Reading newspapers and journals is the traditional way for farmers to keep up with developments in agriculture.
From the early days of European settlement, most newspapers included regional, national and international news about farming. Some, especially weekly papers such as the Otago Witness and the Christchurch Weekly Press, had more extensive coverage or entire sections on farming.
Early farming journals
Specialist farming journals also emerged. The Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association published the first farming paper, the New Zealand Country Journal, from 1877 until 1898. Another early paper was the New Zealand Farmer, produced in Auckland. It started in 1885, and by 1892 had subscribers throughout the country. After several name changes over the years, it finally ceased publication in 2001. A government publication, the Journal of Agriculture, was started by the Department of Agriculture in 1910 and continued until 1988.
Good advice, bad poem
A writer going by the pen name Zara contributed some florid verse to the New Zealand Country Journal in 1891. One, ‘Winter’, concluded:
Welcome winter on the farm!
Let us use your days aright!
Lose no hour that’s bright and calm,
Time sweeps on in rapid flight!
Praying aye the Lord of harvests
Our glad labours to requite! 1
The journals’ main purpose was to let farmers know about new research and technical developments. Farming success stories were given pride of place. There were columns which answered readers’ questions about farming problems, and gave detailed information on stock, land and machinery sales. The earlier journals featured articles that listed and described seasonal farming tasks. Most also included general news items, sections for women and children, and sometimes cartoons, short stories and poetry. Many isolated families relied on these publications, not just for farming information, but for news and views from the wider world.
The New Zealand Farmers’ Union, established in 1902, began a weekly paper, the Farmers’ Union Advocate (later called the Farmers’ Weekly), in 1905. This paper disappeared in the late 1920s, but another, Point Blank, ran from 1933 to 1941. It was absorbed by Straight Furrow, the monthly publication of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, which was still running in the 2000s.
Farmers’ union papers had similar content to other farming journals, but also included information about industrial and economic issues.
Some women wrote for the Farmers’ Union papers, stressing the contribution farmers’ wives made to the agricultural economy. Later the Women’s Division of the Farmers’ Union, and its successor, the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers, published their own journals covering issues of interest to rural women, such as financial independence and home help. The N ew Zealand Countrywoman ran from 1933 to 1991. It was succeeded by Rural Woman, from 1991 to 2002, and Rural Women New Zealand, from 2002 on.
Publications in the 2000s
In the early 2000s, many rural publications focused on a particular type of farming, such as dairy, beef or sheep. One of the longest-lasting was the Dairy Exporter, which began as an independent journal in 1929, was bought by the Dairy Board in 1954, and was still running in 2008. Some periodicals were produced by businesses such as pharmaceutical or machinery companies, but there were also independent papers like the New Zealand Farmers Weekly, published from 2003.
The spread of computer technology since the 1990s has made the internet a popular way to get farming news and information. In 2007 over 65% of rural households had an internet connection, and the number was growing.
There are many New Zealand farm-related websites. Some print publications, like the New Zealand Farmers Weekly, also have associated websites.