It wasn’t exactly a Hallmark holiday, but both World Food Day (Oct. 16) and Food Day (Oct. 24) have just passed. And if you didn’t celebrate with a special dinner, or even a slight pause, you probably weren’t alone.
Those of us in agriculture think about food a lot, but we often don’t really think about agriculture AS food. Some do, but the thoughts that command our waking hours on the farm are more about feed for the cows, or seed for the fields, than spaghetti for Joe Consumer in Seattle.
That’s a pity, because consumers connect to farmers via food. And “food” is a hot commodity.
“We are witnessing a changing relationship with food,” observes futurist Jim Carroll, adding consumers are interacting with food, purchasing food and consuming food in new and different ways.
People want to know where, when and how their food was raised and produced — as witnessed by all the labels and websites and even smartphone apps that offer background on food purchase decisions.
And that’s just the domestic food market that’s crying for greater connection to farmers. We still face a global food market — a world population that stands at 6.9 billion and could reach 7 billion by the end of October.
If those numbers make your head spin and you really feel disconnected from that reality, think about refrigerators instead.
Carroll reminds us, as other have, that the growing population also has a growing segment with greater income, and they will eat more meat. He cites figures that estimate per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 of 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil, for example.
And in India, the number one consumer product on an individual’s wish list is a television.
Number two? A refrigerator.
“Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration,” Carroll wrote in a blog post earlier this year.
“Talk about opportunities for growth.”
Food draws allies with national security interests, human health interests, environmental interests, economic development interests and, of course, agricultural interests.
We’re going to need more food, but we’re going to have to produce it more sustainably. That will take innovation, new ways of thinking, and new ways of farming.
Carroll predicts we’ll see more change on the farm in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50, and he might be right. Today’s farmer has reinvented himself at least once in his lifetime, and will have to be ready to reinvent his farm again.
Ag entrepreneurs will flourish. The opportunity is there for the future of agriculture. Just open the refrigerator.