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Emily Robb

Agro-ecology student,
University of Manitoba

Creating a sustainable, equitable food system

Farms need to be economically and environmentally sustainable in order to survive. Emily Robb, a University of Manitoba agro-ecology student and research assistant with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), is helping farmers to ensure that their businesses will be viable in the long term. “My grandparents were first and second-generation Canadians with a mixed cattle and grain farm near Brandon. That was my daycare. Their farm wasn’t too far from where my family lived. I dabbled in different things like art and engineering, but didn’t really realize it until maybe grade seven or eight what my interests truly were,” says Robb, adding that her interest in agriculture really grew through participating in science fairs with 4-H. “There are many definitions of agro-ecology. For me, it’s about ethically distributing knowledge for farmers and ensuring [that] agriculture is economically and environmentally sound, and creating an environmentally, economically, and equitable sustainable food system.” Currently mid-way through her four-year degree program, Robb spends her summers helping AAFC researchers and farmers to identify, remedy, and prevent disease in crops. She also helps in the lab, analyzing crop and other material collected in the field. The job brings her to all parts of Manitoba, where she collects samples, scouts for problems in many different crops, and gathers data for a range of research projects. “Something I look forward to is [that] every day is a new challenge. I’m collaborating and communicating with different producers. It’s always a different field, situation, and enterprise, so I have to keep on my toes,” she says. “Every minute aspect of agriculture is important. It’s not just farmers that make up agriculture. It’s the food scientists, plant breeders, literally everything in between. I feel a lot of people don’t know how diverse and varied agriculture really is, and how many jobs are related to agriculture in some way, shape, or form. We all work together in an interdependent network. That’s what makes the wheels turn.”