Not sure if you can totally trust the food grown and raised in Canada? Talk to a farmer.
Not only will you be 100% assured that Canadian farm-grown and raised food is safe and nutritious to feed your family, you might just end up with a personal invitation to visit and tour their farm. Until you can get there, they may grab their smartphone and show you a quick little video of the clean and bright conditions from the webcam they’ve openly installed in their chicken barns. (Thanks for that Clinton Monchuk, farmer and Executive Director of Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan.) I grew up in Saskatchewan, surrounded by farmers. Then and now, they are salt of the earth people.
I recently attended Grow Canada 17, an annual national gathering of Canadian leaders in agriculture. Despite what some unbalanced documentaries about farming may have left you thinking, Canada’s farmers are committed to complete openness and transparency about the food they grow to feed their families, you, all Canadians, and our fellow humankind around the world. The misconception that farmers are ‘hiding something’ couldn’t be further from the truth in Canada. This misconception is so out of control it is threatening the livelihood of the less than 2 percent of Canadians who work on farms, growing our food. We aren’t doomed because of advances in farming technologies, we’re in serious trouble if dangerously inaccurate beliefs about farming continue to abound and farmers no longer want to farm.
Although they may work on a mini scale should you wish to move to the country and start a little farm that feeds your family only, can the farming methods used in the early 1900’s work today to safely grow ALL OF THE FOOD needed for Canadians and other parts of the world, absolutely not! Like every other industry, farming has evolved profoundly. It benefits from incredible advances in technology. Vegetarian or not, if you want to have access to anything made of oats, wheat, corn, quinoa, eggs, pulse crops like lentils and chickpeas, barley (that nifty new craft beer perhaps?) and more, embracing the proven safe farming methods used today is critical.
Farmers have always been experts on how to grow food. Today, like any other true professionals, they’re deeply immersed in continuing education on the best ways to produce food and bring it to the marketplace given changing consumer preferences.
I want to share 15 facts discussed at Grow Canada 2017. I was right in there learning along with nearly 600 farming professionals from across our land. These folks aren’t just staying current on how to minimize pests and threats to their crops. Their understanding of today’s consumer is solid and they’re growing food with the utmost respect for what their customer wants. They invest time and money in learning from world-leading authorities on subjects that impact their business.
Here’s just a sampling of the range of fascinating information and inspirational thoughts gleaned from a couple great days in Calgary, Alberta. References are cited at the bottom.
- Our brain is hard-wired to get evidence of cooperation, commitment and credibility (3 C’s) but this is also driven by ‘social capital’. Science hasn’t yet proven why it’s so, but consumers are 40% more trusting of online information than information delivered from real live people! A scary reality given the amount of anti-farming information online versus the humble, genuine relationship-building, non-social media personality style of the actual farmers who grow our food.
- We should never back off efforts to advance the fact-based scientific message simply because there is a CONSTANT, very loud unscientific message to counter. It is a LONG game and the qualified experts must stay in it.
- Fresh, healthy, convenient, and affordable are the on trend, admirable values that have led to the quick global rise of Freshii, a leading healthy fast-food chain. Buzz words like ‘clean eating’ and ‘raw’ are not what is driving their success.
- Over 3 million children die every single year on our planet from malnutrition. It’s not just about agriculture, but distribution and other very complex issues. There are agricultural technologies available that can feed the whole world.
- There is a difference between GMOs (genetically modified organisms in which a gene is added to an existing organism) and gene-editing, where an existing gene in an organism is altered. Gene-editing has been used to make those new non-browning apples you may have heard of. The one gene responsible for browning has been turned off. No other gene alterations have been made. Whether or not your personal choice will be to eat them, this change allows for apples to be cut into snack slices for use in many other feeding applications instead of rotting and ending up as waste. (Genetic modification and gene-editing are also responsible for tremendous life-saving disease treatments and advances in healthcare.)
- 53% of the groceries consumed in Canada come from discount retailers. Increasingly, people are buying canned goods and dry staples at discount places and putting the savings towards buying fresh food at higher end retailers. There is room for many different retailers to exist. Most people ‘shop around’ and not exclusively at one place. Judging based on where one shops is not helpful.
- It is not accurate to bucket people into large groups of generalizations, eg millennials. Still, it is a fact that today’s younger generation wants and has the right to know every single detail of where and how their food has traveled from farm to plate. Farmers welcome and embrace this.
- “Natural” is a bigger driver of food choices than “organic”. This is terrific news for Canada’s farmers who remain and have always been in the business of nature-made food.
- Mandatory culinary education (by qualified people without orthorexia) for kids before age 14 would seriously help clear up a lot of the mass confusion about food.
- We are living in the biggest period of mass institutional change in history and at the biggest time of disconnectedness despite our online ‘connectedness’.
- Everyone on social media is a ‘node of broadcasting’ in addition to being a recipient of broadcasting. We are no longer just a physical self, but a virtual self as well. Two-thirds of a person’s working day is now spent in their virtual identification rather than their physical. People share way more freely in their virtual self than their real self – including opinions, fact-based or not, about food.
- On family makeup, 66% of today’s marriages are the result of online meeting. People who met online have a 15-17% lower divorce rate than those who met off-line! Increasingly, their food is ordered online too.
- According to futurist Leonard Brody of The Great Rewrite, by the end of 2025, 28-35% of ‘live entertainment’ revenue will come from entertainers who are no longer living. This is possible from life-like, 3D computer-generated, tailored entertainment options.
- Today’s farmers are CIOs – Chief Information Officers – and need to understand data in a BIG way. (On data, 90% of the data created by humans since the beginning of human existence has been generated in the last 24 months!)
- On food preferences of the future: DNA self-test kits will increase the demand for individually-tailored food based on one’s own unique gut biome.
Again, these are just a few random snippets from the MANY conversations held at Grow Canada 17. Farmers are ON THEIR GAME in a BIG WAY! Let’s continue to support, embrace and celebrate our beautiful bounty of safe, home-grown food and the 2% of families who make this possible for all of us!
Thank you Crop Life Canada for the tremendous opportunity to be part of this event! I look forward to next time!
Dr. Brynn Winegard, Brain Science Professor, Schulich Executive Education Centre, University of Guelph, DeGroote School of Business, and Ryerson University.
Ted C. Fishman, Journalist and Author of China, Inc.
The Honorable Stockwell Day, former minister responsible for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.
Matthew Corrin, CEO and Founder of Freshii
Robb Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Monsanto Company
Graham Sherman, Entrepreneur and Owner, Tool Shed Brewery “Unleashing Your Disruptive Behaviour”
John FT Scott, Economist, Speaker, Consultant to the food distribution and retail sector
Claire Tansey, Chef, Teacher and Food Expert, Food Director, Chatelaine Magazine
Leonard Brody, Business and Technology Visionary, The Great Rewrite