Women don’t ask and society suffers


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.


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


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



Sustainability definition from the heart


Triple bottom line


My favourite triple bottom line definition


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


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’


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

Why is this so important


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


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


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


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


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


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 




Agriculture time to put your best foot forward

Recently I gave a presentation on Sustainability and very proudly used the dairy industry’s definition as the benchmark

“Our vision for sustainability is to enhance livelihoods, improve wellbeing and reduce our environmental impact so that Australia’s dairy industry is recognised worldwide as a responsible, responsive and prosperous producer of healthy food”
Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework

My presentation was followed by a presentation from one of Australia’s leading marketing gurus and when she put up this slide she challenged the dairy industry to review their definition quoting Seth Godin

Seth Godin

The light when on and I thought how right is she.  I am reminded everyday how too often  the dairy industry and agriculture for that matter fails to be on the front foot. We are at least less reactive and more responsive but how many times do we take the lead.

And there is no better example than the way we market our milk.

These days thanks to twitter I don’t need to read the papers from front to back as I have a number of very astute Twitter followers who can read my mind and share with me newspaper articles they think will be of interest.

Yesterday this story from well known dairy journalist Andrew Marshall lobbed into my twitter feed Milk’s Local Brand Push. It wasn’t until I got to Mike Logan’s comments and thought at least somebody gets it

Deja Vu. It was at least twelve years ago that I sat around the table with the marketing team at Dairy Farmers head office workshopping the latest ideas in milk packaging and labelling. At the table was also the bright mind that was Ed Geldard  who was sadly killed in a plane crash in 2007. Dairy Farmers was in the middle of a logo change and a total makeover of their packaging and they were keen for my input. Their research had shown that it might be a great idea to put farmers on the packaging. I remember sitting there thinking that sounds pretty logical cant believe somebody hasn’t done it before. My feedback was I suggested they go one step further and also include farmer stories and market some regional milk.

I was subsequently mortified when I saw what they had in mind. Yes they were going to put a farmer on the pack but not his face his back. After a while they took the plunge and introduced the world to their farmer Martin Hodge but no way in the world would they even think about regionally branded milk.

There were plenty of farmers at that time who had the same idea about putting farmers on the label and marketing and selling regionally branded milk. After talking to Dairy Farmers for a few years trying in vain to get them to launch a NSW south coast brand of milk  a group of their gusty farmers started their own processing plant and did it themselves . Wow did Dairy Farmers come down hard on them. South Coast Milk also had the hide to put a farmer on their pack and Dairy Farmers threatened to sue them. Twelve years later its now the ‘in thing’ to put farmers on the pack, put their stories on the back and do regionally branded milk and in the main what a giant waste of time and effort it is

Due to a new role from time to time I find myself in Woolies gazing at milk fridges. Its always the same the shelves are half empty, plenty of Woolies brand everywhere and ten minutes required to find the brand I am looking for.

Empty Shelves in Woolworths

As you can see because of the way the shelves are tilted (see picture below) to encourage the bottle to move forward it is extremely hard to see the label.

Whose milk is this

The company as you can see below who have done it the best are very obviously A2.

A2 milk in Woolworth fridge

Dairy companies today have to be very astute indeed with their labelling especially with the 3 litre pack size aimed at families and in a lot of cases the 2 litre pack.

You may think my post harsh but if you were a dairy company and the shelves you were selling your best selling brands from look like this.

Whose milk is this

Where would you put your brand?. I myself would definitely leave the home brand label where it is

Animal Care under scrutiny. Is video surveillance the answer ?

When I don’t sleep I find it cathartic to blog about the things going round in my head. So today you get two very different posts

I want to throw something out there for consideration and it concerns that highly emotive topic – animal  welfare and husbandry practices.

This week a horrifying story has come out of Canada which if you haven’t been in the loop you can read all about here. I cant watch the footage and it just horrifies me that EIGHT people were involved. Obviously this is a very big farm and yes farmers do need our support because as the statistics keep reminding us animal abuse on farms is very much in the minority compared to the the abuse of domestic pets and in particular animal hoarders.

