As harvest season continues in southern Alberta, what better time to promote the agriculture industry? That’s the goal of Agriculture for Life — or Ag for Life, for short — which has been conducting a program called “What’s in the Field,” to help the public make a connection from the crops they see growing in the fields to the food that winds up on their dinner plates.
The organization works with farmers and livestock producers to help inform people travelling rural roads about the crops or livestock being produced. At the producer’s request, the “What’s in the Field” campaign provides signs identifying a crop or livestock operation in a particular field.
It seems like an excellent way to educate people who may not have agriculture connections. People driving past fields might be curious about what crop is growing there, or what type of cattle are grazing. The signage provides that information while also providing a link to the Ag for Life website where more can be learned about the crop or livestock.
“I think there’s always been a little bit of interest as people drive around and wonder what’s going on and what’s growing in the fields,” Luree Williamson, Ag for Life CEO, said in a recent Herald story.
“We really want to show Albertans the whole picture around food,” Williamson added. “What are we growing around the province? How do we utilize it? (And what) are ways it connects back to the food that’s on their table?”
Such efforts to reach out and inform the public are timely in view of the increasing interest in knowing where our food comes from and how it is produced.
Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director with the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, touched on that in the Herald story, noting more people want to know about safety and pesticide issues with respect to their food.
“It’s really important for the agriculture industry to have more conversations around how we are growing people’s food,” she said.
And Canada’s agriculture industry produces a lot of food. The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website points out that Canada is the world’s fifth-largest agricultural exporter. The industry also contributes more than $110 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product, while employing 2.3 million Canadians (thus providing one in eight Canadian jobs).
Agriculture has a long history in the Lethbridge area and continues to play an important role, accounting for 15.4 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product. The region is home to more than 900 farms generating farm receipts of $1.1 billion per year. The ag industry also supports more than 120 agri-food processing businesses in the Lethbridge region. In addition, the Lethbridge Research Centre is the largest of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s 19 centres that make up the department’s national network of research facilities.
Yes, agriculture is a key pillar in southern Alberta’s economy, and Ag for Life’s efforts to improve connections between agriculture and the public are a great way to help keep the industry strong and healthy. After all, agriculture helps keep us strong and healthy.