Two Nova Scotians win Nuffield scholarships worth $15,000

  Ellen Crane


Ellen Crane

 Josh Oulton

Josh Oulton

For two Nova Scotians recently announced as future recipients of the unique Nuffield scholarship, the next couple of years will mean more than one trip of a lifetime. 
Josh Oulton of Port Williams and Ellen Crane of Murray Siding will officially be awarded with Nuffield scholarships worth $15,000 in 2018. Aimed at fostering agricultural leadership and personal development through international study, the funds are to be used for a minimum of 10 weeks of travel, during which time each recipient is to research a topic related to the agricultural industry both at home and abroad. 
Aimed primarily at applicants who are mid-career and between the ages of 25 and 45, there are no prerequisites of education for the award. Applicants are just expected to have a minimum of five years of agricultural business or farming experience, and be ready for the commitment of travelling and contributing to the Canadian agriculture industry by sharing their work and experience.
Past recipients have come from all different fields of agriculture, including livestock, grain and vegetable production, forestry, and horticulture.
Although the Nuffield scholarship program has been around in Canada since 1952, it originated in the United Kingdom with an endowment from Lord Nuffield, also known as William Morris. Born in 1877, Morris left school to work as a bicycle repairman before eventually working his way up to designing cars and founding Morris Motors Ltd. He was made a baron in 1934 and a viscount in 1938. The name Nuffield came from the Oxfordshire village where he lived. The Nuffield Foundation was founded in 1943 with a gift of 10 million British pounds.
Nuffield Canada is part of an international Nuffield community, which includes branches in Australia, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and Zimbabwe. In Canada, the scholarship program is now funded through sponsorships from industry partners such as Farm Credit Canada, the Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Western Grains Research Foundation, Glacier FarmMedia, and program alumni.
For both Nova Scotia recipients, meeting other Nuffield alumni played a strong role in their application process.
Ellen Crane is general manager of the Maritime Beef Council and a Farm Focus columnist. She first heard of the scholarship through her 4-H activities.
“It seems like I kept running into Nuffield scholars,” Crane laughingly said, “and that was a group that I wanted to be a part of.”
Crane will start her travels with a trip to the Netherlands in March. She’ll join Nuffield scholars from around the globe for a week-long conference focusing on global agriculture, business topics, and personal development. Crane plans to spend an additional six weeks primarily in Europe.
“That’s where I’d like to go since we have our new trade deals with CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement),” she said. “That’s something that the Canadian beef industry would be interested in.”
Crane will research which beef production attributes are most important to consumers, what they are willing to pay for, and the ways in which producers can implement those production attributes to leverage opportunities in consumer marketing. Her goal is to bring home some new ideas.
“What I’m hoping to achieve is to gather information that can be used by producers here in Canada,” said Crane. “Not just our region but across the country, such that they are able to either alter their production practices or change their marketing strategies so that they are able to target these international markets that we’re interested in, so that we’re more competitive when it comes to marketing Canadian beef.”
While she’s travelling, she’ll also be working on the final report that each Nuffield scholar submits at the end of their two-year program. While the travel and study is a large commitment, it’s an opportunity that feels like now or never for Crane.
“It’s kind of an ultimate time for me to do this now,” she said. “I’m still young and I don’t have children to worry about. This is the opportunity for me to take this on right now, so I’m really excited about it.”
For Josh Oulton, the commitment to be away from his business, Taproot Farms Inc. (which has grain, fruit, vegetables, and livestock divisions), for the required consecutive six weeks of travel is a different situation. However, the ability to leave the farm and take time to travel and research is one of the scholarship’s core requirements.
According to the scholarship literature, “If you can’t leave your farm, then you will never be able to lead in the future. That is part of the organizational skill required to earn a scholarship and become a Nuffield scholar.”
While it will likely be an exceptional act of organization for Oulton to make it happen, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to focus on his research topic of flax production. He’s hoping to see how high-quality flax fibre for long-line linen processing into high-quality clothing is done in other countries. He’ll also explore the various opportunities for the use of the waste materials produced in the long-line processing. 
“The bulk of the flax that’s grown for fibre is grown in the countries of France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, so those will definitely be on the list” said Oulton. “It’s lucky that they are all really close together. I’m hoping to see the growing, the harvesting, and the processing.”
With the growing seasons of the regions he’ll be visiting the same as his own farm in Port Williams, it will be tricky to organize his trips away during the busy harvest season. He’s planning on doing one trip of six weeks, and then smaller trips of a week or so each in order to capitalize on the experience and keep a handle on the farm. 
Oulton is also hoping to visit countries involved in the manufacturing side of things. India and China are on the top of that list. 
Like Crane, Outlon has other farmers in his community, those he considers mentors, who are Nuffield alumni. He’s hoping that the experience will give him the same opportunity he’s heard about from them. “They said that it really upped the game for them,” said Oulton. “It gave them a really different perspective and time to reflect on what they were up to, and so I’m hopeful that it will be the same for me.”
The other two Canadian Nuffield scholars announced for 2018 are Gavin Robertson, a winemaker and vineyard coordinator from Niagara, Ont., and Shelley Spruitt, a partner in Against the Grain Farms in Mountain, Ont., where she focuses on ancient grains in the production of value-added products, whole grains, and flour. 
To date, there have been nearly 90 Nuffield scholarships awarded in Canada, and more than 1,500 internationally. Nuffield Canada now has a mandate to award a minimum of four scholarships each year, and a goal of six.
“These four scholars will build their leadership and organizational capabilities while investigating issues critical to Canadian agriculture,” said Kelvin Meadows, chairman of Nuffield Canada. “Their international experiences over the next two years will provide opportunities and perspective that will add tremendous value to their own careers, and to our Canadian agricultural community.”