Macdonald alums (outlined in red) named to Canada’s first Agricultural Youth Council include (top row): B Pratyusha Chennupati, MSc’13, representing Alberta; Quebec representatives (third row): Cesarée Morier-Gxoyiya and (fourth row, left to right): Rose Seguin, Samuel Lanctôt, BSc(AgEnvSc)’14, and Steven Paolitto. Photo from Canadian Agricultural Youth Council.

We were thrilled to learn that several members of the McGill-Macdonald Campus community were selected from more than 800 applicants to sit on the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council.

In this issue of Focus on Macdonald, we are pleased to introduce readers to MSc student Cesarée Morier-Gxoyiya, BSc(AgEnvSc)’18, Steven Paolitto, BSc(AgEnvSc)’19, and MSc student Rose Seguin, BSc(AgEnvSc)’17.

As a consultative body to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “the CAYC is a group of young Canadians providing advice, enabling ongoing dialogue on food-related challenges and opportunities, sharing information and best practices, and advising on the strengths and weaknesses of policies and programs, affecting the agriculture and agri-food sectors.”

The Council held its first meeting at the beginning of September.

So, who are these young people who will help shape our collective future? One was a class valedictorian, another an author, and a third founded a clothing line, combining fashion and sustainability during his time at Macdonald. All of them are leaders, passionate, and involved in their communities.

We are grateful for their input and look forward to following their journeys.

Who are you and what are you passionate about? 

Cesarée Morier-Gxoyiya: I am originally from Rouyn-Noranda, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. I became attracted to agriculture through my interest in healthy eating. Once I realized the impact agriculture could have not only on people’s health and food security status, but also on the environment, it fuelled my desire to learn more. I became very interested in researching ways to mitigate health and environmental problems through agricultural practices that benefit agroecosystems while simultaneously producing affordable, high-quality and nutritious food.

What inspired you to apply to become a member of the Council?

Steven Paolitto: Having followed up my undergraduate studies in agriculture with law school in the nation’s capital, it was a natural attempt for me to combine the two fields. By being on a council which consults with a federal Minister, you essentially participate in shaping the policy of the land. I had already worked at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, too, so I was already familiar with a lot of what the department does.

What UN Sustainable Development goal are you most passionate about and why?

Rose Seguin: Among the seventeen UN Sustainable Goals, I am most passionate about “Zero Hunger” (#2). More specifically, Goal 2.4 resonates with me as it focuses on increasing productivity and production through climate-smart and environmentally respectful practices.

What can you tell us about the focus of the first meeting, held earlier this month?

All: Our first meeting was a great chance to meet our fellow council members and find out what is driving each of us. Hearing each other’s experiences fostered an appreciation for the diversity in the council. Despite being a little bit destabilized by the constraints that a virtual meeting of 27 people brings, the energy in the discourse brought by the motivated and engaged members felt like a breath of fresh air. We feel like we have a pretty good representation in the sector and a good balance of multigenerational agriculturalists and newcomers.

What’s next for you? This is big picture. Where do you see yourself going down the road?

Cesarée Morier-Gxoyiya: Listening to the news every day, I am increasingly concerned by global warming and its consequences for food producers. It deepens my desire to generate ideas and research-driven solutions to tackle our food, climate and health challenges. I plan to work as a research agronomist and support farmers’ efforts to make local, nutritious and sustainably produced fruits and vegetables increasingly accessible. Also, it is very important for me to develop an expertise in agroecology and act as a resource to (continue to) inform policy makers in matters related to sustainable agriculture.

Rose Seguin: My main interest has been in reinforcing local food systems and I am currently working with the “Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine” in Montreal, where we focus on bringing agricultural production closer to Canada’s urban centres in an economically viable manner. I’ll be continuing on that path for the foreseeable future and continuing to hone my skills in controlled environment agriculture.

Steven Paolitto: I can’t say because I feel that I am still too ignorant with regards to which profession I would be best suited to. One thing I find is that lawyers get pulled in all sorts of directions, so to know if I will end up advocating for farmers by representing them in court, or being a politician that represents their riding…it’s just way too different and I haven’t developed the competencies to crystallize that yet. For sure, though, I would love to be an investor in the agriculture and agri-food sector, whether it means to venture into small-scale productions or big innovative projects. I’d like to dig my hands into the management side in the long run.