Let’s talk about food
By Crystal MackayFeatures Consumer Issues
Closing the communcation gap between farmers and the public.
Have you considered the scope of the gaps between the people who grow our food and the average Canadian and what it means for the poultry industry? I believe public trust and support are fundamental building blocks that our sector needs to continue to grow and thrive in the future.
As referenced in my last article, we build bridges to help us get over obstacles and serve as a means of connection. I’ve spent my whole career thinking and practicing ways to better connect with most Canadians who don’t even know anyone who works in agriculture.
So what are the easy answers? Wouldn’t it be simple if we could just take out a big advertising campaign that says, “Trust us. Your food is good. We are doing a great job. Nothing more to see here. Move along.”
Unfortunately, we can’t advertise our way to trust and support. Advertising can even generate a greater negative reaction if it isn’t positioned carefully with today’s critical thinkers who are looking for authentic communications. And of course, when we think about gaps strategically, there isn’t one bridge or option that will cover all the gaps and all the audiences.
So what to do? The good news is it doesn’t have to take a fortune to pay for approaches that work. It does take strategy, collaboration, and the spirit and dedication to a long-term effort. I truly believe that Canada is leading the way in the world when it comes to those attributes for earning trust in food and farming.
Leadership by poultry groups and non-profit groups such as Agriculture in the Classroom, Farm & Food Care (ON, PEI, SK) and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity are first-class and making a difference with long term goals and a growing base of support from across the food system.
So what can you do? We need to embrace the model of tribal communications. You’re reading this publication so you’re in the poultry tribe and the agriculture tribe already. Now you need to get to know the food tribe. Think about all the places you can become part of the conversations on food that can lead back to the farm.
Millions of people are already talking about food somehow, somewhere. You just need to find them and join in! Seriously, that’s it. Literally start or join in conversations online, in social media, in person, at local events, or with a local politician to name just a few ideas.
Regardless of the channel or location, think of it as a giant conversation about food – and you want to be part of it as a trusted expert. Not as a salesperson or an annoying Cliff Claven, “It’s a little-known fact” or stats kind of way. You want to be more of an ‘interesting person who sits at their table that they would want to hear more from’. You know you’ve achieved your goal if they start asking you more questions about your farm or industry experience. The gold star? If they ask for a tour or a visit or follow up after your interaction.
But what if you don’t have all the answers to all their questions? Of course you don’t. Agriculture and food is a complex business. “I’m not sure but let me get back to you or direct you to someone who knows” is always an A+ answer.
My best advice? Think about what you do and how to explain it related to putting healthy, affordable food on our tables. Share your why. What gets you out of bed in the morning and makes you optimistic about the future? Now that is interesting! Give that a share in your next conversation or on your social media channels and you’ll be surprised at the reactions you might get.
As we all know, building bridges takes time, effort and expertise – and is well worth all three.
A few of my favourite resources I like to direct people to:
Real Dirt on Farming
Common questions and answers from Canadians.
Farm & Food Care Ontario
Virtual Farm & Food Tours
Farm & Food Care Ontario
Short fact sheets on hot topics and educator resources.
Agriculture in the Classroom Canada
Canadian Food Focus
Stories, recipes, health on the farm, all in one place.
Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan
Best Food Facts
Credible third-party experts answer questions about all things food and farm.
U.S. Center for Food Integrity and Canadian Centre for Food Integrity
Crystal Mackay is the CEO of Loft32, a company she co-founded with the goal to help elevate people, businesses and the conversations on food and farming. Her latest work includes an online training platform, www.utensil.ca with on-demand training programs and resources.
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