Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Remarks on the Occasion Of Robynne Anderson’s Acceptance into The Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame

“Our Time has Come!”

It is an amazing night to have three women inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame on the same evening, moving us from 8 women and 210 men. Now if we just keep doing this for the next 70 years, we’ll be all caught up.

But seriously, it is a special moment and a true honour to be joining Jean and Patty tonight. Women have long been a backbone of the agriculture sector. With time and patience, we are seeing more women moving into leadership roles. At the same time, it is also a conscious choice and I hope every one of us in this room will use tonight as a reminder that we need to turn to women and ask them to join the boards, the committees, and the leadership roles.

Herb called me to say I was being inducted and I dropped the suitcase I was putting in the overhead bin of the plane I was boarding because I was sure I had misheard. Certainly my nominators are all very stealthy people as I didn’t have a clue I was being nominated. Herb went on to say that the three of us hadn’t been picked because we were women but because we were the best candidates – a sentiment to which we can all applaud and a good reminder that there are many fantastic women leaders who should be nominated each year. We just have to consciously choose to add them to a list of Nominees; and as the Chair of the Association; or a member of a Corporate Board.

One of the things I found most moving afterward was to realize that people had considered me a mentor for women in agriculture. In fact, it is a great pleasure tonight to have women – and men – who have been part of the teams I have built here. So I would like the past and current Issues Inkers and Emerging aggies to stand. It is these young people who represent the future of agriculture and I am so proud of each and every one of you and the growing roles you are playing in agriculture.

Indeed, I have much to be thankful for, including the faith that the seed industry showed in me as a young woman in her 20’s. At every turn, they were willing to let me be part of their tremendous journey to provide the seed that is the foundation of crop development. The fact, that so many other sectors were also so kind is really a gift. The fact is, I have served at your pleasure – and everyone from inputs, to dairy, to pulses to grain trade, and beyond has loaned to me their trust and the power of their voice. My success is only the ability to bring you together and to foster operating environment’s in which you can produce the world’s food, fibre and fuel. You do all the hard work.

Your kindness has allowed my world to get so much bigger, and to work with farmers all around the globe and in every aspect of the agri-food value chain. What has struck me most is that agriculture is more valuable than ever before but faces attacks in an unprecedented manner. I have learned we all share more in common than we have apart. The rancher’s fences and the farmer’s field may make for some chat across the barbed wire, but as we hear people disrespecting the way we grow crops, raise meat and steward our land, let’s remember we are a community that needs each other. We do great work and we need to share it. “We need to celebrate; not denigrate.” Tell the world what Canadian agriculture is doing well and keep changing to do it even better.

And in a final note, I could not leave the stage without thanking Brenda Trask for her incredible work to organise tonight, to the Board of the Hall, to my mentors who have flown so far and of course to my family including my aunts, uncles and cousins. Chris, Kelly, Calem, Kieran and Craig – no one could be so lucky to have a family dinner table where science and farming are given their due on a nightly basis and in the extraordinary work you do in science. And to my dad, Bob, who taught me that farming is the noblest profession by being the most noble man I know and who gave me this passion for agriculture. And of course, to my Mom Joan, who was a brilliant leader, a tremendous teacher, and a women who showed me how to build a community by valuing everyone in it.

Again, I am so proud and thankful to you all.

Raise a Glass for World Milk Day!

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When you picture a glass of milk in a child’s hand in Canada, it might not lead you to think about the one billion people around the world who derive their livelihoods from the dairy sector. In fact, livestock, including dairy, is often a portal of entry to agriculture and food security for many small families who may not have access to land to farm. A cow that provides fresh milk or a chicken that produces eggs, can be a way, often for women to provide regular food to their family and ultimately to earn an income. Over 37 million dairy farms are female-headed making them a major part of dairy production systems and think about the multiplying impacts on their families.

Also, the importance of the dairy sector in economic terms is not limited to producing milk. There are many great examples of projects working to help create value addition through milk. It can be a simple as having a cooling facility to allow milk to get to market in programmes like those run by TechnoServe and Heifer International. In one East African programme alone, they are working with 136,000 smallholder farming families in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania to sustainably improve their livelihoods by 2018, while stimulating income growth for an additional 400,000 secondary beneficiaries.

