A new website, Utensil.ca, has launched to help farmers and agriculture industry members better understand the vast aspects of the agriculture industry while also providing an opportunity for professional development.
Crystal Mackay, chief executive officer of Loft32 and Andrew Campbell, farmer and agriculture advocate, are co-founders of the program.
Why it matters: Agriculture is a vast industry and can be complicated when one is not familiar with all the different sectors. Utensil.ca can help create more understanding across the sector.
The first component, the Utensil Guide, is free to all users and currently contains 500 words and acronyms and their meanings that are found within agriculture.
“The first thing we felt we needed to take on together is this concept of a plain language guide. The first barrier to people better understanding agriculture is the language we use and the acronyms we use,” says Mackay.
The Utensil Guide was developed to benefit anyone looking for food or farming definitions, such as consumers, teachers or students. It is designed as a toolbox of clear and concise content about farming and the food system. But Mackay said their real target audience is those who work within the food system.
“We want you to be comfortable and confident in all conversations about food and farming,” says Campbell. “Whether you are new to the agriculture and food sectors or you want to extend your knowledge beyond just one or two sectors, Utensil.ca is that kickstart to help you.”
“When we were designing (Utensil.ca) we were really thinking about people that are going to work in the food system that need a tool to help them be more effective with their jobs,” says Mackay.
The program also includes three paid components, Utensil 101, Utensil Training and Utensil Talent Stable, to increase one’s expertise within the agriculture industry.
Utensil 101 is subscription based and is a video resource library, currently launched with 40 videos and the plan to add four more each month.
Some examples include videos of either Campbell or Mackay explaining the top three things to know about dairy farming, supply management, how to communicate with consumers or how to grow your brand.
“This part is meant to be short, practical, credible information. Here’s a short video, very conversational, easy to digest, and then some links to things like the code of practices, the commodity groups, research,” says Mackay, “(From here) they can start their journey and get a little deeper.”
Utensil Training is accessible online anytime to paying customers and is the area on which Mackay says she has been focusing.
“I’ve delivered hundreds of workshops to farmers and agri-business people on how to be better communicators whether it’s how to talk to consumers, presentation skills, media training – that is by far the best way to teach people, but they are just a one-time (experience) so the concept of Utensil Training is online training modules available 24/7. People can register and take them anytime they want.”
The first one to be launched is growing your brand. It was designed with new hires in mind and Mackay says that it should be taken during the first week of new employment to help the viewer understand how to build a personal brand and how it intersects with the company or organization with which they are now employed.
“Really you’re representing the whole food system when someone says ‘where do you work’.”
Finally, the Utensil Talent Stable is the access point for expertise.
“When people go to Utensil to look up a term, or they take some training, and then they want more help, whether coaching, technical expertise, training or a speaker, we can help connect people with people to achieve what they are looking to do.”
Now that the website has been launched, Mackay says the next focus is to continue creating content and populating the website with videos.
“(The agriculture industry) has always invested in innovation, research, equipment; we are a very capital intensive sector. When Andrew Campbell and I came together to talk about Utensil and the need for it we said it’s time we start investing more in people. People are going to be the key to elevating our sector to the next level.”