Producer ambassadors enhance public engagement

By Joey Dearborn

Editor’s note: Joey Dearborn is Communications and Website Coordinator, Manitoba Pork. He can be contacted at ‘’

Pork Proud ambassadors like Michael Waldner (left) are key to Manitoba Pork’s community outreach to consumers.

Earning public trust in food and farming is a hallmark for commodity organizations like Manitoba Pork. Having the social license to operate allows producers and the entire industry to continue to grow our sector and build livelihoods for people across our province. In Manitoba alone, 55 per cent of all full-time jobs in agriculture and food manufacturing come from pork, equating to around 22,000 people working in the hog sector across the province.

Through this idea, the Pork Proud Ambassador Program was born. Pork Proud is designed to help empower producers and those who work in the industry with the tools to communicate with the public, including consumers and students who may not have the whole story as to where their food comes from.

“Manitoba Pork created this program with the idea to multiply the number of voices who share good news about our sector and also help build educators who can in turn create more public trust,” said Kristen Matwychuk, Community Engagement Coordinator, Manitoba Pork. “Farmers continue to be the most credible source of information when it comes to our food, and we know that with more Canadians being concerned about the food production and costs, we want to be able to share the great story about Manitoba’s hog sector with as many people as we can.”

Recent data compiled by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) shows that farmers are considered the most trusted authorities on food, ranking higher than scientists, the Canadian agriculture sector overall, government agencies, processors and manufacturers. This inherent trust is a key foundation of the Pork Proud program, positioning pork producers and industry experts to provide positive and accurate information about our dynamic industry, while at the same time building public trust. The same CCFI data showed that Canadians are sensitive to misinformation about how food is produced in Canada, which is why they are open to hearing the facts about what they decide to feed their families.

Manitoba Pork’s Kristen Matwychuk leads the training for Pork Proud ambassadors.

“We want ambassadors to be comfortable with answering questions and debunking misinformation,” said Matwychuk. “We know that in the social media age, there are a lot of mistruths out there about how animals are cared for and about how we protect the environment, so we want to be able to convey information in an easily understood way and provide consumers with a holistic understanding of our sector.”

To become a Pork Proud ambassador, the first step is an in-person introductory course. Training sessions that follow include a mix of required and optional workshops in a variety of subject areas, including answering tough questions, storytelling through social media, written communications, communicating with decision makers like politicians and media training. Ambassadors also receive a robust information kit with fact sheets, Q&As, relevant training documents and branded items that readily identify their roles.

The first training session was held in March at the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre in Winnipeg. The location is Manitoba’s premier agriculture education facility and allowed participants the ability to practice their skills in an environment frequently used for events with the public.

“Having the ability to showcase the inside of a real working Manitoba hog barn is one of the key pieces of the Farm and Food Discovery Centre,” said Matwychuk. “Every year, we host events there with other commodities, so we were able to practice some of the questions our staff get at each event and work through some of the best practices for answering those.”

Manitoba Pork takes part in a variety of events throughout the year, including the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, Discover Ag in the City, Discover the Farm and other community events that allow for in-depth conversations about the hog sector, swapping recipes and cooking tips, as well as handing out fun promotional items like squishy pigs. These opportunities also allow the public to engage one-on-one with a farmer and ask all about life on a Manitoba hog farm.

Several Manitoba pork producers were eager to take part in the first Pork Proud ambassador training session this year.

“I took the Pork Proud training to gain more confidence in dealing with the public at community events and on social media platforms,” said Sheldon Dyck, a hog farmer from southeastern Manitoba and a new Pork Proud ambassador. “As hog farmers, we understand the daily routines of what happens on the farm, but it’s often hard to communicate that to someone who doesn’t have a full understanding of agriculture. I am looking forward to taking more training and developing new skills.”

As the program continues to grow, Manitoba Pork hopes to attract new ambassadors from across the value chain, which could allow the organization to broaden the number of community events they participate in each year.

“Everyone who works in agriculture has a story to tell about why they love working in our sector, and empowering people to share that story is why this program is so exciting,” said Matwychuk. “Hearing those stories allows people to connect deeply with where their food comes from and that couldn’t be a better advertisement for our sector’s positive impact in Manitoba.”