Time to start asking the right questions Agriculture

This weekend Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber and I ventured to Melbourne to the Australian Women In Agriculture National Conference.

Hannah was a member of a panel I facilitated called ‘Engaging Youth in Agriculture’

Also on the panel was Georgie Aley and Horizon Scholars Ashlee Hammond and Sarah Henderson

What we hoped the audience would take home from the session was

  • Exciting young people are choosing careers in the agriculture sector
  • Agriculture has wonderful cross industry leadership pathways for young people
  • Agriculture has a nationwide network for young people
  • Agriculture has exciting in school programs 

What I was hoping ( and the session’s sponsor was hoping) is the audience would be confident that agriculture is attracting young people and we need to stop asking “How do we attract young people” and start asking “How do we retain the people we attract”

Hannah and I had a bit of time to fill in before our flight home so I took her to Crown Towers to show her how the “other half” live and the ultimate in producer to consumer goods.

Louis Vuitton

Hannah in Louis Vuitton

Hannah in Paspaley

Hannah in Paspaley  Pearls. The necklace that Hannah is wearing is worth $88,000

One question each of the panellists was asked was “Where do you see yourself in agriculture in 5 years time?”.

I would like to think that one day soon some-one like Hannah will say ‘In 5 years time I will have a career pathway in agriculture that provides me with the income to have a suite of Louis Vuitton luggage ( we weren’t game to ask what this little bundle was worth) and Paspaley Pearls in my jewellery box

Its time agriculture moved on to the next set of questions. We can attract young people but keeping them requires another set of tools and one of those is ensuring the sector is profitable. Farmers have just as much right as everyone else to make a fair return on investment how can we work together to make this happen

Its time food became about common sense

Perhaps I am hypersensitive but once again I am seething as my inbox continues to be flooded with invitations to events promoting food philosophies based on labels

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This time I am being invited to an event celebrating “International Year of the family farming”. where I will sample food that is

“Good, Clean and Fair”

and apparently your food is only good, clean or fair if it fits under one of these labels

‘local, organic, indigenous or artisanal’ 

As an aside quite amusingly in this case the invitation had both indigenous & artisanal spelt incorrectly.

I am really starting to get concerned that seemingly very intelligent people cant see that being labelled  ‘local, organic, indigenous or artisanal’  doesn’t mean your farming practices are good for people or animals or the planet.

Just what to we have to do before common sense kicks back in

I take this opportunity to repeat what I said in a previous post here

Our farming systems can not be locked into a religious type paradigm of what we think is best .We must continue to adapt to our changing resource base, the seasons and climate, the economy and our markets. We also know that nature does not always get it right and some times we need to use technology to tip the balance back in favour of the farming system and the ever increasing people we need to feed.

We have rigid and well regulated systems and safety checks in place that make our food some of the safest in the world, irrespective of whether it has been derived by conventional or non-conventional methods. The majority of Australian farmers big and small, boutique or commodity will always aim to produce the best quality and safest food that is grown with the best interest of the environment and animals that it comes from.  Its time to stop trying to fit them into idealistic boxes and salute everyone of them.

The dangers of farmers choosing to live in a bubble

A lot of farmers I know who grow and produce for the commodity market (i.e. producing food or fibre that is functionally indistinguishable from that of your competitors) live in a self imposed bubble. They farm because they like it, they are good at it and they love the isolation from the rest of the world that it allows them .

Over the last few months I have had this increasingly emotional desire to wrap them all up in cotton wool and protect them even further from the world. There will of course be a lot of them who will say they can look after themselves thank you very much and so they can

I am beginning to think I get out too much or I think/care too much but my gut is telling me its not going to get any easier and more people need to get out of the bubble and have conversations with the people who buy the end products made from what they produce

Let me give you just one of multiples of questions I get asked. Just last week I had a conversation with some-one that I spent 3 days with at a workshop at the Melbourne Business School  who was very knowledgeable on a hell of a lot of things except the ins and outs of grain feeding cows. What he wanted to know was why we don’t say on the milk cartoon/bottle labels whether the cows have been grain fed or grass fed..I was bit ( a lot) shocked by this question. Well to start with it would be very difficult because as you can see from this slide we have a huge variation in cow feeding production systems in the Australian dairy industry

Feeding systems

  This chart describes the range of production systems operating across Australian dairy farms – & how farmers are increasingly becoming more flexible and opportunistic.

