Conference participants discuss innovative ways to connect with consumers
"Making Connections" is the theme of the second annual Farms at the Table Conference hosted by Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan on December 9 & 10, 2015 at the Saskatoon Inn. Over 100 industry leaders, farmers, ranchers, chefs, dietitians and communicators gathered for this year's event.
"One thing we know we need to do a better job of as an industry is to engage consumers," said Shannon Meyers, Chair of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan. "Less than 2% of Canadians have a direct link to the farm and they want to know more about how their food is produced. Our organization is focused on doing just that."
The opening day of this year's conference provided registrants with tools to help the agriculture industry do a better job engaging consumers in a conversation about food and farming.
Cherilyn Nagel, a grain farmer from Mossbank, Saskatchewan, facilitates 'Real Dirt on Farming' (RDOF) training workshops around the province. She coaches farmers, ranchers and others in food production about strategies in how to share their stories of farming and modern agriculture. Nagel was first on the agenda at the conference today.
"RDOF training is based on The Real Dirt on Farming resource, a national Farm & Food Care publication. This informative booklet addresses the top ten areas of interest identified by consumers regarding farm and food practices," explained Adele Buettner, FFC SK CEO. "Since the training program began in early 2015, nearly 300 people in Saskatchewan have participated in the workshops. We want to help farmers and ranchers feel comfortable talking about what they do and how they do it."
Andrew Campbell, a dairy farmer from Strathroy, Ontario, also spoke about consumer engagement through social media to create interest in food and farm practices. His #farm365 initiative has generated a sizable following from coast to coast. Campbell talked about the effect that #farm365 has had on both farmers and consumers.
"A lot of farmers have joined in #farm365 and opened up their farms to the public to show what they are doing. I've also found that many consumers want to know what a farmer has to say - people continue to trust farmers. Social media is a powerful tool in getting our message out."
Campbell will also speak about lessons learned related to the #farm365 experience during a second presentation on December 10. Other speakers and topics for Day 2 of the conference include:
- Sarah Schultz, Alberta farmer and popular writer of the "Nurse Loves Farmer" online blog will discuss the impact of personal contact through social media;
- Joe Pozzi, cattle and sheep producer from Sonoma County, California, will speak about opening his farm to consumers;
- Amy Myrdal Miller, dietitian and author from Carmichael, California will explain why it's important to invest in consumer engagement; and
- Crystal Mackay, CEO of Farm & Food Care Canada and the Centre for Food Integrity Canada will challenge participants on the importance of obtaining social licence.
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Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan believes that getting to know farmers and ranchers equals getting to know food. We strive to find new and innovative ways to introduce farmers, ranchers and others involved in food production to their customers and consumers to their food.