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

Social media denatured

This morning I had an email from some-one with a request for me send out some information to dairy farmers from their organisation via twitter

I was wondering if you could utilise your amazing twitter network.

It was important stuff but I was realistic in directing that person elsewhere because I knew no matter how “amazing’ my twitter network may or may not be we just don’t have too many dairy farmers active on twitter.

Is it important that dairy farmers be on Twitter? I will let them decide that for themselves. What I know is thanks to Twitter I am now aware Barry O’Farrell has resigned and he wont be celebrating his new career with a bottle of Grange

I am on Twitter thanks to wise advice from Flourish Communications’ Victoria Taylor who recently attended Ragan Communication’s Social Media for Corporate Communications and Public Relations Conference, in Florida earlier this month. See Victoria’s posts on her trip here

Social Media explained

What I do know is it is very important for me and the organisations like Art4Agriculture I work with to reach out to the people we want to reach by being on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and LinkedIn and now Victoria tells me Pinterest (why do I seem to find that one a bit above my IQ level at the moment – Help Pinterest guru needed)

Apparently I ( and my associated Twitter, Facebook et al accounts) have a Klout factor of over 50 ( eyes glaze over – whatever ) and this is good because I (et al) am reaching our target audience

This has been well and truly reinforced this year as our entry surveys results for both schools participating in Archibull Prize and applicants for the Young Farming Champions program show they all heard good things about us predominately via social media/ word of mouth.

What’s extra awesome about this is we are attracting people who are excited about the things we are excited about and like us want to use multimedia and new media to share the stories we want to share.

Should dairy farmers be on Twitter to engage with other farmers? All I can say is there are some awesome farmers on Twitter and you can pick and choose who you engage with and how much you get out of it.

Big bonus is you can engage with the people who buy what you produce. If it works for  Coca Cola surely it can work for farmers and agriculture. Like it or not no matter what we think we have to be where our audience is in the 21st century.  Give it a try and once you have mastered Twitter please help me master Pinterest   

If you need further convincing check out this infographic found here

Social Media Infographic

A2 Milk snake oil merchants in the firing line

I am a bit a crusader and this week the snake oil phenomenon is on my radar.

Little bit of background

Every parent sweats the nine months their child is in the womb waiting for the moment the child is born and doctor says “we’ve got five fingers and five toes”

When that doesn’t happen parents tend to go into overdrive and investigate every piece of science and technology to provide the best possible life for their child. Sometimes their love takes them into the unproven science behind cure-alls.

When I was born I had five fingers and toes but about 6 months down the track it became clear that for me everything wasn’t clear, in fact my world was very blurry. On top of this there seemed to be some serious problems with my legs.

So my parents moved heaven and earth to get the best possible science and technology to fix their little girl and they (and me) in the main where rewarded for their efforts

But despite many, many operations, visits to doctors/specialists, eye patches etc. etc. their little girl would always wear glasses and that made them sad.



I think I was about 3 when this photo was taken. Pink dress, pink glasses, pink everything. No doubt about it if I had to wear glasses my mother always made sure I did it with style. Can you believe 50 years later those cats eye glasses are back in fashion.    

Wearing glasses in those days wasn’t trendy and every new (proven) thing that came along they made sure I was first in line to take every advantage. On hard contact lenses, soft contact lenses, throw away contact lenses a small fortune was spent but it wasn’t to be glasses became a fixture of my life for 5 plus decades.

But this has all changed. For the past 12 months my eyesight had been rapidly deteriorating, my eyes where really sore and I had permanent headaches. After spending 5 plus decades knowing what is was like to be blind by just taking my glasses off I was starting to get pretty frightened. Having spent my childhood in more hospitals that most people have been in their lifetime I tend to avoid hospitals and doctors like the plague. So I kept putting of the investigative procedures that would get to the bottom of my diminishing eyesight.

But sometimes when you bite the bullet it can lead to good news. I wasn’t going blind I had cataracts (though of course cataract can lead to blindness) Today modern technology means that people with cataracts can often get 20:20 vision. Though I am still finding it hard to believe my cataract operation has given me 20:20 vision in one eye and John and Robyn’s little girl doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore (beyond the “chemist glasses” – and yes I bought the cats eye frames – for reading)

Now when the specialist told me the result I cried with happiness and sadness. Sadness because Robyn died four years ago and she would never know. My mother and I never really got on but she would have been the first person I rang to tell this news because above all I knew she loved me very much and it would have made her the happiest person on the planet.

