Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Editorial: November-December 2011

Gadgets and the rural/urban disconnect


November 14, 2011
By Marg Land


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I’ve always been slow to adapt to new technology. It took me years to finally switch my film camera over to digital.

I’ve always been slow to adapt to new technology.
It took me years to finally switch my film camera over to digital. Even now, I miss the unbelievably crisp result achieved using a medium-format Hasselblad film camera compared to a digital, which explains why I still have my grandfather’s camera equipment squirreled away in suitcases under my bed.

I was slow to catch on to digital voice recorders as well, instead scribbling on a notepad like a cub reporter, ink staining my fingers and the inevitable rain soaking and ripping my pages. Now I have this funky, space-age recorder that plugs into my computer’s USB port and downloads mp3 files of audio notes. It’s supposed to be a time saver but it usually takes more time to transcribe the audio than to take good notes in the first place.

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I have also been slow to adapt to the new phone technology currently available. I am one of the few people left on the face of the Earth who still owns a cellular phone that is just that – a cellular phone. It does not take photos or videos, it does not have a calendar function, I have no idea how to use it for texting, or if it even texts. It has no colour display or cute ringtones. When it rings (sounding like a normal house telephone), I push a button and talk into it. I’ve had the phone for so long, the service plan I use has been grandfathered and is no longer available – and my cellular service provider is waiting for me to get with the 21st century so they can scrap it altogether.

Well, I’m here to say I am a Luddite no more. My new (well, new to me) iPhone is in the mail and soon I will be as “connected” as everyone else in the world.

As part of my role as editor of Fruit & Vegetable Magazine, I’ve already been Twittering (FruitVeggieMag) and Facebooking and following grape growers in British Columbia and Ontario plus vegetable growers in Holland Marsh and berry growers in Nova Scotia. Now I’ll be able to do it directly from the field. Or from the barn, or from the Hort Nova Scotia conference, the OF&VC, the airport, my hotel room, my car (while parked), and maybe while I’m on my holidays.

According to a recent article by CBC News – “Tweeting farmers bridge gap between farm, table” – the social gap between rural and urban Canada has been growing. “Eighty years ago, one in every three Canadians lived on a farm,” the article states. “In 2006, it was one in 46.” With the arrival of social media, farmers have been presented with a handy way to bridge that gap, the article concludes.

I highly recommend giving the story a read – http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/smallbusiness/story/2011/10/14/f-twitter-farmers-agriculture-social-media.html – not just for the great information and insight into the use of social media on the farm but also to see some firsthand examples of the disconnect between farmers and urban dwellers within the article’s comments section.

“How responsible is it to (text) while operating large farm equipment?” vents The Grendel. “There are already enough deaths a year around farm equipment before you add distracted farmers.”

“I thought texting and driving was illegal for them too,” writes PQ guy in TO. “These things flip on their roof if you don’t look where you’re going.”

Alas, it would appear many in Canada’s cities have never heard of GPS technology and its use for systems like EZ-Steer and other automated tractor steering programs. There’s not a lot for a person to do in the cab of a tractor as he/she waits to turn around at the end of the field. Why not tweet?

“Maybe this kind of communication will eventually inspire some responsibility in agricultural practices,” states QunorW. “I’m not a fan of eating poisoned food. Yes, it’s poisoned. Pesticides and herbicides are poisons; we just don’t get them in the end result in quite high enough concentrations to do us provable harm. Not that I think most farmers are malicious or anything, just lazy.”

WOW! Farmers are lazy because they use pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that have been reviewed and registered by a branch of Health Canada. What are they supposed to do? Go out and hand weed a 100-acre crop of sweet corn? Or potatoes? Pick all the bugs off by hand? Sounds like a quick way to starve half the world’s population.

I can attest to the labour of pulling weeds as I was once ordered to the field by my father to hand weed a 50-acre plot of field corn. There had been a malfunction of the sprayer and no herbicide had been applied. It was living hell. The mosquitos were horrible, my hands were cut and bleeding from pulling all manner of weeds (nettles, Scotch thistle, etc. – only weaklings wore gloves according to my dad) and my sweat stung the open wounds. It took me days to weed that field.

I’d like to see “QunorW” do the same and observe how “lazy” he/she is.

I won’t even relate some of the other ignorant and ridiculous statements made by the uneducated masses. But there were a few readers very warm to the idea on-farm tweeting.

“I can finally communicate with a farmer,” wrote pistonbroke. “Now I can make arrangement to buy my product directly from him instead of buying at a grocery store at a 400 per cent mark up! THANK YOU!!!!!”

“Great article guys,” stated shaunhaney. “Farmers are some of the fastest adopters of technology. Running a farm requires very cross-functional business management skills. Social media tools provide some opportunity for farmers to distribute and collect information in a very timely manner amongst their peer group. Great job.”

Perhaps there is hope to bridge that gap. Get tweeting!


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