Ag More Than Ever provides resources and a forum for agvocates to tell the real, positive story of Canadian ag. Together we can share the facts, stories and people that make our industry special. Why Ag More Than Ever? So our industry can reach its full potential and attract the people, investment and consumer confidence needed for future success.
We have an innovative and forward-thinking industry that not only produces an abundance of safe foods that meet quality standards among the highest in the world, but also employs 2.3 million Canadians while contributing more than $110 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product.
But for many consumers, the misinformation and myths circulating about agriculture and food production practices overshadow the positive stories of our industry. Adding to that is while more than half of all Canadians worked on farms 100 years ago, the latest edition of The Real Dirt on Farming points out that today the number is less than two per cent. With the combination of misinformation and limited connection to the industry, it’s no wonder that consumers have so many questions about farming practices and food.
That’s why it’s our responsibility as proud agvocates to listen, stay curious, and start a conversation to help answer consumers’ questions. Agriculture is a broad subject with multiple sub-sectors and numerous regulations adding to its complexity. Food, however, is something that connects all of us, regardless of our personal preferences or knowledge of the industry. People are passionate about the food they eat and how it is produced, which is why it’s important to seize opportunities to have conversations about food and farming in ways that resonate with consumers.
Maybe you have a new practice in place on your farm? Or perhaps you have seen a lot of questions about a commodity you are involved in? Or maybe you’re just tired of seeing the same misinformation pop up over and over again about a specific subject? Whatever the issue, sometimes it is worthwhile to have courage and start a conversation. And the results can be surprisingly rewarding.
A great example is a post from Lesley Kelly of High Heels and Canola Fields that compared hamburgers from A&W and McDonald’s to address the issue of hormones in beef. In less than two days, Lesley’s Facebook post had gone viral with approximately 7,000 shares (the post now has more than 14,000 shares).
Keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it’s about having the conversation over proving someone wrong or changing their opinion. While some individuals will have personal views that differ from yours, remember to keep your conversations respectful without talking down to people. After all, there is a lot we can learn by listening to others. A recent tweet that Sarah Sheppard (@SarahSheppdawg) posted on chicken facts is another great example. The tweet instantly went viral, and while a few people questioned her statement, Sarah was positive in her responses and provided lots of additional information and resources.
Can I get everyone’s attention real quick?
ALL CANADIAN CHICKEN MEAT IS RAISED FREE RUN (WITHOUT CAGES) AND IT HAS BEEN ILLEGAL TO FEED STEROIDS AND HORMONES TO CHICKENS SINCE THE 1950’S
(My mom got mad at me for shouting that in the middle of the restaurant tonight… Oops.)
Don’t forget to think about who your audience is and what they want to know. (And if you’re not sure, just ask – it’s an easy way to start a conversation!) Then tailor the message to resonate with your audience. Letting them know you care about the same things as they do, while being transparent about your practices and experiences, will help you earn trust and enhance public understanding of our industry.
Everyone involved in agriculture has had a unique journey that contributes to the vibrancy of our industry. Share your story and add your voice to the food conversation – you never know the difference it could make.
Check out these past webinars for some helpful tips and techniques to get started:
Regardless of what part of the country you live in, or what you do for a living, or what your heritage is, there is one thing that connects all of us. Food.
In Canada, we are fortunate to have access to an abundance of healthy and high-quality foods from a vibrant industry that proudly contributes more than $110 billion to the country’s economy. The list of industry achievements could go on and on, because there is a lot to be proud of when it comes to food and agriculture in Canada.
And what better way to highlight those achievements than with a national celebration?
February 13 marked the second annual Canada’s Agriculture Day, an opportunity for those in the agriculture industry to come together in celebration of Canadian food, while showcasing the industry’s many outstanding accomplishments and encouraging more conversations with consumers.
“(In agriculture) we tend to have our heads down and just focus on what we’re doing – growing and producing and processing amazing food that is safe and sustainable. This is a day to remind people to slow down and take a look around and really celebrate what we’re up to,” said Michael Hoffort, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada, at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa. “It’s a great celebration and also a great opportunity to connect with Canadians from coast to coast.”
