In farmers we trust

21:10, Jul 11 2014
Willy Leferink
TRUST ME: Outgoing Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Willy Leferink says the public view farmers favourably despite what the media shows.

Readers Digest's annual "most trusted" may have its share of critics but it's been around for years and consistently places farmers in the top-20 trustworthy professions.

If you read social media or followed mainstream media, you'd think the public hate farmers, but they don't.

So the next time you feel like having a lash against an unsympathetic public, stop. Perhaps the public is been influenced by jaundiced bloggers or journalists.

Farmers rank 14th equal with dentists. Joking aside, you tend to be associated with the company you keep and being in the top 20 shows that ''people who feed people,'' like farmers and chefs, are together with those who defend you and your property, educate, and look after your well-being.

The bottom 10 trustworthy professions consist of bosses, politicians, sales people and the media too.

Like any profession, mine included, there are ratbags and while I've had some negative experiences with media, generally speaking, I find most are good to deal with.


I understand the need for balance in stories, but it seems optional when it's a Green MP in a kayak, fishing and hunting club pushing its barrow or a freshwater ecologist grinding an axe.

Recently Waipukurau was at standstill as 500 vehicles carried 600 people through the main street. Over 1000 people watched, which is impressive for a town of just 4000.

That's like 250,000 people lining Queen Street. I'm no journalist but that's the story: an overwhelming show of support for water storage.

Both 3 News and One News showed tractors and utes en masse with a few crowd interviews but rally organisers were not given much coverage as to why so many turned out at short notice.

One News went conspiratorial telling viewers that some opposing farmers 'didn't wish to appear on camera.'

For 'balance' they went to a lady from the anti-Ruataniwha group who wasn't even at the rally and a solitary opponent who was. 3 News 'balanced' their coverage by turning to Labour MP Meka Whaitiri. Whaitiri opposes the dam because she said it will make the Tukituki River "toxic."

Ironically, she was filmed beside the winter-swollen Tukituki with that big claim unchallenged by the reporter, just like all of that water flowing out to sea. Those who oppose good ideas without facts tend to invert the truth.

Ruataniwha will solve the Tukituki's major problems, a big one being algae growth during summer low flows. Neither channel noticed that our new president Dr William Rolleston was there. He joined the demo to voice the environmental and economic benefits of the Opuha water storage scheme in his backyard.

I guess this only helps drag the wider media towards the bottom of the trusted professions list. Those at the demo told a very different story to the television coverage.

The public can see through and filter out the ribbing rural communities get and we shouldn't forget this. Kiwis aren't easily brainwashed.

Can we farmers do better? Yes, just look at Otago's Shag River, the Rotorua Lakes and the Ministry for Environment's 2013 ten-year water quality survey.

The progress is undoubtedly there. We should inspire our fellow farmers and non-farming talent to grow our industry. That means not only becoming a Federated Farmers member but also a leader with us.

* Willy Leferink is the outgoing Federated Farmers' dairy chairman.

-Waikato Farmer