Are egos and personalities getting in the way of profitable and resilient farms in Australia?

_2017 Landcare Conference Lynne Strong 16_9 _Page_11

If you want to bring joy to some-one you sit with them on the front verandah at my house

Ten years have gone by since I had a phone call from the office of the federal Minister for Agriculture asking if the Minister could come to our farm and meet with me and would I organise for him to have a breakfast meeting with a group of dairy farmers from the region

The questions that the minister asked me as we sat on my front verandah that stayed front of mind are:

How do we create an effective model for agriculture’s research and development corporations.

How do we get the people running them to have collaborative, cooperative mindsets?

How do we get them focused on the big picture.?

How do we get them to focus on connecting farmers with consumers and their role in helping farmers get safe affordable, nutritious food to Australians and families around the world?

These are questions I haven’t stopped thinking about and its clear all the ministers who followed him haven’t stopped thinking about them either as their first gig seems to be the never ending review of the RDC model

I have watched the RDC model with great interest in the past ten years looking for change. I have seen glimmers of hope that quickly fade. I so want the model to work

When I see press releases like this, I wonder if its all about egos. I have seen this press release twice. Each time it quotes a different head of an RDC

You can’t help but wonder why the opinions of the two most important voices in the food and fibre supply chain werent sourced for the press release. How much more effective would the story be if we heard from a farmer about how their farming business was focused on meeting or exceeding consumer expectations.

I don’t think its about egos.  I think it’s the outdated RDC paternalistic model aka top down approach the RDCs favour.

If I am close to the mark what are the opportunities and barriers for farmers and consumers to be active and involved voices together in how our food is produced and distributed to everyone who needs it?

Kudos to Corteva – for asking those questions.

This is a survey that gave me hope

#zerohunger #zerowaste #StrongerTogether

 

Why does the media seem to think farmers are at war with consumers?

There was an article in The Weekly Times (TWT) on 4th September 2019 titled Farmer fightback: Agriculture spending millions on trust campaigns.  Titles are meant to grab our attention and this one certainly grabbed mine.

To reduce my stress levels I made the decision to not read the even more red rag to a bull editorial Battle to justify leaves farmers weary where according to the Editor of TWT “Farmers shouldn’t have to justify what they do to consumers who want high quality food and fibre at a low price, argues The Weekly Times.” 

According to TWT millions are being spent ‘responding to a burst of animal activism and anti-farmer sentiment this year’. The paper then poses the question “Is too much money being spent promoting and justifying farming?”

The first two questions I would like to ask TWT and fellow farmers are.

  1. Is the media promoting these campaigns as some sort of war farmers have to fight doing us any favours?
  2. Isnt building relationships of trust between producers and consumers part of everyday business in 21st century?

Going back to the TWT question. If my area of expertise was communication I would know there are three different types of communication models

  1. Deficit – one way information transfer. The most expensive example of this would be TV advertising
  2. Dialogue – two way information transfer where ideas and information are shared
  3. Participatory – farmers and consumers work together. Consumers are involved collaborators in the process. This one is my area of expertise. Impact study found here 

Then I would know there are two different types of TRUST

  1. General
  2. Interpersonal

Then I would list all of the TRUST building campaigns under these categories. I would then ask for impact studies and a whole heap of other stuff and then I may just be able to hazard an educated guess on the question we should be asking. Are we spending our producer/consumer relationship building dollars the best way?

Can we improve on this?

Archibull Prize Evaluation Survey .png

I have been in this space for almost 20 years. I wrote an opinion piece for TWT close to 15 years ago that said something very similar to the current editor. I have learnt a lot in 15 years. We could replace the words “climate change” in this cartoon with “social license” and ask oursleves exactly the same thing.

climate-change (1)

Farmers have the same B2C challenges and issues ( and a few more ) any other business in the 21st century has  We also have the same opportunities to market our businesses and our farming practices well

Going to war only ever leads to death and destuction- lets find a smarter way together to build interpersonal relationships of trust between farmers and consumers.

 

Early adopter farmers are agriculture’s biggest threat

This year as part of The Archibull Prize students in schools across NSW and QLD are studying and reflecting on the biggest challenges facing agriculture in this country.

We have told the teachers and students those challenges are:

  • Climate Change
  • Declining natural resources
  • Food and Fashion Waste
  • Biosecurity

We have left out the most immediate challenge and the most important because the program itself by default addresses this

That problem is consumers are increasingly concerned about the way their food and fibre is produced

Surveys continually back up the following

Consumers want  Safe, affordable and healthy food

Consumers are concerned about

1. environment

2. animal welfare

3. chemicals in food

4. Farmers ability to make a living

I have dedicated the last ten years and the next 20 years of my life to showing consumers that they can have faith in the way food and fibre is produced in this country

I am lucky enough to work with a wonderful team of supporting partners and advocates helping me do this including agriculture’s rising stars

The biggest barrier to achieving major gains in building trust with consumers is our farmers themselves. There is a culture in agriculture that values quiet achievers and frowns upon being proud and loud

Too often I hear those early adopter quiet achievers say that the farmers talking in the media do not represent the majority and are not walking the talk whilst they are at home doing what they do best and don’t need to share it.

Let me tell you early adopter quiet achievers. You are the biggest threat to agriculture in this country and I put it to most of you that like me ten years ago you are very proud of what you do and would be delighted to talk about it if you had the confidence and skill sets to do so.

