Posted by: colleenoshea | January 30, 2009

Ag-Day Celebrated Across the Nation!

“Celebrating those who live and breath agriculture”—what a powerful slogan, and what an important group of people to celebrate! On January 28th, 2009 the 2nd annual “Ag-Day” in Canada was held across the country to follow this slogan and overall recognize the unique and vital role of agriculture.


The day was created a year ago by Farm Credit Canada (FCC). This year, celebrations across Canada in 89 locations included providing leading-edge information to producers and agribusiness operators regarding the 2009 production year. Topics such as energy conservation, innovative technologies and land value across Canada were discussed.

“It’s great to raise awareness about what’s happening here in Canada and on the world stage, and what it means for the future”, commented Greg Stewart, FCC president and CEO on Ag-Day.


Accompanying Ag-Day celebrations included the release of results of a vision-based panel survey by FCC Canadian agricultural producers and business leaders. The survey found fifty-four per cent of the 4, 300 respondents say they are optimistic about agriculture- up one per cent from last year. These results didn’t surprise me one bit. In my opinion, I have always known that farmers are some of the most resilient people on this earth. I have seen this first hand. They live and breathe resiliency every day. For example, when bad weather comes down on their crops they don’t have much control over the situation. They know that they must work through the conditions and work with what they do have, and swerve around the many obstacles and barriers nature presents them with. Bad weather is just one of many examples, thus I am not surprised that optimism is high in the agricultural industry, despite the tough economic times.


To be completely honest, if I hadn’t heard that it was Ag-Day from one of my peers during my Agriculture Communications class this week, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have known about it. When I did research it and read about it, I thought the idea behind it was brilliant—however I hope for further developments to happen in the future for this day. I want everyone to recognize Ag-Day in years to come, and have it be just as familiar to Canadians as other special days such as holidays are. As an old saying goes, and one of my favorite ones at that, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture”, and thus I feel it is important that everyone recognizes the importance of agriculture and celebrates its imperative role. 


Hope for my “dream” vision of everyone celebrating Ag-Day did spark this year. As I am a Child Youth and Family Major at the University of Guelph, with a strong passion for agriculture on the side, I get excited when my passions of children and agriculture mix. Reports on Ag-Day celebrations provided just this. According to the FCC website, they announced a  $100, 000 investment in Agriculture in the Classroom, allowing teachers across the country  access to new agriculture education materials that teach children how food gets from the farm gate to their plate. And this is exactly where informing the general public on the importance of agriculture in our lives needs to start—with the next generation. As I have studied child development for the past 4 years, I know how receptive young children are-they are literally like little sponges. More resources to educate all children- rural or urban- on the journey of their food are a very smart move. Starting with our youth, the awareness of the impact of the role of agriculture in everyone’s everyday lives will hopefully start to emerge. Maybe in the future our country as a whole will understand on a deeper level the significant importance of the agricultural industry on our every day lives. And maybe, just maybe one day the “Ag-Day” celebrations across our country will be just as large and passionate as celebrations such as Canada Day celebrations are today…maybe, maybe not…but one can only be optimistic!



Posted by: colleenoshea | January 26, 2009

Healthy Eating Program Looks Promising

  Recently Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc (OAFE) committed to invest $450,000 in projects to support Ontario agriculture. The Healthy Eating Program intend to promote Ontario farm grown products to groups and organizations who aren’t necessarily connected with the agricultural industry directly, however who have an interest in healthy eating.


 OAFE was thrilled with the eighty two proposals they received for their program. These proposals came from a variety of different organizations across the province- from those involved with the agriculture, health and education sectors, and including local community groups.


Krista McFadden is the Chair of OAFE’s AdHoc Committee responsible for reviewing the proposals. She comments on the number of groups applying for the program saying “It is obvious that there are many initiatives that require new and additional funding to support the concept of healthy eating”.


On the selection committee are a number of individuals which represent new partnerships with other organizations across Ontario. Committee members include representatives from the Guelph Food Technology Centre, Peterborough Public Health, University of Western Ontario, a marketing communications company, and agri-food sectors. Needless to say, they have their work cut out for them.


