Consumers are increasingly asking questions about where their food comes from and how it was produced. They want to know if it was locally-grown, if it came from a sustainable farm, and they want to know that farm animals are treated well, and farmers are responding by letting people know about the sustainable farm practices and technological innovation that helps ensure we have food on our tables.

Andrew Campbell, who also goes by the Fresh Air Farmer moniker, operates a dairy and grain farm in Ontario with his wife and parents and believes that the best people to talk about what happens on the farm are farmers themselves. This approach is also critical to bridging the gap between urban and rural communities. “It’s important that people get information from the source because there is so much misinformation on the Internet and in the conversations people have,” he says. “If I don’t talk about what we do, who will?”

Sustainable farming across generations

For Campbell and other progressive farmers, the key to innovation is taking a proactive approach to ensure longevity. “With the information we have today, we strive to be the best stewards of the land,” he says. “Our farm has been in the family for generations. If my grandfather wasn’t a sustainable farmer, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. That’s why I want to take care of the land, so my children (or someone else) will operate the farm one day.”

People might be surprised to learn that agriculture is one of the most innovative industries. “Some farms have a series of robots that feed and milk cows, technology that is being rapidly adopted across the industry,” says Campbell. “There are even sensors that can detect an illness in an animal days before a farmer would know. And on our farm, we have automatic lighting and ventilation to help make the animals comfortable, and beginning next year, we will use satellite imagery to monitor our fields and crops.”

In addition, farmers use the latest technology to let them know exactly when and where to use fertilizer or what seed to plant in different soil conditions. Innovation means better farm quality and more food for us to enjoy while reducing our impact on the environment.

Ask farmers, they don’t bite

Producers and the public are in a reciprocal relationship that can be strengthened through conversation. If you’re curious about how your food is produced, muses Campbell, ask a farmer. “Pesticide use, animal welfare, antibiotic use in animals, and other issues, are all things people should ask the farming community,” Campbell says. “I’m not saying every farmer is perfect, but we should be able to stand up to every practice we do.” His enthusiasm towards open dialogue aligns with his confidence in his practices. The third-generation farmer feeds his family the food he grows and the milk he produces, and he looks for locally-grown foods in the grocery store.

Farmers understand that embracing sustainability will help grow their businesses. “We’re being asked to feed a growing population, so it just makes sense that we are efficient with our resources and do everything we can to protect the environment for future generations.”