A chance to give thanks for our farmers

18th July 2020 | Alison Turner

Once in your life you need a surgeon, a lawyer or a police officer. Every day, three times a day, you need a farmer. This is the message behind Thankful4Farmers, an initiative by global social enterprise Thankful that aims to shine the spotlight on Aussie farmers.

Thankful’s overall mission is to create a healthy and positive world. The “plug and play” multi-cause platform allows organisations to engage meaningfully with consumers and demonstrate authentic, sustainable commitment to global challenges. Other Thankful initiatives include Thankful4Women, which identifies, recognises and celebrates the contributions of girls and women around the world; and Thankful4Environment, which aims to improve knowledge, sustain motivation and effect action to protect the planet. 

Thankful4Farmers has been founded to generate awareness and provide funding support to Australian agriculture and regional communities who are facing extreme environmental and social challenges. It also works to highlight the important and significant contribution of farmers and agriculture to both the economy and the culture of Australia.

“We believe that doing good is good for business, and that profit and purpose should not be separate conversations,” says Kim McDonnell, Thankful founder and CEO. “We created Thankful to be the world’s first global lifestyle brand, founded on more than 20 years of scientific research that has found the act of being thankful is the single most powerful tool we can all implement on a daily basis to improve mental health and wellness.”

Working hard to put food on our plates, every day.

From farm to plate

The Thankful4Farmers initiative was launched in Australia last October, and aims to support sustainable and climate-smart agriculture around the world. The idea was born during a time when Australian farmers were suffering through one of the worst droughts in living memory. These are the same people who continue to work hard to put food on the tables of every Australian family, every day.

“Thankful4Farmers captures the whole conversation, from climate change and sustainable agriculture to food waste and food security,” McDonnell says. “The World Health Organisation has actually declared that more people will die of starvation as a result of COVID than the virus itself, and are predicting that by the end of 2020 there’ll be 287 million people with acute starvation and hunger in the world.”

These alarming figures mean that food security and food systems need to be innovated at a rapid rate. Food waste also needs to be addressed – currently, between 20 to 40 percent of the food a farmer produces never makes it to the supermarket shelves.

“We’re not going to be able to address any of these issues if we’re not supporting our farmers – the men and women who produce the food for us,” McDonnell says. “Unless we’re made consciously aware, we don’t acknowledge the producer or the journey from farm to plate when we think about our food.”

Thankful wants us to remember where our food comes from.

Product for purpose

Funding for the initiative will come via consumer purchase of Thankful4Farmers co-branded products. Thankful4Farmers partners with brands such as APANI mineral water and Chief Meat Bars and suppliers such as Victor Churchill Butchers and Aria Restaurant, all of whom donate a portion of profits from selected products to the initiative.

“It’s a traditional product-for-purpose model,” McDonnell says. “We partner with brands and organisations here in Australia to co-brand a product or suite of products. That product will have a Thankful4Farmers logo on it, so consumers know that every time they see that logo and buy that product, a percentage is coming back to Thankful4Farmers.”

The Thankful Foundation then works with an advisory team to identify projects to fund. Here in Australia, there are three key areas of funding:

• The farm: how do we help farmers to practise climate-smart agriculture, to use technology and to access the latest developments?
• The farmer: farmers have a disproportionately high rate of mental illness and suicide. How do we make sure our farmers are being looked after and are able to make an adequate income so that they can put food on their own table, not just everyone else’s?
• The farming community: farmers and agriculture won’t be sustainable if they’re not being supported by thriving, regional and rural communities.

There will be another drought, so how can we equip our farmers to cope?

“The main criterion for our funding is that we address systemic challenges being faced by agriculture and our regional and local communities,” McDonnell says.

“For example, while many parts of the country are no longer in drought, there are still parts of Australia that are. And we know there will be another drought, so how do we equip our farmers; how do we help them to practise sustainable agriculture to ensure that the next time Australia is in drought, it doesn’t have the same impact?”

Funding can be directed towards such things as helping farmers to utilise regenerative farming practices that can replenish the soil and conserve water.

“But that’s just one example,” McDonnell says. “The ultimate aim is to equip our farmers with the tools they need to be able to farm in a sustainable way, so they can feed the world’s growing population and maintain security in the food system.”

Next time you shop for fresh food, take a moment to think about who produced it for you.

From Australia to the world

Once the Thankful4Farmers model is established here in Australia, the plan is to roll it out across the globe, so that other countries can benefit.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been put into a bit of a holding pattern, but our plan for the coming year is to get as many brands and organisations supporting the Thankful4Farmers initiative as possible,” McDonnell says.

“We are so lucky in this country to have access to the most incredible range of quality produce. We want to remind consumers, as we look at our supermarket shelves filled with all this wonderful fresh food, to think about the men and women who produce it for us – this can help us to bridge the gap between farm and plate.

“We want to see as many products as possible with the Thankful4Farmers logo on it, so we can support these programs on the ground and help to create sustainable agriculture here in Australia. Because there is no greater issue in the world right now than food security.”

To find Thankful4Farmers product partners, head to thankful4farmers.com.au. With every product purchased, you’ll help to show our farming communities how much they’re valued.

Even better? Thank them in person – you can meet the people who produce your food by shopping at your local farmers’ market. Find your nearest market here.