But what piqued my interest the most on the trip was what happened at the border crossing on the Ambassador Bridge.
As I pulled up to the border guard, I handed over my passport. After a few seconds I got the standard question: "Where are you headed, Ms. Parker?" My response was the honest (and rehearsed) one - I admit border crossings still get me a little nervous.
I told the gentleman that my destination was the State Convention of the Indiana Future Farmers of America. He looked at me with a puzzled look and asked "Are you a farmer?"
My reply was "Well, no. I grew up on a farm, but I'm not a farmer. I work in agriculture education." He looked at me and very coolly said, "I didn't think so. You don't really look like a farmer." Then he handed me back my passport and sent me on my way. I said my obligatory Canadian "Thank you" and headed to the toll booth.
While this didn't really upset me, it did get me thinking. Don't I look like a farmer? And why not? I had, after all, been helping with chores on my family farm that weekend.... a supply farmer, if you will....
Agriculture has quite a few stereotypes. When you ask someone to name a career in agriculture, they often say farmer. And if you ask them to describe a farmer, you get something like Old MacDonald. It's no wonder - just look at the results of a Google image search for farmer: all male; all white. I guess the border guard was right... I don't look like a farmer, according to the internet.
As I've said before, the first step needs to be awareness. We need to expose youth to information about agriculture and ag careers. And we need to expose them to different images of people in ag careers. So please - if you work in the agri-food sector, let's change the stereotypes. I challenge you to post a picture of yourself on social media. State your job and use the hashtag #IWorkInAg - Let's change the image of #AgCareers. I'd love to prove that border guard wrong....