Every July, Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan invites guests to a farm tour that focuses on engagement with people who work or communicate with consumers of a wider audience. We call the event the “Food Influencer Farm Tour”.
After a Covid break from the tour in 2020, we decided to focus on influencers from around Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This diverse crowd in 2021 included registered dietitians, culinary and foodservice educators, nutrition students, chefs, school teachers/administrators, and high school curriculum developers. With this diversity came a variety of different questions that promoted discussion around issues that were important to them, but not necessarily top of mind to us as farmers and ranchers. Questions around climate change, farming culture, innovation and general views on diversity are not typical conversations at a family farm’s coffee table, but can generate engagement with different consumers.
The farm tour offers open and transparent dialogue in an effort to build future partnerships. Too often we feel we must lecture all the key points about our farms and ranches without allowing time for true learning to take place. When individuals feel comfortable asking more in-depth questions about why a farmer would make that decision or the difficulties they may experience from year to year, there is a true feeling of connection. This is where trust is being built.
This year’s tour included a walk in a wheat field, a tour of an egg barn, a stop at a cattle pasture, a virtual tour of a pig barn and Q&A sessions about plant breeding, pesticides and intensive livestock operations.
Some of our attendees told us they had visited a farm in the past, but that didn’t necessarily mean they were knowledgeable about farming/ranching practices. Over two-thirds of our guests indicated that they were not very informed or only somewhat informed about farming practices. After the tour, just about 70% said that they felt very informed about farming practices in Saskatchewan. This level of understanding then translates back into the work those participants do in writing grade school curriculums, teaching students, advising consumers on dietary needs and preparing meals.
The big take-home from farm tours is that engagement between farmers and ranchers and those who are consuming our food is not only needed, it’s required. By making these partnerships with individuals outside of primary agriculture we’re strengthening the public’s trust in food and farming. The benefits will be realized through improved agriculture communication to consumers, more accurate text books and classes, and better meals and dietary recommendations.
Find out more about the Food Influencers Program