Regarding the Canadian incident (is that a strong enough word ) I was extremely impressed by the BC Dairy Association response which started with the following first step:

First and foremost, we pushed for the immediate installation of video cameras at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, allowing for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm.

Interestingly enough the world’s leading expert on humane treatment of cattle, pigs and sheep Temple Grandin also recommends remote video monitoring in large facilities to maintain high standards of animal welfare.

So I put it out there is there should Australian farmers routinely install of video cameras to allow for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm?.

After all is there anywhere (except the family home) today humans who live and work in cities can go without being under video surveillance to monitor our honesty, work ethic and safety.

So in this changing social and economic climate is it inconceivable that livestock industries follow suit if we want to ensure high standards of animal care as well as limit the impacts on our businesses and ensure long term sustainability.

I agree with this comment

In an era of increased scrutiny and demands for greater transparency, it is not a matter of “if” a painful or stressful  husbandry practice will come under scrutiny but a matter of ‘when’. Siting back and waiting for the next  media ‘expose’ is not a wise approach to the issue.

As farmers I am sure you will all agree that we must be more proactive and engage with the Australian community and assure them the faith they have in the food and fibre we produce is warranted.


We must agree that it is very stressful let alone hurtful when this happens as it appears to have in Canada if the online vitriol is anything to go by

Now it’s branded every dairy farmer in the country as a vicious sadist whose gleeful pursuit of profit comes at the cost of the animals in his or her care.

As I have said I have put it out there. Do we have anything to fear and perhaps everything  to gain by taking the lead and installing our own on farm video equipment?.

I welcome your comments.

Life is a tapestry. We are the warp angels the weft who will be your weaver

I watch the Angel Flights adds and my heart goes out to all those people who live such long distances from the services we take for granted when we live close to capital cities

So this recent post from Bessie at Burragan certainly pulled my heart strings. Bessie is one of the Art4Agriculture AWI Wool Young Farming Champions. Bessie is also a journalist and a farmer (and farmer’s wife), living and working on a sheep property in far-western NSW.

Our place “Burragan” is 110km from the nearest town, 200km from the nearest supermarket, and 330km from the nearest major centre – Broken Hill. When I’m not out in the paddock helping with sheep work, I like to write, keep up with global issues, and uncover the strange secrets of our beautiful bush landscape.

Bessie also does the media releases for Art4Agriculture ( and what a phenomenal job she does) so I am in touch with her pretty regularly so I was aware that

In just the last few months (we have travelled ……more than 15,000 (make no mistake about the number of zeroes in that number) kilometres …  to the city, because our “lifestyle” means we live so far away from its necessary services.

Australians have long regarded life in the country as healthier than life in the city. Australian
city-dwellers move to rural areas for health benefits such as clean air and reduced traffic
congestion. However, people living in rural and remote Australia have many health disadvantages compared with their urban counterparts and statistics confirm that Australia’s rural and remote populations have poorer health than their metropolitan counterparts. They have higher mortality rates and consequently lower life expectancy. See full report here

Life-expectancy varies with geographic location. Those living in ‘capital cities’ can expect to live longer than their counterparts living in remote zone, and to a lesser extent, those living in rural areas. This is a reflection of the lower death rates for those living in ‘capital cities’ compared to those living in rural and remote areas. Demographic statistics indicate that:
• rural females can expect to live 80.8 years, only 0.4 years less than females living in ‘capital cities’
• males living in the rural zone can expect to live 74.7 years, compared to those living in ‘capital cities’ who can expect to live 75.6 years
• males living in ‘other remote areas’ can expect to live 71.5 years, 4 years less than their
‘capital cities’ counterparts
• females living in ‘other remote areas’ can expect to live 77.4 years, almost 4 years less than females from ‘capital cities’.

According to the Daily Telegraph.

