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Going Against the Grain

2 Feb
Melanie Davidson, spokesperson for Ag More Than Ever

Melanie Davidson, spokesperson for Ag More Than Ever

Farmers are the best to poke honest fun at fellow farmers. Gather a bunch around a coffee table and one is bound to say:

“We love to complain, don’t we?” This will inevitably be followed with something like, “And how about this weather? Downright miserable.”

Thumb through certain farming newspapers and its page after page of bad news: markets crashing, too dry, too wet, dropping prices, doubling expenses. Apparently, it’s all doom and gloom. Of course, there is a silver lining around that rain cloud, snow cloud, or locust cloud—whatever might be contributing to today’s grim outlook. It is summed up in three words:

Farming is Fun.

Like any profession it isn’t always fun, not at 3 a.m and a cow is having a difficult calving. Then it’s hard and tiring. But farming can be a joy when making a breezy, three-minute commute to work, cuddling a barn cat, or driving out in a field mowing, raking, plowing—whatever you love to do—singing along with the radio. It can be a blast when you and your siblings’ race across a field on ATV’s, or catch-up on the latest celebrity gossip while feeding calves with your Mom and sister-in-law.

Such a simple word can get lost among those negative headlines and the constant stream of bills that must be paid. Also, whether you’re a farmer, a doctor or a student, it’s a lot easier to recognize what we don’t like to do than what we do. Having a great day doesn’t elicit as much sympathy as having a bad one. Like the old saying, misery loves company. Fun however is confident enough to stand by itself.

The best thing about having fun, in farming or whatever it is you do, is that it isn’t scientific or complex. You don’t need a degree. It’s lighthearted and refreshing. Once you’ve made the conscious decision to enjoy the day it’s as simple as talking about it. Call yourself an ‘agvocate’ and speak positively about agriculture. People are going to listen because it’s something different. Misery may love fickle, fleeting company but positivity welcomes and keeps good company.

I was in such company on Friday when I volunteered with other ‘agvocates’ (farmers and non-farmers alike) at an Ag More Than Ever booth at a trade show. Our purpose was to speak positively about agriculture. It wasn’t hard to do because feeding families, caring for animals and doing honest work is easy to talk about. It was however, an unusual experience. It was odd to have t-shirts printed with lighthearted sayings like ‘Kiss Me I’m a Farmer,’ or ‘100% Farm Raised’ on them. Attendees were eager but surprised that we wanted to talk about what agriculture was doing right, while handing out ‘I Heart Ag’ stickers. We took pictures of visitors holding speech bubbles that read ‘I’m Keeping it Rural,’ ‘Future Farmer’ and ‘I’d Rather be Farming’ and they loved it as much as we did.

Those pessimistic headlines won’t go away—we sometimes need them to stay abreast of what’s going on—and the anti-ag protestors won’t drop their banners anytime soon but instead of griping about them we can use it as a reminder about the importance of having fun, especially when times are tough.

Wear your corny, but funny, t-shirt, snap a ‘felfie’ (farmer selfie) and share it on social media. Having fun is contagious and it’s time more communities and farmers caught on.

Interested? Check out to get ‘agvocating.’ 🙂


And the Oscar goes to…

17 Jan

A leading farmer in an Outstanding Role!

Award season is upon us: the Golden Globes were last weekend, warming the stage and the media for Oscar’s big night in early March. The Screen Actor Guild Awards are two days from now and today was the BC and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer’s (BC OYF) Luncheon. Not familiar? Let me introduce to agriculture’s Golden Globes.

The room is crowded with nominees, sponsors, family, reporters (yours truly) and the likes, murmuring over lunch and coffee. For some of us this is the one time a year we can get together. However, all our chatting goes quiet as one of the judge’s makes her way up the microphone. She is a OYF alumnus—in true award show fashion—and has her own angular trophy at home and her name embellished on the large silver cup sitting offside. Her name is on one of the many small, thumb-sized shields adorning the cup’s stacked wood base. She has, at one time, hoisted the cup above her head—a winner—but today someone else will get that chance.

“All the nominees are deserving of this award,” says the judge, “but there is only one award and it goes to…”

I imagine her cracking the seal of an envelope. She watches the crowd and announces the name with the same careful, deliberation the judges used all morning in determining the regional winner.

“Lydia Ryall of Cropthorne Farm.”

The room erupts into a thunderous cheer. Ryall is slight, but mighty to have come this far—and run a certified organic farm on her own. She makes her way to the front of the room and graciously accepts her trophy and a bouquet of flowers all flushed cheeks and smiling.

Ryall will be attending the Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers Event later on this year—competing nationally, with fellow winners from each region. This time however they’re trying-out for agriculture’s Oscar. Being dubbed Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer.

As with Hollywood’s awards, there are categories. Nominees are marked on the progress they’ve made during their farming career (like the Lifetime—so far—Achievement Award), their sustainable environmental practices (similar to Visual Effects), crop and livestock production (Actors and Actresses in a Supporting Role), financial and management practices (Film Editing) and contributions to the community, province and nation (Production Design). But unlike in Hollywood, these farmers need to measure-up in each category, and winner takes all.

I think this would even make Meryl Streep sweat.

And what do farmers say in their acceptance speeches? Mostly what the celebrities do. They thank Mom and Dad for their mentorship; give a loving shout-out to spouses and kids. Maybe mention their favourite cow, or vegetable, or fruit. Sometimes they forget to thank someone and might jumble a word or two. But mostly, they look very, very happy.

So what’s one difference with Agriculture’s Night Out and, say, the Oscars?

Instead of zipping through In-N-Out Burger per Hollywood tradition these winners and nominees go back to the farm to raise the beef, harvest the wheat and grow the veggies that make-up those burgers and fill the rest of our supermarket shelves. And they get to do what they’re passionate about 365 days of the year.

Talk about a big win.