Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Don McCabe, President, OFA
Every time you turn around, there are conversations, judgments and uninformed “facts” thrown around about modern agricultural practices and the food we produce. Consumers are more interested than ever about where and how their food is grown. And agricultural groups across Canada are working hard to engage with consumers to make sure our industry is part of those conversations.
While the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) isn’t directly mandated as an organization to help impact consumer perceptions about agriculture, we have a vested interest in doing our part to arm members with ideas and information to talk positively about our industry.
We took that topic to our recent annual meeting with our theme How to Talk Farming and Influence People. We wanted to encourage OFA delegates and our greater membership to be part of the conversations that are happening about food, farming and what it takes to maintain sustainable Ontario farm businesses.
One of our keynote speakers at the 2015 annual meeting provided some interesting insights about what one of Canada’s best known fast food chains is doing to support Canadian agriculture, practice transparency in answering consumers’ questions about the food they serve, and bringing farmers into the conversations about where they source their food.
Jeff Fitzpatrick-Stilwell is the senior manager of sustainability with McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada. He shared his company’s approach to engaging in positive, informed conversations with customers about agriculture. They have a captive audience, interacting with three million Canadian customers every single day.
McDonald’s isn’t just giving agriculture lip service. Current ad campaigns promote the vital role Canadian farmers play in providing the substance in most of the chain’s products. Sustainability, transparency and building trust were key components in the presentation, and are the important points for any conversation with consumers who are curious about agriculture.
Everyone in the agriculture industry shares the responsibility to start conversations with consumers about the safe, healthy food production practices in Canada. We all need to speak up or someone else might tell their version of our story.