Film premieres are rare events for farm journalists. I’ve been told by better-dressed people that farm journalists are not known for their fashion sense, so perhaps that’s the reason. So naturally I couldn’t pass up a chance to attend the License to Farm premiere at the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon.
If you haven’t seen the film yourself, you can check it out at licensetofarm.com. It’s about half an hour, and features unscripted interviews from farmers, scientists, communications specialists, and other industry. Personally, I thought it was well done. It cost about $200,000 to produce, and $150,000 of that came from SaskCanola.
The film’s audience is not consumers. It’s farmers like you. The goal is to inspire farmers to start talking to consumers about what they do.
In the back of my mind, I worried a little that SaskCanola was preaching to the choir with this documentary. But then I thought it was probably better to focus on getting their audience (you) to act, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
The reality is there’s no silver bullet to slay consumers’ food fears, and so it’s not fair to judge the film against those standards. Instead, the question is whether it will meet that goal, of getting farmers talking.
Time will tell, but from what I’ve seen on social media, it’s certainly inspiring farmers to speak up. It’s also garnered coverage from non-farm media. One farmer in my Twitter network had even asked an online commenter to email him to carry on the conversation (I think that might work really well, but I’d be a little cautious about giving out your personal information. I say this as someone whose personal info is already in the wild. It can be nerve-wracking).
Think like a consumer
I know very little about how clothing is manufactured. I read the stories about factory fires and poor working conditions. I don’t like the idea of people being exploited or the environment being trashed so I can have relatively cheap clothing, but I have no idea what to do about it.
That’s how many people feel about their food. But to make things worse, some are afraid their food might make them sick. Add that up, and you get an effective argument for more food labelling, etc.
I’m all for better ingredient labeling. I know people with serious food allergies to everything from eggs to quinoa.
Personally, I don’t think GMOs fall into the need-to-label category. I’d rather focus on nutrition and ingredient labeling. But when the food and ag industry says GMO labels are unnecessary, people assume it’s because the industry has something to hide.
Reciting scientific facts alone aren’t enough. People don’t necessarily trust science these days, and sometimes they have very good reason for that distrust. Any researcher can skew results through the experiment’s design or data analysis. Consumers don’t generally have the time or expertise to check whether that’s the case.
So if you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t know a lot about farming, have a little empathy. We’re all ignorant about something. Listen to what they say. Explain how you know what you know. Whatever you do, don’t tell them their food sensitivities/anxieties are bunk. Think of how annoyed you feel when a stranger tries to give you unsolicited health or nutrition advice.
People talk about ag advocacy a lot these days, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with advocating for your own interests. I don’t think that’s necessarily what these conversations should be about, though. They can also be about both parties learning something new and walking away with a better understanding of each other, even if they don’t agree on everything.
For an interview with Alexei Berteig, director of “License to Farm”, visit Grainews.ca/video.