The Big Picture: Australian Year of the Farmer

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this year in Australia is the Year of the Farmer.  A full scale campaign has been launched by a group of farmers as well as members of the agricultural industry and the supply chain to highlight the hard work and innovation of the many Australians involved in the farming industry.

The campaign was officially launched in October 2011 by the Official Patron, Governor General of Australia, Ms. Quentin Bryce AC.  Following the launch, the events that have rolled out include a photo competition and a nine-vehicle One Country Roadshow which will be travelling more than 56,000kms to attend more than 400 events during 2012. There are also plans for an Agricultural Innovation and Technology Expo as well as one of the most significant food events to be held in Australia, a Food of Origin Extravaganza, to promote the quality and origin of Australian food products – from ‘wheat to meat’ and ‘paddock to plate’ towards the end of 2012.

”Farming is a partnership between rural and urban communities,” says Geoff Bell, managing director for the Year of the Farmer initiative. For farming to remain sustainable, people living in our cities need to understand their role in the partnership. They need to take the time to find out where their food comes from, to understand the exciting careers available in the farming and agricultural sectors, and the crucial role farming plays in Australia’s economic and social fabric.

The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) is telling 52 farmer stories in 52 days as part of the celebration of the Year of the Farmer.  The objective is to connect people from the country and the city since, according to the Governor General in her opening remarks, nearly a quarter of city dwellers never make it to the countryside and the majority – around 69% – visit rural Australia less than once a year.

There is an educational component in the schools as part of the outreach as well.  The campaign organizers believe it is important for all Australians to know the finest fabrics, fibres, and foods are grown in their own backyard.  One of the goals of the campaign is to encourage the perpetuation of this belief by giving children the knowledge and opportunity to meet the challenge.  To help take the Australian Year of the Farmer message to schools, the campaign is aligning with education partners who will deliver a range of fun, informative, and age-appropriate activities across the country.

The campaign is extremely well organized and ambitious.  Many ideas can be gleaned by watching the year unfold and learning from this group’s success.  Who knows?  Perhaps 2013 will be the Canadian Year of the Farmer? •