Recently I had a chat with a full time farmer who seemed keen to share an incident that happened to his 11-year-old son… let’s call the boy ‘Ronald’, for argument’s sake. Ronald and his classmates were asked by their teacher a question: “Can you mention different professionals?”. All the kids started naming conventional professions such as being a lawyer, a police officer, a mechanic, and the teacher concurred. Then Ronald raised his finger and told his teacher “a farmer”. Guess what answer he got from his teacher? “No, being a farmer is not a profession”. The boy was very disappointed since he knows the reality of being a farmer.
Ronald was raised in a family that produces crops and sells them to earn a living. His father is kind, well mannered, knowledgable and always worked hard against all odds. No wonder he was disappointed when his teacher indirectly told his class that farming is not a “recognised” line of work.
The above incident was definitely not the first time when farmers and their kids encountered such mentality. It is sad that in 2018, we still get to know about professionals such as teachers who make such sweeping statements. With all due respect… I call it ignorance. While I appreciate that not everyone can be an expert about everything, one should limit personal judgement towards professions which are not purely academic. After all, different jobs contribute to a balanced society and being a farmer is surely one of the many.
What can be done at a national level?
- Provide further training for teachers and lecturers about agriculture as a science
- Further promotion of agribusiness at all levels of education.
- Having more schools offering hands on farming and food processing (such as the Secondary Schools in Mosta (Żokrija) and Kirkop.
- More TV & radio programmes about locally produced food.
What can you do to keep yourself informed?
- Follow a course (full/part time) at the MCAST.
- Join and follow an NGO that provides information about local food and agriculture
- Buy food directly from producers and ask questions about how it has been produced.
It has been said over and over again that farmers are not only producing food by managing natural resources, but are also environmental stewards who provide a service to society without being remunerated. When this particular justification crops us, I am very often faced with frowns and statements such as; “farmers pollute the environment by spraying pesticides and consuming precious water which can be harvested to serve the population of Malta”.
I don’t blame sceptics for bringing forward such reasons. Locally we have been fed dozens of biased articles on the news featuring distorted information about local agriculture. There is always room for improvement and the agri industry is no exception. Nonetheless, the truth is that information is very much unavailable to the general public.
Fifty years ago, many in Malta owned a patch of land, and farming was one of the main activities. Along the years, the population grew and other industries started to flourish. The vast majority of Maltese people nowadays do not own land and barely own a small garden. This has brought about an incredible divide between citizens accustomed to an urban culture and the rural community.
We desperately need to change the conversation and start focusing more on the real scope and benefits of local agriculture.
Source for illustration: https://www.facebook.com/EUAgri/