#OurFoodHasAStory Post 29 Sarah Shymko: 

Day 29 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a whirlwind force of nature, Sara Shymko. Sara has done amazing things for agriculture in Saskatchewan, and most farmers don’t even know about it. She has brought Agriculture In The Classroom from a tiny, underfunded and quiet organization, to a prominent piece of education curriculum. She and her team not only connect farmers with the classroom, but also provide lessons for teachers, as well as being an influencer for curriculum creation. If you are looking for an organization to support, Agriculture In The Classroom is literally forming young minds – the minds that will grow up to be the grocery decision makers. Have a read of her food story – with her family farm only a handful of miles from the ranch, I can assure you – her mother’s perogies are top notch!! 

Follow Sara on Twitter @sjshymko and Ag in the Classroom @aitcsk and make sure to check out their website here

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Growing, preparing, sharing – food stories intertwine and become a part of our history. First dates over lunches, family suppers to celebrate special occasions, parties congregating in the kitchen, recipes handed down through generations – our connections to food are emotional and significant.

I grew up in a family that loved food. We still love food. Our family gatherings, and there are many, center around our meals. We plan, experiment, spend hours preparing then we eat (and drink) and analyze the meal and what we would do different next time. Perhaps we are “foodies” or maybe it is just that our family meals together are cherished and appreciated.

Growing up, my family farm was the “stereo-typical” farm. We grain farmed, milked two cows, raised pigs as well as chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. My mom had a huge garden and canned and preserved. I basically grew up on the “100 mile-diet”. I milked cows before school and would gladly clean the chicken coop instead of being stuck in the house making perogies. Not every person’s ideal childhood – but it was for me.

Today though, I live in the city and have a teeny tiny garden. I have a job I love – teaching kids about food and farming! But my heart is still on the farm. When the smell of Spring hits the air, I get this familiar little ache and plan for my next visit to the farm. My parents just have grain and cattle now – I guess when all the cheap labour left home so did the milk cows, pigs and chickens! Farming is more high tech now than it used to be, so I don’t do to much on the field in Spring – but the garden still needs planting and meals need to be made and there is always some sort of work to be done.

Hands-down though, harvest is the best time of the year. It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t from a farm, but there is an energy, urgency and a passion that is prevalent during harvest that is unlike anything else. It is the culmination of a year of planning, hard work, determination and…the will of Mother Nature. It’s the magic of growing food. It’s the same magic I feel when I harvest tomatoes from my garden and the same magic kids who harvest their produce from their Little Green Thumbs school gardens feel.

Food doesn’t just appear. Someone grows it. This month in particular, I am filled with gratitude… for the experiences I had growing up on a farm, for my parents (and all the other farmers) who work incredibly hard to grow safe, healthy food, for my career that allows me to inspire kids to connect with food and farming. Most importantly, I am grateful that I afford to buy healthy, safe food for my family. 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 23 Candace Ippolito: Life Lesson From A Food Network Star

It is already day 23 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Where has October gone!? Today brings us a guest post from a very good friend of mine, Candace Ippolito. I have cheered Candace and her business partner, April Nichol, on since they first opened the SaskMade Marketplace years ago. She is most easily described as a fire cracker, don’t ever try to get in her way! I love this aha moment. Perhaps it will be an aha for you as well. Enjoy!! 

Follow Candace on Twitter @candaceippolito and be sure to check out the store’s website!! 

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A Life Lesson from a Food Network Star – Chef Lynn Crawford

Our Food Has a Story, and here is mine. I am a 4th generation beef producer who worked for many years in the Ag Sector. The bright city lights drew me in to pursue a dream of owning a business. Growing up on the best farm ingredients, it is no surprise I became a lover of fine wine and good food. So it only made sense to open a speciality grocery store where everything is made, grown and produced locally. Welcome to the SaskMade Marketplace http://www.saskmade.ca in Saskatoon. Very early we determined that this business was going to be a destination; where the draw was as much about the quality of the ingredient as it was the story and community behind it. So I set out to teach the “city-folk” about food and where it comes from. To my surprise I was the student and they were the teacher.

