Consumers & Sustainability
You care about the food you and your loved ones eat. You care about keeping the environment safe by preserving the quality of soil, water and air. Believe it or not, these are all things that producers and purchasing companies care about as well, because at the end of the day they are consumers too. As a result, big purchasing companies, such as McCain’s and McDonald’s, are beginning to require sustainably sourced products from their producers.
An EFP allows producers to evaluate their current farming practices, identify risks, and create an action plan to mitigate those risks. By implementing the changes highlighted in their action plans, they reduce risk and safeguard the integrity of livestock and crop products raised on their farms.
The Alberta EFP program began in 2003 and has been operated by the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) since 2013. Delivery of the program comes from over 50 trained technicians across the province who provide guidance and advice to producers at all stages of the process. Producers who complete an EFP receive a letter of completion, a certificate and a gate sign. Farmers understand that completing an EFP is one way of demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship.
Since the program began, 13,000 farmers have registered in the EFP program (24% of Alberta farms) and more than 8,000 of them have completed an EFP. Many of the larger operations have EFPs, resulting in the environmental assessment of nearly two million acres of Alberta farm land since 2009 alone. In Canada, it is estimated that 35% of farmers, covering 50% of the agricultural land, have completed an EFP. Producers who have completed an EFP recognize that it is good for the land, their livestock and crops, and for consumers. It also expands their markets since many purchasers are now requiring sustainably sourced products. Producers enrolled in an EFP have found that meeting sustainable sourcing requirements is easier when they have completed the EFP process.
Many major corporations that buy agricultural products are moving toward only purchasing products that are sustainably sourced. EFP is working to meet the sustainable agricultural standards set out by these companies and the global standard.
Food giant Unilever—the third largest consumer goods company in the world—has committed to sourcing 100% of their agricultural materials from sustainable operations. They are also working in partnership with other large multinationals to convince other companies to follow suit. McDonald’s is one of many large restaurant chains also working on standards for sustainably sourced products.In Canada, food giant McCain’s will only purchase from farms that have gone through an EFP assessment. In response, the Potato Growers of Alberta now require the completion of an EFP for membership. Many other provincial and national agricultural industry groups are working on similar initiatives such as Verified Beef Production, CanadaGap, and the proAction initiative.
Read about how Alberta EFP is linked to global sustainability standards.
What You Can Do
As a consumer of food products, you can try and find out if the food you are eating is sustainably sourced. Keep yourself informed as to which companies offer food products that are sustainably sourced. Ask for sustainably sourced products at your local grocery store, farmers market or restaurant. If you are buying local products, inquire whether they are from farms with an EFP. You may get some funny looks at first, but over time, consumer demand always dictates the markets. For most of us, eating safe, healthy food is a priority.
Take a look at our EFP introductory video to hear straight from producers about their commitment to sustainable agriculture and how EFP helps them with that, or click here to read one Alberta producer’s take on EFP. And as Chef Chris Whittaker explains in one of British Columbia’s EFP videos, having an EFP benefits more than just the producer.