Michael Hoffort, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada, said that for the second annual Canada’s Agriculture Day “People wanted to see this happen again, and even bigger and better.”
While there is no shortage of reasons to celebrate Canadian agriculture and food, the industry is not without its challenges. Considering that only about two per cent of the current Canadian population work on farms, among those challenges is creating a closer connection with consumers about where their food comes from and the people who produce it.
“Agri-food has a hyphen, but that hyphen can feel like a mountain. We have to make a connection between our industry and consumers,” explained Hoffort, later adding: “Everyone is looking for safe, affordable, good-tasting food and we have that here. There is no downside to connecting more accurately with our consumers. It is on all of us involved in the industry to take that first step, and welcome consumers to get to know us better and let them know that if they have questions about food, about processing, we will be happy to be transparent and talk about it.”
Without question, a major contributing factor to some of the confusion that consumers have about agriculture and food production is a result of the overabundance of misinformation and myths circulating about the industry.
But in the challenge of providing accurate information to consumers also lies opportunity.
“Consumers are frustrated. Their trust is low; they have been told a lot of things that didn’t happen. At the same time, they are more passionate than ever,” Jeff Simmons, President of Elanco Animal Health, said during his keynote address. “Consumer skepticism creates an opportunity to disrupt perceptions. This is the time of opportunity.”
However, to capitalize on that opportunity requires collaboration. Addressing consumers’ concerns impacts everyone involved in the food production system, and many speakers at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa highlighted the need for the industry to, as Simmons said, “break down the silos.”
Jeff Simmons, President of Elanco Animal Health, told those at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa that “Connecting a message to the right person is our challenge in agriculture.”
“We have to do a better job telling our story to Canadians,” said Carla Ventin, Senior Vice-President of Government Affairs for Food and Consumer Products of Canada, while leading the event’s fireside chat. “We have to work together to communicate about the food we grow in a way that makes sense for Canadians.”
“I would encourage the entire system to get to know each other better. That includes, from the production side, us understanding the challenges that retailers face,” said Mary Robinson, a producer from Prince Edward Island, during a producer panel discussion. “Because we are all in this together. With any good team, there has to be communication.”
That team also includes the next generation of producers, processors, scientists, researchers, and others who will continue to build upon the industry’s successes and help feed a burgeoning global population. With more than 100 youths in attendance at the day-long event in Ottawa, as well as students from McGill University’s Macdonald Campus, several producers and industry representatives seized the chance to emphasize the numerous career opportunities throughout the industry.
“Farming is great business, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – ever,” stated Jill Azanza, a poultry producer from British Columbia, who also took part in the producer panel. “For the young people in the room, there are so many jobs coming up in agriculture in so many different ways.”
Cathy Lennon, General Manager of Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (far left), moderates a panel with producers Mary Robinson, Jill Azanza, and Jill Harvie.
Though Canada’s Agriculture Day has come and gone for another year that certainly doesn’t mean the conversations and celebrations should stop. Because there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to agriculture, much more than what can be expressed in just one day.
As Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, summed up during his address at the Ottawa event: “I never get tired of saying that the future of our industry has never been brighter. There is literally a world of opportunity out there for Canadian farmers and food processors.”
If you’re passionate about agriculture, add your voice to the food conversation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking to 200 people or two; whether you’re interacting through social media or chatting with a fellow shopper in the cereal aisle at your grocery store. All that matters is to keep the honest and open conversations going all year long by sharing your experiences and encouraging consumers to ask questions. After all, no one is better equipped to speak about the food found on tables across the country than the people producing it.
The opening line of the movie Food Evolution certainly rings true. If you’re not familiar with it, Food Evolution is a documentary that examines the “brutally polarized debate marked by passion, suspicion and confusion” regarding the controversy surrounding genetically engineered food.
An important message
Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the film conveys an important message of the need for more conversations around the science and facts of GMOs when it comes to agriculture and the negative perception of genetic engineering.
Without a theatrical release or availability on Netflix, getting its message across has taken some effort. The filmmakers have taken a unique approach to launch the film. They’re providing organizations, community groups and others the opportunity to show Food Evolution in a public setting, with many Agriculture More Than Ever partners helping spread awareness about the film across Canada.
