Your canine crusader often hears claims that South Island’s West Coast is a backwater and behind the times.
As Cameron Bennett and his crew systematically unpacked every negative stereotype in the F@*k Farmers handbook, distraught farmers lit up Twitter and Facebook, powerless to do anything more than share their grief about once more being misrepresented by media ignorance and bias.
The fall guy for the piece was a well-meaning but hapless Hauraki dairy farmer. We won’t name him here, he’s copped enough grief already. But it was clear that as he led the cameras through knee-deep mud inside a wintering barn, put the hip lifters on a skinny cow, let the homekill guy shoot a beast while the cameras rolled – the list goes on – he obviously had no idea how the images would look on television.
And he also had no idea that the affable Bennett, with his soothing demeanour, and a faceless video editor, would hack the footage to fit their title, ‘The price of milk: is our love affair with farming over?’
Only two farmers were spoken to, the hapless chap with the skinny cows and an alternative lifestyler with a tiny herd and an aversion to superphosphate -- hardly representative or balanced; and if Bennett and his team are ignorant enough to genuinely believe it was, then the urban-rural divide is wider than we thought.
The wider farming community -- not just dairying – is damaged by this sort of misrepresentation and needs to pay heed to that title. For some interest groups, the love affair is not just over; they are out to end or at least severely limit farming.
And the casual approach to both farming practice and to image management displayed by the main subject of the Sunday show has to stop.
Could industry leaders have prevented a lone farmer being picked off by media and used to create more anti-farming material for YouTube? Probably not. There might, however, be a case for some industry-wide education about image, PR and media management.
Most industries that operate in a fishbowl, as farming now does, put more effort into image management, top to bottom. That includes ensuring best practice is adhered to across the board so the cameras are unlikely to find outliers who do not represent the majority.
The challenges that farming, as an industry, now faces is, first, to get its practitioners up to a level where they’re at least aware they’re a target for media and, second, to understand that perception now matters almost as much as good farming practice.