In 2018, I want to share experiences I am grateful for! For the past year and a half, I have been privileged to be part of the Canola Connect (#CanolaConnect) community – a unique learning forum created by the awesome folks at Canola Eat Well. Canola Connect brings together diverse groups of professionals to gain a first-hand understanding of the farm to food conversation.

My goal as a dietitian is to help individuals embrace and enjoy nutritious foods to live healthier lives. For much of my career I focused on how specific foods benefited health, but rarely considered where this “nutritious tool box” of healthy foods actually came from. Over the past years, I’ve received an increasing number of questions from clients concerning how our food is grown. Prior to joining Canola Connect I lacked the whole picture to confidently answer these questions.

Harvest Campers learning about mixed farming from Carmen and Donna Jackson and family at High Bluff Stock Farm in Inglis, Manitoba

Canola Connect Harvest Camp.

I was excited I was when I received my invitation to attend the fall 2016 Canola Connect Harvest Camp. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to visit farms in rural Manitoba and learn directly from the experts, the farmers themselves, about how they produce nutritious food. I am a prairie girl, but prior to attending Harvest Camp I had never visited a canola farm!

Bus ride friendships – myself with fellow dietitian camper, Christy Brissette

Harvest Camp is a weekend of magical knowledge transformation. You travel on a bus with a dozen other individuals with diverse backgrounds, keenly interested in understanding the world of farming. You enter the real-life worlds and fields of farmers to learn first-hand details about what is required to grow and produce food successfully. They proudly share how they safely produce our food from grains, to vegetables, livestock, to beekeeping and honey farming. Delicious, locally produced food is enjoyed throughout the weekend, and evening campfires with fellow campers are all part of the friendly experience. A camp affirmation that still resonates with me today is “when we learn together we grow together!” So true!

Canola Connect Alumni.

Dietitian alumni at #CanolaConnect Community summit

#CanolaConnect Community Summit – fellow dietitian alumniFollowing camp, I have continued to learn through Canola Connect alumni events. In April 2017, I attended the Canola Connect Community Summit and a one day Farm Field Trip this past September. These events are “fun-filled adventures” chalk full of exceptional educational sessions delivered by top notch professionals. Farming, and how our food is produced is a hot topic for everyone, and having the opportunity to learn from experts and obtain credible, evidence based facts on the subject is invaluable! I can’t imagine having the opportunity to learn about the importance of healthy topsoil from a Soil Management Specialist or Horticultural Sciences expert on improving the farming environment to improve global food security anywhere else!

 

Marla Riekman – Soil Management Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture

 

Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and share with clients about Canadian farming:

  • Farmers are passionate about producing healthy and safe food for consumers and their own families;
  • Canada has some of the strictest pesticide approval and monitoring systems in the world. Due to innovations in agriculture only small amounts of pesticides are used safely to help farmers grow more food on less land;
  • Advances in farming practices are widely used to help protect the land such as soil conservation by reduced tillage and the importance of crop rotation. Not only are these practices important for sustainability, they also help ensure our food remains affordable;
  • Farmers are conscientious about growing the right crops on the appropriate land and conserving water and our natural resources.

 

Canola oil is healthy!

Clients have been exposed to so much conflicting information over the past few years about fats that they will ask me to clarify information on good fats and bad fats. Individuals I work with often tell me they think it’s best to eat as little fat as possible, but studies show good fats are essential for health. I have always recommended canola oil as the healthiest fat because it:

  • Has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil, half as much as olive oil. (Saturated fats are linked to heart disease);
  • Is the highest in plant-based omega 3 fats of all cooking oils. Omega-3 fats can help protect against heart attacks and strokes;
  • Is high in monounsaturated fat, which can help lower bad cholesterol;
  • Is versatile, has a mild flavour and is heat tolerant;
  • Is perfect for salad dressings, sauces, marinades, for stir-frying, sautéing;
  • Is great for baking! Recipes can be made healthier by substituting saturated or solid fats with canola oil.

Did you know?

  • Canola is a true Canadian crop! The name canola comes from combining the words Canada + oil = Canola;
  • It was developed at the University of Manitoba in the 1970’s by plant scientists;
  • Canola is now the oil of choice for millions of people around the world;
  • In Manitoba, we have 9000 canola farmers and 98% of the farms are family owned and operated;
  • The canola plant is part of the brassica family just like broccoli, and cauliflower.

Eating local is an important trend.

When individuals I work with gain an understanding that canola oil is locally produced and Canada is the largest producer, it helps them develop a connection to canola and feel confident supporting local agriculture. Having a relationship with the Canola Connect community has not only helped me as a professional, it has helped me educate clients and audiences I work with.

Ellen Pruden, Canola Eat Well Director and Paul Orsak, Farmer in Binscarth, Manitoba

A sincere thank-you to Canola Eat Well staff: Ellen Pruden, Canola Eat Well Director, Jennifer Dyck, Manager Canola Eat Well and Lori Dyck, Community Engagement Coordinator Canola Eat Well for welcoming me into this community and for creating innovative programs to make learning engaging and fun! To learn more about this engaging community, or to follow along with their educational events on social media by searching the hashtag #CanolaConnect