“First we eat, then we do everything else.”

M.F.K. Fisher

Everyone needs to eat.  But not everyone understands the complexities of producing the myriad of food options available to Canadians.

Our food comes from farms – Canadian farms, and faraway farms in distant lands.  I’ve learned that spending time on a farm provides a much deeper understanding of where our food choices come from, how they are created, and by whom.  

The latest Grassroots Greenhouse poll just confirmed that 70% of Canadians have never visited an operational farm:

Graph from National Agricultural Poll presenting data that seven in ten Canadians have never visited an operational, working or commercial farm.

Until recently, that number included me.

When I joined Grassroots Public Affairs in 2018, I started learning about issues impacting the Canadian agri-food industry, and visited various farm operations – fruits & vegetables, livestock, grains.  All of them were fascinating in terms of scope, on-farm activities, and day-to-day management.  I was repeatedly amazed by the integration of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence and block chain.  Until I witnessed it first-hand, I had no idea that a career in agriculture could be so interesting, innovative and important.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that only 30% of Canadians have visited a farm, considering the vast majority of us live in cities, where opportunities to engage agriculture and food production are simply not as accessible as in rural settings.

Let me ask, have you ever really thought about where your food comes from – before it lands in the grocery store, or on a restaurant plate?  

Think of travel for a moment (remember travel?…).  After you visit a different place and experience different activities within a different culture, you feel a much stronger sense of understanding and connection to that place, and the lifestyle there, because you experienced it first-hand

To experience food-production first-hand is to gain a meaningful appreciation for parts of Canada’s “farm-to-fork” supply chain, a critical network we now know is complex, and fragile.  

Since COVID started, it seems every time I grocery shop there’s a shortage of something I need – items previously found in abundance are missing from the shelves, “expected next week”.  

Without question, food prices are going up.  

I once read some great advice, “Never ignore the writing on the wall…

Living through a pandemic has taught me to appreciate many things, including the value of food.  It’s the foundation for everything else we do – as individuals and families, as a country, as a world, and as a species.  

In the interest of greater appreciation for Canadian food, and as part of the 30% of Canadians who have visited a farm – I highly encourage it!   

Granted, due to COVID now may not be the time, but in due course consider adding ‘farm tour’ to the proverbial bucket list.  Touring a modern farm is to witness the human ingenuity of age-old farming techniques, combined with the advanced technologies of the 21st century.  Touring a farm is to experience food production first-hand

While there may be a disconnect between food-production and the average grocery shopper, the 2021 Grassroots Greenhouse poll found the majority of Canadians (86%) endorse increased government support for the agriculture and agri-food sectors:

Graph from National Agriculture Poll with data illustrating that Canadians continue to believe the federal government should provide financial support for the agri-food sector.

Good timing.  Earlier this week, it was reassuring to see federal budget support for Canadian food producers.  Representing hundreds of thousands of farm families across the country, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was pleased with several key announcements in this week’s budget, outlined in their subsequent News Release

Investing in domestic food production certainly feels right, given the events of the past year, and the uncertainty of the future.  

As Canadians, we mustn’t take our food for granted – 100% of us need it, to “do everything else...”

Lindsay Yaciuk, Grassroots Communications

(PS:  If you’re interested in Canadian agri-food, like we are at Grassroots Public Affairs, join us Wednesday April 28th for a complimentary: Presentation of Findings from the 2021 Grassroots Greenhouse National Agriculture Poll – register here)

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