Now what does all this have to do with the snake oil phenomenon. Well my parents took the high road and followed science and science delivered for them.

This doesn’t always happen and in these cases parents often turn to the unproven and I for one am not going to judge them for that. Everybody who has had a child knows they become your life’s work.

But when I see websites like this The Food Intolerance Network that make claims that A2 milk is a cure-all for almost every evil under the sun, including apparently autism it makes me really cranky.

Now A2 milk is definitely trendy and sales are on the rise and if you happen to have cows with A2 DNA they definitely sell at a premium I can vouch for that.

But the evidence is all anecdotal yet this website quotes this study

There is a medical report of allergies managed by camel milk, which also contains a2 beta casein protein. In this study, eight children with severe food (mainly milk) allergies recovered fully from their allergies by drinking camel milk.

Mmh Camel milk, eight study participants I rest my case

I don’t have a problem with A2 milk per se. If I need to buy milk and A2 just happens to have the longest dating and I need milk with long dating I will buy it but that is the only reason.

Milk is good for you. There is no scientific evidence to say A2 is better than any other milk and its certainly no worse than other milks and I have no problem with it having a place in the supermarket fridge. But as a cure-all it is in the quackery aisle.  

It’s time for the quacks and snake oil merchants to leave the room and lets all hope it doesn’t take 5 plus decades to find a genuine scientific positive outcome for autism because I have seen the pain first hand and it is just morally wrong to give people false hope

The art of story telling agriculture must get it right and the time is now

As per my previous post What is Fair Food? the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance has launched its new initiative to create a strong and independent voice for Australian farmers. Fair Food Farmers United will be a platform to connect, support and provide a united voice for farmers feeding Australia fairly.

According to their press release their aims are too

  • provide a balanced voice to represent farmers who are at the sharp end of the impacts of free trade,
  • raise awareness about the impacts of cheap imports on farmers
  • advocate for fair pricing for farmers selling to the domestic markets
  • connect Australian farmers for farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing
  • be a voice for farmer-friendly regulations and standards.

Read more on the AFSA website

The majority of people attracted to this initiative in the first instance are farmers who are cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with the public. This gives them a unique insight into consumer images and expectations of farmers and how important it is to meet or exceed those consumer expectations if you want to sell your product at a premium and get a FAIR return for your efforts. As I mentioned in my previous post FAIR means different things to different people. Now is the right time to get into the  FAIR FOOD space. As a segment on the Checkout ( See Value for Money – Tuna) last night showed there is a clear rise in the number of people choosing ethics over value and voting with their wallets at the supermarket checkout and farmers markets and the like.

Fair Food Farmer United know that if they want to get real traction now and achieve their aims they must get into the hearts and minds and wallets of consumers aka voters.

I have been a long term advocate of farmers having direct connection with consumers with a strong focus on finding ways to innovatively do this in a way farmers are comfortable with. One of the most successful initiatives is the highly innovative Art4Agriculture programs which include the Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions program

I will be the first to admit its pretty scary and a huge responsibility to advocate on behalf of industry and I was reminded the other day that even after 10 years of doing it I am still uncomfortable in this space.

I had a message on my phone from Radio National indicating Bush Telegraph wanted to do a story. So I rang back with butterflies in my stomach as per usual wondering what it was and how long it would take me to prepare to ensure I got the key messages spot on

I was overwhelmed with relief when they didn’t want me. Excitingly in the first instance the ABC reads the Art4AgricultureChat blog and secondly wanted to interview one of our young team of farming champions Danila Marini about her research.


Sheep are smart and so is Danila

Thirdly I was absolutely thrilled how excited she was and didn’t hesitate to say yes. This is a great example of engaging and nurturing the young to build their capacity to sell agriculture’s story with confidence and most importantly build their capacity to do it with charisma and resonate with our key audience.

There is no denying its a given a key issue for agriculture is the continual need to strive for sustainability – but what is sustainable? Having farm systems that ensure the environment and productive capacities can co-exist in the long-term is the standard take on the definition. Like it or not sustainable agriculture is also about creating value for our products in our consumer base, that ensures consistent and long-term demand.

Consumer choice is as big a threat to our industry as climate change/variability, international competitiveness or government policy.