The reason being is smart farmers take advantage of what’s best for their farm system and their cows at any given time. The more supplementary grain you feed the more milk you should get remembering this is only cost effective when all the moons align.

When I asked why he thought this was important he said grain was bad for cows and consumers should be able to make ethical choices. Indeed consumers should be able to make ethical choices. The trouble is more and more consumers are making very ill-informed ones. Yes too much grain is bad for cows just like too much sugar is bad for kids. But smart parents like smart farmers are very diet conscious and control the amount  of sugar they give to their kids. Grains (or supplementary feeding as farmers call it) is a great option for cows as its higher in sugar aka energy than pasture and if you can buy it cost effectively it provides the opportunity to produce more milk per cow and this helps to keep milk affordable as well as a highly nutritious staple for families in Australia.

As you can see from the graph 50% of dairy farms in Australia supplementary feed their cows grains to generate 52% of milk production. I can assure you that the 2% that feed their cows a diet of all grains really know what they are doing and their cows are healthy and firing on all cylinders. Its also very important to remember that cows are feed grains not suitable for human consumption and this option can mean life or death for cows in a drought and we have a lot of them in Australia..

I am very reliably given to understand that a lot more is now known about cow nutrition than human nutrition and its safe to say dairy cows in this country have a much healthier diet than a lot of humans. Do we need to remind ourselves that over 50% of people in this country are overweight  You will also be interested to know that the smart farmers employ nutritionists to advise and monitor cow diet.

.Last week I wrote a very popular post on Art4AgricultureChat because I was very concerned (furious) about some other misconceptions that keep cropping up everywhere I go. See here.

Shares

I am glad it  resonated because its more and more critical that people make informed food choices not only for them and their families but also for the planetI

We have got to stop  this ever growing propensity to demonise certain types of agricultural systems out of hand

The media and websites are full of stories about the perils of conventional, large-scale agriculture, pointing to simpler ways of producing food that appear to be more in harmony with nature.

Large vs. small, family farms vs. corporate, organic vs. mainstream, free range vs. housed, grass fed vs. grain fed.The reality is it’s not the system it is how it is managed that really counts.

When it comes to the best approach to natural resource management and animal well-being we need to focus on measurable results that, in turn, will generate innovation and solutions to some of our most pressing problems on this planet. Not the least of which is to provide affordable, nutritious, ethically produced food that allows a reasonable return on investment for farmers that will allow them to feed a future 9 billion people and maintain life on Earth as we know it.

It is not just the community that is putting pressure on farmers. Some farm businesses and major retailers have taken to denigrating other farm management systems as a marketing tool to promote their own.

Judicious use of scientifically validated technology is one of the great advantages developed food producing nations like Australia has over many other countries. We have rigid and well regulated systems and safety checks in place that make our food some of the safest in the world, irrespective of whether it has been derived by conventional or non-conventional methods. If we read the labels and play by the rules we can be confident that the technologies that we use on farm are safe and the food that we produce is superior and as safe as any in the world.

Our farming systems can not be locked into a religious type paradigm of what we think is best .We must continue to adapt to our changing resource base, the seasons and climate, the economy and our markets. We also know that nature does not always get it right and some times we need to use technology to tip the balance back in favour of the farming system and the ever increasing people we need to feed.

We must acknowledge this if we are going to keep feeding our world from an ever shrinking resource base with a market place that continually wants to pay less for food that costs more to produce we must always use technology and innovation smartly. Equally we must consider the collateral effects of its use ensuring that our management and farming practices are at best practice rather than just reaching for the key to the chemical shed or the drug cabinet.

The majority of Australian farmers big and small, boutique or commodity will always aim to produce the best quality and safest food that is grown with the best interest of the environment and animals that it comes from.  Its time to salute everyone of them.

Thank you to the wonderful Deb Brown for sending me this great image to sum up my blog

Deb Brown

Forests are the lungs of our land

 

Channeling Franklin Roosevelt this morning

‘Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

My heart sang this week when I had a chance to make a quick visit to my latest bush regeneration project and wow is the the bush regeneration team doing a great job.

