The Big Picture: Ontarians understand the importance of farming

RECENT SURVEY SHOWS ONTARIANS BELIEVE FARMING IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROVINCE’S STRENGTH

it’s amazing what you can find out if you just ask. Farmers Feed Cities did just that during Ontario Agriculture week in October where they conducted their annual survey of what non-farmers think about farming.

While some of the answers simply re-affirmed what we may already know about consumer habits, such as 76 percent support Ontario farming in their daily lives by buying local products. Others shed some light on the general attitudes and beliefs of Ontarians, such as 97 percent of those surveyed agree that farming is important to the province’s economic strength, health and wellbeing and sustainable environmental future. In addition there has been a notable increase in the recognition of the Farmers Feed Cities logo and campaign.

According to the FFC survey, consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of farming. Thirty-five to 54 year olds and those over 55 had a very clear understanding of the farm and food connection and yet, as the survey discovered, there is an entire demographic of people, (59 percent of people ages 18 to 34), who indicated that they do not know where their food comes from. 

It’s true that less than two percent of Canadians are directly involved in farming and some studies indicate that fewer  people are interested in farming as a vocation. However, this creates an opportunity for organizations like Farmers Feed Cities to bridge the knowledge gap and educate Canadians on farming and how food is produced.

“Farmers Feed Cities wants to foster a generation of informed consumers,” says Jenny Van Rooy, campaign coordinator. “Children are filled with constant curiosity and we want to be there with the right answers to help revitalize the public attitude and perception towards Ontario’s farming community.”

One of the ways that Farmers Feed Cities helps to educate youth is through the Friend a Farmer program which was launched in schools this year. Classes will be linked with farmers through a high-tech pen pal-like relationship.

Together in partnership with Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC), AGCare, and Ontario Agri-Food Education (OAFE) this educational and interactive program  facilitates the creation of a relationship between school children and real farmers by:

• Providing an opportunity for children to learn the importance of farming
• Helping kids build relationships with farmers
• Allowing students to ask questions about where their food comes from
• Teaching students to make informed food purchase decisions

This is the second year that FFC has run this survey and the results have generated a notable buzz from major media outlets across the province.  The Farmers Feed Cities annual survey is proving to be a driver of education and awareness about farming in and of itself.  •