“We would have needed over $7 million to fund every project proposal received,” commented McFadden. “It is obvious that Ontario needs funding opportunities to promote and supply healthy eating initiatives throughout Ontario. It will be very difficult to choose from the wide range of projects we’ve received.”


The committee will work hard to ensure they pick the best proposals which fit clearly the program criteria. Those who applied for the grants of the Healthy Eating Program had to be Ontario legal entities, including not-for-profit organizations and associations, cooperatives, marketing boards, government agencies and for-profit companies.


The OAFE organization puts a lot of effort into designing programs to “bridge the gap” between farmers, or farm organizations, and non farmers or non farm organizations. This initiative is a perfect example of what they do best. Their mission is “Working together to increase awareness of the agri-food industry by providing educational programs and resources” and they gain much support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Its rejuvenating knowing organizations such as OAFE are working so hard to spread advocacy about our agricultural industry, again emphasizing the importance of local healthy food, and knowing that our government is helping to support this. As the importance of innovation in the agriculture industry grows stronger, new opportunities continue to arise. This Healthy Eating program is what I call an innovative opportunity, and the 82 proposals that OAFE received is a key indicator to its future success and the continued accomplishments of OAFE’s initiatives.
Posted by: colleenoshea | January 16, 2009

Support for the Local Food Movement Continues to Drive Forward!

     I am a strong supporter of the local food movement. As I have personal connections in marketing local food produce, I am constantly trying to get the word out of the importance of the consumer supporting their neighborhood farmer. I know the benefits for both consumer and producer of the local food movement and am continuously striving to raise awareness. I am not alone in this feat. There are many people out there, both producer and consumers, who want to make others informed and create a buzz about “buying local”. Our job just got a little bit easier.


Yesterday I read an article on the  Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website that was music to my ears. The McGuinty government has announced more initiatives to continue the momentum of avocations of the importance to buy local to even more residence and businesses. The investment of an initial $850,000 in 15 projects to start comes from a 4 year, $12-million Ontario Market Investment Fund Program. This program helps to develop economic opportunities and promote Ontario food. A few of the projects include an increased awareness of Ontario apples through a media campaign, a plan for growers to show restaurants and other institutions in the Grey/Bruce area that using local food is the way to go, and my personal favorite a “Nothing Tastes Like Home” educational mobile trailer to quite literally “drive forward” the “buy local” movement. This resource on wheels will travel to various community events and schools and raise knowledge and understanding of the “buy local” project through cooking demonstrations and tasting opportunities.


What great news! I’m content with the way the Ontario government is investing in this continuous and vital movement. There obviously is still room for improvement in the avocation of buying locally, but it is headed in the right direction. In my opinion as every person eats everyone is connected to the agricultural industry. Thus, everyone should be aware of the current trends in the business. Farmer or not, producer or consumer, everyone should be concerned, informed, and active in supporting and advocating the local food movement. We can all be leaders in the agricultural industry and this is exactly what I delivered a speech on in November at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. After reading this post I’d like you to watch my speech below and hopefully take with you some of my passion and energy to do YOUR part to support the local farmers, and let others know that they should also.

Posted by: colleenoshea | January 13, 2009

New Directions for 4-H Canada

     A promising partnership has been created recently between the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and 4-H Canada, and Canadian youth will be the group who will benefit the most.  The program is called the RBC 4-H Rural-Urban Outreach Program, and basically will provide an opportunity to “bridge the gap” between rural and urban communities and spread the 4-H experience across the nation.  It will provide a grant for youth wanting to join 4-H as well as any new club or organization planning to start a new club in their community.  According to Bob McAuley, president of the Canadian 4-H Council “This program is a tremendous way to introduce 4-H youth across Canada, especially to youth who may not have had an opportunity otherwise. It is also a way to re-introduce 4-H alumni who want to ‘join again’ as volunteer leaders and share their 4-H values with young Canadians.”

