A fight for hearts and minds

Farming doesn’t seem to be connecting with urban New Zealand and needs to find new ways of doing so.

In Editor’s Note4 Minutes
Country-Wide editor Terry Brosnahan

CLARKSON’S FARM IS A WINNER for not just British farming, but agriculture globally.

The Amazon Prime programme follows Top Gear and Grand Tour frontman Jeremy Clarkson as he has a go at farming his 400ha mixed cropping farm.

Clarkson lampoons the idiocy of bureaucrats and their rules while taking the piss out of himself with all his foolish mistakes. He needs no prompting to show disbelief at the idiotic rules farmers have to follow.

It screams for a New Zealand version but who would be our Clarkson?

Farming doesn’t seem to be connecting with urban NZ and needs to find new ways of doing so.

I have always argued we needed a reality show where we follow a smart, slightly dysfunctional, but funny family farming the land. I have met a few over the years.

Clarkson’s Farm is a script that wrote itself, filmed during Covid-19 lockdown, a simple and low cost way to make a programme. It is an effective way to show urban people the realities of farming and connect with them.

When filling out an entry form for Farmer of the Year, Clarkson is asked how he has advanced his business. He replied that when he makes a costly mistake, and there are many, Clarkson fronts another episode of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ to pay for it.

Are our messages in the wrong format for urban NZ? Has Greenpeace and the Government propaganda been too successful? Government ministers and ministries have an army of spin doctors (72 in just the LTSA) according to veteran journalist Andrea Vance. Vance says she has never dealt with such a secretive and thin-skinned Government.

At National Fieldays, 26 MPs and Cabinet ministers turned up. Was it to show the urban audience it cares about farmers?

The Government’s lack of kindness to the rural sector with irrational and costly regulations are hurting farming so badly it wouldn’t have washed with rural attendees.

What would have been better propaganda for the Government was to have the ministers spend a week on a farm. Then they might have also realised how hard farming is and why their legislation is so damaging.

There has been debate over whether or not there are too many organisations representing farmers on advocacy, that allows the Government to divide and conquer. It is an important role and there should be a unified voice but ultimately the Government doesn’t seem to listen to the farming sector. It does listen to its urban voters.

Ag NZ inc should fund a programme like Clarkson’s Farm where viewers are connected directly with farmers, their toil, problems and successes.

The crucial battle to win is their hearts and minds.