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As a rule, farmers stay beneath the radar, unseen and unheard, going about their business...
As a rule, farmers stay beneath the radar, unseen and unheard, going about their business producing milk for our lattes and kiwifruit for our smoothies.PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Climate change is a global problem, a problem shared and a problem far bigger than New Zealand politics.

Dr Anna Campbell
Dr Anna Campbell
Climate change is a problem that the majority of farmers recognise, one in which many are adapting to daily in dealing with the increasing numbers of droughts and floods. Farmers are improving their environments by changing their farming practices, whether that be fencing waterways, developing Land and Environmental Plans, planting trees or altering winter grazing practices. Change on-farm is happening at a significant scale across the country.

On Friday morning, I was worried about the Groundswell farmer protest, I was worried that it would look like farmers were trying to shirk their responsibility and avoid change, despite what they are already doing and despite their plans for doing more. I was worried farmers would look like rednecks and I was worried about the ever-increasing rural-urban chasm. Let’s not call this a divide any more.

On Friday, I apprehensively left my centrally heated office to stand in the Octagon and lend my support to the protest — who knew Otago had so many farmers?

I also went to the Octagon to support my Mum, an incredibly hard-working farmer, a thoughtful farmer, a farmer who has always cared for the welfare of her animals, a farmer who loses sleep during droughts and a farmer who lost sleep when the Otago Regional Council sent her an outrageously, bureaucratic and obnoxious letter regards her management of stock near waterways — it turned out the ORC had got the boundaries of her property wrong, it wasn’t her stock at all. This is the kind of idiocy farmers are putting up with.

As I stood and waited and as the tractors and utes started to work their way through the Octagon, I was surprised at how emotional I felt. As a rule, farmers stay beneath the radar, unseen and unheard, going about their business producing milk for our lattes and kiwifruit for our smoothies. The parade was peaceful and wonderfully managed. The awful placards that were shared on social media were not representative of the wider sentiment.

As I reflected on the protest and pondered why the protest was important, I decided it comes down to this — respect. Farmers are in the middle of change, they know that and they are adapting. Farmers listen and take on sensible policies — we have seen this over many years — but when they are spoken to like naughty schoolchildren and treated like idiots, they react in a different manner.

No matter the industry or the situation — managing change is about respect, I have been in the business-game long enough to understand that. Successful change is about identifying the problems and working together to find solutions.

Farming is complex, there are different types of farming activities, from cropping to livestock, from horticulture to forestry. There are different landscapes — New Zealand would have some of the most varied farming landscapes in the world. With differing landscapes there are differing soils, terrains, micro-climates and waterways. Blanket policies forced down people’s throats by inflexible bureaucrats who have barely stepped on a farm, won’t lead to successful change.

I know a farmer who has bought an electric bicycle for this year’s lambing beat — he is thinking about global issues and working on ways he can be part of the solution. He is one of many.

I have written about the Pomahaka catchment group before — a magnificent story.

This year, I was lucky enough to be part of a community strategy session with a new farming environmental group, Tiaki Maniototo.

We discussed a wide range of issues: pests and disease, managing waterways and how to grow more native trees locally when there is a national shortage of native tree nurseries — Maniototo is a tough climate and will require different species and planting strategies from other parts of the country. Farmers are working together to be part of the solution.

Farmers don’t want a top-down, telling-off, they want to make their communities the best places they can be and they want to make their children proud to be part of a rural community — so proud, that they want to come back and live in those communities as adults.

I was thrilled on Friday when I saw my Mum driving into the Octagon, in her farm truck, with the dogs in the back, I yelled and cheered and clapped her along. Toot, toot — “no farmers, no food” .

Farmers, keep up the amazing work that underpins our country’s economy, keep up the changes you are making, there is more support out there for you than you realise. Climate change is society’s problem and we all need to be involved in the solutions.

  • Anna Campbell is the Co-Founder of Zestt Wellness, a nutraceutical company and a Partner of AbacusBio Ltd, an agri-technology company.

Comments

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The farmers, the government, the industrialists, the rich, the poor - we must all take responsibility for our consumption and pollution of natural resources. Civilization does not have time to be messing around with such silly regulations. We simply must speed up our adaptation to the changing climate and protect our remaining natural resources more quickly or economies will collapse. No economy - No farmers - No food.

Well I was with you up to your comment about “silly regulation”.
Your naive expectation that NZfarmers will see sense and do what is necessary does not fit with the known facts. NZ farmers have become indolent and lazy, a welfare bludgers mentality on expecting the govt to bail them out of any mess they’ve found themselves in. They can’t cope with being held responsible for the damage caused by their unsustainable farming practices.
They need to be forced.

So what happens in 10 years' time when your mum can't buy another polluting farm truck as they are not made any more anywhere in the world!

Complain to the Government and demand money (as farmers always do) to fix the problem!

Ms Campbell writes an interesting opinion piece. However, it stops short of being an objective examination of the facts and turns into an emotional attempt to bolster the feelings of a bunch of sooky, whiny children.
She lists out all of the good eco-friendly initiatives that farmers have adopted but neglects to mention they had to be forced kicking and screaming into participating. Also, they exhibit no understanding of the fact that the export customers are demanding the adoption of sustainable farming practices and if they are not adopted there will be no international market. Simple as that.
Also the statement “no farmers no food”, apart from being patently untrue, is tantamount to extortion. We live in a free and global market. Any gap in the market caused by NZ farmers having a tantrum and going out of business will be quickly filled by Aussie farmers with cheaper and higher quality food. I already buy Aussie lamb, it is superior to the NZ second-rate rubbish sold here. Far superior.
Ms Campbell is right - NZ farmers have made a reluctant and grudging start to lifting their game. But they have a long way to go.

 

 

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