If agriculture is going to work towards providing quality food for informed consumers, we can’t be throwing each production system under the bus. Conventional agriculture needs to respect organic production as a valid production system (and a valid consumer choice), and organic producers need to stop vilifying conventional production and using misleading and down-right false messaging to promote their products. Because, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Thankfully, as the agvocating movement has grown and spread across Canada, it would seem both farmers and consumers are hearing and getting the message.
Yesterday, a dairy farmer from Manitoba posted the image (above and below) of a sign outside of a health food store in Steinbach, Manitoba:
Ellen Gorter, a dairy farmer and young mum from southeastern Manitoba, then proceeded to explain why the sign was misleading, how ALL milk in Manitoba is produced locally, without the use of growth hormones, and is antibiotic free. She also made sure to add that organic milk is also Manitoba made and a quality product and can make the same claims.
Did you get that? She called the company, told them of her concerns (as did many others) and also answered consumers’ questions factually and respectfully in the comments on Facebook, and, at no time, threw anybody under the bus. Still no word on whether or not the sign has been taken down, or changed, but it’s not the first time it has been up, and subsequently taken down.
I’ll be honest, at times I grow very weary of the food debates that rage not just between consumers and producers or retailers and farmers, but, most especially, between farmers themselves. Yes, we know that consumers can seem fickle and ill-informed, but buying trends are real and valid — if farmers choose to provide for that market or niche, that’s just business. Does it mean we should sit idly by and let misinformation and half-truths drive consumer buying behaviour unimpeded by any alternative? Absolutely not. But there’s a respectful dialogue option, and more and more I feel we need to use it, and, just maybe, we’re not.
But Ms. Gorter’s post and the resulting comments and actual discussion gives me hope. Perhaps we’re getting somewhere on this whole food choice discussion, after all? Here’s hoping.