University of Guelph ag students are being an active voice in the food conversation.
When it comes to talking to the next generation of Canadians about their food, who better to do it than the next generation of Canadian farmers and agricultural leaders? As students at the University of Guelph we are perfectly positioned to bring the conversation about food and agriculture to our peers on campus and that’s exactly what we set out to do.
Food and agriculture are central to the identity of our college within the university and is part of what sets us apart from other Canadian universities. Despite this, we felt that a large portion of our campus has never had an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from before it reaches the grocery store. With this in mind the Student Federation of the Ontario Agriculture College (SFOAC) created the #uogfoodtalk initiative. Our objective is to generate conversations about food and agricultural technology, and create opportunities for people to have their questions answered by professionals. All our events are tied together by the social media hashtag #uogfoodtalk.
Our first event was a panel of industry professionals that tackled controversial topics such as GMO’s, pesticides and the organic label. It was aimed to provide the students at U of G with a better understanding of what Canadian farmers and regulators are doing to ensure the food we eat and produce is safe for both people and the environment. Our panelists included Hugh Martin, chair of the CGSB technical committee on organic agriculture and former organic crops program lead with OMAFRA; Greg Hannam, partner in Woodrill Ltd and cash crop farmer; Dr. Maria Trainer, Managing director of Science and Regulatory Affairs for CropLife Canada; and Crosby Devitt, Executive director of the Canadian Seed Trade Association. The event was a success and about 150 people attended, including students, university staff and faculty, and community members. We saw lots of engagement with the hashtag on Twitter during the panel presentation.
Our second event was held in the University Centre courtyard and was intended to create as many short impressions as we could. We arranged to bring in displays from different commodity groups and spent the whole day talking to students about where their food comes from, the farms we were raised on and why we love this industry.
Apart from creating a conversation about food and agriculture on campus, #uogfoodtalk is an excellent opportunity for us to get to know our consumers as well. We love to talk about food and farming; having honest one-on-one conversations with people who are genuinely curious about what we are doing helps us understand both sides of the story. By listening to their concerns we gain a better understanding of the perspective of an average consumer. This feedback helps us create events that approach what our students want to talk about.
The #uogfoodtalk initiative has received an incredible amount of industry support and we owe our thanks to the commodity groups and Farm and Food Care Ontario who generously donated materials and resources for us to use at our events. We are looking forward to continuing to develop #uogfoodtalk on campus next year.