The News & What it Means – Bridging the Gap Between Farmers and Consumers

By Dave Milne – August 20, 2019

The news:

“New P.E.I. crop signs help identify what’s growing in fields across province”

CBC News, August 19, 2019

What it means:

For the general public, a greater understanding and appreciation of agriculture.

Admittedly, posting a sign in front of field denoting whether it’s corn, soybeans or any other crop might seem like a small step in engaging the public in the business of farming. But the idea is a smart one, especially if the sign – as in P.E.I. – also directs passersby to a website where they can learn more about the crop they are seeing in the field, such as when its typically planted, harvested and its uses.

From there, it would seem a reasonably straight line for the public to gain a better sense of where their food comes from and thus a deeper appreciation of what it is that farmers actually do. And the more people that understand, the more they will help support. That’s a win-win situation for agriculture, which can sometimes find itself on the wrong side of the public relations battle – often unfairly – and for individual producers who would always welcome new customers.

Big gap in understanding between farmers, consumers

As farmer Toban Dyck noted in a Maclean’s opinion piece last year, with 80% of North Americans living in urban centres—a number that will only further grow—the gap in understanding between farmer and consumer threatens to only widen. “These two trajectories—the consumer and the farmer—have been left to evolve on their own, with little understanding and appreciation for each other,” he wrote.

I remember my own father pulling the car over to the side of the road when I was a youngster so that he could wonder over to a strange-looking field in a different part of the province to get a better look at what was planted there. Of course, he was a farmer himself, but there were times when even he returned to the car perplexed. Had there been a sign and information just a click away on the internet, I’m sure my dad would have investigated, if only to satisfy his own curiosity.

Now that I’ve got kids of my own – raised in the city – I know how much the signs would help. From road trips back up to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm, it is painfully obvious my two boys wouldn’t know a bushel of wheat from a bushel of corn. For the record, they seem more interested and knowledgeable about the livestock side of things, but it’s probably safe to assume that many of their city-dwelling friends have never been up close to either a corn plant or a beef cow.

Any information a benefit

At least my kids have some first-hand appreciation for what goes on down on the farm. For many others, it’s a blank slate. A little information, no matter how basic, would be great thing.

And who knows… maybe a few people might be interested enough in what happens in the fields to actually want to try it themselves.

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