Finding my voice

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! Continue reading

It's a good thing!

Jean L Clavelle

Today I would like to share some of the positive things I am enjoying about livestock agriculture!  FACES OF FARMING PIC

It is satisfying to hear about all of the young people going into agriculture as primary producers.  Agriculture is not just a career choice with a myriad of job prospects but many young people are finding primary production a viable way of life.  Going back to the farm offers a life that is inherently satisfying regardless of the stress and long hours. Each year the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan publishes a billboard campaign featuring influential and modern young farmers who are making significant strides in their fields. The 2014 campaign was recently released so if you are in Saskatchewan look for these signs around Saskatoon and Regina.

I am excited to see the increasing application of technology in the day to day operation on farm.  Agriculture is not represented by the stereotype of uneducated hillbillies.  I understand that this may not be what our consumer is expecting or perhaps, wants to see but I think it is reassuring.  Many producers have a university education and are incorporating the latest technologies in their operations. This allows for production methods that are constantly improving – quicker identification of disease, better use of resources, healthier animals, and improved food supply for the consumer.  This is meeting the challenge that society has set – to improve efficiency, sustainability and animal welfare. To me the use of cutting edge technology implies a need for improvement, for evolution and for advancement which is everything that agriculture should be doing.

A great example of this is dairy robotic milkers.  As I have mentioned numerous times in previous posts I support many types of production systems – organic, conventional, small production for local markets, larger corporate farms etc etc etc.  However for robotic milkers to be feasible, farms need to be large enough to warrant the expense of a robot and are thus a best fit in mid to large size operations.  There are some advantages to robotic milkers that I believe warrant discussion.  Cows have the option to choose to be milked at whatever frequency they desire, instead of being milked the conventional twice per day.  It is interesting to see that cows will often go through the milker 2 to 5 times per day depending on the stage of lactation and the individual cow.  Robots are able to measure the somatic cell count in the milk which is an indication of mastitis.  Long before regular practices would be able to identify the problem the robot can predict disease and those cows treated as well as automatically divert the milk.  This is beneficial for the cow and for the consumer and for the producer.   Robotic systems also allow the producer to be in constant contact with their barn.  Alarms will sound if there are ever any problems with the cows or equipment which prevents problems before it happens.  Now this is not to say that non robotic systems cannot have optimal management but this technology certainly enhances a producers’ ability to manage his or her operation.

I think one of the biggest things I am enjoying right now is our renewed sense of pride in the fundamental nature of agriculture.  Tagvocate PIChe AGvocate movement has re-ignited the belief that what we are doing is worthy and worth explaining to the world.  Yes we need to continue to evolve and improve but overall Canadian agriculture efficiently and cleanly provides healthy food for our citizens.   It may be overwhelming but the ag community has taken up the challenge to share what we do with society.  And in the words of Martha Stewart “it’s a good thing”.

Why I Agvocate

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Sarah Shultz author of NurseLovesFarmer.com blog.  When I read it I thought this to be an excellent message of keeping the “Agvocating” message positive and certainly worth sharing.  If you want to see additional posts from Sarah please check out her blog!

Jean L Clavelle

 

Why I Agvocate

It’s been almost a year since I started writing about agriculture on my blog. Sure I had posted dozens of pictures during seeding and harvest times and blogged about our family farming life, but I hadn’t ever really taken the plunge into blogging about the business of agriculture. I started off by asking my Facebook friends if they bought organic food, and Sarah Schultzwhy or why not. I got a varied set of responses and asked my friend Lyndsey from RealAgriculture.com do a guest post for me as I knew the majority of my readers (moms of young kids) would be able to relate to her as she’s also a mom of young kids and a professional in the agriculture industry. I then had my farmer husband write a post on his thoughts on organic and non-organic food from a producer’s perspective. These posts received good feedback and gave me the confidence I needed to keep agvocating.

