According to the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), around 90 per cent of the farms in Australia are owned by families and these statistics go a long way towards explaining why Australian agriculture is currently experiencing the so-called ‘golden era of farming’.
For generations now, farmers in Australia have been closely connected to the land they work and the food they produce. They have had firmly entrenched in their minds ‘why’ they farm and for the majority, farming has not been just a job, but a way of life and a part of their family fabric.
Global consumer market trends are increasingly placing emphasis on locally produced food and the creation of stronger links between consumers and local, small-scale, family farmers as opposed to the industrialised and corporatised farming model.
Why is this? This vision of small, diversified farms feeding the world, one community at a time, is a popular one, but is it a viable one?
It is hard to argue with the value of economies of scale in farming. As farms get larger, it is more affordable to invest in labour-saving machinery, technology and specialised management which means production cost per unit goes down and cheaper food for the consumers.
However, what often becomes lacking as farms begin to operate this way – is the ‘WHY’. In bigger ‘corporate’ farms we see the ‘why’ of farming get lost among the layers of leadership and employees.
This narrowing of perspective influences decision making and often leads to short term wins, not long term farming gains. Without a well-defined ‘why’, good decisions are much harder to make.
Knowing ‘why’ you farm is not the only way to be a successful farmer, but it is the only way to long lasting success.
Consumers don’t buy what farmers do, they buy why we do it.
Stating the benefits of a product over that of one produced in another country, or by a different company, is not enough.
Customers trust those who they perceive to have common values and beliefs and they want to feel like they are part of something, that they belong. Consumers are drawn to companies and businesses who are good at communicating what it is they believe.
The only way people will know the ‘why’, or what a farming operation believes, is through what is said and done. When you have belief in what you do, passion exudes.
This authenticity leads to strong, long lasting relationships and relationships build trust. Trust builds loyalty and loyalty means dedicated, paying customers.
As the wife in a family farming operation, I see both sides of farming. We love being able to share our farming life and why we do the things we do via social media with our consumers.
We enjoy hearing from customers all over the country who are excited when they purchase our produce in their local stores.
However, our small size means we do many jobs in a way that is time consuming, labour intensive and expensive.
The challenge then for all Australian farmers big or small is, not to ask what do we do to compete? But to ask, why are we farming in the first place? What can we do to continue our cause considering the technologies and market opportunities available today?
Great farmers will be those that can see what others cannot. We must get good at giving our consumers things they would never think of asking for and demonstrating ‘why’ Australian agriculture is so valuable.
– Mareeba fruit grower and blogger, Jess Fealy.