Right to farm being determined by society, not farmers

Deanna Lush wins Australian Farm Institute’s John Ralph Essay Competition

Deanna Lush, Palmer, South Australia is director of consultancy Agcommincators and one of the eight women selected for NFF's Diversity in Agriculture Leadership program

Deanna Lush, Palmer, South Australia is director of consultancy Agcommincators and one of the eight women selected for NFF's Diversity in Agriculture Leadership program


Australian Farm Institute’s 2018 John Ralph Essay winner says the market has a right to choose.


With an increasing gap between city and country and increasing scrutiny of farming, it is not a question of whether society should determine the right to farm: society is already determining the right to farm, according to the Australian Farm Institute’s 2018 John Ralph Essay Competition winner Deanna Lush.

Ms Lush is a strategic communication specialist working in primary production, natural resources and agripolitics. Her Churchill Fellowship report investigating trust in agriculture was published in 2018, and this report largely informed her winning submission on the topic: Society should determine the right to farm.

Ms Lush’s essay postulated that ethics and values will continue to be at the heart of the right to farm discussion as society questions whether farmers and the food system should be doing what they are doing.

“Since farmers do not have as much contact with consumers as others in the food system, an openness to the genuine questioning of practices will require a huge mind shift,” she wrote.

“Farmers may believe they have a right to farm, but equally the market has a right not to buy their products. If transparency is the key to building trust, maintaining a social licence and overcoming right to farm issues, we need to consider if agriculture is prepared for transparency, which may also require changes to industry or farm practices.

“The agriculture sector must upskill producers in engagement and leading with shared values to build trust rather than providing more science and data which, while important, will not win hearts and minds of the general public. It is time to look at a new approach for agriculture and a new way of engaging.”

Ms Lush spoke at the Australian Farm Institute Agriculture Roundtable yesterday (October 16) on trust and the right to farm, along with Farmers of the Year Frances and Peter Bender of Huon Aquaculture, AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year Krista Watkins and National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar.

The runners up in the competition were Matt Cawood and Nikki Dumbrell.

Mr Cawood is a professional writer with more than 20 years’ experience as a senior journalist, science and environment writer and national issues writer for Fairfax media.

He currently contributes as a communications professional within the education sector. Matt was the 2016 recipient of the NSW Farm Writers and Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists Star Prize for Rural Writing, and second in the 2016 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists John Deere Print Award. Matt won the John Ralph Essay Competition in 2013.

Ms Dumbrell is a Research Associate in the Centre for Global Food and Resources (GFAR) at the University of Adelaide. Nikki works on projects that are designed to improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of vegetable systems in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. In particular the projects focus on improving smallholder farmers' production practices, market access and market engagement and establishing more efficient postharvest processes. 

She grew up on a beef and dairy farm on the south coast of Western Australia.


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