I cannot believe that after 8 months on the road, the 2017 #GreenintheCity tour is complete! The final stop on our tour was the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON, where we set up the Greenhouse Education Center from November 2nd to 12th. At this 10-day event, we were surrounded by a large variety of agricultural booths and vendors that specialized in everything from beekeeping to cattle farming to growing with aquaponics. We were the only Canadian greenhouse grower present at the Royal, which made our visitors’ experience at the GEC that much more unique.
As always, the live plants were eye-catching, the bumble bee display was exciting, and the knowledge we shared with fair-goers was mind-blowing! We spent our days engaging with agriculture experts, eager students, Torontonians, and out-of-town travelers, showing everyone the work and skill involved with greenhouse growing. We got a lot of interesting questions about the growth cycle of our plants, energy creation, and where to find NatureFresh™ Farms product in stores in Ontario. It was great to see consumers getting excited about the work that we do at NatureFresh™ Farms, and to be recognized as such a vital part of the Canadian agriculture industry.
What I found extremely encouraging was how many young people were asking important questions about the greenhouse industry; it was great to see so many youth interested in and excited about what we do at NatureFresh™. I also had multiple students and young professionals asking how I got involved in this industry, what it was like travelling with the Greenhouse Education Center all season, and how my degree helped me find a job. One young vendor volunteer in particular was extremely excited when he started asking questions about how we grow – we ended up chatting for over half an hour about the possibilities for young people who are interested in the future of agriculture. His passion for sustainability came out during our conversation, and he was very happy to hear about all of the sustainable practices that we employ at our farms. Many more of these young people expressed interest in working for a greenhouse grower in the future. There are a lot of career opportunities within the greenhouse industry, so the more that young people are aware of these opportunities, the more the industry can expand and bring on young, talented, and passionate workers. It is safe to say that the #FutureofFresh is looking brighter and brighter every day!
The Royal is the type of event that not only attracts the average consumer and excited students, but also a wide variety of media personalities – this is because the Fair plays host to such an eclectic set of vendors representing every niche part of the agriculture industry, making it a very unique space. On our first day at the Fair, I participated in a Facebook Live interview with Anwar Knight from CTV Toronto – this was especially exciting because I grew up watching Anwar every morning before school as he covered local community events and initiatives in the Greater Toronto Area. We talked about the benefits of greenhouse growing for the consumer, as well as about how vital bees are for pollination within the greenhouse environment. Later in the week, we got a visit from a popular cooking show crew that used some of our product for a dish. We even got a visit from Rick Mercer on Sunday morning! His visit with us was short, but not many people can say they have met the iconic Canadian satirical newscaster! It was awesome to see such popular media personalities showing interest in the agriculture industry. For those media outlets with a large fan base, the increase in awareness for our company and greenhouse growing that they can provide is extremely valuable.
Now that the Royal is over, and my time with the Greenhouse Education Center has come to an end, I cannot help but realize how one-of-a-kind my experience at NatureFresh™ has been in comparison to the types of jobs I have had in the past. No other job has allowed me to travel around Ontario and the USA so extensively, meet so many interesting and passionate people, and learn so much new knowledge in such a short period of time. In this role, I have been tested and pushed to the limit, but I would not have had it any other way. Thank you to everyone who helped me grow and who made my experience so unique, exciting, and impactful during the past 8 months. It is true what they say about NatureFresh™ – this company does not just grow produce, it also grows people.