel production? Can we do so while also feeding a growing population? What are the climate and environmental and human rights implications? Is it even possible? What are the industry claims and the realities?

In this class, Dr. Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, provides a scientific, yet clear explanation of the impacts of biofuels and their production on our environment.

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Presenter

Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. is co-director of Biofuelwatch, which provides information, advocacy and campaigning in relation to the negative impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy on climate, biodiversity and human rights. Her work ranges from grassroots community organizing, to participation in United Nations conventions on climate and biodiversity. In recent years her work has focusssed on bioenergy in climate and forest policy, and providing critical perspective on technologies for “negative emissions”, climate geoengineering, and biotechnology  for bioenergy.  She has a Ph.D. in biology/ecology from the University of Michigan, and prior to her current position, worked as a field biologist. Rachel lives in the U.S. state of Vermont.

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Gene Editing – the Science Explained

Genome editing – also known as “gene editing” – is a hot topic in the agricultural media, and Canada is getting ready to deregulate gene-edited plants. As citizens it is hard to get scientific information about how these new genetic engineering techniques work and what they can do. Gene editing is often presented as being able to produce remarkable results, with great speed and precision. Yet the technologies’ limitations, and the ecological and health risks involved if gene-edited products are used in our fields and food system, are seldom discussed. How is gene editing the same as the genetic engineering technology currently used in commercial crops, and how is it different? Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher will provide clear scientific information to help citizens better understand the public discussion about the future of gene editing.

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Ricarda Steinbrecher

Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher is a biologist and molecular geneticist currently based in Oxford, UK. She has specialized in gene regulation and gene modification and has worked as a research scientist in university and hospital settings. Since 1995 she has worked on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their risks and impacts on agriculture, environment and health, including more recently synthetic biology and the new genome editing techniques. She is involved in UN-led processes, in particular the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety where she represents the Federation of German Scientists, and has been appointed to international expert groups on the risk assessment of GMOs, as well as synthetic biology. She’s a founding member and board member of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, co-director of the UK-based non-governmental organization EcoNexus, and works closely with civil society and small-scale farmers’ groups worldwide. Her recent publications include discussions of the risks and limitations of gene drives.

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Managed Grazing: A Grassroots Tool in our Climate Change Toolbox

NFU members Lydia Carpenter (MB) and Paul Slomp (QC) will share their in-the-field experiences and analyses regarding grazing, grass management, soil building, climate adaptation, resilience, and livestock-production economics. Join us January 13th as we do a deep dive into how grass, grazing, soil, nutrients, and animals can be key parts of whole-system agricultural climate solutions. This will be an inspiring session from two NFU farmer leaders.

Les membres d’UNF Lydia Carpenter (MB) et Paul Slomp (QC) partageront leurs expériences et analyses sur le terrain concernant le pâturage, la gestion de l’herbe, la construction du sol, l’adaptation au climat, la résilience et l’économie de la production animale. Joignez-vous à nous le 13 janvier pour un examen approfondi de la façon dont l’herbe, le pâturage, le sol, les nutriments et les animaux peuvent être des éléments clés des solutions agricoles globales en matière de climat. Il s’agira d’une session inspirante animée par deux leaders fermiers d’UNF.

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COP26 Climate Conference Report Back

Seven NFU farmer leaders attended the UN COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow in November.  Join us December 9th for an NFUniversity session where several members of the NFU contingent will report back and help us understand what was accomplished, what needs to be done, how the process was flawed, the agreements made, the false solutions on offer, the power of civil society in the streets, and how the international COP process intersects with Canadian climate policy and the future of farming.

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Land Reform Lessons from Scotland

After centuries of a landlord-tenant system dating back to feudal times and the Highland Clearances, a new law has opened the door for Scottish communities to change their relationship with the land they live on. Balancing human rights and property rights was key to getting The Land Reform (Scotland) Act passed in 2016. Dr. Kirsteen Shields will highlight how understanding land tenure through a human rights lens made Scotland’s new approach possible, and what difference this makes for the people and the land. As farmland ownership concentration intensifies and access to land becomes increasingly difficult in Canada, Scotland’s example shows that a more equitable, sustainable and democratic approach to land is possible.

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About the presenter

Dr Kirsteen Shields is a lecturer in international law and food security at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a member of its Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, an interdisciplinary hub of research, teaching and consulting expertise, to support decision making to transform agri-food systems and food security. A recipient of the Royal Society of Edinburgh / Fulbright award for her research on food and land reform at Berkeley, University of California. She is the author of Human Rights and the Work of the Scottish Land Commission which outlines key human rights developments and obligations relevant to Scottish land reform in the context of the Commission’s goals and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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Understanding the Upcoming COP26 Climate Conference in Scotland

Meena Raman, with Third World Network and based in Malaysia, will share with us her knowledge of the UN climate negotiation process, including: – Recent history of UN Conference Of the Parties (COP) meetings, including the historic 2015 COP21 in Paris; – The issues up for negotiation in Scotland in November at COP26, including Article 6 (global carbon credit trading), Loss and Damage (possible financial transfers from high-emitting countries to highly-affected, low-emitting nations), and climate financing; and – Frameworks governing so-called “nature-based solutions” and other issues. The NFU is sending eight officials and members to Scotland.

