How do we earn Trust in Agriculture?

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. I truly appreciate your time, as well as your interest in the work we are doing. If there is one thing that I have taken away from working in agriculture and food, it is that farmers are dependable. If you need something work related or otherwise, anything, farmers will show up to lend a hand. Thank you.

It was interesting to dig through the data and draw some conclusions around where the industry is in terms of trust in the supply chain, and where consumers are. There are four gaps that we see right now specific to why many consumers have questions and concerns about food and farms.

The first is a Perception Gap. What people believe to be modern ag practices are not consistent with what is actually happening on farms. What a farmer does on a daily basis is unfamiliar, and because people are so removed from the farm gate, we accept information as it comes to us as facts, rather than see for ourselves by spending time on a farm. Additionally, one story about the mistreatment of an animal, or water contamination does not mean that it is a norm, or that farmers do not care about their animals or the environment. Closing this gap, is critical to increasing trust.

The next is a Communication Gap. There is confusion by the sheer number of claims and labels on our food. What does it all mean? What is healthy? What is a GMO? What does Organic mean? Is grass fed better than grain? In summary, there are a plethora of options at the store to choose from, and enough marketing to confuse even the most informed consumers.
A second element to the communication gap, related to agriculture is that the nomenclature used by the ag industry, specifically on the farm, is not familiar with most people. We are speaking different languages about how food is produced, and between the misinformation and the unfamiliar nature of how farms operate, there is a significant gap.

Along the lines of the previous two gaps identified, there is a Technology Gap. Using technology to increase the efficiency and safety of our food supply makes people uncomfortable if they do not understand it. Food and farm technology, like every other industry is rapidly advancing; faster than the rate of understanding what it means and how it effects our food and our health. Closing this gap like the others, is essential to earning consumer trust.

The final gap that resonated from the data is that there is a Generation Gap. Only 2% of Americans work in agriculture as it is, so it becomes relatively easy for the industry to talk to itself about issues and opportunities. And generally speaking, the industry is comprised of people who grew up around the industry, and are predisposed to the positive aspects of ag. However, the other 98% is who matters, and who drives demand. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58 and many of their children have not returned to the farm; they are entering other career paths. The result is there are fewer farmers producing more, and less people who are closely related to it. That generational gap means less people having real life conversations about agriculture, which is the single biggest way to earn trust.

The data from the survey overwhelming suggested that connecting people to agriculture is an opportunity. 90% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that involving farmers in the promotion and marketing of products would lead to greater trust. And 95% of participants agreed or strongly agreed they have greater trust in products that they have an experience with, be it at the store, on a farm or a marketing event.

At UpField, we are working with the agriculture and food industries to connect people to modern agriculture. As we continue to do so, we will be releasing a blog series that digs deeper into the survey data, as well as insights into each of the gaps mentioned.

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