Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Connecting Farm to City...The Great Cafe Challenge!

The Great Café Challenge….What a great idea!
A well-known Australian Rural blogger Alison Fairleigh from Queensland (who often writes & tweets to increase awareness of rural mental health) has thrown out an interesting challenge to all cafes. Why not stock & display rural magazines & newspapers in your café so that your coffee drinkers can read about rural & farming issues. Well informed coffee drinkers help farmers to progress. What a fantastic idea! 
Alison also has a number of farmers blogging on her site.
 I was recently looking for a recent edition of a rural NZ newspaper in Paraparaumu & Otaki …..Not exactly Wellington city!….but none of the stores or news agents stocked this particular newspaper. I often think that the rural press might only be talking to farmers. So many rural & farming issues today are in fact NZ community problems or opportunities for change. One of the important aspects of farm sustainability is not only maintaining but building connection to the local community. The divide between those who produce the food & those who consume the food creates problems for farmers. No longer is it smart to say to hell with them “I’ll do my own thing” or what right do they have telling us what to do. 
New Zealand is essentially a rural community & we all live & work in the same community. We all have similar aspirations for family & quality of life. So we need to move forward as one community, debating issues of concern, and expressing differences of opinion, being listened to & trying to understand other people’s points of view. 

This last week this need for farmers to connect came up in two very different forums. At the NZ National Field days the ANZ Bank had a series of seminars.
One of which was about Farm Succession & Farm Governance. The point was very well made from the audience that many of the Governance skills that farmers have, do in fact come from being a member of NZ Young Farmers, Landcare Groups, Lions, The local Rugby Club or Dairy Women’s Network. So the community is a valuable training ground for Governance skills for farmers. 
There are three issues arising from that, firstly young rural people need to actively participate in their local Discussion Groups & clubs. Secondly those Governance skills learnt by chairing or being on the committee of your local group need to be transferred back onto the farm. Separating the roles of Operations, Management & Governance is really important for all farmers. Lastly those Governance skills may need upgrading as it’s an area where there is little formal training.
My second encounter was with a very good example of a dairy farmer (with support from the South Waikato District Council) building a scenic walk along the upper Te Waihou River at Putaruru  http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/bay-of-plenty/rotorua-lakes/te-waihou-walkway/  
 Stuart & Carol Edmeades have driven this project along the Te Waihou River which flows through their farm. They have involved the school children from Putaruru in the project to increase the environmental awareness amongst the students & their teachers. Each year volunteers have an organised August day of planting more trees along the walkway  http://www.putaruru.co.nz/walkway.html  This extraordinary effort has resulted in thousands of people both local & visitors to the area coming & admiring one of NZ’s most amazing natural beauties and it's on a farm. 
     The Te Waihou walkway project has connected the farmers to the local community & to the urban dweller who is becoming increasingly isolated from the farms where the food is produced. The way in which the walkway has been built allows the walker & schools to connect with the river, numerous native birds & trees and to walk through a modern pasture based dairy farm without interfering with either.
Well done Stuart & Carol, I know this has taken a huge effort & at times courage to drive it forward. The result is amazing! Farmers can live in harmony with nature & contribute to a more beautiful NZ landscape. Stuart even stars in a dairy farm promotion video with Rosie the cow a DairyNZ initiative in schools. Watch Stuart talking to Rosie the Cow http://www.rosiesworld.co.nz/about-farms  

So let’s push for farming magazines in all NZ cafes, barbers & hairdressers, doctors & dentists waiting rooms. Help connect farming & farmers to our urban cousins.
 Join the Great Café Challenge! Lets push for farming magazines in cafes & waiting rooms!


  1. I'm really impressed with Stuart and Carol's Te Waihou walkway. I've visited dairy research stations in the Netherlands where they encourage visitors with walking tracks and the like, and lamented the fact that here in Australia we're locking things up - with concerns about biosecurity issues, safety, farm security, vandalism... A sad indictment of life today. It sounds like Stuart and Carol have plenty of community support, and a vision to build stronger links between farming and the community. All power to them!

  2. I do guerrilla marketing by slipping the awesome Young Country magazine into plane seat pockets when I travel but totally agree that we need to get our publications into the cafes - there are only so many cycling magazines you can read.