I made a comment to a group of people a few days ago that went something like this:
We should be careful with how we talk about ‘city’ people. We need city people to buy our grain just as much as they need us to produce it.
The group of people was all those present at the ‘Agriculture’s new-gen?’ panel session that I was asked to be apart of at the VFF Grains Conference in Mildura a couple of weeks ago. I was joined on the panel by DPI Project Officer Pru Cook and Brett Coates, another young grains farmer. The three of us spoke about what we saw as issues in the grains industry affecting us as young people.
I made the above statement because there seemed to be much concern in the room about how modern farming practices are misunderstood by predominately city-based consumers. The concern stems from issues like this one where an animal welfare organisation is intending to fly over farms with drones to monitor animal welfare. What’s going on here? Farmers see it as intuitive that good animal husbandry and welfare is good business. Same for chemical and environmental management for us grain farmers. If GM crops really did cause ‘super weeds’, they would affect our bottom line long before they were an issue that TV news crews were reporting on.
It is true that many from our cities have little understand of the way we farmers farm. But I don’t believe that it is useful to frame this issue in terms of ‘city people’ and ‘country people’. It might be unintentional, but this language can promote an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. When the reality is that most farmers have no idea about the pressures on suburban families who struggle to afford housing and have long commutes to endure each day. We producers need consumers from all walks of life, they’re the ones who buy our produce! Without them we’d need to do something else.
We in rural Australia need the support of our urban friends as they support our livelihoods, just as we support theirs.
Fellow blogger Kelly Theobald wrote about this same issue recently from the point of view of journalists, and this blog piece appeared a few days after I made my comments at the conference. It’s a great piece you should check out.
I feel that given the public’s current ambiguity around farming practices, abattoirs and the live export trade, it’s in the agricultural industry’s best interests to be aware of the influence that their language may have on the public.
Read the full article: Don’t slaughter when you can simply kill