I heard from several readers who wrote to me in response to my column about the widening disconnect between urban and rural life. I was informed about pickles that were made all the way in India and told of a nephew who believed there were three grain harvests every summer. The stories are both amusing and concerning. However, every reader who wrote in felt that narrowing the urban/ rural gap needs to become a priority for agriculture. I couldn t agree more.
Coincidentally, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Milk and Canada Beef Inc. hosted a media tour on which I attended Sept. 29. Both urban and rural media were invited, but there was only one member of the city media in attendance, Calgary Global TV s cameraman, George Glen. I was surprised that there was no one from the daily papers, city radio or other TV stations.
Our tour included a stop at Bles-Wold Dairy near Lacombe, Montana s restaurant in Red Deer and the Red Deer River Ranch near Sundre. I hadn t been on a dairy since I was a young girl and my, how things have changed. Tinie Eilers and Hennie Bos run the outfit, which also makes yogurt right at the farm. The self-milking machines were quite a wonder to see, and I had forgotten just how big and boney Holsteins really are. It was really quite an interesting tour, especially for someone like myself, with more of an interest in and knowledge of the beef side of the business.
Montana s has worked in partnership with Canada Beef Inc. to ramp up its beef offering, and it was great to hear how a national restaurant chain markets steak, and how important beef can be to its bottom line. The afternoon was spent driving out to the Red Deer River Ranch.
It was a welcome break from routine, but I couldn t help but think what a shame how few urban participants there were. As much as I enjoyed it, it was sort of like preaching to the choir.
When I lived in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I always thought of Alberta as being well connected to its agriculture and its producers. I always thought that Alberta s politicians, both provincial and federal, were very much affected and influenced by the feelings of the producers in the province.
It wasn t until I actually lived here that I realized I was wrong. My impression of Alberta s attitude toward agriculture, I realize now, was formed in large part by some very successful marketing endeavours, primarily by Alberta Beef Producers. A ndgivingcreditwhereitis due, that s impressive as I do not think of myself as easily taken in by public relations strategies.
One of my first wake-up calls was the federal election where the candidates seemed as likely to talk about agriculture as they were about colonizing the planet Jupiter. In fact, despite the number of Conservative federal candidates (incumbents, actually) it was difficult to find one to interview. It seems that monopoly situations are as hard on democracies as they are on economies.
Secondly, within time, it became apparent that the general population in Alberta is just as disconnected here as anywhere else in Canada. I suppose I was silly and naive to think it would be different here, but this wasn t the first nor will it be my last time for that.
I think of agriculture as being Canada s backbone, a part of the body taken for granted and not thought of until it is injured, but an integral component to our potential and quality of life. But how can we inspire the rest of Canada to see it this way as well?
ABP will be hosting its annual meetings in the coming weeks. I would encourage you to attend, and bring up this concern. We need to collectively brainstorm, to make urban and rural exchanges a reality, to begin addressing agriculture education in schools. You may also consider contacting urban and major media and asking for better agriculture coverage.
Certainly, the energy sector attracts an enormous amount of airplay, there is no reason why agriculture is less deserving. It will be interesting to see how the new Alison Redford administration will approach agriculture. Agriculture was included in her platform, which I found promising, but lacking slightly in substance. However, her approach at revitalizing grassroots democratic participation in this province is refreshing, and bodes well for rural Alberta, as long as apathy doesn t curtail the public s buy-in.
Let s all work to keep the topic on the table and keep writing and sharing your ideas and your experiences. Write to me at [email protected]
or send in a letter to the editor; as long as we re engaged, thinking and communicating, we re already ahead of where we were.
Itbecameapparentthatthe generalpopulationinAlberta isjustasdisconnectedhereas anywhereelseinCanada.