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“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)

TORONTO, ON – April 13, 2021 – The third annual national Agri-Food public opinion poll by Grassroots Public Affairs finds that Canadians continue to maintain very positive views about the current and future state of agriculture and food in Canada. 

In partnership with clients and other industry associations, Grassroots’s online survey measured attitudes, direction, and intensity of public opinion on a range of issues and policies affecting the domestic Agri-Food sector. 

Some of the more interesting survey findings include:

  • Canadians are extremely confident (91%) in food grown or produced domestically.
  • A strong majority of Canadians (86%) endorse increased government support for the agriculture and agri-food sectors.
  • 70% of Canadians have never had the opportunity to visit an operational farm. However, the impressions of the 30% that did visit were very positive.

“These findings confirm that, in these uncertain times, policy makers and industry leaders can build on the agriculture sector’s reputation as the most important contributor to the country’s economic landscape. Few other industries are viewed as positively by Canadians. This is a sector with enormous potential to aid in Canada’s economic recovery,”

Peter Seemann, Principal & Sr. Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs.

New questions for the 2021 poll gathered public opinion about:

  • Awareness regarding The Canada Food Guide;
  • Consumers and food labelling; and
  • Food allergies/sensitivities of Canadians.

Grassroots Public Affairs continues to believe strongly in the growth potential in Canada’s domestic food system. We will be releasing more detailed findings including demographic breakdowns on a variety of questions in the coming weeks.

View the 2021 survey results.

Methodology and Sample Size

The Canada-wide survey was conducted via an online panel of 1,001 Canadians 18+. Fieldwork for the survey took place between March 23rd to March 30th, and the survey was available in English and French. 

For media inquiries, please contact:

Lindsay Yaciuk

Communications, Grassroots Public Affairs

lindsay@grassrootspa.ca

905-715-2788


An annual snapshot of public opinion about Canadian agriculture and food.


As enthusiastic advocates for the Canadian Agri-Food sector, Grassroots Public Affairs is pleased to release our third annual agriculture and food research public opinion poll.

Our approach for 2021 includes COVID-19 pandemic-related food questions, as well as repeated questions from past years so we can measure any change in public opinion.

Key findings for this year’s research include:

  • –91% of Canadians are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident in the food grown or produced domestically.
  • –90% of Canadians are aware of the Canada Food Guide and its recommendations on healthy eating.
  • –86% of Canadians endorse government support for the agriculture and agri-food sector – down from 92% 2020.
  • –70% of Canadians have never visited an operational or commercial farm.
  • –59% of Canadians are not interested in trying ‘lab grown meat’ if deemed safe to eat by the federal government.
  • –47% of Canadians frequently check the labelling of a food item to inspect the ingredients or nutritional information.
  • –44% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food is of ‘very large importance’ to Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure – down from 59% in 2020.
  • –43% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food is of ‘very large importance’ to Canada’s economic landscape – down from 63% in 2020.
  • –37% of Canadians believe the agri-food sector is likely to grow in the future– down from 44% in 2019.
  • –24% of Canadians have a food allergy or food sensitivity.

Other key findings:

  • Canadians hold very positive opinions of agriculture and agri-food; however, the intensity of these opinions has decreased in the past year.
  • The majority of Canadians believe the most recent update to the Canada Food Guide increased the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Plurality believe meat and dairy recommendations were reduced.
  • Canadians see agriculture as having a positive impact on the environment.
  • Canadians continue to believe the federal government should place the greatest level of prioritization of financial support for fruit and vegetable commodities.
  • Canadians are consuming less red meat than they were a year ago, but are consuming more animal sources of protein such as eggs and fish.
  • Consumption of plant-based proteins such as legumes and seeds has risen at a greater rate than plant-based protein products (made with soy or pea).
  • Canadians are less willing to recommend a job or career in agriculture today than in 2019.

Special thanks to Food Banks Canada and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture for their participation.

View the ‘Greenhouse’ below:

Grassroots-Greenhouse-2021-Final-Report-compressed

For customized presentations on the findings, please contact us by email at info@grassrootspa.ca.

Since 2017, we at Grassroots have had the good fortune to partner with clients in the Agri-Food sector to measure Canadian’s attitudes towards our domestic food industry. Our findings have helped us advise organizations on how best to frame their messaging so that government and the general public are more receptive to their ‘asks’. 

This month, Grassroots will be re-entering the field to once again measure Canadians attitudes towards a wide range of topics related to Canada’s vast and diverse Agri-Food industry. We are excited to offer the opportunity for outside organizations and commodity groups to participate.

Our Agri-Food Omnibus polls from the last two years have uncovered a wide variety of interesting data. Here are a few notable findings related to agriculture and the business of food:

Agriculture is a key driver of the Canadian economy.

Overwhelming, the general public sees agriculture as one of the key drivers of the Canadian economy. 

Agriculture is important to Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure.