With over 90% of the prime agricultural land in my region being  owned by lifestyle farmers who in the main don’t produce food on their farms its pivotal that they from strategic partnership with people with local knowledge to help them overcome the challenges they face. . One major challenge is our high rainfall ( av 2000 mm in my part of the world) encourages the rapid proliferation of nasty invasive weeds in our beautiful rain-forests and woodlands. The majority of our lifestyle farmers  are very keen to rid their farms of these weeds and get the best outcomes for their native vegetation but don’t have the knowledge,time or access to the necessary expertise

This where I come in. I source funding and connect the farmers with each other and the experts. This particular project is 30% funded by a Community Environment Grant ( sadly all this type of funding has now disappeared under the federal coalition government ) and 70% funded by the 3 lifestyle farmers who own the adjoining project sites

The three properties are independently owned and two are leased to dairy farmers for raising their young stock. I am managing the project which is a partnership between the owners,South East Local Land Services, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Landcare Illawarra and local bush regeneration contractors to restore native vegetation and link fragmented rainforest remnants

Site Map

The vegetation community at this site is Illawarra Dry Subtropical Rainforest (MU4) which is recognised as an endangered ecological community (EEC) under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. The vegetation is dominated by a canopy of Maidens Wattle (Acacia maidenii), Guoia (Guoia semiglauca) and Whalebone Tree (Streblus brunonianus) with a variety of native shrubs, vines and groundcovers in the understorey. The rainforest remnants have become degraded due to infestation of Lantana, Wild Tobacco and other weeds and this project aims to treat woody weeds to assist revegetation and regeneration.

This site has a high diversity of dry rainforest species occurring within the work boundaries.

The objectives are:

  • To protect and enhance the remnants of the vegetation community – Illawarra Dry Subtropical Rainforest
  • To reduce the area of natural areas impacted by Noxious, weeds of national significance (WoNs ) and environmental invasive weeds.
  • To improve connectivity between fragmented local remnant bushland through weed control activities and revegetation.
  • Assist regeneration by removing weeds and maintaining the site over a period of 18 months
  • Assist volunteers with planting of the primary weeded areas and maintenance

The following management issues have been identified

  • Evidence of deer rutting has been noted within zone 3
  • Lantana density at the western extent of the work site is very high and primary weed control has been slightly slower than expected due to this high density

One of the identified threatened species is Illawarra Socketwood (Daphnandra johnsonii) and five distinctly separate populations of the Socketwood occur within zones 2 and 3. Very excitingly the  Illawarra Socketwood at the time of writing is currently producing seed at these sites. Many populations of Illawarra Socketwood tend to produce seed that is not viable due to attack by galls and various other environmental factors. The population at these sites are producing viable seed which makes this population significant from a regeneration and preservation perspective. The staff from ‘Plant Bank’ at the Australian Botanic Garden have subsequently shown an interest in collecting seed from this site and storing it at plant bank. Germination tests will also be carried out to test the viability of the seed stock and no doubt plants will be ultimately grown from this seed to be planted out at the gardens.

The following table lists the weeds that have been treated at this site and the control methods used:

Common Name Botanic Name Treatment Method
Crofton Weed Ageratina adenophora Spray
Mist Flower Ageratina riparia Spray
Moth Vine Araujia sericifera Cut and Paint, Spray
Cobblers Pegs Bidens pilosa Spray
Fleabane Conyza albida Spray
Cape Ivy Delairea odorata Cut and Paint, Spray
Lantana Lantana camara Cut and Paint
White Passionfruit Passiflora subpeltata Cut and Paint, Spray
Cape Gooseberry Physalis peruviana Cut and Paint, Spray
Inkweed Phytolacca octandra Cut and Paint, Spray
Blackberry Rubus fruticosis Scrape and paint
Fireweed Senecio madagascarensis Spray
Cassia Senna septentrionalis Cut and Paint
Paddys Lucerne Sida rhombifolia Spray
Wild Tobacco Solanum mauritianum Cut and Paint

The work in progress in pictures

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Many hands courtesy of Conservation Volunteers Australia make light work of clearing the lantana in Zone 4 – the front gully.

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Zone 4 secondary weed control follow up. Note the regeneration of native trees.

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Great to be able to see the rainforest without the weeds.

