By Tim Kalinowski, Staff Writer
Over the years the voices of those criticizing Canadian agriculture have grown continually louder. It has gotten to the point where sometimes those criticisms, as unfounded or nonsensical as they may be at times, have had a severely negative impact on Canadian agriculture’s trade outlook. That’s why it is important for farmers and their industry partners to speak up, says Candace Hill, manager of Agriculture More Than Ever.
“When our cause got started, based on research we could see a gap between the way that producers felt about the industry, which was generally optimistic, and the (sometimes negative) way that consumers perceived agriculture,” says Hill. “So we identified the opportunity to close that gap and to basically work with producers, and those in the ag. industry, to encourage them to speak up and share their stories with the intention of changing consumer perceptions about agriculture.”
Agriculture More Than Ever was founded in 2012 and now boasts nearly 1,800 of those the organization calls “agvocates.” All are united with the sole purpose of representing the positive face of agriculture to Canadian society.
“Producers are humble. Although they feel pride internally, it is sometimes harder for them to step out and want to share information and stories with other people. At Ag. More Than Ever we try to make it really easy for them by providing those tools and resources.
“We now have about 1,800 agvocates made up of producers right across Canada who have made a formal commitment to actively participate in the cause. Actively participate can mean something as simple as having a conversation with somebody, sharing your story, dispelling myths, and, all in all, supporting Canadian agriculture,” explains Hill.
The idea is as simple as it is powerful, says Hill— put farmers out front and centre to advocate for their own industry.
“By creating this common ground through the (Agriculture More Than Ever) cause, we hope to really make it easy for more people to speak up. It all comes down to trust and transparency. Research studies show trust in farmers is high (in society). They are some of the most trusted people out there. That is why we are trying to work with producers, and producer organizations, to encourage more of them to share their stories.”
Hill says it’s not about creating debate or fostering hostility; it’s about correcting misconceptions.
“It is really about engaging in a conversation and maybe helping people see another perspective of agriculture, and what it is really about,” explains Hill. “There are so many misconceptions in the media today, whether it be about hormones in beef or antibiotics. Those are just a couple of examples. There are a lot of people who are sharing information that is misinformation, and that is having an effect on agriculture. We are trying to counter-balance that (poor) information.”
Hill says the best way to counteract negative perceptions, and to protect the social license of the Canadian agriculture industry, is for individuals to engage in a positive way to tell the other side of the story.
“We want to amplify our message. The more people we have across Canada involved in Ag. More Than Ever the more people we will have speaking up, and speaking positively. At the end of the day we can change some peoples’ perspectives; and with others it is more like agree to disagree and we go on our merry ways.”
Membership in Agriculture More Than Ever is free. For more information on becoming an agvocate visit the organization’s website at www.agriculturemorethanever.ca .