FARMER FOCUS: Farming is central to communities

In the world of self-help books about personal empowerment and workshops on finding the inner me, has the world forgotten about the larger community good? And where does agriculture fit into the inwardly focused society?

When you look at the actions of social and political activists, one thing is always very clear, it’s always about them. It’s all about the way they feel about the soils or the way they feel about the animals. It’s always inwardly focused with the view that if a calm rational person like me thinks this way then everybody must.

What I would like to know is at what point did society move its thinking away from the greater community good to what’s good for me? Do we as farmers move to meet this challenge and in turn become also inwardly focused or do we remain defiantly community focused and instil change in others?

Why is this important in farming? First, as we look to improve the quality of life on the farm, more people are moving away to get a better education and operating the farm drive-in, drive-out. So communities are losing people and the schools are losing kids.

Second, if the trend of the inwardly focused consumer continues, food production will become increasingly difficult, with a small, noisy minority dictating the terms of food supply.

Third, if farmers lose the community focus and the way they openly share information with each other, then farming will rapidly become corporate in nature.

My view is that agriculture has an ever-increasingly important role to play in society, not just focused around feeding people, but teaching the individual about the importance of community.

Agriculture shouldn’t back down from the way it does business, but instead take the time to explain what it’s doing and why, turning the passive consumer into a passionate advocate.

I would like to think in the future, that personal empowerment will come not from a book or a self-help guru, but from the personal interaction with others in their community, and as farmers we have an important part to play in that.

Rob Warburton farms 3,000ha with his wife Jen and two daughters in Kojonup, below Perth, Western Australia. Cropping includes 
wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Wildflower seed is grown for retail. Merino sheep are reared for wool and meat

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