“Consumers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” This was one of the powerful messages from Charlie Arnot CEO of the Centre of Food Integrity (@foodintegrity, @charlie_Arnot) presented at the Australian Dairy conference (#ausdairy) in Warragul, Victoria, Australia. Charlie spoke of the need for all farmers to acquire a “Social License to operate” by building trust with not only the local community but in fact all consumers & customers of the food farmers produce. http://www.foodintegrity.org/
Trying to defend farmers & farming practices by arguing with science or attacking the attackers is clearly failing. We need to demonstrate our commitment to practices that are sustainable, ethically grounded, scientifically verified & economically viable. To breakdown the urban disconnect with farmers will take a massive effort as well publicised environmental damage, breaches of animal welfare & negative public images of farming & farmers is very difficult to counter with genuine good news from farmers following “global best practice”.
Prof. John Ikerd, from University of Missouri, Columbia strongly debated the world trends of industrialisation of farming. Industrial scale farms have contributed he argued, to the financial crisis of many family farm businesses & impacting negatively on the environment & ecology. John believes this has enraged the mistrust of farming practices by non-farming people. Nor did he believe that most farmers & their families wanted to farm in that way, especially under corporate control. Perhaps it’s time to look at new relationships between farmers & consumers? John Ikerd suggested the audience at the Australian Dairy Conference (#ausdairy) seriously consider new models such as “Vertical Cooperation”….. That we look at the historical purpose of farming to move forward in a new direction. Farming has always had a multi-dimensional meaning: - a social dimension, an ethical dimension of sustainability (a genuine love of animals, pastures & soils) as well as providing healthy good quality food. Maybe it’s time to rediscover the “real culture of farming” & that “The past is the future”. These are challenging concepts to take on board as dairy farmers face increased volatility of milk prices & changing markets (the growth markets in the next decade are in emerging countries especially in Asia).
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