Ashley Smith

New Zealand dairy farmers have many reasons to be proud, but sometimes, in that classic Kiwi fashion they don’t realise their everyday hard work makes a bloody great story.

Ashley Smith

Telling our story. What does that really mean?

You might interpret this as free-range cows grazing in a paddock, but I think our stories are even more powerful than that. Our stories are personal and closer to home, our stories are local stories about people, animals, and the environment we love.

The world faces challenges of increasing populations, climate change, water quality, and more. I think it’s extremely relevant that our stories address these issues not just in New Zealand but around the world. Because although 95% of NZ’s dairy is exported, it’s important that we connect as much with our NZ consumers as our overseas consumers.

What is your story?

Telling stories is our greatest opportunity to timeshare what we do, and what we’re so proud of.

So, we need to get out into our communities to start to tell our stories.

I believe that for many people, their understanding of where food comes from isn’t what it once was. Their connection to the food they eat is something wrapped in plastic on a supermarket shelf. But this also gives us an exciting opportunity and to get out there and teach people what farming is all about.

Going to school in the city meant I had plenty of friends with no idea about what happens on a farm, and I loved that. I took every opportunity I had to share with them what happens on dairy farms and how well animals and the environment are cared for.

Just recently, a friend asked me if I could explain what’s happening with greenhouse gases and the environment. I proudly explained that the sector is playing its part, from riparian planting and wetlands to DairyNZ’s research projects including Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL), and the Selwyn and Hinds projects.

How to tell your story?

I think first and foremost, nothing can trump good old human interaction whether through sports clubs, school committees, or council and leadership positions.

Another way is social media. More and more farmers are telling the world about their grass-to-glass story.

So, the next time you have the opportunity to chat with people who know little about farming, start the conversation, help them think about what farmers are doing right here in NZ that is making a difference not only here, but around the world.

Supporting you to tell your story

  • DairyNZ’s Social Media 101 guide – get started with social media social-media
  • The Vision is Clear is a movement that shares how Kiwis – rural and urban – value the water. Follow on Facebook and Instagram and use the hashtag #TheVisionIsClear


  • Ashley Smith is a consulting officer with DairyNZ.