Without question, there is a lot to be proud of when it comes to agriculture in Canada.
We have an innovative and forward-thinking industry that not only produces an abundance of safe foods that meet quality standards among the highest in the world, but also employs 2.3 million Canadians while contributing more than $110 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product.
But for many consumers, the misinformation and myths circulating about agriculture and food production practices overshadow the positive stories of our industry. Adding to that is while more than half of all Canadians worked on farms 100 years ago, the latest edition of The Real Dirt on Farming points out that today the number is less than two per cent. With the combination of misinformation and limited connection to the industry, it’s no wonder that consumers have so many questions about farming practices and food.
That’s why it’s our responsibility as proud agvocates to listen, stay curious, and start a conversation to help answer consumers’ questions. Agriculture is a broad subject with multiple sub-sectors and numerous regulations adding to its complexity. Food, however, is something that connects all of us, regardless of our personal preferences or knowledge of the industry. People are passionate about the food they eat and how it is produced, which is why it’s important to seize opportunities to have conversations about food and farming in ways that resonate with consumers.
Maybe you have a new practice in place on your farm? Or perhaps you have seen a lot of questions about a commodity you are involved in? Or maybe you’re just tired of seeing the same misinformation pop up over and over again about a specific subject? Whatever the issue, sometimes it is worthwhile to have courage and start a conversation. And the results can be surprisingly rewarding.
A great example is a post from Lesley Kelly of High Heels and Canola Fields that compared hamburgers from A&W and McDonald’s to address the issue of hormones in beef. In less than two days, Lesley’s Facebook post had gone viral with approximately 7,000 shares (the post now has more than 14,000 shares).
Keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it’s about having the conversation over proving someone wrong or changing their opinion. While some individuals will have personal views that differ from yours, remember to keep your conversations respectful without talking down to people. After all, there is a lot we can learn by listening to others. A recent tweet that Sarah Sheppard (@SarahSheppdawg) posted on chicken facts is another great example. The tweet instantly went viral, and while a few people questioned her statement, Sarah was positive in her responses and provided lots of additional information and resources.
Can I get everyone’s attention real quick?
ALL CANADIAN CHICKEN MEAT IS RAISED FREE RUN (WITHOUT CAGES) AND IT HAS BEEN ILLEGAL TO FEED STEROIDS AND HORMONES TO CHICKENS SINCE THE 1950’S
(My mom got mad at me for shouting that in the middle of the restaurant tonight… Oops.)
— Sarah Sheppard (@SarahSheppdawg) December 29, 2017
Don’t forget to think about who your audience is and what they want to know. (And if you’re not sure, just ask – it’s an easy way to start a conversation!) Then tailor the message to resonate with your audience. Letting them know you care about the same things as they do, while being transparent about your practices and experiences, will help you earn trust and enhance public understanding of our industry.
Everyone involved in agriculture has had a unique journey that contributes to the vibrancy of our industry. Share your story and add your voice to the food conversation – you never know the difference it could make.
Check out these past webinars for some helpful tips and techniques to get started:
- Get in on the tough ag and food conversations with Andrew Campbell
- How to speak up for ag with Dr. Cami Ryan
- Communicating your message with confidence with Cherilyn Nagel
You can also find some recent ag stats here to help support your conversation.