Our Community Investment and Public Safety team joined farmers and agricultural industry representatives from across the Prairies, Ontario and the United States for the first Manitoba Ag Days in two years.
After a hiatus due to the pandemic, the three-day agricultural showcase drew sizeable crowds that packed Keystone Centre Jan. 17-19.
“This is our first big community safety event since the pandemic hit,” said Gary Shingleton, Manitoba Hydro’s Supervisor, Community Investment and Public Safety. “For our Community Investment (CI) and Public Safety team, this is a perfect opportunity to reach out and reconnect with farmers and agricultural producers about key safety messages.”
Tara Kendzierski, Public Safety Specialist, who was working at Manitoba Hydro’s booth for all three days of the event, said there was lots of great face-to-face interactions with farmers, industry representatives and families. “We are very excited to be back. It has been hustling and bustling here and we are getting a lot of farm safety messages delivered to our customers and farmers around the region.”
Much of our outreach to the agricultural community focuses on safety on the farm. That includes planning ahead when using farming equipment around overhead power lines.
“In a nutshell, we are talking about how to stay safe while using farming equipment around our infrastructure,” Tara said. “We also promote internal safety programs such as our farm equipment clearance permit. Manitoba Hydro will create a safe route around our infrastructure for farmers to access their fields.”
Manitoba Hydro also offers to pay a percentage of the costs to bury overhead power lines on farmyards—paying 50 per cent of installation costs (up to $10,000) for existing farmyards and 25 per cent (up to $10,000) for new farm sites.
“Most importantly, this is about safety—making sure that farmers go home at the end of the day,” Tara said. “There are also financial and operational benefits to ensure our infrastructure isn’t damaged and outages don’t occur.”
The CI and Public Safety team engaged the public by asking safety trivia questions based on their key messaging; correct answers earned discs to play Safety Plinko for Manitoba Hydro themed prizes like rain-gauges, screwdriver sets and more. Hydro reps were also able to chat about natural gas safety, as well as delivering general electrical safety messages when children came to the booth.
“The attendance numbers we have seen over the past three days have been astronomical,” Tara said. “If we can save lives with the safety information we are giving people today, it’s all been worthwhile.”
Reaching the agricultural audience
To help reach the agricultural industry throughout the year, Manitoba Hydro frequently partners with Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba (KAP) to deliver key safety messaging.
“KAP has the members and they deliver the target audience that we aspire to reach when it comes to communicating these safety messages,” Gary said. “We are able to work hand-in-hand with them for the common goal of farm safety.”
Manitoba Hydro partnered with KAP to host a Jan. 18 reception in Brandon for the FarmSafe Manitoba program. The program, which is administered through KAP, provides farm-specific resources and guidance to help farmers become aware, compliant and able to ensure healthy, safe workplaces.
“Manitoba Hydro are an important part of our Farm Safety Council. They help advise us and bring their perspective with Hydro-related issues,” said Colin Hornby, KAP’s Manager of Communications & Stakeholder Relations. “We work very closely together.”
Colin said there are some inherent challenges to reaching farmers.
“Farmers are often so inundated with information and they’re busy with the day-to-day challenges of running a farm. Farm safety is one of several risks they have to manage,” he said. “So the challenge is always figuring out ways to get in front of them and connect.”
Colin said KAP works with other commodity groups, such as Manitoba Pork, to provide safety materials to their members within agricultural industry. Through the FarmSafe Manitoba program, they are working to develop a “one stop shop” for farm safety information.
He added a key way to reach farmers is through face-to-face opportunities like Manitoba Ag Days, which brought in a large rural audience to Brandon—a rare occurrence.
“A lot of this is about going to the farmers directly. We can put on webinars, you can put on events in Winnipeg or Brandon, but that won’t reach everybody,” Colin said. “When it’s just another day of the week, you have to look at creative ways to give farmers a reason to come out to an event and have that opportunity get in front of them. Maybe that means a safety training course in Neepawa or somewhere that’s closer to home for farmers. Most of them can only take a few hours out of their day, so you have to make it convenient and show value.”