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Agricultural advocacy after the disparaging Canadian school sign

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Oh boy. The power of social media strikes again.

This time, it was the story of an elementary school in the rural town of Outlook, Saskatchewan, that had gone viral for this sign:

elementary-school-farming

How frustrating! I think they forgot to write, “Farming feeds you.” It is beyond disheartening to yet again have agriculture feel misunderstood and under appreciated. According to reports, a social studies class was doing a lesson on sustainability when the condensed message was posted on the school sign.

Agriculture is an incredibly complex industry filled with gray areas and has a big job to do while farmers make up less than 2 percent of the population of North America. They deserve respect and not ridicule; where slinging mud and misinformation gets us nowhere. This is especially true in a town like Outlook, where a vast majority of its residents and taxpayers are tied to agriculture!

Andrew Scheer, Master of Parliament from Regina-Qu’Appelle, is quoted as saying, “This is unbelievable and infuriating. We all benefit from modern farming. Without it, food would be unaffordable for most people. Canadian agricultural practices are the best in the world and we should be celebrating it, not attacking it. Especially in Saskatchewan.

“I just spoke to the principal and am relieved that the sign has been changed. Let’s hope the kids in this school get the full picture. Radical activists should not be indoctrinating our kids like this.”

They did and they listened. Randy Emmerson, the school division’s director of education, offered an apology while they updated social media to reflect the positive change in messaging.

Fellow Saskatchewan resident and agricultural advocate Adrienne Ivey, who blogs under the name View from the Ranch Porch, shared her thoughts below: Five things she wishes they knew about agriculture — which include aspects on the environment, agricultural chemical use, and ag education:

Author, agribusiness professional and agronomy expert Robert Saik also shared his thoughts, where his book is mentioned. It’s true that some of the world’s largest farms are responsible for feeding so many of us and also have some of the strictest environmental regulations. Agriculture is complex, and it takes farmers of all shapes and sizes to get the job done both regionally and globally.

Here is the updated school sign and an apology:

Is the damage already done? Is this too little, too late? According to the comment section here, many are still not too thrilled with the school’s apology. But maybe I politely disagree with many in the comment section.

Look, we all make mistakes and no one is perfect. But the students can also learn a lesson here on listening, empathy, critical thinking, and more. In a world that seems to be more divided and extreme these days, why not take a moment to be happy that someone can admit their wrongdoing, learn from it, and move on? The words “I’m sorry” are so important and powerful and it’s never too early for students to learn that. This is also another reason why programs such as 4-H, FFA, and Ag in the Classroom are vital.

This isn’t the first time and likely not the last where misinformation about farming has gone viral and/or been corrected. From celebrities like Ellen Degeneres being put on blast for her vegan rants, or Burger King and Anheuser-Busch changing their marketing tune, to consumers standing up against being silenced and banned from corporations like Chipotle and Stonyfield, we must never take our foot off the gas when it comes to agricultural advocacy.

One of the latest trends could — and should — be education, not misinformation or negativity. No industry is perfect, but as the old famous quote says, “An industry that feeds you is an industry worth fighting for.”

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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