The gate is open, Michelle

Today’s post comes from the heart and is a reprint of this article in The Land

Tom Tourle is one of a group of young farmers extending an invitation to Michelle Bridges:

Tom Tourle is one of a group of young farmers extending an invitation to Michelle Bridges: “Come and see my farm“.

A FURORE erupted in farming circles last week when fitness trainer Michelle Bridges reignited the inflammatory debate on ‘ag-gag’ laws with a column in the Sun Herald.

Now a group of young Aussie farmers wants to “open the gate”, inviting Ms Bridges on a journey to see how they farm.

Ms Bridges’ opinion piece called for Australian consumers to resist the introduction of US-style ag-gag legislation which would restrict filming of animal production by activists. In response, the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) published an open letter asking Ms Bridges if she would mind having cameras set up in her own home.

Ms Bridges defended her column, posting this on Facebook days later:

“Aussie farmers – I have huge respect for what you do and realise the majority of the industry do the right thing. But I do believe that those who don’t should be held accountable.

“My article takes a stance against proposed new laws that I believe are unjust. It does not condone, encourage or endorse illegal activity.”

Regardless, the AFI open letter went viral, spawning countless tweets and Facebook posts and generating unprecedented online traffic. Amongst the understandable outrage, a clear trend emerged: farmers were keen not to defend the industry but to educate people disconnected from the reality of agricultural production.

Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber is one of many producers who’ve extended an invitation to Ms Bridges to share their stories.


An open invitation


Dear Ms Bridges,

My name is Hannah Barber and I am lucky enough to have been brought up on the family farm. We have now been proudly producing sheep, beef cattle and crops to feed and clothe Australian families for over 100 years.

After being thrown into the melting pot of people from different backgrounds at school and in the wider community I realised that I had taken for granted people’s connection to agriculture. I realised that not all people had the opportunities to have a connection to the land and farming and my childhood was unique and special.

I have now been lucky enough to be selected to represent the cattle and sheep industry with 40 other young people from the grains, wool, cotton and dairy industries in the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion’s program. These 40 young people are either proud to farm or have careers in the exciting, innovative and dynamic sector that is Australian agriculture.

Part of the reason I applied for the program was that it gave me multiple opportunities to provide others with the connection I have with farms and farmers, families and communities who grow the clothes they wear and food they eat.

When I read your article in the Sydney Morning Herald Lifestyle Section – “It’s time to take a stand over proposed “ag-gag” laws” – (by the way, I am confident you didn’t mean to infer that you supported the rights of people to break into farms) I saw a wonderful opportunity to literally take you on a journey to share my farming experiences.

I would like to extend an invitation for you to join me on a road trip to visit my family farm and those of some of my fellow Young Farming Champions to see how our animals are raised and how we get them ethically from paddock to plate (and everywhere else in between). After all, the fresh, healthy food you promote for fitness, health and weight management is grown by Australian farming families, like ours.

From my cattle in Parkes, you could maybe then visit Tom Tourle’s sheep farm in Dubbo, Georgia Clark’s chooks at Lake Macquarie and Prue Capp’s horses in the Hunter Valley.

The farmers who help put the cheese on your crackers Tom Pearce and Andrew D’Arcy could show us around their dairies in the home of cheese itself, Bega, and we’d better also drop in on Richie Quigley and Ben Egan growing the cotton for our socks out in the beautiful Macquarie Valley.

After who wouldn’t want to meet pin up boy Ben Egan

As young farming champions we are also scientists studying in various fields for our PhDs, we are agronomists, nutritionists, vets and rural entrepreneurs to name but a few. We are nurturers and environmentalists. In fact there is a career and a role for you in agriculture from A to Z.

My Mum also makes some mean scones too, so I suggest you plan to stay for smoko.

On behalf of the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions I look forward to hearing from you.

Hannah Barber

– Cattle and Sheep Industry Young Farming Champion

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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