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A mission to educate

Posted by stephanie rogers on December 4, 2019 in News, Research
“Follow your interests, embrace not having a plan, seek independence, forge a path on your own.” Great advice for 4H members in the audience at the 4H Members Forum in Calgary.
“Follow your interests, embrace not having a plan, seek independence, forge a path on your own.” Great advice for 4H members in the audience at the 4H Members Forum in Calgary.

Sarah (Fancy) Hines is on a mission to educate. Her passion for climate change, sustainable resource development, and the importance of supporting Canadian agriculture is the driving force behind her.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our societies” Sarah explains. “Without quality food production and distribution everything changes.”

A Master of Science (Agriculture) candidate (Class of ’20), it’s Sarah’s passion for the environment and agriculture that inspired her to take a leap of faith to where her voice would be heard- the Prime Minister’s Youth Council (PMYC). As one of 18 current members of the PMYC, Sarah uses this platform to bring her expertise in agriculture and environmental science to the table for discussion and to educate her peers.

“I think I bring a unique perspective to the youth council because of my agricultural education. Currently there are not any other members serving with an agricultural background,” Sarah explains. “I hope to use my science background to bring perspective to discussions on agriculture and the challenges and opportunities that climate change will bring.”

The PMYC began in 2016 as a liberal initiative to increase youth consultation and participation at the federal level. The Youth Council is a non-partisan group with a mandate to offer advice to the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada on a variety of issues important to them and Canadian youth. Members of the PMYC are extremely diverse, they are from regions all across Canada, and reflect a range of educational, employment and life experiences. PMYC members meet in person several times each year and have monthly conference call meetings.

“The Youth Council Members are all independent voices,” Sarah explains. “We are representing ourselves and our communities. Rarely do we all agree on an issue because we have such diverse backgrounds, but it’s important for us to be having these conversations, whether we reach an agreement or not.”

Sarah has been a member of the PMYC since July 2019. Wanting to learn more about policy and how government influences youth in Canada, she submitted her application.  

“I believe that youth are the most forward thinking part of the population, as the Canada we build today is the one that we will inherit,” she says. “I also think that science needs to be a part of all policy discussions and I want to improve as a science communicator. I wanted to meet and work with other youth from around the country to learn more about how diverse we are and the challenges and opportunities we face.”

Although members of the PMYC range from age 16-24 at the date of application, Sarah is one of two new members (appointed in July) currently pursuing graduate studies. Sarah has successfully defended her Masters thesis and is patiently awaiting her official graduation from the program in May 2020.

“I studied with the Marine Bio Products Research Lab and Dr. Balakrishnian Prithiviraj in the Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences Department at Dal AC,” Sarah explains. “My work focused on how seaweed biostimulants for plants affect the beneficial soil microbes, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.”

Sarah worked with Acadian Seaplants, a Nova Scotian company that makes agricultural biostimulant products from Ascophyllum nodosum (Rockweed) seaweed, mainly harvested from the Bay of Fundy. A biostimulant is a class of products that are known to have an effect beyond what would be expected of the nutrients in the product, so it is thought that they stimulate various processes in plants.

“I am studying how the use of the Ascophyllum nodosum biostimulants impact plant interactions with the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi,” Sarah explains. “Mycorrhizal fungi are found in soils worldwide and through symbiosis with plants they help with many things, but mainly Phosphorous uptake. In my project I looked at how the biostimulant directly affects the growth of mycorrhizal fungi and how it affects the plant-microbe communication on a phenotypic (measuring how much the mycorrhizae is colonizing the plant) and on a molecular level.”

Not only does Sarah strive to share her knowledge among her peers on the PMYC, she has been advocating for Canadian agriculture through her active involvement with 4-H over the last 13 years. Participating first as a member, then as a leader, Sarah now volunteers with Cornwallis Project 4-H Club where she leads the Exploring 4-H project for new members and Cloverbuds. She also volunteers her time to chaperone trips and judge 4-H speaking events.

“I love working with the new members and watching them gain confidence in their communication skills through the program!” Sarah smiles.

This December, Sarah has been invited to speak at the National Members Forum in Calgary, Alta. as the keynote speaker. The National Members Forum invites senior members to meet other 4-H’ers from across the country. The event typically includes leadership development and discussion around broader themes in agriculture and community development. This year focuses on the environment and healthy living pillar of 4-H and the theme is Sprouting Success and Cultivating Careers. Sarah looks forward to sharing her knowledge and experience gained through her education and experiences so far.

“I hope to talk to the members about the importance of being open to plans changing and having a positive outlook on all the opportunities they are able to access,” Sarah says. “I think an education in agriculture prepares you for a lot of different careers and it can be overwhelming for high school students to say, ‘this is what I want to study and this is where my interests are, but I don't know exactly what I want for a job’. I've never given a keynote before, so I’m nervous and excited!”