Wednesday, 3 October 2012

North American Forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture

Stacey Domolewski and Justine DeNure, animal science students in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, had the opportunity to attend the North American Forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture in September. The forum had many interesting and informative speakers that spoke about all five pillars of agricultural sustainability (human health, animal welfare, food safety, environment and economics) from the prospectives of producers to end retailers.

“For myself I took away the fact that I as an animal science student have an amazing opportunity to advocate for animal agricultural practices that are sustainable. We were shown a variety of studies that showed that farmers and scientists or experts in their field are the most trusted individuals.  I also really came to realize that to open conversation with people concerned about agricultural issues just shoving facts at them will not be enough, that as a soon to be graduate I have these facts but must be able to engage with consumers on a personal basis of shared values before they accept these fact.

As with many of my fellow soon to be agricultural graduates of the university I have a farm background but now am also equipped with a myriad of industry facts and knowledge due to my university education. This forum has shown me that we really have an opportunity to show the public what agriculture is really all about as we are in that group of most trusted individuals.

Another fact that I took home from this forum was that although consumers may demand more sustainable products, the fact of the matter is that they are not willing to pay for them and that they ultimately are more concerned with food costs than farm economics.

On the second day of the forum was a very informative panel of speakers representing the supply chain and how to manage issues throughout the supply chain. It was brought to our attention that there is a need to continue to improve the supply chain especially in the area of producing a more consistent product at the retail end and to do this we need communication and collaboration at all areas of the supply chain.

Through this experience I can definitely say that I have learned a lot and have been given a lot to think about, along with the chance to participate in helping to develop a proactive approach to advocating for the sustainability of animal agriculture.  I am very excited to have had this opportunity and to see what new ideas and programs arise from it.” 

- Stacey Domolewski

I personally found this to be a very interesting forum and a great experience. A couple of points that stood out to me were the idea of public trust and how we need to continually improve in order to be sustainable.

Firstly, I learned that in order to gain public trust we need to show the public through actions how we are being proactive, and we can not just use our words to tell them the problem and solutions to sustainable animal agriculture. Another way to earn the public’s trust I think is to educate and inform them more about farming practices and to be more transparent to allow the public to see what really goes on in the animal agriculture environment. Being from an urban background I would have loved to have had the opportunity to go to a farm and see how a dairy or poultry operation is run for example.

Secondly, I really loved how people realized that animal agriculture needs to continually improve in order to be sustainable. Just like every other industry, we need to be innovative and open to change because without changing our practices we will not be sustainable and will not be able to feed the world in 30 years. I liked the idea that was brought up on how farmers need to be the champions and invest within themselves to improve animal agriculture.

Lastly, I would like to thank Dean Mary Buhr and the College of Agriculture and Bioresources for this great opportunity and experience. I have learned so much and met some intelligent people.” 

-Justine DeNure


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