Congratulations to agriculture for carrying on despite COVID

Groups across the agricultural industry should be proud of their ability to continue informing stakeholders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

It occurred to me this week how many different organizations have stepped forward and trudged along online, in the absence of being able to hold events in person.

A few weeks into the pandemic, I was tuned into the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph’s “Lessons for Food Systems” webinars that were taking place.

Six sessions were held, covering a variety of topics — including one on how the culinary industry will move forward, and another on the future of technology and labour in the sector. These sessions were helpful to anyone within the industry trying to make some sense of what was going on and what the future might hold.

In July, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and the United States-based Farm Foundation hosted two dialogues focusing on trade. The two sessions featured industry leaders sharing their thoughts on subjects like sustainability and how to navigate international trade in a post-COVID world.

As many know, international trade is in a chaotic state, but these sessions were grounding, at least to me, if only because it provided a level of confidence that there were intelligent people out there looking to tackle the challenges at hand.

Sessions like these offered viewers a wealth of information from leading industry and academic experts. They also allowed people stuck at home in self-isolation the opportunity to feel they were still part of something, offering viewers the chance to submit questions.

They demonstrated how policy makers and shapers could adapt to these challenging times, in the same way food producers and processors have.

Of course, there were many other events that went ahead as well. It would be a difficult task trying to name them all.

In any case, the organizers, speakers and tech people pulling all of these off should be congratulated for doing so. To that end, I offer you all a heart-felt congratulations.

But a particular hat tip is deserved for all the folks who pulled off Ag in Motion Discovery Plus.

I’m blatantly and unabashedly biased on this one, given the company that owns this newspaper is the same one putting on the show. While I was not involved in any of the planning for the show, I was afforded the opportunity to have a small peek behind the curtains of the effort put forward to get this event off the ground.

By way of background, my first real introduction to Glacier FarmMedia was at its Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. It was there where I realized the amount of co-ordination and logistical effort it took to pull together hundreds of companies and thousands of farmers for a show of that scale. No small task, but one that seemed to be expertly handled.

As someone who had limited experience attending farm shows, I was impressed. I kept thinking to myself, “there’s so much stuff here.”

Flash forward to a COVID-19 world and that show, like Ag In Motion, will be going digital come this September.

These shows are key to the industry, largely because they offer producers an opportunity to see new technology that often has potential to be game-changing for their operations.

There were times when I couldn’t really picture how it was going to work online. I kept trying to imagine a digital farm show… and I couldn’t do it.

As many now know, it can definitely be done.

So, to all the folks who pulled these and other events off: congrats, and thank you.

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