Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

My winter wheat journey through communications

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, the idea for a promotional video was formulating in my head while I was going through the information-gathering phase for a recent funding announcement.

Along with several other funding partners, the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) announced a $150,000 investment in winter wheat research and development (R&D) in March.

I always describe communications professionals as needing to know a little about a lot. We might be the experts of our own craft, but to make the work possible, youask the experts of the topic at-hand to brief you on the basics – what’s the story, what’s the bigger picture, and what’s the best way to convey that to farmers?

So, I was asking our research manger and general manager about winter wheat and reading my handy Cigi document about wheat specs and their relation to end-use so I could write speaking notes, a news release, key messages, do interview prep, etc.

While compiling this information, I kept hearing the benefits of winter wheat. It’s perfect for the Asian market for products like steam buns (they like to buy wheat with low ash content so the flour is very white) and noodles (the gluten strength isjust right). I also learned that on the farm, it performs well agronomically and economically. It yields well, offers good returns, lowers input costs, and spreads out the work in your growing season.

Okay. So it’s high yielding, offers good returns, and there’s a market for it. What’s the catch?

Well, I learned, farmers aren’t really growing it because of the awkward timing of seeding winter wheat during harvest. So, that market is actually untapped and buyers are looking elsewhere for a product that Western Canadian farmers could be supplying – if they were prepared to move past that mindset.

I learned from Cigi that if farmers grew winter wheat, and if those markets could count on Canada for a strong supply, then buyers would buy it and Canada could become a regular supplier. That said, CWRW has very strong potential to offer better returns for farmers.

AWC has invested in winter wheat from all angles. We’ve invested in R&D; we’ve contributed to Cigi’s winter wheat technical specialist position to help build the class’ international market presence, and we’ve participated in New Crop Missions to garner market intelligence. We are investing in the cornerstones of agriculture economics because ultimately we work for farmers, and we see an opportunity to improve your bottom line.

Another thing about the communications profession: at some point, everything the organization is doing crosses your desk. Winter wheat has now fallen on mine three times. I realized I had to take action to better communicate winter wheat’s potential to farmers, as well as the strength that investment in this class has in supportingthat potential.

So, the Western Winter Wheat Initiative joined forces with me on the venture of creating a video that would compile what I’ve discussed here to showcase the benefits of winter wheat to farmers. Experts like Lisa Nemeth, winter wheat technical specialist, interviews alongside her colleague and miller, Juan Carlos, to talk about international market access potential. Drs. Rob Graff and Brian Beres tell the story of how their respective Ag Canada breeding and Agronomy programs are strengthening winter wheat agronomically and our Chairman and winter wheat grower, Kent Erickson, talks about how winter wheat is good for his bottom line.

Our strategy behind this communication plan is to present farmers with winter wheat’s strengths from multiple corners of the value chain to give you more reason to grow it.

It can’t end up on the market if it’s not in the ground. Let’s grow our competitive advantage and tap into international markets in a reliable way that builds the Canadian wheat brand. Let’s make winter wheat an integral part of seeding plans and look forward to better returns.

Filming for our video just completed yesterday, and I encourage you to check it out once it’s complete, and consider this crop as you plan for #Plantwinterwheat15.

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