The Woolwich Observer
Agriculture needs to be understood, and then celebrated
Federal leaders are being tongue lashed in some media and farm circles for doing little more than mouth platitudes for Canada’s Ag Day, which was “celebrated” February 23.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leader Erin O’Toole drew criticism from one business columnist for heaping praise and respect on farmers, instead of pointing out the economic value of agri-food to Canadians.
The figures are impressive. Agriculture and food makes up seven per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). It’s responsible for billions of dollars of trade and 12 per cent of all jobs – including jobs that go unfilled because people don’t understand the sector’s many opportunities, and because they shun hard work.
It’s also thought that federal leaders should have pointed out how the agrifood sector is tech savvy. Indeed it is; as a group, farmers are among the most active users of technology.
But is that what the electorate wants to hear?
I doubt it. I think it wants to hear the same things that the politicians are being chastised for saying, and Trudeau and O’Toole know it.
Here’s why. As the local food movement continues to grow, “big” is not what people think of regarding agriculture and food. Commodity groups know that. You don’t hear them boast about the size of their industry. Rather, you hear them say things like farmers are your neighbours, that the food they produce is safe and wholesome, and that families are behind almost everything that makes its way to your plate.
They say that because it’s true, and that’s what people want to hear. Although technology is absolutely essential for the kind of food production that feeds millions, it sounds cold. It doesn’t leave consumers with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Neither do impressive statistics about agri-food’s significant contribution to the economy.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know about them and have at least an understanding of how the many moving parts of the agri-food sector come together to keep us nourished and functioning.
We should, but we don’t. And that’s where agricultural education and agricultural literacy come in.
On Monday, the federal government ponied up $1.6 million over two years to kick off Agriculture Literacy Month. Specifically, the month is earmarked for agricultural education in classrooms across the country.
Business columnists focussed on the bottom line will likely never write about this. But the classroom is where future consumers will start learning about