Across Regions, Cultivation/Production, Most viewed stories, North America, Smart Farming, Sustainability

‘Beyond the horizon’: How to turn the potato industry’s ‘sunset’ into a new ‘sunrise’

“When we speak of agriculture, we often romanticize the ‘sunrise’ – the dawn of a new day filled with potential and ripe with promise,” says Jacob (Jake) Vanderschaaf, his voice tinged with the wisdom of his years in the potato industry. “But there’s a stark contrast looming on the horizon, a ‘sunset’ scenario that we could be facing if we continue on our current trajectory.”

As a seasoned industry veteran and the co-founder of The Little Potato Company and Tuberosum Technologies in Canada, Jake Vanderschaaf has not only witnessed, but also shaped the tides of change within the potato farming community over the years.

Pivotal crossroads

Vanderschaaf’s analogy is a powerful one, painting a vivid picture of an agricultural industry at a pivotal crossroads. The ‘sunrise’ he refers to symbolizes an agricultural scene that is thriving, sustainable, and life-giving. It’s a scene where farming practices are in harmony with nature, where the soil is rich and fertile, and where the ecosystem is respected and preserved for future generations.

However, the ‘sunset’ represents the decline of this idyllic landscape.

“If we don’t change our take on farming,” Vanderschaaf warns, “we will move inevitably towards this sunset,” he says.

“This will be a scene where the vitality of our land wanes and the health of our environment dims.

“This is a future where the soil is stripped of its nutrients, where water sources are depleted and contaminated, and where biodiversity has dwindled to the brink of extinction,” he says.

Jake’s concern is rooted in the detrimental practices that have become all too common in modern agriculture: Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, monoculture cropping, and neglect of soil health. These practices may offer short-term gains in terms of yield, but they are unsustainable and lead to long-term damage to the ecosystem.

“The warning signs are there,” Jake says, “soil erosion, pesticide resistance, water scarcity, and the alarming rate of loss of insect populations that we see around us every day. These are the symptoms of an agricultural system in decline, of a ‘sunset’ that could see the end of farming as we know it…”

A vision of hope

But Jake Vanderschaaf is not a man to dwell on the doom and gloom without offering a vision of hope.

“The good news is, the ‘sunset‘ is not inevitable,” he says. “We really have the knowledge and the technology and I hope the courage to change course, to steer back towards the ‘sunrise.'”

Jake advocates passionately for a return to organic and regenerative farming practices, with a focus on building soil health, conserving water, and fostering biodiversity. He calls for innovation, for smart farming techniques that can increase efficiency without sacrificing the health of the land.

“We need to embrace a circular economy, where nothing is wasted and everything has value,” he asserts. “We must see the farm as an ecosystem – where plants, animals, and microorganisms work together to create a balanced and self-sustaining environment.”

‘The future of our children’

Jake Vanderschaaf’s message is clear: The choices we make today will inevitably determine whether our children will in future face a ‘sunrise’ or a ‘sunset’ in agriculture – and in potato farming in particular. It’s a call to action for farmers, consumers, policymakers, and the industry as a whole to come together and make the necessary changes.

“We can either be the generation that watched the ‘sunset’ of agriculture,” he says, “or the generation that ushered in a new ‘sunrise.’ The choice is ours…”

Jake Vanderschaaf’s statement is a poignant reminder of the urgency with which we must approach the transformation of our agricultural practices to ensure a sustainable future for the industry and the planet.

His message serves as a metaphorical crossroads for the future of agriculture, particularly in the context of potato farming. By using the imagery of ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset,’ he is contrasting two potential outcomes based on the decisions made in the present. A ‘sunrise’ in agriculture would symbolize a new beginning or rebirth, characterized by innovation, sustainable practices, and a thriving industry that can support future generations.

Conversely, a ‘sunset’ represents the decline or potential end of traditional farming practices, which could lead to negative consequences for food security and the environment.

Jake Vanderschaaf is emphasizing that the current generation holds the power to influence which of these paths will be taken. His words are a rallying cry for a collective effort among all stakeholders in the agricultural sector. This includes farmers, who are on the front lines of implementing sustainable practices; consumers, whose choices can drive demand for sustainably produced food; policymakers, who can create supportive legislation and incentives; and the agricultural industry at large – which can invest in and promote innovative technologies and methods.

And this involves a shift towards more sustainable, environmentally friendly – and equitable food production systems that can endure and prosper long-term, he says.

Jake Vanderschaaf can be reached at jakob@sasktel.net for comments, or simply to engage in a conversation with anyone around the world who shares his sincere commitment to potatoes and the global potato industry as such.

Source: Jacob (Jake) Vanderschaaf
Contact:
jakob@sasktel.net
Cover image: Courtesy and credit Tuberosum Technologies Inc.

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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