Thank A Farmer Sam Johnston
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#ThankAFarmer for championing Australian ag

Category Client Stories

Thank A Farmer Sam Johnston

Well before the launch of our #ThankAFarmer series, there were a couple of youngsters well ahead of the game, helping showcase our Australian farmers and the food and fibre they produce, one Instagram square at a time.

Sam Johnston is one half of the duo behind the wildly successful #thankafarmerforyournextmeal social media platform and hashtag. Together with friend Jim Honner, the then university students launched their social media initiative in 2014 and provided the internet with a grassroots visual representation of rural life.

Followers soon soared, and today the Instagram page enjoys an impressive 61,000 strong following.

“Being country boys in the city we saw first-hand the country/city divide, I’ve even had someone ask me if cotton is grown on the back of a sheep.”

“It was around the same time that protest organisations were running smear campaigns against wool growers, and we wanted to create a platform to counteract this damage and sell agriculture’s positive stories – to provide an opportunity to stay on the front foot of public opinion.”

While there are now hundreds of agricultural advocacy social media handles, Sam reflects that much of the page’s success was due to the fact there was nothing like it at the time.

“It was a real niche, people loved the content, and still do. Content is contributed by followers across rural Australia, who have extremely impressive images and stories to share, and the #thankafarmerforyournextmeal hashtag and page has become a successful content aggregation portal – it’s a simple model that’s really worked.” 

Almost seven years later, having a photo ‘shared’ on the page remains the holy grail for followers across rural Australia.

At just 26-years of age, it seems Sam is equally as progressive when it comes to his own personal agricultural pursuits – having recently purchased his first property, just a stone’s throw away from his family farm in the Forbes district.

It’s an opportunity possible thanks to his family’s support, and a privilege not lost on the hard working youth.

“I am extremely grateful to my family, and to Rabobank, for helping me into my own farm, and it’s not something I’ll ever take for granted,” he said. 

After 12 years in Sydney for boarding school, university and eventually working professionally in the rural property industry, city living had lost its shine, and it was only 12 months ago that Sam made the decision to return home.

Joining his father Garry on the family’s mixed farming operation – which includes an irrigation property 20km west of Forbes and a dryland farm consisting of cattle, cropping and sheep to the north east – he said the ‘ducks aligned’ when the opportunity to purchase a small neighbouring block arose.

“There are so many people within the ag sector who have invested their time, effort and money into me over the years, so the fact I can now legitimately call myself a farmer, producing food and fibre on my own block, and together with dad,  fills me with extreme pride. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

While admitting he’s still ‘green’ to the day-to-day nuts and bolts of farming, this hasn’t dented Sam’s ambitious vision.

Ultimately his goal is to extend the #thankafarmerforyournextmeal concept through his farm business by continuing to increase product traceability and shift consumer mindsets.

“I’d love to inspire consumers to make more informed purchase decisions – for people to stand in a dairy or vegetable aisle at a major supermarket and fully understand, and be open to, why they should pay more for product ‘X’ than for product ‘Y’,” he said. “We need to become better at personalising the stories behind our Australian grown produce, so people are willing to pay more for these premium products, and as an industry we are not forever having to defend our practices.”

The introduction of scannable produce QR Codes was one such idea Sam was toying with, and he was excited to explore this concept further.

But for now Sam is turning his attention to increasing the technological capability across the family property, instigating a fresh injection of software and applications to help in livestock and paddock management.

“Dad and I both agree that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so since my move home my priority has been setting up the systems we need to help identify our weaker areas so we know what we have to improve on.”

“I feel so fortunate that I’ve had such a broad brush overview of the industry, from studying ag economics at university, to working in rural property sales in Sydney to now being home – it feels like everything is coming full circle.”

But something tells us that this impressive young agricultural trail blazer has a lot more to offer the Australian agricultural industry before his story is even close to coming full circle.

You can follow #thankafarmerforyournextmeal on Instagram @thankafarmerforyournextmeal, Facebook/thankafarmerforyournextmeal and youtube/thankafarmerforyournextmeal

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