Asking what is essential might make planning for our collective future a little less fraught, writes Gisborne/Wairoa Federated Farmers President Sandra Faulkner.

There is a common saying that our very existence relies on six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains!

Climate change. Nuclear proliferation. Terrorism. The worries of the world are a lot to stomach, but we could be missing the most glaring one. As the size of the global population continues to grow at an exponential rate, and our agricultural resources are finite, just what are we all going to eat?

Food security is the bigger issue, because by 2050 the estimate is that, globally, we will need to produce around 70 per cent more food than we do currently to accommodate both population rises and changes in dietary preferences - business as usual won't get us there.

Sandra Faulkner, President Gisborne/ Wairoa Federated Farmers.
Sandra Faulkner, President Gisborne/ Wairoa Federated Farmers.

Despite all the technological advances of the past 1000 years, human civilisation still relies on agriculture, and as soon as you run short of food, you'll face civil unrest – it's called geo-politics and here in Tairawhiti, we are part of it.

We can argue that the world was a better place a century ago – that the environment ruled our errant human ways and our footprint on this astrological freak we call Earth was not much greater than those of our fellow animals.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and, as the mother of two lads whose offspring will inherit this Earth after I am gone, I want to know that I am part of making a difference. It is our responsibility, individually, to focus on the good that we can do – to ensure that our talents are used to make the lives around us better. We can choose (and our choices are our own!) to look to the future, to see the glass half full, to be empathetic, to smile, to forgive, to talk and to plan.

What does all this waffle have to do with us here in Tairawhiti? Well, it comes back to what we CHOOSE to do with our top six inches of soil and the fact that it rains.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states that our most basic requirements consist of air, water, food, sleep and sex – all the fun stuff! Nothing in there about profitability or Wi-Fi!

I take food and fibre production very seriously.

Try this little exercise – for one day, every time you eat – stop, think about each food item on your plate, their components and what it took to produce them. Make yourself aware of the hours of toil other people made to grow and prepare your food. Become conscious of the intricate dance of water, sunlight and nutritional elements that is currently occurring on your table.

Breathe, eat, acknowledge the fuel that sends energy flowing into every corner, every fibre, every cell of your being – you are opening a window into what drives great food producers all over the world – the most noble of professions – feeding your fellow man.


Maslow's next level includes warmth, shelter and safety – suitable clothing, a warm, dry home and knowing those things are not threatened. Again, no egos, judgments or gadgets!

If we were to view all our local decision making through a lens of what is essential for the health of our people perhaps it might make planning for our collective future a little less fraught.

2018 has had its interesting times – high points for all of us and lows that have tested our very requirements for life. We have been challenged personally and professionally irrespective of our vocation. Yet this glorious corner of the world we call home has nurtured us throughout – it has hydrated us, fed us (and millions of others all over the globe), the sun has shone and clean air has filled our lungs.

As Provincial President of Gisborne/ Wairoa Federated Farmers I want to thank my executive for the many hours of voluntary and often unseen work you do to support our community, both town and country. Locally, nationally and globally, 2019 promises to be 'interesting'!

To all farmers, I know the summer craziness can seem insurmountable and the demands on you to be family member, food producer and good (read, compliant) global citizen are overwhelming at times. Take some time for yourself – stop on that ridge with the stunning view, stop and breathe in the scent of the crop you are standing in, stop and listen to the sounds of the farm winding down for the night, stop and give the dog a rub between the ears because he knows that together, you and he are doing a marvellous, very important job!