Monthly Archives: March 2008

Can Oprah Help Agricorp?

logo_splash.gif

I read a recent article from CKNX radio’s website that stated the Provincial Agricultural Minister has asked the Auditor General to examine Agricorp’s services and procedures.  I laughed when I read this because I recently had an interesting experience with Agricorp.  I received three separate $100 invoices from Agricorp for each of our farm’s three partner’s membership fees for Agricorp’s CAIS (now changed to AgriInvest and AgriStability) program.  The invoices were accurate and valid and I was ready to pay them.  In order to keep as much of my money in my bank account as possible, I decided to pay the total of the fees in one cheque, using one envelope and one stamp.  Sounds like common sense to me.  I thought maybe I should write a letter explaining that the cheque covered three invoices and to include the three partners participant numbers in the letter as well.  I prepared the letter, wrote the single cheque and stuffed the stamped envelope.  I had to call Agricorp regarding another matter and during that conversation, I explained to Dorothy, one of Agricorp’s helpful staff about the payment that I had just prepared for Agricorp.  She checked my file and said that three separate cheques were required.  I asked her to tell me why three cheques were required.  She explained that in order to get the payments credited to the appropriate account, it would be necessary to send three separate cheques, in three separate envelopes.  I explained that I wanted to save as much money on the transaction as possible so sending one cheque in one envelope would save bank fees on three separate cheques, the cost of two additional envelopes and two additional stamps.  I didn’t think that it was rocket-scientist-level thinking to understand the cost savings in my approach to the situation but maybe my expectations of Agricorp were too high.  After all shouldn’t Agricorp want me to incorporate cost savings into my farm and business practices since CAIS is really a savings account for farmers during years of less than average financial returns?   Dorothy again replied that if I wanted to ensure that my payment was credited properly, it would be necessary for me to send three separate cheques, in three separate envelopes.  Naturally, I could feel my blood pressure beginning to rise because this is a perfect example of how common sense in government transactions is becoming less evident.  But thanks to my recent study of Oprah’s book, The New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, I am trying to evolve and find my inner purpose.  I decided that my inner purpose in this situation was to point out to Agricorp that their employees should look for new jobs if they couldn’t read an explanatory letter and credit the proper accounts accordingly.  But Oprah’s and Eckhart’s voices kept whispering in my ear that I needed to explain that calmly and tactfully and without being egotistical.  So I took a deep breath to find my inner peace (okay, so maybe it took more than one breath!) and calmly stated to Dorothy that mankind had really progressed intellectually and we had come a long way.  Dorothy said that she didn’t understand what I meant.  I said that maybe I should rephrase my statement and ask a question instead.  Dorothy said that she would be happy to answer any question that I asked.  I expressed my gratitude for Dorothy’s willingness to help me, but somehow knew that her willing nature would soon come to an end.  So I then asked Dorothy if the employees at Agricorp had an intelligence level high enough to receive an explanatory letter, complete with names, participants numbers, etc. and a cheque for payment and understand what accounts the payment should be credited to?  There was a long pause at the end of my question – probably long enough for Dorothy to take a deep breath and find her inner peace – or maybe just something to throw!  I could sense that Dorothy’s willingness to help me was fading fast.  Eventually Dorothy said that she knew there was enough intelligence at Agricorp to handle my letter and payment.  I think maybe Dorothy was gritting her teeth at this point because her replies were becoming more and more difficult to understand.  Happily I replied that I was thankful for Agricorp’s intelligence level and stated that I would include in my explanatory letter that Dorothy had assured me that the payment would be credited appropriately.  After my call, I think Dorothy was considering a job change. Maybe Agricorp should get Oprah to provide training for their staff to find their inner peace too?  I wonder if the Auditor General could suggest that.     

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Business

The Role of the Agricultural Fair

ferriswheel.jpg

In early March, the Canadian federal government announced a half million dollar grant to conduct a study in an attempt to improve Canada’s agricultural fairs and exhibitions. 

