Agriculture Day celebrations across Canada on Tuesday included a conference in Ottawa with roughly 500 attendees from across the ag sector.
Hosted by Agriculture More than Ever, the event aimed to bring together people involved in agriculture, food and agribusiness.
“We’re having a gathering to celebrate Canadian agriculture and food and the contributions that we make to the great Canadian economy,” said Todd Klink, chief marketing officer at Farm Credit Canada. “I think our industry contributes so much to the Canadian economy, it’s important that it’s recognized.”
The event wasn’t just a celebration, as many of the presentations focused on ways the industry can improve and innovate.
“It’s a good time for us to take stock of what we do contribute as an industry and to get our message out to consumers about why we’re important and how we contribute to the world,” said Klink.
Doing so is no easy task. Klink pointed out only about two per cent of the Canadian population is involved in agriculture.
“We’ve got a big job to do in order to get our message out,” he said. “The general public is busy in their day to day and they have lives and things that they have going on. So it’s incumbent on all of us involved in agriculture industry to tell our story to share the good news of what we’re up to.”
Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, was one of the attendees focusing on the celebratory nature of the day — which was a theme throughout, given how the industry is, in many ways, being scrutinized now more than ever by the general public.
“Even though consumer demands are changing, they’re still eating our products,” he said, using protein as an example. “And really, we just want people to understand that it still is a good quality product that they don’t even think about when they walk in the store, they just buy it because they know it’s good. So that’s what we’re celebrating.”
Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said the industry should be proud and is the envy of the world.
“We are naturally resource-rich and we’ve got some of the most impressive farmers in the world doing great things. It’s good to celebrate,” she said. “We have a division between urban and rural, between ag and non-ag people. Anything we can do to help people outside of agriculture understand what a gem we have, I think we should be seizing that opportunity.”
The Ottawa event featured speakers and panel discussions throughout the day, including presentations on marketing from McDonald’s and Alibaba Group and a “fireside chat” with Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain.
Syngenta Canada president Trevor Heck took part in a roundtable discussion, saying he can “feel the momentum around agriculture right now.”
“You have everything from people involved on the political side, people involved in many areas of the value chain, whether it’s on the food element or procurement side, or companies like Syngenta that are further up the value chain involved in seed and crop protection,” he said. “And it’s fantastic. We have an opportunity to tell our story and really get more advocates for agriculture.”
He spoke about the importance of being bold in conversations with people about the industry and communicating with facts in an open discussion about agriculture with people from outside the sector.
“When I look towards, you know, agriculture going forward, there’s going to be more and more people interested in food,” he said. “And that’s a good thing. You want people interested in their food because it’s an opportunity to have that dialogue.”
— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.