My farmer spotted these signs in Sydney a couple of months ago:
They were part of a campaign to raise money to help drought-stricken farmers.
”Would we get that sort of support in cities here?” my farmer asked.
When relatively few people now come little closer to farms than a glance out a window as they drive down a main road, and the anti-farming lobby is so vocal the answer could well be no.
But this gives me hope: the ODT opines that the All Blacks are not our only winners:
. . . Rugby experts suggest New Zealand’s winning formula is not as dark an art as our black jerseys suggest. Instead, they say, it is a result of hard work and good management, of understanding what the fundamental parts of rugby are, and ensuring players from a very young age learn those basics. In other words, cleverness and hard work.
So can we not dominate a global industry with our cleverness and hard work the way we dominate rugby? Imagine the benefit to New Zealand, to our economy, to our employment rate, to our tax take. The answer of course is obvious: we do. In farming.
I’m a fan of Fred Dagg and Wal Footrot but sad that those images are close to reality for too many people who don’t know farmers and understand farming.
Our farmers are the All Blacks of international agriculture. Our livestock herds roam farms of natural grass, grass fed by little more than rainwater and manure. The resulting products are the envy of the world, yet our farmers compete on price with factory farmers from other nations, despite receiving none of the tariffs and subsidies many of our competitors do.
Our world-renowned horticulture industry employs thousands, sending prime produce across the globe despite the genuine tyranny of distance implicit in an industry where fresh is considered best.
I wonder if there is still a lingering snobbery about people who get their hands dirty that means at least some urban people don’t recognise the many skills food producers need and excel at?
The irony is when the All Blacks win their innovation, hard work and brilliance is celebrated. When our farmers win, day after day, year after year, it seems a growing portion of New Zealanders feel nothing but resentment that farming is not just swaying grass and wildflowers. Instead they see a dark industrial evil, polluting rivers, producing emissions and ruining landscapes. Clearly there is an image problem needing fixing.
Mistakes have been made in the past which will take time to repair; and some by accident or deliberately, are still not using best practice.
But those are the minority. Most farmers take their responsibility to look after their stock, their land, waterways and the wider environment, and to treat their staff well, seriously.
Of course, animal welfare, land-use and pollution are serious issues; that is not up for debate. But it is hard to imagine another economically equitable industry without its own unwanted by-products.
Farming requires the landscape to remain covered in photosynthesising plant life. It is spread around the country, ensuring the ongoing existence of hundreds of small communities. In New Zealand, farming is cleaner, kinder and more efficient than virtually anywhere else on earth. It provides healthy, active, well-paid outdoor employment for thousands of Kiwis, and pays for the employment of many thousands more in support roles, including this country’s world-leading agricultural-science industry.
Thankfully many New Zealanders do still value what farming offers New Zealand. They know we are, as a country, world champion farmers and we are immeasurably better off because of that. It is right and natural to celebrate the exploits of our rugby players as they continue to do us proud on the international stage. But let us not forget that it is not the only international stage we excel on. Our farmers are proof of that.
This is high praise.
It is heartening to know that the hard work of farmers, their staff and the many people who service and supply them is recognised and celebrated.