Here is another example of my taxpayer dollars being spent (wasted?) on yet another study.  Does it take a new study to evaluate today’s fairs and exhibitions?  I’m not convinced that it does.  Evaluation of today’s fairs and exhibitions needs a clear objective look at how the role of fairs has changed over time.  The structure of many of today’s fairs is simply “that’s the way it’s always been done”.  Do the people that say that still drive buggies pulled by horses instead of cars or trucks?  Generally the people that use that phrase are well-meaning nostalgic individuals who have a passion for the event or the history of the event.  I am sometimes one of those but even I drive a car.

Let’s take a look at the purpose of the fair when my parents (now 85) were youngsters.  The fair was primarily a social event.  An event held to bring the whole community together and at that time, the whole community was one hundred percent agricultural or agribusiness.  Fifty years later, the ferris wheel still turning and now I am a youngster.  The community is no longer totally agricultural.   The community has become manufacturing-driven.  More non-agricultural businesses have been established.  More and more people are leaving the farm to pursue novel, non-agricultural roles.  Did the fairs change to accommodate this societal change?  In most cases, probably not.  Did the attendance numbers at fairs decrease?  They certainly did.

Now, in 2008, my children are now older teenagers.  Less than two percent of all the population lives on farms.  There are hundreds of social activities, clubs, groups, etc. that compete for my kids’ time and money.  And don’t forget all the time spent on social networks like Facebook and MySpace.  Today’s teens are no longer interested in going to the fairs because there are more attractive recreational activities in which they want to participate.  Many existing fairs still operate with the mentality of “that’s the way it’s always been done”.  It doesn’t take an expensive study to realize this fact.     

Most fairs are operated through the efforts of many committed hard-working volunteers – volunteers that have been involved in the operation of the fairs for decades.  Sometimes it’s these well-intentioned volunteers who keep the organization’s structure and example of “that’s the way it’s always been done”. 

Agriculture has changed dramatically in the last hundred years.  The picture of today’s farms is more corporate and less family or community oriented.  More and more farm operations require a second income to order to be profitable.  There’s not a lot of time left to make jams, jellies and preserves and enter them in the fair to compete for a blue ribbon.       

Maybe a fair should be an avenue where folks that are removed from agriculture can go and experience farm life.  The novelty of amusement rides is no longer relevant.  Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds can be seen in parking lots of malls throughout Canada all summer – not to mention at Canada’s Wonderland every day. 

During the period of time when the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture hosted the Annual Farm Tour, it was clear that urbanites loved the opportunity to bring their families out for a day of touring farmers throughout the county.  Thousands of people went on the tour.  They wanted to see the animals and how the products that they ate every day were connected to the farm.  Unfortunately issues such as biosecurity and animal welfare perceptions have brought that type of experience to an end.

Changing the role of the fair is long overdue.  It’s time for agriculture to educate non-agriculture about their industry.  Non-agriculture is definitely interested and wants to learn.  The agriculture industry just hasn’t figured out how to teach it.  I don’t understand why it takes half a million to do a study.  Why not take the half a million and get started acting on the answer instead of studying it?  The facts are already there.   

     

  

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Business

Making the Agriculture Connection with ‘Pizza Perfect’

pizzalunch.jpg

One of the issues facing agriculture today is the fact that the vast majority of consumers don’t understand agriculture – at all.  Communicating the challenges that farmers face on a daily basis can now be added to ever-growing farmers’ challenges list.  The Grand River Agricultural Society (www.grandriveragsociety.com) is trying to help with the communication with their upcoming ‘Pizza Perfect’ event.  On March 26 and 27, over 800 third graders from Wellington and Waterloo County will arrive at the Grand River Agricultural Society grounds and learn how pizza is made.  They will learn about flour and where it comes from and how it is made.  They will also learn about the sources of sausage, cheese, pizza sauce and then the best part of all – they will get to eat it!  Talk about positive reinforcement!

Live animal sources of the basic pizza products will also be available to see, hear, touch and of course, smell.   A mini-greenhouse will also be on site to demonstrate how tomato plants are grown and how the fruits from the plants are converted into pizza sauce.  Students will visit various learning stations throughout the day.  Each station is manned by experienced volunteers with the ability to provide factual answers to the many questions that only third graders will ask such as “do brown cows give chocolate milk?”

