Farm tours share the story of agriculture with consumers – in a really impactful way. Interacting with the animals, seeing farm equipment up close, hearing farmers’ stories and witnessing everyday farm life provides meaningful hands-on experiences. It’s a strategy that anyone involved in agriculture can use to engage with those outside of our industry.
Since 2015, Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan has been organizing tours to Saskatchewan farms for non-farming audiences.
The target audience for the two-day tours are people who influence consumers’ food choices. These “food influencers” include chefs, food writers, journalists, photographers, dietitians and students enrolled in food-related courses. In just four years, more than 450 participants have witnessed the Saskatchewan agriculture story.
During the tour, participants learn general information on agriculture, food safety and biosecurity. They meet farmers and ranchers, and see and experience what happens on farms. They also visit research centres and food processors.
In Eastern Canada, Farm & Food Care Ontario operates five day-long farm tours for food influencers every year. The populations of Ottawa and Toronto alone provide them with huge audiences right at their doorstep.
Although the first few years attracted only about a dozen people per year, they now fill a 56-passenger bus and have a long waiting list. Since 2004, the tours have attracted more than 3,900 guests.
In both provinces, feedback from tour participants has been extremely positive and encouraging. Most say they come away with a better understanding and appreciation of modern farm practices. They also value hands-on opportunities like getting out into the fields, touching the cattle and seeing how technology works.
A dietitian on the Saskatchewan tour had this comment about farmers and ranchers:
“They’re very responsible. They take care of the land, they take care of their environment and their animals. And they care about consumers.”
Most importantly, tour participants come away with confidence in Canada’s food system. And a food influencer who hears the passionate story of a farmer from Saskatchewan, sends that message out to all their followers. A lot of influencers continue to talk about their experiences long after they were in Saskatchewan.
Clinton Monchuk, Executive Director of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan, encourages others to get involved in the tours.
“It’s easy to give your own farm tours. School groups and local organizations are all looking to find out more about where their food comes from. It’s rewarding and helps move the dial in terms of trust in food and farming.”
For more information on the farm tours or how to participate, contact Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan: [email protected] or 306-477-FOOD (3663).