Seeing the field for the sunflowers: Farmers need to understand urbanites, too – by Shannon Vanraes (Globe and Mail – August 6, 2018)

Shannon VanRaes is a Winnipeg-based journalist who covers agriculture and agribusiness.

It’s quite possibly the most cliché phrase heard in agricultural circles these days. Attend any producer meeting or commodity conference and you’ll hear an overpaid speaker urging farmers to “tell their story” in order to better engage urban audiences.

“City dwellers think milk comes from the grocery stores! Can you believe it! Urbanites don’t understand where food really comes from! Without us, cities would starve! You have a good story to tell! You just need to find common ground!”

But in between the go-to lines so often uttered in rural echo chambers, there is something less than genuine poking through, something that goes beyond city-mouse and country-mouse territory.

Because last week, a huge number of urbanites did seek common ground with farmers, albeit by flocking to a sunflower farm near Hamilton, Ont., clogging a highway and sometimes ignoring the instructions of on-site staff. To me, the story seemed a straightforward one of a farm business that woefully underestimated the allure of their luscious sunflowers.

After all, those that trekked to Bogle Seeds in Millgrove, Ont., didn’t come uninvited – the farm had advertised and was charging $7.50 a person for the chance to snap a few photos of the flowers.

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