Agriculture awareness an important priority

If there is one thing off the farm itself that agriculture needs moving forward on, it is a better understanding of what the industry is by the non-farming public.

It is an issue that began with First World War, which was the time the exodus of people from rural Canada began.

It has been a steady process of decline for nearly a century now, and that has translated into a declining understanding of what farming actually is.

We are beginning to see people today who are two or three generations removed from any agrarian roots, and that means little appreciation of what it means to grow a bushel of wheat or to raise a steer.

While no one is expecting young people in Regina, Calgary or Toronto to suddenly head to a ranch to chase cattle, we do need to find a way to have those young people better understand about farming, so they appreciate exactly what went into putting a safe-to-eat steak on their plate.

Without such knowledge of agriculture, people can easily be drawn to support misconceptions about the industry.

So a recent announcement by Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart of more than $45,000 in funding under the Agriculture Awareness Initiative to enhance the public's perception of agriculture and its role in the economy should be applauded.

"Agriculture plays an important role in driving our economy and feeding Canadians," said Ritz in a release. "These types of projects give everyone a chance to see first-hand the social and economic benefits of our vibrant and innovative agriculture industry."

The release explained the Agriculture Awareness Initiative was developed to help producer groups promote the benefits of agriculture and help improve the public perception of the industry. A better understanding is critical to promote careers in agriculture and foster public support for the industry.

"It is important that we share accurate information about agriculture with the public, especially with youth, so they have an understanding and appreciation of where their food comes from and how it is being responsibly produced," said Stewart in the release. "These projects will help highlight Saskatchewan's role as a supplier of safe and reliable food to help feed a growing world."

Under this program, the Saskatchewan Science Centre will receive $25,000 to enhance the experience and increase engagement with the Ag-Grow-Land exhibit. The exhibit presents themes such as Saskatchewan's role in meeting the global demand for food; innovations in agriculture relating to topics such as animal care, crop production and soils research; the business of agriculture; and food production safety.

Three other organizations have also received funding under the Agriculture Awareness Initiative: the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan has received $7,770 for their Adopt a Rancher Educational Program; Genome Prairie has received $6,000 for a workshop to promote an understanding of the importance of effective communication among Saskatchewan's agriculture-biotech research community; and the Canadian Western Agribition has received $7,900 for agriculture awareness initiatives at the show.

None of these programs is going to massively change how people view farming, but they each offer a small window into the industry, which may help raise the level of understanding for those involved.

Education is not about a single element, but rather, it is a life-long process. The programs here can be a starting foundation for better understanding of a critical industry, which many of us now know little about.

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