We need to create partnerships right along our supply chain to develop relationships that enable farmers and consumers to make informed decisions about the trade-offs inherent in their choices and our production systems. Consumers have accepted $1 milk and cheap/imported food more generally, so it is up to agriculture to articulate and share why we don’t believe that is a choice that will deliver a sustainable future.

If consumers do not value farm output, then no amount of innovation, productivity gain or government support is going to deliver a sustainable industry into the future.

We need to reconnect with our consumers. Modern supply chains mean farmers have never been so isolated from their end-consumer.

Therefore we need to develop the capacity of our people, so they are knowledgeable and are comfortable in addressing all issues and stakeholders along the entire supply/value chain in order to re-build these relationships.

This will mean farmers and others working in agriculture taking a higher profile role in the lives of our consumers, current and future.

This will mean farmers proactively engaging with processors and supermarkets to develop mutually beneficial relationships ensuring value is delivered at all points along the supply/value chain – including farmers, processors, retailers and consumers.

The last thing we need is another advocacy group cluttering an already overcrowded space but I believe if Fair Food Farmers United get it right they are off to a great start with the key audience then they may just build the partnerships necessary to deliver an advocacy success story for agriculture

What is Fair Food and how do you put a price on it ?

I start this post by declaring I truly hope I have an open mind and wake up everyday ready to have my opinions challenged and a will to move where my values take me  

This week saw the launch of “Fair Food Farmers United” a platform to connect, support and provide a united voice for farmers feeding Australia fairly. Read the press release here

This of course opens the door for many conversations about what is ‘fair’.

I for one am very happy to have that conversation.

What is fair?

Many define it as treating everyone the same, but everyone including farmers are not the same. They have different motivations for their choices, different needs, different causes for their behaviours and different goals.

According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron ‘fairness’ is about  

“giving people what they deserve – and what people deserve depends on how they behave”.

For me ‘Fair’ is about ethics and values and ‘Equal’ is a term you can put numbers against  

Last weekend I attended the Northside Forum to hear Young Farming Champion Jasmine Nixon speak as part of a panel that also included Philip Wright from the St James Ethics Centre.

The panel mix was superb and each panellist resonated with the audience in their own unique way and I was heartened by the way audience listened and absorbed and celebrated all the speakers.   

We had a speaker who spoke with considerable expertise on the science of Genetic Modification, a 6th generation 25 year old beef farmer and a speaker who reminded us all that ethics is hard


In the end ultimately it was how each panellist answered the audience’s questions that determined the take home messages and each speaker gave their answers according to their values not the science ( though it always never hurts to be able to back up your values with some solid science)

For me ‘Fair’ for farmers means everyone in the value chain gets a fair return on investment.

So it all comes back to the individual and what each and everyone of us has invested to bring ethically produced, high quality affordable food and fibre from the farm to you

Ethics is hard and like it or not it is about accepting the cost 


Talking leadership

Tomorrow I am going to the doctor. What’s so unusual about that is that I am actually going

I am extremely disappointed (devastated might be a better word) that I am not free to attend the Australian Farm Institute’s launch of their research report tomorrow in Canberra

Opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Australian farmers advocacy groups – a comparative approach’

Are advocacy groups necessary? (the rationale for collective advocacy); Getting inspired: International and national case studies of advocacy groups; What do Australian farmers really think of agricultural advocacy groups?;

Workshop: Developing a preferred model for agricultural advocacy in Australia

So what’s all this got to do with going to the doctor? A lot actually

There has been a lot of talk about leadership (or lack of) in agriculture for as long as I can remember.

Whether leaders are born or made?

Is the advocacy model flawed?

The Smartest person in the room

Lots and lots of talk and I haven’t seen much change over the last 20 years. So when I was asked last year to be on the NSW Farmers Dairy Committee I was very reticent. I was reticent because I don’t necessarily believe leaders are born and I didn’t feel I had the required skills sets

I was eventually convinced that it wouldn’t involve any more time and that it might help fast track some of the initiatives that I was trying to achieve.

I also felt a bit guilty and that I had a responsibility to give it a go and maybe, just maybe with the right team around me (all those people who had the skill sets I didn’t) I could really help make a difference.

More time. You are joking. 24/7 just took on a whole new meaning.

