The Rotary Club of Stettler’s 56th annual Farmer Appreciation Night sent a strong message to farmers and ranchers that they are appreciated by the community.
“The event was promoted as ‘feed a farmer’ this year,” said Peter Boys, fundraising director of the Stettler Rotarians.
That turns the tables, as it is farmers who make up two per cent of the population, and who feed the rest of the world.
The long-running event hosted by the Stettler Rotarians saw about 240 guests enjoy a roast-beef buffet on Monday evening at the Stettler Community Centre.
With 37 members, the Rotary Club of Stettler has been in service in Stettler for 88 years, funding community and global projects. The group has hosted a farmer appreciation function for 56 years, but the format has changed over time.
“Originally, it was a Rotarian and his wife taking out a farmer and his wife for the dinner,” Boys said. “Today, corporate tables are sold so corporate sponsors can invite guests and more people are involved.”
“Our community’s success is tied to agriculture and it is fitting the Rotary continues to recognize this,” said the Rotary club’s past president, Al Gano.
“With several major dealerships for agricultural equipment and fertilizer in Stettler, farmers bring a lot of cash into this town,” said Deputy Mayor Darcy Bachman, who brought greetings on behalf of the Town of Stettler and thanked farmers for the contribution they make to the community.
“Farmers are good stewards of the land — practical environmentalists; they have increased production per acre using less fuel,” said Reeve Wayne Nixon of the County of Stettler.
“Environmentalists should look at farmers’ practices.”
Nixon thanked the Rotarians for recognizing the farming heritage.
Cathy Sharp of Lacombe, the Zone 5 delegate with Alberta Beef Producers for the past eight years and a member of the marketing and education committee, was the keynote speaker. She was also elected to the Canadian Cattleman’s Association in December.
For Sharp, her Stettler speaking engagement was “coming home,” as she was raised northeast of Botha on a mixed farm belonging to her parents, Lindsey and Donna Penosky.
Sharp brought the audience up to date on what was happening in the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) organization and painted a bright future for those who have stuck with raising beef cattle. Global beef consumption is expected to rise by 10 million tonnes this decade. Canada is the third-largest exporter of beef in the world.
ABP has launched an aggressive $1.4-million advertising campaign utilizing television, outdoor media, websites online, recipe books, print media, social media and the Famous Taste Express, a mobile promotion that will be handing out 5,000 to 7,000 free beef samples across Alberta this summer.
Sharp reminded cattlemen that the ABP producers’ meeting will be in Big Valley this fall.
There were two other information presentations in the evening. The first was from a grassroots organization known as M.I.A. (Made in Alberta). Since the average meal travels 2,400 kilometres to reach people’s plates, the group is encouraging consumers to support local producers by eating and buying local, and outlined the advantages of doing so.
The second presentation was made Jackie Northey, executive-director of Farm on Foundation, whose goal is to assist young farmers in accessing information for their farming practices. Many young farmers work off the farm, some 40 hours per week or more, are raising families, are involved in community responsibilities and have little time to attend workshops or courses to gain the knowledge they need. Farm on Foundation provides trustworthy information, videos and sharing of innovative ideas online.
The evening concluded with awarding many draw prizes. Rotarian exchange student Venla Pulkkinen from Finland assisted with the draw-making.