When thinking of careers in agriculture, many of us think of careers on a farm first.
The truth is just about any role you will find in a business, engineering, science, health or finance career can be found in the agriculture industry as well.
This statement proved to be more evident after I spoke with Kent Rundle, who is the Watershed Restoration Technician for the Hamilton and Halton region.
Just like any industry, agriculture needs professionals to maintain, grow, and evolve its practices and Kent places a key role in doing this! He focuses on environmental management, conservation, fisheries, wildlife ecology, agricultural sustainability practices, and managing restoration projects for private land owners (aka: agricultural land).
Intrigued by the uniqueness of his role and what it entailed entailed, I was intrigued to find out more! Through our interview Kent was able to discuss his role in more detail and share insights on how students and recent graduates can grow a career in the industry:
What are some of your main responsibilities as a Watershed Restoration Technician?
As the Watershed Restoration Technician I am responsible for negotiating and managing restoration projects. This involves meeting with private landowners, evaluating the stresses on the natural environment on their property, developing a restoration strategy, fundraising for the project, hiring consultants and contractors, acquiring necessary permits to complete the work, implementing the project, post restoration monitoring and data management.
What experiences led you into and prepared you for your current role?
I would say that the main experiences that prepared me for this position were the time I spent at Niagara College learning about ecosystem restoration and the contracts I had as a Stream Rehabilitation Technician and as an Aquatic Resources Technician.
At the college you gain a generalist’s level of experience, which is handy when you’re meeting with landowners and they have questions about the type of fish in the creek on their property or why the trees in their hedge row are dying.
Working as a Stream Rehabilitation Technician and Aquatic Resources Technician provided me with some specific experience working in stream systems and with fish.
You work directly with rural farmers and hobby farmers, how does your career “fit” into the agriculture industry specifically?
I have assisted rural farmers and hobby farmers implement conservation projects on their property. Most recently I have assisted a hobby horse farm install new fencing and an alternative water supply to keep their horses out of a provincially significant wetland and a reach of creek that is identified as habitat for a species at risk.
In my role I am often helping farmers implement best management practices on their farms. Projects that we would assist farmers with include manure storage, soil loss management by installing wind rows and riparian buffers, livestock access restriction fencing, alternative water supplies, milk house waste management and developing nutrient management plans.
The way that we are able to assist farmers is by providing recommendations, help fill out applications for provincial and federal funding programs as well as provide funding through our own program.
What initially interested you to go into this field?
I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors enjoying our natural environment. During my summers I would spend my time on the water at a canoe tripping camp and at the family cottage. Learning more about those places and protecting them was important to me.
How do you think you time as a student at Nipissing University and Niagara College prepared you for your career?
Nipissing University is a smaller school located in northern Ontario where you have easy access to our natural environment. Because of smaller classroom sizes, the professors are able to get students outdoors often and show them what they are talking about rather than just talk about it. I soon discovered when I went to Niagara College, that Nipissing University had given us a lot of hands on experiences. What a lot of students were doing for their first time, I had experienced at Nipissing.
Niagara College was great. The purpose of the program (Ecosystem Restoration) is to give university students practical hands on experience. The professors for the most part are industry professionals, so they know what the job entails. A lot of my applicable skills for work were learned at Niagara College.
Before graduating, how were you able to gain relevant work experience?
I gained relevant work experience during the summer break between 3rd and 4th year. I was able to get a 12-week Summer Experience Program contract at one of the Conservation Authorities.
What was the biggest surprise for you when starting your career in the industry?
One of the big surprises for me was how small the industry really is on the conservation side of things. I mean that in the sense that everyone knows everyone within your respective niche.
Where do you see your career going in the future?
I hope to be able to continue working with private rural farm and non-farm landowners to assist them with implementing stewardship projects that will improve the health of our natural environment. The vast majority of land in Southern Ontario is privately owned, so working with private landowners is the frontier of opportunities.