How can we make the agricultural industry more inclusive?

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” J.K. Rowling

By Maggie McCormick

This week, we asked several people to answer the question, how can we make the agricultural industry more inclusive? Here they’ve shared their ideas from each of their unique perspectives.

“Agriculture has many different meanings and practices across the world and from individual to individual. For First Nations people here in Canada, recognizing traditional knowledge and teachings that exist within communities and respecting the differences that exist between different nations is a place to start when looking at making agriculture more inclusive. Some nations focused on agriculture production, while others have had limited exposure. Listening to the needs and wants of all generations is a key place to start when looking to work with First Nations communities.” – Marlene Paibomesai

“This is such a great question with so many answers. For me personally, inclusivity focuses on physical/mobility challenges. I use a manual wheelchair which requires ramps, wide enough doors and adaptable equipment. Through 4-H I was given the opportunity to show various types of livestock which would not have been possible without the support of others. See how a person can interact with an animal and help make it possible for them.  I’m currently looking into driving, and in the agriculture context, farming equipment would have to be adapted to meet my physical needs. I’m currently not aware whether this is available or not, but if it’s not, it’s something that should be thought of and done. My limits have been all my life, but some may unfortunately come to an accident where life is changed for them and adapted equipment would be important for them to keep doing what they love to do. For the office side of agriculture, make the businesses of agriculture equal opportunity to work behind the scenes in, whether that’s office jobs or even those jobs that go to different events to promote their industry.” Lesleigh Elgie

“The first step is to recognize that the industry is already filled with diverse people. From ethnicity, religions, family structures, genders, and sexual orientations, the ag industry has many people with a different narrative than traditional ones. Recognizing this, and rejecting the notion of a single narrative, is the first step of many needed to create an industry that is inclusive, safe and accessible for those with differing identities.” Martin Straathof, Guelph Pride Committee

“Born and raised a city girl in Toronto, I know how few resources there are for learning about opportunities in agriculture; it is an industry that is rarely presented to urbanites as an option. Careers in marketing, journalism, research, sales, and business management go unnoticed because all we see are farms. If we could showcase how dynamic and expansive the industry is to kids at a young age, specifically in city schools and at downtown fairs and events, and celebrate, not denigrate, their “innocence” in ag, we would go a long way to building inclusivity for urbanites.” Holly McGill

I’ve experienced people creating an environment of “in” vs. “outsiders”. Oddly, this has come from people who likely experienced this from someone else, but are just perpetuating it as a defence. People enjoy being comfortable, but to make change we are going to have to make things uncomfortable and call it out.” M. Wilson-Wong

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