Farmers don't need to be thanked

Thanks but no thanks, why farmers shouldn't ask for external approval

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FAMILY DRIVE: Farmer Tony Single carrying out paddock inspections on 'Narratigah' Coonamble during last year's harvest.

FAMILY DRIVE: Farmer Tony Single carrying out paddock inspections on 'Narratigah' Coonamble during last year's harvest.

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Opinion | The Gauge guest columnist Sharon O'Keeffe questions whether farmers should ask to be thanked for carrying out their business.

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When I'm not writing for Australian Community Media's agricultural stable, I put on my other hat as farmer's wife and sounding board for the family farming business.

As the daughter of a farmer, and having spent much of my career working as an agronomist, I knew what I was getting into when I moved here.

In-depth discussions about crop rotations and input decisions, stressing over rain forecasts, long working hours during peak periods and adjusting life to the rhythms of the farm were just things that went with the role.

But the upside was the privilege to live and work in rural Australia, to be able to raise our family here, to help him run a successful, challenging business.

ON FARM: ACM Agricultural Publishing national agricultural writer Sharon O'Keeffe-Single.

ON FARM: ACM Agricultural Publishing national agricultural writer Sharon O'Keeffe-Single.

So why would we need to be thanked?

Why should someone thank us for their next meal?

I mean, I don't go around thanking everyone who does their job, and throughout my career have never asked for it - except from my direct supervisors at bonus time!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a monster.

I have thanked my staff for picking up the slack when times were tough, I have thanked my bosses and colleagues for their help and understanding through a personal crisis.

I thank those in the service industries who go an extra mile and work for peanuts, particularly our young workers.

And in these extraordinary times I send thanks to the people who are being put in situations of unprecedented personal risk, including our health carers.

But to thank a farmer?

Farming is a business, and more often than not its a profitable one.

I will acknowledge it is a unique business, one where lifestyle and work become so entwined it can be hard to separate it out.

It can be stressful, particularly in years of seasonal risk and exposure to the vagaries of weather and climate.

But we don't have to be here.

We could leave and work elsewhere.

We could sell the assets and do something entirely different.

But we choose not to, because this is the business we want, and the lifestyle we want, that makes us very lucky and not someone who needs thanks.

I don't just say this to be controversial, there can be a real cost to the quest for external approval.

Once a person, business or industry asks to be thanked, it opens the door to be judged - to have the general public come back with opinions about how you can do better.

Once a person, business or industry asks to be thanked, it opens the door to be judged - to have the general public come back with opinions about how you can do better. - Sharon O'Keeffe

When we ask to be thanked we are telling people we work for them, and they have the right to weigh in on how and what we farm.

By asking for thanks, we can devalue the benefits agriculture brings to the economy, asking for a symbolic gesture rather than the real policy changes and support farming requires to continue to grow and thrive.

In the era of social media, it can be really easy to jump on a band wagon, to share a meme or slogan.

My advice for the farmers out there, asking to be thanked - maybe you should have a think about what motivates you, why you farm and do you really want to continue.

Because if someone else's thanks is what gets you out of bed in the morning, you can probably live a better life somewhere else.

  • Sharon O'Keeffe-Single is the national agricultural machinery and technology writer for ACM Agricultural Publishing. She is based on the family farm near Coonamble, NSW, where they predominately crop winter cereals, pulses and sorghum.
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