Face to face meetings are twice a year. The first meeting is taken up with identifying the priorities of your industry, your committee members’ area of expertise and where each person can be most effective and then developing the action plan.

Then putting it all into action seriously becomes 365 days plus

This is because you find most of the priority issues have been around for a long time and if your committee is going to be the one to get action you have to do a lot of backgrounding to understand the politics, the barriers, the personalities (and trust me its normally the personalities) as to why your committee may just have what it takes to surmount what all the committees before you couldn’t

State level representation often means federal representation and that means you are dealing with people all over the country and Australia is a big place. So that of course means teleconferences. Endless teleconferences. Urgent teleconferences. Workshops, summits, industry briefings, industry breakfasts, briefing notes and yes cancelled doctor’s appointments.

So I have found in the majority of cases there are lot of well-meaning people who put their hands up to take on these roles who just like me are floundering around in the dark, frustrated they are putting in all this time getting no-where and putting the rest of their life on hold

Leaders may be born, so might doctors but they don’t give you a license to operate until you have knowledge and the skill sets and the mentors and the support networks in place so you can be the very best doctor you can be physically and emotionally

The world is complex, agriculture is complex and leadership requires many things and we have to do a lot more than talk about it

As always no matter how good the concept it’s the people who make it work

Lets not forget the world is run by those who turn up. How do we make sure the right people are in the room. The people with all the skills sets required to make an effective team

For me we don’t have near enough people talking about how we can best help and support our people who put their hands up.

I look forward to reading the Australian Farm Institute’s report. I look forward to talking to some of the people I know who are going

Mick Keogh and his team are definitely world class leaders in their space. Let’s hope we take on board the learnings and the insights and so we can get on with the doing

Australian farmers advocacy groups have to change or die

The most valuable resource farmers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives – appropriated from wise words from Robert John Meehan

Last Monday I attended a meeting in Sydney that brought around the table a group of people all determined to create a prosperous NSW dairy industry that had the capacity to grow and support that growth

I learnt things that scared me. Things like there are 20 plus organisations in NSW all trying to meet the needs of NSW dairy farmers

20 plus organisations that if we were all honest have very little idea what each other’s roles are and what each other does

Hopefully we haven’t got 20 plus organisations and individuals all vying for meetings with politicians and policy makers. But we wouldn’t know because in the main we don’t talk to each other.

I am confident the dairy industry isn’t alone

In fact the Australian Farm Institute is about to release its research into the efficacy of our state and national farming advocacy groups that decrees ‘Australian farmers’ advocacy groups have to change, or die’

This is a complex problem that trusts me get more complex when you put your hand up to take an active role in these state and national bodies.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about why they don’t work. Why I couldn’t be more effective. What I could do to be more effective.

But instead of beating myself up I am focusing on looking for models that work and I trying to work out why they work

The key thing that frustrated me as a farmer representative was how little I knew of what was happening in the background

For example the dairy industry has research, development and extension programs that focus on

1. Animals, Feed and the Environment see here

2. People and Business see here

In fact the dairy industry is renowned for the quality of its R&D but often struggles to get uptake of extension.

Now I found even at representative level there was no opportunity for me to get exposure to any of this R&D unless I asked for and had a meeting with a head of department at Dairy Australia, spent a lot of time on their website or stumbled across it because of my involvement elsewhere.

Because of my involvement on an NFF Blueprint Committee this document the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework came into my Inbox When I saw it I went WOW. Does a document get any more impressive than this? I doubt it

Now to me this Sustainability Framework is the dairy industry’s answer to Meat and Livestock Australia’s Target 100 initiative

What is bizarre is this. I am a dairy farmer who knew nothing about the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework yet I know a considerable amount about Target 100.

I think these two examples exemplify the problem on many levels and maybe the solution.

MLA has given their farmers ownership of Target 100. There are now over two hundred farmer stories

Two hundred plus farmer stories sharing the same key messages

Stories about farmers from right across Australia including young farmers like Jasmine Nixon , Tim Eyes , Hannah Barber, Josh Gilbert and Geoff Birchnell and Danille Fox

There are a number of other clever key marketing nuances that set the two programs apart.

Ultimately the answers to agriculture’s woes are sitting right in front of our noses.

The 21st century gives us the perfect communication tools.

All we have to do now is get on with it

Self-Promotion is not a dirty word.