When compared with other major sectors of the Canadian economy, agriculture is seen as one of Canada’s most important industries, coming second only to health care, with respect to the role it plays in guaranteeing Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure. This bodes well for a sector that routinely feels ignored by government. 

The pandemic has changed the way Canadians act or think about shopping for food, but public trust in domestic food is high.

In last year’s poll, conducted just as the first lockdown was imposed, we learned that Canadians began thinking differently about how and where their food comes from. The pandemic exposed Canadians to the possibilities of food shortages and barriers to accessing food. More than six in ten Canadians believed food availability at grocery stores had worsened after COVID, and a third report experiencing greater difficulty affording food. 

Trust in home-grown food is high.

In comparison to other major global agricultural producers, Canadians trust food grown or produced domestically significantly more than food grown or produced elsewhere.

Quebecers are most optimistic about the future of the sector.

Another interesting regional insight is just how the Agri-Food sector is viewed differently across the country. According to last year’s survey Quebecers were by far the most optimistic and supportive about the future of the sector, while Ontario and Alberta residents were more pessimistic. The culture of food and firsthand connection to the industry matters significantly when it comes to public support.

As anyone involved in the agri-food industry knows, there have been many positive PR campaigns launched by industry stakeholders to help educate and influence consumers. These initiatives are needed, as the majority of Canadians increasingly have less direct exposure to farming and agriculture in general.

We look forward to releasing the findings of our poll in April. There is still time to participate and include a question or two focused on specific sectors of the industry in our poll. Check out the information on our website or email info@grassrootspa.ca for more information. 

Smile, spring is just around the corner!

An annual snapshot of public opinion about Canadian agriculture and food.


As enthusiastic advocates for the Canadian Agri-Food sector, Grassroots Public Affairs is pleased to release our second annual agriculture and food research public opinion poll.

Our approach for 2020 includes COVID-19 pandemic-related food questions, as well as repeated questions from 2019 so we can measure any change in public opinion. Key findings for this year’s research include:

  • 64% of Canadians believe that hunger and food insecurity will worsen in future as a result of COVID-19. –
  • 97% of Canadians trust the quality of food grown or produced domestically – an increase from 2019. –
  • 92% of Canadians endorse government support for the agriculture and agri-food sector. –
  • 62% of Canadians believe that temporary foreign workers should continue to come into Canada. –
  • 87% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food is a leading economic driver in Canada, identifying the sector as the most economically important industry surveyed. –
  • 86% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food plays a key role in Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure, with the sector coming second only to healthcare in terms of importance.

Other key findings include:

  • Across the country more than one-in-six saying they have worked on a farm, in agriculture or in food processing. –
  • Canadians are more likely to grocery shop themselves as opposed to ordering-in, grabbing takeaway or using a grocery delivery service due to COVID-19. –
  • Canadians continue to hold overwhelmingly negative views towards food additives such hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs. –
  • The future of Canadian agriculture looks positive with a strong plurality believing that the industry is likely to grow as opposed to shrink or stay the same as it is today. –
  • Canadians continue to believe that the federal government should prioritize financial support for grains over livestock but support for proteins has increased in the past year.

Special thanks to Food Banks Canada for their participation.

You can read coverage of our poll findings by Bernard Tobin of Real Agriculture here.

We invite you to download and share the ‘Greenhouse’:

Grassroots-Greenhouse-Agriculture-Poll-Findings-May-1st-compresed

For customized presentations on the findings please contact us by email at info@grassrootspa.ca

Stay safe and healthy,

Peter Seemann, President
905-716-3000

Time is Now for Government to Treat Agri-Food Sector as a National Priority


TORONTO, ON – June 3, 2019 – A new poll by Grassroots Public Affairs finds Canadians hold largely positive views about the current and future state of agriculture and agri-food in Canada. Yet the industry, arguably one of the most significant in our economy, has work to do in telling its story.

The online survey measured awareness, attitudes, and public opinion on a range of agricultural issues and policies. With a federal election less than five months away, the research was conducted to measure how Canadians view the industry in comparison to other leading economic sectors, and how Canadian agriculture is viewed compared to the world.

Some of the more positive survey findings include:

  • Nine-in-ten (89%) Canadians from coast to coast are either very or somewhat confident in the safety of food grown or produced in Canada; less so (64%) with the United States.
  • Six-in-ten (61%) believe agriculture and agri-food has a positive impact on the Canadian environment, compared with construction and infrastructure (42%) and mining and natural resources (24%).
  • A significant plurality (44%) of Canadians believe that our agriculture and agri-food sector is likely to grow over time, while just over one-in-five (23%) believe the sector is likely to shrink.

“These findings confirm that policy makers and industry leaders can build on the agriculture sector’s positive reputation as clean, green and on the cutting edge of technology and innovation.  Few other industries are viewed as positively by Canadians.  This is a sector with enormous potential,” says Peter Seemann, Principal & Sr. Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs.

