When you think of farmers and the challenges they face do you feel empathy or sympathy?

To me agriculture has made the big mistake of thinking that sympathy sells. Does it?

Here is a little consumer interview snapshot I have edited from the recent Appetite for Change documentary hosted by Lynton Tapp that was shown last Saturday on Channel 10.

It would appear from this snapshot that people feeling sorry for us doesn’t necessarily translate into increased sales of the products we produce. But lets leave that for the moment

I get regular calls from people in rural Australia who would either like to seek my advice or access the talented Young Farming Champions team and/or use The Archibull Prize material to underpin a ‘paddock to plate’ or ‘field to fibre’ appreciation awareness event they would like to run in their region.

I had such a call yesterday and I did what I always do and ask a couple of questions for which the answers are important to me personally. Invariably the answers are the same and they sound something like this

  1. I want to be able to explain to people in a way that makes sense to them why I want to farm.  Think back to the consumer comments in the footage above and see my footnote below
  2. I want my region to be proud of our farmers and support them.

Interestingly enough nobody ever actually says I want people to feel sorry for our farmers and support them which is how we have too often marketed ourselves in the past

Yesterday I spoke with an education expert who is reviewing The Archibull Prize school entry and exit survey for 2015 and she asked me what was the ultimate outcome I wanted the survey to show. I said I wanted the exit survey to show the students have a much higher level of understanding and appreciation (post participating in the Archibull Prize and meeting the Young Farming Champions) of the challenges and constraints farmers are under to produce safe,affordable and nutritious food for families here and overseas.

Equally importantly I want to raise awareness and create a buzz amongst the students that not only are farmers prepared to partner with the community to overcome these challenges and seize the opportunities that come their way we are actively inviting the community to join us

Before I sat down to write this post I noticed my mobile phone was flat and I needed to charge it. I looked at the phone and my computer that always seems to be at the end of my fingertips. I asked myself  ‘Do I need to understand ( or be educated about) the “Production line to Palm” process to appreciate these devices and buy them?’

And of course the answers was ‘No I don’t –  I just want them to be safe, affordable and available’

Whilst students and teachers participating in the Archibull Prize certainly get a clear awareness of the paddock to plate process it has become very clear to the Art4Agriculture team and the Young Farming Champions that this is not the key essential learning that is going to generate the pivotal partnerships and support for agriculture and our farmers. The success of the Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions programs is underpinned by the fact that they are programs that reach out to the community and start two way conversations.  These programs have well and truly started the conversation and farming communities around Australia are embracing the model as the phone calls I receive show me every day

As my previous post found here asked it’s what agriculture as a whole does next that we now need to work on – that’s where the huge gap is and I have no idea who is prepared to put their hand up to fill that gap

Talking about starting conversations. My girlfriend rang me from the supermarket the other day after watching the Appetite for Change documentary and she said ‘it’s taking me three times as long to shop. Every time I pick something up I am checking to see if I am buying Australian made and supporting Australian farmers’

How many Agriculture generated marketing campaigns do that? I know the Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions do and this campaign obviously has.

So Agriculture is time to rethink the way we market ourselves on a grand scale because placards that say #standup4farmers don’t do anything for me as a consumer marketing campaign. We could spend a lot of money and survey consumers as they come of the supermarket to see if it does anything for them.  We could but its time to spend our limited marketing dollars wisely. Let’s look at what works, invest in those programs, and build on the conversations and grow the partnerships

Paraphrasing the words of Ian Plowman

Wisdom and creativity can be found anywhere. All we need to do is create the conditions within which that wisdom and creativity can blossom. You can achieve the solutions through unlocking the knowledge, insight and creative talent that lies dormant in your organization, association or community.

Footnote:  Why do I I want to promote agriculture?

I get  asked this question a lot  and I too used to find it hard to explain.  This infographic does it beautifully and now I smile and say to people – can you guess the bit I haven’t nailed yet.


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

2 thoughts on “When you think of farmers and the challenges they face do you feel empathy or sympathy?”

  1. We all need a reminder about who we are, and what help our farmers need. If buying fresh Australia grown products can help, lets all do it. Today at the fish market I was also careful about buying local products ..
    Thanks Lynne & team for your effort & support for Aussie products.

  2. I agree that people shouldn’t feel sorry for farmers anymore than farmers should feel sorry for them. But the simple point is we are at a crossroad in Australia, do we eventually mine all the mining leases held over the NSW countryside both urban and true rural or is their a time when we say enough is enough. I believe that time has come. The detriments will over take any advantages from mining very quickly and with no recourse.
    Once aquifers are ruined, they remain so. Once farmland is lost to mining it remains so.
    Once natural habitats for flora and fauna have been cleared they are never returned to what they were. People in cities have to put up with the urban jungle yet they crave getting out of it every so often and strive for healthy lives. What Australian farmers are doing is supporting them in their choice of fine clean foods. In the years to come there will be over 5 million people in Sydney. We farmers would and do take great pride and effort in providing their food and wish to continue. Where is the brake pedal on mining?

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