You’ll hear from more young farmers in the New Year
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You’ll hear from more young farmers in the New Year

Farmers have a lot of credibility with the public. And as the New Year advances, you can expect to see more of them in the media, communicating with consumers about how they produce food.

In early December, Ottawa announced it was launching something it calls the AgriCommunication Initiative.

It will better connect Canadians with Canada’s farmers and the vital role they play in our food system, says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The support equates to a little under $2.7 million a year, for three years.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the minister in charge, says consumers have a growing interest in learning more about where homegrown agricultural products come from and how they’re made.

“This initiative will develop more connections between the agriculture and agri-food industry and Canadians, which will increase appreciation and pride in our farmers and food businesses,” she says.

Standing by her side virtually for the roll out of the announcement was New Brunswick dairy farmer Jerry Bos, co-chair of the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council that Bibeau put together in the summer of 2020.

Bibeau says the initiative was informed by engaging with the youth council, among others, including industry and public opinion polls. But it’s the youth voice that was singled out as part of the communications’ program’s unveiling.

Bos explained it this way.

“Agricultural awareness, sustainability, and the fight against climate change have been top of mind for the youth council since its inception,” he said. “We, as farmers and members of the agri-food sector, need to be able to make meaningful connections with Canadians; never before has the divide between society and agriculture been so large. Our future, and the future of agriculture, depend on a strong and vibrant relationship between people and their food.”

This is a great move by the minister. Highlighting youth is absolutely the way to go. There can’t be enough efforts made, nor enough money dedicated, to helping young people understand agriculture prior to becoming young consumers. They already significantly influence buying decisions; helping them make well-founded choices is key as they advance towards running their own households.

Hopefully the focus doesn’t get watered down or consumed by existing initiatives. People chip away at Ottawa all the time for support, and for years there’s been calls for national communications support programs. That broad appeal is reflected in the parameters of the new communications initiative, which Bibeau says will also help enhance Canadians’ trust in sustainability, animal care and efforts to reduce food waste, and support agricultural fairs and exhibitions which have broad agriculture awareness mandates.

That’s a lot of ground to cover for less than $3 million a year, particularly considering there’s a second stream coming on later that will focus on what Bibeau says is increasing the sector’s understanding of consumer preferences and expectations.

That sounds like research and polling. And that can legitimately eat up funding quickly.

But at least Ottawa is trying. In putting communications funding into the hands of those with the most credibility, it’s giving consumers the best chance yet to understand more about agriculture.

Hopefully it sees enough activity and success stories to continue additional phases, because communications is never finished.

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