Talking to the public about agriculture

Can you explain what you do on your farm to non-farmers?

That was the question posed recently by Bernard Tobin at the Real Dirt on Farming Speakers Training session held in Earlton, Ontario. He challenged us to be able to describe what we do in words that anyone can understand.  He also said that, farmers should be ready to talk at the drop of a hat, or at the doctor’s office, or the grocery store, etc.

royal barry
Barry Potter, Agriculture Development Advisor at the 2015 Royal Agriculture Winter Fair

Volunteering at the OMAFRA booth at the 2015 Royal Agriculture Winter Fair in Toronto made me realize again how interested people are in their food, and how little they actually know about how it is produced. As much as I would like to tell them to just trust farmers and buy our food, I realize the importance of providing that connection so consumers can buy with confidence. To that end, Farm and Food Care Ontario provides speaker training for farmers so they can  gain confidence and comfort when talking with people they meet about being a farmer in Ontario.

The one day training sessions provide insight into a number of topics.  Public perception of food and agriculture is discussed. Farmers learn how to develop  an effective presentation if they are speaking to a group.  Farmers learn how to communicate with their neighbour at the grocery store or hockey rink about hot button ag issues. They also learn the value of telling their story; what they do and how they do it.

At the Royal Winter Fair, I was discussing pollinators with the visitors. OMAFRA was promoting the growing of pollinator friendly plants in gardens. This meant that I could  talk about the importance of pollination, not just for bees, but for our food as well. This then lead into a discussion about how farmers judiciously use pesticides to control problems in their fields.  I also highlighted how bees are placed in fields to encourage crop pollination.

Whether it is at a fair, or in the local grocery store, farmers and agriculture industry people need to take the time to tell their story. To help with that, Farm and Food Care Ontario continue to offer speaker training sessions across the province. For more information visit www.farmfoodcare.org. They have also produced the booklet, The Real Dirt on Farming, which is a great resource to help explain farming simply.

Farmers should take the time to learn how to tell their story, and then tell it at every opportunity.

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