CFFO: Spreading The Good Word About Agriculture

By Suzanne Armstrong

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Farmers in Canada now comprise only two percent of the total population.

As farms get bigger, and the number of farmers goes down, fewer Canadians are growing up on farms, fewer are related to farmers or have farmers for neighbours, and far fewer will have any direct connection with farmers or farming at all. Those who still enjoy the privilege of farming are called to engage with consumers to maintain a meaningful relationship between farmers and non-farmers. Luckily, there is an easy connecting point in which all Canadians are invested—food.

While summer may seem an easier time to get the public interested in farming through local food, farmers’ markets, and agri-tourism, farmers are producing food for Canadians and the world all year round. CFFO has been promoting FCC’s “Ag More Than Ever” program at our summer Young Farmer events. As part of “Ag More Than Ever,” Feb. 16 2017 was declared “Canada’s Agriculture Day” with events hosted online and in local areas across Canada.

Days like this are a great excuse to do something extra to reach out and connect with your neighbours and your community and celebrate agriculture.

Andrew Campbell, or the Fresh Air Farmer, who spoke at the CFFO Convention in 2015, actively encourages farmers to use social media to engage with eaters and tell them about the good work that farmers do. This year he is visiting one farm each week for a video project called “Dinner Starts Here,” shared via his U-Tube channel. The exciting thing is that farms in Canada are so diverse, I am sure Andrew will have no trouble finding 52 different types of farms for his videos. Even if you aren’t up to such an involved project yourself, things like this are easy to pass along to others in your social network.

But for those who prefer face to face connection, reaching out to your non-farming relatives and neighbours is a good place to start. As the community dynamics in rural areas change, farmers are finding they have to make more deliberate efforts to get to know their neighbours. That direct connection can go a long way to dispelling myths about modern farming methods and to building trust between farmers and eaters.

In Ontario, our farms are never far away from our large towns and cities, allowing some farm businesses to thrive selling directly to local clientele. Those farmers who have established a trusting relationship with a loyal customer base of local eaters enjoy a rewarding connection.

These customers deeply appreciate the food that has been grown for them, and the work of the farmer who produced it. While not every consumer will take this kind of interest in their food, curious eaters abound. I encourage farmers to be proud of the work they do, and find ways to share their farming story.

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Suzanne Armstrong is Director of Research/Manager of Board and Committee Services for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.