Let’s celebrate success and share our stories and start talking to each other

CollaborationLike teachers none of us can afford to be an island 

The how and why of Agriculture consumer education

There is no denying that Australian agriculture today recognises two very important things

1. Without customers we would not exist

2. We need to move heaven and earth to reengage with our customers. 

Currently all agricultural industries are TALKING about re-engaging with their customers and some are actively DOING it.

Agriculture doesn’t have a lot of dollars to do this so we need to get very smart about how we do it and focus on why we are doing it to get the best return on investment in the shortest turn-around time we possibly can

Building relationships with the next generation of customers through schools is obviously one of those smart choices. But unless you have been in that space it’s unlikely you will know how fraught this opportunity is with challenges.

Teachers are under a huge amount of pressure to deliver top down government outcomes On top of this anyone who has visited a classroom knows working with children is often not all it’s cracked up to be. So I for one salute the teachers who take on extra curricula programs and do it well.

Agriculture also tends to get a bit bogged down with ‘educating the public about the paddock to plate’ processes – the HOW we do it rather than the WHY we do it

Telling the WHY we do it is what drives the Art4Agriculture in school programs

Four years ago when the Art4Agriculture team first started delivering the Archibull Prize into schools the aim was (AND STILL IS) to build partnerships between farmers and their customers to take on the challenge together of feeding, clothing and housing the world with less land, less water and growing levels of waste we had to write the whole program content ourselves because there was nothing out there that did this

The last four years have been such a rewarding experience particularly for me with the way the industries we work with have fine-tuned their education resources to meet this need and deliver world class outcomes.

Let me show you what I mean

The MLA Target 100 Sustainability Guides found here

The Cotton Australia’s e-education kit found here

The Australian Wool Innovation Learn about Wool School Resource kit looks like this


The resource kit bag even fits a laptop and contains this adorable 4GB flash drive that is chock a block full of more ‘Learn about Wool’ resources


This week I also received the entry/exit students and teacher survey results from the Archibull Prize.

We ask the students many things in the survey including . “Did you learn anything new and if so what was it?”

What we have discovered this year is the better the industry resource kits are at sharing the WHY story the higher level world view responses we get from the students

For example from students studying wool, beef and cotton

  • I learned how important agriculture is to Australia and how reliant our modern farmers are on advancing technology.
  • Farming is something that is important to every single Australian every day of their lives and Australian farmers are important to every single person in the world.
  • I learnt livestock export is a complex issue. People in under developed countries need the protein our animals provide them with but getting the best outcomes for people and animals is often not easy. It is important for Australia to continue to work with other countries for this to happen
  • I learnt about how important managing natural resources and looking after the land is and our farmers’ role in this and what my role should be.
  • I learnt about genetic modification, and all of the reasons behind doing it – it changed my mind about whether we should keep exploring the opportunities the technology offers.
  • I learnt how little land Australian farmers have to produce food on and how challenging the weather conditions and price variations they get paid make it

Whereas we got answers like this about the dairy industry which is still focussed on telling the HOW story

I learnt

  • Different methods of milking
  • Breeds of dairy cows
  • Facts about cows and how they produce milk
  • Different breeds of dairy cows.
  • How dairy cows are milked by robotic dairies.
  • About the progression of the milking process, especially about using technology and machines for milking

I was also amused that this response kept coming up

I learnt we should not buy milk from Coles

I want to strongly reinforce we do NOT teach this as part of the program and this response appears to be driven by what the students and teachers see and hear in the media.

Customers I am confident are something Coles is firmly focussed on ( it looks to me like they could do with a lot more advocates)

As the experts remind us

Customer satisfaction is at the heart of the selling process. One estimate is that it costs five times as much to attract new customers as it does to keep an existing one. The relationship between the customer and the organisation is, therefore, an important one.
Building customer relationships can be seen as moving up a ladder. At the top rung of the ladder are your loyal customers (advocates).
The ladder consists of four main rungs (with 4 being the highest):

4 – Advocates

3 – Regular customers

2 – Occasional users

1 – One-off purchasers

The extent to which customers move up the ladder depends on how well they are treated by the organisation. Well focused sales methods and attention to individual detail is likely to encourage customers to move up the ladder.