The National Rural Health Alliance has quantified the cost of the health inequity at $2.4 billion a year.

Rural residents get 12.6 million fewer Medicare services, 11 million fewer prescription medicines and $800 million a year less dental and allied health care.

As a result they are 30 per cent more likely to end up in hospital as a result of an avoidable cause than city dwellers.

This inequity in spending and services has a calamitous human impact that is cutting short the lives of those who life outside our capital cities.

It is clear there is an inequity in spending and service and this should be addressed sooner rather than later.  I certainly don’t have all the answers but you must all agree that people like Bessie deserve the very best and it is imperative we lobby our politicians to keep searching for them and ensure when the solutions are found that they make every effort to rectify the problems

Here is an example of a very positive step in the right direction Rural Placements improve medical students attitudes in country practice

Don’t cross oceans for people who wont jump puddles for you

My family have been farming in this country for over 180 years ( and who knows how long in Ireland and Scotland before that)

My childhood experience of life on the farm left me with the impression that farming was the most undervalued profession in the world ( 50 years on I am wiser and sadly there are lots of professions as undervalued as farmers ).

This childhood experience encouraged me to choose a profession where I and the people I worked with were truly valued. And I did just that. In my day working in pharmacy  was extraordinarily  rewarding and people acknowledged that. I can remember one Christmas where we couldn’t find enough room for all the Christmas cards from the pharmacy’s customers in our lounge room and I put on 2kgs from the boxes of chocolates of thanks that came my way at Christmas,

For the last fifteen years I have been using my 25 years of experience in a truly rewarding profession to endeavour through as many innovative ways as I can to generate the same acknowledgement for farmers and its been a long haul . There have been many successes ( salute to the Young Farming Champions ) and a number of ongoing disappointments.

From my significant experience I give you this advice

Always remember there will be people who get it and people who never will.

First and foremost –  Value yourself

Don’t cross oceans for people who wont jump puddles for you

here comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans quotes

But I can assure you I will never let this happen

Stop caring

Lets appreciate what we have before it becomes what we had

I live in a very special place. When I wake up early in the morning and watch the sunrise its shear beauty often moves me to tears.

Sunrise at Clover Hill

Every three weeks the view from my front verandah looks even more nutritious and delicious when the real cows come to visit.


I just don’t know how I could cope if I woke up every morning to watch it slowly bleaching and dying in front of me which is what is currently happening to our World Heritage listed  Great Barrier Reef

Can you believe that despite the Great Barrier Reef being one of the healthiest coral reef ecosystems there has been a 50% decline in coral cover since 1985.

Last weekend at the invitation of the Camp Earth Hour Retreat my front verandah on Heron Island looked like this.

Heron Island Jetty IMG_6182















As you can imagine it was hard to leave but then not everyone is like me and gets to live some-where just as special.

I am a great believer in the adage

Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.

This brings me to the question “why is the reef dying?” Well lots of reasons and most of them are man made areas including catchment run-off, degradation of coastal ecosystems and direct-use activities such as shipping and fishing. Why has it become a burning bed issue and crucial  we act now. Dare I say it CLIMATE CHANGE

And boy am I sick of the energy wasted on the climate change debate “is it or isn’t happening?”. In reality you don’t need people’s opinions on a fact.

You know what I dislike most about the people who say it isn’t, they are the type of people who don’t take responsibility for anything. Thank goodness they are just a small minority albeit a noisy one. I care very much that it even might be a possibility.

Professor Lesley Hughes ( who I was lucky enough to meet this weekend) sums up why we should all care beautifully in this slide

Lesley Hughes energy-five-slideshow

To borrow this quote from Time magazine

Science is hard—which is why not everyone gets to do it.

More than 97% of the people doing the hard yards say the science is in. Lets get with the times, lets care and act now

Conspiracies theories, spin doctors, whistleblowers, power and leverage everything but lust

Like a phenomenal amount of people I am addicted to the TV show “House of Cards”

The more I watch it the more I question why. The main character Frank Underwood is so evil and so Machiavellian each new episode of the show depresses me more. On reflection  I think I watch it to remind me that ‘fair is never equal” and I need to toughen up.

