Showing the Human Side of Farming

March 26th, 2016

Over the next week, the Farmers’ Voice blog will be featuring the essays of the winners of the Dairy Farmers of Canada Advancing Women Conference West contest. Women from the four Western provinces were asked to write a short essay about one of two topics : 1) the biggest impediment to women entering the world of farming and how have you overcome this, or 2) What is the biggest issue facing the agriculture sector today.

Growing up on a mixed farm I have had the privilege to see many sides of agriculture. I have been involved in helping plan crop rotations, getting a newborn calf to nurse, picking mud at potato harvest, milking cows every day, and I alone in 20 years have seen many changes in agriculture. I have seen BSE hit, and watched us go from a herd of 400 commercial cows to preparing to calve out 200 cows this year. I witnessed how one day you could be making plans to buy potato seed, to only receive a phone call to be notified your contract will not be renewed for the upcoming year. And I have seen how a flood can impact your farm for not only the year, but to still be dealing with cattails and salinity issues 5 years later. All of these are considered issues in agriculture, but I’m not sure they are our biggest issues.

In the year 2050, the worlds population is projected to reach 9.6 billion, that is 9.6 billion mouths to feed. The agriculture industry has realized this and with innovations in biotechnology, precision application technology, genetics and even robotics, we believe that there is hope in providing food for every person while using sustainable farming practices. So what is my biggest fear for agriculture? It is the consumer misconceptions and self-educated activists. I believe that consumers are more nervous than ever walking into a grocery store. I think these nerves stem from a series of blogs, videos, Facebook posts, and tweets all telling the consumer that innovation in agriculture is harmful to their health, cruel to livestock, negatively impacting the environment and ultimately a money grab for big corporate farms. These out of context posts are everywhere, and people are starting to listen.

We are in a generation where consumers are becoming interested in not only the nutrition value of their food, but whether it is produced ethically with a minimum impact on the environment. And it is great! Agriculture awareness is something that has been missing from the general public for the last 30 years; elementary school students are now three times removed from an agriculture background! This is why now, more than ever, spreading our positive agriculture stories is becoming increasingly important. Farmers know that we only spray pesticides when it is necessary. Farmers know that our cows are perfectly happy and healthy on the straw pack. And most of all farmers know that each and every one of us strives towards the same goal, producing a healthy and safe end product for consumers, because agriculture is what we live 365 days of the year.

So how can we let consumers know our stories? Get on social media and start sharing your story. Whether it is a video singing in your tractor, a picture of you vaccinating your cattle, or even a picture of your children showing their 4H steers, it all makes the Agriculture industry seem real. I believe that when we get more personable and begin to ‘let people in’ on our side of the story we will begin to see a change in consumer perceptions in the grocery store.

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