A thought leader for agriculture, David Sparling, 64, died of brain cancer on July 31, 2016. Most recently, he was the Chair of Agri-Food Innovation and Regulation for the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School. Previously, he was a professor and associate dean at the University of Guelph. These roles brought him into contact with a wide network of students, farmers, industry and government leaders.
Sparling was regularly sought as a speaker and for his counsel to agribusiness. For example, he co-authored a report on food waste, documenting the losses along the value chain. In an interview with the London Free Press on July 9, 2014, he said, “In a land in which we have so much food and a land of so much hunger, it still doesn’t make sense that so much food goes to landfill. You’re never food secure, if at the end of the day, you’re throwing out one-third of your food.”
In another interview with the London Free Press on November 4, 2015, he commented on the federal election: “When different political parties talk about agriculture and they talk about food, pretty much everyone agrees that they are bedrock industries. I think the new regime in Ottawa will continue to invest in these industries and in exports.”
His optimistic views about the resilience of agriculture were on full display in a podcast interview for Farm Credit Canada earlier this year. In a segment titled “Six years that changed agriculture,” he analysed the global shifts from 2005 to 2011 – everything from economic recession to biofuel mandates that soaked up huge quantities of corn.
“One of the interesting things is that people started to recognize that agriculture is sheltered to some extent from global forces,” said Sparling. “Agriculture is attractive to investors and to governments because it’s a stable industry. It’s a very nice place to be – from an environmental perspective, a health perspective. It’s unbelievably exciting to be in the agricultural space right now.”
Ironically, at the end of the podcast, there was another segment: What a funeral can teach us about legacy. “History does not remember or celebrate those who champion the status quo.”
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