As I watched it yesterday this story popped up on my twitter feed Hoping to Kill off Competitor Parmalat goes after A2 Milk. It caught my attention  as I found myself in the middle of the controversy after The Australian picked up content in my post  A2 snake oil merchants in the firing line.

My goodness doesn’t this story in The Age have everything. Whistle-blowers, conspiracy theories (even Dairy Australia gets a mention), secret meetings, controversial spin doctors and the best one of all it appears to be promoting scientific theories that have no sound science behind them.

Are they saying Malcolm Riley  Head of Nutritional Research at CSIRO’s Animal, Food and Health Sciences division in Adelaide doesn’t know what he is talking about? Surely I have misunderstood???

Malcolm Riley, head of nutritional research at CSIRO’s Animal, Food and Health Sciences division in Adelaide, said some claims made about A2 milk — not all promoted publicly, however, by its manufacturer, the A2 Corporation — were staggering, extending to the cure and prevention of heart disease, asthma, eczema, schizophrenia, diabetes and even autism.

“These are such serious claims that if they were true, everyone would switch to drinking A2 milk, but the scientific evidence and the trials in humans just aren’t there now,” he said yesterday. Source Sue Neales
The Australian April 05, 2014

Well I have had a few whistleblowers contact me since The Age and the SMH released their David and Goliath victim stories

I am now led to believe that the A2 corporation is spending big money on a White Knight rescuer PR company and have I believe engaged ( I won’t say controversial because I have no idea what The Age used as their definition of controversial) the very interesting Ian Smith who is the driving force behind Bespoke Approach — a boutique lobbying firm.

As I don’t move in these circles and his name was unfamiliar to me I did a Google search and this was what I found

Bespoke was established by Ian Smith, one of the more plugged-in political and business consultants in the nation, the chief executive officer of the high-powered public relations firm Gavin Anderson and Company (Australia) and former chief adviser to Jeff Kennett when Kennett was Victorian premier.

This conservative insider also happens to be married to former Australian Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja. Source

And believe it or not this content from a previous piece in The Age

“He loves political leverage and has an ability to insert himself into power situations … Ian Kortlang [a well-known PR consultant] used to say that for Smithy it’s all about lust, leverage and dollars.”

Bespoke may not have one of the longest client lists but it does have one of the most impressive. We’re talking about big companies with big issues on their plate: Woodside Energy, Petrochina (the world’s second largest company by market capitalisation), Huweiwei Technologies (the world’s second largest exporter of telecom equipment), coal giant Xstrata and beer behemoth Fosters.

“The magnitude of the issues and the quality of the client book is something I’m particularly proud of,” Smith says. Read more here

Well I didn’t notice any ‘lust’ in this story but ‘leverage and dollars’ do come to mind and apparently the A2 corporation may just have big issues on their plate or in a glass in this case

This is my perspective.  This is not a story about

Parmalat vs. A2 Corporation

Goliath vs. David

Big vs. little

Its a story about

Fairfax vs. Murdoch

Big PR vs. Big PR

Lactose free milk vs.Perceived lactose free milk

Real science vs. flawed science

All milk is good for you vs  perceived  A2 milk is better for you

I am fascinated by this interesting quote in The Australia from the A2 Corporation

“We are good at marketing but we are also evangelical about the product”

Yes I will agree A2 you are very good at marketing but evangelical oh my goodness that’s a bit scary Definition here

I have said my piece. The only thing that I am interested in is I know the science behind A2 being better for you is flawed and until A2 have credible independent scientific research to back up the claims that A2 milk has any extra or ­superior health attributes at all they can do clever marketing, hire all the spin doctors in the world and be as evangelistic as they like but I will remain dubious about their product.  .

