New Standard had the chance to sit down and talk with Myrna Grahn about the Bruce D Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Center. It is located at the National Centre for Livestock and Environment at the University of Manitoba. The center helps to educate the public about the importance of agriculture within the community. They can receive up to 1500 people, who come through the center in one day!
Their main mission, “people want to genuinely learn and know. It’s a personal thing. People want more transparency,” says Myrna. This mission has turned the focus into a clear worded goal: traceability.
“The issue is, people in this industry do not do a good enough job discussing and talking about what they do,” Myrna states. It has been a challenge to get information out to both the public and producers. In the producers' case, that information can help them make improvements to their farm.
So how are they taking on that challenge?
The Farm and Food Discovery Center has created a building that showcases all facets of the Ag industry.
They have used the term “Ag-vocacy”, which was coined by Mike Haley, a fifth generation Ohio farmer. It’s all about telling the story of farming to those around us and to share with people that farms are still modern and are growing more technologically advanced.
There is a disconnect between the farm to table, which Myrna says is the reason the center is important.
Farm and Food Discovery Center
The goal of the center is to be a neutral place for people to come.
For school aged visitors, the center provides a curriculum for the teachers to choose. It is a 4 hr program. They offer hands on activities and a detailed tour of the center.
When a person first walks through the building, there is one side that is designated for crop and grain area. On the other side are four large windows into a hog barn. This demonstrates four areas of the hog barn: breeding, gestation, farrowing and nursery. In this area they discuss what each area is doing, and what type of equipment is used.
This also helps to break down the misconceptions about technology in the barn. “We discuss why installing electronic sow feeders are beneficial to improving efficiency. We discuss the use of ear tags, and why there are enrichment products in the barn,” Myrna states. “The goal is to let people learn, discuss, question and be aware.”
The center has an automated dairy farm with all the aspects found in a barn including the feeder, milking and cleaning systems. Dairy Farmers of Manitoba had set up a classroom for kids to tour. The classroom is not attached to the center, which requires traveling on a tractor with an attached trolley to the dairy barn.
The center also has exhibits on chickens and eggs, beef, and interactive exhibits on grains. Along with this, the center addresses sustainability and caring for the land.
“We also have a free flow beehive,” Myrna says. “Bees have their own hives they can come and go freely during the summertime.”
They also discuss the soil, water and greenhouse gases, as well as the importance of food prep. They discuss the ingredients tailored to what is being prepped.
How about pork?
“People think that the hogs are always in some sort of crate,” Myrna says, "which in our center is not the case as our sows are housed in open pens with Nedap electronic sow feeders."
There is a belief that pigs are very clean, and that they do not get as large as people believe. Pigs in fact, weigh in around 700 lbs. The center works from large to small.
“We start with the boars, then the sows, then the piglets with their mom.” It helps them understand that these pigs are bred for human consumption and are not a pig from Charlotte's Web.
We stress the importance, when it comes to children, to be open. Don’t hedge information, kids are not traumatized as much as we assume,” states Myrna. They discuss with the kids how the farm makes sure the pigs have the best life possible. “The kids deal with that information fairly well. It makes sense to them, and they move on.”
Importance of Educating the Farmer
The center helps to set the standard for how farms should operate, as well as, representing what farms are doing well.
The center focuses on the ABC: Accurate, Balance and Current. It is critical because they want to talk about things that are coming out of the university, information wise. It’s not picking one farming practice over another.
“There is room for everybody in the food system.”
Farmers are encouraged to come to the center. They offer education on PED V, and other viruses. There is biosecurity in place to protect the farm side of the center, which means anyone wanting to go on the farm side, is required to be sprayed down.
They also work with companies, like The Real Dirt on Farming, which work to train producers, industry people, and students graduating from the facility of Ag. They help to educate people on how to deal with hot button topics, and how to have a basic balanced conversation with people.
How do you educate the public?
“When we ask questions back to the public, they come to many realizations on their own,” Myrna states. The issue is that misinformation is everywhere. It’s important for those in the Ag Industry to challenge people’s way of thinking. “The media often tries to pit one against the other.”
So how do people in the Ag Industry overcome this?
“Listening, staying calm, and not getting angry with people who are getting upset helps to create healthy dialogue,” Myrna urges.
They offer training for farmers at the Royal Winter Fair on all those issues.
The Bruce D Campbell Center recognizes New Standard, as one of their allied partners in the lead, when it comes to having open dialogue with the public. They show the innovation, high tech equipment that is used in barns to help create efficiency for the farmers and animals.
If you want to learn more about the Bruce D. Campbell Center, we encourage you to check out their website here. Special thanks to the University of Manitoba and Manager, Myrna Grahn, PHEc!