Equipment involved in the production of the pizza products are displayed during the day, donated from local farmers and equipment dealerships.  Planters, combines, milking machines are just a few of the items that the children will have an opportunity to see. 

Pizza Perfect is a cooperative event involving many agricultural organizations and businesses such as Cribit Seeds, Ontario Soybean Growers Association, Ontario Pork Producers, Waterloo and Wellington County Dairy Farmers Association, Canadian Mushroom Growers, DeBoer’s Equipment and Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. 

To find out more about the event, email Dorothy Key at info@grandriveragsociety.com

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture

“A New Earth” and some old questions

Okay folks- As promised, I checked out Oprah’s online book discussion on “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” and I wasn’t disappointed.  The author, Eckhart Tolle, joined Oprah and answered questions from viewers’ emails as well as through Skype connections.  Unfortunately, since I live in the sticks, I wasn’t able to connect during the ‘live’ discussion but I was able to download the video and view it the next day.    The discussion centered on the content of the first chapter entitled ‘The Flower of Human Consciousness’.  If you haven’t read the book yet, that’s okay – you may or may not be ready for it.  I am.  The book talks about human consciousness and how the bulk of the world is operating through the ego.  An awakening or an awareness of that fact needs to take place in order for change to take place.  It would be an understatement to say that I still have questions – boy do I!  But when I thought that I was looking for ‘more’, it may be that less is really the answer.   Many of the televised questions involved how to incorporate or reconcile the awakening of the consciousness with current religious doctrines.  The author explained that religion is really a set of beliefs of that particular religion and excludes other religious doctrines.  Basically translated, it’s my way or the highway.  This awakening is about the spirit – not religion.  My questions don’t involve religion – they involve incorporating this awakening experience into the world in which we live today.  How can one be awakened and trying to live outside the ego while at the same time trying to make a living in a career that is completely egoic?  Many careers are ego-centred.  Should one expect a complete overhaul of our retailing world?  I’m posting my questions to the message boards and will be tuning in next Monday (for the live discussion) or Tuesday (for the taped discussion) to discuss chapter two – ‘Ego – The Current State of Humanity’.  Check back for more next week.  Or better yet, sign up at www.oprah.com.    

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

All it may take is a little spit

mdhrt2.gif

The main purpose for my recent visit to Indiana was to visit with my parents.  Both in their eighth decade, they are retired school teachers and farmers.  During my childhood, my mother was a captive of the farm – that is she did not have her driver’s license.  Once a week, my father would take my mother to the thriving metropolis of Hope, Indiana (population – 1500) to go get her groceries.  Most times two or three of us kids got to go along for numerous reasons, the primary one being to keep us out of trouble.   My Mom was the chief cook and bottle washer for the household and there were many more than my siblings sitting around the large pedestal oak table.  We all lived on a farm where tomatoes were raised for wholesale and retail market sales and to the canning factory.  We also owned and operated an outdoor fruit and vegetable market selling our own homegrown products as well as that of our neighbours.  Mom was in charge of the tomato shining/tomato packing shed.  We really didn’t wash the tomato but if there was some dirt on it, we’d spit on the tomato a little and rub it off with a rag.  We were certainly not HAACP approved!

 In order to keep up with the orders, we usually had an extra 7 labourers on the farm.  These young men were friends of my older brothers who needed something to do to keep them out of trouble (Lots of trouble in Hope, Indiana!).  Early in the season their day would consist of planting tomato plants, hoeing tomato plants, staking tomato plants, etc.  As the season progressed, manual harvest and packing of the tomatoes began and there was usually never a day without a vigorous tomato fight with any of the less-than-perfect tomatoes being hurled through the hot, humid air at one another.  White t-shirts soon became red and someone’s ear usually had tomato seeds stuck to it by the end of the day.  My Mom supervised all of these hoodlums, kept them fed and was one of the best cooks in the area.  She never got to use the premium produce as that was the way that we made a summer’s wage for my older siblings.    She got to use the seconds, thirds and sometimes the fourths!  Those fourths really should have been discarded but there was never any waste in Mom’s kitchen – especially since she was feeding 15.

