In the absence of live events this past year, virtual platforms have become an important way to keep a pulse on what’s happening beyond our own four walls (or fields). A webinar or web conference doesn’t replace the human connection we feel at an in-person conference or trade show, but it’s darn close – and if you were one of the nearly 350 growers, scientists or industry members who registered for our inaugural Canadian Potato Summit, I’m sure you’ll agree.
We at Potatoes in Canada created the Canadian Potato Summit in an effort to share research, hold important conversations and bring the industry together, if only virtually. On Feb. 3, attendees of the Summit were treated to research updates on Potato Early Dying, a potato breeding report from the University of Guelph, and a lively discussion featuring four members of the United Potato Growers of Canada.
I had the pleasure of hosting the event, and while all of our speakers were engaging and relevant, the final panel of the afternoon stuck with me for several days after. With panellists from different provinces and sectors of the industry, the discussion shed light on some of the challenges that growers have faced in the last year – the pandemic, of course, being the largest, with weather a close second. But there was a recurring message that seemed to resonate with each of the panellists and the audience alike: everyone in the industry has a role to play in telling the story of Canadian potato production. It’s easy to keep your head down and do your job, assuming that consumers know all about your efforts. But as Terence Hochstein of the Potato Growers of Alberta noted, Canadian growers produce world-class, safe food, and now more than ever, it’s important to bring that message to the forefront.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s a great point, but it’s easier said than done. So, start small. Join your provincial association and attend a meeting. Get on Twitter and share photos of your farm and operation. Chat with someone in a grocery store (from a safe distance, of course) when you see them comparing different varieties. Know that your role and reach within the industry extends beyond your fields.
In case you missed it, we recap some of the event’s highlights on page 14 – but you can also visit potatoesincanada.com/summit to register and watch a recording of the live presentations. And for another virtual learning opportunity this spring, you can also register for the upcoming Ontario Potato Webinar Series, to be held March 4 and hosted by the Ontario Potato Board, at potatoesincanada.com/webinars.
Best of luck for the coming season.
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