Now time to move on to more important matters

Disclosure statement

I was owner operator of a dairy farm business that supplied Parmalat and Dairy Farmers

Parmalat is a sponsor of Art4Agriculture

Art4Agriculture is a network of young people who share a passion to tell others about the pivotal role Australian farmers play in feeding the world. Mostly we are young rural people who love working in agriculture, be it in the beef, sheep, dairy, cropping, wine or horticultural industries. With our ‘home-base’ in the Illawarra region of NSW, Art4Agriculture reaches into many different communities around the nation.
Art4Agriculture has a vision for agriculture that is full of promise.
We want an innovative exciting dynamic and profitable agrifood sector. A sector that our next generation best and brightest sees as a career of first choice.
We see our role is to turn our vision for agriculture into everyone’s vision
To achieve this Art4Agriculture delivers events and activities which focus on youth, career opportunities, the environment, community and the arts – all linked with agriculture.

Our programs are tailored to both enhance the image of farmers and farming and encourage young people to consider agriculture related careers.

Our school programs are education and awareness focused and use creative arts and multimedia to engage urban and rural students in the challenges of feeding, clothing and housing the world with a declining natural resource base.

Lessons to learn from the young

It is very easy to be negative about what we arent doing but its so much more exciting to showcase a job well done

Let’s use 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champion Ben Egan as a great example of this.

Ben recently gave this introductory speech to the first 2014 Young Farming Champions workshop on the weekend. The brief was ‘share your story and your passions’. Now Ben has been through the program already and did know what we were looking for and there is no denying Ben is entertaining (and on reflection that black eye from rugby game the night before should have prompted me to film him from the other side)

Click the photo or access this link to hear Ben’s speech


Ben wasn’t the only one in the room proud of what he does and excited to be able to share it. We had 20 young people in the room from 5 different industries with the same fire in their bellies. Sadly there were no dairy farmers in the room to be inspired by their peers.

Ben has also spent the last 12 months with the support of his family and friends and the amazing technology that is the GoPro camera collecting photographs and footage  to create a video to share with the schools he will visit as part of the Archibull Prize (and the world) that espouses his love for farming, for cotton and a career in agriculture

I loaded Ben’s Young Farming Champion’s video yesterday and its already had 400 hits on YouTube – its a masterpiece. Click the photo or this link to see this video that is sure to go viral


But then its not surprising Ben is such a superstar at such a young age. Ben comes from an industry where my generation set the example that needs to be set if we are to change the way the world perceives agriculture

What a great example is cotton industry leader Barb Grey who is supporting and mentoring another 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey who is running the Next Gen in Cotton Forum at the Cotton Conference in August

Here is the blurb from the website –

Next Gen In Cotton Forum to Make Its Mark at the Australian Cotton Conference


The Australian Cotton Conference will cater for its younger demographic through a new Next Gen in Cotton program aimed to ensure the voices of up and coming leaders and industry participants are heard.

According to Conference Chairman Barb Grey, the Australian cotton industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to taking up new technologies and developing more sustainable and economical ways of operating.
“The business environment for growers and those who supply and service our industry is moving fast and changing rapidly,” she said.
“It’s essential the next generation of industry players are involved in the future development of our industry and even more essential that the next generation take some ownership of the future direction of the industry.
“We wanted to provide a forum to allow this to happen as part of our Conference program and I’m delighted that a young agronomist on our committee, Liz Lobsey, has taken the running on this,” Barb said.
The Next Gen in Cotton Forum is FREE to attend, aimed at people aged 35 and under and will:
• Recap the industry’s Vision 2029:  “Carefully Grown, Naturally World’s Best’, and determine how Next Gen can have a positive impact on our vision,
• Provide tools for Next Gen to better communicate effectively on personal and professional levels
• Provide an opportunity for Next Gen to create networks and build on established connections
Darling Downs agronomist Liz Lobsey is leading the charge, and pulling together an interesting program that will deliver on the objectives above.
“We’re still in the planning phase and what we do know is that the forum will be held on Wednesday 6 August and include a breakfast and facilitated workshop session,” Liz said.
“The Next Gen breakfast forum will deliver a unique experience and provide an environment where younger people are able to speak freely with like-minded peers. We want those who have chosen to attend the Next Gen in Cotton Forum to walk away with a spring in their steps, and with a fire in their bellies about the exciting future of the cotton industry,” she said.