 I was very fortunate that the store, SaskMade Marketplace, was chosen to be filmed for the Great Canadian Cookbook to be aired on the Food Network. The host was Chef Lynn Crawford and I was a big fan of hers and her style of cooking. The premise of the show was to showcase local ingredients and food from Saskatchewan. I was super excited but nervous to meet my cooking crush. I was prepared and had all my Ag facts memorized; how many acres of chickpeas we grow, what percentage of the beef in Canada comes from SK, etc.

As we were filming, and I am hosting Chef Lynn around the store, I was sharing all my food and production knowledge. We stopped at one of my favourite products in the store, Gravelbourg Mustard. Determined to impress Chef Lynn I explained that, “ Saskatchewan is the biggest producer of mustard in the world.” A loud deep booming voice behind the camera yells CUT, and filming stops. The producer informs me that I am incorrect. He continued to share with me that “Germany has more favours of mustard than anywhere else in the world.” I was in shock and then quickly jumped to tell them all the reasons why he was incorrect until I had my AHA moment…. I add one word that totally changes the entire conversation. “Saskatchewan is the biggest producer of mustard SEED in the world.” Chef Lynn, a culinary icon and influencer of food, replies with “Oh, that makes sense now.”

 I learnt a very valuable lesson that day which dramatically changed how I communicate and share the local food story. It has also helped to shape the direction of my marketing of food products and the SaskMade Marketplace. This business was not just about ME and what I think is important, valuable or how I like to be communicated to. Perception is a reality and the language that we use, or don’t use, is very impactful in telling the story. Chef Lynn taught me to be mindful that day in how I share our food story. #OurFoodHasAStory

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 19 Brad Wildeman: Times Are Changing; And Mostly For The Good

Today, day 19 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, brings us a guest post from a cattleman we can all learn from, Brad Wildeman. He has been heavily involved in shaping the agriculture and cattle industry in Saskatchewan. He has also been the head of a very successful, integrated feedlot and ethanol plant, PoundMaker Ag Ventures. Brad could be (and is by many) called a visionary in Ag. So it’s wonderful to see so much of his vision written in this post. Enjoy!! 

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I have been privileged to be involved in agriculture, and particularly in the cattle industry, almost all my life. Over the years, I have seen many changes and for the most part they have been positive even though change is sometimes hard to accept or embrace.
The adoption of new farming practises and harnessing the potential of new technological tools has improved yields, financial returns and increased the health of the land. Gone are the days of the prairie duststorms caused by over tillage. Capturing and conserving the moisture from fall and winter precipitation through minimum or no-till farming has allowed for good yields even on dry years that in the past would have resulted in crop failure. New cropping options, improved varieties, and the precise use of fertilizers and crop protection products have all been very positive improvements to farming practises.

Those improvements haven’t been limited just to grain based agriculture. New methods of grass management, utilizing new winter feeding regimes, and better cattle genetics has increased the productivity and financial returns of the cattle industry as well. Improvement in animal health products and the increased adoption of preventative vaccination programs has reduced morbidity and mortality within the herd. And although we haven’t harnessed all the opportunities available through adopting new technology yet, I see progress being made every day.

Perhaps the biggest change I see is the effort by the cattle industry to implement programs and procedures that allow us to promote our products as safer, more sustainable, and more accountable to our consumers. The demands of the consumer for transparency and accountability, and advocating the benefits that a healthy cattle industry can provide to everyone is a critical component of continuing to make a living in this industry. Our efforts in traceability, adoption of animal care standards, our participation in sustainability roundtables, the implementation of the Verified Beef programs, and the creation of Cattle Young Leaders and other mentorship initiatives that are training new advocates to communicate with consumers at their level of understanding and concern are all very positive steps. Organizations like Farm and Food Care are important avenues to creating and maintain this connection to consumers who don’t understand our business and make judgments on what they may see or hear on social media.

Social license and sustainability are the new drivers that will shape how we do business in the future. Just doing the right thing isn’t good enough unless we can prove accountability. Then taking this message to the masses is critical to changing the paradigm of modern day agriculture from the “factory farm and profit at all cost” vision to that of a socially and environmentally sensitive industry that is committed to feed an ever increasing population while preserving, and potentially enhancing, our impact on the planet.

