Our guest this week, Robynne Anderson, is an authority on global agricultural and food policy. Robynne grew up on a farm and started her career in agricultural publishing. After selling her first business, she took a short break to contemplate her next move. Finding that her passion was still agriculture, she founded Emerging Ag Inc.
Robynne realised there was a lot of talk about 'food security', but very little understanding of what it takes to grow, share, and distribute food. "Clearly, there was a gap between what we in the farming community understood as baseline knowledge and what those who are making agricultural policy, let alone more broadly, food, trade, finance, environmental policy, etc....have as an understanding of what we do. So, in that lies the origins of Emerging Ag," says Robynne. "The goal is to bring the practical reality of farming to the policy sphere," she says.
She groups the common challenges faced by farmers into three categories:
- Growing and harvesting the crop, often under highly adverse biological and climatic realities.
- Regeneration or sustainability, a long-term view to the production system, often within multi-generational family businesses, being open to ongoing improvement.
- Resilience - Covid, climate, financial, policy challenges - finding ways to adapt (acknowledging and being proactively part of the changes).
For Robynne, it's essential for farmers to speak up and be part of the conversation, without being defensive. She elaborates, "We don't have to be bashful, but suddenly a conversation has turned, and we may feel defensive. Instead of being the rural 'local yokel,' you're now the villain destroying the planet." While both of those narratives exist in the world, a lot of people do have an appreciation of how difficult it is to be a farmer. The idea is to help more people understand.
Robynne encourages farmers to take the time to explain and connect. "We tend to talk about things in terms that make sense to us as farmers," she says. "We tend to cut to the chase without explaining that we share the underpinning value that they're asking for." By adjusting our tone and being more explanatory, we can find a point of connection with the non-farming community.
Mark asks her to run through what an effective issues management strategy looks like. Robynne shares three key points:
- Identify the outcome you want.
- Don't be wedded to the method of getting there.
- Be open to working together and leave space for people to do their part.
Listen in for some absolute gems with on-farm applications!
You can find Robynne on social media at @Robynne_A or visit Emerging Ag or Agrifood.net.
And a final note from Robynne, "There's nothing we love more than a farmer who loves to speak up! We welcome the whole world of farmers to come and be part of the conversation."
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