Seven in 10 Canadians have never visited an operational commercial farm, but those who have had the opportunity form positive perceptions of modern agriculture.
That’s one of the findings emerging from the third annual agriculture and food public opinion poll from Grassroots Public Affairs. At first glance, the 70 per cent result may seem surprising, but it makes sense if you look closely at Statistics Canada data says Grassroots founder and principle consultant Peter Seemann.
“Stats Can indicates that 84 per cent of Canadians now live in urban centres. One hundred years ago that was completely reversed,” notes Seemann. “Twenty five or 30 years ago there were more Canadians that probably had exposure to a farm growing up, but they moved to the city. Now we’re seeing subsequent generations growing up in cities and urban centres.”
Seemann reports that a follow-up question indicated that an overwhelming majority of respondents who had visited a farm had positive perceptions of modern agriculture. He added that many agriculture organizations have run programs to open farms to Canadians, to show them what modern farming is all about.
“That’s critically important. It’s difficult now with COVID-19, but when we come out of that we need to continue doing (these programs) both in-person on the farm and virtually, wherever possible, to give more Canadians direct exposure because exposure equals support.”
The poll results are based on an online survey of 1,001 Canadians, from March 23 – 30, 2021.
(Listen to Peter Seemann and RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin as they review the highlights of the Grassroots poll. Story continues after the interview.)
Overall, Seemann says the poll results show Canadians continue to maintain very positive views about the current and future state of agriculture and food in Canada. He does note, however, that some of the support does not maintain the same level of intensity as observed in the 2020 poll. He believes this likely reflects Canadian’s confidence in the food system and the concerns about the third wave of COVID-19, which now dominated the pandemic discussion. Other findings include:
· Canadians are extremely confident (91%) in food grown or produced domestically;
· A strong majority of Canadians (86%) endorse increased government support for the agriculture and agri-food sectors;
· 90% of Canadians are aware of the Canada Food Guide and its recommendations on healthy eating;
· 86% of Canadians endorse government support for the agriculture and agri-food sector – down from 92% in 2020;
· 59% of Canadians are not interested in trying ‘lab grown meat’ if deemed safe to eat by the federal government;
· 44% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food is of ‘very large importance’ to Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure – down from 59% in 2020;
· Canadians hold very positive opinions of agriculture and agri-food; however, the intensity of these opinions has decreased in the past year;
· Canadians see agriculture as having a positive impact on the environment;
· Canadians continue to believe the federal government should place the greatest level of prioritization of financial support for fruit and vegetable commodities;
· Canadians are consuming less red meat than they were a year ago, but are consuming more animal sources of protein such as eggs and fish;
· Consumption of plant-based proteins such as legumes and seeds has risen at a greater rate than plant-based protein products (made with soy or pea); and,
· Canadians are less willing to recommend a job or career in agriculture today than in 2019.