-2.7 C
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Their View / Opinion

When food and farming gives you that “O Canada” feeling

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is on the hunt for a marketing agency to promote Canadian food and agriculture for the next five-ish years, offering $25 million. Ottawa’s decided that through a national get-to-know-Canadian-food campaign, it wants to build consumer confidence and pride in Canadians who farm and fish and highlight the advantages of buying the food they produce.

“Consumers in Canada can be extremely proud of Canadian producers, who continue to innovate to meet the growing demand for food, while finding solutions to challenges such as environmental sustainability,” says federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau. “The campaign should tell the story of Canada’s agri-food sector and reach audiences on an emotional level in order to instil pride and confidence in the country’s food systems.”

Her search is bound to attract a lot of interest – governments pay their bills, and the assignment will be as fascinating as it is challenging.

For example, we know from the writings of Canadian food pioneers like Elora’s Anita Stewart that Canada is a regional food nation. We are a collection of local food developments. What’s local in parts of Quebec will be alien to parts of Manitoba. What’s local in parts of BC will be alien to parts of Saskatchewan. What’s local to us here will be alien to parts of Saskatchewan.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not good, or that we shouldn’t be proud of all of it and celebrate its heritage, uniqueness and quality.

Reaction to the campaign’s announcement has included concerns it could confuse consumers, because provinces also promote local food.

So what? When it comes to diversity, provinces are in the same boat as Ottawa. What’s local and unique in Elmira is an anomaly in Windsor. What’s local and unique in St. Boniface is an anomaly in Steinbach. It’s all part of our rich food culture … and if indeed promoting it in multiple ways is a risk, then it’s a risk worth taking.

Here’s why. If the marketing company with the winning bid is smart, and I’m sure it will be, the national and provincial campaigns could benefit from each other, by coordinating their efforts and making sure they’re not duplicating efforts.

There is ample Canadian food to promote; there’s no need for such a high-profile campaign to cover paths that are already being blazed.

Rather, it’s an excellent opportunity to find new ways to tell the stories behind foods and ingredients that have made regions like Woolwich Township renowned. People want to know who is behind those local foods and ingredients. And that points squarely to farmers.

But there’s another angle.

Research by the Guelph-based Canadian Centre for Food Integrity shows Canadians’ biggest concern is the rising cost of food.

So as part of these national feel-good stories, how about explaining ways that Canadian farmers keep the price of food down, through the many approaches they take to produce it?

It’s an aspect of food production seeped in history and prevailing to this day. Farmers have always been pressured to keep their costs down, mainly by those further down the value chain. Farmers have found research and technology to be one of their biggest allies; even though it costs money, the returns in lower costs of production help them keep their part of the value chain in check, while simultaneously ensuring safety and quality.

This approach might help Canadians understand farmers’ contribution to addressing what keeps them up at night. The biggest part of their food dollar is not going to farmers. Not even close.

The national campaign will do a service to local food. I look forward to seeing it roll out and reading details about the successful marketing company’s plan.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

We're looking for opinions that count.

Yours. Join in the conversation, provide another viewpoint, change minds with your perspective.


The finance industry always extracts its ounce of flesh

More than half of Canadians won’t be contributing to an RRSP this year, apparently immune to the exhortations of the financial services industry that...

Efforts for economic development misguided, with growth misplaced and counterproductive

For the 10 years between 2008 and 2018, 91 per cent of the job creation in Ontario occurred in the GTA (including the Oshawa...

On a path to a new Ireland?

Bertie Ahern, who was the taoiseach (prime minister) of the Irish Republic from 1997 to 2008, was a brilliant machine politician, not a nationalist...

Is the ‘devil virus’ a ‘black swan’?

China officially went back to work on Monday, after an extended two-week Lunar New Year holiday, while the authorities struggled to get the spread...

Farmers deserve a break for problems beyond their control

We all have to be responsible for our actions … but what about actions caused by others? Or by nature? That’s a question...

New opportunities emerge to connect consumers and farmers

On Tuesday, the agriculture sector put a lot of effort into pumping up Canada’s Ag Day, an initiative designed to raise the profile...

Dealing with the big perch conundrum

On Sunday, I was ice fishing when a near disaster occurred – my first fish was a nice, plump 11-inch perch, the biggest...

A few techniques that auger well

I’ve got to admit that, when my friend told me he was going to spin class to get into better shape, I thought...

It may not snow, but it could end up raining iguanas in the cold

Q.  They are the most abundant organisms on Earth, by one estimate over a million times more than the stars in the universe, says...

Technology means space may be the next locale for outsourcing

Q.  “Space is open for business,” and some companies are planning to use the International Space Station (ISS) as a manufacturing hub.  What technologies might...
- Advertisement -