As generations of consumers become further disconnected from the farm, questions and concerns about how food is produced continue to pop up. Fear-based marketing techniques aren’t helping the situation and have started to steer consumer conversations. However, one trusted voice can help right the ship. According to a new study from the Center of Food Integrity (CFI), consumers trust farmers. In fact, the study found that farmers are No. 3 on the list of people consumers to trust to inform them about how their food was grown and where it came from.
“The challenge is that people trust farmers but they don't necessarily like how we farm today,” CFI CEO Charlie Arnot told AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “That's the disconnect we see in terms of agriculture. I like the people that I think are out there doing the work, but boy I'm concerned about the size and scale of agriculture, I'm concerned about the chemicals they are using and I'm not sure I like the way they treat animals.”
Farmers must continue to help consumers understand that the people they trust are the same people farming, Arnot says.
“If we're not there we're not telling the story, somebody else will be and we may not like the outcome,” he says.
The first step to become a credible source of information for a consumer is to be approachable so consumers are willing to engage and connect based on values. Once a farmer is able to connect with them, they are more willing to absorb facts farmers share.
“Consumers are really looking for permission to continue to be supportive of today's food system and it's up to us to give them that permission by continuing to be engaged by transparently sharing who we are and what we do,” Arnot says adding that farmers need to embrace consumer skepticism and be committed to continue to share their message over time. “We're not going to be able to fix the problem. This is something we're going to have to continue to engage in for an extended period of time in order to help the next generation of consumers enjoy the food system that we have today and continue to be supportive of the farmers the men and women who make it possible for them to enjoy it.”