What seemed a bold and an admittedly uncertain, initiative two years ago, has turned into a considerable success. SAIFood is 2 years old this week!
I’d like to thank those that provided support and encouragement prior to launching this blog. Your comments, observations and enthusiasm for this initiative meant far more to me than you can know. Huge thanks also need to go to Savannah Gleim, my Research Assistant, who is the genius behind making SAIFood look so good each week. Thankfully, my task is simply to pen a few words and Savannah jazzes it up and adds visuals that help communicate the message. Hopefully, you enjoy the product of our teamwork and that it’s something you find informative and that you are willing to share. For those of you that assist us in sharing and extending our message, a heartfelt thank you!
In the two years of publishing blogs, I’ve talked to numerous other academics about my experience with starting and running an academic blog. I’ve been honest with them, saying that the first 3-4 months were sheer hell! It took upwards of two days to write a blog and even then it was at a readership level that was way too high. Fortunately, writing has gotten easier and I started to learn new writing skills, improving the process for each week’s blog.
Communicating about ag & science
While I am pleased that SAIFood offers an outlet for our industry to try to reach the public, we still need increased public communication from academics. I hope to see more blogs like SAIFood filling the academic-public communication void in the future.
Last fall, we were delighted to learn that SAIFood had been ranked as the 37th best Ag. blog by Feedspot, the only Canadian university blog on the list. This came as a tremendous surprise to us and we’re hoping to rank even higher this fall. We were pleased to be ranked amongst a number of blogs that we look up to, along with three American universities blogs from Perdue, U of California and Penn State. It is an honour to be put in the same class as these university department blogs who are able to mobilize far more staff and resources than Savannah and I. Just last week, we were thrilled to learn that SAIFood’s June post ‘GM Crops Provide $150 Billion in Global Benefits’ had been selected as one of LawnStarter’s top 50 top farming and agriculture blogs of 2016. Thanks, Feedspot and LawnStarter for your recognition!
Science and agriculture are under attack and much scrutiny, yet many of those that undertake the research on the benefits of crop and livestock production, innovation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability of agriculture are absent when it comes to publicly communicating their work. I feel it is our job as academics to take an active role in sharing the information from our hard work. That is why I am happy when parents at hockey rinks, gymnasium wrestling matches and rugby pitches are interested in talking with me about ag, food and science. They are not afraid to ask me all kinds of questions about biotech, GMOs and chemicals. I’m happy to answer each and every question I get.
Sharing a message that matters
If my friends and acquaintances are this interested in learning more, surely the friends and acquaintances of other academics are too. In a society that faces daily messages about food production and safety, many of which are ‘alternative facts’, aka, error-filled if not outright lies, the voice of academic knowledge and experience is nowhere to be heard. Academics need to do more than communicate with each other through the publication of journal articles, they need to inform the public about what is important about the research, what was learned, who benefits and why it is important to the public.
If you are an academic who receives this regularly or for the first time, I’m challenging you to step up your game and engage. You have reams of knowledge and information that can be of tractor value to a public that has loads of questions. If you’ve dithered about doing this, then get off the pot and get to work! Join me! If you have questions or concerns, I’m more than happy to talk to you about my experiences. Just grab your keyboard and email me.
While we are pleased to be a voice within agriculture, the sector is diverse and somewhat mysterious. I hope academic like myself can join me to help fill in the unknowns of this diverse path of better understanding agriculture. I look forward to reading your blogs over the coming months!