By Tim Kalinowski
Even though it is one of the most visible crops in southern Alberta, many who see it growing in a field, or piled up in local fields come November, still have trouble recognizing it. It’s a perception problem the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) aim to correct by partnering up with Agriculture for Life’s “What’s in a field?” program, says ASBG executive director Melody Garner-Skiba.
“We thought this was a great way for us to educate people so people can actually see what a sugar beet field looks like,” confirms Garner-Skiba, “and we can start to have that conversation about that treat they put in their coffee every morning comes from.
“It means when you are driving along the road, you will see these signs in the fields right on the roadside. You can see the sign and it sends you to a website so, when you are safe and no longer driving, you can visit the website and there is a whole bunch of information there about the commodity you saw in the field.”
“A lot of people don’t actually know how much sugar beet production we actually do in this province, and it’s great to profile that,” says Ag for Life CEO Luree Williamson. “The sign is very clear. It is eight feet wide and four feet high. It says: ‘What’s in the field?’ And then it says, for example, sugar beets. And then to learn more you can visit whatsinthefield.ca.
“Our intent is to guide people to a website where we will continue to build up resources that talks about what is being produced in Alberta,” adds Williamson. “It’s a real education component, and we envision expanding the program to video where we can talk to producers about what they are doing. Or we can do different interviews with commodity groups— just so we can deepen the resources that are available.”
Garner-Skiba agrees wholeheartedly, and says her growers are enthusiastic about the campaign’s potential to foster greater awareness of this homegrown, multi-million dollar, speciality agriculture industry which has been producing sugar in Alberta for well over 100 years.
“More and more people want to know where their food comes from and how it is grown,” says Garner-Skiba. “I think as an ag industry this vehicle provides a great opportunity to give them that education and transparency so they can be invested in where their food comes from.”