     The 4-H program provides an opportunity for youth to learn life skills, form friendships, grow leadership potential, and learn by taking on new experiences. 4-H has been in existence for 95 years, and is centered on the motto of “learn to do by doing”, developing well rounded individuals. When 4-H first started, it was primarily for rural youth, and clubs focused for the majority on agricultural practices. As it has evolved over the years, the 4-H horizon has broadened to include not only urban youth but an array of opportunities to include clubs in just about any field you can imagine from drama, sports, gardening, marketing, machinery, art…and the list could go on and on. In addition to the clubs youth can take, 4-H also provides leadership camp opportunities, exchange and travel opportunities and provincial and national competitions.  

     Although a large portion of youth enrolled in the 4-H program are still from rural backgrounds, the number of urban youth involved now compared to 95 years ago is significantly different. I feel this partnership will give an opportunity for a new variety of clubs to be created which will appeal even more to youth and in turn may increase the numbers of urban youth. With an increase number of youth involved with the 4-H program, not only will more be benefiting from their individual development, but possibly some eyes will be opened and an interest will be generated in agricultural practices that 4-H offers. Urban youth otherwise may never have known about practices related to food and environmental issues which contribute to our agricultural industry. I personally have been involved in the 4-H program for the past 10 years of my life, and can most defiantly say it has had a large impact on me becoming the individual that I am today. 4-H has defiantly given me a better perspective on life, has taught me many valuable lessons, given me an abundance of knowledge and of course has helped me grown lifelong contacts and friendships. As I will graduate in April and face the world, I’m not entirely sure where my career path will take me or where I will end up settling down. There is a possibility that I will not be able to live on a farm due to my job, further education or financial situations, however I always want 4-H to be a part of my life. In addition, down the road (quite a few years) when I do have a family, I want my children to also benefit from the 4-H program.  I’m sure there are many people right now who are in this situation. The RBC 4-H Rural-Urban Youth Outreach Program is the perfect opportunity to allow this, and share the love of the 4-H program for many generations to come. 

Posted by: colleenoshea | December 1, 2008

“Tis the Season for Giving….Farm Supplies!”

     As the Christmas season is upon us, the spirit of giving certainly is in the air. The thought of giving is undoubtedly on the mind of Canadian Economic Development Assistance for Southern Sudan, as this past weekend they worked to load the first of two containers that will be sent to Sudan, full of farm supplies. Between $350,000 and $400,000 worth of farm equipment and other donations are being sent from the London, Ontario region to help promote, develop and grow sustainable agriculture. The first container should arrive in Southern Sudan by January.


     The idea of this project was started last March by David Tennant Sr, Robert Boyer and his wife Michelle Floyd when they went on a trip to the sight of where the farm will be set up, outside of Juba Township in Sudan. They came back with soil samples and after deciding it would be possible to farm there, began planning the rest of the project.


    Local area agri-business such a John Deere and Petro Canada Lubricants helped out with donations of various types of equipment to be sent over seas. The establishment of the 8,000 hectare farm will be the first mechanized farm in southern Sudan. The leaders of this project say their mission is to not only provide the African farmers with technology, but also teach them how to be sustainable on their own, and feed their country. Robert Boyer, the coordinator of the entire project stated; “The goal is to teach them how to farm it, so one day we can walk away and say, ‘Here you go,’ “.


     Upon reading this article in the London Free Press, I was drawn to it specifically due to the fact of my Agriculture and Society class I have taken this past semester. Last week we had an online discussion about helping other countries to excel in the agricultural industry as we, the nation of Canada has. The general consensus among my class was that not only is it necessary that we provide them with the proper equipment and technology, but it is imperative that we provide them with the education of effective and efficient sustainable farming practices. As an old quote says “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”, and this program is doing just that. They are spreading the resources they have; in addition to the knowledge and skills they have to Juba, a township which has been farming on a small scale by hand — without tools and with no public services to support themselves.


     And finally, just to top off this generous mission- the containers are being padded with donations of clothing, and what else…soccer balls! What a great way to start off the Christmas season!

Posted by: colleenoshea | November 24, 2008

Buying Local from Coast to Coast-Canadian Coasts of Course!

The local food movement has caught a lot of people’s attention over the past few years. Increasingly, people want to make the connection with the face of the farmer who produced their food. They want to know the journey of their meal from farm to fork, and know that that journey didn’t take days to complete. Local food has become a hot topic on many people’s mind- and recently an organization has been established which will help this development.


