I’ve had another dose of reality recently: That the truth on the ground about the way farms are run is in stark contrast to the views of anti-farming groups and the implication from onerous government regulations that continue to cripple many farming operations and entire rural and regional communities.
No producer I’ve spoken to is naive enough to think the regulations are going away any time soon – but we must rewrite the story.
Even the most modest agricultural operation is already meeting consumer demands for sustainable, humane, environmentally conscious food and fibre.
New farming practices are being introduced all the time and the uptake of world-leading agricultural technology continues to grow.
As I repeatedly witnessed firsthand on my recent trip through southwest Queensland, and to Charleville in particular, agriculture has an undeniably good story to tell – and everyone should be able to hear it.
As only farmers can, those I spoke to accepted their fair share of responsibility for not being able to adequately communicate their positive messaging, with one farming family who are growing 100 per cent certified organic beef telling me, “We’ve got the good story, but historically we’ve lacked a loud enough, or perhaps an effective enough, argument to influence decision makers and help our situation.
“We haven’t only improved our businesses operationally, we have these fantastic, untold stories behind the products we grow every single day for every single Australian.
“But we probably haven’t marketed ourselves well enough. We tend to be so busy growing product that we forget to stop and tell people what it is we’re producing, and how we’re doing it.
“To counterbalance the negative narrative that seems to be out there – the debate about the environmental impact of farming that seems to play out in the media – we need to do more.
“The beef we grow on our farm is a fantastic product with a great story behind it, but it isn’t until you start writing it down – something we’ve been doing lately – that you go: Hey, there’s something really amazing here. Otherwise, for us, and I dare say for most farmers, it’s just what you do every day.”
It isn’t only agriculture’s “soft voice” holding back its ability to sway decision makers and influence anti-farming establishments – the lack of influence from agriculture and producers is also a numbers game.
There are little more than 26,000 people in the entirety of southwest Queensland, but more than 3.5 million in the State’s southeast.
Governments are therefore far more attuned to listening to the views of this dominant, urban-based majority, than they are to our State’s farmers.
Which is why it’s up to every single one of us to do as those I recently had the good fortune to visit are doing: document and tell their good-news story.
I don’t mean tell your neighbour the next property over – we’re already experts at preaching to the converted – I’m talking about taking to social media or telling your friends and relatives in the city when you speak to them, to help spread the word of the incredible work already going on in agriculture.
No hard-working farmer producing safe, sustainable, environmentally friendly produce should feel the need to defend what they do – instead they should only feel the need to promote it