I have spent the last ten years building my confidence and skills sets and now help others by sharing my journey and providing them with the same technical experts that I was lucky enough to have access to.

Let me share with you what I believe the problem is.

You can break farmers up into the following demographics

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

Interestingly enough you can break consumers up into the same demographics. Looking at mainstream technology – love this graph but can’t understand why it wasn’t the girls who were the innovators. See postscript

clip_image002

In agriculture the early adopters get their information from the experts and other farmers follow by having conversations with and witnessing the successes of the early adopters. We have all heard the stats –  9 out 10 farmers learn from other farmers.

Agriculture’s big problem is early adopter consumers have great difficulty accessing agricultural experts or early adopter farmers prepared to share their journey so they get their information from the internet. In a lot of cases that’s a very scary thought. Dissemination of information in the community occurs in just the same way as it does in the farming community. Early adopters (or thought leaders) are highly respected by their peers and listen to what they say.

So I rest my case. Like it or not Early Adopter Farmers is time to come out from behind the bushel and it you were like me and want to build your confidence and skills sets –  lobby the organisations you pay levies to for the access to technical experts to help you Because in reality this is the only way you can save your fellow farmers from extinction.

Self driven extinction by our lack of across the board acknowledgment that the consumer is King and Queen and without their support we are wasting our time and money and our physical and emotional energy

Postscript.

I just love twitter my question as to why girls weren’t the innovators re the iPhone the brains trust on Twitter tells me and you will love this-  its because boys watch porn online that’s why they are innovators. Bit confused but amused

Now there is a research topic for the scientists – Online porn the driver of innovation

You get what you pay for

Isn’t twitter a great source of information and food for thought. Thank you Melissa Henry for drawing this article titled Horse meat – the hardest thing to digest is that it’s your fault from the UK ‘The Making Progress Blues~ A blog on the journey’ to my attention.

Forgive me author , I cant seem to ascertain the name of the writer of the blog but I am pretty confident it is not contributed to by the agriculture sector. I am sharing it with you for a number of reasons.  The first reason is a highly positive one and that is I believe in the integrity of our domestic food supply chain in so much as Australians faith in the commitment of our farmers to supply fresh, affordable, nutritious food for our customers at every level and ultimately consumers is second to none.

Secondly I believe this post does highlight the dangers of taking this for granted. As consumers when all we value is cost and convenience with little or no thought to the ramifications to the people down the supply who are ultimately forced to continually ‘innovate’ to keep supplying this food at rock bottom prices. Now I am pretty confident that this type of ‘innovation” wont happen in my lifetime in this country. It is imperative however that as the consumers we keep remembering there are no free lunches. First the suppliers suffer and in the end we all pay whilst supermarkets like Coles profits go up and up and their executives take home million dollar wage packets in double figures.

I have reproduced the first part of the post below. You can read the rest here Horse meat – the hardest thing to digest is that it’s your fault . 

Horse Meat Scandal

Be warned like me you may find the post a bit confronting          

No  doubt you are outraged about the horse meat scandal. You have every right to be – criminality, profiteering, potential fraud, all have led to many people eating an animal they would probably prefer to see in the 3.20 at Kempton and possibly also ingesting dangerous veterinary drugs. 

However, I’m going to come at this from another angle me at this from another angle and it’s this: it’s your own bloody fault. There you go.

findus

I know, I know; you’re not happy. It’s not your fault is it? It’s the government, the supermarkets, criminals and Goodness knows who else.

But it’s not just them, you see. It’s you.

After a week of this story my patience has finally snapped, and it’s time someone told you a few home truths.

Many of us have been banging on for years about this stuff, trying to make you care about the need for better food labelling, about fairness for farmers, about the need to support local farms to avoid all our food coming from giant, uncaring corporate agri-businesses which churn out cheap product to feed the insatiable appetite of supermarket price-cutting.

We’ve been highlighting the unfairness of UK farmers being forced to meet 73 different regulations to sell to supermarkets which don’t apply to foreign suppliers, and talking about our children growing up with no understanding of food production and, more than all of this, about the way supermarkets have driven down and down and down the cost of meat to the point where people think it’s normal to buy 3lbs of beef (in burgers) for 90p.

And you wouldn’t listen. It was like shouting into a gale.

Through the years of New Labour, when farming and the countryside were demonised, you wouldn’t listen. You cheerfully chose to believe that all farmers were Rolls Royce driving aristocrats, as painted by John Prescott. You had no sympathy. You wanted a chicken for £2 and your Sunday roast for a fiver. Well, you got them didn’t you? And hundreds of farmers went to the wall. And you still didn’t care because Turkey slices were ten for 60p.

And now you’re furious, because it turns out that when you pay peanuts for something it’s actually not very good. Who knew eh?

And before you start, don’t even think about the “it’s all right for the rich who can go to local butcher’s shops but what about the poor?” line. The number of people who can’t afford adequate amounts of food is tiny – tragic and wrong, yes, but tiny. Supermarkets don’t make their billions from them hunting in the “reduced” basket, they make their money from millions of everyday folk filling a weekly trolley. You, in other words………….

This post is not just about truth ion labelling

Truth in Labelling

This post is about equity for everyone in the food supply chain  We do care don’t we?There is an election coming up. Let’s show we care and vote in the people who share our social conscience.