AN INCREASING urban-rural divide has serious implications for Australian agriculture with consumers not necessarily understanding where food comes from nor the resources required to produce it – nor trusting in the process.
AgCommunicators managing director, Deanna Lush, says incorrect perceptions are being compounded by misinformation campaigns on many aspects of food production by activist organisations.
A National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) poll in November last year showed 83 per cent of Australians described their connection with farming as ‘distant’ or ‘non-existent’.
“Those of us inside the agricultural industry know that farming is a professional and high-tech industry and farmers are excellent land managers and food producers. We have to be because, according to the NFF, every Australian farmer feeds an estimated 600 people – 150 here and 450 overseas – and that’s a great responsibility,” Ms Lush said.
“Consumers are having conversations about food production, but the voices of farmers are frequently left out. By creating a dialogue with non-ag audiences, farmers have an opportunity to teach consumers about how food is grown and raised. The people producing the food are most qualified to tell that story.
“Research by the US Center for Food Integrity has found shared values are three to five times more important in building trust with non-ag audiences than sharing facts or demonstrating skills or expertise. So, knowing how to have genuine conversations about food production is vital.”
Ms Lush has recently returned from an intensive investigation of overseas agricultural organisations who are working hard to build trust in agriculture and food producers.
As a 2016 Churchill Fellow, she investigated communication, education and engagement methods to improve understanding of Australian agriculture.
She interviewed key personnel in 47 organisations in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada to assess their awareness and approach to consumer engagement.
She found Australia to be lagging behind its international counterparts in a number of core areas and it was important for Australian agriculture to implement a number of actions to address this issue.
The highlights of Ms Lush’s findings will be the subject of her address at the Innovation Generation Conference as part of this year’s theme Building Blocks for Success. Innovation Generation will be held in Wagga Wagga from 9-11 July.
Registrations are now open at www.innovationgeneration.com.au
Other speakers on the program include:
Stuart Whytcross, who with Brad Woolner owns Voyager Craft Malt – Stuart Whytcross and BradWoolner are grains farmers in the Barellan area. In 2012 they began to produce a series of experimental malts for their own beers from selected grains sourced from their own and other growers in the region. They will share how they pursued their dream of establishing a malting facility on farm to supply malts for craft brewers and distillers.
General Manager, Southern Cotton, Kate O’Callaghan – Ms O’Callaghan has played a leading role in the development of the cotton industry in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA), by strategically building the capacity of local growers through collaboration, education and innovation. She will share the cross-industry lessons with participants at the conference.
Will Rayner, CFO of Rural Bank – Will Rayner will discuss the need for farmers to understand fully their strategic position, their financial status and the opportunities to improve profitability and productivity. He will talk about how banks make decisions based on what a farmer presents to them and what will swing the deal.
Alan Woodward, Director of Research at Lifeline – Alan will talk about how a healthy mind is the key to a successful business. He will also discuss the symptoms of mental illness and how to help people when you spot it.
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