An opportunity to bridge the city-rural divide

An opportunity to bridge the city-rural divide

Opinion
Grayson Webster is from a pastoral family in the Northern Territory with broad experience in the Australian agricultural sector. She worked in agribusiness banking, corporate agricultural businesses including station operations, export depots, beef cattle backgrounding operations, meat processing and most recently live export. Ms Webster is also a committee member of the Young Livestock Exporters Network and is very passionate about advocating the myriad of different career pathways available for all young people in agriculture.

Grayson Webster is from a pastoral family in the Northern Territory with broad experience in the Australian agricultural sector. She worked in agribusiness banking, corporate agricultural businesses including station operations, export depots, beef cattle backgrounding operations, meat processing and most recently live export. Ms Webster is also a committee member of the Young Livestock Exporters Network and is very passionate about advocating the myriad of different career pathways available for all young people in agriculture.

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In one way or another we are all connected by food and every single one of us is heavily reliant on our agricultural supply chains to support our existence.

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IT is the cornerstone of our existence; worshipped by some, loved by all and is the key to our survival.

It is a form of self-expression, a showcase of cultural and ethnic beliefs, it's the cornerstone of top-rating television shows and is used to highlight all major events throughout our life from birthdays to Christmas and catch ups with family and friends.

In one way or another we are all connected by food and every single one of us is heavily reliant on our agricultural supply chains to support our existence.

The most recent pandemic saw food security quickly rise to the top of most people's priority list.

Agricultural Australia was thrown into the spotlight and questioned - is there enough to go around?

As someone who comes from a pastoral background, I am critically aware of how food makes its way to the supermarket and my kitchen table, along with an understanding of the inner workings of sustainable food supply chains.

For those who've spent their lives in the city without an understanding of food production and our robust agricultural supply chain, I can only imagine the confusion, panic and fear that may have crossed their minds in the most recent times.

All the while being exacerbated by potential employment changes and financial pressures.

Compounding the misconceptions around Australia's food security was the ongoing drought.

The agricultural community, in partnership with the media have highlighted the severe drought conditions throughout eastern Australia for the past three years at least.

There have been countless campaigns, stories and calls for support.

All warranted, appreciated and all very much aimed at building awareness around the hardships of rural Australia.

Then along came COVID-19.

For those in metro Australia, with no connection to agriculture other than shopping for food and trying to provide for their family, try to imagine some of the thoughts that may have flashed across their minds.

For example, "My god, a major drought across a large proportion of food producing Australia and now a deadly pandemic?"

"Is there actually enough food to sustain us all?"

This goes some way to explain the initial hoarding of pantry staples such as flour, rice, pasta and baked beans.

We as agriculturalists know Australia is one of the most food secure nations around the world and we know we produce far more then we can consume hence a strong export market for many different food commodities.

It's estimated that Australian farmers produce enough food for 75 million people, three times what we need.

We also know the value of different production methods that are warranted between each personally and professionally-run food production business.

However, of a survey recently held in Western Australia, only 11 per cent of the participants in the wider community felt a connection to agriculture and the primary industries sector.

A rather sobering statistic.

Right now, agricultural Australia is at the forefront of people's minds, we are and will always be an essential service.

We as an industry have been given an opportunity through the pandemic that we can capitalise on and use to our advantage.

How do we connect people with the origin of their food?

If we can ask one question to take a lesson out of the most recent events, may it be a productive, "How can we improve?"

In my opinion, educating people and filling the void of information about food production and food security within Australia would be a great place to build a foundation from.

If we at a grass-roots level of food production can share our story, industry insights and humanise our brand, we can better aid the industry representative bodies and political leaders on a mission to bridge the city - rural divide.

The bigger bridge we build, the more common misconceptions of industry practice, environmental sustainability and ethical production we can break down, correct, and showcase the world leading practices we have within food production.

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