The role farmers play in producing food and in food security – especially when supply chains are disrupted by events such as the Covid-19 pandemic – is not well understood, Leeston arable farmer David Birkett says.
“Previous generations understood it but it’s something that has been lost. I think that’s probably one of the bigger challenges in front of us,” he says in an interview to feature on YouTube.
David is one of more than a dozen Federated Farmers members who appear in two series of videos exploring the themes ‘Reducing While Producing’ and ‘Together Towards Greater Food Security’.
This year New Zealand is hosting APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) virtually. Since 2013, New Zealand has taken its turn hosting tours involving farmers from 20 different countries under the wing of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. But with the pandemic severely disrupting international travel, this year’s farmer ‘tours’ – along with the hundreds of other APEC meetings in dozens of sector clusters NZ is hosting – will all be on-line.
The 2021 Reducing While Producing Virtual Farmer Study Tour comprises a series of high quality video interviews with farmers and growers out where they’re raising food and crops, and speaking about how they practise environmental stewardship and utilise best available science and research. A panel discussion exploring in more depth the themes collaboration, innovation and enabling, was also recorded.
Similarly, a series of four videos on food security discussion points – a vital topic in a world where we know some 800 million people don’t have enough protein in their diet – will also be going out to a global audience via YouTube.
Federated Farmers members including Vice-President Karen Williams and fellow national board member Colin Hurst, as well as John Stevenson, Eric Watson, Murray and Margaret Turley, Roger and Hew Dalrymple, David Birkett, Richard and Wendy Ridd, Mavis Mullins and Colin Gates, were involved in the two virtual farm tour series.
Filmed on the Wairarapa mixed arable and livestock farm that Karen runs with her husband Mick, one of Karen’s messages was that commercial realities needed to be built into food security systems.
“There should be room for everyone in the supply chain to make a fair amount of money. Certainly as a food producer, I would like to see food producers recognised for their perseverance and commitment to producing quality food, and that not to be undermined further down the supply chain.”
Neighbouring dairy farmer, John Stevenson, highlighted the need for fit-for-purpose policy that takes into account different geographies and farm systems.
“Every farm in New Zealand is different and what is a good dairy farm today might not be a good dairy farm in 2050. A concern I have around blanket policy implementation across every single farm is that there will be significant unintended consequences going forward.”
A common theme raised in both virtual farm tour series was the need for robust science from our universities and research institutes to inform and support farmers – including in the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Karen has been asked why, in a highly competitive trading world, New Zealand farmers would want to talk on an international online platform about best practice they’ve worked hard to refine, and how they’ve achieved a greenhouse gas footprint lighter than pretty much anywhere else. She says in response that New Zealand has a reputation as a nation that produces top quality food, while adhering to high standards of animal welfare and sustainability.
“The videos are a great advertisement for our produce and our sector and show the ‘real’ people behind the food to foster a strong connection with our consumers.”
It’s also true that we have one planet and we all have to take responsibility for it. Ruaraidh Petre of the Global Rountable for Sustainable Beef told an AgriFood Week event in Palmerston North earlier this month that the difference in beef livestock efficiency yields between the highest and lowest performers even within countries are up to 167%; and higher still between countries.
“Farmers listen to other farmers,” Karen said.
“If through these virtual farm tour videos we can help or inspire farmers in countries with less efficient livestock and growing systems to lift their game on the emissions front, the global challenge becomes that less steep for all of us and we leave things in a better place for our children.”
- To watch the videos, go here. The Food Security series is due to be loaded up on YouTube later this month – or keep an eye out for a link on the Federated Farmers Facebook page.