Day 12 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from Jean Clavelle. Jean is a friend of mine from University, she is a fellow Agro. I have had the opportunity to reconnected with her in the past few years with our work of communicating with consumers. I love her take on being mindful of the fact that we are indeed all consumers, whether we are farmers or not. Enjoy!!
Follow Jean on Twitter @ClavelleJean or check out her newly launched communications company, Magpie Marketing, here.
Our Food Has a Story.There is a profound truth in that statement. Behind every bite is a business, an individual, a family, a history, a farm. Likewise, the food choices we make, tell their own narrative. Our decisions make an account of our economic status, our ideologies, our understanding of science and exposure to outside influences. Yes that’s right, the story includes not just the people who grow the food but also those who eat it. We mustn’t forget that it is not ‘us’ versus ‘them’, it is ‘we’. We are all consumers.
So, how do we bridge this seemingly insurmountable divide between the beliefs’s of non farming consumers and the truth about, and the science behind, what happens on a farm? I think that the farming community is beginning to find its voice by sharing their farm stories with video and images. But, just like our mama’s told us – it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Sometimes the message can get lost because of how it is presented.
Before engaging in a discussion about food and farming we must step back and shift perspective. How can we expect non farming consumers to understand the complexities of food production anymore than we can expect society to understand medicine without being a medical doctor? Is it any wonder consumers are in a near state of panic between the rush to keep up with the latest miracle ingredient, anxiety about chemicals and demonization of gluten, dairy or sugar? Scary headlines, ‘free-from’ labels and judgemental hashtags hardly help. Not to mention the food snobbery – is it actually okay to consider cheap and affordable food healthy too?
Consumers are exposed to an inordinate amount of information (some factual, a lot of it not) during the decision making process of buying food. We in agriculture must shed the indignant anger to recognize the genuine confusion and uncertainty that many consumers experience. Only then can we talk to non farming consumers about what we do, how we farm and why we make the decisions that we make.
Analysis by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity tells us that consumers, and specifically millennia’s, are looking for more information and to engage in this discussion. So, let’s invite the conversation to happen, in an open, frank and friendly manner. Let’s be like those doctors with a really great bedside manner leaving the consumer feeling encouraged, safe, and confident in what we do. Even though they may not understand the science they trust us to make the right decisions and they know we’ll be here to answer questions.
So yes. Choices abound. Misinformation is a reality, but what an opportunity this presents! I look forward to more of these conversations as all sides find common ground with #ourfoodhasastory and hopefully come to realize there are actually no sides at all.
Have a great Ag Month everyone!