Where is your food farmed? Is your food safe? Do you trust the people who grow your food? Are farmers good stewards of the environment? Are you concerned about hormone, antibiotic and pesticide use? Is organic really better?
Consumers have so many concerns about the food that they purchase nowadays. In the age of internet and social media, everyone professes to be an expert or at least know enough to raise doubt about modern day food production and agriculture. As a farmer, I’m very concerned about what the public knows about agriculture and even more so, what they don’t know.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Crystal Mackay, Chief Executive Office with Farm and Food Care Canada present to egg farmers in both Alberta and Ontario. She talked about connecting the dots between the farm gate and the dinner plate and shared some really interesting data from studies conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. Many people, 93% in fact, know little or nothing about farming, but 60% want to know more. So, where can people find credible information? I want them to be able to reach out to me….a real egg farmer. I don’t know everything about all types of agriculture, but I can answer most common questions. If I get questions that I don’t have answers for, I can find the answers, from other real farmers. Consumers want to connect, but that’s difficult sometimes. Real farmers aren’t at the grocery store, when you’re making your food choices.
Here’s some of the ways that Alberta (and Canadian) farmers are opening their farm doors, in one way or another:
- Check out Brant Colony’s Net Zero barn and live camera feed of the layer barn at Egg Farmers of Alberta website: http://eggs.ab.ca/farming/egg-barn-cameras/
- Andrew Campbell, a dairy and grain farmer in Ontario, known as Fresh Air Farmer on social media is featuring a different type of farm every week during 2017—that’s 52 different types of farms!! https://www.facebook.com/FreshAirFarmer/
- Several farm families, including mine are featured on Egg Farmers of Alberta’s website: http://eggs.ab.ca/farming/meet-an-egg-farmer/
- The Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) organization has lots of different YouTube videos about farming and animal care at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU4nWjvnREfSKrn5i2GJkNA/videos?shelf_id=0&view=0&sort=dd
- Great virtual tours of all types of farming operations from eggs to pigs to goats to vegetables and grains at farmfood360.ca
One of the things that Crystal talked about that really resonated with me was about sharing values. When we (farmers) talk about healthy and safe food for our families, that conversation can be up to 5 times more important to building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills or expertise. This is REALLY powerful and feels, initially at least, counter-intuitive. Most people demonstrate expertise by how well that they can do something. Some people don’t believe that the “touchy-feely” stuff matters, but clearly it does!
Because I’m concerned about the lack of knowledge around food and farming, I love to go out to classrooms, participate in public events like the Calgary Stampede and Aggie Days. I talk to Rotary, municipal and provincial government, conduct farm tours and just talk with people
Have a conversation about food with your neighbor, at the dinner table or with someone checking out labels in the grocery store. We are all connected by food! Share your knowledge and continue to ask questions—we never quit learning!