In today’s world of instantaneous social media where comments, pictures and video clips can be made and sent around the world within seconds, information is powerful. Some of the misconceptions on where food comes from and how it is processed are everywhere on social media and on the forefront of many consumers’ minds. It is our job to set the record straight and share the facts about Canadian agriculture. While most all of us live in rural-based communities that are immersed in agriculture, we tend to take for granted all the great things that agricultural producers do in caring for their land, livestock, the environment and how agriculture is helping to drive our economy.
Research on consumer perceptions shows that when it comes to purchasing decisions, trust and confidence play large roles. In fact, establishing shared values between agricultural producers and consumers is three to five times more important in building trust than demonstrating competence or showing scientific facts. Values and ethics such as properly caring for our land, animals, and environment, feeling confident in raising our children on the food we grow and encouraging them to live and work in agricultural communities are all values that a large sector of consumers can identify with.
For instance, it is a fact that 98 per cent of all farms in Canada are still family farms. We may have changed shape, become larger and incorporated, but we are still essentially a sector based on family business. We need to tell our stories.
As Canadian agricultural producers we enjoy a large degree of freedom to operate and do things our own way on our farms. We are not burdened with heavy regulations at every step of production. This is because we have been doing a good job. This “social license” is based on trust that society has in agricultural producers to operate ethically and safely. Without it, we would be living the harsh realities of unnecessary regulations and increased costs. In the interest of maintaining this social license, it is our responsibility to continue doing a good job and to let everyone know about it.
So to sum it up, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our industry to tell our good news stories about prosperous family farms, caring for our land and livestock, being good stewards of the environment and our commitment to producing safe and healthy food that we are proud to feed to our own family. As producers, there are so many ways we can contribute to this cause: from having positive conversations with urban friends and neighbours about where food comes from to promoting agricultural career opportunities to our youth. This is what agriculture awareness is all about and we can all play a role in promoting positive perceptions in our industry.