Farmers’ Week – seven days of agricultural learning

The 53rd Annual Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week (GBFW) organized by Grey County Ag Services and County agricultural leaders began January 3rd and runs through January 9th (2019) in Elmwood Community Centre.

                                                  One-third the audience who attended

The seven-day conference features individual commodity-centered days with some 60 speakers who focus on each of the major commodity groups in Grey and Bruce Counties,including dairy, goat, sheep, horse, beef, crops and ecological topics.

In addition to keynote speakers, each day features a panel discussion with representatives from each area and a trade show with more than 65 exhibitors and sponsors.

Producers of all ages attend the conference to learn about the latest techniques, technologies and challenges that revolve around farming today.

According to some in attendance, farming today faces many challenges when it comes to getting fact-based knowledge out to consumers. 

On ‘Beef Day’, Melissa Hall, Sales Professional with Elanco Animal Health-Canada, said that poultry and pork have seen consumer buying growth while beef has slipped.  “That could be accounted for through cost to the consumer with beef being higher in price.  We are also seeing the ‘free-from’ products slipping in consumer buying even more with only six per cent of consumers buying it.” 

Hall who was born and raised on a cow/calf operation in Saskatchewan is a graduate in Animal Health Tecnology and has worked in a mixed animal veterinarian practice for 10 years in Alberta.

She also pointed out that of the top five agricultural exports, beef is 94 per cent of the market.  “Japan is quickly closing in on the U.S. as our chief market and is now in second place and that could be attributed to the fact that the middle class is growing quickly in Asian countries and, therefore, the demand for protein is also growing.”

The common goal of the agricultural community appears to make sure that the consumer can get what they want and need while mitigating the impact on the environment.  

By 2050, it is anticipated that there will nine billion people on the planet and the demand for food items such as eggs, dairy and meat will grow by 60 per cent.

One of the audience members said that he felt part of the problem is food convenience with pre-packaged as opposed to buying and preparing fresh foods.  

Another pointed out that there is much “misinformation on Facebook and it is difficult to deal with”.  There are many issues such as GMO vs non-GMO, fact vs fiction when it comes to agriculture.

Hall added that, for some reason, trust in the agricultural community by the consumer has been lost.  “We have to educate and engage the consumer and stories need to be told to help the consumer understand the agricultural community that is producing the food.  A lot of what is informing the consumer is simply marketing.”