An opinion piece by LiveCorp CEO Wayne Collier, written for the Stock & Land newspaper and Farmonline group of rural news websites.
We hear a lot about the ‘city/country divide’. How people who live in our cities don’t understand agriculture and therefore don’t support it.
However, it turns out who you know is a lot more important than where you live. And that creates a great opportunity for everyone involved in rural industries.
In the latest national survey into what Australians think of live exports*, support for the industry was high among people living in metropolitan areas.
What had a bigger influence was how many people the respondents knew who worked in a rural industry – right across agriculture, not just in live exports.
While this goes somewhat against the commonly held paradigm, it also fits the story where people regret the fact that city kids don’t have an aunt or uncle in the country anymore, where they can spend school holidays helping on the farm.
It shows we all need to get better at telling stories and sharing what we do. From the survey data, that has to start with people in the nearest town and surrounding regional areas, not just our capital cities.
The survey itself is the second in a series, and there’s been a small, but significant, overall improvement in community sentiment toward the live export industry in the past two years.
That’s reassuring for those who work in the industry. It can be hard to speak up about what you do when you’re expecting to be shouted down, and the results show that opponents to the trade are not the majority, and there’s a larger, quieter, group that is listening and wants to have the conversation.
In this digital age, there’s even more opportunity to reach people far and wide, and most of us are also fascinated by people whose lives are different to our own.
Agriculture has such an enormous variety of activities to draw on, and people that are passionate about what they do and why. These values – things like family, community, the land, the animals and providing nutrition to Australians and the world – are great places to find common ground and make connections.
LiveCorp is doing its bit to support those willing to share their stories.
This includes producing our Ruminations magazine, with first-hand accounts of people working in live exports here and overseas, and working with The Livestock Collective to develop a virtual tour of a live export ship.
The message from the research is clear: if you’re involved in agriculture in any way, the best way to bridge the gap is to get out there, have a conversation and share your experiences.
Family, friends, people you’ve just met at a barbeque, other parents at your kid’s school. The more people you can reach, the more it will build support – not just for live exports, but for all rural industries.
*The online research panel collected responses from a representative sample of adult Australians, and 4,411 responses were analysed. The full report is available here.