#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


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!



Who Will Grow Your Children’s Food? Why Small Business Tax Reform Will Change Who Feeds Your Children. 

Since the moment our children were born, we have been planning and strategizing on how to set our farm up in a way that will allow them to one day farm themselves. This is an incredibly complicated long-term plan, one that is constantly shifting and changing with economic changes, the growth of our farm, and small incremental tax changes. 

The small business tax changes that the Federal Government is proposing do not only affect if and how we will thrive as a farm. They do not just affect myself and my husband. These changes could very well mean the end of our family generational farm. These changes mean that it could cost millions of dollars for my children to take over the land and soil we have long cared for. Can you imagine, as a 20 something, having an extra million dollars (or two) on hand to start out your career? Not to invest and grow, but to hand over in taxes. The idea is ludicrous. 

After the last Agriculture Census I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the CBC National. We discussed the lack of young farmers, and how it is almost impossible for young people to build a farm without a family farm to start from. With these changes, people new to agriculture will still struggle to farm, and passing a farm onto a new generation will also be extremely difficult. 

This concerns all Canadians. I cannot stress enough how it concerns each and every one of you reading this. 

Who will grow your children’s food?

With grocery store shelves always full, it is difficult to imagine such a question. I have no doubt that those shelves will always be full. But from where? Will we import everything we eat from China? Should we leave our food security, as a nation, in the hands of other countries? 
A farmer is used to sleepless nights. Waiting on a cow to calf, or a rain to come. Worry over paying bills, keeping the family and workers safe, or how to get everything done that needs doing in a day: these are the things that keep sleep elusive. But these days, it isn’t Mother Nature keeping me up at night, it’s our very own government.

Have a peek at my friend and fellow rancher, Tara Davidson’s, blog post here, where she has compiled a list of links to more information, as well as a petition against these changes. 

I ask, no, I beg of you to take a moment, have a read, and sign the petition. Tax is something we all have in common, something no one loves, but is necessary for a functioning society. But you know what else is necessary for a functioning society? Healthy, nutritious food. The kind grown on family farms across Canada. 

Saskatchewan Can Do Better

I read an article this morning that struck a nerve in me. Tiffany Paulsen’s article in the Leader Post (here) hit the nail on the head for me. Her exact sentiments have been rumbling around in my head for the past week. 

Last Thursday, when Premier Wall announced his upcoming retirement, I wrote an open letter to him, remembering the Saskatchewan I grew up in, where it has grown to, and thanking him for the hard work and dedication he has given to the people of this province. (Read it here.) 

As with all things political, I expected some engagement. I expected differing views. I had no idea that people would react with hate. With personal attacks and downright viciousness. 

Should I be shocked? Apparently there is still a healthy dose of “Old Saskatchewan” kicking around. Those who would rather vent and complain, attack and claw, rather than step up and create the change they would like to see.

I am not taking about the people who would like to see a change in government. That’s the great part about democracy – having differing views and holding responsible, adult conversations about them.

I am talking about the people who see a man, choosing to walk out the door, and taking that moment to take a swing at his back end as he is literally walking away. 

To those people, what exactly did you think your personal attacks would do? Make him leave politics? Wait. He already did that. Make him change the last budget? Pretty sure that petty name calling isn’t going to get you far in that. 

I wish we could all remember that these are real people we are dealing with. Just like every one of us. 

And if you think for one second that your comments were justified, I dare you to apply the same sentiments the next time someone retires from your work place. The next “Congratulations on your Retirement” card that is passed around the coffee room, stick to the same mentality. Because if you can comment viciousness on a letter to a retiring Premier, I can only imagine that you would also feel that “Get lost bag, you are a terrible nurse/teacher/lawyer/banker/whatever, and we can’t wait to see you gone”, would be an equally appropriate farewell comment for someone you disagree with in your workplace. I can’t wait to see their face when they open that card. 

So here is my plea. My call to action. 

If you can be anything, choose to be kind. 

