If you can’t see the silver lining, take a closer look.
There are plenty of positive stories in the farming world, and you don’t have to look far to find them, delegates were told at the annual general meeting of Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP).
Agriculture has created 62,000 jobs in Manitoba alone, said KAP president Doug Chorney, adding the organization has been promoting the good news through the Agriculture In The Classroom program.
“People don’t attribute that amount of employment to agriculture… and we have to get that word out,” he said. “We are an economic cornerstone of our province.”
Todd Lewis heartily agrees.
“I think there is a whole education portion that just needs to be put forward to the Canadian public, we’ve got a great story to tell,” said the vice-president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
That story includes Saskatchewan’s push to increase the value of its gross farm receipts by 50 per cent — to $15 billion — by 2030, he said.
“Our province has recognized agriculture as a major driver in the economy, this is a growth initiative,” said Lewis.
Even the recent bankruptcy of Big Sky Farms in Saskatchewan and receivership of Puratone in Manitoba have positive elements when you consider that both companies had no trouble finding interested buyers, he said.
“There is value to what’s there,” he said.
But there’s a tendency to dwell on the negative, delegates were reminded.
“My entire farming career has really been a black cloud of negative news,” said Chorney. “There are really good stories to tell in agriculture and I think we need more of that.”
That means working to get more positive stories into mainstream media, he said.
“Certainly the flood of 2011 got a lot of attention because of the devastation that it had on rural communities and farmers,” he said.
“But you don’t see TV crews going out to visit farms that are harvesting a good crop and able to pay all their bills — that’s not news in the world of modern media.”
Last summer KAP and other organizations sponsored a two-month-long advertising campaign called Share the Harvest, which highlighted the contributions of Manitoba farmers.
The organization will continue to highlight the contributions of farmers as the Lake Friendly initiative expands in 2013, Chorney said.
“We get a lot of attention from regulators as the cause of problems with freshwater in Manitoba, but we get virtually no credit for the positive things we do to mitigate nutrient loading,” he said.
Some of KAP’s initiatives have drawn criticism from members for being too positive, but Chorney said without sharing positive stories, there’s little hope of recruiting a new generation of farmers.
“I think you have to be positive sometimes, you cannot be negative all the time,” he said.