The organization is called Farmers’ Markets Canada- and its mission is to not only promote farmers’ markets, but also to develop national initiatives and partnerships to further the viability, growth and prosperity of the Canadian farmers’ market industry. In short, Robert Chorney the chair of the FMC Board of Directors and Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario explained that basically in the future they want everyone to have equal opportunity to be able to access a farmers’ market and get that connection between farmer and consumer. Robert Chorney is a good friend of my families and although I may be bias, I feel he is a driving force behind the success of farmers markets in Ontario- and will continue to be a driving force behind making the success of these markets go nation wide. His passion and commitment to educate the public about the benefits of buying local, and all his time and commitment to the Farmers Markets Ontario organization is immeasurable. I tried to get a hold of Robert, who I know more as “Uncle Bob”, to not only reminisce the days (quite a few years ago) when he and I use to walk hand in hand “terrorizing the trade show” at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention, but to get some more information on this new established organization, and on top of that get some statistics of how much farmers markets have actually grown in the past.


Regardless of the stats, I know have experienced personally the growth of our farmers markets, Stratford and St. Mary’s Farmers markets, and witnessed the birth of new farmers markets in Ontario such as the third market we now attend- the Grand Bend Farmers Market. It is clear that the demand for a place where consumers can attain locally grown food is increasing. Thus, the demand for farmers markets is most defiantly high! Just yesterday I sold potatoes and squash along with other preserves and baked goods at the Stratford Farmers Market with my father. The number of people who asked me where exactly we grew our produce was rejuvenating. I couldn’t help but smile while telling them it was grown just a half hour away not only because I was proud of the product my farm produced, but also because I was happy they were taking the responsibility of making sure they were receiving locally grown produce.  


The development of Farmers Markets Canada is not only a pat on the back for farmers and agriculture communications enthusiasts, but also a push on the back. What do I mean by this? It’s a pat on the back as already the message has become more clear to consumers that there are major benefits to buying locally- and also to those consumers who make these choices as now there will be more opportunity for them to buy those local foods. And why is it a push on the back? The establishment of this organization is motivation to keep with this momentum we have gained on the push of the local food movement. It’s the chance to continue the education to the general public of how vital their choice to buy local really is, and to stay committed to Farmers’ Markets Canada’s mission of giving everyone an equal opportunity to buy local by increasing the number and quality of farmers markets.


Overall I can’t wait to get a hold of “Uncle Bob” and share in his enthusiasm for this establishment of this new and exciting organization. Farmers’ Markets Canada will bring only benefits from coast to coast- and delicious tasting ones at that!


To read the article on the debut of Farmers’ Markets Canada go to


Posted by: colleenoshea | November 17, 2008

…and thats a Royal Wrap!

My friends and I describe the time of the year as “better then Christmas”. To many, it’s the event they have worked all year long for- finally the time to exhibit their 16 foot high sunflower stalk, or to lead their 4 year old mature dairy cow into the Richocoliseum or show off that square dance with their fellow peers. To others it’s a brand new experience-the first chance to witness the magic of, “country coming to the city”. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair truly is an event of its own league.


This past weekend, the 86th year of the fair came to a close and in my eyes, it certainly was a success. Obviously, I am a little bias as I have attended the fair since as long as I can remember and hold the tradition of attending the fair close to my heart. However, I do have valid ground to stand on in saying that it was a success. Although I was busy with our Hereford beef cattle and competing in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition, I still had some time to browse through the exhibits and check out the various displays. This year, I was more then impressed.


While shooting footage for a video as part of my agriculture-communications class at the fair, some fellow peers and I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Rob McLaughlin, the president of the fair and a former Ontario Agricultural College dean. He told us that this year, they were trying to veer away even more from the commercial exhibits and implement more educational, interactive displays, which promoted healthy food, our agricultural industry, innovation and research. Personally, I feel the Royal did an exceptional job at reaching this goal. In the past I have felt like there was too many shops and booths to buy from, but this year that certainly wasn’t the case.


