A John Deere Publication
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Breakfast on the Farm has been a surprisingly popular way to educate the public about where their food comes from. On average, 1,500 people come to each event.

Agriculture, Education   March 01, 2024

Breakfast on the Farm


Start your day learning about farming.

"We had an absolute blast. We were blown away by the scale of the event, friendly volunteers, and delicious food." — Napanee Breakfast on the Farm visitors' feedback survey (2023).

Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO) never dreamed that serving breakfast sandwiches would become such a wildly popular way to educate people about farming and food production in Ontario. But their first Breakfast on the Farm event in 2013 drew in 2,000 people, including the Premier of Ontario. Ten years later, interest is still strong. Between 1,500 and 2,500 people attend the two or three events they hold every summer. FFCO's sister organizations in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island now put on similar events. It's a great way to build trust in our food and farming systems.

Canadians are hungry for knowledge about how their food is produced. A 2019 study by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity found that 91% of Canadians feel they know little, very little, or nothing about modern agricultural practices, reflecting that most people haven't had family or friends who farmed in generations. It also found that 60% are curious about what goes on at farms. Breakfast on the Farm provides a rare opportunity to tour a Canadian farm, meet a farm family, and learn a bit about where their food comes from.

FFCO got the idea for Breakfast on the Farm events after attending one organized by Michigan State University in 2012. The premise is simple, invite the public to come out to a host's farm to have breakfast and tour the operation. Volunteers are on hand to explain what's going on and answer any of their questions.

Above. The event couldn’t function without the volunteers and corporate and agribusiness support. Everything served at the breakfast is grown on Ontario farms. Daynard says giving people the opportunity to see a cow or hold a baby chick for the first time builds connections that will last a lifetime. All visitors walk through a disinfectant bath to maintain herd health.


Building a connection. "We've got a winning combination on our hands with this one," says FFCO Executive Director Kelly Daynard. "When you see a person seeing a cow or holding a newly hatched baby chick for the very first time, you realize that you're building a connection they'll remember forever."

There's a long list of farmer volunteers waiting to host one. Kevin MacLean and family were thrilled to finally have an opportunity to hold one at Ripplebrook Farm, their 130-cow dairy and award-winning quarter horse operation near Napanee, Ontario, in 2023. They'd been scheduled to host one in 2020 but COVID threw a wrench into the works.

"We thought it'd be great if we got 1,000 people; and the final tally was 1,600 plus another 100 volunteers," MacLean says. "It was certainly the biggest tour we've ever had to our farm. We're proud to produce milk for Canadian families and I'm proud to show people how we do it. I'm a very extroverted person doing an introvert's job. So, every time we have an opportunity to host people at our farm, I quite enjoy it."

MacLean says they prepared extensively for the event. The biggest jobs were spit shining their farm equipment, cleaning the drive shed where breakfast was to be served, ensuring the milking parlor and dairy barn glistened like new, and making sure safety measures were all in place.

Then, there were the logistics with parking and organizing how large numbers of people would flow through the farm. Fortunately, he says FFCO has lots of experience, so the event ran like clockwork.

The breakfasts aren't cheap; each project costs roughly $30,000 to put on. They're heavily dependent on local volunteers to provide labor for the event and reliant on companies and agribusinesses for food and cash donations. Daynard says requiring people to book a refundable $5.00 ticket online, either through social media or on FFCO's website, gives them a better idea how many are going to be attending.

Despite weather worries, MacLean says it was a successful event and one he hopes to repeat again. He found the most enjoyable part of the experience was reading through attendees' feedback surveys. They made all the work it required worthwhile.

"This was my son's favourite event of the summer. Thank you for keeping the littles and the entire family interested and informed! We can't wait to come back next year!" — Napanee Breakfast on the Farm visitors' feedback survey (2023).

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