By Katelyn Duncan PAg. BSA, Farmer and Agrologist
Harvest is an exciting time of year that is often enhanced by enthusiastic guests riding shotgun in the combine. My family’s farm seems to frequently have guests during harvest time due to our close proximity to the city.
While at times it seems like a slight inconvenience to arrange for guests to be transported to and from the combine or provide directions to city dwellers, I believe there is tremendous value in it.
Perhaps this is the reason why I find myself inviting anyone and everyone for combine or sprayer rides throughout the growing season. I caught myself just the other morning discussing the crops with a doughnut shop owner in downtown Regina, and later inviting him for a combine ride. Believe it or not, sometimes people take me up on these random invitations. In fact, I’ve met folks at spin class, trade shows, the grocery store, university classes, and house parties who have taken me up on my offer to tour the farm.
Currently, about two per cent of the Canadian population are farmers, which means the gap from farm and fork is evident throughout both cities and rural environments. Research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, sampling Canadian consumers, indicates that farmers are trusted and transparency is valued.
The combine cab is an environment designed for transparency. You have a front row seat right in the midst of all the action. What’s important to remember is that building trust is a two-way street. There is a stereotype that farmers believe they deserve special thanks or appreciation for what they do, or that their contributions are greater than other sectors. This is why it’s especially important to make the effort to inquire about your guest’s world. When building relationships with consumers, it’s important to ask yourself: do I strive to learn about the day-to-day operations of individuals who work in other sectors? You will find, by getting to know your co-pilots better, there are many opportunities to connect on shared values.
One additional benefit to having farm guests is that often when it’s least expected, guests show up with refreshments for the entire crew. This always makes a harvest crew smile and generally improves morale during busy seasons. I’ve even had instances where we were running short-handed and guests have given me a ride from field to field or back to the yard for parts.
Ideally, the cab is a space where guests feel comfortable expressing their curiosity and asking questions. As I inquired about the history of the doughnut shop owner’s family business, I became appreciative of those individuals who make the effort to come and visit mine on a regular basis.