Yesterday I attended a Manitoba Farm Writers and Broadcasters Association (MFWBA) luncheon. The MFWBA is one of a few professional organizations I belong to. I’m also a member of the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA) and the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS). I strongly believe in professional organization participation. Belonging to these kind of organizations allows you to cultivate relationships in your field – in my case, the agriculture marketing and communications field. By participating in these luncheons and events I’m able to network with my agriculture industry colleagues, while also learning about a specific program or taking part in professional development. I encourage everyone to get involved in one or more professional organizations. Yes, it will take some of your time and money, but it will be time and money well spent.
Guest speaker Brad Havixbeck with Manitoba Trade and Investment also touched on cultivating relationships during his presentation at the luncheon. Havixbeck talked about a program called Border Busters which connects export-ready Manitoba food companies with U.S. buyers. The program is a partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the Manitoba Food Processors Association. The program works with small- and medium-sized food and beverage companies who have little or no exporting experience. The participants hop on a bus and head south to Minneapolis, stopping at the border where they hear from a border official and a customs broker about exporting. In the Twin Cities they receive a presentation by the Consulate General of Canada and tours of grocery stores etc. Some of them also exhibit at a food and beverage trade show.
Havixbeck said exporting can be daunting to small businesses and this program allows them to develop exporting skills and also learn from their peers during the trip. He also noted that Minneapolis is a perfect location for the program because of its close proximity to Manitoba, its large population and the consumers are receptive to Canadian food products.
A program such as this provides a great opportunity for small- and medium-sized companies to cultivate relationships with potential U.S. customers. And this is important as the U.S. continues to be Canada’s single largest export market, according to Statistics Canada. Further developing our U.S. export markets will help these food and beverage companies grow and prosper.