© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Farm visits for city folk breed understanding

Tom Flavill
Open Farms White Rock Mains near Christchurch 1
Open Farms Christchurch 2020  Supplied

National Open Farms Day helps bridge connection between urban and rural dwellers.

The Open Farms Day is an initiative started by an independent group of farming advisers. The inaugural event on March 1 had 3500 people visit 45 farms.

A survey conducted in conjunction with the day shows urban and rural residents are not divided when it comes to the important issues. There is consensus that water quality and land care are crucial.

James Turner from Our Land and Water National Science Challenge said Kiwis "want the same thing" regardless of whether they lived in the city or rurally.

"If we are going to build a more sustainable system in New Zealand, we are all in this together".

Previous surveys showed the urban-rural divide was most pronounced when apportioning responsibilty for issues like water quality.

"When you get into finger-pointing, it can have the effect of farmers pushing back," Turner said.

He said the Open Farms Day helped bridge that divide.

"Getting urban dwellers onto farms to see what they are doing, helps them to understand the food production process and environmental considerations such as riparian planting and keeping stock out of waterways. This isall done to produce great quality food and a great environment," Turner said.

Buying produce directly from farmers through online platforms and farmer's markets helped build trust and gave urban dwellers a closer appreciation for their food and where it came from. 

Survey results show that 72 percent of respondents were more likely to buy food directly from a farmer and 64 percent of visitors were more willing to pay a premium for sustainably grown food.

Other results concluded two-thirds of farmers were keen to host more farm days to boost trust and support for sustainable farming, while 90 percent of visitors said they would return.

Turner said Covid-19 had disrupted the food supply chain, which ultimately helped urban dwellers to appreciate the source of food and how it was produced, which helped to re-establish that urban-rural trust.