Research confirms agriculture helps defines us

Seven out of 10 Australians believe agriculture contributes to the national identity. New research conducted for ‘Australian Year of the Farmer’ confirms the important role agriculture plays in what it means to be Australian.

The research found the majority of Australians (71%) believe agriculture contributes to the “Australian way of life” and that it “plays a significant role in what it means to be Australian” (69%).

Australian Year of the Farmer co-founder and managing director Geoff Bell said the results were encouraging but hoped, by the end of 2012, more Australians would realise the contribution of agriculture to the national identity.

“For a country that was said to be built upon the sheep’s back, it’s great to know that the majority of Australians still recognise the importance of the rural sector in defining who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are headed as a country – but there are also some people who don’t make the connection,” Mr Bell said.

“The research tells us that nearly a third of all Australians do not appreciate the significance of agriculture to our national identity. As a proud Australian who feels passionately about the farming and rural communities, I find this a little bit disappointing.

“That’s why, six years ago, we began planning a Year of the Farmer celebration.

By the end of 2012, we would be thrilled to know that we’ve helped all Australians fall back in love with rural Australia.

“We hope a celebration of this magnitude will encourage Australians to show their appreciation for farmers and their families and to recognise the enormous contribution they make. And not just to the economy, but to Australia’s social fabric – our very way of life.”

Of the 2000 Australians surveyed, young people aged between 16 and 24 were the least likely to associate agriculture with the national identity, with just over half (51%) recognising its contribution to the Australian way of life and a similar amount (53%) recognising its contribution to what it means to be Australian.

Mr Bell said the lack of engagement with rural Australia by youth was a particularly worrying trend that had emerged in recent years.

“It’s no surprise to see that Australian youth find it harder to associate agriculture with the Australian identity as more and more are growing up in metropolitan areas, removed from the iconic rural landscapes and flourishing rural communities in which agriculture has its roots. But if they had a think about it, they’d realise that agriculture is actually all around them,” he said.

“Every time they buy clothes made from Australian wool or cotton, every time they eat an Australian-grown apple, eat a steak, or go to the takeaway for fish and chips, many hands in the agribusiness chain have helped get it to them – and it doesn’t stop there.

“Of the 1.6 million jobs agribusiness provides, more than half are located in metropolitan Australia, and the contribution of the broader agribusiness sector to the nation’s economy, each year, has been estimated to be in excess of $400 billion,” Mr Bell said.

“We want 2012 to be a landmark celebration of Australian farmers and of agribusiness in general. We want it to be remembered as a turning point at which urban and rural communities were brought closer together. And we want it to be the year that changed the habits of Australians, encouraging them to stop and think about the many farm products that support their lifestyle.

“We need only look at the food and drink we enjoy at that most iconic summer tradition, the Aussie barbecue, to see how fortunate we are that this country boasts such a dynamic and innovative agricultural sector.

“Where would we be without great Aussie-grown produce like steak, chops and chicken skewers, bread made from Australian wheat, and sauce made from Australian tomatoes. And don’t forget the fried onions and the salads full of all manner of fresh Australian-grown vegies.”

“This year, I would ask all Australians to consider what their lives would be like without the many men and women working in agribusiness to bring them the products found every day in shops and supermarkets across the country.”

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