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November 25, 2011

Growing the Future of Agriculture in Parkland County

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From The Grove Examiner; Written by Brandi Morin:

Green Hectares (GH), an Alberta volunteer run organization dreamed up by a few young entrepreneurs and farmers, was created to bring hope and resources to revitalize rural life and business. To "create opportunities for Albertans to connect, collaborate and learn online and within their community."

Their mandate is to provide education, business and culture support to business and entrepreneurship of all kinds with an emphasis on agriculture.

"There is a huge disconnect right now between the generations and technology," said GH board member and Parkland County Bee Farmer, Lee Townsend.

"It’s amazing how many people don’t even understand the basic concepts of how to use a computer for email or how to operate a smart phone."

One of the first initiatives on the GH plan of action is to educate on technology using mobile computer labs called a "Rural Road Show." The GH team developed 18, two-hour courses that include learning basic computer skills to more advanced web designing courses for business websites. The free training "road shows" are taken to different halls and community centers in rural communities across Alberta.

Townsend, a second generational farmer, said he was attracted to the innovative organization because he saw an opportunity to bring back agriculture and rural business to the forefront.

"A friend of mine told me about this group and it peaked my interest right away. He invited me to go to a board meeting and from there I knew I wanted to get involved," said Townsend, "It’s exciting that we are able to offer services that are desperately needed."

Parkland County was selected to be one of five pilot Albertan communities to introduce the mobile lab teaching facilities and develop future initiatives including an educational demonstration farm.

"The younger generation is looking at creating possibilities for youth to return to the agriculture world," said executive director and family farm owner Wendy Schneider.

"At these first phases, Green Hectares, by creating educational resources and mentorship programs, together we can revitalize this industry."

Incorporated in 2008 the organization received funding through the Rural Alberta Development Fund and it has "taken off" with a positive reception from people of all walks of life.

"We’ve had huge success," said Schneider.

"There are so many other exciting initiatives we are working on in order to change rural lives and rural economies."

With the County administration already doing their part in making broadband access available to all areas in Parkland it made sense for them to partner with GH.

"When Green Hectares told me Parkland County had approached them to partner together I was very interested," said Townsend.

"It’s a perfect fit."

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