Our contingent has official observer status and will participate in civil society actions, serve as contacts for the media, meet with Canadian officials, and work in solidarity with La Via Campesina allies such as the Scottish Land Workers Alliance. The NFU’s participation in Scotland will enhance our capacities to advance climate policies at home. And this NFUniversity session will provide a foundational understanding of what’s at stake, and in play, at COP26.

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Who benefits from “fake meats”? Silicone Valley and the Future of Farming

The rising popularity of meat substitutes raises many questions for farmers and the food system. The alternative protein market and plant-based analogs such as “meat” use a variety of plants such as soy, pea and wheat. Cellular Agriculture, or “lab meat” includes animal tissues grown without the animal, as well as milk and egg whites produced via fermentation techniques. While there are technical hurdles to overcome before hi-tech cultured “meat” products can hit the market, their development highlights competing visions of the future of agriculture and animal farming. This talk will critically assess the field of cellular agriculture and question its health, animal welfare and climate mitigation claims. What does the expansion of animal replacement products imply for Canadian farmers?

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Presenter

Elisabeth Abergel is a professor in the Sociology Department and at the Institute of Environmental Science at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Trained as a molecular biologist, her research focuses on the relationship between technoscientific innovation in the life sciences, knowledge and power as they relate to food and agriculture. She is interested in the social and material dimensions of science and technology and how technologies embed particular values and fictions about rural worlds and the future of farming.

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Fossil-fuel-free farming? Solar power, electric tractors, and the future

On-farm fuel use is a significant source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.  But farmers are also leaders in decarbonization, investing in solar panels and finding other ways to reduce fossil fuel use.  Now, the first electric tractors are on the market, and hydrogen powered equipment is on the horizon.  Join NFUniversity for a session on on-farm energy use, emissions, alternative energy, low-emission farm equipment, and the possibility of fossil fuel free farming.  For 99% of the time that humans have practiced agriculture, it is been fossil fuel free.  How far in that direction can we go in the coming decade?

Dan Woynillowicz (energy and environmental policy analyst) and Tony Neale (farmer, NFU member, and electric tractor and solar array owner) will look at the current situation regarding energy use and emissions and look ahead, to what’s possible.

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About the presenters

Dan Woynillowicz is the Principal of Polaris Strategy + Insight, a public policy advisory firm he launched in 2020.  An experienced researcher, analyst and advocate, he advises leading businesses and governments and is a regular public commentator on Canadian climate change and energy policy.  Drawing upon two decades of experience working at the interface of climate change policy and politics, he offers unique insights into the energy transition and opportunities arising from climate solutions.

Tony Neale is the founder and farm manager of Wheelbarrow Farm, where they grow 8 acres of mixed organic vegetables, flowers, fruits and nuts.  Since 2008, Tony has been growing the business, training the next generation of farmers and developing sustainable practices and technologies on the farm.  In 2018, the Wheelbarrow Farm team decided to quickly transition away from fossil fuel inputs by installing solar power and purchasing a first-of-its-kind electric tractor.  In 2022 they will add an electric delivery vehicle to their fleet and by 2025 they plan on replacing all gas delivery vehicles with electric.

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Seed Activism: Global Perspectives

In Canada and around the world, there has been a corporate push in the past two decades to strengthen laws and regulations governing seeds and plant varieties. These developments have proven highly controversial and have prompted a resurgence of activism around seeds. In this NFUniversity session, Dr. Karine Peschard will draw on the experiences of Brazil, India, New Zealand and Norway to provide a global perspective on these developments. How have different groups – peasants and family farmers, large farmers, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations – come together to oppose these legislative changes? What are the parallels with recent developments in Canada (namely, Bill C-18 and the Seeds Act Regulations), and what can be learned from these countries’ experiences? This session will highlight common trends among countries with different agricultural landscapes, and present successful examples of mobilizations against seed enclosures.

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Presenter

Karine Peschard is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. Trained as an anthropologist, her research interests center on intellectual property, agrobiodiversity, legal activism, peasant rights and seed sovereignty, with a focus on Brazil and India. Her work has appeared in several edited books and academic journals, including the Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology, the Annual Review of Anthropology and the Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS). She recently co-edited a JPS Special Forum on Seed Activism, and is preparing a book entitled ‘Seed Activism: Patent Politics and Litigation in the Global South.’