“It’s encouraging to see so many agriculture industry groups offer the screening to create connections with people outside of agriculture and to help them expand their knowledge about where food comes from and how it’s produced,” says Candace Hill, Manager of Agriculture More Than Ever.
Robert Saik, founder of Agri-Trend, says he finds it encouraging that so many groups around the world have screened the film. Agri-Trend hosted a screening at Red Deer College on November 10 as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations.
“If you remove genetic engineering out of the toolbox of agriculture, you have lost one of the most significant tools that we are going to lean on for food security,” Robert explains. “As the movie is made more available, I think people are becoming more open to hearing a more balanced and rational and science-based view of the whole issue surrounding GMOs.”
Photo courtesy of Black Valley Films.
While Food Evolution takes care to discuss both sides of the debate surrounding GMOs, it also presents the research and science in a way that anyone can understand, which is important when it comes to genetic engineering.
“A lot of people have been conditioned that GMOs are bad, but they can’t actually say what a GMO is. At the end of the day, if you choose to eat organic foods that is your choice and that is fine, but you need to know the facts,” explains Clinton Monchuk, Executive Director of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan.
For its October 11 screening of the movie at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan opened the event to the community, which included a moderated panel discussion to continue the dialogue after the screening. The event drew approximately 320 people.
Panel discussion during a screening in Saskatoon.
“With genetic engineering, the lack of conversation from the onset turned into a perceived controversy and now, as an industry, we are playing catch-up…because fear travels faster than truth,” says Clinton.
Lindsey Ehman, Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Grain Growers of Canada, says her organization also hosted a screening as a chance to encourage conversation about GMOs in a new and engaging format, and used the screening as an opportunity to engage directly with policymakers.
“As an advocacy group, we find that it is essential to try and find new ways to engage,” Lindsey says. “The story in this movie that we liked is that it is not GMO versus organic. It is about the variety in agriculture and the potential that crop science has.”
Grain Growers of Canada also held a panel discussion after their screening focused on why people make decisions about food. “You’re definitely not going to convert everyone, but if you help someone think and seek out more information, then you’ve done your job for the day.”
Less than three per cent of Canadians have a connection to agriculture nowadays, which further highlights the need for the agriculture industry to speak up and share information to help people make informed decisions that are not based on fear.
“People just don’t have first-hand interactions with agriculture as they used to, and that’s why it’s important to have those conversations about agriculture. That’s why stories like the one in this film need to be told,” says Tracy Broughton, Policy and Producer Relations Manager with SaskCanola.
SaskCanola co-hosted a screening of the film with the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina on November 20.
The situation abroad
Given that the debate about GMOs isn’t limited to North America, Food Evolution looks at the stance toward genetic engineering in countries with food insecurity. Having operated a farm in Uganda since 2015, and having spent time in other African countries, Robert has seen the consequences where farmers do not have access to genetically engineered crops. Pointing to a part of Food Evolution that addresses the devastating banana wilt situation in Uganda, he says it is necessary for people in North America to be aware of what is happening in other countries. (Since the film’s production, Uganda passed a bill that will permit the development, testing, and use of GMO crops.)
And as one African farmer in the movie observes, it’s important for people in North America to be aware of how their decisions against genetic engineering can affect access in other countries.
Photo courtesy of Black Valley Films.
“We need to remember what the technologies that we have access to can mean for other countries, and the filmmakers did a good job of capturing that impact,” Tracy says. “We really take for granted the advancements that we have in North America.”
Food Evolution is available for home viewing on iTunes and Google Play.
Interested in hosting a public screening? You can find information about organizing one here.
Fact: The number of Canadian farms has been declining since 1941, while the average farm size has been steadily increasing.
Why this is important: Fewer farms could be perceived as an industry in decline, which we all know is not the case. Larger farms can fuel a misconception that they are not operating in the best interest of consumers.
Fact: Using the same amount of inputs, the average farm in 2011 could produce twice as much as in 1961.