These are tough goals but I believe we are on a winning strategy and I applaud the efforts of all those involved. It has brought out a passion for our industry that encourages optimism for the future. The key is to sustain this momentum as the stakes are high.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 18 Kris Cherewyk – Agriculture: Through Many People’s Strength

Our guest author for day 18 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan is Kris Cherewyk of Norquay, Sask. Kris is an agronomist, farmer, and works with Seed Hawk. I absolutely love his post. Careers in agriculture, the passion of farm families, and the sense of community that comes with living in a small town – I can relate to, and appreciate all of these amazing attributes of agriculture and food production in Saskatchewn. Enjoy!!

Follow Kris on Twitter @SeedHawkKris

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The agriculture industry has traditionally been called the lifeblood of the western Canadian prairies. Even though other sectors such as mining and oil and gas contribute more towards the provincial economy these days, it is agriculture that has the greatest impact in terms of community and way of life. With Ag Month in full swing, many stories will be told about topics such as the innovation of agriculture and the evolution of the industry itself. Perhaps the most important story, however, comes from one constant through all the years and that is the passion for the business of the people themselves. Whether it’s farmers putting in the time and effort to plant the seeds of hope in the spring, lab tech’s conducting research experiments or grain elevator personnel unloading super B’s, it’s this commitment and dedication to agriculture that produces the effort which feeds a growing society year after year.

When people who aren’t typically exposed to the world of agriculture are asked about people involved in agriculture, they typically think of farmers in their fields. The fact of the matter is, jobs in agriculture are as diverse as the grain and livestock that is produced. One in eight Canadian jobs are of agriculture employment which equals to roughly 2.1 million people (source: AgCareers.com). The range of careers that the agriculture industry features is enormous; including positions in research, labor, sales, manufacturing, processing, logistics and management. Obviously, different positions will command varying salaries and require different amounts of physical labor, however each one is a vital cog in keeping the business of agriculture flowing. From the corporate director in the boardroom to the guy driving forklift in the chemical shed, each person knows how important their role is to their company’s success and it is this dedication that has resulted in so much success across the agribusiness landscape.  


The role of producers themselves at the farm-gate cannot be understated. It is difficult to find a business with as much inherent risk as farming, no matter the size of the operation. Markets, weather and many other factors beyond producers’ control are always variables to consider in farm business planning. However, many of the families who call farming their occupation have done so for literally decades (century farms are quite common) and plan to pass along the operations to their children so that they can continue the great tradition. Some people who are unfamiliar with agriculture may ask why farmers would subject themselves and their heirs to such risk when they can take on other occupations that involve less volatility, less labor and fewer work hours. The simple answer is this: it’s the fulfilment of knowing that the hard work they do puts food on the table for so many people across the world. It’s this passion that keeps producers moving forward through the tough times and has brought so many young people in recent years back to farming when they could be doing something else for a living.


Through the passion from both farmers and industry personnel alike, support for communities in rural Canada has never been greater. In a business that is as volatile economically as agriculture is, people often count on each other for support. Whether it’s farming itself or the many local businesses that provide support to agriculture and vice versa, small towns create a friendly community atmosphere that provides a great place to raise a family. Many great leaders in the fields of academia, business and politics attribute their success to their rural upbringing as well as the lessons of hard work and giving to those less fortunate instilled in them at an early age. Events such as Telemiracle, held every March and supported throughout Saskatchewan, are successful because of the enormous support from people throughout the province who unselfishly donate their own time and money to help those in need. The term “shirt-off-their-back” is often over-used in society but not among farmers as they live this philosophy every day.


For those of us who eat, sleep and breathe agriculture every day, it’s not just a living; it’s a lifestyle. The community spirit that small farming communities are known for is reflected in the various agriculture trade shows throughout the year where it seems you can’t get ten feet without stopping for a friendly visit. Folks working the wide range of booths at the show may come from different backgrounds and might be representing vastly different products but they, along with the farmers who attend, all share one common bond. It is the passion and enthusiasm to contribute their part to a business that is projected to feed nine billion people worldwide by the year 2050. Agriculture has been around since the beginning of civilization and it’s the great people who keep it moving every day that will carry this planet forward. Perhaps Paul Harvey, in his address to the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978, said it best: “And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker. So God made a farmer”.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 17 Laura Reiter: A Wheat Story

Laura Reiter is the guest author for day 17 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Laura is a grain farmer from Radisson, and I can only imagine how picture perfect her land must be, along the Saskatchewan River. She is also a director and research chair for Sask Wheat. Have a read of her story of her favourite crop, wheat. 