As I tell my children, you cannot control others, you can only control yourself. So do better. Stop being mean and vindictive. If you want change, fair enough. Go create it. Stop attacking and start building. In Premier Wall’s words, it’s time for renewal in Saskatchewan. Let’s make this amazing province even better, starting with ourselves. 

An Open Letter to Brad Wall from a Young Saskatchewan Rancher

Dear Premier Wall,

Today you announced your impending retirement from politics, from the position of Premier of Saskatchewan, and my heart broke a little. 

Born and raised here in Saskatchewan, I never dreamed of a leader like yourself. I never dreamed of what Saskatchewan, as a province, was capable of. For myself, your time as Premier was a little like the blind being blessed with sight, as I never had the smallest vision of what was possible. A vision that, thankfully, you did have. 

You see, I grew up in a very different Saskatchewan than the one that my children know. In my formative years, Saskatchewan was quite literally the joke of Western Canada. The gap, as Canada knew us as then. 

It was not until you took our amazing province’s reins that I dreamed that we could ever become anything but a have-not province. A sentiment I can only imagine was shared by the majority of my classmates, by the way they fled Saskatchewan in droves after completing their education. Your leadership changed that. 

With the last decade, I have developed the type of puffed chest pride of our province that can only be likened to that of my pride in my children. I have shouted to the world that right here, right now, Saskatchewan is THE best place in the world to live. THE best place in the world to raise my children. THE best place in the world to farm, ranch, and feed the people of this world. For that I thank you. 

Thank you for bringing the people of Saskatchewan together. Thank you for ensuring my children’s prosperity here. Thank you for making the difficult, unpopular decisions that are best for our province in the long run. Before you, I never knew that politicians could make decisions based on what is right, rather than what gains votes. For that I thank you. Thank you for making the RoughRiders win (ok, I may be getting a little carried away…). Thank you for teaching me the word “Jackwagon”. 

Thank you Premier Wall for pouring your heart and soul into Saskatchewan, because as you have proved, we are worth it.  

Sign with gratitude,

Adrienne Ivey

Our Latest Family Adventure – Jan Lake!

We have exciting news in the Ivey Family – we have bought a cabin!! 

This may not be a momentous occasion for many families, but we have always had a way of life that seems a lot more like “work hard and work harder” than the traditional saying. 

You see, anyone that knows my husband will smile and nod their heads when I say that he is a workaholic. And it’s not an altogether bad thing. He is so fortunate to be able to do what he truely loves every day – cattle ranch. But, he and I both know that work/life balance is important, especially when it comes to spending quality time with our family. 

We chose Jan Lake because it is the only place on earth outside of the farm that Aaron loves. It is a quiet, wilderness type place, with just enough amenities to get you what you need. The six hour drive it takes us to get there is more than made up by the amazing location, in Saskatchewan’s Boreal Forest surrounded by trees and the rock beds of the Canadian Shield. 

Rock walls along the road to the cabin.

Our lot is unbelievably beautiful. Right on the water, surrounded by trees, it is a northern paradise. 

You can catch your limit of walleye from our shoreline.

Of course, we couldn’t make it easy for ourselves! The cabin we bought needs some significant work. It is perfect structurally, but the inside needed a complete re-do, so we have a very busy summer ahead of ourselves. 

The kids worked hard on their bedroom.

The loft will be set up for guests

Any suggestions on what do do with these cupboards are welcome!!

We look forward to hosting friends and family, as well as watching our kids gather memories that will last their lifetime. 

All we need is a witty cabin name. Suggestions? 

See you at the lake!!! 

Farm Fuel Jockey Genius 

The smallest things on the ranch make me jump for joy. Not sure which one of the guys thought of this genius Farm Fuel Hack – but it was sitting at the pumps for months before I even realized how awesome it was… 
No more scrounging for rocks (which never quite fit right anyway….)!

