There is something very unique about meeting and getting to know the people who grow your food. As a city girl, born and raised, the most up close and personal I tend to get is urban farmer’s markets, food stands on the drive up to the cottage (hello corn), and the occasional trip to the apple or strawberry farm. Mostly, it’s not very indepth at all. So I was quick to accept the invite and jumped at the chance to tag along to harvest camp with the Manitoba Canola Growers for a first hand look at the hard work that goes into farming.
Visiting two provinces and seven farms over the course of the weekend was an immersive experience. Making stops throughout the farms, we got a chance to ask anything we wanted, and had the unique privilege of having a bumper crop of scientists, nutrition experts and food savvy campers on board the bus, breaking down barriers, busting up myths, and sharing our unique perspectives on food, and the problems we globally face.
Getting hands on at the farm, at each one of our stops we leaned in and listened to the farmers, all of which are family run, for generations. Their stories were nothing short of inspirational. A common thread united them: we’re all in this together. From farmers helping farmers, to consumers buying the products in stores, the dedicated balance of the whole system is interchangeably linked. So when the rumour mill gets churning, and fact based science gets washed away by panic and fear, we all lose.
One misinformed individual, with the right platform can trigger an avalanche of confusion, and widespread consequences. And while Canada has one of the strictest food policies in the world, fear mongers can still inject their brand of bias into the mix (If you haven’t watched the documentary Food Evolution, I highly recommend). Whether they’re weighing in on vaccine schedules or postulating on hormones or antibiotics in our food supply,
it’s critical to use your judgement when confronted with anything being presented as fact.
And it’s just as important to track down the real story. Speak to the people growing your food, hear their issues and sort the facts out for yourself. With the recent report of trace amounts of glyphosate aka (Roundup) showing up in our Cheerios, that was enough to send media into an absolute tizzy. The minuscule amount that was found was completely in line with what the teams of scientists from Health Canada deem acceptable. So why the hysteria? The runaway freight train of misinformation channels our greatest fears. It’s tempting to click bait on an article about impending doom on our health, that’s how the human psyche works. We want to protect our families and ourselves, and sometimes deciphering information takes a second fiddle to understanding it critically.
Bucking the myths and getting the truth straight from the horses mouth (double ouch!), we were rewarded with hearing the stories of the farmers, in their farms and on their landscapes, often owned for generations by the same family. The fact that they could share that thread, that journey that their father, mother and grandparents had started added weight to the plight that they now face today. Weather is at the forefront of any farmer’s woes, but now exasperated by climate change, farmers have to rely on technology; by way of machinery or science to get crops growing in difficult circumstances. Driving in a combine, I was struck at how complicated it had become since it’s inception in modern farming- only a handful of decades ago this was a clunky operative, clumsily cutting canola and crops indiscriminately. Now, the sophisticated beast is GPS enabled, cutting only in the direction dictated. Advances in machinery offer obvious benefits for farmers. The same can be said for advances in seed technology, which are obviously much harder to see.
Our scientists on hand were ready to attest to that fact. GMO sounds like a terrifying notion, but genetically modified organisms are nothing new. You don’t have to be a scientist to read up and sink your teeth into the facts: GMO’s are genetic materials that have been altered using engineering techniques. Without these advances in technology it would be highly improbable that our farmers could sustain the crop load and feed all the people that are relying on them. It’s the reality of living on a planet with over 7 billion people and only 1/32 of the total earth is capable of growing food. Considering world food demand will increase by 70% by 2050, it’s easy to see intervention is required.
Painting a different picture, a farmer in 1900 produced enough food for 10 people. Today’s farmer feeds over 120 people. Now think of your kids. Or their kids. It’s time to arm yourself with knowledge, take time and appreciate the hard work that goes into stocking your grocery stores and filling your dinner plate.
Huge thank you to the #CanolaConnect team for the experience! With gratitude to our farmers, hosts and friends:
Canada Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre, Pen-Dale Farms, Barn in the Bush, Fairfield Land n’ Cattle, Silver Creek Bison, Orsak Farms, High Bluff Stock Farms, Wendell Estates.