The Atlantic Canada Farm Writers’ Association presents: Building your Communications Toolbox

2012 Professional Development Day

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 ~ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Schnitzel Haus Restaurant*

153 Aulac Road, Aulac New Brunswick

 9:30 –   10:00 AM          Registration

10:00 – 12:00 PM           The Social Shift –Communicating is not what it used to be. We’ve evolved to an on-demand   reader who wants their news immediately, and wants to share their views right   away, in real time. What are you doing to keep up? Social media guru Andrew   Campbell, Fresh Air Media, will highlight the social media shift and how   it will affect you, your organization or business, and more importantly, your audience. He’ll also cover some important how-to ideas when talking about your brand, and how to take advantage of tools that are free to use.

12:00 – 1:00 PM             Buffet lunch – Enjoy the delicious variety of   food and mingling 

1:00 – 3:00   PM             Refreshing Newsletters –Want to add more oomph to your newsletter? Have it read more? Is it effectively spreading the word? Emily Brennan, associate with Cape Consulting Group will share her experiences developing and re-jigging newsletters for clients. She’ll also cover tips and tricks for organizing content and   designing a style that invites your reader.

Cost to attend   (payable at registration): $30, includes buffet lunch

Everyone is welcome! If you do any kind of communications work in agriculture, whether it’s direct market sales to consumers, newsletters for your ag organization membership or social media for your farm group, come and build your communications toolbox.

To help ensure your lunch, please register BEFORE Friday, December 7

with Andy Walker at
(Please indicate any food allergies or restrictions)

*Directions to Schnitzel Haus Restaurant

From NS and NB

  • From  Trans Canada Highway 2, take exit #513A (Aulac)
  • Merge/turn right off the ramp onto Highway 16
  • At the stop sign, you will see the restaurant directly in front of you (~ 100 m)

From PEI

  • Travel west from the Confederation Bridge on NB-Highway 16 towards Aulac (~ 65 km)
  • The highway will end at a stop sign directly in front of the restaurant.

Fighting for ag

A high school in Sussex, New Brunswick is fighting to keep its agricultural class.

According to a story at CBC news, a teacher at the school was told the Agriculture 12-0 class would be cancelled. A campaign to keep the class extended its life by another year, but the long-term future of the program hasn’t been decided yet by the Department of Education. The department did, according to the story, suggest turning the Agriculture 12-0 class into an environmental science class, with a two-week unit on agriculture. In an effort to maintain the class, students and teachers have planted a garden on the school property and they’re hoping that move will help sway the province into keeping the Agriculture 12-0 class as is.


At almost the same time the students in Sussex were unveiling their new garden, Farm Credit Canada released its twice-a-year Farmland Values Report. The report started in 1990, and twice a year, 245 benchmark farm properties are appraised for their value. The selected properties represent the most prevalent  classes of agricultural soil in each part of the country, says FCC, and changes in value are weighted based on cultivated farmland per acre.

FCC found that New Brunswick farmland values were unchanged during the first half of 2012, following a 1.3 per cent increase in the second half of 2011, and no change in the first half of that year. Farmland values have increased or remained static in New Brunswick since reaching a peak increase of 6.3 per cent in the last half of 2008.

Sussex has long been known as one of New Brunswick’s strongest agricultural areas and as the milk producing hub of the province. But according to FCC’s report, “the area continues to see an ongoing trend of large acreages and former farmland purchased for rural residential use and hobby farming. Agriculture transactions were limited by this type of activity, along with the expansion of potash mining in the area. Moreover, dairy farm expansions in this area were limited as a result of the lack of available production quota.”

Nationally, we’re seeing a shift away from agriculture too. My colleague Owen Roberts, The Urban Cowboy, writes about a major change at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

So if some of the statistics show a decline in traditional farming in Sussex, is it reasonable to teach students about agriculture? Or is it time to move agriculture to the history class instead?


Agriculture needs the support of community, and that means including it as a high school course in agriculturally rich areas and keeping its name in traditional agricultural-related events.

The agriculture landscape of Canada is changing but the change should be considered an opportunity.  If there are an increasing number of hobby farms in the Sussex area, purchased by the parents and grandparents of the students who attend Sussex High School, then an agriculture course is key to helping the younger generation learn a bit about farming. By nurturing the family’s existing desire for rural life as they start their new home in the country, agriculture in the high school could turn the love for gardening or a backyard chicken flock into a career choice for the students.