Update: the last time I filled up with gas on the farm – that perfect fitting bolt was no where to be found. Let me tell you people: if you like it then you better put a string on it….. 

Learning About Advocating From An Unlikely Source

Last year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the EMF Nutrition (now Masterfeeds) team to attend their parent company, Alltech‘s ONE, their annual IDEAS conference.

One of the first speakers at the Alltech ONE conference in Lexington, Kentucky took me buy surprise. John Calipari, head coach of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team was more than inspirational. I expected him to speak about how to lead people. I expected him to talk a lot of sports talk. I DID NOT expect just how relevant his talk would be to how I advocate for agriculture.  

His title was ONE and DONE: Teaching skills in a year that will last a lifetime. I certainty hope that his tips will stay with my for my lifetime. Here are a few of his nuggets that I found directly applicable to advocating for agriculture.

“Build strong relationships built on trust and respect.”

“We have to undersell and over deliver, because the minute one thing you say is not true, or doesn’t happen the way you said, the trust is lost.”

This caught my attention in a BIG way. He, of course, was talking about maintaining the relationship and trust with his players. To me, this was all about the trust between farmers and consumers. We have all felt the dissipation of the relationship between farmers and consumers, and I believe we have also struggled as an agriculture community to find ways to bring that trust back. This golden nugget speaks directly to how we must engage with consumers – with complete honesty, even if it isn’t always a pretty answer. Whether it is antibiotic use, pesticide rotations or the simple question of “Does it hurt a young calf to be branded?”, consumers MUST be told the truth. Trust is hard to develop, tough to maintain, but almost impossible to regain if lost altogether. Sugar coating with dishonesty may feel easier in the short term, and we all have done it at some point (I know I have), but it gets us nowhere. That’s not true, it doesn’t just get us nowhere, it actually gets us further back from where we started. I think we all knew this, it has been in the back of my mind for a very long time, but sometimes it takes an inspirational guy like John Calipari to remind us of just how important it is.

“Social Media is vital, but we must train our players. That’s our world now. Why? Transparency. We must inform but we also must react. But remember: It cannot replace face to face interaction. Face to Face is the ONLY way to judge the effect of your words.”

Wow. Yes. True true true. I LOVE the number of fellow farmers on social media. I LOVE the way we are engaging with consumers. But we could do so much more with some training. Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/ Snapchat are so very easy while simultaneously being so very hard. I want to learn more, be better, and engage more. I want to be transparent, even when it’s hard. But I also can’t forget the face to face. It is very easy to get comfortable behind a screen and forget how darn fun it is to meet people! I had 3 flights to get down to this conference, and I challenged myself to engage with each of my seat mates. Well, the first one slept (I think – it was 5:30am, my own eyes may or may not have been closed), the second one was VERY uninterested in a conversation, but the third was a great interaction! She was a very (very) well off housewife (I actually looked up Real Housewives of Atlanta’s cast to see if she was on it. Nope.). She wanted to talk mostly about eggs, but we had an awesome talk about what organic, natural, hormones and antibiotic labels all mean. She had no agenda, and neither did I. I picked her brain about what label she looks for at the grocery store vs what she actually wants. She picked my brain about what farm life is really like. Face to face is so much more powerful!

“Listen more, talk less. Show that you truly care.”

If there is one thing about the whole Earls beef fiasco, it is that as an industry, we need to listen better. I need to listen better. I find it very easy to lead with anger, and place a very strong defensive wall between myself and people who are asking for something I do not agree with. It helps no one. Not that person, not myself, and not the beef industry that I love so much. Just because I don’t agree doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the time to listen. Every time.

