In New Zealand, we have a problem. Nameless, faceless, cruel, wealthy farmers are destroying our environment single-handedly.
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Let’s have a little more respect for the farmers who put food on our table

Much of what you will read in the media at present, both social and mainstream, is that farmers are “stuck in their ways”, that they are anti-environment, climate change deniers, and have an entitled attitude that makes them resistant to change.

There are, just like in any pocket of society, farmers that will be slow to change their ways — but I can categorically assure you that these are by far in the minority.

Most farmers are already changing their ways into more modern farming practices and began years ago; however, they get kicked in the guts just as much as those who don’t.Let’s have a little more respect for the farmers who put food on our tables

Most also can’t afford new machinery without enormous debt. Most have never received assistance from the Government.

What has amazed me the most over the last few weeks has been the pure vitriol that has been aimed at farmers over the perception that they alone are to blame for carbon emissions, with sweeping and incorrect accusations.

“I don’t see farmers as heroes, they have vast barren lands void of trees and nature in the way they think, spray everything in sight, kill the insects and ruin creation” — ‘Huckleberry’ on Stuff.

It appears that many, such as Huckleberry, have an entirely distorted view of agriculture in general. However, I’m going to focus on the nasty, apathetic comments being made both online and in person.

My hope is that our urban friends can partake in some serious self-reflection and ask yourself what brought you to this place of being so disconnected with where your food comes from and the basic concern for others, that you would feel it’s acceptable to troll and abuse rural people.

“Boo hoo farmers, crying into your $100,000 tractors, polluting our rivers, I have no pity for you and you deserve everything you get” — Erik on Facebook.

It seems that farmers have been handed 100% of the responsibility for causing emissions, and 100% of the responsibility of cleaning them up. No farmer that I know denies that farming causes emissions. What many of them are saying (among other things), is that just as everything that creates emissions will be counted, shouldn’t everything that sequesters them also be counted? There is so much more to the story.

“Anti-environment, wanting to be allowed to profit from the deaths of millions of people and animals. And too lazy to walk in protest, they sit on their backsides, in their heated cabs, and belch CO2 into the sky. This is farmers doing it tough, having to get off the couch to whine like spoiled children” — straybullet on Stuff.

Imagine if your dog messed on the footpath, and you not only cleaned your own dog’s mess up, but also part of another dog’s mess lying nearby. I would imagine that you would disagree with being fined for the event and would demand further investigation. You would not deny that your dog did it.

“I notice they’re not wearing tin foil hats in the tractor cabs. Do tractors come with 5G protection built in? Why do these nutters think it’s their right to continue to destroy the planet, to everyone’s detriment?” — Simon on Facebook.

The recent Groundswell protest brought out all the trolls. From what I know of Groundswell, they are not “racist, conspiracist, extremist, climate deniers”, but are a group of farmers who are trying to tell us that what is being asked of the agricultural community is too much, too soon. They are not denying it needs to happen, but rather it’s the pace of change that is the problem.

It’s a bit like being told you need to install a full solar system on your home and buy a Tesla before next winter because it will benefit our environment. Good idea in principle, but it’s too much, too soon for most New Zealand families.

“Their tractors may be in gear, but their brains are definitely in neutral” — Nat on Facebook.

The protests happen because of high levels of helplessness and frustration — nothing so far has allowed rural people to be heard by the Government, so they have to resort to things like protests to be listened to. Their backs are against the wall. The latest protest didn’t draw as big a crowd as the last time because of the short notice and the very busy time of year. Not because farmers don’t care. It was a case of damned if you do turn up and damned if you don’t. And there will always be people on the fringe that push their own agendas during a protest, but how short-sighted you are if all you saw were those few out-of-line signs.

“Just wait for them to start moaning about the cost of running their tractors for this protest. This bunch will always have and need something to moan about” — AW on Facebook.

The animosity that is running through this country against farmers is a high concern for me. My fear that rural people are being scorned, abandoned and ignored was confirmed with Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor’s unhelpful, snide and sarcastic response to the latest Groundswell protest — he should be going into bat for farmers, not tearing them down. My concern is within rural mental health and community, and with our already high depression and suicide rate, I just can’t see this trolling, nasty, apathetic attitude contributing positively.

“Some of those farmers are so easily triggered they’ll jump at any excuse to show off their fancy tractors and double cab utes” — Renee on Facebook

If you are so inclined to accuse and attack farmers, online or in person, ask yourself: Is this who I really want to be? Do I understand the whole situation? Am I treating people with respect and humility? Am I jumping to conclusions? Who am I harming? Where did my food originate from? Check yourself and remember that there are real people at the receiving end of this abuse who are trying to work hard and bring about positive change — even if you can’t see it.

— Kathryn Wright is a rural mental health professional and researcher. She plans to begin a doctorate in mid-2023 on rural community connection.

Globally, consumers can’t get enough of the quality and taste of American dairy products. Foreign exports of American dairy are twice the volume of the nation’s domestic dairy consumption. Last year, about 18% of U.S. dairy production was exported, and economists forecast that percentage to grow more than 25% in 2023.

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