Sandi Brock and Paul Nairn received the honours
By Diego Flammini
An industry organization recognized two members of Ontario’s ag community from Perth County for their efforts to be positive voices for the province’s ag sector.
Sheep farmer Sandi Brock and Paul Nairn, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s western region member services manager, received Food & Farming Champion awards from Farm & Food Care Ontario.
Farm & Food Care has presented this award since 1999 to a person or group dedicated to public outreach and support for Ontario agriculture. But this year a panel of judges decided two awards were necessary.
Winning the award is an honour but knowing where it came from makes it even more special, Brock said.
“It was a pleasant surprise, for sure,” she told Farms.com. “And to know the nomination came from my peers and they appreciate the stuff I’m doing adds more to the award for me.”
Brock received her nomination from Grain Farmers of Ontario.
Brock invites visitors into her life as a farmer, mother and wife through her YouTube channel and website, both called Sheepishly Me. As of April 9, 2021, her videos have more than 50 million combined views.
She started sheep farming in 2012 and started to post videos and pictures on Snapchat around that time. Brock didn’t plan on embarking on a larger social media journey, but evidence told her she’d caught viewers’ attention.
“People were messaging me privately saying they wanted to know more,” she said. “Even people from outside the sheep industry were messaging me, so I started to think I had something going on.”
As much as Brock has taught others about life as a farmer in Ontario, she’s also received an education throughout her social media journey.
Viewing her videos with an empathetic perspective has made her a better farmer, she said.
“I’m reaching people through empathy and that’s been a huge gift to me,” she said. “But you have to earn empathy, you have to get into the trenches with people, take the jabs and criticisms as they come and some of it you have to brush off. There are some things that I have used and become a better farmer because of this piece of the puzzle we’re sometimes missing.”
Brock provided a piece of advice for anyone wanting to engage in public outreach in the sector.
Understanding the reason for the outreach is key, she said.
“Figure out why you’re doing it,” she said. “You have to approach it as ‘this is my farm and I want to take you on a journey’ as opposed to representing farming in general. We’re learning all the time and we don’t want to alienate anyone.”
Paul Nairn received his nomination from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, where he’s worked for the last 25 years.
“I was honoured to be recognized that way,” he told Farms.com.
Public outreach is important for the ag sector to help it build trust among consumers.
Even if it’s only a portion of the population who wants to understand what’s happening in ag, Nairn said.
“Some people don’t want to know how their food is produced and I always look at it like a bell curve,” he said. “There’s always going to be that group in the middle that want to know about farming. If we can answer those people’s questions, that’s still more people we’ve engaged with about food production.”
Like Brock, Nairn also provided advice on how someone can get more involved with telling agriculture’s story.
Take initiative and ask where you can help, he said.
“Ask farmers or others in the industry what the opportunities are,” he said. “It’s always nice to be asked but if you’re looking to be involved then you’ve got to take those steps to get involved.”