Minister Olson’s Column from Agri-Business Forward

Growing Forward 2 Programs Encourage Adaptability and Build Capacity

November 2014


A key focus of my mandate as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is to encourage industry innovation to meet the demands of international and domestic consumers. The ability to identify new opportunities and adapt is at the heart of our agriculture sector’s ongoing success in the highly competitive global marketplace. Alberta’s producers and agri-food businesses are adapting all the time - just take a stroll down the grocery aisle or through a farmers’ market and you’ll see an array of new products. Alberta’s agricultural firms and farms know they need to appeal to local, national and international palettes.


Adapting, changing and producing new products – or putting new twists on existing ones – takes innovation and capital. Building capacity often requires additional financial investments, which are essential for producers to increase their market-based profitability. Building capacity also requires producers to learn new things and expand their knowledge base.


That’s why Growing Forward 2’s (GF2) programs, funded under the cost-shared provincial-federal agreement, are so vital to the continued growth and evolution of our agriculture industry. These strategic programs provide important tools and resources for our agriculture entrepreneurs seeking to strengthen their businesses. Today’s successful producer has to have strong business acumen. You can’t just grow, raise or create goods – ultimately they have to get to market. That requires businesses assessments and plans. If you have a successful business, you need to embrace and manage change. That may mean implementing a new process or improving an existing one.


Part of being adaptable is ensuring Alberta’s producers can develop or improve their infrastructures and systems to address challenges and take advantage of new market opportunities. A bigger market share often requires a bigger production space. Medicine Hat’s Greg Pahl knows a thing or two about adapting. When the BSE crisis hit, the third-generation cattle producer became a first-generation butcher whose beef jerky became a hit. His facility was at capacity until last year when he used GF2 funding to invest in a new smoke house so he could double his production.


Calgary’s Copper Pot Creations started making products in 2003 that were initially for a niche market – frozen entrees free of common allergens including gluten, soy, dairy and nuts. Fast forward a decade and that niche market is now main stream. Thanks again in part to GF2 funding; Copper Pot Creations recently signed an agreement with food service leader Sysco to provide meals to work camps in the Fort McMurray region.


Killam-area’s Don Ruzicka has spent decades transforming his farm into a haven for birds and bees, which has made him something of an expert in native pollinators. He shared his knowledge and experience with close to 40 farmers, agronomists and researchers this past summer during a tour which was partly supported by GF2 funding.


The stories of these producers, and many others, are in this edition of AgriBusiness Forward and I know you’ll enjoy reading them. I think they are a testament to the effectiveness of GF2 programs and show that adapting and growing capacity are key ingredients in being successful. I encourage you to check the Growing Forward website frequently for new programs that will help you adapt and build capacity.


Verlyn Olson, Q.C., Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

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