Lyndon Carlson, former Executive VP of Marketing at FCC and Ag More Than Ever spokesperson, asks the ag industry to make the most of an amazing opportunity.
For over two years now Ag More Than Ever has been encouraging people in the agriculture industry to actively tell the real story of Canadian ag by using facts, dispelling myths and sharing personal pride with the world. The reaction has been great, and people are standing up and speaking out, but there is still much work to be done. This was made abundantly clear when Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) recently released findings from their Modern Agriculture and Agricultural Awareness Focus Groups (find the executive summary of the report here. The study’s objective was to examine perceptions and knowledge of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry among the general public. When I look at the findings, two things come into sharp focus:
1. We, as an industry, need to do a better job of telling our story to the general public.
Here are just a few excerpts from the AAFC’s key findings document that clearly illustrate that we need to do a better job telling ag’s story to the general public:
Findings from this series of focus groups clearly indicate a relatively low level of awareness, particularly among urban dwellers, of the current state of the sector and its contribution to provincial, regional and the national economy.
The forecast for the sector was somewhat mixed although, on balance, participants [from the general public] seemed somewhat more pessimistic than optimistic. This view was based on a number of perceptions, many of which are heavily influenced by alarmist documentaries and media reports on the state and future of agriculture in Canada.
Participants [from the general public] generally think about agriculture as not having changed much in the last 10 to 20 years. As such, compared to the rate of change in other sectors such as energy, education, and healthcare, there is a propensity to discount the agriculture and agri-food sector as being modern or innovation.
This clearly shows a knowledge gap between the industry and the general public. And it’s our job to close that gap.
2. The general public has a genuine appetite to hear what we have to say.
The good news is if we do speak up, there will be a receptive audience. At least according to these findings:
Participants expressed an interest in learning more about the sector and were, in fact, surprised to learn about the impact and contribution of the sector in terms of employment levels, output and exports.
Additionally, it was felt [among the general public] that those engaged in research and development, including researchers and, most importantly, the producers, should speak on their own behalf. This approach would garner significantly more credibility and would be more likely to engage the general public by profiling those who are passionate about the sector and stand to benefit most from the innovations.
Let’s get to work
It’s quite obvious that we still have a lot of work to do to be a part of the ag conversation with the general public. We need more people in the industry speaking up and, just as importantly, those of us who are already active need to look at how we are speaking up. Is it effective? Does it resonate with our intended audience, i.e. someone outside of ag? Are we speaking to their concerns and interests to draw them in? The general public wants to hear from us – so let’s make the most of it. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to tell our story. And we need to do it together, as an industry, with facts, passion and pride.