“Kindness costs you nothing”

This can never be said enough. Kindness to consumers and kindness to each other. I costs me nothing to say that organic farming may not work for our farm, but there are some great farmers out there that it does work for. It costs me nothing to prep vegan dishes for a vegetarian friend. Leading with kindness will never, ever be a bad thing. 
As I read over my notes from this speaker, I was yet again amazed my just how applicable a basketball coach’s words were to my life. It took me a while to sort through it all in my head, but I was finally able to make sense of it. You see, he is the leader of a team, and that is just what all of agriculture is – A TEAM. We may all have different roles and skills, but when farmers work together we are unstoppable. Whether you are an organic farmer from Vancouver or a canola grower in Davidson or a dairy FarmHer outside Ottawa, we are all producing excellent high quality food. You are all on my team. A team that I count my blessings every day to be a part of. 

And now, as I am heading back down to Lexington, Kentucky for Alltech’s next conference, I cannot wait to see what nuggets I will bring back with me this time. Stay tuned for this Northern Girl’s Southern Adventures!! 

Check out info on this year’s ONE conference here

The Next 30 Days – Guest Post

One thing I know for certain – I have some of the best girlfriends a farm gal could ask for. They accept my faults, my lack of plans (everything in farm life is weather dependant), my venting about the harder sides of farm life. They accept it because they live it as well. Our farms may not be the same, but we share the same struggles. My good friend, April Nichol, wrote this spring blog post, and it spoke to my heart. Have a read and enjoy it as I did. 

The Next 30 Days

I think it’s safe to say that whether you sit in the air seeder, deliver meals, run the sprayer or are the CEO of the rest of your family’s life, seeding time is its own mess of crazy – truly understood by only those who endure it every year. While all aspects of farming are stressful at certain times of the year, I always feel like seeding time brings the most anxiety. In Western Canada, we are extremely lucky to get 30 good planting days IF mother nature cooperates and its not too wet, too dry, too cold etc. So in order to get every acre in the ground in a timely fashion, the pressure is definitely on. For my non-farming friends, the thing about seeding is – if you don’t get it in the ground, you can’t harvest it, which means NO PAYCHEQUE. Imagine for a minute, if your entire year’s salary was dependant on the weather conditions for 30 days.  
In my household, whilst my husband is farming, I also work full time, in agriculture – which I love. So there are days when my job is unpredictable, stressful and uncontrollable all at the same time. Truth is, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I’ve been watching my fellow farming wife friends on all measures of social media the last few weeks– getting lunch’s to the field, kids to soccer/ball, running farm equipment, working shifts outside of the farm and the list goes on. All the while feeling like there is not enough time in the day and that they can’t seem to please everyone. Here is my big learning – YOU CAN” T PLEASE EVERYONE. So, if there is a day when your 6-year-old didn’t make it to soccer, you were late with lunches, the laundry didn’t get done, your grass is 2 feet tall and someone at work is annoyed at you – don’t sweat it. It takes a special person and skill set to juggle all of the things that are thrown at you each day without loosing your grip. I’ve read all sorts of posts recently about looking after yourself so that you can look after everyone else. And it’s totally true. Take a breath and find your happiness – even if only for 10 minutes.

So what do I do? Well friends – I’m sitting on my deck, after dark, listening to the quiet chirp of my yard and enjoying a very Canadian Caesar. As I’m writing this post, I can reflect on how truly grateful I am to have all of these experiences, every single day. We all go through hours and days where it seems like nothing is running in our favor; then the next day the entire farm, work, and life flow like an orchestra. There are two things that are guaranteed – the sun will go down every night and will rise every morning. Enjoy those sunrises, 29 more and counting! 


April Nichol

Mom – Farmer – Ag Industry Lover

Canadian Cattle Being Moved By A…… Beaver?!?

Here on the ranch, we are on the verge of calving season. We calve the heifers first, because they have no practice at being mothers yet, and often need more help than an experienced cow. 

On Good Friday, when Aaron and I headed out for a mid-afternoon check, we came over a hill on our ATVs and were surprised to see all 150 heifers crowded around in one tight group. 

We expected maybe a new calf, but what we actually found was possibly the most Canadian thing we have ever witnessed on our ranch. 

You see, the heifers were following none other than a beaver happily leading the herd around the pasture. 

