After 10 or so years of a society dislocating itself, with the farming community being challenged to meet the evolving values of its urban counterparts, we have been given a gift. A chance to reconnect.
We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.
What is happening right now feeds directly into Inglehart’s theory of ‘survival versus self-expression values’ where our level of economic security determines how much of a free pass industry gets. Post-war we got a lot and as we’ve experienced that has gradually degraded to where we find ourselves today - heavily regulated and disconnected. I must point out that the regulation and disconnect comes from the perception that the industry’s values are not in line with society's.
My advice to the sector to make the most of the opportunity we are presented with is to stay humble. This isn’t about bragging and lording your importance over those who you felt misunderstood you for years. Don’t forget your humanity and how vulnerable we all are at the moment. This opportunity is only one as long as we embrace our shared humanity. What I would say to the few farmers I have heard are out there touting their importance right now is that ‘A crisis unites us, but arrogance divides us. Don’t be the one responsible for wasting this opportunity for the rest of us.’
A key part of earning and maintaining your social licence is proving your integrity and authenticity in what you say you are all about. Don't take your foot off the pedal in your environmental stewardship, animal welfare and health and safety etc. While capital expenditure will be being put on hold for most, if you are genuine in saying you value and take these things seriously then this should remain business as usual.
With the speed of change we live in now, I don’t think we’ve got much longer than two years to use this opportunity to reconnect with urban society by demonstrating our value connections and humble nature. As a well-respected dairy farmer, Trish Rankin, said to me last week ‘We are the backbone of this country. People forget what the backbone is all about, it’s not the showy six-pack, it’s the body part that gets on with it and gets the job done.’
Remember, people remember how you made them feel not what you said. In a crisis that is heightened through the intense feeling of vulnerability. Be a good human, stay humble and help our nation get back on its feet.