At Art4Agriculuture we aim for the top rung of the ladder with the next generation of customers graduating school as advocates for agriculture  

Telling the HOW story is important but it is telling the WHY story and sharing our values with our customers that will ensure agriculture retains its customers, attracts new and emerging ones and farmers in this country are paid a fair return on investment.

We must get this right

Congratulate your industry when they get right and if your industry needs to raise the bar put some pressure on

Its there anything worse than feeling helpless


When I saw this post from Milk Maid Marian this morning I was very sad. I admire Marian very much and seek her wise counsel often and I know how much it pained her to write to this post.

Our co-op, MG, is rushing onwards with a “capital raising project” that would forever change it from being 100% farmer-owned to “farmer-controlled”. It’s one of the biggest changes in the co-op’s history

It might well be wonderful but what’s certain is that the ramifications are complex. It’ll take time for us to:

  • understand why we really need to raise half a billion dollars of external capital
  • understand the proposal
  • tease out the pros and cons
  • consider the alternatives and
  • debate it.

Our Kiwi counterparts took five years to make such an important decision about their co-op. We seem hell-bent on doing it in weeks. Why?

I know she has spent weeks in the background politely but firmly trying to get Murray Goulburn management to see the errors of their ways.

And as you can see its not so much Marian’s concerns over the concept but how MG have communicated (or in this case poorly communicated) what they are trying to achieve for their farmer stakeholders/owners.

Sadly this bureaucratic attitude is endemic in the Australian dairy industry and it frustrates the hell out of me and I am often not as polite as Marian about it and then I get cranky at myself.  Vicious circle but I am working on it – even going so far as to get a business coach.  

Marian and I are certainly not alone sharing this frustration and there are currently some very wise minds in the NSW dairy industry doing smart things to help address this These people are very focused on the win:win and I admire them immensely for that

Personally I see in the main the problem lies with a patronising culture at the top that views clear and transparent knowledge sharing unnecessary and farmers are on a need to know basis and apparently they need to know as little as possible.

I readily acknowledge that communication is a two way street and farmers need to play an active role but this mindset must start at the top with great leadership and a genuine desire to acknowledge if there is ongoing dissent then model is broken

To me there is no excuse. Bureaucrats today are lucky enough to all have the opportunity to build their capacity to succeed via extensive personal and professional development in their careers and all successful bureaucrats are taught and know and act on the number one rule for success. 

Be a good communicator –

Share information and resources with your team. Remember, you’re all there for one purpose – and by keeping everyone informed, you contribute to that goal.

On Monday I have seat at one table of people trying to create a new model and change the culture. I certainly hope the wise minds who have worked so hard to bring everyone who has influence (or could have influence if they chose to use it) together do get a win:win for farmers in NSW  and Australia as a whole.

There is so much potential for the Australian dairy industry to grow and prosper but  growth remains stagnate despite strong price and market signals.

I look forward to a culture of cohesion and collaboration but most of all I look forward to a culture that sees Australian dairy farmers feel empowered and confident.

To end with something a little light hearted I am with Elizabeth Taylor on feeling helpless


and I also I love this quote.  

A girl is only helpless when her nail poish is drying

So for a while to control my feelings of helplessness I stopped wearing nail polish and then I discovered Shellac. Such technology gains. Wow nail polish that dries instantly. Can it get any better. My goodness I now even have nail polish on my toes. That makes me feel like a film star. And it gets better if you have it done in a salon you sit in these amazing chairs that massage your back. 

and the final word from Marian

Part of cherishing the co-op is questioning it

The Social Media Effect

Writing a blog can be very insightful and you can never over-estimate the value of having the right heading

I am very pleased to say 10 Reasons why you should buy Australian Produce is my most read post

I am fascinated that What Makes Milk Froth sits very close to the top 

Then there was this one that caught the attention of people right across the globe. Today is the First Blank Page of a 365 page book. This I would say is a quote that is goggled very heavily around the New Year. Whilst I imagine most of those people didn’t get what they expected quite a few signed up to follow my blog

Another fascinating insight is the power of social media to reach a broad audience. Considering people under 35 favour Facebook to Twitter its very rewarding that young people are avid followers of my blogs and share them with their friends

Facebook shares 2

Sometimes my blogs are self indulgent, sometimes they are vehicle to vent but in the main I hope I bring like minded people together to show the world our farmers are people (and despite the stats many are young ) who share their values and have great stories to tell.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your feedback and thank you for sharing