Following Karine’s presentation, former NFU Vice President Cam Goff will give a brief history of UPOV and discuss its implications in regards to Canada’s seed business and impact on Canada’s public seed development system. He will also outline recent and ongoing attempts to privatize Canada’s seed system that threaten our public interest seed institutions.

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Agroecology

Agroecology is a way of farming, and a way of thinking about farming.  It takes seriously the idea that a farm is an ecosystem, made up of plants and soil organisms, powered by the sun, subject to disturbances, and resilient, or not.  Agroecology encourages us to take a whole-system approach, to look to biology rather than industry, to diversify and to close loops, and to see nature as exemplar, not nuisance.

But what does agroecology look like in practice?  …across Canada and other nations?  Can it be practiced over tens of millions of acres?  Can it form a viable alternative to current industry-led and industry-fed production systems?  And can it be a practical way to reduce input use in, and greenhouse gas emissions from, food production?

Dr. Jennifer Blesh will take a deep dive into agroecology and help us think about what it might look like on the Canadian farm landscape.

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Speaker:

Dr. Jennifer Blesh is an agroecologist and Associate Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.  She conducts ecological and interdisciplinary research to understand the outcomes of different cropping systems and management practices.  Her work focuses on increasing crop diversity, including identifying how cover crops and perennials affect soil health and nutrient cycling processes, especially legume nitrogen fixation.  She also studies social processes that lead to food system transformation, from food production through consumption.  Prior to her current position, she held appointments at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil and at Cornell University.

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Big data, big questions

This NFUniversity Climate Class takes a deep dive into the implications of digital agriculture. Drones, robotics, self-driving tractors, smart farms. There’s an app for that! What are the implications of the emerging digital agriculture technologies for farmers? What are the promises and the pitfalls? Who controls the information generated as farmers’ equipment sends data to the cloud while they work their fields?  Which companies are investing in the new agriculture technologies and why? How is a data-centred production changing how agriculture markets are structured? How does this technology affect farm labour? Will high tech help us solve climate change? Join this NFUniversity class to explore these and other big questions around big data.

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Speaker:

Jim Thomas is the Researcher Director with the ETC Group, which works to address the socioeconomic and ecological issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. For over twenty-five years Jim has been tracking and investigating the impacts of synthetic biology, geoengineering, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, big data and other emerging technology platforms as they affect human rights, biodiversity, equity and food systems.

In addition to authoring ETC Group reports on these topics, Jim has been an observer in related UN processes, convened international civil society collaborations, appeared in several documentaries and published stories in The Guardian, New Internationalist, Huffington Post, Slate and The Ecologist. Over the years, Jim has been invited to present ETC Group’s research to princes, peasants, policymakers, poets, protestors and private equity investors alike.

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Regenerative Agriculture, Emissions Reduction and Climate Resilience

Regenerative agriculture aims at whole-system productivity and soil health by focusing on building soil organic matter, above- and below-ground biodiversity, integrating animals, optimizing grazing, minimizing tillage, keeping the land green and growing, repairing the water cycle, closing nutrient loops, and minimizing inputs. In this NFUniversity Climate Class we are joined by experts, Dr Kris Nichols and Michael Thiele as they delve into regenerative agriculture.

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Nitrogen: GHG emissions and on-farm solutions

Nitrogen fertilizer production and use is responsible for about 30 percent of Canadian agricultural GHG emissions.  Rising nitrogen fertilizer tonnage is the main reason agricultural emissions are increasing.  Nitrogen fertilizer is probably unique among all human materials and processes in that it is a major source of all three main GHGs: nitrous oxide, in use; carbon dioxide, in its production; and methane, from its natural gas feedstock.

Though rising N use creates an emissions challenge, there are many farm-level changes that can help farmers use less fertilizer while still maintaining yields.  Dr. Mario Tenuta will outline many of these promising approaches, discussing nitrogen efficiency, placement, timing, and formulations and coatings.  To reduce agricultural emissions we must reduce emissions from nitrogen.  Dr. Tenuta will show us some of the ways that might be possible.

Don’t miss NFUniversity, January 14.

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Speaker

Dr. Mario Tenuta is a professor in the Department of Soil Sciences and heads the Applied Soil Ecology Lab.  From 2006 to 2017 he served as the Canada Research Chair in Applied Soil Ecology.  Dr. Tenuta is one of Canada’s foremost experts in nitrogen use and ways to reduce use and emissions.  In his outreach to farmers and others, he works to translate discoveries to recommendations and advice for growers, crop consultants, retailers, and industry.

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Understanding Emissions Trading, Carbon Markets, and Offsets

In the inaugural NFUniversity Climate Class, we took a critical look at carbon pricing policies, and what they really mean for farmers, agriculture, and emission reductions. Speakers Dr. Doreen Stabinsky and Tamra Gilbertson provide an understanding of emissions trading, carbon markets, offset protocols, and how to best structure programs and payments that incentivize farmers to adopt practices that build soils, and result in real climate action.

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