Building trust in food and farming is a daunting task. Consider what a typical urban consumer might read online or see on TV: documentaries blasting the use of fertilizers, large farms with huge equipment and numerous birds, hogs or cattle raised in the same area. From their perspective, this is not where they think their food comes from, they wouldn’t raise their pet that way, right? But consider for a minute where they come from, where they live and what their typical day looks like. The vast majority of Canadians won’t see open fields, cattle or barns on their daily commute.
We have a generational gap when it comes to food production in Canada. Canadians are now two, three or four generations removed from an actual farmer or rancher. This deficiency in knowledge leads to information breaks with those who set our policies in Ottawa, advise consumers on what to eat or simply misinform our children in our education system. This then typically fuels frustration with the farming/ranching communities when we see policies that do not make sense, food guides that are not solely focused on nutrition or miscued quotes posted by our youth.
Every year Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan invites several professionals from around Canada to tighten this gap through on-farm tours. Our participants range from dietitians to educators, bloggers to TV personalities and chefs to policy makers. This tour is set up in a way that there are no ‘stupid’ questions and we promote honest and transparent discussions. One avenue that is continually enforced is that we all must listen in order to learn. This listening better identifies some of the true concerns they or their clients have. Here are a few of those concerns:
- “What are the environmental impacts of food production?” – Food blogger
- “Is animal agriculture sustainable at the rate that the world is consuming animal products?” – Dietitian
- “How are farms thinking about food waste, dealing with food waste and planning for the future with no food waste?” – Chef
You might notice these concerns do not always line up with the messaging from the agriculture community. To sum up these areas into one topic, they are primarily focused on sustainability in food production.
A large portion of the tours involve being on farms and ranches and speaking directly with families who are growing food, highlighting those who have been producing food for many generations along with the future generation that will be taking over. There are many ‘aha’ moments throughout the days when food professionals’ comment that they did not know that, or ‘oh… that makes sense now.’ These are engagement opportunities that then allow them to take that experience and be more confident when speaking about food production in the future with their clients or online with their followers. Surveys from the tours back this up with 26% of participants indicating that they felt ‘well or very well informed’ about farming practices before the tour to 100% well informed post-tour. We also see stronger knowledge post-tour in the areas of pesticides, genetic modification and hormone or antibiotic use.
One food professional at a time, we are building the understanding that agriculture is working to be more sustainable and trust in this great industry grows.
Find out more about the Food Influencers Program