Farmers urged to share their stories

Choppy waters . . . Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer says the company’s making good progress, but the world is a difficult place to operate in. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW

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My Food Bag co›founder Nadia Lim has challenged sheep and beef farmers to bare all about farming or risk others making up their own stories about red meat.

She told farmer suppliers to leave nothing out during a keynote speech at Silver Fern Farms’ (SFF) Plate to Pasture farmer conference in Christchurch from July 7›9.

The MasterChef New Zealand judge, nutritionist and entrepreneur farmer with husband, Carlos Bagrie, at Arrowtown’s Royalburn Station is true to her word. Nothing is left to the imagination of visitors when they enter her microabattoir at the farm.

Ms Lim said she was not scared to post photos about that on social media and there had been massive support.

‘‘I’m not one to hide behind anything and some people commented and said ‘that’s cool, but you don’t have to post’.

‘‘I know it’s quite full›on for some people, but there are a lot of people out there who want to know the truth and have the opportunity to actually see the process of their food.’’

The couple’s converted 485ha sheep and barley farm now had its own abattoir, a hot composting system using dead stock and abattoir waste with a base material from wilding trees for native tree›planting and a small cattle herd she called her ‘‘Poo Patrol’’ for other composting.

Nadia Lim

The mostly spray›free station included a market garden, egg and honey operations and the 4500 ewe›flock was being expanded.

Ms Lim’s comments that the ‘‘animal›bad, plant›good’’ movement was too simplistic and there would always be a market for real food drew applause from the audience.

‘‘Sheep and beef farmers . . . aren’t big yappers or puff out their chest and really talk about how awesome they are.

‘‘That’s probably what needs to change a bit. Be confident to tell some stories.

‘‘Tell them the good parts, but don’t be afraid to talk to parts that you’re afraid to talk about.’’

Her stance tied in with SFF spelling out to farmers at the conference how it would take its eight›point sustainable action plan into the brand story and market place to build more trust and connection to consumers.

The company met its five› year target two years in advance last year to increase profits by a total of $150 million.

Last year it made a net profit of $103.8 million and achievements included launching its Net Carbon Zero Beef brand.

That will be repeated with lamb this year, also to the United States.

SFF has just announced it will increase its carbon payments by $50 a tonne to farmers who reach targets after undergoing carbon mapping.

Chief executive Simon Limmer said SFF’s new future statement — creating goodness from the farms the world needs

— captured the direction it was heading in.

SFF was embarking on sometimes ‘‘confronting’’ nature›positive and land›based solutions, he said.

The move to get close to customers was paying off with a team of two staff in China three years ago now numbering 25 people, he said.

The CEO has been to the US three times the past two months to get re›connected to customers.

Mr Limmer said SFF was trading about 20% above its five›year averages, had invested about $200 million into the business the past four years and was a steady vessel despite future challenges.

The choppy waters were around markets heading into a recession, inflation, Covid›19 still lingering, disrupted supply chains and a tight labour situation.

Trade specialist Tim Groser told farmers New Zealand’s agriculture export economy had faced more severe challenges and had proven many times it was resilient. A soft landing for inflation looked unlikely and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had brought about massive shifts in changed military views which would affect business models.