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Olympian and local farmer Sonja Johnson saddles up as an ambassador for Great Southern Livestock ‘20

Olympic silver medallist Sonja Johnson and agriculture industry stalwart Peter Trefort have been announced as ambassadors for Livestock ’20, which will take place in Albany on Thursday and Friday.

The new WA Producers Co-op, which was launched by Stirling to Coast Farmers last year and now operates separately, is hosting the event with STC Farmers in a bid to give WA Producers confidence to build the State’s livestock numbers.

The co-op is a farmer-owned lamb, beef and niche grain commodity supply group which aims to secure the highest value for its members’ produce.

Celebrated equestrian Johnson, a South Stirling farmer, said she had taken on the role as WAPC ambassador to help grow the local agriculture industry.

“There was a time when farmers were golden, because people were so grateful to get food,” she said.

“Now people assume that food grows on trees without any effort. We have to now convince the consumer that it is safe, because I am afraid that the consumer doesn’t understand that if we do stop producing they are going to go hungry.

“We have to meet them in the middle and educate them, but also accept that they are the person paying the bills.

“One of the things that I always wanted to prove by winning the Olympic medal was that country people could do anything and surely in an Olympic year the medal has to have a value in terms of promoting Agriculture and what country people can do.”

Ms Johnson said she believed the co-op could improve the relationship with consumers.

“Something that the consumer is saying to us is that they want traceability, they want to know where their food comes from, that it was produced ethically, in an environmentally friendly way,” she said.

“By developing the co-op and the marketing arm of it, it gives us as producers a much better chance of being able to stand behind our product with great pride and say that we are proud of what we are doing and we are happy for you the consumer to say to use how are you producing your food, is it clean and is it environmentally friendly.

“It means that as a group we can do it, rather than one lone farmer saying it, we will be able to prove it and it will give our consumer a lot of confidence in what we are doing.

Mr Trefort is a fourth- generation farmer who managed his family’s property at Narrogin, supplying lamb into local and international markets from his Hillside abattoir.

Day one of the event is at a West Kendenup “smart farm” featuring new technology devices and pasture trials.

Day two is a farmers’ forum at the Albany Entertainment Centre.

Tickets are available online.

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