IT’S Sydney Royal Easter Show time, where country and city meet to celebrate agriculture. Yet, city interest is drifting, and for multiple reasons.
One reason people give is the “city-country divide”. However, is there really a divide? Do people just get bored with agriculture because they don’t actually understand what they’re looking at, or how it connects to their daily life?
Consider this. Australians – the majority of whom live along our coastal fringe and mostly in suburbia – generally still identify with our wide open spaces, a country that lived on the sheep’s back, that loves elastic-side boots, reveres names like Sir Sidney Kidman, and lives for the outdoor life and fresh, healthy food. There is an emotional connection. Australians donate to drought, flood and bushfire appeals for people they’ve never met in places they’ve never been. So for a bunch of people that supposedly don’t care about farming, they still, on the whole, seem to think that supporting farmers is a worthy cause.
A few years back, then National Farmers Federation leader, the city-raised Matt Linnegar, challenged the status quo thinking at a Farm Writers’ Association Agribuzz gathering.
It’s all too easy to say “it’s all because of the city-country divide. ‘They’ would just turn everything west of the Great Divide into forest if ‘they’ got their way. ‘They’ reckon they can just import all their food”.
These are great excuses for shunning the city for essentially being ignorant, but if we don’t disrupt that bliss with some reality, farming won’t be the winner. As Mr Linnegar said, the city-country divide “is bollocks”. Instead, our city cousins still “have a soft spot for rural people and agriculture, but there is a lack of familiarity with what (farmers) do”.
The Easter Show is still a great platform to bridge this gap, but we need to consider how we most effectively use it, or we’ll lose it. One good addition to the Royal might be an agricultural careers section where universities and training providers could host talks and trade stands to help educate people on agriculture while showing off potential ag careers.
With the exodus of born and bred farm kids to city jobs, there’s a good chance many of our future employees are among those city dwellers. We need to nurture any potential interest we may stumble across. It’s our business to get the message right and their right to understand us, or not.