Follow Laura on Twitter @ReiterLJ

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When Adrienne asked me to be part of #OurFoodHasAStory this month on her blog I was honored. I was also a bit hesitant as to how to proceed. What we produce is several steps from the grocery shelf so it is much easier to think of it as an ‘ingredient’ rather than ‘food’. I struggled for a bit as to how to tell you our story. What I decided was that I would tell you part of a story…

Our farm is located along the North Saskatchewan River by Radisson, Saskatchewan. My brother, my husband and I operate a grain farm here on land my Grandfather purchased when he got back from the war.

We have grown a variety of different crops here over the years but my favorite has always been wheat, Hard Red Spring Wheat.


Canada is pretty good at growing wheat. The industry has exported wheat to over 50 countries in 2017!

The wheat that we produce on our farm gets delivered to a local milling company and they mill it into flour. That flour can get shipped to customers around the world or to a store just down the street.

That is the end of my part of the story. What happens next is up to you. Whether you open that bag of flour and make pizza crust, a pan of sticky cinnamon buns, or a simple loaf of bread, whatever you choose, together #OurFoodHasAStory

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 16 Julie-Anne Howe: Farms = Lifelong Learning For Farm Kids

It is day 16 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, and today’s post is from a FarmHer friend of mine, Julie-Anne Howe. She is a dairy gal turned cattlewoman, grain farmer and a growing bee farmer to boot. 

Follow Julia-Anne on Twitter @JulieAnneHowe and check out her farm blog, Fit to Farm, here (ps. Her latest on sexual harassment in agriculture is really, really good). 

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One thing that I love so much about farming and food production is the tie to nature, science and lifelong learning. Our farm is the ultimate classroom for my children. We farm South of Moose Jaw Saskatchewan; living and learning with nature. Our farm was established in 1950 by my husband’s grandparents and my children are the 4th generation of Howes living on the farm. We run 300 purebred Charolais and Red Angus Cows, about 2600 acres of grasslands, 1000 acres of grain land and a small-scale honeybee operation. 


For all aspects of the farm to sustain itself, we need to care for the land and our creatures. We need to be constantly paying attention to the weather, soil, new technology and more. We are always learning: myself, my kids and my family business. I go to courses, field days and conferences to learn as much as I can to keep farming better for our future generations. Food production is complex. We strive improve our understanding of everything from how we can reduce stress in cattle to how to provide more cuts and types of beef products at the grocery store. For my bees, I attend at least one conference every year and take advantage of a mentorship program to learn about beekeeping techniques and food safety in honey production. There is so very much to learn. 

The Canadian Beef Industry Conference had over 800 attendees this year.


My kids learn so much from our farm. Biology, math, responsibility, respect. We include them in the farm as much as possible and safe. 

Matthew and I tending to our beehives.


Elise and I collecting flea beetles to use as part of our I alive weed species program. Flea Beatles eat Leafy Spurge.


They have been privileged to see firsthand our crops grown from seed to harvest and onto food production. They have learned the hard lessons of the circle of life and how nature doesn’t always play nice. From sadly still born calves, to droughts parching our crops, there are lessons in all of these experiences. My kids also have their own chickens that they tend to and are saving their egg money. They also help me at the local farmers market to gain money sense and small business skills that will be invaluable throughout their life. They have their own cows and are now learning the ropes on animal production. My oldest is starting 4-H this year and it’s amazing to see the personal growth he is from having his own show calf and learning how to care for her. 


From learning about the latest ways to manage invasive weeds species in my cow pastures to developing an orchard to provide more early spring nectar sources for my bees, we are always looking to learn and improve our farm. The different components of our farm are so deeply interconnected. My bees pollinate my crops and pasture land. My alfalfa fields fix nitrogen in the soil that will help the grain crops that are seeded after them. My cows use land that isn’t suitable to crop production. These lands provide key habitat refuges for wildlife. We have deer, moose, foxes, badger, hawks and owls and more all residing on our farm. And we see how if one species declines in number the rest of the ecosystem is affected. The wonder of the complexity of how nature and farming co exists astounds me. I’m always learning more about nature, farm production and how we can do better to co-exist.
The list on what lessons the farm gives back to us is unending. Our farm also is committed to giving back by providing farm education experiences to the public and mentoring younger people in our industry. We host international groups wanting to learn more about Canadian Agriculture. We contribute to the Moose Jaw Food Farm, a Sask Ag and Ag In the Classroom initiative to teach Grade 2-4 children about food production and have had hundreds of kids (young and old) pet our cows at Agribition. 


