Putting knowledge into action

In his second year at the Agricultural Campus, Keenan Kavanaugh is gaining knowledge that has already influenced positive changes at his family’s potato farm.

By Fallon Bourgeois

As the son of a sixth-generation potato farmer, Keenan Kavanaugh’s heart and mind are never far from the farm.

For the second-year Plant Science student, studying at the Faculty of Agriculture marks the first time he’s been away from his family’s potato farm, Thomas Kavanaugh & Sons, in Grand Falls, NB. And while he misses it, university life is suiting him just fine.

“I’m taking full advantage of being a student,” says Keenan with a laugh. “I love the farming industry, but once I finish university, I will likely be working there until I retire. It’s certainly a lifestyle that you have to be passionate about.”

Through the support of a Harrison McCain scholarship, Keenan is able study at the Agricultural Campus longer. A win-win situation for both him and the family business; it’s an opportunity he’s thrilled about

“Initially I was considering the two-year diploma. But the financial support of the scholarship encouraged me to obtain my Bachelor’s degree, which offers both practical and theoretical learning,” says Keenan. “I realized early on in my studies that I didn’t understand the science behind the farm. The more I learn, the greater impact it will have.”

In fact, Keenan has already made a recommendation that could be a long-term solution to producing healthier potatoes. “On a trial basis, I suggested that we use an alternative to our current rotation crop. The goal is to have it serve as a biofumigant and reduce soil borne pathogens to improve and lessen potato defects.

“I have the best resources at my fingertips,” says Keenan. “When I’m not in class or studying, I’m doing research and connecting with my professors to bounce questions and ideas off them. I couldn’t ask for a better learning environment.”

In March, Keenan was one of a handful of young farmers from New Brunswick invited to theCanadian Young Farmers Forum in Vancouver.  The national conference brings young farmers together, increasing their knowledge in agriculture and developing leadership skills for their future careers.

Keenan notes opportunities like these are necessary tools for success. “It’s not just about being a good farmer, you need to be a good business person too.”

Whether it’s in the classroom or the field, Keenan’s drive, tenacity and commitment to farming are clear.

“I’ve never questioned my future as a farmer. It’s a part of my identity and family history. I’m extremely grateful for these opportunities – what I’m learning today will have an impact on the future of our farm.”