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Zone 3 The boundary fence line before we started the project

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The same fence line 8 months later

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Even the heifers are impressed with the work in Zone 1

Primary Control

Primary Control in Zone 1

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Extensive tree planting in Zone 1

Truly amazing outcomes are happening in Zone 2 in the back gully which was heavily infested with Lantana

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Zone 2 looking down the slope prior to the commencement of works

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The same view after primary and secondary weed controlclip_image004

Zone 2 looking up the slope prior to the commencement of works

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Post primary weed control

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Zone 2 planting native species

Illawarra Socket Wood  (1)

The endangered Illawarra Socket Wood which is seeding in Zone 2

Great outcomes indeed for the farmers, the natural landscape and the beautiful Illawarra region. Lets hope the short sighted choices by the current federal government don’t find us in a situation where we lose forever the gains we have made. See previous post here. Again I say

Lets appreciate what we have before it becomes what we had

Why is the doing what we have always done mindset so difficult to change.

Today I would like to share with you this impressive article from Steve Spencer of Fresh Agenda.

The article looks at the challenge of changing attitudes towards action (or inaction) on climate change. According to the article findings from recently published PCCCS report  aren’t very complimentary to climate change scientists – pushing their arguments and beliefs in the form of charts, data and weighty studies but generally missing the mark and lacking traction. 

The PCCCS says the major barrier to influencing change is not about the quality of the scientific data or the compelling no-brainer facts, but that many people denying or resisting their arguments simply have a different world view, and often different political values.

This is not the first time this has been said and to their credit the smart people in the scientific community widely acknowledge they are part of the problem. But (and please correct me if I am wrong) we don’t seem to be getting much traction in moving away from the squiggly diagrams loaded science and moving towards a community based we are all in this together mindset and giving the community ownership of the mantra

What’s good for the planet is good for us. 

climate change cartoons_better world

This is the image that bought it all into perspective for me   

This is what Steve has to say

Engage for change

The recent release of a paper by a bunch of British academics into the challenge of changing attitudes towards action (or inaction) on climate change has some interesting and sobering suggestions for communities pushing change agendas in food and agriculture.

The report by the Policy Commission on Communicating Climate Science (PCCCS) was published in May this year by the University College, London.  The findings aren’t very complimentary to climate change scientists – pushing their arguments and beliefs in the form of charts, data and weighty studies but generally missing the mark and lacking traction. 

The PCCCS says this is because they are often ill prepared to engage with the emotionally, politically and ideologically-charged public debate on the issues, and the use of their science.  The major barrier to influencing change is not about the quality of the scientific data or the compelling no-brainer facts, but that many people denying or resisting their arguments simply have a different world view, and often different political values.

The PCCCS recommends the scientific community needs to take a totally fresh approach and equip themselves with a new suite of skills. It should band together through a professional body, get training in effective communication and seek better engagement with the community and policymakers.  It also says they should stop resorting to alarmist, world-destructive consequences of inaction.

This is not just about the climate. 

The suggestions are highly relevant in a wider context, where researchers try to “push” change through methods they believe are best.

The challenges ahead in sustaining the world in nutritious food will continue to run into many fights that challenge ideology. And they will continue to be tackled by armies of passionate people trying to sway with swathes of facts or sponsored evidence.

When trying to enlist the farmers into the adoption of business improvement programs, don’t drown them in data and glossy paper.  Finding out what will engage people. Unlocking an appetite for change should be the highest priority in landing an effective message, rather than investing in better ways to present facts and package more compelling data.  Investments in benchmarking for the sake of it run headlong into this risk area.

The same applies to arguments on the either side of debates about food production from the use of GMOs to organic methods, and even through to the evils of certain nutrients and ingredients in food processing.

People hold beliefs because of who they are, what their social value set defines in them – but not what they read or don’t read.

Steve also has some interesting thoughts on the recent PETA ‘expose’ into very isolated shearing practices in the wool industry. See Are we buying the PETA yarn?

Women don’t ask and society suffers

Preface:

I am writing this post because my blog is now widely read and I am seriously hoping that this post will help stimulate conversations and most importantly actions.It will also serve as a reminder to me that I have set a personal goal and my role is to reach it

I am using my personal experiences as examples to share why I am so passionate in this space and highlight that society as a whole ( men and women) equally have a role to play in addressing the issues I raise .

I am a mentor to 25 young women in agriculture and I take that role very seriously. So seriously in fact that this year with the support of the Bob Hawke Medal prize pool I have hired a business coach and with his advice am undertaking a series of personal and professional development courses that will provide  me with the knowledge and tools to significantly value add to the support I am able to give these inspiring young women.

