Blame the rise of anti-farming activism or pin it on population drift to the coastal capitals – anyone involved in agriculture is well aware of the longstanding concern farmers are not adequately connected with or valued by the very people who eat the food they produce.
“If only we could better communicate to people in the cities” is something I’ve heard for going on 20 years, but is direct farmer-consumer communication the most effective way to influence behaviour?
Could there in fact be an oft-derided ‘middle man’ who can do some of the heavy lifting for us?
Brands hold consumer swing. Nobody cares about what materials are used to make sneakers, they just want a new pair of Nikes.
Nobody is thinking about where the metal in electronic components comes from when they’re queueing overnight outside the Apple store for the latest iPhone.
But brands must also continually seek to maintain position and loyalty and to do this they need trust. This is where farmers have an opportunity to step in.
A 2009 Australian National University (ANU) study found some 80 per cent of survey respondents considered agriculture production, and rural areas, as important to Australia’s future.
While farmers are consistently ranked within the top 10 most trusted professions in the country.
The ‘foodie’ and ‘health and wellness' movements have also heightened consumer appetite for information about provenance, food safety and nutrition.
And again, this puts agriculture somewhat more in the driver’s seat.
Whether agriculture likes it or not, brands are increasingly riding off the back of farmer trust in advertising to spruik the quality and authenticity of their fresh produce.
In Sydney, farmers now make ‘special guest appearances’ at boutique butcher shops as retailers seek to leverage the trust factor and to bond with customers.
It is clearly important agriculture has the support of the community to defend the right to farm and to maintain political relevance and clout.
There is no questioning time and resources should be invested in this by industry.
But let’s be strategic and build our connections with brands, new or existing, which have the constant contact with customers we so want, to help us do this.
This doesn’t mean getting into bed with the big guys, but does open an opportunity to streamline agriculture’s access to the public, to tell the good farming story and to take some ownership of the space currently filled by supermarkets, celebrity chefs and fitness influencers.
In doing so, we also increase brands’ reliance on us to bring the trust and authenticity they need.
- Stacey Wordsworth is group account director at specialist agribusiness public relations agency Cox Inall Communications.