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The five W’s of ‘Breakfast on the Farm’

Lynsay Beavers Published on 20 July 2013
Dorés host Ontario Breakfast on the Farm
On June 22, Canada’s first two official Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) events were held in Canada; one in Ontario at Heritage Hill Farms, home of the Johnston and Doré families of New Dundee, and the other in Olds, Alberta, at Huntcliff Dairy, home of the Huyzer family.

East Olds Dairy Farmers Club & Southern Alberta Holstein ClubCombined, nearly 2,500 people attended the Ontario and Alberta events.

The BOTF program was originally developed in the U.S. and has become incredibly well-received.

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The June breakfasts are held in a number of states across the country and each can attract a few thousand visitors.

Although in its infancy, it is hoped that Canada’s BOTF initiative will expand to other provinces and counties. The success of Canada’s first events should make producers aware that they can take a lead role in educating consumers about agriculture and inspire them to open their doors to organized public tours or even host a future BOTF.

For those unfamiliar with this type of event, here are answers to the five most common questions: who, what, where, when and why.

Who?
Who attends BOTF? Anyone! Invitations for the two Canadian events were open; however, the general target audience was those unfamiliar with dairy production.

A mother who traveled from Toronto with her two daughters to Heritage Hill Farms for BOTF states, “We’ve been to the Royal (Winter Fair) a few times to see the animals, but the opportunity to tour a real working dairy farm is completely unique and something I really wanted my girls to experience.”

Who can host BOTF? Producers who have an interest in agricultural advocacy and understand the positive impact of such an event are ideal BOTF hosts.

Guests touring the parlour at Heritage Hill Farms “Breakfast on the Farm was a great way to showcase agriculture to people who have never had the opportunity to visit a farm.

The feedback was so positive, people really enjoyed talking to farmers, and the breakfast was amazing.

My family is very proud that we were involved in this event,” Ontario host Mary Ann Doré said.

Who can help me pull off an event like this? BOTF was made possible through the generous support of organizations and businesses at both the provincial and local level.

More than 30 partners and sponsors helped pull together the Ontario breakfast. In addition, the event wouldn’t have been achievable without dedicated volunteers.

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Combined, more than 200 people volunteered at Canada’s first two BOTF events.

What?
What exactly is BOTF? BOTF is an event that provides people with the chance to enjoy a fresh, local breakfast, tour a working farm and learn firsthand about where their food comes from.

Visitor holding a chick

At the breakfasts, visitors were free to interact with the young calves, handle the milking equipment, ask questions to volunteers stationed around the farm and much more.

Producers from other commodities were also in attendance to talk about their farms and production systems.

BOTF was modeled after the U.S. program, prevalent in the Upper Midwest.

Wisconsin is going on 40 years of hosting breakfasts and now averages more than 80 BOTFs or similar promotion events each year.

Neighbouring states are also inviting the public out to farms for breakfast. Michigan hosts upwards of eight BOTF events annually at different dairies.

Since the start of its program in 2009, more than 43,000 children and adults have attended breakfast events throughout Michigan. BOTF is a staple event of the summer in a number of states across the U.S.

Where?
BOTF host dairies should possess a few key features. First, the operation should reflect our nation’s pride in the production of high-quality milk products.

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Clean facilities with emphasis on both animal welfare and land stewardship are ideal. The host dairy should be close enough to an urban centre to draw a sizeable target crowd. Finally, the operation should be big enough to accommodate a large group of people.

When?
Traditionally, BOTF events in the U.S. have taken place during dairy month in June. This time of year tends to be cooperative weather-wise and is convenient for families as children are still in school, so most summer vacationing has yet to begin.

Hosting a BOTF event isn’t for everyone, nor does it work for every operation. Yet even small tours can have a large impact.

Consider hosting a field trip for a local school or community organization. Farm tours certainly don’t need to be limited to the month of June. We’re no stranger to the fact that producers are incredibly busy, so realistically, any time a schedule can allow for hosting a tour is a good time.

Why?
Hosting farm tours can be a huge undertaking but one that is most definitely worthwhile. A century ago, half of Canada’s population was farmers, and today it’s down to less than 2 percent. Most people are more than three generations removed from their farming ancestors.

Those working in agriculture should notice that our industry has started to get a bad reputation over the past several years. Refuting the inaccurate notions of farming and food production promoted by anti-agriculture activists can seem like a constant uphill struggle.

The old saying goes, “we don’t like what we don’t understand.”

As people brought up living and breathing agriculture, it is our role to educate consumers so they do understand, and as a result, develop confidence in today’s food system.

Research has proven that the most effective way to build consumer trust is through shared values.

Tours allow the public a glimpse into the life and values of a producer they can put a name and face to – it is for this reason the positive effects of tours are so long-lasting.

Inevitably, consumers affect the future of our industry. Time and effort spent educating and connecting with them is a wise investment in our futures.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a future BOTF host or would like information and educational material to help you host your own farm tour, please contact Farm & Food Care Ontario or Alberta Milk.  PD

Lynsay Beavers is the industry liaison services coordinator for the Canadian Dairy Network. Lynsay is also a participant in Class 8 of the Holstein Foundation’s Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI).

PHOTOS
PHOTO 1: The Alberta Breakfast on the Farm was hosted by Alberta Milk, East Olds Dairy Farmers Club and the Southern Alberta Holstein Club. Photo courtesy of Alberta Milk.
PHOTO 2: Guests tour the parlour at Heritage Hill Farms in Ontario.   
PHOTO 3: A visitor enjoys holding a chick at the Egg Farmers of Ontario booth.
PHOTO 4: Mary Ann, Joe and Nadine Doré hosted Ontario’s first-ever Breakfast on the Farm. Bottom three photos by Lynsay Beavers.

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