Firstly I believe that I have a pretty clear picture of my strengths and weakness. I have assessed the best description of my predominate leadership style is Pacesetter (see this great article by Daniel Coleman Leadership that Gets Results.) In summary this type of leader sets the bar, leads by example and  expects everyone to do the same. In the wider world  I admire people who set the bar higher than me and lead by example. I admire people who have Affiliative ( the capacity to bring people with you) and Coaching styles  even more highly

Pacesetter style of leadership only works if you are working with like minded people and it works very well with the Young Farming Champions because they are all high achievers.

If you are working with people who aren’t comfortable working in this climate then it can lead to a toxic working environment and as this chart from the article shows if you happen to be working with some-one with a coercive style it can be disaster. Sadly been there done that – the outcomes weren’t pretty and I so wish I had identified the problem and walked away from that working environment before it did irreparable damage.

leadership styles

My aim is to balance my Pacesetter style with Affiliative  and Coaching styles. I look forward to meeting that objective more than I can describe.

This week my search for enlightenment and self improvement took me to Melbourne for a three day course at the Melbourne Business School. The facilitator was brilliant and very generous with her time and she recommended to me that I read the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock. There is a great summary of what the book has to say here. I subsequently downloaded the book using my Kindle app and thanks to a speed reading course my parents sent me to when I was in high school I read it in 24 hours and I was mortified by how many traps I had let myself fall into in my lifetime

As the scientific evidence in the book shows there are a number of reasons why women don’t ask and undervaluing their contribution is a serious problem for society and should be addressed urgently

This is just one of them

Undervaluing themselves and being undervalued by society can be bad for women’s health. The close link between a positive “self-perception” and psychological good health is well-known. More recent research now indicates that the opposite is also true. A negative self-evaluation combined with stress can lead to depression, and two-thirds of all depressed adults are women. Depression is not only a problem in itself but can lead to other health problems. As reported in the January 20, 2003, issue of Time magazine, “Each year in the U. S., an estimated 30, 000 people commit suicide, with the vast majority of cases attributable to depression.” Time also points out that depression makes “other serious diseases dramatically worse,” such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis. Unfortunate for each individual, depression often represents a real cost to society as well

Then there’s the question of lost productivity due to depression, which Time estimates “costs the U. S. economy about $50 billion a year.”

So where do we lay the blame for the inequalities that have led to women undervaluing themselves.

Many studies have shown that as a society we expect women to be more oriented toward the needs of others and men to be more oriented toward their own needs and ambitions. And this is where problems arise, because the ideas we share about gender roles are also normative—they involve qualities and behaviors that we believe men and women should have. So a man who is not especially ambitious risks being  called a “wimp” or a “loser.” And an assertive, ambitious woman runs head-on into society’s requirement that she be selfless and communal. Wanting things for oneself and doing whatever may be necessary to get those things—such as asking for them—often clashes with the social expectation that a woman will devote her attention to the needs of others and pay less attention to her own.

Firstly we ( women) have to stop blaming men and glass ceilings and start playing our role

Two major social forces seem to be responsible for the stubborn persistence of gender-linked norms and beliefs. The first involves the socialization and development of children and the second involves the maintenance of gender roles by adults.

This tells girls that they are not the principal “actors” in life’s dramas and that it is boys or men who take center stage in the world and make things happen. This lesson is not likely to encourage girls to step forward and grab what they want for themselves; instead, it teaches them to watch and wait and accept whatever comes their way.

Girls learn from the toys they receive that it is important for them to take care of others—bathing and dressing their doll “babies,” serving “tea” to friends, preparing food and cleaning up after meals. Boys learn from their transportation toys that they can move freely through the world and from their construction toys that they can define the earth around them by constructing buildings, roads, and complicated machinery. The net effect of this “toy-coding” is to teach girls to subordinate their needs to the needs of others and to teach boys to take charge of their environment

Oh my goodness I am sitting shaking my head I have so followed this trend throughout my life This is one place where I have not set the bar and led by example and I am so determined to address that and it is now a life goal and will underpin everything I do going forward.

