These visits will show the good reality and help counter bad perceptions:
Federated Farmers says opening dairy farms to all New Zealanders is a brave gesture and an opportunity for farmers to debunk some myths around farmers’ environmental management.
Dairy co-operative Fonterra has this week announced its “open gates” imitative where selected farms from around the country will open exclusively for one day on December 10.
“This is a great idea and an opportunity for all kiwis rural and urban, to visit a farm and see at first-hand the environmental work farmers have done and are still undertaking,” says Federated Farmers Dairy Industry Chair Chris Lewis.
The Federation had already staged farm days in the provinces which was a similar concept and had been successful in building community engagement with farmers.
“Everyone is welcome and especially those people who have been less complimentary towards farmers. They can ground truth themselves and see what perception is versus actual reality.”
To visit a farm, you have to register on Fonterra’s website. There were 40 farms taking part and they all represented different aspects of environmental stewardship that has been completed or in progress.
If you wanted to know what a riparian strip is, how effluent management works or look at how farmers protect biodiversity this was your chance.
“There might be some scrutiny as to why these farms were selected. Well, they’ve been picked for a variety of reasons including logistics.
“For one, they need to meet criteria around car parking and health and safety. The reality is you can’t have dozens of people trooping across properties or paddocks, it will have an impact and so these selected farms are suited to handle that rate of activity,” says Chris.
The open day would also provide visitors with experience of on-farm biosecurity practices and what famers do daily to manage pests and other threats to animal care and the environment.
“Those who choose to take up the invitation to visit these farms will have a greater understanding of dairy farming in 2017 and its future. That’s the whole purpose, we want them to see that farmers are environmentally smart and committed to ongoing improvements.
“As a farmer, it’s our day to showcase our business and the pride we have in what we do.”
Chris recommends that other farmers should visit a selected farm in their area. Check out the environmental work being undertaken and perhaps get some ideas from the innovation on show.
“If you’re a Feds member, I encourage you to get involved and go along. Show support to your fellow farmer and make yourself available to answer questions.”
You can book a visit at Open Gates.