Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Service Manager
The agriculture and food processing industry has been working hard to connect with its customers. Most, if not all industries, have some kind of relationship with their customers. Often a cooperative, informed and somewhat personal relationship is what keeps the business relationship going.
Many of Ontario agriculture’s supporting organizations have been working diligently on growing and improving the relationship of farmers and their customers over the last number of years. Organizing events that bring food consumers to where their daily food is produced has been a popular and successful initiative in recent years. These events include Breakfast on the Farm, Dinner at the Dairy and Farm Crawls, to mention a few. Agri-tourism also fits in this category, having the customer become active in choosing their purchase and actually seeing where it comes from.
Organizing these events takes a lot of work and consideration of many factors. The first thing that needs to be realized is that many people attending come with little or no knowledge of what happens on Ontario farms. The amount of technology and the size of buildings and equipment can often surprise them. And seeing farm animals up close is also new to many people.
Earlier this month, the Niagara dairy farmers hosted a “Dinner at the Dairy” on one of their farms. Approximately 2200 people were registered for this event, giving them the opportunity to tour the barns where the animals are housed and fed and to learn how milk is produced.
During the tour, a guide explained how the barn works and what the different areas and equipment, including robotic milkers, do for the animals that live there. The guide showed how the cows are kept comfortable because of the bedding, space and fresh air that is carefully provided and controlled. Visitors saw how feed specifically prepared for the cows is always available—even monitored—so each animal gets the correct amount it needs.
Following the tour, visitors enjoyed free barbequed burgers or sausages, outdoors in the country air. Here they could discuss with each other what they saw and learned.
The intent of these events is to increase and improve support for farmers and food production. Visitors came away well informed about how farmers care for their animals and that their comfort and health is of utmost priority for all farmers. Hopefully, they also got a glimpse into the amount of work and investment it takes to produce food.
Agriculture today involves a lot of technology and science. Events like these introduce consumers to modern food production, and it all begins on the farm. Inviting the consumer to the farm helps build that personal and informed relationship, which strengthens the connection between farmers and the consumer.