At Stone Farms this spring, seeding was touch and go. It was a similar story for many Prairie farmers — the rains quit around July last year, crops used up every drop of moisture in the soil profile, no moisture recharge in the fall, not enough winter precipitation and no spring runoff. To top it all off, not only were the conditions very dry at seeding this year, but winds were high and persistent and germination was slow due to cool spring temperatures.
Rob Stone, whose family has been farming the land at Stone Farms for four generations, was questioning whether he should be out in the field at all. He knew the crops he was seeding weren’t going to come up without rain.
Then inspiration struck. Knowing many Prairie farmers were facing the same discouraging conditions he was, Stone thought, why not send out a fun challenge to his ag community on Twitter? His tweet said, “Who wants to take my rainy day challenge. I pledge to donate a thousand dollars to a charity of my choice if it rains a half inch or more at my place by May 25th. No dollars for likes or retweets or anything like that. Join me if you wish.”
Stone issued his rainy day challenge on May 14, not knowing how his invitation would be received by the ag community on social media.
To say the rain gauge challenge took off would be an understatement. Dozens of farmers, retailers, agrologists and others from the ag community took up the gauntlet immediately. And more joined in over the following weeks, which made waiting for rain a giving game — and an extra reason to celebrate if and when the rains finally came.
“When I’m working alone, which is often, I turn to Twitter to share my goofy ideas and I just threw it out there,” says Stone.
Exceeds all expectations
For many, the rains did come and participants gladly paid up. Stone’s “goofy” idea resulted in tens of thousands of dollars donated to numerous charities across Western Canada, such as STARS Air Ambulance, TeleMiracle, Alzheimer Society of Canada, Ag in the Classroom, Habitat for Humanity and YWCA, just to name a few.
“Everyone is really impacted by this massive seeding project we undertake every year. I can see how that would have resonated with people. There’s just so much hope for something good to happen,” says Stone. “I was overwhelmed by the momentum it took. The timing was right for something innocent and simple for people to look forward to, and something good to talk about…. It was one of those things where we’d like to share some of our good fortune should it happen.”
According to a follow-up poll Stone created on Twitter, 48 people clicked “yes” they had participated in his challenge. Additionally, many people contacted Stone directly to let him know they would be participating and donating to their favourite charities, while others indicated they would be continuing the challenge in June. Some participants donated more than $1,000. Stone says the amount given to charitable organizations could be as high as $100,000.
This generosity didn’t surprise the Saskatchewan farmer. “As a rule, people involved in agriculture and rural people in general, as well as those interested in agriculture in more urban settings, are incredibly generous people. We see that with fundraising efforts in the Prairie provinces all the time.”
Another benefit developing from Stone’s challenge is more awareness about agriculture in general. Reports of Stone’s challenge appeared in traditional media like newspapers and television. Stone hopes everyone who has heard or read about the challenge understands that ag is connected to everything, is affected by uncontrollable factors like weather and is an important business sector in Canada. Also, that farmers are happy to interact and share with, as well as be part of, their communities.
For years now, industry stakeholders have been stressing the importance of telling our stories about agriculture. Stone’s positive tale has taken on a life of its own and, in its own way, has raised awareness about agriculture. It has moved the needle.
How are you telling ag’s stories? Let me know at [email protected].
Have an excellent summer!