The art of story telling agriculture must get it right and the time is now

As per my previous post What is Fair Food? the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance has launched its new initiative to create a strong and independent voice for Australian farmers. Fair Food Farmers United will be a platform to connect, support and provide a united voice for farmers feeding Australia fairly.

According to their press release their aims are too

  • provide a balanced voice to represent farmers who are at the sharp end of the impacts of free trade,
  • raise awareness about the impacts of cheap imports on farmers
  • advocate for fair pricing for farmers selling to the domestic markets
  • connect Australian farmers for farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing
  • be a voice for farmer-friendly regulations and standards.

Read more on the AFSA website

The majority of people attracted to this initiative in the first instance are farmers who are cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with the public. This gives them a unique insight into consumer images and expectations of farmers and how important it is to meet or exceed those consumer expectations if you want to sell your product at a premium and get a FAIR return for your efforts. As I mentioned in my previous post FAIR means different things to different people. Now is the right time to get into the  FAIR FOOD space. As a segment on the Checkout ( See Value for Money – Tuna) last night showed there is a clear rise in the number of people choosing ethics over value and voting with their wallets at the supermarket checkout and farmers markets and the like.

Fair Food Farmer United know that if they want to get real traction now and achieve their aims they must get into the hearts and minds and wallets of consumers aka voters.

I have been a long term advocate of farmers having direct connection with consumers with a strong focus on finding ways to innovatively do this in a way farmers are comfortable with. One of the most successful initiatives is the highly innovative Art4Agriculture programs which include the Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions program

I will be the first to admit its pretty scary and a huge responsibility to advocate on behalf of industry and I was reminded the other day that even after 10 years of doing it I am still uncomfortable in this space.

I had a message on my phone from Radio National indicating Bush Telegraph wanted to do a story. So I rang back with butterflies in my stomach as per usual wondering what it was and how long it would take me to prepare to ensure I got the key messages spot on

I was overwhelmed with relief when they didn’t want me. Excitingly in the first instance the ABC reads the Art4AgricultureChat blog and secondly wanted to interview one of our young team of farming champions Danila Marini about her research.


Sheep are smart and so is Danila

Thirdly I was absolutely thrilled how excited she was and didn’t hesitate to say yes. This is a great example of engaging and nurturing the young to build their capacity to sell agriculture’s story with confidence and most importantly build their capacity to do it with charisma and resonate with our key audience.

There is no denying its a given a key issue for agriculture is the continual need to strive for sustainability – but what is sustainable? Having farm systems that ensure the environment and productive capacities can co-exist in the long-term is the standard take on the definition. Like it or not sustainable agriculture is also about creating value for our products in our consumer base, that ensures consistent and long-term demand.

Consumer choice is as big a threat to our industry as climate change/variability, international competitiveness or government policy.

We need to create partnerships right along our supply chain to develop relationships that enable farmers and consumers to make informed decisions about the trade-offs inherent in their choices and our production systems. Consumers have accepted $1 milk and cheap/imported food more generally, so it is up to agriculture to articulate and share why we don’t believe that is a choice that will deliver a sustainable future.

If consumers do not value farm output, then no amount of innovation, productivity gain or government support is going to deliver a sustainable industry into the future.

We need to reconnect with our consumers. Modern supply chains mean farmers have never been so isolated from their end-consumer.

Therefore we need to develop the capacity of our people, so they are knowledgeable and are comfortable in addressing all issues and stakeholders along the entire supply/value chain in order to re-build these relationships.

This will mean farmers and others working in agriculture taking a higher profile role in the lives of our consumers, current and future.

This will mean farmers proactively engaging with processors and supermarkets to develop mutually beneficial relationships ensuring value is delivered at all points along the supply/value chain – including farmers, processors, retailers and consumers.

The last thing we need is another advocacy group cluttering an already overcrowded space but I believe if Fair Food Farmers United get it right they are off to a great start with the key audience then they may just build the partnerships necessary to deliver an advocacy success story for agriculture

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

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