SOUTHERN ALBERTA – For a number of drivers travelling along a rural road or highway in Alberta, it’s simply a guessing game when asked what’s growing in the field just outside their vehicle window.
The ‘What’s in the Field’ project is changing that, first-off by simply telling you exactly what it is with a roadside sign, and then showing you where to find a broad range of information on what sits on the other side of the producer’s fence.
“We've got about 30 to 40 signs that went out this year,” explained Luree Williamson, CEO of Agriculture for Life. “We have a number of signs: we've got canola, we've got wheat, we've got our sugar beet signs, we've got some on the livestock side as well. So, rather than just saying it's a cow in the field, we're talking about the different breeds that are out in the field.”
In addition to the large print telling you what you’re seeing, the signs also provide a website that will shed more light on the crop or animals in question.
“What are sugar beets? What do we do with sugar beets? How are they processed?” said Williamson, listing off some of the topics that are addressed. “We really want to tell the whole picture to Albertans around food. What are we growing here in the province, how do we utilize it and ways that it connects back to the food that's on their table.”
Williamson noted that it’s important that you visit the website for more information and not take the signs as an invitation to the fields, as they are private property.
The Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) are assisting in the initiative by sponsoring a number of signs on roadways across the region.
ASBG Executive Director Melody Garner-Skiba, discussed the importance of the signage for their crop in particular.
“I'll be the first to admit, prior to coming to the sugar beet industry, I came from the livestock side and I thought that [sugar beets] were piles of white turnips… and I'm a southern Alberta girl,” said Garner-Skiba. “So, I think it's amazing in southern Alberta that we just don't realize what we have here – whether it's sugar beets, whether it's carrots, all the different specialty crops we have here – we need to talk more about that, because we're a gem down here and we just don't celebrate that near enough.”
Beyond spreading awareness of what local producers have to offer, Garner-Skiba added that it’s becoming increasingly more important to connect with consumers.
“We've noticed with research coming out of the Centre for Food Integrity, that there's more interest in how food is being grown,” she explained. “Is it safe? How are we using pesticides? So, I think as the ag industry, we need to start having those conversations and this is a great way to start that conversation.
“If we don't tell the story about how food is being grown here, someone else is going to be, and that can sometimes bring in misinformation and myths, and we need to make sure that our consumers and the general public has good, solid information that is factual,” she added.
Agriculture producers interested in getting involved and letting more people know what they do can visit Agriculture for Life, where they can order a sign at no cost, which will then be produced and shipped to them.
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