The Journey to Your Good Health pavilion was what I felt stood out the most this year. Filled with interactive displays for young and old, boundless amounts of information and bright, catchy booths, which got urban and rural people talking about our agriculture industry. The Be Healthy! Stage inside the pavilion was especially a stand out in my eyes. Students from Sheridan College’s acting program performed daily a short show that brought together High School Musical (a current huge hit with children and teens), and nutrition, food and health eating. Their energy and creative twist truly made it extremely effective and appealing for young, and the young at heart, and certainly got their message across.


Another booth that sticks out in my mind was The Holland Marsh booth, also in the Journey to Your Good Health Pavilion. Here, a man handed out numerous bags of fresh locally grown carrots-but that’s not what impressed me the most. What impressed me was his enthusiasm and commitment to talk to almost everyone he handed a bag of carrots too-telling them to buy local, to look for their Holland Marsh symbol on bags of grocery stores to know they are getting Ontario grown produce. Here was a prime example of someone else sharing and spreading the same passion I have to educate our society on the importance of supporting our local farmers!


I could write for pages about all the booths that impressed me, and all the very knowledgeable and credible people that I enjoyed talking to while browsing the exhibits at the fair, sharing many of the same views on some vital issues in our industry. It was very revitalizing walking through these exhibits and see “the bridging of the gap between urban and rural people” come to life.  The Royal certainly took advantage of the chance it had to capitalize on educating people, both urban and rural, on a diversity of agricultural topics.


Although some people may have just come to see the butter sculptures, some to watch the horse show, or others to indulge in a cinnamon bun while watching the super dogs, I am fairly confident that everyone who walked through the doors of the direct energy centre learned at least one thing they didn’t know before about the agriculture industry. Be it the learning parts of a horse, how canola based diesel fuel helps a race car run, or the importance of eating a balanced, healthy diet, I feel the educational exhibits and displays certainly did a remarkable job of catching the public’s eye, and teaching each and every person something new. This years exhibits certainly  stirred up some excitement in everyone about being involved in the agricultural industry-and how very fitting as this industry is one that literally connect our world. Another Royal is in the history books, and already I can’t wait to see what is in store for next year! Only 365 more days to go!


Posted by: colleenoshea | November 13, 2008

Our Generation is Louder and Prouder!

     This past weekend, I had the honor of competing in the 24th annual Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture, held at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario. This competition attracts youth from across Canada who have a passion for agriculture, to give a maximum 7 minute speech on one of the 5 pre-determined topics. From fossil fuels to organics, the local food movements to where Canada stands in agriculture today, a variety of topics were covered pertaining to our agricultural industry. At the end of the day Kayla Getzinger from Alberta was announced the winner of the competition.

     Personally I feel that in pretty much any competition one may enter, although there is a winner proclaimed, every contestant brings back with them something from the competition. Each challenge a person sets out for their self and each experience that person may go through brings new perspectives, new skills and new confidence. After coming out of the CYSA competition, although I wasn’t named the winner, I still brought with me a new perspective. It was incredibly rejuvenating to sit in that room and hear my peers talk as passionately about agriculture as I feel. And even outside of the CYSA competition, I was moved walking back to the cattle barns at The Royal. It was inspiring  watching other youth working so hard to get 4-H beef or dairy heifers ready for the show ring, the show they had been working all year long for. I only wish the CYSA event was advertised more around The Royal, or put in a location more central which would maximize the number of people listening to the speeches. Both rural and urban people could have taken something out of each and every contestant’s speech. All competitors had incredibly high quality of speeches, and it was a shame that more people weren’t there to hear their messages.

     Why is it that we young people are so motivated about an industry that is so unstable and unpredictable? Why do youth travel thousands of miles to The Royal each year to walk into the show ring with their 4-H project, or walk up to the podium and give their 7 minute speech? I’m not quite sure I can fully answer this question. It’s the implausible amount of passion, integrity, and enthusiasm that our generation brings to the agricultural industry that makes us stand out from the rest. Our parents showed us that farming isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and with that lifestyle brings hard work, dedication and commitment. Although it has become harder for young people to get into farming, there still are a strong group of us who are up for the challenge. At the CYSA competition, someone said that “Our generation is louder and prouder”, and I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Numerous examples at The Royal, such as the CYSA, demonstrated this. Our generation of youth is here to spread our passion for the agricultural industry, and let others know that we are the bright and promising future of agriculture.

