Rebecca Hyde, 2017 Nuffield Scholar
This is all occurring at a time when our target market of premium consumers is becoming more conscious about the health benefits of the food they are consuming.
The question is, how do we link the two?
Regulation is not always the best way to achieve change but I do believe it has woken our farmers up to the changes that need to happen within the farm gate.
Are we prepared to stop calling ourselves farmers and start calling ourselves food producers? There is a phenomenal amount of work by farmers and industry going in to improving the environment we farm in, yet we haven’t managed to collaborate to make this movement as powerful as it could be. I believe there needs to be agreement at the top of our organisations to work together to achieve the outcomes.
The Danish Food and Agricultural council in central Copenhagen was impressive to visit, all the land based agriculture sectors are represented under one roof. While they work independently a lot of the time they very much work together regarding environment, urban engagement, promoting the industry and promoting the health benefits of the food produced.
I’d love to see a rural New Zealand where instead of talking about Sarah the dairy farmer or Tom the sheep and beef farmer we talk about Sarah and Tom the food producers who farm in the same environment.
I do believe that everyone in New Zealand is after the same outcome – a sustainable environment – but we have managed to muddy the waters.
The theme for the Nuffield triennial conference was Farming Fit for Food. A very relevant topic as our consumers get further removed from how and where their food is being produced. During a presentation the LEAF Chief Executive Caroline Drummond made a strong link between the health of the environment and the health of the food it produces.
Twenty years ago in the UK talk around environmental management was very topical. If at that time they had linked the connection of environmental management to the health of the food, they believe the consumer buy in to the importance of farmers would have been considerably greater.
In New Zealand you don’t have to look far to find a discussion regarding environmental management and water quality.
We are in the prime position to link this to the benefits of the real food we are producing, not only domestically but internationally for the benefit for both farmers and consumers.
There is a connection to be made between the health of the food we eat and the health of the environment it is produced in. As an industry we need to highlight this connection and communicate it to our fellow New Zealanders and consumers abroad.
We are a proud food producing nation. Let’s make the link together.