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Farmers' treatment frustrates

Piper Amy J | 12 Jul, 2022 | 0 Comments | Return|

Ashburton Guardian: Saturday, July 9, 2022
Written by Daryl Holden

The boss of powerhouse Ashburton agri­cultural co-operative Ruralco is "frustrat­ed" how farmers are viewed - and he's de­termined to do something about it. 
He's Ruralco chief executive officer Rob Sharkie, who thinks it's time farmers were properly acknowledged and even thanked for the value they provide and their impor­tance to the country. That was especially so through trying Covid-19 times in the past two years and against mounting regu­latory compliance pressure and costs, and ongoing anti-farming negativity. "I get frustrated by the way farmers are treated," said Sharkie, who has 40 years' agricultural experience, which included being the CEO of the Ruralco farming sup­plies business since 2015. Under his stew­ardship, Ruralco, formed in 1963, contin­ues to shine. 
It remains one of the districts biggest employers, with more than 90 staff mostly in Ashburton, Methven and Rakaia and its turnover hit $245 million in 2021. 
But now, in the setting of Ruralco's 28th annual Instore promotional and exclusive deals days in Ashburton yesterday, Shark­ie's focus was crystal clear. 

"I think we need to give back to the farmers and our communities and promote what we do." 
That promotion is taking Sharkie and his Ruralco team into new territory via an innovative national campaign called: "Farm­ers. We've Got Your Back". 
The campaign aimed to highlight the importance of the men and women of the land by sharing stories of farming success, which Ruralco felt were "all too often lost in the media storm". 
Sharkie said the campaign was a way to demonstrate loyalty to farmers, who themselves supported rural communities and backed rural businesses. 
The campaign was expected to go for at least 12 months and it hoped to gain support and momentum from fellow agri-business companies. Among cam­paign activation plans would be using dig­ital billboards in various cities promoting a thank the farmer message, which Shark­ie hoped would simply raise awareness.
"This is the start of a movement, I suppose, that's going to take some time," he said.
"If you're looking for nirvana in six months; then you're dreaming. But this fits well with our values. It also fits well with our vision of agriculture." 
Ruralco board chair, Jessie Chan, echoed Sharkie's views, saying it felt like farmers simply needed to be better ac­knowledged for the role they played . ''I feel like farmers need encouragement and a bit of a pat on their back for all their hard mahi and what they've been through in the last few years," she said.
"Yes, the commodity prices are good, but farmers have taken quite a knock in terms of being painted as villains with some of the compliance stuff and some of the rhetoric that you see around farmers." 
Chan said the fanning sector needed a collective thank you for keeping the New Zealand economy going through Covid "be­cause it certainly wasn't tourism, was it?''
"New Zealand Inc doesn't acknowledge that enough; so we feel like it's part of our role to say thank you to the rural communities and the farmers for what they do. 
"And to also remind the rest of New Zea­land as well." 

Farmers. We've Got Your Back.
What is it:
A Ruralco national campaign and movement to highlight farmers and their importance to New Zealand. 
How to get involved? Spread the message by sharing photos on social media with the hashtag #farmersgotyourback 
The Guardians push: We're right behind the farming message. Watch out for our involvement online and in the Ashburton Guardian and our new Rural Guardian publication, which now goes to every farm in the South Island.

Farmers, we've got your back

 Ashburton Guardian Editors Opinion: Saturday, July 9, 2022
Written by Daryl Holden

Townies. City folk. What do they know or care about farming?

You know the sort. They're the guys and gals who jokingly sug­gest a power lunch for a farmer is a sandwich on a tractor. 
They're also the ones who suggest neighbourhood watch for a farmer is when someone calls to let him know his heifers are out. 
And they're the smart alecs, sipping away at their favourite wine bar or posh craft beer joint in downtown Wellington or Auckland, who suggest a farm­er's backyard ends at an electric fence. 
Look, you may laugh but, ac­tually, it's no laughing matter. 
Because there are many- try thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders - who remain oblivious to the value farmers bring to the country and their importance to our nation. In fact, they don't even care. 
Some, too, enjoy pointing the finger at farmers and blaming them for climate change irresponsibility, damaging the environment and for unneces­sarily moaning because those naysayers believe farmers are always creaming it financially. 
Well, the team at leading Ashburton agricultural co-op­erative, Ruralco, have decided enough is enough. 
Something has to change, they believe so they've thumped their collective size 14 Red Band gumboots down to make a statement. 
And it'll come in the form of a bold national campaign to pro­mote, highlight and educate the general public about farmers, their successes and the vital role they play to keep our country going. 
Ruralco's campaign, "Farm­ers. We've Got Your Back": is probably more a delivery of a message, which could take 12 months or even longer to become ingrained in the New Zealand psyche. 
"This is the start of a move­ment, I suppose, that's going to take some time," Ruralco chief executive officer Rob Shame admitted. 
"But if you're looking for nir­vana in six months, then you're dreaming."
Ditto from impressive Ruralco board chairwoman Jessie Chan, who said farmers needed a collective thank you for keep­ing the New Zealand economy going through the worst of the pandemic "because it certainly wasn't tourism, was it?"
No siree. Now; how Ruralco gets that campaign message out there, and makes a difference in metropolitan New Zealand, is still to be seen, but they've got the Ashburton Guardian's support for a start. We agree with their sentiments and their concerns, which could poten­tially see a generation of New Zealand family farmers lost unless their appreciation and image is changed. 
Don't believe me? Well, think about this. Why would children on farms owned by mum and dad want to take up the gig full time, given the regulatory compliance challenges and costs, plus the acrimony that farmers face right now? 
Being a lawyer, accountant or even, dare I say it, a journalist, probably has more appeal than running or owning a farm in the existing climate. 
And if the kids don't want to inherit farms, then expect big corporates or overseas raiders to swoop. Suddenly we'd have silent farmers, who would own properties but live elsewhere. 
No one wants that. Surely. Ruralco certainly doesn't. Maybe it's time to support their cam­paign and support the message. 
Farmers. We've got your back.

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