In 1974, Mom finally got her driver’s license.  She has had only two accidents that I can remember.  One was when she side-swiped a car as she drove around the corner.  I was a passenger in the front seat of the car at the time and my door suddenly opened as we went around the corner and of course, I wasn’t wearing a seat belt – it was 1974!  She reached over to keep me from falling out of the car and managed to avoid the car waiting in the intersection and barely scratched the side of the car – Jeff Gordon would have been proud! 

In 1978, my Mom played nursemaid to me when I had a back operation to correct scoliosis.  For six months, she brought me a bed-pan numerous times, each and every day, wiping my back side accordingly.  She washed my hair while I lay in bed, unable to even sit up.  She fetched my school textbooks and anything else that I needed, whenever I needed them.  And we both learned the side effects of sugarless candy, the hard way.  Who needs laxatives when there’s sucralose in your diet!? 

My Mom raised six rambunctious, red-neck children, taught us academic and practical skills, and was a public school teacher, a farmer and a business owner/operator.  She catered dinners and receptions at our family restaurant.  She has been an exemplary role model for me and for many others in my community and has positively touched many, many lives. 

It has become apparent that my Mom’s days are numbered and she’s getting “her ducks in a row” as she prepares for her transformation from this life into the next.    My gratitude goes to her for the many lessons that she gave me, whether she knew it or not.  Thanks for teaching me that it’s never too late to learn something new.  I thank her for teaching me that’s it’s okay to keep my kids safe from falling out of a moving car but that you need to let them fall at other times.  I’ll also remember that it’s never too late to help someone in need, whether it’s wiping their nose or their backside.  Thanks also for teaching me that sometimes all it takes to bring out the best in something or someone can be simple – as simple as spitting on it!  I love you Mom.  You’re the best

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture

Bartholomew County, Indiana Rural Youth Reunion

I recently went home to Indiana to visit family and friends and as luck would have it, there was a reunion of Bartholomew County Indiana Rural Youth members.  As described in my blog section about the author, Indiana Rural Youth played a pivotal role in my life – the role of matchmaker.  And since I haven’t experienced a divorce, I hold the organization responsible for introducing me to my Perfect Peter.  Of course meeting Peter ranks pretty high on the perk list of Rural Youth but not far behind are the many friends that I made in the organization.  I had so much fun visiting with them at the reunion and am so grateful to the current members of the organization for providing me with the opportunity to reconnect.  The dinner and the homemade ice cream were awesome too! 

Bartholomew County Rural Youth is renowned for its homemade ice cream.  Making homemade ice cream at the ten-day county fair has been the sole fund-raiser for the organization.  The ingenuity of the home-grown farm boys (engineers in the making) created the equipment and the booth that are still used to make the delicious treat every year.  The business skills that were learned as a result of designing the equipment and booth, purchasing ingredients, customer service skills, money handling duties were invaluable – and this was an agricultural organization, not a business!  What an opportunity to have been involved with this group of individuals – and have fun at the same time.  Now the current group encourages the members to volunteer their hours operating the booth by offering a free group cruise to those individuals that work enough hours during the fair week.

Another social part of the organization involved square dancing and line dancing.  The reunion provided the opportunity to brush off the ol’ dancin’ shoes and hope that the dementia wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t remember a do-si-do or an allemande left.  The square dancing clearly demonstrated that my friends  haven’t lost their touch – maybe their hair, but not their dance moves. 

Junior Farmers is the Canadian counterpart to the American Rural Youth organization.  My understanding of the organization is that it still exists but is dwindling – kind of like the number of farmers.  As time marches on, change continues to follow in its footsteps.  Not all change is good.  But it is good to see a group of young people involved in agriculture showing leadership skills and showing respect for previous generations of farmers.  Thanks.     

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture