August 12, 2019 7:29 pm

Communication training aims to bridge gap between farmers and consumers

WATCH ABOVE: The average consumer doesn't know a lot about how their food is produced as less than three per cent of Canadians are farmers. Jasmine Bala has more on how the industry is working to change that.

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Bridging the gap between the agriculture industry and consumers is something that one farmer is trying to do by providing communication training for those in the industry.

Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, who facilitates such training, said at a training session in the Lethbridge area on Monday that it used to make her upset when she saw misinformation about farming. Now, she realizes that it’s up to the people in the industry to inform consumers.

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“I put myself in the shoes of the consumer and I realize we really have not done a great job of bringing them along the journey of what modern agriculture has really meant,” she said.

“It doesn’t just have to be Facebook [arguments], we don’t just have to yell in capital letters when we feel defensive about our farming practices.

“There’s some meaningful conversations that are being had in Canada today and I think that’s through encouraging farmers to engage in those conversations.”

Less than three per cent of Canadians are farmers, according to the Real Dirt on Farming, meaning many consumers don’t know a lot about farm life and food production.

However, Jolly-Nagel said educating consumers may not be as difficult as people think.

READ MORE: Southern Alberta dairy farm opens its barn doors to the public

“It might be bumping into someone at a grocery store who looks perplexed about the price of the meat they’re buying, or questions about the Beyond Meat burger and what does it even mean to have plant-based products,” she said. “So farmers don’t just have to think about Facebook or conversations outside of their box.

“There’s teachers that are looking for information, there [are] family members that are struggling with why their farm is growing GMO seeds today, there’s everyday conversations that farmers need to start engaging in.”

One participant attending Monday’s training said whether GMOs are healthy is just one of the controversial questions she receives from consumers.

“It’s a tough topic to discuss, so we need to do it the right way,” said Catherine Kerkhoff, an agronomist from Taber Home and Farm Centre. “Not just get in defensive mode and go right away that they’re wrong… but we need to tackle it the right way. We need to understand the research and that’s from every side.”

READ MORE: Farm Stewardship Centre in Lethbridge to enhance sustainable farming

Although the training is for agriculture industry members, there’s an important lesson to be learned for consumers as well.

“Farmers everyday are looking into the right way to grow it for the consumer, whether they’re involved in the… livestock or growing the crops, they’re all trying to make it right, they’re all trying to do good for the environment and the people,” Kerkhoff said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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