Two way conversations are the key

As anyone who knows me will tell you I have very strong opinions about the way forward for sustainable agriculture.

Today my post reflects on the importance of both talking and listening.

Sadly Australia is complacent about the challenges to food security.  There is a lack of appreciation by society in general of the interdependence of environment, agriculture, food and health.

However if we are to progress and fuel the mushrooming food needs of the cities while meeting the community’s expectations for environmental sustainability and animal well being, then both rural and urban communities must have greater mutual empathy and respect.

This I believe is the real challenge facing farmers in the immediate future – how do we fix it?

As I see it we can do one of two things

We (farmers) can sit back and lament that we are victims or we can actively acknowledge that farmers are business people selling a product and successful businesses recognise marketing is the strategic part of doing business.

Marketing doesn’t mean every farmer needs to write a blog, join Twitter or Facebook it simply means being customer focused. This means you have to understand your customer and their values and your business has to BE the image you want your customer to see.

Every sector of the food system whether that be farmers, manufactures, branded food companies, supermarkets or restaurants is under ever increasing pressure to demonstrate they are operating in a way that is consistent with stakeholder values and expectations. Farmers cannot expect to be exempted from this scrutiny just because we grow the food.

Businesses are built on relationships. This means we (farmers) have to get out there in our communities and start having two way conversations with our customers

Excitingly I know that once farmers embrace the concept they will discover like me that it can be very rewarding talking to your customers. They are interested and they do care.

There are so many ways farmers can share their stories. This one is very quirky and I just love it. Check it out you will too

Cobargo Dairy Farmer Stephanie Tarlinton shares her story via YouTube

Hello World, Welcome to my world

My name is Lynne Strong and I am a woman with many, many hats. Some I wear better than others I readily admit.

The one I wear most proudly though is my farmer hat. I will be the first to admit it isn’t a hat that I saw myself wearing as a little girl.

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I grew up on a farm and even though I enjoyed being hands on in the day to day running of the farm and the lifestyle that comes with it the idea of being a farmer was most definitely not on my list of top 10 professions.

I farm today because the people I most care about in the world farm and they are in it for the long haul.

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Farming today is no walk in the park. Feeding, clothing and housing the world now and in the next 50 years is going to require an extraordinary effort. This means we need extraordinary people to take up the challenge.  My husband Michael, my son Nick and our farm team (and our cows) have put their hands up to take on the challenge and I want to work side by side with these extraordinary people.

So why write a blog. Well my family have been farming in the Jamberoo Valley on the South Coast of New South Wales since 1831 (and in Ireland and Scotland probably for centuries before that).  That is 7 generations of farming families and 180 years of blood sweat, tears, passion and commitment that have gone into what is now producing milk for 50,000 Australians everyday

That’s 180 years of great stories waiting to be told. And I knew from my interactions with our friends and neighbours that the community wanted to hear those stories.

They just needed the right vehicle. So Art4Agriculture was conceived and Art4Agriculuture has its own entire wardrobe of hats.

But people keep telling me there was still a gap missing, we need more farmers to share their stories to help provide the community with real farmers they can relate to.

Writing a blog is indeed a great way to open the door to our farms, share our ups and downs, the frustrations and challenges, the passion and commitment but most of all show the community that the faith they have in Australian farm produce is warranted.

I am writing this blog to join other inspiring farmers who are opening thier farmgates and help inspire other farming men and women to share their stories. To help show them the community does love farmers, that they do want to hear our stories but they maybe a bit concerned about modern farming practices and whether the way we farm today fits into their rural idyll.

Lets not forget farmers are people and not all people are perfect but there is a whole nation of Australian farmers who get up everyday and say “today I want to move one step closer to being being a perfect farmer”.

What is the definition of perfect farming? That’s the challenge – that’s the two way conversation I would like to have with my readers.

I will put this one out there as a definition this morning “We believe that responsible farming is not only about ‘doing the right thing’ but makes sense – for our animals, our landscape, our people and our communities”.

So lets start the conversation I invite my readers to write me a mission statement for their “perfect” farm