Monday, 18 March 2013

Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference - Wednesday, Speaking Up For Agriculture

I was really looking forward to getting stuck into day 3 of the conference, a day entitled 'Speaking up for Agriculture'  Kelly Daynard works for an organisation called Food and Farm Care who are the voice of Agriculture sector bodies in the province of Ontario.  The organisation's role is to promote credible truthful, factual and real stories about the family farms of Ontario and to tell these stories to the customers who buy that food.  We heard how farmers are among the most respected in the community, after emergency service staff and veterinarians.  We heard how Kelly and the team are training farmers, old and young, ranchers and crop farmers, rural and more urban, to be willing and available to promote the industry.  This is about training them to speak to the media, go on television and write letters to the newspapers promoting their food and farming stories.  This training is moving out across Canada to British Columbia and Prince Edwards Island.  Food and Farm Care is also looking at other initiatives to engage with the public through Virtual Farm Tours , Faces of Farming Calendar and Lets Talk Farm Animals If 50 farmers took 10 minutes a day for 5 days of the week that would equate to a full time employee doing marketing for the industry.  Image what could be achieved in the UK or globally?
After Karen was Bern Tobin who was giving us media training.  What was the message we wanted to get across, how would we achieve that and did we need to bring in help form other people?  Bern told us to try and stick on message all times, to keep our game-face on throughout the interview and to be clear thinking and use language that could be understood by everyone.  He quoted Denzil Washington "explain it to me like I am a 7 year old" which is so very true and a comment I will remember and try and stick to. After Bern was Andrew Campbell who gave us an insight into Social Media.
I knew social media was big but I hadn't realised just how big!  Facebook (or FaceTube - #Nuffield13 joke) has 1 billion active users and twitter has 500 million users.  People are hungry for this method of engagement and short sharp communication!  We were warned though, information on the Internet is like toothpaste, once it's out of the tube it won't go back in!  I think I will be starting to use Instagram next so watch out for updates coming your way.
Agriculture More Than Ever is an industry cause to improve perceptions and create positive dialogue about Canadian agriculture.  George Klosler from Farm Credit Canada gave a great presentation about this organisation and how it is trying to raise the awareness of our great industry.  There are some really great video clips on their website showing the wonderful stories of how are food is raised or grown and by whom.  A huge thanks to FCC for sponsoring our shirts for the Nuffield group to proudly wear on our trip and he's Tafi Manjala from New Zealand very proudly displaying his new shirt! 
Len Kahn was next up, to tell us all about marketing ourselves.  We are the brand, how do we stand out in a very noisy world and how do we get our message across.  It was a great lesson all about PPEAS, Preparation, Practice, Eye contact, Appearance and Smile.
Last but by no means least we had a trio of local business people all at the top of their respective games from different farming sectors.  First up was Jackie Frasier (Middle) who runs Fraberts Fresh Food her message to me was be part of the community and focus on quality, quality quality.  There also needs to be a strong brand and there needs to be trust!
On the left (above) is Bruce Vandenburg, who owns Mariposa Dairy a company making goats cheese. The company has grown very quickly in the last 5 years with the help of one of the international supermarkets.  On the left we heard form Jason Verkaik who runs a 250 acres vegetable farm (Carron Farms) on the Holland Marsh.  Jason runs a fantastic business on rich soils growing many different vegetables including ones demanded by the growing the niche populations near Toronto, including East Indian Red Carrots.  Jason also started a harvest box scheme, as well as growing a wide range of crops from legumes to leafy greens, strawberries to gourds.
It was another long day and the last one in Guelph, so after dinner at the Borealis Grille it was time to explore The Ranch (Country and Western) bar, inhabited by a single Canadian and us.  After a hybrid Irish and Scottish country dancing, the staff very kindly started up the bucking bronco and we all had a go at staying on board!

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