A farmer’s work is never done, and rarely appreciated.
Out of sight and mind for the bulk of city slickers who wear and eat the products of Australian agriculture everyday, the individuals that make our the industry tick often don’t seek the limelight.
But over the past few years, a movement has grown.
Farmers are taking to social media to share their work with the world.
And a lot of the pages spreading the word (and image) were started right here in the Riverina.
Jugiong farmer Jim Honner, 23, is one half of @thankafarmerforyournextmeal, a page that’s exploded since its inception in May 2014.
He met Sam Johnston while studying agricultural economics at Sydney University, starting the page to promote the sector’s diversity and beauty to our metropolitan cousins.
“It just took off. We just had our own photos and some of our friends and wanted to share them, but people got right on board with the idea and started sending pics in,” he said.
“We’re still quite surprised at how popular it is.”
The Instagram page now has 51,000 followers and about 28,000 on Facebook.
JIm who runs the social side of the brand as well as working full time on his family’s Merino farm, gets sent around 40 photos every day through the hashtag, with the bulk of their followers based in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“There’s a real lack of connection between people in the city and the people producing their food,” Jim said.
“I think there’s just an information gap, once they see they’re interested and they want to know more. There never used to be much easily accessible information about farming and positive ag stories available.”
Knocking back multiple offers for advertising or sponsored content, the boys want to keep control of the direction of the page and ensure the message stays clear.
As well as helping to pull the wool from some eyes, Instagram and Facebook have become valuable information sharing tools for people on the land.
Jess Coe, 24, started @RiverinaHarvest in December 2016. During harvest, she gets sent more than 50 photos a day.
The graphic designer works on the family farm in Henty where the header was invented, and runs the page alone.
“I’ve had people post on there with a problem and people have commented ‘that’s happened to me’, so you see everyday farming problems get solved,” Jess said.
“Being from a farm and working on one I understand the hardships and what they go through.”
“It’s not just all about promotion, I want it to be about real, everyday people.”
Jess also makes no income from the site and has grown her audience of 11,200 followers on Instagram organically.
Both Thank A Farmer and Riverina Harvest have launched clothing and merchandise lines to help build their platforms.
“We started with 50 hats at the end of 2014,” Jim said.
“The hats are just a great way to start a conversation.”
Jess said she thinks the popularity of the pages comes in part by a growing interest in more conscious consumption.
“This prompts people to think about where their food comes from, in general people want to know now where their clothes or food are made, there’s a movement towards that,” she said.
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Steve Honner moved back to Junee from Sydney with his wife Pip about around a year ago to help out on his dad’s Marinna farm.
He keeps his personal account, @thepastyfarmer, full of positivity to counteract some of the stereotypes and negativity surrounding rural life and people.
“All the news is generally very city-fied and very localised, so the snippets people might see are when there’s a terrible drought, or politicians like Barnaby Joyce or Bob Katter playing up, so I guess the point of my page is to put farming in a positive light people can enjoy and get a little slice of country,” he said.
Steve believes farmers need to be transparent about their practices to maintain their customer base.
“In the face of American docos like Cowspiracy and so on, that’s not the way we operate here but people not familiar with the running of farms can draw conclusions that that’s how the cattle industry is run,” he said.
“It’s getting the message out there that this is what we do, it’s sustainable, and looking for solutions to do things better for sustainability and animal welfare.”
“Are there things we can improve on?”
A lot of his followers are from Sydney as well as overseas, with Instagram also a rich place to explore the landscapes and agriculture of other countries.
He sees online followers perhaps translating to country converts in future.
“Growing up here you kind of take it for granted how unique and special it is,” he said.
“it’s not until other people actually see it you think, wow this is amazing.
“I’d like to think with some of it we might inspire people that living in the country is a good life, we’ve got friends in Sydney saying ‘I wish we could do what you’re doing’… and they can.
“I hope more farmers get on it, promote the positive message, inspire people to come visit the regions, maybe live in the regions and bring fresh ideas.”
- This story first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.