If you build it, they will come. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, if you grow it, they will eat it. And, increasingly, they will ask questions about it, too.
That’s why it only makes sense to Ask a Farmer. This podcast comes directly from Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan’s consumer brand—Canadian Food Focus—featuring host and Saskatchewan grain and egg farmer Clinton Monchuk.
What began as an idea to have honest conversations with Canadians about food in 2019 has blossomed into a robust digital platform complete with blogs, videos, recipes and now, an all-new podcast. How did Farm & Food Care manage to find a captive audience of Canadian consumers? Simple. They stepped out of the ag echo chamber, took a breath of fresh air and understood that to truly connect with people about what is important to them, not the ag sector. We all care about farming and agriculture, but to make an unengaged consumer feel the same way has proven mighty difficult.
“Others have come out and tried to use farming first, and we found that’s not helpful for consumers who are disconnected from farms,” says Monchuk, who is also the executive director of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan. “You always have to connect to people based on values.”
Food is central to Canadians. Canadian Food Focus started to talk that language and the results speak for themselves. Each month, Canadian Food Focus receives more than 500,000 engagements through clicks, shares, likes and reposts. Since launching, Canadian Food Focus has earned more than 32 million impressions and nine million engagements with the majority of all traffic being women aged 25 to 55 who are the main grocery store decision-makers. Recently, Canadian Food Focus won the Canadian Agri-food Marketers Alliance award for Best Website Directed at the Public.
“We’re finding the same people are coming back because they are interested in the information,” explains Monchuk. “There lies a good lesson for agriculture. We fundamentally changed the way we’re engaging with consumers, and we’re using food first.”
The first podcast of its kind in Canada, Ask a Farmer features food influencers, bloggers, dietitians, chefs and others curious about what’s on their plate. With more than 25 contributors from various backgrounds, Canadian Food Focus made a deliberate attempt to have consumers learn and receive information from people like themselves, as representation continues to be an important metric for younger, urban audiences. Monchuk himself is thrilled at the idea that he can challenge his own biases as a farmer and continue to understand more through candid conversations.
“I’m learning a lot about the industry that I didn’t know before whether it’s from the nutritional side or different experts,” he says. “It’s good for me to understand this, and I do want to know more from their perspectives.”
One of Monchuk’s very first guests on the podcast was Sue Mah, a multiple award-winning media dietitian and TV personality in the heart of Toronto. She and Monchuk shared a 30-minute conversation on How can you eat better everyday? Mah says the podcast is long overdue and good news for all Canadians since the only thing we all have in common is that we ate today.
“As we share evidence-based food information from professionals such as dietitians, I hope we build a greater awareness and appreciation of the important role of farmers and growers in Canadian agriculture,” says Mah.
As we acknowledge people’s diverse connections to food, conversations about its production emerge.
The dialogue could be something as simple as the difference between conventional and organic production systems or the importance of the environment in farming practices. All of it helps to build a stronger connection back to farms, which Canadians are now often two-plus generations removed from.
“Many of us still have a lot to learn about how we can improve food systems,” says Mah. “For consumers, this includes learning about how to grow your own food, minimizing food waste and understanding how people care for the land.”
In addition to a media-rich library full of resources, everyday Canadians can educate themselves about food and farming all at once on Canadian Food Focus. Learning modules offer unbiased videos and nutritional information about foods that users can apply that same day in their own kitchen. With topics such as Learn to Cook with Global Flavours, Pork from Farm to Table, Recipes for Beginner Cooks and more, Canadian Food Focus’ metrics demonstrate that people spend well above the average time on the average website.
When Canadian Food Focus began, Monchuk never envisioned the reception that has followed, but he knows it’s because of honest information that looks outward, not inward, and speaks to consumers, not the ag industry.
“It’s not just about food,” says Monchuk. “If you learn about strawberries, you also learn about the nutritional qualities of different fruits and vegetables, so there’s an educational component as well. We want to get them in the door through the food side because that’s what they’re searching for. We’re all connected through food, and there’s a value there which starts through conversation.”
Check out these podcast links!
For more information, visit canadianfoodfocus.org.
Thank you to Farm & Food Care for submitting the article and photos