Bridging the gap between consumers and farmers

The obvious disconnect between consumers and farmers is much discussed in agriculture media, and that includes being mentioned here on numerous occasions.

This past week I had something of an epiphany in regards to the aforementioned disconnect.

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It had always been a case of simplifying the situation down to the reality that more and more consumers, even those in small Canadian Prairie cities, no longer have a direct connection to the farm. There is no grandfather, uncle or brother, still operating a nearby farm where urban relatives visit to see calves being born and grain harvested. Without that direct look at a farm operation a level of distrust has arisen as people often fear that which they do not know.

Yet, in the back of my mind that never quite jived with how consumers happily head to grocery store and buy ‘fresh’ fruit imported from half a world away, or opt for something processed by a big corporation in a plant in another country with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, with a seemingly greater trust than how the farms just outside the local community go about their business.

It dawned on me that the issue revolves around a disconnect people have from actually making their own food.

We live in an era where we increasingly rely on a cellphone app to order our meals, or we opt for some ‘boil-in-the-bag’ meal that in my youth would have been little more than a strange idea offered in a sci-fi novel.

When I think back to my youth, there are numerous memories about food that are not directly about sitting down to eat.

I well remember carrying bags of potatoes from the garden into the cellar on a frosty October evening.

Then there was helping to wrap carrots to store, shell peas, cut beans, or weed the garden patch. You were connected to your food in a very personal way.

Similarly, there is nothing that quite connects you to your food like the aromas that come with filling the larder.

I have read that scents often fire very strong memories, and in the case of food I fully understand that.

The smell of making pickles has stuck with me for decades, although it has been at least 25 years since anyone made homemade pickles in my home.

And then there is the smell of mom making homemade buns and bread. The range of smells goes from the yeasty scent of the dough rising, to the smells of baking, to that special scent of butter being basted over the crust of hot bread fresh from the oven. The memories are fresh, the connection to our food better understood because of it.

But for most, they are as far from home preparation of food as they are from milking cows, or driving a combine, and that is part of the disconnect often not considered.