Despite the generally positive findings, the results also highlight several areas where the sector needs to enhance its public opinion. Examples include:

  • Only one-in-three (32%) Canadians are likely to recommend a career in agriculture and agri-food.
  • Canadians hold conflicting views on agriculture’s environmental history. 36% say agricultural practices and methods have become less harmful to the environment over time, while 34% indicate practices have become more harmful. 

“As Canada’s population has over time become more urbanized, the percentage of Canadians and the politicians that represent them, who have direct experience and understanding in agriculture has decreased,” added Seemann.  “The industry needs to do a better job in collaborating and communicating the massive benefits it offers the country as a whole. This poll shows us Canadians already value our agriculture sector.”

Grassroots Public Affairs is currently working with various leading agri-food commodities and general farm organizations in Canada to promote Economic Development, Food Security and Environmental Stewardship within the agri-food sector for the benefit of all Canadians.

Methodology and Sample Size

The Canada-wide survey was conducted via an online panel of 1,002 Canadians aged 18+. Fieldwork for the survey took place between April 29th – May 2nd, and the survey was available in English and French.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Lindsay Yaciuk

Communications, Grassroots Public Affairs

lindsay@grassrootspa.ca

905-715-2788


Read our overview of polling data:

The-Grassroots-Greenhouse-Press-Release-formatted_compressed

Earth is home to 7.7 billion hungry people, and climbing.  Who will feed the world into the future?  The opportunities for innovative food-producing nations are staggering, and Canada is well positioned to become one of the world’s great agricultural superpowers.  Except, we’re missing one critical component – visionary leadership. Currently Canada’s agri-food industry generates $110 billion annually of GDP, and employs 2.3 million people.  From 2012 to 2016 the sector grew by 11%, compared to the overall economy which grew by 7.8% during that same period.  As a nation, we export more than $60 billion of Agri-Food products annually to other countries.All this success is due mainly to the resourceful nature of our hard-working farmers, a diversity of arable land, and ample fresh water.  Unfortunately, consecutive federal governments have largely ignored the Canadian agricultural sector as an opportunity to drive our economy, and feed the world. Can you imagine the marvellous social and economic benefits if the government prioritized Agri-Food as the focus of Canada’s domestic and foreign policy?

Canada possesses world-class agricultural expertise and innovation.  We have a modern economy and established infrastructure to move our products to market, although more is needed to expand our trade capabilities.  Internationally we have earned a reputation for producing safe, high-quality food.

Becoming a leading global agricultural superpower is within our reach.

Ten years of advocacy work within this sector have convinced me this vision is achievable, and industry research polls indicate the majority of Canadians are optimistic towards the future of agriculture, and what it can do for the Canadian economy.  But optimism alone won’t turn us into a superpower; only visionary leadership will do that.  Without a coordinated, long-term federal plan to position Canada as a major food supplier, our opportunity to dominate on a global scale will be missed.

Collectively the agri-food industry must continue to lobby all levels of government with a clear, consistent and collaborative approach, in order to convince politicians of the massive potential benefits.

In 2017 the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, authored by Dominic Barton, highlighted Agri-Food as a key growth sector for Canada.

Since then, not much has happened.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent appointment of The Honourable Bernadette Jordan as Minister of Rural Economic Development is an encouraging step, but it will take much more than a new portfolio to drive our Agri-Food sector toward superpower status.

And other nations are already way ahead of us.  The Netherlands, a fraction of our size geographically and lower in population, is currently the number two exporter of food in the world, as measured by value, second only to the USA!  Based on a national commitment to sustainable agriculture made two decades ago, the Dutch have become the global superpower of agricultural innovation, as they pioneer new ways to fight hunger.

If the Netherlands can do it, surely Canada can do it.  With world population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, there’s room for more food producing superpowers.

The federal election is less than 9 months away, and soon political candidates will criss-cross the land to tell you why they deserve your vote.  Will any of them talk of a long-term vision to champion our Agri-Food sector?  If not, I encourage you to ask why?

In this period of strained relations with longstanding allies and trade partners, it makes sound political sense to build on existing agricultural capabilities, as we work to strengthen current trade relationships, and build new ones.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper promoted Canada as an emerging energy superpower during his time as head of government, and repeatedly talked about the resultant economic benefits and increased global influence.  Defeated in 2015, Harper’s vision was not fully realized, and there’s no denying the current government has a different focus.

It’s time for a new vision for Canada.

Everyone needs safe, healthy food to eat, yet many of us take food for granted. Seemingly, so do our elected politicians.  Championing the Agri-Food sector means massive economic development for Canada, and food for the world.

Associations and groups across the country are increasingly promoting opportunities within the agricultural sector, including Farm Credit Canada, hosting their 3rd annual Agriculture Day on February 12th in Ottawa.

Now is the time to unite and celebrate food and the business of Canadian agriculture.

And there’s no time like the present to ponder our superpower capabilities…

Peter Seemann, Grassroots Founder & Principal