‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”
It’s the age-old saying, but never has it rung truer than in our current farming climate (no pun intended). The world is changing, and it’s calling on farming to change with it.
The resistance narrative that has been able to hold strong in farming is becoming untenable and it is time to look to what the future of farming will be. Future Farmers is just one of many voices looking to help lead the way with this change.
For many years, as farmers, we have been able to sit in the comfort of the fact that ultimately people will always need us, as without they’d be naked, hungry and sober. The reality is now, though, that the world has come up with alternative options and more and more you hear people asking for oat milk in their coffee rather than dairy milk.
The voice for the future doesn’t need to be negative, however. We don’t have to subscribe to the anti-change narrative that we have seen come through from the Groundswells of the world. Nor do we have to take a Greenpeace approach and be anti the traditional farming system that has been so successful, for so many, for so long. We can respect and be grateful for the past, while being ambitious for the future.
The voice for the future needs to be farmer led, one where we acknowledge the nuances from farm to farm and work with farmers to change. However, if farmers don’t take up this opportunity it will in the end come from Wellington. The key is taking people with you, not dragging them kicking and screaming.
People are intrigued by us as a group and the leadership we bring to the sector because we see food and fibre as being more than just something that you eat and wear. By connecting people to where the produce has come from and giving it a deeper meaning, the attraction for milk that is squeezed from an almond grown in California suddenly fades away.
An important way we can start this connection is through educating young people about agriculture in schools.
We can then grow this connection through the backstory of the way in which our products are made – you only have to look to the most successful participants on X Factor to know how much people love a good backstory. There is no reason why the same will not be true for agriculture.
However, what is not a good backstory is un-swimmable rivers, dying native bush and increasing emissions. The reality is that, more and more, wealthier consumers want to know how their food is being made and how many emissions it takes to make it.
Leadership is about proactively painting the picture for how you want an industry to look, rather than reacting to all the inevitable challenges. By setting a plan for the next 10, 20, 50 years, farmers can see how their future will look, as opposed to continuously resisting the changes and then being hit with the inevitable all at once. Future Farmers are only just getting started on this, so join us and come along for the ride.
Future Farmers New Zealand is a collection of young Kiwis passionate about ahuwhenua and the principles of kaitiakitanga. We are farmers, students, and urbanites, all passionate about the opportunities for the planet and the people that come from New Zealand farming. Our aim is to discuss and inform beliefs, principles, and policies to shape the future of New Zealand farming.