STRONG OUTREACH SOLUTIONS
BY ERIN GOWRILUK
A mentor of mine once told me policy is made by those who show up.
This has been an important lesson throughout my career in agriculture policy. In these challenging times, it has become even more pertinent than ever. The good news, and perhaps silver lining, is that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) to be more creative, adaptable and diverse in how we reach our members.
GGC has always committed to frequently connect farmers with policy makers. This helps decision-makers understand the realities and challenges of running a modern grain operation, as many of them have little or no farming experience.
It makes sense this is a major focus for us, as we are in a unique position to facilitate these meetings and conversations. Just a short walk from our office, we have access to some of the most powerful policy makers and legislators in the country. We also have access to members across Canada who are directly affected by policy decisions every single day. It only makes sense to bring both groups together.
In 2020, we brought this priority to the forefront in new and exciting ways. Then, the year threw a few curveballs our way. However, I am happy to report that we have readjusted. In the past months we have introduced several new initiatives and digital channels that have allowed us to continue to enhance our communications and to reach a much larger audience.
For example, earlier this year we introduced Fireside Chats with Erin. This is a podcast that allows me to engage with industry experts and thought leaders on timely issues and priorities for our membership. Recent episodes have featured guests such as Sen. Diane Griffin, MP John Barlow and food industry expert and commentator Sylvain Charlebois. We have dealt with big ideas including market access, the future of the carbon tax and how agriculture may be the engine for an economic recovery.
Another new initiative for us will be our 2020 Harvest Across Canada video, which will replace the farm tour we were planning to host this spring for government officials. Unfortunately, we cannot conduct an in-person event, but this video will be a very accessible alternative.
An interactive introduction to the business of modern grain farming, it will showcase the diversity of Canadian agriculture and feature farmers from across the country as they discuss their operations. Harvest Across Canada will
be included in our digital outreach strategy to legislators and available to a much wider audience than in-person farm tours.
The video will debut during National Grain Week, which takes place Nov. 17-19, 2020. The format of the event is one more big change for us. Usually during this time, we would set up a number of meetings to bring farmers and parliamentarians together to discuss agriculture issues such as regulatory modernization, trade, market access and the carbon tax. Instead, we are going to set up virtual platforms to host these discussions, in which we hope to include many participants from our diverse sector.
Our industry has always been good at adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Though we have been challenged, ultimately, we have emerged with new ways to communicate and engage with our valued members.
Upon reflection, this experience has also made me a better leader because it has reinforced an important tenet of good communication: no matter how large our world gets, or how intricate our technology becomes, our strength will always lie in our connections.
Erin Gowriluk is the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada.