Farmers are hard-working, entrepreneurial risk taking business people.
That’s how most of us in the industry see them. But that this isn’t necessarily the general perception because the biggest enemy for farming is emotion:
Dairy farmers need to win the emotions of the public if they are to reach their potential, says a top manager at DairyNZ.
About 300 farmers, investors and researchers heard the latest on dairying at the NZ Dairy Business Conference in Palmerston North last week. The conference was organised by dairy farmers for farmers.
DairyNZ’s manager of sustainability Rick Pridmore said a major threat to dairying was poor perception, which could restrict future growth, and its reputation on the international market.
“How do we turn that into an opportunity – the biggest enemy is emotion,” he said.
“Public perception is largely based on emotion.”
The way to combat that was to remove poor performers and to deal with things such as animal welfare, nutrient run off and effluent management.
Just how strong those emotions are is illustrated by the editor’s note in this month’s Countrywide (not yet online).
Terry Brosnahan wrote about a conversation with a passenger on a plane which was civil until Terry said he edited a farming magazine:
At that point his demeanour changed and from him came a tirade of abuse towards farmers. to him farmers were greedy polluters who profiteered from the high price of milk and meat. They had little regard for struggling Kiwi families even though farmers had received millions in handouts from taxpayers for adverse climatic events. . .
This anti-farming rhetoric is nothing new (though never as intense). A growing number of city dwellers are expressing anti-farming sentiments as economic times get tougher and jealousy rears its ugly head. these are struggling middle-income earners.
They read about high farm product prices and think farmers are rolling in drought. they know little of the sacrifices farmer s make and the capital they risk, that it takes good management skills to run a successful farming business . . .
That doesn’t matter because as Dr Pridmore said, emotion beats facts.
There are plenty of good news stories about farming but they’re generally on the rural pages of newspapers, and in specialist publications or programmes.
Country Calendar is the exception, a rural focussed television programme that airs in prime time and highlights good farmers and farming practices.
But too often the only farming stories which hit the headlines in general media are the negative ones which feed the stereotypes and fuel the anti-farming emotions.