Reframing the “woe is us” messaging in agriculture

Todays big question

What do you think it would take for agriculture to reframe its messaging from

“woe is us”

to

“If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem”?

I am a sixth generation dairy farmer who was told growing up by my father “never learn to milk a cow”  It was a message that resonated and I listened  and obeyed and chose a career pathway that the world told me would always provide a reliable income for my family and provide opportunities that my siblings and I didn’t have growing up on the farm.

You can imagine the shock/horror feeling I had when six months into my marriage my partner got an offer to go back to his dairy farming roots.

It was a very difficult conversation to have. He was so passionate about the opportunity but the messages I had received as a child rang very loud alarms bells. Those messages meant that despite wanting to support his dream I did everything I could to convince him neither of us should be milking cows for a career.

My pleadings were to no avail, He began his new career as a share farmer on a local dairy farm and the messaging I had received as a child told me I would be required to work very long hours in my off farm career to ensure the bills were paid on time

Twenty five years later I bought my career skills and knowledge of financial literacy, consumer insights and marketing back to the farm so we could grow the business to allow our son to join the dairy business.

What I discovered was a whole new exciting world that for some reason the dairy industry and agriculture wasn’t sharing beyond the farm gate

A world where science, research and technology was available at a level that the medical world I came from couldn’t even dream of. The level of knowledge of ruminant nutrition and capacity to collect data was phenomenal. If only they did this amount of research on human nutrition or doctors got the holistic training vets and agronomists received.

In the following twenty years working in the agriculture advocacy space I have asked myself over and over again . Why are we keeping all this science, research and technology a secret.

Why do we prefer the “woe is us” messaging

Why do we prefer to tell the world things like the average age of farmers in this country in 58 when we know those ABS figures don’t tell the real story.

Why is agriculture so focused on sharing negative messaging . Last week I was part of a workshop where the participants were asked to list all the reasons why young people don’t choose careers in agriculture. I was shocked, surely I must have heard wrong. Surely the industry is across the knowledge from the world of social science that tells us the dangers of reinforcing the negative.

Why do we engage experts to tell us how we can make the most of the opportunities in the world of agriculture and then ignore their advice?

What do you think?

Is it time to reframe our messaging?

What would that look like?

For years I have been been looking for courageous industry leaders who do that.

Meet the forward thinking David Carter CEO of Austral Fisheries. This is the first of a series of Leadership is Language interviews Dione Howard deputy chair of the Youth Voices Leadership Team is doing with David.

What do you think it would take for agriculture to reframe its messaging from “woe is us” to “If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem”?

By the way – those opportunities for a rewarding career in agriculture abound. My advice is only choose to farm if you have strong financial literacy capability ( or some-one on your team who does) and be committed to life-long learning and growing

As an aside I got up early this morning and walked around the garden I started creating 40 years ago around the house on the farm that I lobbied hard not to live in and I experienced great joy. We are a product of our life experiences and I have found you often learn most from your greatest mistakes.

  1. Neil Barr 2014 Where are the young farmers  
  2. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones Source
  3. Bray and Cay 2018. Room To Grow 

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