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Presidents’ Council launches consumer-directed campaign

An advertising campaign is being launched across Ontario in a bid to create greater awareness among consumers of what agriculture means to the provincial economy.


April 17, 2008
By Presidents' Council

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April 17, 2008

Guelph, ON  -Ontario's Presidents' Council launched a new consumer-directed TV advertising and web campaign, "Farming Grows Ontario's Future", at the Premier's Summit in Toronto last night. The TV campaign and website (www.growourfarms.ca) are the result of a three-year effort by the Presidents' Council to identify the issues and opportunities that are central to agriculture's future in Ontario. The campaign is also intended to help give recognition to everyone who depends on agriculture for their livelihood and way of life – especially the producers themselves.

"Raising awareness among consumers about the important contribution agriculture makes to the economy is a critical part of the strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry in this province," says Greg Devries, Chair of the Presidents' Council and past Chair of the Ontario Soybean Growers. "Consumers are increasingly disconnected from farming and rural traditions; more than 80 percent of Ontario's population lives in urban areas. We have an opportunity today to bridge that widening gap and help ensure a healthy future for all of us in this province."

"I congratulate the Presidents' Council for the tremendous work they are doing to educate consumers on the value of Ontario food products. Their campaign complements the investments that our government is making through our Buy Ontario Strategy," said Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The campaign strategy is built around a research effort that helped prioritize the aspects of agriculture consumers expressed were most relevant to them. The execution of that strategy is designed to give a face and a voice to Ontario's farmers and convey the message that everyone has a stake in the future of agriculture – producers and consumers alike.

The campaign includes four 30-second TV spots, each focusing on a different theme identified by the research. The themes include:

     –   economic importance – agriculture is the second largest sector of
         Ontario's economy and third largest employer; it contributes to job
         creation in such areas as transportation, food processing, science,
         education, banking and retail

     –   food independence – 52 percent of the country's prime farmland is
         found in Ontario helping farmers produce high-quality, nutritious
         food close to home

     –   environmental stewardship – farming contributes environmental
         benefits to everyone in the province by contributing important green
         space and providing a plentiful source of local food

     –   the connection between family farms and values – despite the fact
         there are 10,000 fewer farms in Ontario than there were 10 years ago,
         92 percent of Ontario's farms are still run by families, supporting a
         strong Canadian tradition of self-sufficiency that is the bedrock for
         many communities across the province

The TV ads began appearing on Wednesday, April 16 on most major television networks across Ontario, primarily during primetime schedules. The campaign will run in intervals until the winter of 2009. The website also went live on Wednesday, April 16.

Each TV spot will direct consumers to visit www.growourfarms.ca. The website provides a greater level of information about the role that agriculture plays in Ontario by going into detail on the four primary themes.  The content will include commodity-specific facts related to each of the themes and provide an opportunity to showcase the commodity group members of Presidents' Council, but also to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the industry as a whole.

     Other sections in the website include:

     –   "Who we are" – in addition to background information on the
         Presidents' Council, the member organizations and links to their
         websites, this section provides more general information on the
         Ontario farmer and the industry; the objective of this section is to
         paint a modern and accurate picture of the people involved in farming
         and how they go about their business

     –   "What we grow" – a comprehensive summary of the major crops grown and
         livestock raised in Ontario as well as their various uses

     –   "Where we farm" – an overview of the major food production areas in
         the province and links to other related organizations (e.g. Foodland
         Ontario, Farmers Markets Ontario, etc.); the section also includes
         information on where to find Ontario products – from biofuels to
         fresh meat and produce

Ultimately, the Presidents' Council wants to use the campaign to encourage all consumers to look at farming differently and consider how they can contribute to the industry's sustainability. The campaign includes a call to action; consumers can request and purchase locally produced agri-food products (either at retail, through foodservice or at the farm gate). They can also demonstrate at home and within the community a 'buy local' mindset and commitment that builds loyalty and trumps price point sensitivities. The campaign slogan, "Farming Grows Ontario's Future", also encourages all consumers to look at farming differently and consider how they can contribute to the industry's sustainability.

"Agriculture as a whole has not been effective at promoting itself beyond our own walls," says Rob McLaughlin, from the Office of Associate Vice President Research at the University of Guelph and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. McLaughlin also sits on the Communications Advisory Committee for the Presidents' Council. "We have tended to focus on crisis management communications rather than a long-term communications strategy to a broader audience. With this campaign we hope to demonstrate our commitment to changing that."
 
Developing the campaign strategy and roll-out plan required intense work and cooperation on the part of the Presidents' Council 27 member organizations and other industry partners.

"I am so proud of the effort that has gone into the development of this campaign," says Devries. "The fact that all of these organizations have come together on a common objective and pooled their resources to make the campaign happen demonstrates their commitment to raising awareness of the important role that agriculture plays in this province."

The Presidents' Council was formed in 2004 as a venue for the Chairs and Presidents of Ontario's agricultural organizations to discuss the broad issues and challenges facing Ontario agriculture. Funding for this project was provided in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agriculture Adaptation Council's CanAdvance Program, the Ontario government and member cash contributions.