Why this is important: While it might be obvious to us that we’re on an eternal quest to produce more with less, there are some misconceptions in the public that the way we farmed decades ago is better for the planet or consumers.
Agvocate message: Canadian ag continues to improve the way it produces food by embracing new practices and technologies to reduce its impact on the environment and improve animal well-being. At the same time, we’ve increased the amount of food produced. These efficiencies are passed along to the consumer in the form of lower food costs, increased selection in the grocery store and food they can trust to be safe and sustainable.
Fact: The average age of the Canadian farmer is increasing. In 2016, 54% of Canadian farm operators were 55 and older.
Why this is important: This fact can fuel the misconception that Canadian agriculture is stagnant, or that young people aren’t interested in farming careers. Again, we know the opposite to be true.
Agvocate message: Farmers truly love what they do. It’s hard work, yes, but a lifestyle that runs deep in their veins. When you love what you do this much, you keep doing it past the traditional age of retirement. As well, young people continue to pursue farming careers.
No matter who you’re talking to, it’s important to listen, be transparent and use facts to support your conversation and provide additional context. Keeping these points in mind and including them in your conversation is an easy way to dispel some common myths, earn trust and provide a better understanding of our industry.
Having raised three kids on their family-operated farm in southwestern Ontario, Danielle Schill is well aware of the importance of educating future generations about agriculture.
But sometimes that is easier said than done. Especially with many schools having limited curriculum and programming dedicated to agriculture education.
So Danielle set out to change that. She figured the local high school – Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston, Ont. – could benefit from a program that informs students about agriculture and the many career opportunities within the industry.
“There are some programs at the school that revolve a little bit around agriculture, but nothing geared solely towards agriculture and the different types of agriculture in our community,” explains Danielle, whose youngest child is currently in her last year at Norwell District Secondary School. “There are so many misconceptions about agriculture. I want to make sure that word about agriculture gets out by giving the students a first-hand look at what is real when it comes to this industry.”
Danielle got the ball rolling by contacting her local trustee at the Upper Grand District School Board about the idea of introducing an agriculture education program at Norwell. She soon joined forces with Paul Frayne, a teacher at Norwell who also happened to be looking for an opportunity to introduce such a program.
A hands-on approach
Their efforts, which included presenting the idea for an agriculture education program to the school board, paid off and LEAF – Local, Environmental, Agriculture, and Food – will be introduced at Norwell in September 2018 as a half-day, two-credit program. Using the theme “field to fork,” the program will consist of weekly field trips to local farms and agriculture businesses where students will have the opportunity to meet and interact with farmers and develop an understanding of the diversity and innovation of agriculture in the local area. There are also plans for trips to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the University of Guelph’s Research Park.
“Any of these students can read about agriculture, but it is not the same as them actually experiencing it,” says Danielle.
Over the course of the program, students will learn about the science of agriculture and its connection with the environment, while growing food in the school’s garden and greenhouse, and cooking and eating local products.
“Our goal is not to train future cooks, although that would be a great bonus, it is to learn about where food comes from and how it is grown,” explains Paul. “Cooking food and eating it really gives a deeper appreciation for all the work that goes into producing food.”
While the program is not set to start until next September, Paul says he is encouraged by the positive feedback that has already been received from students who are interested in LEAF’s unique hands-on approach.
“And certainly it is not just students who come from an agriculture background who are interested,” says Paul. “The students want to be on a farm and interacting with the people who are living this every day. I think that is part of the excitement for our students because this is something real. A lot of the time we will be out and around the community, working and interacting with people.”
To make sure they have local farms and agriculture businesses lined up for the planned field trips, Danielle and Paul have been busy presenting the new program to the local agriculture community. And so far, the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“Everyone is really on board with this initiative,” says Paul. “The more you talk about it, you see how much passion is out there in the agriculture community, and that motivates us to keep going because so many people really want this to be successful. We are looking to work with our community to develop a great agriculture education program.”
“The local farmers and agriculture businesspeople are eager to share their stories with the students and help educate them and maybe guide them towards a career path in agriculture,” says Danielle, adding that informing the students about the many educational and career opportunities available in agriculture will be an essential component of the program.
