Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Meet Nadine Sisk, a communicator dedicated to building public trust around agriculture
Each day, the agriculture sector strives to provide healthy and safe food to communities of people—but sometimes the story of agriculture can get lost in translation, making it challenging for the industry to achieve this goal.
With an extensive career in communications, Nadine Sisk, vice president at AdFarm, is dedicated to connecting the public to agriculture.
“Bridging the gap between what’s happening in agriculture and the people who aren't involved in agriculture—I find that a very worthwhile challenge and I'm very passionate about making sure that non-farming Canadians get an accurate picture of what's happening,” says Sisk.
Throughout her career, Sisk has worked in many areas within communications—she started as a health and education reporter and then transitioned into public relations, working at numerous departments with the Government of Saskatchewan.
After nearly a decade in government communications, Sisk moved to Ottawa and took on the role of director of media relations and issues management with CropLife Canada, entering the agriculture sector at a critical time.
“[Agriculture] was under attack—people disliked pesticides and GMOs. The industry was very much in a defensive position and really not getting an awful lot of attention. They weren't even being heard,” says Sisk.
With concerns over pesticides and GMOs escalating at the time, Sisk realized that there was an information gap between the public and the agriculture industry—most of the communications in place only reached farming communities, and rebuilding public trust was crucial.
“[Farming communities] weren't the audiences where we had the problems. We had to start talking about things in a simpler, more easily understood way,” says Sisk.
Working in government communications, Sisk learned how effective strategic communications can be and applied it to her work in agriculture communications. Strategies such as thinking about the target audience and using non-industry jargon language were especially helpful given the complexities of the Canadian agriculture system.
“How can we talk about [agriculture] technology in a way that is easily understood? Always truthful—because that's important, it's critical—but digestible as well,” says Sisk.
Applying these strategic communications to agriculture resulted in a shift in public opinion. According to the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity’s 2021 Public Trust Research, people are less concerned about pesticides and biotechnology today than they were in previous years.
In agriculture communications, battling misinformation and building back public trust is not only beneficial to agriculture but to Canadians everywhere.
“When there has been misinformation about the ag industry, what it has done is it has eroded trust. It has distracted from agriculture’s ability to focus on what it needs to do, which is grow healthy, safe, [and] affordable food for people,” says Sisk.
Over the past couple years, Sisk witnessed firsthand how communications can elevate and rebuild public trust within the agriculture sector. But she believes that agriculture communications could shift to a new focus.
“The next challenge is to take agriculture from being something where we say, ‘It’s an important sector, but it’s what my grandpa did' to agriculture being seen as ‘exciting and it’s what I want my kids to do’—a much more future-focused type of sector because it is that,” says Sisk.
As agriculture evolves and continues to adapt innovative technologies, more career opportunities will open up. Agriculture is an industry where people from all different backgrounds can grow and communications can help get that message across.
“Farmers need all these other skill sets. They need scientists to create the innovations. They need regulatory specialists to ensure that they get passed. They need communicators to tell their stories,” Sisk says.
“Even if you don't want to be the one farming the land, raising the animals, or participating in agriculture as a primary producer—[there are] still so many opportunities.”
 The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity — Public Trust Research, 2021 https://www.foodintegrity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-ENG-Public-Trust-Research-Report_rev.pdf