Farmers, be proud!

One of the common questions among new acquaintances, after the obligatory weather discussion, is, “What do you do?” It’s usually an effective way to keep conversation going.

Array

Array

One of the common questions among new acquaintances, after the obligatory weather discussion, is, “What do you do?” It’s usually an effective way to keep conversation going.

For too long, producers have often been known to answer that query with “I’m JUST a farmer.” While it’s OK to be humble, one of the speakers at the Farm Credit Canada (FCC) forums this year urged farmers instead to see such a question as an opportunity to show pride in their industry.

Greg Johnson is able to tell people his occupation is tornado hunter.

He jokes that this allows him to puff up his chest, because of the “cool factor” that comes with such an intriguing label.

Storm-chasing is his passion. His message to farmers was not to downplay what’s obviously their own passion — producing food.

He encouraged them to be bold and positive about their career choice, and the impact of their life’s work on people around the world.

It’s a message I saw resonate across the country, as I travelled with the FCC forum tour for several stops. Whether that was a sod grower in New Brunswick or a feedlot operator in Lethbridge, the challenge was an important reminder after a long, cold winter.

Being positive about the profession is more than just a feel good technique to get you out the door with more enthusiasm in the morning. (Although it certainly helps with that!) It’s also critical for the future.

Image and consumer views about those who raise their food count, both at the grocery till and in attracting newcomers to the business.

FCC has become known for providing inspiration to the farming community in its learning programs. But the organization, led by outgoing CEO Greg Stewart, became concerned when its survey found farmers’ perceptions of their own industry were even lower than the general public’s.

So FCC launched the Agriculture More Than Ever initiative to help shift the industry mindset.

It was not designed to be an FCC campaign; rather, the farm lender served as a catalyst for the movement.

“Creating a positive dialogue about agriculture” was a frontline objective. Those are trendy words, but in reality, that’s what Ag More than Ever is actually doing.

Lyndon Carlson is the senior VP of marketing for FCC. He says now, with nearly two years under its belt, the effort has over 250 partners signed on to be part of the initiative.

That includes, not surprisingly, producer associations and provincial government ag departments.

But then the swath widens.

“The partnership is so broad,” commented Carlson.

“It goes from a one-site retail ag supply outlet to a global multinational corporation. We’ve got every shape and size, and I think that’s really going to be powerful for sustainability.”

It looks like the industry was ready for such a spark.

“We needed to say, ‘It’s OK to talk about agriculture with passion,’” added Carlson.

“I just think maybe we just opened the door a little bit and people said ‘Yeah, I’ll go through that door.’ So we’re really pleased to see this kind of momentum.”

The Ag More Than Ever message is spotted on bale wraps by the side of the road, on T-shirts picked up at farm trade shows, on Twitter and Facebook with the Ag Proud banner attached to messages. And some of the best work is on the www.agriculturemorethanever.ca website.

There is a wealth of resource information, but also a great library of real farmer stories that make for motivational watching.

The visibility and awareness of agriculture as a “go to” business is growing. Sure, better economics have helped propel the message. But it was still a movement that needed to be made.

So now that there is motion, where to next?

Carlson says there’s no slowing down efforts to get the industry active, but the biggest request Ag More than Ever gets concerns how to reach the general public more quickly.

That’s the same general public that is now skeptical, gluten-free, anti-GMO and often unrealistic in its animal expectations.

It’s a big job, but Carlson points out that while that may be the next chapter at some point for Ag More than Ever, it’s an opportunity at farmers’ fingertips right now.

That’s what the newly coined term “agvocate” is all about, describing farmers who take the initiative as individuals to speak up.

That might be chatting with their doctor, or their children’s teacher, or the shopper next to them at the meat counter to see if their fact base on food is sound.

Dr. Cami Ryan of the University of Saskatchewan told the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business session that farmers today are considered “agri-intellectuals.”

They are the experts because they’re the ones with the firsthand knowledge of what they do. They carry a lot of weight because they’re the real deal and they care, so people will listen.

Changing minds isn’t easy, and might only be done one or two at a time. But it may be JUST the thing for a farmer to do.

Dianne Finstad is a veteran broadcaster and reporter who has covered agricultural news in Central Alberta for more than 30 years. From the Field appears monthly in the Advocate.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Nicole Buchanan, chair of Red Deer Public Schools board, says it’s too soon to say how the provincial government’s 2021-22 will impact the district. (Contributed file photo)
Red Deer school boards react to provincial budget

It’s still too soon to say how the latest provincial budget will… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

A worker carrying a disinfectant sprayer walks past a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after cleaning another plane at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
British Columbia’s Site C dam to cost $16 billion, delayed until 2025

British Columbia’s Site C dam to cost $16 billion, delayed until 2025

Mark Machin, President and CEO of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, speaks at a seminar on building a sustainable social security system in Beijing, China on Monday, Feb.20, 2017. Machin has resigned after admitting he was vaccinated for COVID-19 abroad. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Pension Plan Investment Board MANDATORY CREDIT
CPP Investments CEO Mark Machin resigns after travelling to UAE for COVID-19 vaccine

CPP Investments CEO Mark Machin resigns after travelling to UAE for COVID-19 vaccine

Selina Robinson listens to Premier John Horgan in Coquitlam, B.C., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Robinson, B.C's finance minister, says she's encouraged by predictions that British Columbia's economy will rebound this year and next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021

Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
S&P/TSX composite falls as commodities, financials struggle

S&P/TSX composite falls as commodities, financials struggle

This image released by Briarcliff Entertainment shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a scene from the documentary "The Dissident." (Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)
US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

This image released by Amazon Studios shows Maria Bakalova, left, and Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene from "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best musical/comedy.(Amazon Studios via AP)
Breakout ‘Borat’ star Maria Bakalova conquers Hollywood

Breakout ‘Borat’ star Maria Bakalova conquers Hollywood

Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors

Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors

Most Read