Agvocating for the Industry: Agriculture More Than Ever
Canada’s agricultural industry takes a lot of pride in what it does, and that’s worth talking about. You can be a part of that conversation and help to effectively promote the industry you’re proud to be a part of. Agriculture More Than Ever is a federal program that encourages farmers and everyone involved in the agriculture industry to share their stories, their pride, and their passion. Since the program began in 2012, it has grown by leaps and bounds, and it now boasts 450 partners. These partners come from a variety of organizations, including industry associations, government departments, agricultural companies, and universities and colleges. The Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) is also a valued partner. “We welcome anyone who is involved in agriculture to join us. Originally, our focus was simple—bring people together and encourage them to speak positively about agriculture,” explains Candace Hall, manager of Agriculture More Than Ever. The program has cultivated over 300 agvocates across Canada who have a passion for the country’s agricultural industry.
“Our agvocates have made a formal commitment to create a closer connection between our industry and the people outside,” Hall says. “It makes an impact and lets others know they’re not alone in their experiences.” The Agriculture More Than Ever program is the result of a survey undertaken in 2011. “The survey found there was a disconnect in how Canada’s farmers and others involved in the agriculture industry viewed our agriculture and how people outside the industry viewed it,” says Hall. “Less than three per cent of Canadians have a direct connection to the farm, so it was important that we start to get out there and share our stories.”
Misconceptions about the industry and Canada’s farmers have a broad range of repercussions, she adds. “If people have a negative perception about the farm and how food is produced, it affects the people who might want to come and work in the agriculture industry. Our industry wouldn’t be able to continue to be vibrant and innovative.” Other repercussions include fewer investors and increasing legislation, which could make it more difficult for farmers and others in the ag industry to do business. “We’re building trust with our consumers. We supply food that’s safe, healthy, and nutritious, not only to Canadians, but to people around the world,” Hall says, adding that she still encounters misunderstandings about the industry almost every day. Many of those misunderstandings involve food safety and GMOs. “There are so many misconceptions about GMOs. There’s a misconception that any GMO is a Frankenfood,” she says.
Hall also often runs into the misconception that Canada’s produce is drenched in pesticides. In appropriate levels and approved quantities, pesticides help to control pests, protect crops, and keep food prices affordable. In Canada, there is a strict regulatory system that ensures food is safe. Farmers follow safety label instructions when applying pesticides and take the utmost care in doing so. According to Health Canada, approximately 88 per cent of all fresh food items in Canada contain no traces of pesticides at all, and more than 99 per cent of fresh fruit and vegetables are below Health Canada’s residue limits. When people step forward to become an agvocate, Agriculture More Than Ever provides them with a lot of training and support in how best to share their stories. They also share training and volunteer opportunities through their website.
“We see our website as a hub to support farmers and the agriculture industry. It helps to amplify what we do and make people aware these tools and information exist,” says Hall. “We’re making it easy for them to speak up and share their stories.” While some people find it more difficult to open up than others, being a part of Agriculture More Than Ever helps everyone build confidence and become more comfortable speaking about their experiences. Agvocates volunteer to speak at schools and agriculture days, or host meals with family and friends that feature Canadian-produced foods. Hall says even a simple conversation with a stranger at a grocery store can have a significant impact.
“Every conversation matters and every conversation makes a difference,” she says. “It’s about sharing your pride and passion in agriculture. This helps shape people’s perceptions of our food and where it comes from.” The very first Canada Agriculture Day took place earlier this year, on February 16. Hall says she hopes Agriculture More Than Ever’s agvocates will play a significant role in promoting and celebrating the day. “It will be a day for the industry to share its pride and share its stories. Groups across Canada have planned their own special events,” she says. “We encourage people to celebrate any way they choose. Things are just starting to really roll now.” An example of one of the planned events is the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers’ all-Canadian breakfast in Banff.
The association had already scheduled their convention and tradeshow during that time, so the breakfast was a perfect fit, since the theme of the first Canada Agriculture Day is Let’s Celebrate the Food We Love. “We hope to connect with a variety of people throughout the day and show them that being an agvocate is easier than they think,” says Hall. “Our intent is to inspire and encourage people to participate. We encourage anyone who’s interested to visit our website and check out our tips.” For a full list of events held on Canada’s Agriculture Day, please go to Agriculture More Than Ever’s website, www.agriculturemorethanever. ca/cdn-ag-day-events. Considering becoming an agvocate? There are tons of tips and ways to do it on the Agriculture More Than Ever website, www.agriculturemorethanever.ca/category/agvocate-tips. You can also read the profiles of other agvocates at https://www.agriculturemorethanever.ca/category/from-the-team/ .