Let me share some of my experiences and I want to make it very clear I don’t see myself as a victim and I not laying blame. My life experiences follow the pattern that the majority of women  find themselves in

I am one of three children who could be 6th generation farmers. It was very clear that my parents loved us equally even though my sister and I were told from an early age my brother would inherit the farm. Both my mother and my father believed it was his birth right and he believes it is too ( why wouldn’t he). Whilst the three of us worked equally on the farm growing up my sister and I weren’t rewarded financially yet my brother was always given a cow and got to bank the proceeds when it was sold. My brother is very clever and  built a Lotus from scratch when he left school. Whilst I was flabbergasted that my sister and I were expected by our parents (pretty sure it wasn’t my brother’s idea) to help him purchase the kit to build it with a substantial financial contribution ( which he did pay back) I was furious but I did it anyway . My parents aren’t to blame they are just the product of 5 generations of ‘institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions that have perpetuated these inequalities for centuries’

I remember so clearly when Michael accepted his first share farming role and the owners ( who just happened to be women) of the business where mortified I went out to work and worked 14 hour shifts and wasn’t home to feed and look after Michael when he got up for breakfast and came in from the dairy at night. I must admit they soon came to realise without me working there was no way that Michael could financially stay farming on the income he was receiving and they became highly supportive

But working off farm and being paid for it is where I stopped valuing myself and my time. In my spare time I was very hands on in the farm business but did I ever take a wage ridiculously no. I am absolutely positive that if I had asked Michael who has a very democratic leadership style he would have thought that me taking a wage from the business was most appropriate but I just had this bizarre idea in my head that one day I would be rewarded for all my selfless efforts.

It didn’t stop with the farm. For the last 15 years I have worked pro bono for the dairy industry ( nobody asked me too)  and now for many other industries as well ( again nobody asked me too). I have had lots of wonderful mentors along the way who constantly reminded me that if I didn’t value myself no-one else would.

What have I achieved emotionally from all this selfless activity. Well I am bitter and angry and its affected some of my relationships personally and professionally and I am really sad that my self imposed baggage has found me in this position

But I am determined to change and lead by example. It is my time to shine, to do what’s best for me, have an exciting career that doesn’t involve supporting anyone else but me and negotiate a financial package that my skills deserve. I am not saying everybody should do this but it is the best thing for me at this point in my life journey. I admit I do question my capacity everyday but I am determined (please cheer for me in the background I am going to need all the supporters I can gather)

(BTW as an aside you might remember at the beginning of the year I set a Goal with a Deadline and I am thrilled and very proud of myself that I can announce to the world that I have lost almost 20% of my pre goal weight and reached my ideal weight and I am so loving it.)

Every day I get up and tell myself I can do this. Wonderfully I have the Bob Hawke Medal prize money to thank for playing a huge role and kick-starting the process. All my work for agriculture has been valued through this award not just with a trophy and accolades but also a significant  financial project dependent package that has allowed me to create 3 projects.  One that could help benefit farmers locally. One that could help farmers across the country and the one that I am now most proud of that is also benefiting me personally

I have called this project ‘Feeling the Love’. The background behind the project came from my journey to be a change catalyst in agriculture. I found that agriculture has many farmer champions (men and women) who take time out from their businesses to volunteer for the greater good of industry. These farmer champions often find the workload overwhelming. It is clear that advocacy models relying on volunteer labour are in the main unsustainable. Consequently the champions become worn out and disillusioned. Farmer champions need support – financial, emotional and physical to take on these roles.

The aim of the project is to create an ongoing legacy that reflects the strength of my commitment to capability building in the agricultural sector.

This will be achieved by developing a portfolio of first class, tried and proven professional and self-development courses and building a directory of lifestyle and business coaching professionals who can help people maintain perspective, stamina and mental health.

For me its starts with valuing myself and not being afraid to ask

As Linda Babcock tells

Its time for society to teach all of us how to recognize the ways in which our institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions perpetuate inequalities–inequalities that are not only fundamentally unfair but also inefficient and economically unsound.

Women-dont-ask-

Footnote I have many people who have inspired me and to thank for their wonderful support over the years. Today I would like to thank one of them and that is my business coach Professor Shaun Coffey

The world is so confused about sustainability and what it really takes to deliver it

I have been meaning to write a blog post about the proliferation of the ongoing growth of what I call little golden booking farming mentality. This week I was spurned into action when a colleague emailed me this link. As you can see the dairy industry isn’t the only one on their radar. They also comment on the beef, fish industries et al under the Hungry for Info tab.

