Comment: The Agri-Women's Development Trust's Lindy Nelson questions if real is the new fake and fake is the new real when it comes to media coverage of agriculture.

I've been thinking about influence lately and how as a sector we seem to be losing the ability to do this effectively with our fellow New Zealanders.

As hard as we try to tell our good stories, others speak louder about all that is wrong with how we produce grass-fed, free-to-range food.

So it was fascinating to listen to Frederic Leroy at the Red Meat Sector Conference recently present "Red meat – facing the challengers in the post-truth area. What's real, what's not".

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One of the topics that resonated with me was around the real influence behind the anti-animal farming/fake meat/fake food movement.

It showed me another side of human nature and my own misconceptions about influence.

It appears influence isn't always what you visibly do but what you invisibly do to the audience you want to manipulate.

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This new lens made me realise that we are truly being played here.

As consumers, we want to do what's right for our bodies, the planet and our back pockets. We are influenced by those who use science and scientific language to convince us that their "untruth" should now become our new truth.

Trump might be famous for quoting and using fake news, but others it would seem have jumped on the bandwagon – it's just not as obvious.

What is my vision for influence? It is to have all New Zealanders knowing that if they can trust we are world class in cricket, netball and rugby, they can trust we are world class in farming.

Leroy had a brilliant slide of an egg and a bottle of egg-free egg, with the quote: 'Solid nutrition in a flimsy shell [the egg] and flimsy nutrition in a solid bottle'. That pretty much sums it up": real is the new fake and fake is the new real.

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Lindy Nelson. Photo / File
Lindy Nelson. Photo / File

How do farmers influence?

So how do we as farmers influence? While travelling in Scotland last year, I met an impressive farmer, Joyce Campbell, who uses social media, her four-legged farm team (much like our beloved Sophie Barns) and her camera to influence.

She is now part of the Quality Meat Scotland campaign called "Meat with Integrity", which appears to be going gangbusters.

Quality Meat Scotland is putting the truth back in the supply chain, featuring lamb, beef and pork and telling the story of integrity around animal welfare, robust traceability, heritage, and quality assurance.

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Kate Rowell, chair of Quality Meat Scotland, had this to say about what sits behind the campaign.

"Almost everyone in the industry shares a sense of frustration about the lack of balance and accuracy in the media and social media in recent months, but now we have a real opportunity to pull together as an industry in a concerted effort to get the facts out."

Scotland is using a combined industry approach. When you click on to one of their meat websites, a question immediately pops up: "Would you like me to connect you with a vet?"

They are using the reputation and creditability/science gained by using a veterinarian as an integrity check to guard against fake information. Smart.

Combined industry effort

Recently we used a combined industry effort to influence the Farming Leaders Group and the response to the Zero Carbon Bill.

So scientific knowledge (real truth) and collaborative effort (influence in numbers) are two things that appear to work.

Our role now is to decide how to incorporate some of this thinking into how we influence.

Do we collaborate across industry, boarders and boundaries – is this one of the solutions to new influence?

What is my vision for influence? It is to have all New Zealanders knowing that if they can trust we are world class in cricket, netball and rugby, they can trust we are world class in farming.

• Lindy Nelson founded the Agri-Women's Development Trust in 2010 and aims to amplify the connection between women, leadership, food and global sustainable goals. She recently featured on TVNZ Breakfast with John Campbell, having instigated a week-long series on how rural women are driving environmental outcomes on farm.