Monthly Archives: January 2008

What do you mean “Have a happy period?”

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“Have a happy period”. Is that something like “Have a happy birthday”? Does Hallmark sell cards for both of these occasions? I don’t think so! What is Proctor and Gamble thinking? Surely they can’t think that having a slogan like this one is going to increase their sales. What marketing course advises having a slogan that annoys their customers as much as this one must?

First I had to tolerate listening to the advertisements that celebrated that during your menstrual cycle, one could now swim, ride a bike and go horseback-riding. I find it amazing that merely by inserting a tampon would somehow teach one how to swim, ride a bike and a horse. With that type of knowledge bestowed on the wearer of the tampon, I’m surprised that men aren’t trying to insert them into their bodies somewhere.

Next on the feminine hygiene bandwagon is the slogan, “being a girl, rocks!” Surely this must have been a typo. They must have meant “being a girl, sucks!” Blame the typist – she was probably on her period, right?

And now the final straw, “Have a happy period”. The only way that I’m going to be able to have a happy period is with a great deal of Midol and/or regular consumption of rum.

And now tampons have been branded with the term ‘pearl’. According to Wikipedia, pearls are a classified as a gemstone and the word pearl has become a metaphor for something that is rare, fine, and admirable. Naturally when I think of tampons, I simultaneously think of something that is rare, fine and admirable. Doesn’t every woman?!

Advertisers of feminine hygiene products need to stick to the attractive selling points of their products. Ease of use would be one of those. Another would be the dimensions of the product – is it thin enough that it doesn’t feel like I’ve got a towel between my legs? Will the product be absorbent enough to keep me from throwing out my underwear every time I change the pad? Those are features I’m interested in.

To the advertisers of feminine hygiene products: your customers listen to your ads simply telling them about the useful features of your products like ‘flexi-wings’, the famous braided string, or the clean-wipe that comes with some brands. Quit telling me that having my period should make me happy! Action speaks louder than words. I am joining other annoyed women by refusing to buy your products until the inappropriate slogan is gone.

Now I feel better. Maybe I don’t need that extra Midol after all.

 

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National Agriculture Day in Canada

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On January 23, 2008, Farm Credit Corporation held the first-ever National Agriculture Day in Canada. I was glad to have been in attendance and felt that the day’s – well it really was just an afternoon – topics and content were very relevant and informative. The majority of the presentation was video with virtual presentations from the Right Honourable Gerry Ritz, Federal Agriculture Minister and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

One area that particularly interested me during the presentations was the information on FCC’s advisory panel called “Vision”. Vision is FCC’s research advisory panel and it consists of farmers, ranchers, and agri-business leaders from all over Canada. Results of the Fall/2007 survey regarding optimism in agriculture were presented. In the presentation it was stated that nearly 8,000 individuals participated in the survey. Considering that the number of farmers is decreasing, I thought this number was very high and therefore was quite interested in the results. The results showed that 53% of all respondents were optimistic about agriculture. I was surprised by this result – especially with the current hog industry crisis and woes in the beef industry. Farmers are certainly a resilient bunch. I went to the FCC web site to study the results further and discovered that the survey results were not from all 8,000 Vision participants, but from only 3,636. The results are still 53 %, but 53% of 3636 is only 1,927. Now that’s a horse of a different colour! That seems like a more realistic result. I continued to review the web site a little further and found that all individuals enrolled in the advisory panel were sent the survey but only 3636 replied. Now I’ve got it right. Must have had a moment of “Sometimer’s” – you know, something like Alzheimer’s but not all of the time. Regardless, I was impressed with the whole concept of this advisory panel and have volunteered to participate. But if I don’t hear from FCC for the Vision panel, I hope to get an invitation for the second National Agriculture Day in Canada. Thanks to FCC for the opportunity. Keep up the good work.


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Agricultural Research – Friend or Foe?

rice_cakes.jpgI love to eat. Just thinking about a steaming, juicy steak, hot off the grill makes me salivate – but with my New Year’s resolution to shed a few pounds, even a rice cake looks pretty good right now! Thinking of food is a daily reminder that if I ate today, I should thank a farmer. Since I am a proud farmer, I’m also thankful that there continues to be research leading to agricultural advances that allow me to eat foods from a broad variety of choices. There is great debate regarding these advances and some would argue that they aren’t advances at all. Are they kidding?

