Spreading agriculture awareness through the airwaves.
Growing up on a mixed grain and cattle farm, Emmett Sawyer was involved in agriculture from a young age, balancing chores, schoolwork and team sports.
“I wouldn't have traded those experiences of growing up on the farm for anything,” Sawyer said. “I think the best part about growing up on the farm is that you really get a great idea of where your food comes from and how your food is produced.”
Originally from a farm just west of Acme, Alberta, conversations at the dinner table often revolved around the business of agriculture, which led Sawyer to pursue an education in the field. Currently in his third year at the University of Lethbridge, Sawyer is studying Agricultural Enterprise Management.
“I'm really passionate about agriculture politics and agriculture trade and policy,” he said.
As he continues his education in the field, that early exposure has paid dividends.
“It's pretty neat to be able to get industry experience in an industry from pretty much the moment that you're born until the moment that you decided to fully enter the agriculture industry,” he said. “I think it provided me with a very unique perspective going into school and going into jobs.”
But, Sawyer knows not everyone is lucky enough to grow up learning the ins and outs of agriculture. Since 2018, Sawyer has been sharing his thoughts and opinions about agriculture through his podcast Ag Thoughts with Emmett.
“My whole goal is to have people to come on and to listen and gain a new perspective in agriculture,” he said.
Sawyer also brings other youth onto his podcast to talk about their journeys through agriculture and share their expertise.
“It's been really enjoyable to host those youth that are extremely passionate about those subjects. Not only am I learning something new, but listeners are as well,” he said.
When he looks at agriculture, Sawyer believes youth are uniquely positioned to drive progress and innovation by working together.
“I find that we have an unfiltered view,” he said. “We're able to see what needs to be changed or things that aren't perfect in agriculture.”
Sawyer thinks the biggest challenge youth face is to find out where they belong in agriculture and how they can use their voice to push the industry in a new direction. With the focus often falling onto education, he thinks it’s important for youth to continue innovating and finding new ways to connect with consumers.
“I think something a lot of youth struggle with is: What exactly am I good at?” Sawyer said. “Am I someone that really likes to videotape myself talking, talking about my cattle, my animals. Or am I someone that likes to write so maybe I should be starting a blog to talk about what it's like to be an 18-year-old from Saskatchewan on a commercial beef operation.”
For his part, Sawyer decided to start a podcast because of the accessibility and availability of the medium.
“I find it's a really great starting point for interacting with people,” he said. “It seems like [people] really enjoy long conversations as well. The podcast really offers value to people who are busy and may not have time to watch a video, but they are able to listen to a podcast. Once I came to that realization, I really thought that podcasting might be the direction to head.”
Entirely self-taught, Sawyer used Google and YouTube to learn the basics of podcasting. Since he began posting, the response he has received has been very positive.
“The best part is being able to have people DM, or message, or text me and be able to have conversations after the podcast has been posted,” Sawyer said. “Some people have been interested to discuss the topics I've spoken about on the podcast further.”
Another of Sawyer’s goals with the podcast is to bridge the urban-rural divide by educating consumers through conversation and dialogue.
“I think now that farmers have been able to use social media more we're starting to be able to become more open and more transparent, especially when people are able to videotape their farms, their feedlots and really show what's happening on the inside,” he said. “I find people get the most value when they're able to see every single step of the process and why we as farmers do what we do.”
Since farmers aren’t typically known for their social media presence, Sawyer sees this as another area where youth can lead the charge. Already social-media savvy, youth have the technology and the know-how to start connecting with consumers and spreading awareness of agriculture and the people whose hard work takes food from the farm to the table.
“We have a device in our pockets that is able to connect us to every single person on the planet and the best thing that anyone can do is to take that device out of your pocket, turn it around and press record and then just say something,” he said.
Peeling back the curtain and showing consumers, especially those from more urban areas, where their food comes from helps people develop a connection with producers and better understand their work.
“Agriculture truly is with us every single step of the way,” he said. “There's so many different steps moving up to that supermarket where you're able to grab that piece of bread or that vegetable. It passes through hundreds of hands, farmers that care for their land, care for the food, and for people's well-being, as well as the people throughout the supply chain that are finding ways to waste less food.”
With many challenges to face in the future, including feeding 10 billion people by 2050, Sawyer remains optimistic.
“With youth leading the charge, agriculture is in great hands.”
You can listen to Ag Thoughts with Emmett on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud and anywhere else you can stream podcasts. He also posts videos to TikTok under Emmett Sawyer.
Do you know a young leader who is making a difference? Nominations are now being accepted for 2021. Learn more: https://lnkd.in/g4BEj8G