Calling youth in agriculture. Together we can achieve greatness

Joshua Gilbert Art4agriculture Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion ( sponsored by MLA ) and chair of the NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council had the opportunity to inspire young people in the audience at the inaugural Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball to be the change that agriculture must have

Wagga Ag Ball

Charles Sturt University students (from left) Albert Gorman, Eliza Star, Mikaela Baker, Brittany Bickford, Hannah Powe, Alex Trinder, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Leigh O’Sullivan are organising an agricultural networking event. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Today I share this wonderful speech with you

Josh Gilbert

 Josh Gilbert -photo thanks to Hannah Barber

Tonight, I want to challenge your thoughts on how we communicate as an industry. It starts with a few facts, and how a shift in these completely changes how we are viewed and operate as an industry.

  • In the next 30 years, 50% of the world’s farming land will change hands.
  • We are faced with the oldest average age of workers, running in at around 56.
  • There are 135,000 farm businesses across Australia which means we have 135,000 farmers who are CEO’s.
  • One Australian farmer on average feeds an impressive 600 people on less land, compared to one farmer feeding 20 people 70 years ago.
  • Our great nation is said to have been ​founded on the sheep’s back.

To me these statistics can only mean one thing- there is and will continue to be opportunity for youth in agriculture. But just like our machinery improvements and technology gains and the different styles of farming we see today, we too need to move with the times and change the way we communicate and market Australian agriculture, both here at home and of course overseas.

I expect the Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball will become an annual event for us to discuss these changes. That we will have the opportunity to meet back here each year and challenge our ideals and ways of thinking, so we can best move forward as an industry. I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event and also recognise my NSW Young Farmer colleagues in the room.

Recently someone close to me told me that I can’t need something. That I can’t use this word to try and change things. And while at the time I argued until I was blue in the face that I knew better, I was wrong.

This got me thinking about our marketing strategy for agriculture and how we bombard ourselves and our consumers with statements such as ‘every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’ or that we should ‘ thank our farmers because we ate today’. And while you and I understand the rationale behind this, I think we’re sending the wrong message out to people who don’t necessarily share our enthusiasm or knowledge of our industry.

So this poses the next question. Why is it that we use this language?

Is it because we feel we are the forgotten ones?

Is it out of fear of losing something that means a lot?

Is it because we feel undervalued?

Is it out of insecurity that we have our “right to farm” and at times our farming practices being questioned?

Whether we like it or not there will always be consumers who don’t care where their food comes from as long as its affordable and nutritious. And in reality this is a good thing and our role as farmers is to maintain or enhance the underlying faith those consumers have in the food and fibre we produce.

There is however up to 10% of the population who care very much about how their food and fibre is produced and are questioning modern farming methods. It is imperative we acknowledge that part of our role as a farmers and members of the agriculture sector is to actively engage and build honest and transparent relationships with these consumers. It is imperative that agriculture offers them access to real farmers and the opportunity to ask questions even the difficult ones. Its is imperative that our farmers not get defensive and have the skills sets and knowledge to engage  with non farmers audiences in a language that resonates with them.

It is essential that each of us be prepared to tell our stories, that we put a face to and share our values of why we farm the way we do to help ensure the community has the confidence that our farmers are committed to producing affordable, nutritious, safe food and quality fibre. This is the greatest opportunity and most effective way we have to connect with our consumers.

Trust, respect, pride and faith in farmers and farming practices are developed through positive messages and transparency, through messages that build a connection and pride  Playing the sympathy or the you “need me” card on the other hand only polarises the very people it is so important we build these connections with. The truth is farmers and consumers need each other.  We must rise above this ‘them and us’ mindset and focus on sharing with the community that Australian farmers are committed to being leaders on the world’s stage in safe, affordable nutritious food and quality fibre production.

To ensure that we get the ball rolling tonight, I’d like for you all to pull out your phones. I have a tweet here that will link to my Facebook that states ‘The future ag leaders at #WACAgBall14- we all love what we do, we are all proud of what we do,so let’s share it with the world’. What I’d like you to do is this- retweet, share, like, comment, favourite the message and start sharing your stories. If we are to create this change- we need to start working on it now.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to keep the conversation going. Think about why you’re involved in agriculture, the impact that you play and what you want the future to look like. Then plan and share- because together we can achieve greatness.

Together, we can show that Australian agriculture has deserves the respect, pride and idolisation that we received decades before and still does.

 

Thanks Josh very inspiring indeed

3 thoughts on “Calling youth in agriculture. Together we can achieve greatness

  1. The problem has less to do with missing opportunity in agriculture. Of course with the average age of farmers far above any other industry that comes to mind, either younger people follow or farms will have to close, starting in the next few years, and not only in Australia. The same is true for most of the “first” world. But with the New York Times warning parents against their children becoming farmers and with bonus-“earning” investment bankers as an “example”, the farming community have a difficult time to connect with these youngsters, esp. since a lot of farmers’ children go the same route.

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