How do you promote agriculture?

Loved these nice signs at the farm gate that welcomed us!

Open Farm Day was held in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba on Sunday. In the Maritimes, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and the breeze was brisk. It was a perfect day for a trip to the farm.

Even though I write about agriculture, I don’t live on a farm and I don’t have any relatives close by who farm. I try to make my kids aware about where their food comes from, but it’s a constant discussion, isn’t it? There isn’t a lot of ag education going on in my kids’ school, so Open Farm Day is a great chance for a bit of education, mixed in with a lot of fun.

Each of the farms had lots of great promotional material about agriculture — word searches, colouring books, fact sheets. My daughter scooped up all of the information she could find and talked about sharing it with some of her friends. I think next year, my husband and I will each take a carload of kids and their friends and head out to area farms during Open Farm Day.

So what do you do to educate the kids you know about food? What do you do to educate their friends?

In areas of the world where agriculture is more prominent, it may be easier to get in touch with farming. But agriculture in Atlantic Canada is small (but strong!). It takes a bit more effort to get our kids to link to their food.

That’s where the parents and the community come in to help. Whether it’s a community garden at the school, inviting a farmer in for Career Day or taking our kids to the corn maze, helping kids recognize, appreciate and know where their food comes from is an important job.

My son was endeared by this calf at Waldrow Dairy, near Sussex, N.B.
This calf was really more interested in seeing whether my daughter Olivia had a bottle of milk than she was in having her photo taken. Perryhill Farms, near Sussex, N.B.

Celebrate Farmers!

Here’s a great Open Farm Day video from Nova Scotia, but the event is just as amazing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. Open Farm Day is Sunday, Sept 16.

For details about Open Farm Day, check these websites:
New Brunswick Open Farm Day

Prince Edward Island Open Farm Day

Nova Scotia Open Farm Day

Manitoba Open Farm Day

Open Farm Day took root in NB

My daughter Olivia, who was three when this photo was taken, loved getting up close and personal with this lamb during Open Farm Day in 2003.

Over the last 12 years, an event celebrating local agriculture has spread across the country.

Open Farm Day is Sunday, Sept. 16. Several other provinces also hold Open Farm Day on the same weekend.

The first Open Farm Day in Canada was held in New Brunswick in 2000. Karen Davidge, a farmer near Fredericton, N.B., says one of her neighbour’s was on a fall trip to Maine when she heard about that state’s Open Farm Day. She collected promotional material — which described the one-day event as a time when farmers of all sectors open their gates and invite the general public to visit — and brought it home to New Brunswick, handing it over to Davidge.

Davidge was a member of the provincial farm organization’s education committee and the group took the idea and ran with it.

“We said, ‘let’s go for it’ and we did,” Davidge recalls. That year, 61 farms throughout the province opened their gates and 6,000 members of the public flocked in. The event expanded throughout Atlantic Canada, drawing in thousands of visitors. Looking back through some old stories, around 12,000 people visited farms during the Open Farm Days of the early 2000s.

Throwing open the farm gate and inviting the general public in can be a bit of a scary proposition for farmers. There’s a high threat of disease — who knows where all of those boots have walked and now they’re mingling among crops and livestock — a farmer’s income.

Open Farm Day was cancelled in New Brunswick in 2001 because of the outbreak of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease (which can infect cows, sheep, goats and hogs) in the United Kingdom. By implementing biosecurity measures like having visitors wash the bottom of their shoes in disinfectant or viewing poultry or hogs through windows, farmers still have the chance to showcase their work, keep their product safe and further educate the public about the importance of keeping their animals and plants secure.

The day as evolved into a family event, with many taking their young children to provide insight into where their food comes from. The exposure, say the farmers, is priceless. There is no better way for the general public to find out that it’s families just like themselves operating farms.

My son Mark, two at the time, fell in love with feeding the calves at this dairy farm near Moncton during Open Farm Day in the early 2000s.

Ag geek at Disney

I’m only nicely returning to normal after a family vacation in Disney World, Florida. Use of the word “vacation” in this instance may be wrongly placed, though, because it certainly wasn’t a relaxing trip. Early mornings, long days at the parks and late nights. We came home needing a vacation from the vacation.

