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    Erin is a writer, blogger, Oxford comma fan, and general word geek. A former journalist and communications professional who previously worked at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, she recently launched her own writing business – Pen to Paper. She can most often be found typing away with a cat on her lap.

Telling Canada’s ag story

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Canada's Agriculture Day celebrates vibrant industry while encouraging conversations to bridge gap between consumers and their food.

In the next 40 years, humans will need to produce more food than they have in the past 10,000 years combined.

That’s a fact that will make anyone raise their eyebrows (and I certainly did a double-take at the notes written down when that was said).

It’s also a sombre reminder that the world will have nine billion people to feed by 2050. But as Michael Hoffort, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada, stated in his address during the first-ever Canada’s Agriculture Day on February 16, in that challenge lies an opportunity for Canada.

“We have an opportunity to make Canada an agri-food superpower,” he explained.

Michael Hoffort, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada, told those at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa that there is a need to “build upon coming together and speaking as one voice, as one industry.”

But Hoffort also noted that getting there means encouraging more conversations about the vibrant agriculture industry we have in Canada and bridging the gap between consumers and producers. Therein lies the importance of introducing Canada’s Agriculture Day, an opportunity for those in the agriculture and agri-food industry to come together collectively in celebration of food and the people who produce it. After all, we have so much to be proud of in Canada when it comes to agriculture and agri-food – an abundance of healthy and readily-available foods, ground-breaking innovation, substantial contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, and providing employment for more than 2.3 million Canadians. But with less than three per cent of Canadians having a connection to agriculture nowadays, those facts are lost on many individuals. That’s why it is up to those in agriculture to promote the industry and help create a link between consumers and where their food comes from.

“We don’t talk enough about the food we produce in our country,” said Hoffort.

“Telling the story of agriculture by the people who are close to it and living it is much more impactful than people having to go online and trusting that they will get the real story,” Hoffort explained after his address. “Agriculture hasn’t always been properly and accurately represented. So this is a chance for those who are close to it, who are passionate about it, and who know it, to be a part of that conversation to give our consumers confidence. Because we really do have great food here in Canada.”

Now, feeding the world’s burgeoning population doesn’t come without some obstacles. And as many producers at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa commented, chief among those obstacles will be producing more with less.

“(Farmers need to look at) how can we farm by the square inch instead of the square mile,” said Lane Stockbrugger, co-owner of LD Stockbrugger Farms, who took part in a panel of industry representatives.

It was certainly no surprise to hear that adapting new technologies will be paramount to overcome many of the challenges facing the industry. But Zenia Tata of XPRIZE took that notion a step further when she explained that the current digital revolution is a “game changer” that will restructure how food is produced in the future.

“Want to work on a farm? Study biology. Want to be a farmer? Study robotics,” she said, later adding to the youth in attendance: “You are all entrepreneurs of the future. Remember that the day before something is a breakthrough, it is still a crazy idea.”

The next generation

Of course, you can’t talk about the future of agriculture without talking about today’s youth. Though, if the level of excitement from the youth in attendance at the Canada’s Agriculture Day event in Ottawa is any indication, it’s an industry that is in good hands.

But I wasn’t the only one who noticed their enthusiasm. So did John Betts, President and CEO of McDonald’s Canada, who commented during a break: “I believe that if we get the right messaging out there and really tap into the energy that young people want to do something worthy and just, there is a natural fit for a lot of what needs to be done.”

And who better to help spread the right messaging than fellow young people. Participants of a panel consisting of students from across Canada encouraged their peers to capitalize on their creativity and imagination to help shape the future of agriculture.

“Youth want to make an impact. We want to talk about what we are passionate about. Feeding nine billion people by 2050 – that’s our challenge,” said panel moderator, Cameron Choquette, a student at the University of Saskatchewan. “So if you have an idea, let’s go for it.”

So what now?

Canada’s Agriculture Day serves as an important opportunity to highlight the industry’s successes and future, but celebrating agriculture cannot simply be a one-day affair.

The enthusiasm surrounding Canada’s Agriculture Day needs to be carried on throughout the year in conversations about our country’s food and the people who produce it. Everyone involved in the ag industry shouldn’t shy away from telling their story – and certainly, each story is worth telling. If you’re passionate about agriculture, shout it from the rooftops (well, not literally, but you get the idea). Whether through social media, trade shows or just while you are at the grocery store, be part of the conversation by inviting consumers to ask questions and sharing your perspective.

Because no one can tell the agriculture story better than those who are living it.

“Our agriculture story in Canada is a great news story,” said Hoffort. “As we talk about it more, I truly believe that makes other people want to be a part of it.”

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