Posted by: colleenoshea | November 1, 2008

One Little Blue Cow Means A lot!

the old DFC logo which will be given a makeover for the future

The "Little Blue Cow" is set for a makeover.

If you have ever purchased dairy products in the past, you have probably seen the “little blue cow”, the licensed logo of the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) which represents a product being one hundred percent Canadian. After a decade of use she will now be given a makeover, backed by $5 million dollars worth of promotion. The little blue cow will no longer have her bell around her neck and the words Quality Milk will be replaced with the message : 100% Canadian Milk. By losing her bell, sources say she is becoming “modernized”. Upon discussing this event with my mother, she suggested that the bell be turned into a computerized chip around her neck- I wasn’t too sure the graphic artists would quite be able to do this! Regardless, the little blue cow will still stay a two- color graphic, in both blue and black or black alone.

Right in line with the local food movement and the urgency for “made in Canada” labeling, the change of the logo comes at a perfect time. Ian MacDonald, the national director of marketing and nutrition for DFC feels that this investment of branding “Canadian”, is a good choice, backed up by a promotional campaign to communicate to consumers what the logo means and create loyalty to it. DFC is offering to cover the cost of changing packaging as it can be costly. The updated cow may appear on some products as early as December-although the total conversion probably won’t happen until at least June. Processors who do adopt the blue cow must sign a legal document committing them to using the logo on products made only from Canadian milk.

Personally I feel this is a great idea by DFC. The more and more the local food movement gains popularity, the more curious consumers are about how they can support local growers and producers. Grocery store shoppers are catching on about looking for that “Canadian branded” product. DFC is committing the large sum of money to back up the logo change with this promotional campaign which I feel is essential. They are committed to informing the public what exactly the logo stands for, what exactly it means to support a Canadian dairy farm and why it is so important to look for this logo on their product. This is yet another positive example of organizations working together to support and develop our Canadian agricultural industry for the future.

Posted by: colleenoshea | October 27, 2008

Eating Well Looks Good on You!

In September the Ministry of Education in Ontario sent out a DVD to every school in the province containing a short video on Agriculture.  A letter accompanied the DVD which explained the importance of the DVD and that it was vital to get the message of healthy eating across to our students. The video did bring quite a lot of controversy in schools, in particular in some rural schools. Upon watching the video, a lot can be critiqued. On one hand it is a catchy video with a catchy tune which may grab kids and teens attention. It uses David Rocco (the host of Dolce Vita a cooking show on the Food Network) as a focal point which may also get students interested.  It does, to some extent serve its purpose of getting the message of eating fresh; locally grown produce is the right thing to do. However, some have argued that the depiction of agriculture in the video isn’t the greatest. For example, it emphasizes using locally grown produce, yet the recipe that is made uses couscous, oranges and lemons, 3 products which are not grown locally and which are not considered “Canadian”. Another criticism of the video is the background of a thrashing machine which is used in one shot. Trashing machines are not used in present day farming and this image although possibly rustic looking for the video doesn’t quite fit the image of agriculture that should be given off. It’s a hard call. Some say it is a bit fake and phony and staged with urban teens who are looking like “country kid wanna-be’s”, while others think this is what will get kids attention and even get them involved and interested in agriculture and healthy food choice decisions. 4 pilot schools of the “Eating Well Looks Good On You” campaign have created some specialized programs to develop the program. College Heights Secondary School of Guelph is one of these pilot schools. They have a program which focuses on food preparation and presentation within the school (such as in their cafeteria) and in the community (many students are involved with co-op placements). Programs such as this one that have been developed are defiantly a step forward in involving everyone in food-and ultimately, in agriculture. So was the DVD which was made and sent out to every school in Ontario a waste of money by the government due to the poor depiction of Agriculture? Was it a poor showing of how the government is “helping the agriculture industry”? Or does it serve its purpose of getting the message of eating healthy across? Have a watch yourself and you make the call.


Watch the video at


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