Farmers turning to social media to answer your questions


  • Feature   Wed, Oct 6th, 2021   Kelly Daynard, Farm & Food Care Ontario
Tim May is a fourth generation dairy farmer from Rockwood who runs Mayhaven Farms with his family. He is better known as “Farmer Tim” on his active social media accounts, and has amassed a following of about 119,000 people on Facebook. (Photo credit: Face


Tim May is a fourth generation dairy farmer from Rockwood who runs Mayhaven Farms with his family. He is better known as “Farmer Tim” on his active social media accounts, and has amassed a following of about 119,000 people on Facebook. (Photo credit: Face


So, you’re looking for information about the meat you’ve bought in a grocery store – or the milk, or eggs or fresh fruits and vegetables. You have questions about how they’ve been grown or about the labels they carry. What IS the difference between grass fed and grain fed? Free range or free run? Organic or conventional? And what on earth is omega enriched?
You’re not alone. Canadians have lots of questions about their food. Above all, they want reassurances that the food they’re buying to feed their families is healthy, safe, environmentally-friendly and respectful of animal welfare standards. I get it – I want the very same thing.
For almost 20 years, nationwide focus group testing done by both Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO) and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity has asked Canadians about their questions, concerns and levels of knowledge about food and farming. At FFCO, we then try to answer all those questions and more in regularly published editions of a national publication called The Real Dirt on Farming (www.RealDirtonFarming.ca)
In the last consumer study released in 2020, 93% of Canadians surveyed indicated they knew little or nothing about farming. That’s not surprising given that only 1 in 46 Canadians now lives on a farm, and back in the 1930’s, it was one in three.
But in the same survey last year, two-thirds of respondents said they’d like to know more. This represents a great opportunity for farmers to share their stories with the consuming public. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re proud of what they do – and what their farming ancestors have done before them – and they’re eager to tell their stories and answer questions about what they’re doing.
In the last decade, we’re seeing farmers turn to forms of social media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and even TikTok – to tell their stories. And some are gaining huge numbers of followers. Ontario sheep farmer Sandi Brock (who goes by the handle Sheepishly Me), has 370,000 subscribers on YouTube where, daily, she posts videos of life on her family’s sheep and grain farm. “Farmer Tim,” a dairy farmer also from southwestern Ontario, now has 120,000 followers on Facebook. And many more across the province and country are posting daily posts about their animals, crops, farm life and more. They celebrate when planting and harvest are complete – and share the tougher stories about farm life too. Over the last month, farmers have posted photos of the massive damage to their crops caused by hail storms, tornados and rain events.
Look for them online by searching hashtags like #ontag (for Ontario agriculture) or #CdnAg (for Canadian agriculture) to see what they’re saying – and feel free to reach out with your questions about what they’re doing.
Vendors working at your local farmers’ markets and farmers selling local products from their on-farm stores are also great sources of information.
For those who may not have the opportunity to visit a real, working farm, websites like www.FarmFood360.ca also provide an immersive experience – it’s a chance for a farm tour without getting your boots dirty. Twenty farms and food processing facilities (mostly from Ontario) now have virtual tours up on that website, and last year, more than three million browsers stopped by to take a tour.
There are lots of places to get information about your food, directly from the farmers who produce it.
And if you can’t find an answer to your question, feel free to reach out to FFCO anytime at info@farmfoodcare.org
October 4 to 10 marks Ontario Agriculture Week, which celebrates the abundance of food our farmers produce. Throughout the week, I’d encourage you to take time to reflect on the great local food available to all of us. We truly are lucky to live in Ontario.