Social enterprise Thankful4Farmers operates on the truism that three times a day, Australians need a farmer.
Recognising the vital and sometimes overlooked role that agriculture plays in every aspect of our lives, CEO Kim McDonnell decided to create a project that placed value on the people who grow the food we eat. An extension of her organisation Thankful, which combines product licensing, awareness campaigns, and a nonprofit arm, Thankful4Farmers applies the same model with the aim of guaranteeing a better future for farming in Australia. Thankful4Farmers has just launched in Australia with supporters including Matt Moran, Charlie Arnott and Global Table. Kim McDonnell tells us what it’s about.
Where did the idea of Thankful4Farmers come from?
With Australia suffering the worst drought in living memory we wanted to help support Australian agriculture and regional communities. However, after further research we realised that challenges being faced in Australia are not uniquely Australian. All farmers across the globe face unprecedented climate conditions, evolving consumer expectations, fluctuations in incomes driven by trade wars and tariffs, reduced research investment comparative to the size of the industry and the disproportionately high mental health and suicide rates. Farmers are leaving the land; regional communities that were once thriving community centres are struggling. We knew we needed to do something, and wanted to create a model to identify systematic challenges facing the industry and fund projects that would create transformational change. Thankful4Farmers has launched in Australia and will be rolling out in the United States in 2020, followed by a global rollout.
Why are you passionate about agricultural communities and farmers?
Farmers and agriculture play such a vital role in our lives, but when we are sitting down to dinner or filling our baskets with amazing and diverse produce, we don’t often think of the men and women who work so hard to produce this food. Agriculture is not just a significant contributor to the Australian economy, it provides the essential ingredients to a healthy lifestyle. Every day, three times a day we need a farmer: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In September, the UN shared a report that by 2050 the world needed to produce 70% more food if we are going to feed the growing population. Bill Gates has declared that there is a “crisis at the dinner table”. With generational farming becoming a thing of the past, farmers leaving the land and climate conditions making it harder for farmers to yield productive crops and livestock, this is a critical and urgent challenge that will take a unified effort to solve.
What’s your goal for Thankful4Farmers in its first year?
Thankful4Farmers is committed to generating long-term sustainable funding to support agriculture and regional communities. In the first year our objectives are to:
- Raise awareness of the critical and vital role farmers play in our lifestyle, community and economy by encouraging Australian consumers to look for the Thankful4Farmers logo on products.
- Secure co-branded products with local and global brands to generate ongoing sustainable funding to have the biggest impact. We will continue to roll out co-branded products.
If someone wanted to go out tomorrow and support the Thankful4Farmers cause, what action could they take?
As a consumer you can look for products with the Thankful4Farmers logo and show your support by purchasing those products. Why not buy a Saskia Beer Stuffed and Trussed Turkey from Victor Churchill for your Christmas table this year and support our farmers? A full product list can also be found on our website. You can also follow us on social media (see below) and use the #thankful4farmers hashtag to show brands and supermarkets your demand to support this initiative.
If you’re a food and drink company, you can select a product or products from your current offering and work with Thankful to co-brand it, helping to generate funding to support Thankful4Farmers.
As an organisation that may not have an appropriate product to co-brand, you can still show your support for farming and regional communities through various sponsorship opportunities.
Where is people’s money going?
Ninety per cent of all money we raise will directly fund projects to support Australian farming and rural communities across three main categories:
- Technology – how can we use technology to help our farmers be more resilient to climatic conditions, more environmentally sustainable and more productive?
- Community – how can we help these communities to thrive and in some instances rebuild?
- Health and Wellness – ensuring that people in regional communities have access to medical facilities and expertise
There are many communities in need in Australia right now. How will you determine where to allocate resources?
We have created a Thankful4Farmers Australian Advisory Council from all sectors of the community. These are thought-leaders, innovators and visionaries who are committed to supporting agriculture and regional communities. Members include chef Matt Moran, farmer Charlie Arnott, Baker’s Delight Joint CEO Elise Gillespie, CEO of AgForce Queensland Michael Guerin and eight others. They will be tasked with the responsibility of identifying and prioritising opportunities for funding that will have the biggest impact, and are scalable and sustainable.
What’s your favourite fact about the food or agriculture industry?
Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people. That is a huge responsibility. Who feeds those 600 people when a farmer leaves the land because of economic or climate conditions?
What’s one item you’ve had to make a conscious effort to remove from your shopping list?
I try to buy only seasonal produce, which does require a conscious effort when many fruit and vegetables are available all year on supermarket shelves. I also try to understand where my food has come from by always checking the label. Just because it is sold locally doesn’t mean it has been grown locally.