“Coming out of [the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College] right now, there are four jobs in Ontario for every one of those graduates,” explains Danielle, referencing a recent study commissioned by the Ontario Agricultural College. “There is a guaranteed career out there for them.”
The program may still have several months before it officially launches, but Danielle and Paul are already looking ahead and planning for its future. They have every intention to make sure the initiative continues indefinitely at Norwell and will look at how it can evolve in order to explore as many aspects of agriculture as possible.
Both add that they would be thrilled to see other schools introduce similar programming to help spread the truth about agriculture and the passion of the people who contribute to the industry.
“No matter where you go, people involved in agriculture are really quite proud of this industry,” says Danielle. “I’m excited for the students to see that.”
How do I bring ag into the classroom?
Across the country, endeavours like LEAF are supported by Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC-C), and its 9 provincial members. AITC-C is in the midst of rolling out thinkAG, an initiative focused on creating awareness and interest in careers in the agriculture and food sector. Lesson plans and event toolkits are currently being piloted, and an interactive agri-food careers website is expected to be online early in 2018.
Visit www.aitc-canada.ca to get in touch with thinkAG and more exciting AITC-C agriculture education initiatives!
The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) released its 2017 Public Trust research in September. CCFI was looking to better understand public attitudes about Canadian food, agriculture and the food system; study key consumer influencer groups; and understand expectations for transparency within the food system.
Here are three key insights and what they mean for agvocates:
Rising costs and keeping healthy food affordable is a big deal to consumers
This may be surprising to some, because we often think that food safety, the environment, and animal treatment are most important to consumers. Although these concerns are important, the research shows that the top concern across all segments relates to the affordability of food.
What does this mean for agvocates?
Our challenge when communicating is to focus on what consumers care about instead of what we think they care about. The next time you communicate about ag, frame how the decisions made on the farm or in your business contribute to keeping the cost of healthy food affordable for Canadians. To be most effective, be transparent and heartfelt, but not condescending.
Not all consumers are the same
The CCFI surveyed moms, millennials, foodies and early adopters as influencers when it comes to perceptions and attitudes about the food system. Each of these segments has their own particular opinions and concerns about food. And every consumer within each of these segments is unique.
What does this mean for agvocates?
The next time you communicate about ag practices and food production, think about your audience. What are they interested in knowing? When in doubt, be curious and ask them. Then, frame your story with them in mind. How can you make the consumer the hero of your story?
It’s up to all of us
According to the Public Trust research, Canadian consumers feel it’s up to a number of groups within the food system to provide transparent information.
What does this mean for agvocates?
Think about your role in food production. Are you a farmer? A food processor? A supplier to the industry? Consider your own experience and expertise and how you can help a consumer access accurate answers to their questions about food. Keeping this in mind will help you earn trust and establish yourself as a credible source of information. Don’t forget to speak from the heart.
Born in Sept-Îles, her only connection to agriculture, as a child, was Fardoche, a character in the television series Passe-Partout. Today, agriculture is her profession, lifestyle and passion. How did Natacha transform her childhood perception of agriculture to eventually not only earn a living in the field but also become a fervent ambassador of the industry?
A fine blend of curiosity, love and admiration for what she calls “the best (and one of the oldest) professions in the world” certainly helped. Natacha’s journey in agriculture began in 2010 when she and her husband, Sébastien, purchased a sugar bush, Les Sucreries D.L. Sébastien was born into a farm family, so Natacha’s journey really began a few years earlier when she met him. Natacha puts her heart and soul into this profession and way of life. “I love the connection to the earth, to life and working with family.”
Natacha’s profound desire to live in harmony with nature, as unpredictable as it can be, to provide her children with a lifestyle based on such values as hard work, resilience, resourcefulness, working together and being there for each other, is at the very heart of her agvocacy. It is as important for her to be immersed in agriculture as to promote it and raise awareness for it, especially for people like herself with no farming background and no direct connection to the agricultural community.
In 2015, this woman of action cofounded Agrimom.ca, a blog with the vision and mission of providing a public forum where men and women in agriculture can speak (not surprisingly, women farmers took the spotlight) about their profession, family, life, basically about everything that is near and dear to them, today and tomorrow.
