It's amazing how one simple question can ignite a lengthy conversation. This is exactly what happened to me earlier this week. While volunteering at the local food bank, something I do on a regular basis, a fellow volunteer whom I'd never met before started making small talk with me. For two hours we pack hampers of food on an assembly line so you either chit-chat with your fellow volunteers, listen to the music playing or get lost in your own thoughts. Now I must admit that I'd had a busy day and was ready for some silence... but apparently that wasn't in the cards for me that night. This guy was in the mood to talk and he was full of questions.
After introducing ourselves, he began with "so, where do you work?" He was probably expecting the standard "I work in oil and gas" response you tend to get in Calgary, and I later found out that he does just that, however, I surprised him by saying, "I work in the agriculture industry for a company that sells seed, seed treatments and crop protection products to farmers." WHAT???
Now a lot of people would just leave it at that, but not this 40-something year old engineer. Maybe he has a curious mind and was genuinely interested in just what that meant... or maybe he realized that he had to kill the next two hours and had no choice but to talk to me... Either way, when my response triggered an avalanche of questions about agriculture from this stranger, I couldn't help but think that this is a golden opportunity to do what I so often talk about and believe in - advocating for agriculture.
We talked about almost every agriculture-related topic you can think of including more about the company I work for, what kind of crops farmers grow on the Prairies, farmers use of pesticides, what are GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and are they safe, organic vs. conventional agriculture, is our food safe, where does the food you buy in the store come from, and much more.
I have never and will never claim to have all the answers. And that's OK. If you don't have the answer, admit it. And commit to finding the answer for them. I often refer people to the CropLife Canada website. It has a wealth of information on various agriculture-related subjects and I feel it's a credible source.
In the last several years I have become more and more aware of how disconnected the average consumer is from agriculture. Most people are now living in urban centres and have no connection to the farm. This stranger was a perfect example of this. He had many questions and many misconceptions about modern agriculture. If you have questions about agriculture, who better to ask than someone who's involved in the industry such as a farmer. If you have a medical question you wouldn't ask your accountant, you would ask your doctor, right? Ask the right people.
And to my fellow advocates for agriculture, remember that you never know when you'll be presented with an opportunity to educate the public about our industry. Seize these opportunities!
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