Under the Mikeroscope Telling the horticulture story
During the election campaign the divide between urban and rural New Zealand became obvious, based perhaps on a lack of understanding of what is really happening on farms and orchards today.
Even before that, we were fronting to media explaining the increased prices for vegetables due to extremely poor winter weather, the difference between the seasons for vegetable supply and the need to protect high quality land for growing produce. It has become apparent that we need to tell our story far and wide, because not everyone understands how fruit and vegetables get from the grower to their (non-plastic) shopping bag. It is however, a journey they are interested in.
Over the past 16 years New Zealand has lost nearly 6,000 hectares of vegetable growing land and nearly 4,000 hectares of fruit growing land. For this reason, in the Horticulture New Zealand election manifesto we asked the next government to develop a food security policy, aimed at protecting remaining prime growing land from urban development. As the public buys into more houses spreading outwards rather than upwards, they don’t necessarily know that a downstream effect of that might be less locally grown food.
In our manifesto we explained that growing land tends to be close to urban areas, and that we have pockets of land rare in the world, where soil and climate allow year-round growing of leafy green vegetables.
We explained that as a country we need to protect this and other high quality land for affordable, year-round food production to feed New Zealand.
We have managed to start a wider public discussion about food security in the mainstream media – TV, newspaper and radio – a discussion that is growing momentum. We will be taking this discussion to the new government.
Our campaign for a food security policy has created this avenue to explain to the New Zealand public the importance of horticulture and to better educate urban New Zealand about what we do and why it is important to their healthy eating.
In addition to mainstream media, we are also focused on using social media to connect with a wider audience. This includes our new Instagram page Growers of New Zealand (@ growersofnz). Each week a grower is profiled producing their seasonal crop and, later in the week, their crop is highlighted in a recipe. Instagram is really visual, which is perfect for healthy food. We promote what is in season and therefore readily available and affordable, and we encourage people to introduce more variety in their diet.
Instagram is the preferred social media for foodies, travelers and food influencers, which are new audiences for us to tell our story to. As we increasingly focus on the ‘social licence to grow’, that is, buy-in from urban New Zealand and beyond that growers are working sustainably and ethically, we need to be telling our story to a wider audience.
We are also active with our tweeting and blogs and have successfully used Facebook for our Country of Origin Labelling campaign.
By using all forms of media to repeat our messages and tell our story, we are reaching more urban New Zealanders, and people around the world, and a wider age range and social demographic than previously. The pickup and interest that is generated can be significant. For example, during the election campaign, 1,198 people read a blog on the proposed water tax on just one of our social media platforms. It was sent to nearly 10,000 people across all our social media.
In the past year-and-a-half we have generated more than 100 blogs aimed at explaining horticulture and linking us with urban dwellers.
We have a great story to tell and over the coming months we will be increasing the strategies and tactics we are using to reach urban New Zealand and engage with the new government. We are producing what they want, we just need to make sure they know it.
“We are producing what they want, we just need to make sure they know it.”