“In general, people don’t know much about farming as a career. It has to be promoted. And who better to get the word out than the producers themselves? “
Natacha immediately felt a kinship to the Ag More Than Ever cause. She got involved in several initiatives that give a positive voice to Canadian agriculture. Among other things, she was the star of our “Be somebody” campaign, sharing her story and her face in a video (Agvocate Profile) and a wide range of promotional materials. There are a variety of ways to reach out to consumers or others interested in knowing more about farming practices. “It’s important to speak from the heart so it’s authentic and engages public attention. There will always be some negative perceptions about agriculture out there, as there are for any industry. What’s important is to have people see the positive sides of it.
Stepping out of her comfort zone
A multi-talented spokesperson, Natascha is always ready to step out of her comfort zone and up to the plate to showcase her multifaceted profession. She puts social media to good use featuring the reality and the beauty of agriculture. Social media is also a powerful, accessible, and user-friendly marketing tool, as it makes people “feel at home”. “Not everyone has the opportunity to live close to agriculture or to visit a maple bush, for example. Social media brings people together, wherever they are.” Even overseas! Natacha recently participated in a virtual roundtable with producers from Brittany, France, to discuss how producers worldwide use social media (she probably had a lot to say on the subject!).
Because social media is so far-reaching, the more you use it, the more you want (or can) do with it. Natacha is a member of the Chaudières-Appalaches region network of women entrepreneurs and joined the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup producers at the Portes ouvertes sur les fermes du Québec (Quebec open farm day).
Ah yes! And then there is her fashion sense and her fascination (or should we say obsession) with plaid shirts. But that will be for another time and another blog post!
“It’s hard to put into words just how proud I am to be a part of this great industry. My passion for it grows stronger every day.”
For Chelsea, that passion started at an early age while growing up on a 6,500-acre grain and dairy farm run by her father and uncle in Meadows, MB. While she still helps out around the family farm when they need a couple of extra hands, Chelsea now works full-time as a sales agronomist for Paterson Grain. It’s a position that has her away from the office and out in fields most days during the warmer months, and, as Chelsea says, that suits her just fine.
“I am so happy when I am out in the fields; I just love watching crops grow,” she laughs. “Eventually, I would like to go back to the farm and be there full-time, but right now I am really enjoying working in the industry off the farm, meeting new people and learning from others.”
Chelsea’s agvocating journey began when she was in the final year of studying for her Diploma in Agriculture at the University of Manitoba. As part of the program, Chelsea had to put together a video about her family’s farm operation, which, after completing the project (The Real Truth About Family Farms), she decided to share on social media. Initially thinking a couple of people from her hometown might be interested in seeing it, Chelsea says she was completely taken aback by the enormous and positive response that her video generated. The video even attracted the interest of Kevin Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, who invited Chelsea to participate in his podcast.
“There are so many negative things about agriculture out there in the media, and I think that makes a lot of people scared to share pictures and videos of their farming operation. I want to help change that.”
Since sharing that first video, Chelsea has used social media to give others an “inside look” at what it’s like working in agriculture – both on and off the farm. And as an aspiring amateur photographer, she adds that she sees great value in using photos and video to “bring the farm right to people.”
“You can get a lot of different people’s attention from sharing a simple photo. And that’s the whole point of agvocating, of promoting our industry. We want people to see what we are doing so that we can change the way that agriculture is perceived.”
An Ambassador for agriculture
As the Agriculture More Than Ever Ambassador for Manitoba, Chelsea says she is looking forward to encouraging conversation about Canadian agriculture, adding that the best way for people to learn about the industry is to feel comfortable asking questions.
“As an Ambassador, I want to reach out to as many people as I can. I want to not only share my story but get others to share their stories as well. And I especially want people to ask questions; I want people to know where to go for accurate information so they can learn more about this great industry,” says Chelsea, adding that she is thrilled each time someone reaches out to her with a question about agriculture.
“Being an agvocate isn’t something I am getting paid to do, it’s something I want to do. There is such a great satisfaction that comes from helping others learn about agriculture or changing people’s perspective about it.”