I know if I was government or an overseas investor this is one industry I would want to talk to.

Just to prove my point the cotton industry has just released their CottonWolf video to promote their conference. Check it out here It’s outrageous and Barb does a wolf diva cameo at the end

Barb Grey Wolf Diva

Wolf Diva – Barb Grey

Oh my goodness is that CEO I spot on the left.

Adam Kay

Adam Kay wrapped in cotton.  Could it get any better. Too delicious for words   

For budding Ben’s out there keen to tell the great stories of their industry some pointers from Justine MacKay can be found here

Ron Boswell get over yourself. Oz farmers are proud of what we and we are confident we will stand up to scrutiny

From The Australian this morning

Beef initiative ‘green thuggery’ SID MAHER APRIL 23, 2014 12:00A


A LEADING Australian trade expert has warned farmers that an environmental sustainability initiative for the beef industry, being promoted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and backed by the Cattle Council of Australia, risks tying farmers up in green tape and is a move designed by environmentalists to “control farming’’.

I just don’t get why people like Ron Boswell et al seem determined to undermine partnership initiatives like this between beef farmers and NGO’s like WWF. Senator Boswell et al please don’t try to tell me Australians farmers aren’t dedicated to striving to achieve the best outcomes they possibly can for people, animals, places and a fair return for their efforts doesn’t underpin everything they do 


Doing the right thing is not an impost its an honour and a legacy ( see footnote for explanation of the graphic )

Surely Senator Boswell et al you will agree all committed Australian farmers who are in it for the long haul are aspiring for excellence . Setting voluntary goals that the Cattle Council and WWF are working towards allows us to take it to the next step and have some measurables to back up our claims. Measurables are not an impost they are claims Australian farmers can make with integrity.

I judge organisations like WWF on their ethos and  people they employ to help deliver it. Backing up my point please take the time and listen to this fantastic TED talk by WWF’s Jason Clay 

I have worked with the WWF in this country and I am comfortable with what they are trying to achieve. In fact I will be showcasing former Cattle Council Rising Beef Champion, beef farmer and now WWF team member Ian McConnel and WWF’s Change the Way You Live campaign  to students as part of the Archibull Prize this year   

Well done Cattle Council and well done to Dairy Australia who are holding similar talks and throwing this brilliant piece of work on the table for comment by all parties.


Footnote – Some food for thought –  source

Create Value

At the top of the equilateral triangle, representing economic growth, is the effective pursuit of “profit”. In order for sustainable agriculture to achieve its goals, it must fully embrace the profit motive. This motive requires that developments deliver maximum present and future value to stakeholders by being driven by market demand, and that they do so in the most efficient means possible within the holistic triple-bottom-line perspective.

Accept Responsibility

The “people” leg of the equilateral triangle represents the social responsibility of industry professionals to recognize that project design affects a broad level of human well-being. Society requires and benefits greatly from gaining a greater sense of connectedness; having greater access to quality food, shelter, health care needs, as well as work, creative, recreational and educational opportunities; preserving its cultural and biological heritages; being safe; accessing cultural enrichment opportunities; respecting the diversity of its people; and participating in its own governance. Within the context of natural laws, it is every individual’s right to maximize these social opportunities, and it is part of agriculture’s responsibility to foster the culture to enable these opportunities to more readily occur.

