During the past couple of months. I’ve spent my life engrossed in agriculture. As a former editor of a farmers’ newspaper this period has brought with it a feeling of ‘back to the future’.
What has interested me is this constant call from all corners of agricultural industry for agriculture to have a “sexier” image, for rural Australia to connect with urban Australia.
It got me to thinking…
1. Why don’t the cities connect more with the country?
2. Why does this request come so often from farmers?
As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true.”
In re-awakening an interest about how food is produced, Australian agriculture invites more scrutiny from consumers. So, we need to ask ourselves. ‘Are we ready for a closer level of examination?”
Often, I join #agchatoz on a Tuesday night, and I know the reaction I’d get to this question if I posted it. There would be the handful of usual suspects who would argue ‘yes’. But I’d argue ‘no’!
Most farmers are not ready for this level of scrutiny. There are practices which occur daily on almost every farm across the country that we do not want examined closely by people in cities. Yes, many of these are a tried and true ways of doing things and often there are few alternatives.
Yet, if we are going to invite scrutiny, then we need to recognise the days of such practices are numbered, that industry needs to step-up and execute a plan for a future without them.
That’s not to say we can’t or shouldn’t invite scrutiny. Maybe that closer examination will force stragglers to move more quickly to adopt what are considered ethical and sustainable practices.
Once started, there will be no stopping consumers’ desire to know more about what they are eating, and in a community where food is plentiful, many will be quick to take the moral high- ground.
Many consumers will not hesitate to question how well we treat our animals and the planet (although you’d have to question the double-standards employed by those in cities who drive 4wds to work).
In protecting a reputation, in promoting a reputation, you need to be prepared to stand by what you do, you need to have a plan to improve what you do and you need to know your story stacks up.
Unless agriculture can tick each of these three boxes, it’s not ready for the scrutiny.