2017 marks a special year for all Canadians as Canada celebrates 150 years since Confederation in 1867. We've all seen the commercials on TV or have been enjoying our Tim Horton's with the #Canada150 logos on the side, to remind us of this monumental date. We've come a long way as a country. Particularly in agriculture.
Its an industry I am extremely passionate about, not only because my parents raised me in it as a dairy farmer's daughter, but because my siblings and I have all decided to pursue careers within the sector.
We all have chosen careers in agri-food that are vastly different - primary production, banking and me in communications/government. But one common thing we share is how much we love this industry. Its an industry that evokes such emotion in us all and is a topic of conversation at every family meal.
Its because its an industry that is not only a career for us but a livelihood. A way of life. Its our roots, our foundation, our springboard of opportunity - its what we wake up for everyday. Its a responsibility we take seriously - producing food for Canadians or for my sister and I, doing our part to help farmers' do their job of feeding consumers.
Of any industry in Canada, agriculture has been a backbone of our country's 150 year history and has experienced probably some of the biggest change of any industry. Think of the horse-drawn plow (which is what a lot of consumers are still picturing) to now self-driven tractors with GPS technology, producing the same abundance of safe, nutritious, high quality food/produce. Now, we're just producing more of it and in a quicker manner but with higher quality and safety standards than ever before. The learning curve has been steep to say the least to get the industry to where it is today.
There are so many good things I could highlight about where agriculture and food has been to get us to where we are in present day. Instead, I want to highlight 5 initiatives we should be proud of as agricultural enthusiasts and consumers, that will set us up for success as an industry and as a country, as we tackle the next 150 years:
- Women in Agriculture - Women have long been involved in the agri-food industry but now, there are networks and chapters available across Canada for women to have productive conversations to help them both personally and professionally to be recognized in their capacity on the farm and within the industry. The Ag Women's Network was established in Ontario and its one I'm pretty proud of. Not because I've been involved in the formation and leadership of the network with an awesome group of ladies, but because of the response from women all across Canada, who have joined in the movement to help each other be better. This has resulted in the betterment of the agri-food sector in Canada.
- Local Food Movement - It has been so refreshing to see a whole 'movement' if you can call it, of consumers asking where their food comes from and how its grown/made/harvested. With these questions though, has come an intense scrutiny on production practices which has pushed our sector and our farmers to become more engaged in public relations and communicating with consumers to help tell the story of how the food goes from the farm gate to the consumers' plate. There is such an appreciation and interest from consumers on knowing who the face is behind the product - we should see this as such a positive opportunity for the sector and sharpen up on our marketing-public relations-communications skills.There is no one better to tell our story than us within the sector.
- World Food's - With our taste palate's expanding and trying new recipes and dishes, we are reaching for food beyond the traditional "meat and potato" dishes of previous generations. This has been thanks to travel, worldly experiences, social media and the growth of produce that we hadn't grown before or had the chance to buy before. There is so much opportunity for farmers in Canada, to reach consumers with products they didn't know our country even grew. We can grow so much of what the world wants and what Canadians want - we just have to be open to growing new things, more of it and letting everyone know we grow it.
- Mental Health Discussion - Thanks to conversations on social media, there has been a much-needed conversation (finally) taking place about mental health in the agriculture community. We're finally addressing something that farmers and the industry needs to discuss for the health of the people who work in the industry. A study led by Professor Andria Jones-Bitton at the University of Guelph, is acknowledging that 'farmers want, need mental health help.' The right place to start helping is by talking about mental health as a first step in the right direction.
- National Food Policy - Canada is in the midst of developing its first-ever National Food Policy because food impacts every Canadian, everyday. There is an online survey that every Canadian can complete that will help to develop the policy framework. The National Food Policy will address affordability, health and safety, conservation/environment and growing food in Canada. It is awesome knowing that food is in the spotlight in a big way for all Canadians.
Today also marks Food Day in Canada, a one-day annual celebration of all those involved in Canadian food. Wherever you are today, whatever you eat - take a moment to think of who was involved in getting your food to you - the farmers, processors, markets, grocery stores, retailers, restaurants, chefs, waitresses - everyone who has helped you enjoy your food today. Be sure to also include the hashtags #FoodDayCanada or #CanadaIsFood to your social media feed and photos so we can all share in the love of food together, today. Food after all, brings people together as not only a basic need everyday, but as a common way to celebrate and enjoy life. Happy Food Day, Canada!