Is farming on the right track?

An episode of Oprah, a hard-hitting Time magazine cover story, a film called Food Inc. – farming is under increased, often one-sided scrutiny leaving many people to wonder whether modern agriculture is on the right track.

Rob Hannam, President of Synthesis Agri-Food Consulting, believes it encourages everyone to do more to address public perceptions of farming, he told a meeting of the Guelph Partnership for Innovation I attended last week.

Hannam shared his top ten list of things the agri-food sector and consumers can do to speak up for Canadian food and Canadian farmers. For agriculture, he recommends:

• Adopt new technology like traceability and biotechnology as a way to advance.

• Embrace and share agriculture’s sustainability story. Talk about what farmers do to take care of the land, air and water.

• Self-monitor; use – instead of dismiss – criticism to continually raise the bar.

• Offer choice. Responding to consumer requests for food choices can be a great market opportunity.

• Explain, explain, explain. Communicate with emotion to go beyond the science.

For consumers, he suggests:

• Food is not one size fits all. Different consumers have different needs.

• If you want it, ask for it – farmers and food companies respond to consumer demand.

• Vote with your food dollars to influence and shape the market.

• Support local food whenever possible and recognize how lucky we are to have such a wide range of Ontario-grown products to choose from.

• Make informed food choices based on all – not just some – information.

I will be posting a longer article about Rob’s presentation and his analysis of public perception of modern agriculture shortly. Stay tuned.

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