There is value in inviting guests along for a ride in the combine

Katelyn Duncan of Regina sees the cab as a window through which the rest of the world can catch a view of agriculture, creating greater understanding of the industry.  |  Katelyn Duncan photo

Harvest is an exciting time of year that is often enhanced by enthusiastic guests riding shotgun in the combine.

My family’s farm seems to frequently have guests during harvest time due to our close proximity to the city.

While at times it seems like a slight inconvenience to arrange for guests to be transported to and from the combine or provide directions to city dwellers, I believe there is tremendous value in it.

Value is a tricky word, and although it’s often measured in monetary or tangible forms, it doesn’t always take this form and is often realized in hindsight.

Perhaps this is the reason why I find myself inviting anyone and everyone for combine or sprayer rides throughout the growing season. I caught myself just the other morning discussing the crops with a doughnut shop owner in downtown Regina, and later inviting him for a combine ride. Believe it or not, sometimes people take me up on these random invitations. In fact, I’ve met folks at spin class, trade shows, the grocery store, university classes, and house parties who have taken me up on my offer to tour the farm.

While the experience with each guest is unique, a diverse sample of guests has resulted in an excellent opportunity to learn how to connect with people across various sectors, backgrounds, and ethnicities. It’s also an opportunity to practise verbalizing how equipment works and why we do things the way we do on the farm.

Currently about two percent of the Canadian population are farmers, which means the gap from farm and fork is evident throughout both cities and rural environments. Research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity sampling Canadian consumers indicates that farmers are trusted and transparency is valued. And with an increasing number of migrants in Canada each year there may be folks in the country who haven’t had the opportunity to visit a farm in Canada.

The combine cab is an environment for communication. The cab of any piece of farm machinery can be a very intimate space as individuals sit side by side in close quarters. Sharing this space with another individual while showing them a bit of your world can go a long way toward building trust.

What’s important to remember is that trust is a two-way street. There is a stereotype that farmers believe they deserve special thanks or appreciation for what they do, or that their contributions are greater than other sectors. This is why it’s especially important to make the effort to enquire about your guest’s world.

When building relationships with consumers, it’s important to ask yourself: Do I strive to learn about the day-to-day operations of individuals who work in other sectors?

Another valuable aspect of farm guests is that often when it’s least expected, guests show up with refreshments for the entire crew. This always makes a harvest crew smile and generally improves morale during busy seasons.

I’ve even had instances where we were running short-handed and guests have given me a ride from field to field or back to the yard for parts.

I will certainly acknowledge that one downside to having cab guests is that your concentration may be drawn away from the task at hand. For those who farm in hilly areas and have equipment without a buddy seat or machinery without auto steer, having guests ride along will likely be more challenging. But in most newer equipment auto steer and a comfortable buddy seat are status quo.

Ideally, the cab is a space where guests feel comfortable expressing their curiosity and asking questions. Maybe they will even consider you a valuable resource to ask future questions about agriculture or food-related topics. And, once guests catch word of your hospitality you may find yourself receiving farm tour requests from more people.

As I inquired about the history of the doughnut shop owner’s family business, I became appreciative of those individuals who make the effort to come and visit mine on a regular basis.

Katelyn Duncan, PAg., BSA, is a farmer and agrologist.

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