By Ethan Wallace, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Canadian consumers continue to have a high level of trust in our food system and many of their key concerns mirror those of the farming community. That’s according to the results of the 2023 Public Trust Research Report into Canada’s food system that was released recently by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.
Unsurprisingly, this year’s study continues to place food affordability at the top of the list of issues Canadians think about when it comes to our food supply, with 54% indicating that the cost of food is their primary concern. This is followed by inflation, healthcare and housing – all issues that are also concerns for Ontario’s farmers and their families.
At the same time, consumers overall continue to be supportive of the food and agriculture sector’s ability to innovate and grow. Two key indicators have stayed steady over the last year: public trust and the proportion of Canadians who feel the food system is headed in the right direction.
More than half of respondents noted they feel Canadian agriculture overall is trustworthy or very trustworthy. Farmers are the most trusted group of Canadian food system stakeholders – 65% of respondents believe farmers to be trustworthy or very trustworthy – followed by scientists and university researchers.
That is certainly good news for those of us in the farming community. I’m the fifth generation of my family to farm in Ontario; my wife, children and I are dairy farmers near Seaforth on a farm we recently took over from my parents.
We love what we do, but we wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the support of consumers, their trust in what we do, and their willingness to buy the products we grow, raise and produce.
How we do that has changed dramatically in recent decades as science continues to evolve and we adapt our practices. On our farm, for example, we now milk our cows with robots in a large new barn with sand bedding that offers our livestock the latest in comfort and welfare.
The fields we used to plow every year before planting our crops are now 100% no-till, which means we don’t disturb the soil at planting. This boosts soil health and structure, making the soil and our crops more resilient to extreme weather conditions like drought or too much rain.
It’s part of what we do to ensure we’re producing food sustainably and responsibly and to ensure our children will have the opportunity to farm should they choose to do so. Our farm’s story of innovation, growth and commitment to continuous improvement is not unique, though; it’s one that is common to so many of family farms across Ontario.
That’s why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) welcomed the provincial government’s recent announcement that it is modernizing the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) Act, which governs provincial agricultural research. ARIO is a provincial agency that owns Ontario’s 14 research station properties that support agriculture research ranging from livestock and field crops to greenhouse and horticulture.
This modernization will bring the research farmers rely on to be innovative into the 21st century and beyond, focusing not just on agricultural production but also topics like environment, climate change, water and processing.
Updated legislation will make it easier to evaluate and adapt new techniques, tools and technologies on our farms and in our food processing facilities, which ultimately, could have significant impacts on our provincial economy and our food security.
We appreciate that the government sees value in building the farming sector and supporting future innovation that will let us strengthen our ability to not just feed ourselves but also the world.
For more information, contact:
Ontario Federation of Agriculture