A story to be shared

Under the brim of an akubra hat, lies a story burning to be told.

It's whisper lies in the sweat stained brow, it's travelled ground on an old pulled plough.

And within this pair of old blue jeans, lies grease stains off some big machines.

There's a story found in these weathered hands, out west to the red dirt sands.

The tales from the shearing shed, the cattle that my dad has led,

our farmers have a yarn to share.

 

From trading floors to crowded stores, the city folk bustle by.

With tailored suits and a fine gold watch, they sip on coffee and scotch.

And aboard a train it starts to rain, and the city begins to sleep.

From the units to townhouses, dinner shared with families or people with their spouses,

a meal marks the end of the day, the sky hazes the milky way.

 

In Australia, our nation is said to have been built 'riding on the sheep's back'. Livestock were mustered down the streets to market and sales were conducted by candlelight amidst the early morning fog. Agriculture built the heart of our communities and provided the start for new Australia's emerging economy.

As technology revolutionised our farms, it also transformed our cities. As transport and refrigeration created efficiencies in food production, so too did it start creating distance between our cities and farms. As our farms grew to support their reliant families, our economies also transposed to new financial commodities. In what seemed like no time at all, our currency was no longer measured by the wool we exported or the cattle that we traded.

Today, the digital revolution continues to create space between people and places. Our farms are now only viewed by many on the screens of a device, with a trip to a show the only possibility to see an animal in the flesh. Similarly, our cities are often viewed in our rural communities in the same manner, with a trip on a school excursion to only see the main attractions.

As companies and organisations flock to social media to connect with their consumers, farmers also join to tell their stories online and share the photos of their world. From the livestock and crops, to the tractors and local shops, there's a story to be told by every person in town. Everyone has a story, every voice is important. But in an attempt to create a connection between city and country, Australian agriculture has missed the mark.

One example of this is the "#ThankAFarmer" campaign, where consumers are asked to thank those who grew the food that they are eating. I admit, our farmers deserve all the recognition they can get, and more. But there is much more to food production than farming, and much more to being a farmer than the food we create for consumers. How often are we asked to thank the rural community that supports the farmer? The school teacher who supports the next generation of farmers? The truck driver that delivered the food to the supermarket? The supermarket clerk who served the consumer? Or the consumer who purchased the good?

By reducing the importance of farming and food production to a hashtag and vote of thanks, these messages do little more than create noise. It may briefly make farmers feel thanked, but this does not equate to real appreciate of the important role we all play in society. It contributes to a false narrative about what farmers do, why farming matters and why our rural communities matter.

What these campaigns do tell us is that consumers (often in the cities) are hungry to connect with farmers. But this connection must be a two way street - we need to get better at connecting with consumers so that we can understand their needs and cater to them, and so we can share what we do and why it is so important for Australia’s future. Through a two way conversion, we build the connections that lie in the shared stories that matter to all of us, whether we wear an akubra or a suit.