If you’ve been to a farm show this winter you’ve seen the “Agriculture More Than Ever” promotion. You probably have a tote bag. Or maybe you’ve spent the winter driving by a bale wrapped with an “Ag More Than Ever” logo. Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is behind this campaign to spread the word that there is a real positive story behind agriculture in Canada.
Lyndon Carlson, senior vice-president of marketing at FCC, says the premise behind this campaign is that “the general public’s image of agriculture is disconnected from what agriculture really is today.”
“The story of agriculture today is positive, progressive, and true — that farmers are great stewards of the land, they care about the environment, about sustainable practices, are modern, good business people, and have adopted technology whenever possible to improve their business,” said Carlson.
FCC is a federal financial crown organization, and Canada’s largest provider of financial services to agriculture, agri-business, and agri-food. FCC lends money to farmers and finances agri-business operators and the agri-food industry. It is also Canada’s leading developer of agricultural software.
According to Carlson, the Agriculture More Than Ever program “is designed for us to give back valuable tools to our customers, not having it be a profit-centre for us.
Now more than ever?
According to Carlson, there are three jobs waiting for every University of Guelph graduate.
Carlson says, “Agriculture has never mattered more to Canada and the world, with fewer and fewer countries that will be able to, in the long run, be large food exporters — and we’re one of them.”
With this opportunity, Carlson says, comes responsibility. “We need to attract people and investment, so we need to be sure the general public has confidence in the industry.”
Part of FCC’s goal in promoting good news about agriculture is to increase the number of students studying agriculture in post-secondary information.
“There are lots of jobs, and not only as primary producers,” Carlson says. “There are also jobs in sales, finance, science, processing, manufacturing, and all the industries that support the overall ag industry.”
As well as convincing people to take jobs in the ag sector, FCC is hoping its campaign will attract investors to the industry, and convince taxpayers to buy-in to government expenditures on agriculture.
“People need to know that agriculture is critical to the Canadian economy, so when government chooses to make an investment in it, it’s seen as a wise choice.”
The Agriculture More Than Ever campaign was launched about a year ago with some public speaking events, and then launched it more formally in June 2012 with a media release supported by print and digital promotion, and public speaking.
FCC has a campaign website at http://www.agriculturemorethanever.ca which has many fans, Facebook “likes,” Twitter followers, and people posting positive stories about the industry.
About two years ago, FCC learned that the industry is very optimistic, by surveying Canadian farmers and finding that 80 per cent of farmers believed their farms would be better off in five years then it was at the time of the survey.
Those same farmers, almost 77 per cent of them, felt their farm was already better off today than it was five years previous.
“But, when we surveyed the general public, asking the same questions and then gave them multiple choice options (as they aren’t part of the industry), surprisingly, the most popular answer choice was the least optimistic,” said Carlson. “We learned the general public assumed farmers aren’t optimistic about the future.
“So, we have this as a benchmark of where we were two years ago and now hope to maybe redo this research in a couple more years — after we’ve had some opportunity to run this campaign for a while — and see if we’ve been able to positively move the public perception of agriculture.”
FCC has asked others to become partners in this campaign. So far, over 130 parties who have signed on as campaign partners, and Carlson is signing new partnership agreements daily.
“These partners are industry associations, private sector companies, and public sector organizations — a real good assembly of all sides of the industry coming together,” said Carlson. These partners are purchasing promotional material from the website (like flags, banners, printed material, and/window posters) and working the campaign into conversations.
“We hope what farmers will get from this campaign is respect in the industry for all the things we’re doing right and all the promise of the industry’s future,” said Carlson.
“We hope to also create some excitement in the industry about all the things we have ahead of us. There will always be challenges in agriculture — varying commodity prices, input prices, and weather events — but, at the end of the day, it’s a great career with a promising future.” †