We need to be proactive in telling farm stories

OPINION: Communication is a vital skill farmers will need for the next five years

Life & Style
Emily Ryan from Coonamble and Alana Black who now resides in rural Scotland are among The Land's new Tomorrow's leaders today columnists who will contribute their views on issues affecting agriculture.

Emily Ryan from Coonamble and Alana Black who now resides in rural Scotland are among The Land's new Tomorrow's leaders today columnists who will contribute their views on issues affecting agriculture.


Welcome to The Land's new column 'Tomorrow's Leaders Today'.


Welcome to The Land's new column 'Tomorrow's Leaders Today'. The contributors are emerging professionals in the agriculture sector and rural community. They represent a range of backgrounds from rural-based jobs such as country teachers through to agricultural industry professionals.They have been through either the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever or The Land's Sydney Royal Showgirl programs. They will be sharing with us their thoughts on challenges facing agriculture and rural NSW.

With the increase of technology and less hands-on labour, Australian agriculture now requires an increased skill-set. This week's authors Alana Black and Emily Ryan discuss the skills of the trade farmers will need for the next five years.

Be proactive, not reactive

In order to stop decline of rural economies, we need to recognise it isn't purely a geographical issue, and to ensure their strong continuation we need urban consumers to buy into regional communities.

To do this, we must develop our communication skills, particularly on the power of storytelling for agricultural and rural enterprise to use it as a foundation to bridge the urban/rural divide. It's a difficult skill to learn.

How do you balance a realistic insight into the industry without sugar coating it as such that it warps perception? Nonetheless, it's a skill that will be essential for agricultural businesses to bridge the urban/rural divide, and connect with consumers.

No one, does this better than the Dutch. Recently, I was sent to the Netherlands as a Rural Youth Project delegate to see how they are using their narrative, and world-class innovation, to bridge the urban/rural divide.

With 17 million people and a population density of 488 people per square kilometre, the Netherlands is one of the mostly densely populated countries in the world. Coupled with the fact that close to 26 per cent of the Netherlands landmass is underwater, the Dutch have had to "think different" in their approach to agriculture and consumer connection.

By far the most effective visit was to Kipster Farm. Kipster has cracked the urban/rural divide when it comes to egg production, branding itself as "the most animal friendly and sustainable chicken farm in the world".

This climate neutral poultry farm was designed to instill trust in consumers through its 24 hour viewing area and the offer is clear. Kipster proves consumers are willing to pay more if they buy into the narrative.

This "feel good farming", coupled with powerful storytelling, is an act that builds trust through transparency and understanding and is a skill that agricultural businesses need to master to ensure their continuation.


Communication is vital

There are three things that will be essential in the skill-set of Australian agriculture - communication, marketing and forward planning.

Communication is an essential skill and has been for years. This creates the opportunity for producers to share their story and to communicate effectively when buying, selling and trading.

This skill further provides opportunities for marketing and networking - the latter providing opportunities for growth.

Further, marketing allows farm and agri businesses to grow, which can be online and in person. Marketing sells a product, if it is done well.

This can also lead to international sales and creating business opportunities with corporate companies.

If you can't sell a product, you will run at a loss.

Finally, planning for the future not only could lead to a little less stress, but also provides a game plan for the unexpected, such as drought, flood and hail.

Due to current conditions, it is evident within the communities which have forward planned and those which have not.

This is seen through the properties who are still producing and some who are struggling and now leaving the land.

Forward planning continues to provide opportunities and keeps family farming alive - essentially what we are looking for in small rural communities.

The skill-set in Australian agriculture is diverse and is community and enterprise orientated. It is essential we continue to move with the times and be always looking to the future.


Meet this week's contributors

Alana Black: Alana has recently swapped her Ariat boots for a pair of wellies accepting a job with Jane Craigie Marketing where she has relocated to rural Scotland and works with a wide range of clients in the agricultural, environmental and rural sector. For the past two years, she has been researching how we can empower farmers to become better communicators within their business to improve generational transitions.

Emily Ryan: Born and raised in the district of Coonamble, Emily has become involved in many community-based projects. She is an active member in the Coonamble Show Society, Rotary Club, Royal Far West and ASC Next Gen. Emily was named the Rural Ambassador of NSW for 2016 and in 2017 was the National Rural Ambassador runner-up. In 2019, she was a state finalist for The Land Showgirl Competition. She is a primary school teacher and is passionate about rural education and working with students of high trauma and from low socio-economic areas.


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