The Sawyer family has invited the whole internet to their dinner table.
But before you show up in your Sunday finest, this invitation is a virtual one — a chance to get a glimpse of “a real family on their farm” on the national web series “Real Farm Lives.”
“Farming is part of our dinner table talk all the time,” said Tara Sawyer, who farms near Acme with husband Matt and children Emmett, Cassidy, and Quin.
“Our family is very passionate about it and tries to be fairly involved in telling our ag story in different ways. We have been for a long time. So for us, this was a natural fit.”
Now in its second season, Real Farm Lives is an online documentary series produced by CropLife Canada that follows farm families from across the country to share their troubles and triumphs as they show what life on the farm is really like.
Its first season featured three farm families — the Ardiels from Ontario; the Englots from Saskatchewan; and the Renwicks, also from Ontario — sharing what they do and why they do it.
But the Sawyers hadn’t actually seen any of the episodes before they were approached to apply for season two of the web series.
“When I first got that email, I watched the first season’s episodes and thought, ‘How did I miss this? This is awesome,’” said Tara Sawyer. “It’s a learning tool that’s done in a pretty fun, relaxed way.”
The first two episodes of the new season showcase the Sawyers on a typical day on their farm, working with their agronomist to grow malt barley.
“The whole premise of this show is to follow real families on real farms — the challenges they have and what a typical day looks like,” she said, adding the show is unscripted.
“We want people to see that this is what goes on, on Canadian farms and that this is a typical farm family.”
And since the first episode was released in mid-October, Sawyer has been surprised by how far reaching the series has been so far — especially among friends from the city who spotted the series online.
“Last year was a tough year, and this one has been even tougher for us,” she said. “I’m not from the farm originally, so a lot of my friends live in the city, and this year more than any, I had a lot of friends texting me asking me how we’re doing.
“They finally understand that it’s a big deal if the snow falls or if it rains during harvest. They finally have that connection.”
That, said Sawyer, is the real beauty of a series like this — creating a connection between consumers and the people who produce their food.
“There’s such a mixed perception of what farming is, and a lot of the time, it’s really not a true picture,” she said.
“So the people who want to know where their food comes from can check it out. It’s a short six-minute video where they can see what we do, and hopefully they will reach out to us if they have more questions. We’re trying to open a dialogue in a very transparent way.”
Part of that meant involving their three teens in the show. The Sawyers’ second episode follows Emmett, Cassidy, and Quin as they work on the farm and talk about their future in the industry.
“A lot of people are scared of big farms. They think that means it’s not personal anymore — but those are still run by families. So I hope they see that this is how families work on a farm,” she said.
“This is the landscape of Canadian agriculture. This is what it truly looks like.”
That’s something that’s been lost as people become more removed from the farm and rural life, she added. And in trying to ‘agvocate’ for the industry, farmers often find themselves preaching to the choir — sharing the stories of their lives with other farmers on #AgTwitter.
But Sawyer hopes that Real Farm Lives is a way to bridge the rural-urban gap and reach consumers in a new way.
“More and more people care where their food comes from. They want to know, and they want to have that connection,” she said.
“We need initiatives like this to make that connection. You don’t just want to be speaking within your own circle.”
The show can be found at realfarmlives.ca.