By Resi Walt, Communications Intern at Farm & Food Care and dairy farmer
When you’re young and growing up, it can be hard to grasp how big the world is. Where you live – your home, your yard and your neighborhood – is where your world begins and ends. As a child growing up on a farm, I felt that everything I would ever need was on the farm. That included the sandbox, the hay mow, and my bike.
As I got older and went elementary school, I had the occasional sleepover at a friend’s house, or stayed a night with my grandparents, and my world grew a little. Then I found myself in high school, and eventually got my driver’s license. The world really opens up when you can drive anywhere on your own!
For me, going off to university was the next step in broadening my understanding of the world. The diverse student population at my university opened my eyes to what Canadian multiculturalism truly means. I also discovered that it was very rare to meet someone else who had grown up on a farm, or someone who had any sort of connection to agriculture. It disappointed me that I couldn’t find more people to relate to agriculturally.
At a university in a bigger city, people are fairly removed from agriculture, sometimes by many generations. I began to realize that people have widely differing perceptions of farming and how their food is grown, and often those perceptions are shaped by videos they have seen on the internet – which are full of misinformation.
One example of a frustrating situation for me was when a classmate was telling a story and they began the story by saying, “I was in this little hick town, I can’t remember what it was called, but there were lots of farms.” His use of the word “hick” seemed so derogatory to me, as if he imagined all farmers were like Old MacDonald. At that moment, I realized it was time for me to find my voice, and let this classmate know that it was not okay to refer to farmers as hicks.
Since going to university, I have become very conscious of the fact that people are not getting the right information about food and farming. My experiences at university have really opened my eyes to the need for farmers to tell their story any chance they get. People are eager to learn about farming and where their food comes from, and that information needs to come straight from the source. When non-farmers have the opportunity to talk to real farmers, great things happen.
At times, it can be very hard to find your voice, especially when you are in a room full of people who may not understand where you are coming from, or might not like what you have to say. It is like being that person who stands up to the bullies in order to help defend the person who is being picked on. It’s intimidating and difficult, but once you do it you are able to walk away from the situation and know that you didn’t stand by and let it happen. We all need to find our voice and start speaking up for agriculture.