Newfoundland sheep farm becomes a beehive of positive activity.
Rodney Reid has been involved in farming most of his life, but only in recent years was he able to achieve his goal and return to his roots in Bishop’s Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador. He grew up on an egg and pork farm there, moving to P.E.I. for university and settling in that province for 16 years. Before moving home he worked on a dairy farm, a job he credits with inspiring him and his life partner Brad Smith to start their own operation. They currently run sheep – future plans include beehive propagation and agri-tourism with a petting zoo, a Little Farmer program and promotion of agriculture to the upcoming generations as a career choice full of opportunities.
Rodney is very active in the Newfoundland and Labrador agriculture scene: he’s on the boards of both the Young Farmers Forum and the Beekeeping Association, and represents young farmers on the NL Federation of Agriculture board. He’s also a member of the province’s sheep producer and goat associations.
What does the word agvocate mean to you?
Agvocate represents open, honest conversation about agriculture, and the importance of a unified message supported with facts to educate and energize.
Why do you agvocate?
I agvocate to support the agriculture industry, to dispel myths and to educate people positively while being factual about food production.
I’m motivated by other agvocates. I follow agvocates from across Canada, like those I’ve met at the annual Canadian Young Farmers Forum conference. Social media makes it easy to stay connected with the people I meet, even when they’re far away in other provinces on their own farms. Following other agvocates and young farmers on social media keeps me energized and provides a steady stream of resources to share.
How do you currently share the real story of agriculture?
I use social media when I can to help spread the message and share my agriculture experiences with people I meet.
I proudly use the Ag More Than Ever shopping bags – they’re a great way to talk about and promote agriculture. I purposely use them for produce and meats at grocery stores and markets to get the conversation started. People are interested in knowing what’s happening locally, and Ag More Than Ever has lots of materials available to help share the positive message of all the great things happening in agriculture.
I think it’s important to educate our upcoming generation of consumers, so I also volunteer in classrooms. I’m a mentor at Helen Tulk Elementary School in the Little Green Thumbs program, an educational program that connects kids to nature and growing their own healthy food. I go into the class to check on the garden and offer support as needed. I recently did a presentation on the importance of honeybees and how pollination is important for food production.
What are some tactics that work well?
Not being afraid to talk openly about agriculture sparks dialogue that supports openness and honesty.
People appreciate honesty. Use of comparison helps people think, question and learn where their food comes from and whose responsibility it is to provide safe food. A news event in agriculture opens the door to food conversations. For example, when a recall happens it is a great opportunity to tell your story and talk about what is happening locally. People want to know more about where their food comes from, how safe it is, and how important support for their farming neighbours can be.
What advice would you give to other agvocates?
Keep educating yourself on all aspects of agriculture and network with people in other areas or commodities.
Many of the challenges within agriculture are universal to all areas. If you can’t answer a question, you may be able to point the person in the right direction or use your network to find the correct answer.
It’s important to have an open mind and open dialogue about how we’re all connected to agriculture. We’re unified when we respect others’ differences. No matter your commodity group or interests, business or personal, we are here to share the same message and path, as we are all connected in this community.
What have you learned?
Never let the opportunity for open dialogue about agriculture pass you by. Listen and respect the stories of others, while keeping an open heart and mind.
Hearing Rodney’s story, it’s clear he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. His commitment to sharing his farming story and talking through issues with his neighbours and customers clearly demonstrate his passion for being an agvocate. Follow Rodney on Twitter @EMF_Rodney.