“LOVE your neighbour” pops up regularly in that old international best-seller, the Bible. My particular favourite is from the book of Romans - I hope that Paul the Apostle and his mates don’t mind, I hacked at it a bit, but I think they’d like my work.
“Let each of us learn from our neighbours, for our good, to build us all up.”
That’s what I reckon we need to do after I spent a week wrapped up in New Zealand’s agricultural scene at Fieldays, the biggest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere.
The theme of this year’s Fieldays was “getting down to business in the global economy”. To support such an idea, it takes more than their rich productive soils, bursting innovations and returns per hectare - enough to make an Aussie farmer weep.
It’s their attitude. There I said it: Kiwis have an attitude. A bloody good one, when it comes to agriculture.
By Jesus they do it well over there, and they’re not a bunch to gloat - they’re too busy getting down to business.
I met young dairy farmers bringing home average annual returns of $700,000 gross profit from 530 cows on 135 hectares - can’t think of many 26-year-olds running that sort of business here. But then the bank will always back a man with 1200 millimetres of rain a year.
I met young women in their early 20s and farming in dairy, beef and lamb operations: they were passionate, focused and also represented throughout the exhibitors selling tractors, spreaders, stock yards and business systems.
I met Kiwi kids: boys and girls no older than 10 or 12, down from Auckland and Hamilton with family, checking it all out. They knew what farms were, that cream comes from milk, which comes from cows, and that beef comes from the black or red cows, not the black and white ones.
My point is, take a cross-section of the hundreds of people I met at all levels of the event, and they all had a great, proactive view about agriculture - even the citysiders.
It’s no wonder when the ag industry over the past five years averaged 66 per cent of all NZ exports. So why would they tolerate a negative image of an industry that keeps the whole country both fed and afloat in the global market?
Their attitude seems to give them a focus, a sense of pride and confidence. And it’s stimulated by a proactive government that says, “We’re going to double agricultural exports by 2025, let’s do it! But hey, what can we do to help?” You reckon the farmers are keen to work with a government like that? Of course!
The Kiwis have claimed to be in hot pursuit of an additional $1.3 trillion in ag exports in the next 40 years. They seem organised at every level, from seminars focused on lifting the performance of Maori agribusinesses to nurturing and training agricultural students on global careers - all the while creating an economic environment that stimulates young people to get involved in the industry.
And the banks might be licking their lips - but as they say, you have to spend it to make it.
So maybe this is an opportunity for all Australians - you have see it in your mind, to hold it in your hand. And you’ve got to love a neighbour with a bit of attitude.
Sam Trethewey is a third generation farmer from Tasmania, now based in Victoria. Sam's message is 'think clearly, get muddy': inviting everyone to be clearer in and on farming by rolling up their sleeves, learning and taking action.