We are the lucky ones. We get to live and learn in the wide-open spaces to see nature in all its glory daily. I was born into agriculture and am thankful for all the lessons I have been able to learn and for the chance to raise healthy food for Canadians. This is my food story.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 14 Sheri Pederson: What Food Means To Me

Sheri Pedersen is the guest author for day 14 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Sheri is a friend of mine in so many levels of agriculture – being a farmer herself. Have a read of what food means to her. I am sure you will find many commonalities! 

Give Sheri a follow on Twitter @sheripeds and see more info on the annual Saskatchewan Cattlewomen’s Golf Tournament here. ……………………………………………………


Have you ever stop to consider how much time, energy and effort we put into our food? Think about it. We drive to the grocery store (for some this is a big deal), shop for groceries, prepare the meal, eat (always takes the least amount of time it seems), clean up and oh ya…the time it takes to think of what to prepare for the next meal (the thing that often takes me the most time). What if…..we didn’t need food?

Food is fuel for our body. In the last few years I have taken an intentional journey into selfcare and feeling good about my body. I have learned that when we consider food as fuel, we can focus on the science of food and what our body needs to be at its optimum health, through nutrition. While exercise helped me to increase strength and endurance, it was my food intake that drastically changed the number on my scale and how my clothes fit.

 Food is celebration. Life events all have a food story. Some events have been our daughter’s high school graduation, our dear friend’s funeral, and of course Thanksgiving weekend.

Food is fun. I was recently in Las Vegas where there are so many shows and events one may attend. Instead, I chose to eat!! The group I was with had a delicious meal at Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill at Ceasars Palace. We enjoyed the chef’s creativity on every serving. And man….was the meal delicious….and a lasting memory of the trip.

 Food is fundraising. Try to think of a fundraising event you have attended that has not had great food? Today, I am working in the canteen at my daughter’s volleyball tournament, serving homemade soup, and raising money for the Drake Elementary School. Next weekend, the Jansen & District Kinsmen is hosting their semi-annual Steak Fry, to raise money for community efforts of all kinds. Every spring, I host a charity golf tournament, raising money for the Jim Pattison’s Children’s Hospital Foundation to build a much needed Children’s Hospital in Saskatchewan. While I know not everyone has fun golfing (if this is the case, you must attend our golf tournament as it is the most fun on a golf course that I have) we have a delicious steak supper that non-golfers attend and enjoy the event too. Without food, these fundraising events would be pretty blah….

 Food is family. From Sunday morning breakfasts that my husband enjoys preparing for his family. To bbq’s at our campsite where we invite friends to share and enjoy each others food. To harvest suppers in the field (packing up everything for the meal….and please, don’t forget the forks) so we have a small amount of time in the busyness of harvest with the men that work so hard to take off the crop. For me, there is nothing better than the meal in the field as I can express my gratefulness to my hardworking team.

 So back to how much time, energy and effort we spend on food….lots. I am grateful for every reason food is in my life. More importantly I am grateful for the life I have been able to live because of food. I am raising my family on my 112 year old family farm. Think about this for a moment….how many hours has my family spent producing food over the last 112 years? Nearly 1,000,000. My husband is the happiest farming our land. My oldest daughter is following my foot steps in the College of Agriculture. My youngest daughter would skip school to be in the grain cart or combine. There is no other thing I would rather spend my time, energy and efforts on, than food.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 13 A Day In My Ranch Life (Adrienne Ivey)

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a rancher is, “What do you do in an average day?”. This is also the hardest question I am ever asked. You see, every day is sooooooo different for me! And I don’t just mean seasonally. Of course a normal day is different for every farmer in seeding vs harvest, or in calving vs weaning. But because I am the secondary rancher here, some days I do ranch work. Some days I am more of a stay at home mom. Some days I feel like I am a professional organizer of randomness.  Any given day is a total spin of the roulette wheel. So today I decided to track my day, and give each of you a real glimpse into my life.

