I can’t help noticing that farmers are back in fashion! Through the last 40 years of the 20th Century, the farming sector was rocked with scandals relating to Mad Cow Disease, Foot and Mouth outbreaks, environmental pollution from the intensive application of herbicides, and anti-biotic excesses in pigs and poultry. Farmers in developed countries of the Northern hemisphere were seen as being the problem not the solution to food security and the word security was synonymous with safety and not supply availability. In the UK, the “A for Agriculture” word was even removed from the Ministerial Department responsible for farming – DEFRA emerged, i.e. the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
There is nothing like a good food security/supply scare to remind consumers and, indeed, manufacturers and retailers, that our daily bread just doesn’t automatically appear on the shelf. It takes farmers to grow wheat, milk cows, and plant fruit and vegetables. Increasingly, consumers want to know “where does our food come from? Can we trust it?”. In a surprisingly wide range of countries around the globe, I see farmers being featured on supermarket shelves, and in national advertisements for major food brands – Warburton’s, the sliced bread market leader in the UK. reminds us that its bread wheat comes from the fields of the smiling farmer in the ad. Five years ago that would have never been the case – most urban consumers wouldn’t have known or cared that wheat was the major ingredient for most breads.
This is good news for all businesses associated with food. We want consumers to have full confidence in our industry. We want them to understand how their food is produced and the care that is taken at every stage as it moves from farm to retail outlet. We want them to know that producing food is different than manufacturing toasters and TV’s. We put food in our mouths and it nourishes our children. A big “Hurrah” for farmers being back in fashion!