Agriculture is a broad industry that encompasses seed creation, land preparation, and planting to the point where the consumer has a mouth-watering morsel of food on their fork. Advances in seed genetics create issues that are front and centre with the critics of agricultural research – to the extent that GMO has become a four-letter word. Opponents of GMOs defend their position with beliefs that include GMOs pose a danger to humans, nature, and the environment. Simultaneously, benefits from GMOs include higher production yields that will feed more people, less pesticide use to improve the environment, and better quality food resulting in a potentially healthier human being. I admit that there can be trade-offs when using GMOs such as fewer weeds in the fields could result in less weed seeds produced to feed birds that rely on weed seeds as their lunch, but if I can include items like rice cakes in my balanced diet, can’t birds learn to eat other seeds in theirs?

Another agricultural area that continues to make giant gains thanks to research is the field of bio-fuels. It’s not difficult to see the benefits that bio-fuels can provide with gas prices over $1.00 per litre. But not everyone is a cheerleader for bio-fuels. The opposing team says that producing bio-fuels from corn reduces the amount of corn available for cow, pig and human consumption resulting in higher feed and food prices. As a farmer, I think that up until recently, the price of corn was so low that if corn had been the only crop grown on my farm, it would have been the only food available for me to eat because I wouldn’t have made enough money selling my corn to buy other groceries – like rice cakes. Maybe using corn for bio-fuels will reduce the abundance of corn to a level that a farmer can actually make a living from growing corn.

There are other crops besides corn that could be used for bio-fuels. Bryan Walsh reports in the January 8, 2008 issue of Time Magazine (www.time.com) about current positive results when converting an inedible plant called switchgrass to bio-fuel. The trials were done in Nebraska, North and South Dakota and the crop can be grown on soil that is not prime farm ground. That would free up the prime land for me to grow corn again and keep those corn prices low… Hey wait a minute, maybe I should change my position.

Research is extremely valuable to agriculture. If there was no science with its complementary research, there would be no progress in this world. If the majority of farmers didn’t believe that, they’d all be plowing their fields with horses instead of horsepower and I’d be barefoot, pregnant, wearing a long dress and using a quill to compose this column. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not stop now.

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             One Voice for Agriculture

To create one voice for Canadian agriculture would require a consensus of farmers regarding an overall mission for agriculture.   That consensus in agriculture is missing – both nationally and globally.  I believe that the time is now to reach that consensus and for farmers to unite and speak with one voice. 

In order to speak with one voice, the great debate over supply management must be resolved.  Supply management has provided Canadian farmers with a protected barrier for their products.  This barrier has allowed a fair return to the farmer and a fair price for the consumer.  But is this system good for all Canadian agriculture? I don’t think so.  Quota values for supply-managed products have risen to a level that entry into it is unaffordable.  Statistics Canada figures reveal that the number of farmers is decreasing.  High quota values are one of the barriers preventing individuals from pursuing agricultural careers.  Without huge financial assistance from a retiring farmer, a young person couldn’t possibly cash flow the purchase of necessary land, quota, buildings, equipment, and livestock for a supply-managed commodity farm. 

The WTO trade negotiations are reaching a crisis level because all participating countries want freer access to global markets.  If Canada insists on protecting supply-management, other countries aren’t going to allow more access to their markets.   The basic global message being sent to Canadian agriculture is that it’s difficult to suck and blow at the same time.   Canadian farmers are trained and talented professionals.  I believe that if all players in the agricultural global marketplace are playing by the same rules, Canadians could compete head-to-head with their international counterparts.

Success to the one-voice agricultural movement requires support from the Canadian consumer.  The Canadian consumer wants to support Canadian agriculture – as long as the price is fair and the product is safe.  Canadian farmers have demonstrated that can be done.  Branding of Canadian products is essential so that consumers can clearly identify Canadian products.   Clear governmental requirements must be established so that confusion over the source of the product is clear.

The agricultural one-voice vision would include Canadian-owned value-added processors.  Entrance into these businesses would be streamlined and assisted by government, financial institutions and/or business development bodies, encouraging business operation both in Canada and abroad.

