By Lucy Moore
We are the best at what we do. We supply some of the cleanest, greenest, most ethically sourced proteins on the planet to sustain the human race. We have been doing this for generations in my family, and since time immortal across the globe. Yet there is one aspect of our production line that has not evolved with us and it is crucial for our future:
We wonder why there is a disconnect between consumers and producers. I know why- our image has been hijacked and misconstrued over a long time period resulting in it being largely unrelatable for many. And, we haven’t done a whole lot to prevent this either.
I’ll set the scene with a hypothetical headline.
GRASSHOPPERS LAST STRAW FOR DESPERATE GRAZIERS
As is often the case, headlines like these describe a situation unfolding at a point in time. Nine times out of ten they are situations resulting from laws imposed by Mother Nature or members of parliament. Droughts, floods, arctic freezes, searingly hot summer days, mice plagues, grasshopper descents, or iron fists placing chains around family farms from the comfort of their office suites. The result is always the same regardless of the cause- distress, concern and a newspaper headline.
Issues facing farming families deserve the spotlight. The general public needs to understand the commitment it takes to produce food and fibre, and we farmers need to know we’re not alone when the tough times set in. But we can’t let our battles become the face of our business. Can you think of another industry or business model that highlights its sore points when it tries to sell itself? I can’t.
Let’s give these people the whole story so they feel as connected and in-tune as we so badly want them to be.
If I were running a motorbike manufacturing company, I would not be detailing the trials of importing parts or staff retention dramas. No doubt these issues would factor in to discussions around pricing, but I would wave my successes around on a flag to sell my industry.
We don’t do this enough in agriculture.
Like the motorbike scenario, our production issues impact on prices and therefore must be explained for the common good. But beyond that.. we are largely missing.
Without making too many assumptions, I believe a large proportion of farmers and graziers would own a Toyota Landcruiser ute and/or a Toyota 4WD wagon or the equivalent of another variety. Wouldn’t that be perplexing to Sydneysiders and their neighbours… if the drought and grasshoppers had been so disastrous, how can those farmers afford to drive high end vehicles?
Now I’m not saying we should trade down our cars to “fit the mould.” I’m saying we need to adjust our image so comments like “oh yeah, poor old sheep cockie driving around in his brand new 200 series cruiser” don’t even come to mind.
How do we do this? We shout about our successes! We tell people when we pull off ripper wheat harvests and sell steers at the top of the market. We balance the news to right the oxymoron that is the poor grazier on Christmas holidays at Surfers Paradise. It comes down to being honest and it’s for the best. Reporting our challenges encourages support and understanding, reporting our wins raises excitement and appreciation for a job well done.
We want and need young people to join our industry. We want school leavers to pursue careers in agriculture. We want our consumers to be on our page. Let’s give these people the whole story so they feel as connected and in-tune as we so badly want them to be.
I’ll start! Here’s me grinning from ear to ear because this is the first time in four years we will be able to feed an oats crop to our weaners!