The Big Picture: Farmers gain unlikely supporters

NATIONAL AND MULTI-NATIONAL COMPANIES EMBRACE THE BENEFITS OF LOCAL FOOD

there is no denying that the local food movement has swept the nation. People are starting to pay much closer attention to where there food comes from. It is no longer uncommon for the average shopper to check the country of origin label at the grocery store or shop at local farmers’ markets. Consumers, both urban and rural, are taking more interest in their food supply.

Often, this interest can seem to be to the detriment of the average farmer. With an increased interest in food production comes a multitude of information sources, some more reputable than others. Movies like Food Inc. and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma along with special interest groups can spread misinformation about a multitude of topics such as organic versus conventional agriculture, biotechnology and large-scale farming.

Fortunately, not everyone talking about agriculture is out to pit one production practice against another. Many talking about agriculture are simply marveling at our nation’s choice of safe, fresh and affordable food from a variety of production practices.

a homegrown ally
One such supporter of agricultural production is coming from an unlikely source. This new national interest in local food has not fallen on deaf ears and large national and multi-national food companies are increasingly becoming spokespeople for local agriculture.

Through the recognition of farmers as an integral part of their business and an appreciation for consumers’ interest in food production, some large food companies have begun utilizing their hefty marketing budgets to promote local agriculture.

One example that hits close to home for grain farmers in the province is Weetabix’s switch to 100 percent Ontario wheat and their provincial advertising campaign to tell their consumers about it. The campaign was featured in the February issue of the Ontario Grain Farmer.

eat real, eat local
Another example of a large company creating interest in farming among Canadian consumers is Hellmann’s. Makers of mayonnaise, Hellmann’s launched the Eat Real Eat Local campaign that emphasizes Canada’s shrinking farm land and increasing food imports. The campaign encourages Canadians to support local farmers by requesting local food at their grocery store and buying local where possible. A short video posted online draws attention to the plight of family farmers, urban sprawl and imports and directs consumers to their website www.eatrealeatlocal.ca.

It may seem strange for a mayonnaise company to take such an interest in promoting agriculture across Canada but according to the company, Hellmann’s believes they can lead by example. They use 100 percent Canadian eggs and Canadian canola oil in their product and want to support other Canadian agricultural sectors as well.

historical support
Another company doing its part, so to speak, in promoting agriculture comes from south of the border. A recent campaign from the maker of popular SoyJoy healthy snack bars shares the history of the soybean with consumers. SoyJoy launched a whole separate website that talks about the soybean’s history starting with today’s crop and working backward to the 28th Century B.C. when a Chinese emperor encouraged the cultivation of the crop. The website can be found from SoyJoy’s homepage at www.soyjoy.com.

You don’t need to look far to find more examples of big corporations advocating for farmers in their advertising. Although they may be piggy-backing on the wholesome image of the farming lifestyle to sell their product, they are sharing a positive message about our industry and that can’t be a bad thing.