Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary By Franchesca Weeks, CFFO Communications Manager
Farmers are under huge pressure to change their practices to please the consumer. Activist groups like PETA and NON GMO projects distribute advertisements and undercover videos to get their message across. They have tainted the perspective of what farming is really like, leading to misunderstandings of daily practices on the farm.
Last week I discussed two key points from Jennifer Christie’s talk at FarmSmart. She suggests you identify your targeted audience and then, once you have established your audience, make long-lasting connections and tell your story. This week I will discuss Temple Grandin’s tips on how to gain the trust of the consumer. I will also discuss my own perspective as an urban consumer.
Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Grandin gave insightful tips at the FarmSmart conference on how to gain the trust of consumers. “Agriculture must become totally transparent. If you don’t want your actions being filmed then don’t do it.” she says. She suggested that the Pig Adventures at Fair Oaks Farms are great examples that show transparency on the farm.
She went on to say, “visiting a farm and talking to a farmer improves perception. A farmer is one of the most credible sources to the urban community. Start with one person at a time. We need to break out of our silos and start talking, or someone else will.” Grandin argued that with internet media, sectors of society like urban and rural become isolated into silos. When she polled the room, most farmers present had friends or family living in cities. This is where she suggested farmers start to build connections with consumers. She pointed to the Peterson Brothers’ video “I’m Farming and I Grow It” to help promote agriculture. It has now been viewed by over 200,000 people.
I never really understood agriculture until I started to work for the CFFO. I didn’t even know the difference between a beef cow and a dairy cow or corn that we can eat and corn that is used as feed. I grew up in the city of London England. We didn’t ask questions, we just bought the food from the store. As long as my family was fed, that was all that mattered.
It was only recently that I truly understood how much love, effort and hard work goes into growing and raising the food we eat. The Executive Board and members of the CFFO took time and answered my questions on farming. They built that connection with me. Something that might be obvious to farmers wasn’t so obvious to me. They invited me over to their farms and showed me what a normal day looks like. They made an effort to help me learn the truth about agriculture. Now my understanding of farm practices is completely different. Yes I am only one person, but now I am able to share with my friends and family what I’ve learnt, creating a ripple effect.
My hope is for you to speak up and build those connections. Go out of your comfort zone and tell your story. It made a difference in my perspective on farming and now you can make that difference too.