More Dialogue Will help Agriculture’s Threatened Reputation

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Karen Graham

Want to understand how your food is produced? Ask a farmer like Margaret Winslow or John Churcher of Woodleigh farms in Cavan.

Want to understand how your food is produced? Ask a farmer like Margaret Winslow or John Churcher of Woodleigh farms in Cavan. Photo: Karen Graham

Going back just a few generations, most people had a direct connection to the farm and understood how the food chain worked. If you didn’t grow up on a farm, you had relatives or friends who did, so there was a basic understanding of what farmers do.  Because of the personal connection, consumers were confident in the food supply and believed that farmers acted responsibly, nurturing their land and providing healthy food. Today, less than two per cent of Canadians farm, and most of the remaining 98 per cent likely know very little about agriculture.

Today there is a significant disconnect between most of us and the source of our food.  This relatively new phenomenon has many consequences, one of them being a growing distrust amongst many consumers about food production which stems from their discomfort with agriculture’s adoption of new techniques based on science and technology.  This distrust has huge implications for agricultural producers, as it can quickly lead to a call for increased regulation over farm operations to prevent the adoption of activities deemed by the general public to be dangerous or inappropriate. How did the pendulum swing from implicit trustin agriculture to skepticism resulting in consumer activism against some current farm practices?…

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