Peter Couchman is the Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

The Plunkett Foundation is the organisation which promotes and supports co-operative and social enterprises in rural communities both in the UK and internationally. It provides support, networks and knowledge which offers practical solutions for rural communities that helps to create thriving places where people live and work now and in the future.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Hearing a different voice

The last Royal Show gave a wonderful range of choices for this week's blog. Tempted as I am to comment on how well our Communities Taking Control campaign went (which it did) and the wonderful range of people who took time to vote on rural issues at the stand (including a dog from Dogs for the Disabled), it was a very different event that stands out for me.

The New Zealand Government has held a breakfast at the show for decades. Once I'd survived the shock of lamb chops, venison and seafood for breakfast, the speeches started. First up was the New Zealand Minister of Agriculture, the Hon David Carter MP. He spoke of his country's pride in farming. He spoke of how much food mattered to them. He spoke of how they would tackle the role that agriculture plays in climate change. All of this was done with a clear sense of pride in his country's agriculture. It was the most positive political speech I'd heard on agriculture.

Next up was Sir Henry van der Heyden, chair of Fonterra Co-operative Group. Once again, it was a speech that brimmed with optimism. He was proud to be a farmer, excited by what was happening now and confident about the future.

Here was a fantastic lesson for all who communicate about farming issues in the UK, Government or industry. The lesson was that people listen to positive people. The public has, for too long, switched off to the downbeat messages from our world. The New Zealanders shared a glimpse of what the impact is when we sell our issues standing on the front foot.

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