What It’s Really Like to Speak Up for Agriculture

It is like an emotional roller coaster with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A little background info to that is that in the late spring of 2012 in my mommy blogging world I came across a Twitter party which was a plight to get a baby formula company to be a leader in the industry by removing GMOs from their formula. It really bothered me that such fear was being spread among my parenting peers, so I attended this party in an attempt to try to be the voice of reason for agriculture and science, even simply as a farmer’s wife & mom. This would be the first time I was indirectly called a shill for agriculture when a participant asked me if I was being paid to attend this party. I had no idea what they were talking about and attempted to talk to these participants that GMOs were not harmful and that worldwide scientific consensus stated the same, but no one would listen. At that point I decided something needed to be done on my part because it was not right that so many parents were being lead astray thinking that they were causing harm to their families by feeding them “evil and poisonous” GMOs. This is when I started researching GMOs and how I could best agvocate and teach my readers about biotechnology in agriculture. My first post merely posing my reader’s questions for GMOs entitled “Do You Have GMO Questions?” received 136 comments, mostly from people of the anti-GMO nature. Immediately I questioned “what have I gotten myself into?!” as my anxiety shot through the roof at the negativity my blog was receiving. Cami Ryan, my mentor and now good friend, gave me lots of invaluable advice and many counseling sessions via email!

Overcoming Challenges

Educating about ag when I’m not really in the industry is a challenge. On one hand I lose credibility as “just a mom” and blogger…but on the other hand a lot can appreciate where I’m coming from because I’ve taken the time to do my own research as a mom. I’m a farmer’s wife and I’ve learned a ton through my husband, people in the industry via social media, and mostly by reading articles and researching myself. Trying to maintain composure and confidence when it feels like most people are attacking and fighting back gets very draining on the nerves. If you want to agvocate or be a positive voice for anything you feel strongly about, I highly recommend having a mentor and joining some Facebook groups who talk about whatever your interest is. I’ve connected with a lot of other farm wives, farmers, and ranchers who blog and that are on Twitter that I know I can rely on for support and to help agvocate in the comments sections of my ag posts. I always disclaim these blog posts that I’m not an expert in these fields and that I’m happy to connect my readers with people who can properly address their questions and concerns. I overcome these challenges by educating myself and having the confidence to do so. I know most of the tricks up their sleeves and how to dispel a lot of myths.

Speaking of Negativity…

As a blogger I have to be professional and ethical as I represent a lot of brands, but I’m also representing myself and my family too. I could get snarky and mouthy, but I always remember that our words can heal and be life-giving or our words can be hurtful weapons – so I strive to abide my the former. Fighting fire with fire just doesn’t get anyone anywhere and if the naysayers keep coming at me with snark and negativity, in the end it makes them look like fools and discredits them. I’ve absolutely had to grow a thicker skin since I started agvocating, which is a good life lesson anyway, and I have learned that it’s okay to not address every single comment and it’s okay to delete comments that are just plain vulgar and destructive. I have been called a pawn or a shill for big ag, I have been called a bad mother, I have been called an irresponsible blogger for sharing “misinformation”, and most recently I have been called a “stalker” for responding to the misinformed tweets of an anti-GMO blogger. That’s okay because I have the confidence in myself and in what I blog about, and I don’t feel the need to fight with these people anymore to defend what I know to be true. I have also decided to not engage with anti-GMO activists anymore as their minds and their ideals won’t be changed and it’s not worth being put through the ringer and dealing with the stress it brings.

nurselovesfarmer card pic

This thoughtful card from AgMoreThanEver came at a much needed time!

Should We All Agvocate?

Simply answered – no. I strongly feel that if you cannot engage with people in a positive and respectful way, you shouldn’t attempt to agvocate. There’s no need to name-call or assume that people know anything about the agriculture industry, and that if they don’t they are ignorant and stupid, because so many don’t have a clue about anything in ag, and that’s okay. When we put our knowledge out there we must be accurate, accountable, and authentic, as I heard Cami Ryan recently shared in her presentation at Farm Tech, and I wholeheartedly agree. We must remember to agVOCATE and not to become an agTIVIST, there is a huge difference between being an advocate vs. an activist. Let us share our knowledge in agriculture, be proactive, respectfully dispel myths, avoid feuds, and just be positive. Share your story.

I also have to update this to add that I have made some absolutely amazing friends, especially my fellow female ag bloggers, who are some of the most kind, funny, and passionate women I have ever ‘met’ in my life! Love to you all!