Ontario fruit farmer’s love of agriculture runs deep
Dusty Zamecnik is a fourth-generation farmer at EZ Grow Farms in Norfolk County, Ontario. They grow 30 acres of highbush blueberries as well as culture and propagate strawberry plants for berry producers internationally.
At the age of 25, Dusty is Operations Manager at the farm and strongly committed to the agriculture industry. He graduated in 2013 from St. Francis Xavier University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, is the Young Farmer Representative for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Treasurer of the Ontario Highbush Blueberry Growers’ Association, and a member of the National Blueberry Working Group.
What does being an agvocate mean to you?
To me, being an agvocate means having the right people, with trusted information, offering it in a constructive and efficient way to all consumers. To help educate and show that farmers and others in this amazing industry are modern and innovative people.
Why do you agvocate?
Everyone around the world wants to know where their food comes from. With today’s technology it has never been easier, and at the same time more complicated, to find true answers to these questions.
I agvocate to help curb stereotypes of farming. Farming is not picket fences and uneducated people. Farmers are very educated and some of the most innovative citizens that we have! If farmers don’t take the opportunity at this crucial time to speak up, someone else, who may not be our best representative, will tell our story for us.
How do you share the real story of agriculture?
I actively use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube to spark conversations. I discuss topics that are important to consumers like pesticide use, and I share my story on social media so consumers can hear from a farmer. I also use our website to tell the real story of agriculture. Our site features videos to help educate consumers. We made a video last blueberry season (How do blueberries get to your table?) that gives an in-depth look at highbush blueberry growing, harvesting and packing. I plan to do another one on strawberry plant production this summer.
What have you done that works well?
I always bring a positive attitude to every conversation I enter. I am open and honest. We have to be professional in our discussion and be open about our growing practices – how and why things are done and why we are proud of our farming practices.
I started doing #FarmFactFriday. On Fridays, I post a fact to help teach others about fruit and vegetable production. I saw a demand for this information and enjoyed bringing something like that to social media. Topics such as pesticide use help to bring awareness of our farming practices.
Thinking about the consumer’s point of view is important. Following harvest schedules is always a good idea. For example, I post about strawberries in June, blueberries in July, and watermelons in August. That way my audience can relate and connect when they make their next stop at the grocery store.
What advice would you give to other agvocates?
- Check facts and reach out to another individual in the industry or associations to ensure what you’re saying is correct. The last thing you want is to spread wrong information.
- Photos are amazing tools. People love seeing things, so having visuals is valuable. It also helps legitimize your message and keep the audience intrigued.
- Do what you can and just start. People want to hear what we have to say, but we also need to be ready to listen. We don’t know everything about farming individually but together we can represent the industry.
- Be proud. Agriculture is a unique and amazing industry that is experiencing a generational-shift. Our generation and industry has this amazing ‘burden’ of feeding our neighbours, our country and the world. So always speak up with confidence and know that what we do makes a difference.
Dusty has tapped into something that we as an industry are embracing more every day. “People honestly love hearing how these processes work. Canadians are proud to buy Canadian products so let’s start attaching faces to our products. Let’s get the conversation started!” That is a great call to action for all of us involved in Canadian agriculture.
Connect with Dusty:
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