Mickey was great, the roller coasters were thrilling, the food was decent and I completely loved how much fun my kids had. Disney is all about creating magic and our family had several magical moments during our visit, including (at least for me) a ride called Living with the Land.

The iconic symbol of Disney's Epcot Park

Located at Epcot, the ride is a slow-moving boat ride. There’s a brief account of the history of farming in the United States and the importance of agriculture before we then sailed right through the middle of some of the Disney greenhouses.

Amaranth, with edible leaves
Even the lettuce puts on a show at Disney World, with the red variety spelling out "Epcot."
Nice life for the pumpkins, hanging out in hammocks all day.

The 13-minute ride talks about research going on in agriculture, new growing techniques that farmers across the U.S. are trying out and touches a bit on biotechnology. There’s even a brief glimpse inside a lab, where United States Department of Agriculture scientists work.

A peak into an ag labLiving with the Land delivered a bit of an inside look at food production, the magic that farmers do on a daily basis and how some of the food served right there in the park is grown.

Figures from people who research Disney World estimate 17 million people a year visit the parks and guesses are that Epcot sees an average of 30,000 people a day. That’s a lot of agricultural outreach and several minutes of undivided time to bring some awareness about food to the general public. Well done, Disney World.

Journalists work to find the stories… but sometimes the story finds us

As journalists, it’s our job to find stories. We’re always searching out the news, looking for the great yarns and the colourful characters who spin the tales.

Every once in a while, we`re lucky enough to have the story find us.

That`s what happened earlier this month. I was in Berlin, Germany, attending executive meetings of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, held during International Green Week.

Green Week bills itself as the world`s largest fair for food, agriculture and horticulture. The size is overwhelming — the halls cover 28 acres and features 100,000 foods and beverages from around the globe. Every step brings a new aroma of kitchen smells from a different country, a new array of colours as merchants model traditional clothing and new sounds of food sizzling and music from the homeland blasting over crowd.

After our IFAJ executive meetings, my colleagues, Marianne Mork from Norway, and fellow Canadian Owen Roberts and I ventured off to walk around the show, eventually finding our way to Marianne`s “home” at the Norway booth and sharing a toast over a few glasses of Linie Aquavit. As we stopped to let our senses catch up with our minds and absorb what was going on around us, we slipped onto the sheepskin covered benches nestled in a corner to sip the spicy Norwegian drink. A nod to the two men sitting at the next table and it wasn’t long before they had joined us. Introductions were made and we were happy to find out that one of the men was the distiller and master blender for Linie Aquavit, Halvor Heuch.

Marianne and Owen learn about the magic of aquavit

As we asked questions about the creation of Linie Aquavit, Mr. Heuch patiently told us about the process, sharing with us the mystic about how potato mash is carefully stored in matured sherry casks. Caraway, dill, aniseed, fennel are added, adding to the flavour. He told us the liquor is shipped around across the equator, twice, and the constant rolling, changes in temperatures and humidity are what set Linie Aquavit apart from other aquavit brands.

As he talked and explained the process, we sampled the liquor along each step of the process, noting the complexity of the additional flavours and rolling the golden liquid on our tongues, noticing the spices. Mr. Heuch passed us samples of the seeds, vials of concentrated liquids added to the mash and brought the creation of Linie Aquavit to life for us, step-by-step. The magic was unfolding.

Halvor Heuch, Distiller/Master Blender, Linie Aquavit

It was a surprising and wonderful pause in our day. We were late for dinner, but we had gained a new and inside appreciation for a Scandinavian liqueur from one of the master creators. It was certainly a moment when we were happy to be farm journalists, and thrilled that this was one of the times the story had found us.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

(I’ve made the somewhat spontaneous leap from Blogger to WordPress, so acknowledging that it’s no longer Wednesday, I’m giving this a try with yesterday’s post. Cheers – A)
I spent the past week in Berlin, Germany, attending executive meetings of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. We were hosted by International Green Week, the world’s largest food, agriculture and horticulture show. The show features exhibitors from around the world, with many selling food and showcasing the agricultural specialties of their part of the world.
420 varieties
This lovely German potato farmer seemed thrilled that I came to visit his booth in the agricultural section of International Green Week. He proudly told me that they had 420 varieties of potatoes on display.
Dutch Tulips
Guess which country had the large tulip display? Holland, of course.
Pakistan's booth had a heavy emphasis on food traceability and food safety.
These guys didn't appear very impressed with International Green Week.