Given that people can be quick to leap to conclusions and pass judgment when it comes to agriculture, Chelsea adds, is all the more reason for those in the industry to speak up and share the truth about Canadian agriculture.
“As an industry, we need to keep sharing our stories to explain what we do and why. We need to get rid of the perception that so much of what we do is harmful to the environment and the human body,” explains Chelsea.
“This is an industry to be proud of, not put down. That’s why I’m an agvocate.”
Pamela Ganske laughs when asked about her approach to agvocating.
“Pretty much anywhere I go, I am always talking about agriculture and ways to share it. Anyone who knows me knows that I get really excited talking about agriculture.”
Growing up on a dairy farm outside of Wetaskiwin, AB, Pamela had the opportunity from an early age to witness dedication for supporting Canadian agriculture both on and off the farm – her father proudly ran the family farm, while her mother worked with Parkland Fertilizers and was one of the first female owners of a crop retail input.
But despite that influence, Pamela admits she did not always see herself having a career in agriculture.
It was while pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce degree that her career path took a turn. Pamela recalls that during university breaks, she would often find herself tagging along with her mother to attend an agriculture-related conference or meeting. Realizing her enthusiasm and interest for the industry, Pamela returned to her hometown after completing her degree to work at Parkland Fertilizers, now a division of the Wetaskiwin Co-op.
“My interest in agriculture may not have come right away,” Pamela says, “but it has been a natural fit, and I have been very fortunate.”
With Parkland Fertilizers, a proud Agriculture More Than Ever partner, Pamela has been able to embrace and share her passion for agvocating by helping organize events that serve to not only educate but also capture people’s interest about the industry. A particular passion project of Pamela’s has been working on Parkland Fertilizers’ own ‘Ambassadors of Agriculture’ program.
“For our staff, especially those who are not in the fields, we found that it wasn’t easy to talk about what it is we do in agriculture. Even for our customers, who are farmers, it can be a bit daunting to describe what you do and why it is important to share what you do,” she explains. “With Parkland’s Ambassador program, we are trying to give our staff and our customers the tools they need to go out and share with their neighbours, with their friends, and throughout their community what they do and what agriculture looks like today.”
Always looking for new opportunities to promote agriculture in her community, Pamela has developed many collaborative partnerships with local businesses and organizations – including working with the Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum to host four different events to celebrate the inaugural Canada’s Agriculture Day, and teaming up with the local school board to find ways to incorporate agriculture into the curriculum.
“I try to make our events about more than just telling people about agriculture, but also showing it to them, making it real.”
Ambassador for agriculture
With an overwhelming amount of information circulating about the agriculture industry, Pamela acknowledges it can be difficult for consumers to identify truths from myths, and know where to go to find resources. As the Agriculture More Than Ever Ambassador for Alberta, Pamela says she is looking forward to providing people with opportunities to learn more about the industry.
“You can hear off comments in the media about agriculture, and you question how people can believe some of the information out there. But I also don’t think it is appropriate to laugh or criticize anyone for those views; they just haven’t had an opportunity to learn about agriculture or where their food comes from,” she explains.
“I want to give people that opportunity to learn more about agriculture and also help encourage other agvocates to be inspired to promote the industry in new and different ways.”
She adds that, since so few Canadians have a connection to agriculture nowadays (less than three per cent, according to Statistics Canada), it is necessary to share the story of this vibrant industry in a way that is relevant to consumers.
“People love food, and it’s also a great conversation starter. Agriculture is a pretty broad subject and a bit intimidating to some people. But food is something that is relatable to us all; it connects each and every one of us.”
When asked why she believes in the importance of agvocating, Pamela points out the repercussions of leaving important decisions about the industry in the hands of people who do not understand agriculture.
“If individuals who do not understand agriculture are the ones making decisions, then there could be some dire consequences for the whole world. The scary truths are imminent if we are not sharing what we are doing,” Pamela explains.
“Personally, I am proud of what we have accomplished so far as an industry. Community is very important to me and since agriculture is my community I believe in speaking up for it. I want to support the industry that has supported me.”