Earlier this year I went along to the Sustainable Food Summit in Sydney with my Cultivating Community hat on and left with mixed feelings and a few concerns (well heaps actually) about the power of big businesses in shaping our food culture.
Months later I’m still thinking about this one comment a guest speaker made about his perceived need to change the terminology in the agricultural industry to make it more attractive for the younger generations as a career option. In particular he proposed replacing words like ‘farmer’ with ‘Land Management Engineer’ (not his exact words, but something to that effect). The sentiment was that this would ‘sex it up’ and have a similar effect of evoking respect and the essence of wealth just like when you hear the words ‘lawyer’, ’engineer’ and ‘doctor’.
Most of us are aware that the average age of the Australian farmer is 56, so I agree there is a real need to attract young men and women into the industry. The big question isn’t necessarily HOW to entice youngsters into farming, more WHY has farming become a dirty word?
In my humble opinion it's because mainstream agriculture has been cornered into thrashing our farmland with chemical fertilisers, unhealthy production expectations and monocultures as far as the eye can see. In developing countries, farming is a necessity rather than a choice; and in places like Uganda and many African countries farming is a women’s job and is severely under-resourced and under-supported politically and socially.
I don’t believe that this unsustainable and unethical farming system can be disguised with fancy words. Rather than sticking small bandaids over a big, broken system I’d love to see big business either just going away (I know that’s rather simplistic) or embrace sustainable, ethical and organic farming methods, transforming our food culture for the better.
I mean, don’t you agree that there’s nothing more attractive than an organic farm/er building thriving soil, producing crops that are beautiful, diverse and nutritious. Engaging with their local region to sell their produce and educating their customers via osmosis about the many social, environmental and economic benefits.
As a member of the younger generation I love the word ‘farmer’, aspire to be one on a more regular and larger scale and have a deep respect and bottomless thanks for existing farmers everywhere, young and old.