By Lauren Barker, 2017 Grain Discovery Zone Ambassador
It was another successful year on the road for the Grain Discovery Zone. We went to over 25 different events, reaching all different demographics. This year was special as we attended about 6 new locations! There was a lot of interest in Ontario grains at all the venues we attended.
A little background information about me, the 2017 Grain Discovery Zone Ambassador; I grew up in the city of London, and like many young girls I had a love for horses. Thanks to this passion, I attended the University of Guelph and was introduced to agriculture through my degree. For the last 7 years I have been striving to learn everything I can about Canadian agriculture. My goal in life is to continue to educate consumers on where their food comes from, and why it is so important to support Canadian farmers. I have found this goal to be very personal to me as I sympathize with the consumers on their lack of knowledge- because I was once in their shoes.
It was a unique experience being the point of contact from consumers to farmers this summer, and gave me great insight to how consumers view agriculture. It has been evident to me that there is a need for more face to face contact from consumers to farm advocates. This humanizes both parties and gives a chance to have open conversation. There is still an enormous gap between consumers and farmers and we just need to start talking!
One of the most notable events of the year, would have to be the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). From attending this event we have the opportunity to speak to thousands of consumers a day for the duration of the fair. This event is evidently important because of its location, and how the demographics and influence of big cities have shaped modern agriculture.We know that people in the city are often disconnected from agriculture. With this opportunity we were able to talk through many concerns that consumers had, and hopefully left them with a positive opinion of our Ontario grains system.
We were lucky to be involved in about 5 agriculture education days. These were all very successful and well received by the children and even their teachers and chaperones. I found that most of the kids loved learning what "wacky" things grain can make (I think their favourite was often corn in their toothpaste). We made contact with thousands of people this summer, from all walks of life. These interactions are something that I will never forget. I learned so much from these people and hopefully I returned the favour.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to educate consumers about grain farming in Ontario. This summer wasn’t easy, but the conversations seemed to make me feel like I had a huge purpose. The agriculture community also has shown me nothing but encouragement and praise for following this new passion, and for that I am thankful.