During lockdown Trish Rankin found townies developed a better appreciation for what farmers do. She asks what the rural sector can do to maintain that view and expand on it.

With the grass still growing at great rates, regular rainfall and crops that have grown to potential, 2021 has started well on our sharemilking job in South Taranaki. November was a month to ignore, but as I write this we are having steady rain; liquid gold at this time of the year.

It is hard to believe that in mid-January last year, I was at Harvard University attending the International Agribusiness Seminar, only to come home and six weeks later be in lockdown. With the sacrifices we made during that lockdown and New Zealand’s positive attitude, we are privileged to be living in relatively normal circumstances.

There is a real optimism that the perceived rural/urban differences may have lessened over the past year as people realised that to survive they need nutritious food. The challenge and possibilities now remain in how we maintain that momentum towards urban loving the rural sector again and vice versa.

Part of this will be in the farmers upskilling in understanding the upcoming legislative changes and possibilities around methane reduction plans, farm environment plans, fresh water and nitrogen plans, and winter grazing plans (and many others), but the challenge I believe we should all be including is the plan to involve, invite, educate, share, socialise… (you get the idea) with the urban population, who need to understand the challenges we face too. I also think a big step ahead for farmers will be in invigorating their networks to share this learning among many.

How is your rural hall going? In many regions, there are organisations that help support the importance of the rural halls.

How about doing an open farm where they are usually well subscribed and often are the only chance for the families of NZ to see what we do? Can you go along and join a townie-based organisation like Lions, Rotary, tennis clubs or craft circles so that if an urban person has a lack of knowledge about farming practices (because they see something on an anti-farming promoted Facebook ad) you can help them understand?

Over the holidays we did the Timber Trail 84km bike ride with our kids (on MANUAL bikes, not cheating on e-bikes, hehe), and the conversation at the halfway lodge with townies and people who chose to come to NZ during the Covid pandemic was engaging and they wanted to talk about what we did. They couldn’t believe we could milk 450 cows with just two people or that effluent is a type of fertiliser and is a good thing to help grow grass so we can then reduce synthetic applications … the list could go on of what we discussed. On one hand, you go ‘how can they not know this?’ but on the other, it is a natural opportunity to educate.

What are your optimistic possibilities to spread the good farming word? Invite the townie cuzzies over for a BBQ with your own meat, eggs, milk, and veges and I guarantee they will be impressed and want to know more about what you do.