(6:30am) Alarm goes off. I immediately grumble – no morning person here! I wake the kids and chat with hubby. Once they are fed and clean and off to school, I feel like my real day has begun. (9:00am) I spend some time on email and social media, concentrating on #OurFoodHasAStory posts.

(10:00am) Phone call with a reporter from the Tisdale Recorder. We chat about Ag Month, being an agvocate, and how Tisdale’s old slogan Land of Rape and Honey started me down the path of talking about agriculture.

 

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10:30am – I bundle up because we are moving one of the herds of cattle a few miles onto some rented stubble land (land that has been combined, but we send cattle out to graze the slough grass and fencelines. This is like upcycling, because it would otherwise be wasted.). As I head out, I peek at the weather. -3C. That is freaking cold with a bare face, going full speed down a road on a quad with no windshield.
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10:40 – I fill up my ranch pony with fuel. I’ve learned to never trust a fuel gauge on the farm… the hard way

 

 

 

 

11:00am – We head out down the back roads. It. Is. Freaking. Cold. Unlike the other guys on the ranch, who work outside everyday, I have not developed my winter skin yet. Ok, who am I kidding, I never do. -3 bombing down the road, I can only imagine what the wind chill is. Too much for a big wimp like me, this early in the year.

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11:10am – We stop and formulate a plan. “We” is a loose term. More accurately, I wait patiently to be told what the plan is. My memory (or lack thereof) for gate placement and paddock shape means I am more of a point and shoot type of helper. I’m the digital camera of ranch help.

 

 

​We move cattle a lot. A normal cattle move is like a well oiled machine… and then there are “Those” days. This was one of those days. After an hour of trying to get the cows and calves moving, we needed to stop, regroup, and start all over again. These experienced girls were convinced that they needed to go east. They were adamant. 600 head of stubborn bovines can be frustratingly hard to convince they are wrong. “The Plan” was to go west.

​Eventually those stubborn ladies got on board with the boys plan. In the end, I kind of thought they were right – we should have gone out the other gate, but shhhhh… don’t tell the guys!

(2:00pm) I got back into the house (even colder due to the fact I dropped a glove somewhere on the move. The throttle hand glove, of course), just in time to take another call from a reporter. This one from the Estevan Mercury. Again, we chatted Ag Month, agvocacy and blogging. I love taking the chance to brag that we are the only province that doesn’t just have a day dedicated to agriculture, not just a week, but an entire month to show just how much Ag means to Saskatchewan. (2:30pm) I then spent some time planning a minor hockey overnight weekend. Complete with the all important parent hospitality room, of course.

I spent some time digging in the fridge planning what to feed child #2 in between school and hockey, as I was going to be busy driving child #1 to her daily riding lesson (4:00pm). When we finally got home from the barn (6:30pm), I fed child #1, and finished planning the hockey weekend for child #2’s hockey team.

And now, as I sit here writing this post (9:30pm), with a GIANT glass of wine, I am realizing exactly why I find it so hard to explain to people just what it is I do. Am I a rancher? Am I a stay at home mom? Am I a blogger? A communicator? I am all of these things. In the same day.

I guess when it comes down to it, that IS my food story. Balance. My food story is cool and eccentric. It is varied and full. My food story includes raising beef, feeding it to my family, and speaking to the masses about it. My food story is so fulfilling. Thank you for sharing in it with me.

 

 

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 12 Jean Clavelle: Conversations with Consumers

Day 12 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from Jean Clavelle. Jean is a friend of mine from University, she is a fellow Agro. I have had the opportunity to reconnected with her in the past few years with our work of communicating with consumers. I love her take on being mindful of the fact that we are indeed all consumers, whether we are farmers or not. Enjoy!!

Follow Jean on Twitter @ClavelleJean or check out her newly launched communications company, Magpie Marketing, here

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Our Food Has a Story.There is a profound truth in that statement. Behind every bite is a business, an individual, a family, a history, a farm. Likewise, the food choices we make, tell their own narrative. Our decisions make an account of our economic status, our ideologies, our understanding of science and exposure to outside influences. Yes that’s right, the story includes not just the people who grow the food but also those who eat it. We mustn’t forget that it is not ‘us’ versus ‘them’, it is ‘we’. We are all consumers.

