Add "and" to the farming conversation

Investing in public trust without a company logo attached is just one of the ways our farm and food system can move the conversation forward, says Crystal Mackay, former president of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

While the entire conversation over social license and public trust is relatively new to Canada’s food system, Mackay thinks we’re well positioned to move forward in leaps and bounds if there’s a willingness on all sides to invest money and be willing to adapt practices and language.

Our farming and food value chains were built for productivity not for consultation, Mackay says, but in a truly Canadian approach, the food system has come together, through roundtables and organizations like CCFI, to address public trust.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Farmers, for example, have been used to convey messaging and used to companies’ brand advantage but aren’t necessarily involved at the consultation level. What’s more, about 50 per cent of consumers are “unsure” about Canada’s food system and the direction it’s heading.

Mackay says that it is certainly difficult for commodity-based organizations and farms to participate in increasingly segmented markets, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. Consumers are choosey, yes, but their buying behaviour boils down to five different values — values that many farmers share.

Farms and the food system need to start adopting the word “and” instead of “versus” when talking about production systems and practices, as well, she says. The farm community will get further ahead collaborating and talking about conventional AND organic, for example, instead of one pitted against the other.

Hear more from Crystal Mackay, including what’s next for the farm and food conversation, in this RealAg Radio segment with Shaun Haney: 

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