This summer I decided to work full time on the family grain farm. But my summer plans took a turn when I applied for, and was selected to be a member of Junior Team Canada (JTC) trade mission to China.
From July 26 to August 13 I joined 30 young Canadians, representing various industries, on a mission to promote Canadian businesses, foster cultural awareness, and build global relationships. The program that created this opportunity is called Global Vision and I was selected to represent Canada’s agriculture industry.
Since returning home, I have had some time to reflect on my experience while bringing in the 2017 crop. We are always doing our best throughout the year to make the proper agronomic and marketing decisions for our farm and determine areas for improvement in the coming year. A lot of time and effort is dedicated to the operations of the farm, but I have learned that this is only part of the equation.
I think, as a young farmer, it is our responsibility to ensure the sustainability and profitability of the agriculture industry. In doing so, it is just as important to look beyond the farm gate and contribute to initiatives that strengthen our industry.
While in China I learned two important things:
- To be successful in the Chinese market building relationships and trust is key.
- Chinese consumers have the same questions and concerns about food quality and food safety as North American consumers.
Throughout my networking I had the opportunity to meet with both Canadian and Chinese government representatives, and Chinese businesses working in a variety of industries. While some individuals were very familiar with Canadian products and doing business with Canada, others were not.
I really enjoyed speaking about life in Manitoba, my family, growing up on the farm and answering questions about Canada’s agriculture industry. I think this is step one in building a relationship and spreading awareness of what Canada’s agriculture industry has to offer.
It also became apparent to me the emphasis Chinese consumers place on quality and food safety. When I was sharing photos of farming in Manitoba, the picture of the high-clearance sprayer in a soybean field always brought on questions about pesticide use. When I spoke about producing canola on my farm, individuals asked about GMOs.
These questions led to conversations and understanding of the technologies we use on our farm, responsible farming practices and how we ensure that the end product is safe for consumers. Consumers are asking about how food is produced. It is so important for producers to share our story locally and globally, understand and address consumer concerns, and emphasize the value we place in ensuring our crops and livestock are produced in a responsible manner that fosters food safety.
I was the sole representative of the agriculture industry, and many of the JTC members came from the GTA or other cities in Canada. They had little to no connection with farming. This proved a great opportunity to connect with and spread awareness among my peers on an industry that is so important to our country.
They were pretty amazed at the technology and business management it takes to operate a farm. One of the JTC members said, “I thought you just put some seed in the ground and wait for it to grow, but farming is clearly a lot more technical than that!”
I value any opportunity to speak about agriculture and answer questions about farming practices and that is what made this mission trip a success for me. Not only was I able to spread awareness in China, but I was also able to increase awareness among Canadians.
As a young farmer I think it is so important to be an advocate for agriculture and also be involved beyond the farm gate in some capacity. I am so thankful for the support I received from my community, friends, and family; and the Manitoba Pulse and Soybeans Growers, the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, Monsanto Canada Inc., Manitoba Agriculture, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, Viterra, MNP, Bourgault, AgWest, and Canterra Seeds.
It allowed me to open my eyes to a foreign country and culture, impressed upon me the importance of building global relationships and connecting with all consumers, and gave me the opportunity to take one step towards strengthening Canada’s agriculture industry.
Fiona Jochum is from the St. Francois Xavier area, where she resides on the family farm. For more on her experiences in China, visit her blog at https://fionajochum.wixsite.com/website.