So, how do we bridge this seemingly insurmountable divide between the beliefs’s of non farming consumers and the truth about, and the science behind, what happens on a farm? I think that the farming community is beginning to find its voice by sharing their farm stories with video and images. But, just like our mama’s told us – it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Sometimes the message can get lost because of how it is presented.

Before engaging in a discussion about food and farming we must step back and shift perspective. How can we expect non farming consumers to understand the complexities of food production anymore than we can expect society to understand medicine without being a medical doctor? Is it any wonder consumers are in a near state of panic between the rush to keep up with the latest miracle ingredient, anxiety about chemicals and demonization of gluten, dairy or sugar? Scary headlines, ‘free-from’ labels and judgemental hashtags hardly help. Not to mention the food snobbery – is it actually okay to consider cheap and affordable food healthy too?

Consumers are exposed to an inordinate amount of information (some factual, a lot of it not) during the decision making process of buying food. We in agriculture must shed the indignant anger to recognize the genuine confusion and uncertainty that many consumers experience. Only then can we talk to non farming consumers about what we do, how we farm and why we make the decisions that we make.

Analysis by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity tells us that consumers, and specifically millennia’s, are looking for more information and to engage in this discussion. So, let’s invite the conversation to happen, in an open, frank and friendly manner. Let’s be like those doctors with a really great bedside manner leaving the consumer feeling encouraged, safe, and confident in what we do. Even though they may not understand the science they trust us to make the right decisions and they know we’ll be here to answer questions.

So yes. Choices abound. Misinformation is a reality, but what an opportunity this presents! I look forward to more of these conversations as all sides find common ground with #ourfoodhasastory and hopefully come to realize there are actually no sides at all.

Have a great Ag Month everyone!

 

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 11 Stuart Smyth: Communicating the Benefits of Agriculture Innovations

Day 11 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan is exciting for me. Today’s author is Stuart Smyth, a researcher, educator and communicator – all about agricultural science. The reason that farmers and ranchers are able to do what we do, and raise what we raise, is due to those in research and education. 

Follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartsmyth66 or check out his University of Saskatchewan profile here: http://www.usask.ca/research-groups/stuartsmyth/About%20Dr.%20Smyth/Profile.php

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As a professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, there are two things that make my job one of the best in the world, sharing the results of farmer surveys and teaching farm kids.

I receive several invitations, national and international, each year to attend conferences or other events and give a presentation based on my research. Yet, the presentations I enjoy the most are the ones I give to Saskatchewan farmers. Farmers are incredibly savvy businesswomen and businessmen, who know very well just how economical a new innovation is or is not for their operation. This is often the case regardless of the innovation, whether it is in a new piece of equipment, chemical or crop variety. That’s because they take the time to find out. Farmers also know how well a particular innovation is succeeding in their general area, but they may have less exposure to impacts at the larger, provincial level. This is often where I’m able to share some of the findings of my research with them, to give them a broader sense of the provincial impacts.

 These opportunities to speak with the farm community are valued ones, as the exchange of information is two-way. While I am able to share some of my research findings, I’m also able to have the results validated by those in attendance, allowing me to know what results are pretty accurate and which ones might require further research. Luckily for me, farmers are relatively forthcoming about sharing insights about farming that they are interested in, expanding my knowledge and understanding. A lot has changed on farms since I left my family’s farm in the mid-1980s, so being able to expand my awareness regarding current issues, topics and concerns is incredibly valuable for me.

Being able to teach classes of predominantly farm kids is truly a rewarding experience. Their passion and enthusiasm for agriculture is certainly infectious. Getting a chance to know these students a bit over the course of their education makes teaching classes exciting as the students are curious about changes and innovations in agriculture and the resulting impacts. As I get to know the students, I’m reassured about how capable they are and know that as the future leaders of our province, we are in good hands. One of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen in agriculture at the U of S is the high number of female students today, compared to the class photos that adorn the hallways. Class photos from the late 1970s and well into the 1980s show a handful of female students at most, definitely less than 10% of the total class size. For the past few years, the graduating classes from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources have been over 50% female.

Growing up on a farm in the 1970s and 80s, but not actually farming myself, has never been something that I’ve easily accepted. However, being able to report on the farm level benefits of agricultural innovations and to teach farm kids is pretty good compensation for not being able to farm. Every day that I drive onto the U of S campus, I’m so very thankful that I have the opportunity to work in agriculture.