Robbie Beck, a dairy and field crop producer from Quebec sent us the following note:
Thank you, consumer
Several of my farmer friends have mentioned lately in their Facebook status, “If you ate today, thank a farmer”, and I get where they’re coming from but I have a slightly different message to share. If you take time to look for “made in Canada” or the “little blue cow” on the food you put into your cart at the grocery store, THANK YOU for being our customer. By intentionally selecting groceries made domestically you are supporting Canadian Agri-businesses, many of which are small family-run businesses like the one I work on.
So, don’t worry about thanking me, I thank you for being my customer. Thank you for looking for Canadian product on the store shelf and please continue to do so! — feeling proud.
Robbie’s note got us thinking about the relationship between producers and consumers (note- the following discussion reflects our views, not Robbie’s).
The phrase “Thank a Farmer” has been embraced by farmers and shared heavily on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s great (and necessary) for those outside of ag to appreciate what we do, and there are lots of consumers who are thankful for our commitment to growing safe, healthy food. But we also want to make sure consumers know that we appreciate them too – it’s a relationship that we need to nurture.
The goal behind Ag More Than Ever is to improve public perception of our industry so ag can attract the people, investment and public trust it needs to reach its full potential. While this goal is admirable, how do we, as an industry, achieve it? People’s perceptions won’t change just by us asking them to – we need facts to back up why they should appreciate what ag brings to the table. But facts and figures on their own don’t work either – people also need to make an emotional connection to something to truly appreciate it.
Most of us in ag love what we do and are proud to be in the industry – these are real, powerful and universal emotions that we need to share. Traditionally, farmers have been seen as a humble group that rarely toots its own horn, and we need to move past that. But we also need to find that sweet spot between humility and confidence.
On the surface, a phrase like “Thank a Farmer” is anything but humble and, without context, runs the risk of turning people off. That’s where emotion and facts come in – they give the ‘who’ and ‘why’ to our confidence. There’s a difference between starting a conversation with “I love ag because….” versus “You should love ag because…” The first choice moves the dialogue from telling to sharing, and when we share, we’re inviting people in.
By being mindful of our tone and approach, we can help open up the ears, minds and hearts of those outside ag to our message. And, when we listen and come at our discussions from a good place, we too can learn and grow in how best to be partners in this equation.
“Thank a Farmer” and “Thank a Consumer” messaging shouldn’t be seen as competing, polarizing points of view, but as two parts of the same conversation, where consumers and farmers have a mutual appreciation for each other. But appreciation can’t be created by demanding it.
As an industry, we need to turn up the volume on our quiet confidence in ways that engage consumers and help them see our true value. If we do that, “thank you” will come on its own.
What do you think?
The Ag More Than Ever team