If we are going to ensure food security in this country agriculture has to be a partnership between farmers and the community
So lets investigate the Australian communities relationship with food ( please assume when I write the word food, I am referring to the two f’s- food and fibre)
Nobody likes to be put into a box and labelled. However sometimes it’s very useful to help you make a point so please forgive me for putting Australian consumers of food into 4 boxes.
In one box you have the million people in Australia who are labelled Food Insecure and that means 1 million people in Australia go to bed hungry every night. Yes you read that right. 5% of the people in our wonderful country go to bed hungry every night. Please take the time to read about it here
Then there is the extremely larger box that holds the people who buy their food in the main based on Cost, Convenience and Quality (CC&Q) with a huge focus on cost and convenience
Then there is a small but growing box that I am going to label the people who ‘care’. I am going to call them this because they are the group that will potentially make purchases and are prepared to pay a premium for food grown in a way that meets their values. This group of consumers are interested in the ‘how and why’ of growing food and fibre, and also environmental values, sustainability, appropriate animal care, safety, nutrition, affordability and so on.
Values are an emotion. They in the main are not measurable and everyone of us has different values and how they prioritise them so the descriptors of the word “care’ can be very diverse.
At the other end there is a little group I am going to label “Extreme” for the want of a better word. What I mean here is that this group of people have very very strong views about what the word “care’ means and these people sometimes join organisations to lobby policy and decision makers to regulate and legislate industries to align with their values
For the people who sell food direct to consumers in this country like “Colesworth” for the ‘Food Insecure’ there are initiatives like Foodbank and Second Bite they can donate food to. Food for example that is going out of date or does not meet the quality expectations of the C,C&Q group
The C,C&Q are easy to satisfy. Sell food at rock bottom prices and build beautiful mega stores in areas that are within easy reach. The C,C&Q group scare the living daylights out of ‘Colesworth” and their ability to meet shareholder expectations. Selling food at rock bottom prices from stores that cost you a motza is a no-win race to the bottom for profit margins.
So the group that “Colesworth’ is extremely interested in is the people who “care’. The group that may pay more if you can meet or exceed their values expectations and help them feel good about their food choices. Colesworth want to grow this group. What is extremely disappointing is Coles in particular have chosen fear based marketing campaigns to grow their market share. I say to you Coles – disgraceful conduct.
Our good farmers also want to grow this group and I believe for all the right reasons. We want to grow this group by having courageous and open and transparent conversations with them.
To do this we have to be prepared to ‘open the door’ to our farms and bring consumers on our journey with us and that means not only showing them the ‘how’ – paddock to plate or field to fibre process but also the ‘why’ of growing food and fibre,
We want to show them they can trust us to farm without feeling the need to ask policy and decision makers to impose overly budensome regualations on our food and fibre industries. Unlike “Colesworth’ farmers had want to allay consumer fears and reduce stress levels
Today our good farmers are now reconnecting with the people who buy their food and fibre. Listening to them and waking up every morning committed to meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations
It is imperative that we take consumers on our journey with us or we run the risk of consumers have increasingly unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations like expecting farmers to wake up every day to produce food at rock bottom prices for nothing. Our farmers have families too and just like everybody else their first priority is to feed and clothe their families.
So the key for farmers is to work with the community to get that very necessary balance. Today more than ever agriculture is a partnership between farmers and the community.
This year the theme for the Archibull Prize will be “Agriculture* – an endangered species” (ht SK) and students and teachers will investigate the many challenges that farmers face and how we build community partnerships to ensure Agriculture can make the most of many opportunities that are on offer and gets off the endangered species list permanently.
Earth Hour 2015 will celebrate Australian farmers and the challenges they face under increasing conditions of extreme climate variability
That the Food Insecure group gets smaller and smaller and that the people who care group gets larger and larger not because they worry about how food and fibre is produced but because they trust farmers and have the time to put their energies into causes like making sure all Australians have full stomachs every night, have clothes to wear and have a roof over their heads
I want to live in an Australia where we all care about people first. I look forward to that day and I am very proud that the Archibull Prize is helping to grow and support that vision.
In 2014 the Reserve Grand Champion Archibull Prize award winner from Kildare Catholic College exemplified their community – Wagga Wagga
- * Agriculture – the industry that provides us with our most basic of needs. The industry that feeds us, clothes us and puts a roof over our heads
- Please note this post is a work in progress. It has been updated following excellent feedback from a number of people since it was first posted it.
- Rider – I admit the only thing I look at when I buy eggs is how crushproof I believe the box they come in is.
- HT – Hat tip to SK – a lovely lady I met at the NSW Department of Secondary Education yesterday. I shared my vision with her for what I wanted to the Archibull Prize to investigate this year and we work-shopped the theme and I loved her idea