Navigating the hostile, cynical nature of farm and food conversations

Customers (also known as consumers) aren’t always sure who to trust when it comes to information about food and food production. So, the question arises, how can you better connect with them to answer their questions or to feel confident in their food choices?

Speaking at the Farming Smarter conference last week at Lethbridge, Alta., Dr. Kevin Folta, professor at the University of Florida, says that in this environment of mistrust and hostile conversation, we can’t lead with the science or the overly technical if we want a chance to actually converse with our customers.

When dealing with a firehose of information, not all of it good, it’s reasonable to expect that consumers aren’t sure who they should trust anymore, he says. “Instead we need to explain the why of what we do, and talk about (growing) safe food, safe food for our families,” he says.

Are you faced with someone who flat out disagrees with your view on things? Folta says you need to start by listening so that you understand their concerns and really hear where they’re coming from. Then, you can take the opportunity to share why you make the choices on your farm that you do, and explain that you likely share their concerns and want similar things. Only then, after that meeting in the middle, might you get a chance to provide the science or technical information that fully explains your position on a topic.

Authenticity matters, too, says Folta, and being willing to admit when you’re wrong or don’t know the answer to a question is a good way to develop trust and share your personal experience.

Hear more from Folta in the video below: 

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