Voiceless I thank you for starting the conversation the dairy industry needed to have.

This post ‘Voiceless – What a farce you are” is generating a huge amount of traffic to my blog but what is important is it is generating some very important comments from a wide variety of people. Not just on the blog, emails to me, and messages on Facebook, DM’s on Twitter and phone calls

Lynne Strong

At time for serious reflection

By the way I don’t think Voiceless is a farce but sometimes you have to have a heading that drives traffic to get the important conversations happening. What I do think is Voiceless is a well-meaning organisation but not that well informed.  But I wrote a blog about that with that heading and it hasn’t generated anywhere near the same amount of conversations

Its turns out Linda who comments a number of times on my ‘Voiceless – What a farce you are” blog lives quite near to me and is a fascinating person that I look forward to meeting in the near future. BTW some people mistakenly thought Linda represented Voiceless – she does not. She is a very smart woman with strong ideals and there are lots of people out there like Linda and we as farmers must listen to what these people have to say because they care just like we do but sometimes in a different way and we have to get be able to achieve a maintained and respected balance between urban and rural communities

To maintain our social licence agriculture must build consumer trust, proving we share the same values as consumers, and this can only be achieved by actively connecting with the community.

Agriculture will struggle to expand and introduce new technologies if consumers are concerned about the industry’s motivation

Animal activists have clearly identified issues. However, a social licence to operate is not about issues, because issues can change.

Instead, a social licence is about developing platforms and methodologies to have discussions with customers and consumers regardless of the issue. A key component will be having farmers and scientists understand how to explain on-farm practices to consumers and stakeholders in the most effective way.

Industry organisations are resourced to focus on political and policy imperatives. They also handle crisis issues as they arise, but a social licence to operate takes time to develop and resources to maintain. Maintaining a social licence requires daily effort to maintain and enhance.  All industry stakeholders, from farmers, scientists and milk processors have a role to play in securing agriculture’s social licence.

These industry participants need to be identified, trained and supported to engage with consumers and the media on a daily basis. This includes understanding the correct messaging, platforms and strategies for engaging effectively. This is what the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions do every day and this is why they are so successful

These are not new ideas. Yet nobody quite understands how to handle them, how to implement them, or how to transform the talk into a walk.

Excitingly there is a group in Australia who have successfully taken the bull by the horns. The Young Farming Champions involved in the Art4Agriculture programs are effectively connecting with the community, sharing their own values and building relationships with consumers, engaging in conversations on climate change, food wastage, and the challenges of producing safe, affordable and nutritious food and fibre with a declining natural resource base.

Like most farmers the Young Farming Champions have the passion, experiences and knowledge to inspire others. What some of them do not have are the sophisticated communication skills to do so in a short period of time. In this age of bite size information and desensitisation through sensory overload, the ability to communicate a message in a way that resonates with an audience is critical

These skills are not bestowed, they are learnt and therefore can be taught. They are not learnt from their peers, university students, farmers and consultants. A specialist skills requires a technical specialist and this is what makes the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program work. We outsource the expertise we don’t have

Agriculture it’s time to listen, it’s time to make sure our practices DO meet or exceed consumer expectations and yes these expectations may become unrealistic if we don’t bring them on our journey.

It’s our job not our industries to ensure consumer expectations are realistic and it’s time to build a cohort of farmers and scientists trained by technical specialists who can have those essential two way conversations with the community

So Voiceless I thank you for starting the conversation the dairy industry needed to have. We do care and as this great blog from Dairy Farmer of the Year Greg Denis – If only it was the Animal’s Voice shows lot of what you have reported is ill-informed and what you have asked for of us is at times unrealistic but we are listening and there are plenty of passionate farmers like me who are driving change.

This video is absolutely fascinating I can see why those who don’t live on farms and know that this is not what happens on family dairy farms would become vegans

Beyond Carnism and toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices | Melanie Joy |

Compelling isn’t she? And I was having bacon and eggs and a latte for breakfast

Special thanks to the bright minds of Sophie Davidson, Greg Mills and Bessie Thomas for so much of the inspiration for this blog

2 thoughts on “Voiceless I thank you for starting the conversation the dairy industry needed to have.

  1. It’s really interesting to be reading this as I’m taking a class called “communicating ethical issues in agriculture” this semester. I wrote a post last year saying that I disagreed with some pretty big parts of the dairy industry, but that rather than protest and drive change from the outside (i.e. through AA and RSPCA pressure), I’d much rather support the industry to be the ones making the changes from the inside.

    I am really grateful that we have people like you in our industry Lynne who understand how important community engagement is, and that if we don’t engage, the expectations which drive the direction of industries may become unrealistic and therefore negatively impact our industry.

    Something I just wrote in a class discussion forum today though (related to a different animal ag industry) is that just because someone is doing best practice, doesn’t necessarily mean that that practice is ethical. I also haven’t read the Voiceless report so I’m speaking on a very general basis here. So whilst it is important to be engaging with the community, I think it is equally if not more important for industry to be consistently evaluating and reevaluating its practices. I think some (not you) see community engagement as an opportunity to convince people to accept what they do by explaining why/how they do it, but really that isn’t the point of it. It will only work in the long run if the practice/principal/industry is truly accepted and morally robust.

    I think by you coming out and saying “thankyou for starting the conversation the industry needs to have” (even though I don’t know what that is but I have a fair idea) you really are showing that you are ahead of the curve Lynne, and not just about talking the talk but walking it too.

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