Another example is India where milk is largely produced by smallholders. The Indian government led a “White Revolution” that has helped increase smallholder production so now the per capita availability of milk has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It is more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013. This is incredibly important in a country where milk is a vital source of protein.

The sacred role of milk in India is thousands of years old, coupled with population growth and income growth it drives the needs for more long-term sustainable milk production. Around the world, consumption of dairy products is expected to increase by 20% or more before 2021, according to FAO and OECD. So dairy will be central to meeting food security.

The role for milk in child and mother nutrition is often underestimated in particular. There is good evidence that milk and other dairy products are necessary for preventing micronutrient deficiency in vulnerable population groups (women, elderly, children-particularly in the first 1000 days). For instance, young children need the nutrients that milk provides because their developing skeletal systems replace bone mass about every two years until they reach maturity! We all grew up knowing the importance of milk for protein, potassium, and magnesium. In many countries, dairy products are fortified with vitamin D since our body needs it to absorb the calcium. These are only a few of the many reasons why milk, and its dairy derivatives, is produced and consumed in almost all the countries in the world.

So in 2001, the FAO declared World Milk Day to take place every June 1 to mark the importance of dairy and its benefits of milk for our lives.

In 2016, World Milk Day was celebrated in over 40 countries. The fact that many countries choose to do this on the same day lends additional importance to individual national celebrations and shows that milk is a global food and that it is part of all diets and cultures.

Whether milk is a breakfast drink that goes with your porridge or tea in the morning or is celebrated in a glass on its own, we encourage you to “Raise a Glass”. This universal gesture of celebration lies at the heart of all communities.

Last year’s activities included holding marathons and family runs, milking demonstrations and farm visits, school-based activities, concerts, conferences and seminars, competitions, and a range of events focusing on promoting the value of milk and illustrating the important role played by the dairy industry in the national economy.

An event can be as simple as drinking milk or finding your perfect pairing of dairy on June 1 and sharing this moment through social media. You can register your event.

  • Join our Thunderclap so your social will automatically support the campaign on June 1
  • Use the Twitter hashtag #WorldMilkDay to be sure to be recorded as part of our TINT feed (a social media aggregator)
  • Capture images of your event: Take pictures of people drinking milk and raising their glasses, post them on social media with #WorldMilkDay
  • Tell us about your event: You can write a blog post before and after the event telling about why you are involved in celebrating World Milk Day in 2017.
  • Record your event: Any type of video content (edited and non-edited) showing what your event looks like can be sent to us to be uploaded on social media platforms (#WorldMilkDay on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)

Trading is the Spice of Life

IMG_3321The Spice Islands. Malabar. These names evoke historical ties to distant lands, exotic tastes, and thrilling adventures. The spice trade was the foundation of globalism and multiculturalism before we talked about such things.

These traders have always been ethnically diverse, creative and co-operative to ensure the spices are shared around the world. So it was a great thrill for me to join them at the International Spice Conference in Kerala, India. Kerala is one of the biggest spice producing regions, and I will note the food is every bit as wonderful as one might imagine from a land where turmeric, cumin and curry leaves are common.

But the spice trade doesn’t just aim to challenge your taste buds and make you healthier with curcumin, it turns out the world’s most global trade also wants to open your mind. Under the theme “disrupt or be disrupted,” they looked at everything from new delivery technologies to the ways to provide better incomes to small farmers. It was suggested farmer incomes should go up at the same percentage as the value of product, and who couldn’t agree? Just think about smallholders picking chilis by hand. They contemplated ways to address consumer trends that seek “local” food but want exotic tastes. It’s especially challenging when you consider a clove tree won’t just grow anywhere.

These competing forces are even more complex when you layer on a tone of trade protectionism and disruption. International cuisine is part of any millennial’s day. They would consider hummus, or a curry, just as much a part of life as a hamburger. However, to meet those tastes, spices will need to move around the globe just as much as they ever have – probably more. To do that, they need trading systems that work.