Its a beautiful website, obviously started by some very passionate people doing some great things.  This initiative also has some very credible people backing it as do a number of people who promote similar farming enterprises. I have no problem at all with people who want to farm using these philosophies but I want to use this post to debunk some of the very naive thinking that underpins this ethos and makes me really cranky by promoting it by deriding large scale farming practices

Lets start with sustainable intensification which underpins Clover Hill Dairies farming practices. Like it or not ( emotively calling some types of sustainable intensification ‘factory farming’ ) sustainable intensification IS the best farming practice for the planet. Ensuring that it is a good outcome for animals relies not on the concept but the people in the business. To get the best outcomes for animals everyone in the system from management to staff have to be totally committed to best practice animal husbandry and well being.  And yes having been there done that you have to be very dedicated indeed to closing the loop to get the best outcomes for the environment. BTW I am confident from what I have seen the majority of farmers are

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Clover Hill’s message… intensified farming and the environment can happily coexist .. leaving an impression of farming as consumers would like it to be: productive, environmentally sustainable and picturesque. Matt Cawood The Land

The reasons sustainable farming delivers the best outcomes for the planet are explained very well  by Jude Capper in my post on Little Golden Book farming.

Explaining it is not always easy and I recently gave a presentation to the Young Farming Champions to start the conversation and workshop sustainable farming concepts with the help of one of Australia’s leading marketing gurus to enable the team to clearly and simply share what it takes to sustainably farm in the 21st century with school students

Here it is my presentation

 

Slide2

Sustainability definition from the heart

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Triple bottom line

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My favourite triple bottom line definition

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This slide is from the marketing guru’s presentation – suggesting we replace responsive with proactive

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Australian farmers are sustainable farming trailblazers. They are very successfully doing what every person on  the planet should be doing ie ‘ doing more with less’

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For farmers MORE means producing more food and fibre. Less means using less natural resources

Why is this so important

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Because we only have one planet and our natural resources are shrinking. Scaringly on the opposite end of the spectrum 158 more mouths to feed are born every minute. 154 of them in developing countries

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In 2010 globally we are consuming enough resources for one and a half planets. In Australia we are chewing up the equivalent of resources for two planets.

It is obvious this NOT sustainable and as this excellent slide (courtesy of Rabobank) clearly show we need to rapidly reduce out use of natural resources

Why are Aussie farmers leading the way –  FYI these stats are via NFF see here

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In 1950 when cars looked like this and farmers drove tractors like this I Australian farmer fed 20 people

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In 1970 when cars looked like this and farmers drove tractors like this 1 Australian farmer fed 200 people

Slide16

In 2014 when cars look like this and farmers have technology that drives tractors 1 Australian farmer feeds 600 people (Note 1 American farmer feeds 170 people)

Yet there are a growing number of people like Sustainable Table that truly believe ( sadly ) that we can feed the world by farming like we did in the 50’s. As I said earlier I have no problem at all with people choosing to farm in this way ( would love to give it a go myself)  and there is definitely a demographic of people who can afford to pay top dollar ( and so they should ) for produce grown this way

But we cannot feed the world by everyone farming this way. We just don’t have enough land, water and energy and I implore the people backing little golden book initiatives and farming practices to STOP telling people you can. Its wrong and its dangerous

People have every right to ask questions about the technology and science that allows our farmers to feed 600 people. All I ask is that you make sure you are fully informed and not basing your decisions on emotion alone

Technology and science mean large scale farmers can

  1. Grow more crop on less land
  2. Get more crop per drop of water
  3. More Kg of beef per beast
  4. More kg of wool per sheep
  5. More pasture per hectare
  6. Graze more cows per hectare
  7. Produce more milk per cow
  8. Use less fertilizer per crop
  9. Use less pesticide per crop
  10. Less water per litre of milk

All of these outcomes are good for the planet.Slide17

The majority of farmers producing more with less is the only road to sustainability. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about large scale commercial agriculture and agriculture has a lot of work to do to ensure the community is informed and comfortable with modern farming practices. May we always refrain from promoting what we do by deriding other farming practices,

Lets start by throwing our support behind all the wonderful Australian farmers using diverse farming systems, small and big who wake up every day looking for ways to do it better

BTW

Interesting recent article here asking the question How Long Do We Have Until We Exhaust All Of Our Resources? and very very worryingly coming up with the answer just a few decades.

Some further thoughts from Jude Capper Beef is killing the Planet and Elvis is Riding a Rainbow Belching Unicorn 

and I love and applaud this speech from President Obama on Climate Change 

 

 

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