Agriculture turned out to be the perfect fit for Neil Campbell.
Growing up in a small community full of potato farmers on Prince Edward Island, Campbell cultivated his ag heritage, expanding his roots in the industry. “Agriculture and fisheries are very prevalent down here,” said Campbell, a director of the Barley Council of Canada (BCC). “I was always interested.”
That interest eventually led to a year of agri-business studies though the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro. Thereafter, opportunities arose. “A lot of people I knew got involved with agriculture. It just felt right for me to be part of it.”
He certainly connected: Campbell is an active member of the Atlantic Grains Council, a Moncton-based organization that represents Maritime growers nationally. The organization is also a member of the BCC.
His voice booms with agricultural advocacy, reaching the political playground of Ottawa. “It’s very important for any national council to speak on behalf of any crop to represent themselves in Canada,” Campbell said. “From the Atlantic Grains Council perspective, it’s essential to have someone speak at the table. If you’re not there, you’re not finding out about new markets, the newest technology and the newest research.
“It pays to be a strong council and keep your voice in front of the people that control the money.”
As a small player in the industry, half the battle is being heard, Campbell said. “By representing all provinces in Atlantic Canada, we can be better listened to through strength and size. I think if you don’t belong to the Atlantic Grains Council or the Barley Council of Canada, you’re going to miss out on that opportunity.”
Advocating for barley is essential, as it’s the second-most planted crop on the Island, and fosters much of the iron-rich, red soil that produces the province’s prime potatoes, he said. “Barley’s root system is good for the soil. It breaks up the soil, and is typically used with potato rotations. When you also under-seed with hay, you’re putting some nitrogen back into the soil, which keeps it healthy.”
Although P.E.I.’s barley is grown on relatively small fields, they’re just as robust as the Prairies’. And with about half of the Island’s land used to produce crops, its GDP is heavily attached to the ag industry, Campbell said. “Agriculture is huge down here. It’s a big portion of our industry, and many people rely on it.”
As it turns out, domestic consumers aren’t the only ones who depend on P.E.I.’s reputable products. Global consumers, too, await those exports, which have steadily grown over the last six years.
“We’ve positioned fairly well for the boom in exports. But now the challenge going forward is to keep those exports going, and to keep finding those markets, supplying the type of quality our customers want.
“Farmers here are as good as anybody in Canada. They adapt to new technology and are innovative. Our industry is well respected around the world.”
By Jeremy Simes