It is not unusual to see wildlife on our ranch. We are proud of the fact that our cattle share the land with all sorts of wildlife and waterfowl. White tail and mule deer, moose, coyotes, wolf, badgers, skunks, geese, ducks and eagles are all usual pasture-mates. But this level of herd/wildlife interaction is not something we see everyday. 

Because heifers are young, they are very curious creatures. They were absolutely enthralled by this wayward beaver travelling across their stomping grounds. Enthralled, but wary enough to keep their distance. 

As for the beaver, we have many sloughs and wetlands on the ranch, so beavers are common place. This is the time of year that beavers may find themselves looking for a new wetland to build their home (beaver hut) in. This particular beaver was quietly minding his own business when he caught the attention of the herd. 

Have a peek at the most Canadian of all moments on our ranch. The time that a beaver took control of the herd for a day…

I’m sure this will make you smile as much as it did when we first witnessed it. Happy Easter from this Canadian Beef Ranch!! 

Being Shut Out of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Town Hall Meeting 

I have often dreamed of having the chance to ask PM Trudeau a question. I have many questions, but the idea of him having to answer any one of them honestly makes my spine tingle. So when I heard that he was finally coming to Saskatchewan as part of his cross-country town hall meeting tour, you can bet I jumped at the chance to secure myself a seat. It was last minute, as there was only a 36 hr space between when the meeting was announced, and when it was to take place. But this monumental moment – a moment which PM Trudreau himself explained as the time for him to listen to the concerns of the Canadian people, was something I very much wanted to be a part of. 

I was surprised to learn that the only way to reserve a seat was through a Liberal Party website. I was required to provide them (with no privacy policy in sight) with my personal information, including my address and telephone number. I guess they needed to bulk up their data base. 

After inputting my personal info (which I can honestly say I would never have freely given to the Liberal Party without the carrot of seeing PM Trudeau and possibly asking him a question), I received a confirmation email. 

Having received the above confirmation, I quickly went about making the necessary arrangements needed for a last minute 600km trip. Child care was arranged, as well as chore duty. Even with a possibility of meeting the PM, our animals needs must come first. On top of the regular chaos of the ranch and children, the day of Trudeau’s town hall also happened to fall on my birthday. So party plans were called off, and I broke the news to my kids that they would have to save the celebrations for the following day. 

I spent a large part of my day brainstorming ideas of possible questions to ask. I threw it out on social media, asking what respectful questions my peers would ask. There were many concerns, and thoughtful questions to go with them. 

I was very surprised to see, almost 12 hours later, another email directly from the sole Saskatchewan Liberal MP’s office in my inbox. 

I was shocked. How was this possible? There was only one way to register. They knew the exact size of the location. How could it be possible that they had over-booked the venue? The registration itself was only open for a few hours. 

Something is not adding up.

I was not surprised to see that of all the people I knew that also had an RSVP’d confirmation, each had also received the same second email. The western rural voice I had so hoped to see represented well, is apparently not going to be there. 

I am incredibly disappointed in this. Not in the idea of partisanship meetings. Not the favouritism to the Liberal supporters, but the dishonesty around it all. 

If PM Trudeau wants to (only) speak with the people that voted for him, that’s fine. But don’t call it an open town hall. And don’t make the taxpayers foot the bill. Being shut out of this meeting makes me furious. 

For a man so concerned with climate change that he is willing to force an unwanted, ineffective, carbon tax down our throats, it is shocking to me that he would expect a working mother to drive 600kms for the small chance of even getting in the door. For a man that wants to “listen” to the Canadian people, he has silenced my voice. I was ready to engage in a respectful conversation. I, like many people in the West, are not happy with the direction our country is going in. I have long suspected that PM Trudeau cares little for our western voice. This only confirms my suspicions. 

Dear PM Justin Trudeau: Shame on you. I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. I wanted you to be open to our concerns. I wanted you to care. How disappointing. 

Adrienne Ivey