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From the Editor: Breaking the habit

February 1, 2022  ByAlex Barnard


Elderflowers. Photo courtesy of Jed Wiebe.

I was recently chatting with a friend who worked for years in Canadian horticulture extension, but now works in agriculture in Zambia. Aside from the obvious differences in geography, climate, and some crops, there are many similarities. Managing outreach for several hundred growers – whether for a single crop like apples or operations growing a cornucopia of different vegetables – will always be a balancing act. The methods and frequency of communication differ, as do the specific resources at hand, but maximizing yields and profits while minimizing costs are fairly universal goals.

One thing she specifically noted was the importance of changing behaviour – the key to any meaningful, lasting change, and the most difficult element wherever you are. 

Many growers in the region of Zambia where she lives still practice slash-and-burn agriculture, where wooded areas are cut down and burned for charcoal and the land is farmed for a few years before the farmers repeat this process with a different section of land. This is, as you can imagine, not the most sustainable way to farm and has consequences for the land and local environment. Attempting to convince a group of growers to change their practices without adequate support – whether material, financial or proof of the benefits – is an uphill battle, especially when surrounded by the remnants of previous, similar projects. 

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When trying to break a bad habit or make an important change, I find it helps to make it personal and specific – to connect to it beyond the perceived benefit or expectation. It’s all well and good to say that drinking more water or eating more produce are healthy habits, but as long as they remain abstract ideas, separated from my day-to-day reality, I’m not likely to do anything beyond thinking about them. If you’ve been considering adopting a new practice or changing how you do something, think about why and make it your own. The more specific your goal, the more likely you can make progress. 

We’re closing out year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it goes without saying that we’re all facing unusual and weighty challenges. With supply chain and shipping issues manifesting more fully and additional virus variants cropping up to reduce capacity, impede travel and shut down businesses, it’s safe to say that 2022 will continue to provide more than its fair share of difficulties. 

This makes it tricky to plan ahead, but some forethought now will give you the ability to make quick decisions and pivot in the moment should problems arise. Check that your equipment is in tip-top shape, ensure your seed and inputs are on hand or on the way, and reach out to a fellow grower to discuss the season ahead – it’s amazing what can come from a conversation. You just might find the solution to an issue or a new idea to try out.

And if you’re in need of a listening ear or someone off of whom to bounce ideas, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.


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