At the core of that is Codex Alimentarius, a global system to set food safety standards. At its heart, Codex should provide global science that makes it possible to trade among 188 countries with assurances of known, agreed food safety levels for consumers. Without this, trade devolves into a chaos of 188 nations with no known or consistent standards. Suddenly a cardamom farmer in India is supposed to be able to meet countless combinations of standards.

This is particularly challenging for small crops like spices. What resources do exist in Codex get focused on big crops like rice and corn. That is why we need better budgets for Codex – particularly so the vital technical committees can work more efficiently.

Certainly my food wouldn’t be the same without ginger or oregano or pepper. So mobilizing new, regularized funding of Codex, supporting a catch up plan for the backlog of science reviews and getting serious about using electronic systems to share data reviews are just a few steps to make the system better.

All of it underpins the access for some of the world’s smallest and most exotic farmers to markets. Plus, for me as a consumer, while that local apple will be a great purchase, its even better with a little cinnamon on it.

International Spice Conference

Spices have driven exploration, trade, and globalism for millennia.  So it is a great honour to go Kerala India to speak at the International Spice Conference. I’ll be addressing a pressing issue for global movement of food:  the need for Codex reform.

Facilitated by Geemon Korah, my fellow panelists are Ramesh Bhat, a food safety expert, and Milan Shah, a leading spice trader and member of Gafta.  Together we hope to explain some of the realities of getting timely and proper MRLs in place and to talk about the Codex Reform coalition which has been formed to urge the changes that are needed in Codex functioning.  In particular, significant back logs and lack of groupings for smaller crops, as well as ongoing resource issues have slowed the system and impeded trade.  Without a globally harmonised system, the beautiful spices that make our meals a joy and provide valuable health benefits, will find movement of products difficult.

Learn more here.

Feast on Pulses January 18

The upcoming holidays may make you think about New Year’s indulgences and so what a great way to start the New Year off right to feast on Pulses too in 2017. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, and peas are great food. My favorite recipe is the Punjabi Dal Makhani.

They are so good for people and for the planet that they have their own special day, Global Pulse Day, to be celebrated all around the world on January 18th! That’s because pulses have a low use of water and a small carbon footprint.

Pulses are core to the food baskets of people in most places around the world. And of course, we keep finding out that traditional foods are good foods. Some are even dubbing pulses a “super food”. They are low in fat, contain important minerals and vitamins, aregreat for your health and help in weight management.

So whether your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or lower your carbon footprint, you should be eating more pulses every week, and certainly on January 18th, 2017 for Global Pulse Day, to continue to celebrate pulses and build on the momentum of the United Nations International Year of Pulses.

Last year, Pulse Feast was celebrated at 141 events in 36 countries reaching 21 million people! From all around the world, people were mobilised to make this event a day to remember.

So this year, I encourage people around the world to eat their favorite beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas that day and share the many benefits of consuming pulses for people and the planet. You can organise a family meal with pulses on the menu or share your favourite pulse dishes at a corporate party. You can invite friends for dinner or promote the benefits of eating pulses at school. If you love pulses, it’s the right time to tell the world! If you are looking for recipes, there are hundreds of them available on pulses.org.

Anybody can participate in any corner of the globe and can share their Global Pulse Day with the rest of the world either by posting information about your event on social media and using the hashtag #GlobalPulseDay #LovePulses or registering the event on the Global Pulse Day webpage.

All the events will be highlighted on pulses.org website with a 48 hours’ coverage on January 18th to cover all the world’s time zones. There is no limitation on number of people (from 2 to 20,000) to be attending your event.

  • Join our Thunderclap so your social media will automatically support the campaign on January 18
  • Use the Twitter hashtags #GlobalPulseDay #LovePulses to be sure to be recorded as part of our TINT feed (a social media aggregator)
  • Capture images of your event: any visual material that can be shared in social media will be of great use. Take pictures!
  • Talk about your event: you can write a blog post before and after the event talking about why you are involved in celebrating pulses in 2017.

Please visit the Global Pulse Day webpage to learn more. You too can be a part of this exciting celebration when you join the Global Pulse Day movement on January 18th 2017!

Feast away!