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Toban Dyck: Keeping the agriculture sector together

As Ag Days kicks off conference season, the media divides the ag community

“You look familiar. We’ve met before,” I said.

He nodded. “Yeah. We have. But I know about you. I read your articles. How are you doing keeping everything together?”

I’m always a little tickled when people stop by the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers booth at Ag Days to chat. It doesn’t get old. I have a tremendous amount of respect for my Grainews readership. I have developed some strong relationships from that pool.

“I’m trying.”

“I just don’t know why you make life so difficult for yourself,” he said, with a smirk.

We shared a laugh over my, “That’s a great question” reply. He left the booth and continued on this way.

Another gentleman stopped by the booth to say he enjoyed my articles, but that I should keep in mind that while buying 80 acres may be stressful for me, others are making much larger purchases of land. I agreed.

I recognize more and more people every year I continue to work in this industry. There is a tendency to accuse younger generations of devaluing the importance of strong face-to-face networks, but I see no evidence of that.

Ag Days and conferences like it serve as an important reminder that the farming community is much more united than what some members of the public assume.

A divided industry?

With the recent release of the newly updated Canadian Food Guide, some headlines suggest that those who grow plant-based proteins are happy for an endorsement that is portrayed as coming at the expense of the dairy and meat industry.

This is not the case. We support each other

It does, however, raise a relevant point: as farmers, we need to be mindful of divisive attitudes; ones that seek to turn us against each other. It’s not meat vs. plant protein. It’s not dairy vs. wheat. It’s important that the ag sector is strong and that its players remain on the same team.

There is often a sense that those who grow organic crops or those who specialize in non-GMO varieties are fighting on a different side. This is damaging to the industry as a whole and it takes focus away from the larger issues that we could tackle together.

It’s easy to chastise mainstream media for writing headlines that pit us against each other. They interview interest groups that will predictably issue statements in support of policies that champion their cause and deride ones that don’t.

It’s us as media consumers who need to take those articles with a grain of salt, understanding the source of information and that many news outlets just don’t know who else to talk to. I’ve had these conversations with Manitoba-based media outlets. They are not opposed to chatting with others. But they are limited by the expertise and the contacts lists of their reporters. In many cases, newsrooms don’t have much collective knowledge of the ag industry. While we need to find ways to ensure these outlets have access to good information, that is not the point of this article.

More so, we need to think of ways to ensure all of the things we grow here in Canada have strong markets to enter. What such cooperation looks like, I’m not sure, but it’s worth pondering.

Ag Days went by in a frenzy of conversations and one white-knuckled drive between Brandon and Winkler in whiteout conditions. Ag Days kicked off conference season and it did so on a positive note, reminding me of the importance of strong relationships in the ag sector. If you can, take the time to go to these. You won’t regret it.

To the gentleman asking why I make my life so hard: Sometimes I wonder the same thing. But then I have chats like the one I had with you and I’m reminded that while I’m writing this column alone in my office, I’ve got all of you for support. I’m grateful for it. And you should know that all of us have your back, as well.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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