Model Nature

The pure “planet” leg of the triangle recognizes the ultimate value and supreme intelligence of our natural world. Our environment offers an infinite number of time tested and successful patterns, designs and structures from the most minuscule particles, to expressions of life discernible by human eyes, to the greater cosmos. We must not only respect our natural world for its power to sustain us, but as we change and modify it, understanding its workings will lead us to the ultimate solutions we require to sustain ourselves. Make no mistake, the earth will survive. It is our societies which may be in peril. Using an ecological standard to judge our innovations will help us determine which solutions will work, and which solutions will withstand the difficult and ultimate test of time.

Eliminate Waste

Emanating from the creation of economic value is the concept of eliminating waste. Waste reduces profit, and as a result must be eliminated, but it won’t be easy. Eliminating waste requires strong visionary leadership that can transform a liability into an asset. It requires team-building, the development of greater trust, and getting a previously fragmented group of people working more effectively together. That is indeed a challenging task, but its relentless pursuit is absolutely necessary if we hope to achieve sustainability.

Quality of Life

Building from our social responsibilities is the understanding that the values our society espouses, and in fact, the spiritual “lift” we gain are more important than the material items we can own and consume. We must value and focus on the “soul” of our lives, for it is the root of true happiness and quality of life.

Energy Flows

Emanating from nature’s model is our understanding of the natural long-term energy flows which emanate from the sun, and are captured by plants, some of which are eaten by animals, which then (along with plants) cycle the energy into the earth, which stores it and ultimately feeds our plants again. Our short-term oriented consumption of these energy stores is seriously disrupting the cycle, and we must learn how to respect, protect and utilize these natural energy flows.

Share Knowledge

Between the “profit” and “people” ideals is the recognition that, as we progress deeper and deeper into sustainable land development, we must be willing and able to share the knowledge we gain with the other stakeholders throughout the world. Our industry has many areas of specialization, and in order for anyone to effectively develop the requisite holistic perspective, we must seek to better understand and address the needs of all the stakeholders throughout the process.

Humans and Nature Co-exist

Rather than man dominating nature, or man being required to avoid nature, there must be a recognition that man and nature can and do co-exist. With this recognition comes an understanding that man must benefit from nature, but that nature must also benefit from man.

Recognize Interdependence

Between the “profit” and “planet” ideals, and stretching to the very epicenter of the triangle is the understanding that we must recognize – in fact maximize the effectiveness of – our interdependent relationships. This interdependence exists not only among industry professionals, but with society as a whole – as well as cause and effect in the natural world. This principle of interconnectedness, inseparability and union provides us with a continuous reminder of our relationship to the whole, a blueprint for the sustainability of our work.

The solutions we seek reside within this fractal model. As we dig deeper and deeper, the model replicates itself, becoming infinitely complex, yet always maintaining the necessary holistic, triple-bottom-line perspective.

Government is a Partner, But Private Industry Must Lead

As we move forward, we must do so in partnership with government, but ultimately, solutions must emanate from the bottom up, not the top down. History has proven that top-down solutions rarely solve the problems they purport to address, and they often create new ones in their wake. It is the private, profit-driven members of the industry itself that can and must take advantage of the opportunity to not only reverse the negative image the industry has been given, but to become the absolute heroes of our time. It’s a momentous opportunity, and the time is right to seize it.

Today’s reality is that the “people” are driving demand for practices that steward the “planet.” To date, the single-minded pursuit of “profit” has been an impediment to truly sustainable development, but as adopters continue to pave the way by incorporating more holistic new – yet proven – practices, the time is rapidly approaching that supply will begin to meet demand.

Are you ready to participate in the bold new world in which we live – where socially responsible and eco-friendly practices not only boost your bottom line, but are required for survival? That world is closer than you may think, and our goal is to help you achieve it. There are a host of emerging technologies, products, perspectives, knowledge assets, and other resources necessary to enable professionals throughout the industry to make it happen. Stay tuned, as they say. There’s much more to come.

Republished from the May, 2007 issue of Sustainable Land Development Today magazine

* Note have replaced the word ‘development’ with ‘agriculture’  to put into context