Gaye Coates’ new year resolution is to speak up loudly for the industry she loves.

The start of a new year brings to many, a habitual sense of reflection and resolutions. This is not easily achieved on the farm, being perched precariously between frantic Christmas deadlines, school holiday activities and the summer must-do jobs.

This year however, we were delivered a well-appointed benign period over the holidays. The weather was kind. Remarkably, there was no last minute just before Christmas breakdowns.

Miraculously, the swedes were in well before that December 24 target, allowing Christmas to go ahead on its appointed day.

Even the arrival of the baleage contractor to mow on December 25 caused little stress, adding with gratitude another 180 bales to the winter feed bank. We could, like many Kiwis, rest and consider the year ahead.

This year my resolve to make changes was literally unwrapped on Christmas Day after opening a nondescript gift of sustainable clothes pegs (are steel pegs truly considered sustainable with their coal-fuelled manufacturing process?). Perhaps mistakenly I wondered what subliminal message was being directed to the farmers in the family. Annoyance set in. It was like putting the wrap on the silage stack, everything underneath began to ferment and chemically change, and I reacted with a feeling of intense betrayal, not at any one person in particular, but at outdated public perceptions.

I wryly thought of the peg benefactor’s speech orated at a previous gathering (and delivered from within the comfort of their unsustainably plucked down jacket), laying sole blame to our farming practices on what in reality were widely shared environmental issues. I grimaced with recollection of the number of sarcastic comments besieged upon our children by city teachers and classmates who have unfairly assigned culpability to them for the erosion of our planet simply because of their genetic connection to farming.

Knowing that public respect for our work is meagre hurts. It is nearly two decades since “dirty dairying” was branded. Since then a lot has changed, mistakes acknowledged and a tremendous amount of industry and individual farmer work channelled towards environmental stewardship.

Farmers do not need to construe resolutions to change, because we have had firmly in place for some time a strong scaffold of environmental ethics to support sustainable farming practices. Our problem is we don’t speak loudly enough or share beyond our own industry ears the stories that put a deafening voice to our demonstrable commitment to doing things right.

So my resolution for 2019 is to evangelise, not in the strict religious sense but of the stand up and speak loudly for what I believe to be good type.

When I next have to shake the hand of someone new and explain my occupation, I will at the first inevitable furrowing of their brow set forth.

I will tell them how proud I am to be part of an industry who has made a discernible difference. I will tell them how our farm invests tens of thousands each year through levies to support research and development into sustainable farming practices.

I will enthusiastically share the planting of 300 miscanthus grass plants on our farm that may in the future fuel the John Deere or at the least, mitigate the carbon emitted from its exhaust…

And then just at the point that I know I have saturated their interest level, I will gently remind them that saving the planet is a shared responsibility. And, if I am brave enough, I will with a cursory glance to the top of their head, politely ask if they have ever considered what impact their choice of bottled hair colour has on the environment?