The Canadian public education system would have to be enhanced in order that the one-voice for agriculture would include more Canadian students.  According to Andrea Mandel-Campbell’s book, “Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson”, the Schulich Executive Education Centre in Toronto has a highly regarded MBA program but thus far most of the program’s graduates have been non-Canadian.  There is a prerequisite for each enrolling student to have two languages.  One would think that since Canada requires students to learn its two official languages, this prerequisite would not be an obstacle but that is not the case.   

Currently in Ontario there are over 500 agricultural organizations.   Imagine the strength of a single message coming from all 500+ organizations.  Multiplying that times the 13 provinces and territories makes one Goliath voice.  Then arm that voice with a clear message.  Now that’s a force to be reckoned with.    

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Love is in the Air – Right Next to the Dead Pig Pile

green-acres-pic.jpgOver the Christmas holidays, I received the usual amount of Christmas letters and cards from my family and friends. I’m sure you’re familiar with them – the generic newsy letter updating the reader about the lives of their friends, their children, and grandchildren. I thoroughly enjoy these cards and letters – especially the ones from my ‘city slicker’ friends. These folks ask me about my rural idyllic life and comment that they envy my “life in the country”. In my earlier married years, these letters used to comment on how “romantic” my life with my drop-dead farmer gorgeous husband must be. I remember those days. Let’s reflect back to those romantic days – back to, say, late May, 1992. Picture me as the proud mother of Joseph, age 3-1/2 and Lauren,18 months. Peter is doing a custom corn planting job at our neighbour’s pig farm, in a rush, trying to get the planting done. He has asked that I bring him a lunch to the field in order that he can see the children. Remember that he’s been planting corn for an entire month – playing ‘beat the clock’ or ‘beat the rain’. Both games are essentially the same to farmers. During this time, Peter has seen the children for about an hour or two per week. The kids look at him like a stranger and I often wondered whether they would ask him for identification to prove that he was their father.

So as the dedicated mother and wife that I was trying to be, I eagerly prepared a picnic lunch, insisting that if the kids and I came to the field, Peter would have to agree to take some time from the tractor to have a picnic lunch with us. He agreed. I felt like I had just walked away from negotiating with Fidel Castro, only without the cigar. Lunch packed, blanket in tow, two kids in car seats, I proceeded down the road to the setting of the corn field of the pig farm to seek a location for the picnic lunch. My thoughts wandered hopeful that Peter would be thrilled to see us. I even pictured the meeting – Peter jumping down out of the tractor cab, rushing over to embrace us with delight. Could this possibly lead Peter to romantic thoughts? I had high hopes. As I drove down the road, my romantic enthusiasm began to dwindle as I realized the state of my physical appearance and recognized how “unromantic” I was. We were in the process of building a new chicken layer barn at the time and with Peter in the field, I was the sleep-deprived “woman in charge”. And since I was in charge, I hadn’t bothered to take the time to shave my legs for at a least a month, hadn’t brushed my hair for a day or two and upon reflection, couldn’t actually remember the last time that I had showered. I was definitely a hot mama, right? Not. My attire left something to be desired as well. My Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt had a mustard stain on the front, strained peas on the sleeves (thanks to Lauren) and a smelly remnant from the excited chicken that I had interrupted earlier while she was laying an egg. Regardless, I proceeded to the field, eager to see my Perfect Peter and selected the lunch location near the shade of the bush – and the swarms of flies that had been attracted to the nearby dead pig pile that had been out of my sight during the location decision. Requesting a change of venue was out of the question – this had not been a part of the terms of my original agreement that granted me Peter’s presence for 20 minutes out of the tractor cab. We finished the lunch, basically trying to keep Joseph and Lauren from getting eaten by mosquitoes as Peter checked his watch every minute or two. At the end of the twenty minute period, I gathered the remaining lunch items, chased the kids to the car, and shook hands with my husband as he was somewhat hesitant to have any other physical contact. Oh the romance of the country life. This should also help explain why we only have two children. Just kidding! As Eddie Arnold and Zsa Zsa Gabor used to say about their farm on the now-vintage sitcom Green Acres, “Snyderdale Farms is the place to be, farm living is the life for me!”

 

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