Drought is now an average year and we need a new way of thinking revolution

The farming community spirit is a bit like a diamond where different facets can shine in different circumstances,” Penelope Wensley

Yesterday I received my NFF Advocate newsletter

It began like this

It’s been a tough start to the year for the farm sector, with much of QLD, NSW, SA and NT still heavily within the grips of drought. The NFF has been working to drive outcomes for Australian farmers, and ensure agriculture is reprioritised on the national agenda during this critical time.

My recent post ‘Drought bringing the solutions to the table’ found here reflected on the need for Australians to see drought as an average year and for farmers to focus on bringing the solutions top the table.

‘Farming needs delivery of business strategies on ground right now that can help and this initiative aims at doing everything possible to deliver opportunities going forward. With no stock, no grass, no rain forecasted and no money in the bank it paints a very grim picture around the kitchen table at most farms around Australia.’  James Walker

Farmers need to be pragmatic we can’t hang our hats on waiting for the the government to step in especially in light of reports like this

Productivity Commission and other recent reporting to government are recommending rationalisation of drought assistance and reform of drought policy. The report recognises that the level of drought assistance has crept from a one in twenty five exceptional event to become more frequent in the presence of a long dry and changing climate. In this circumstance, the general observation emerges that too many farm businesses in too many regions have been receiving Exceptional Circumstances (EC) and other related assistance more frequently than the original definition and policy intent. The level of assistance is now deemed inappropriate and an unsustainable distortion of the farm business sector, particularly in the context of climate change.[17]

According to the report[18]:

Most farmers are sufficiently self-reliant to manage climate variability. In 2007-08, 23 per cent of Australia’s 143,000 farms received drought assistance, totalling over $ 1 billion, with some on income support continuously since 2002. In drought declared areas, most farmers manage without assistance. From 2002-03 to 2007-08, on average, about 70 per cent of dairy and broadacre farms in drought areas received no drought assistance.

Governments need to commit to a long term reform path that recognises that the primary responsibility for managing risks, including from climate variability and change, rests with farmers.

Extract found  here

Governments do care but they listen to voters and in the 21st century developed world people in the main just aren’t interested in other people’s problems

“You have got to not just influence myself and my colleagues, but you have to influence a whole country, it has to be something that, when you walk into a (Cabinet) room, with the 19 votes, you can get 10 of them. And that is what is politics about. – Barnaby Joyce

On top of this Art4Agriculture’s Archibull Prize entry surveys consistently shows us year after year  both teachers and students alike think more than 50% of the food we eat is imported. I am confident our teachers and students are excellent representation of the awareness of the Australian population with regards to where their food come from

Yes farming has done a poor job of showing Australians how much they rely on their farmers to feed them but that’s another story. We have all have choices, so farmers like everyone have to get on the front foot because nobody is forcing us to farm.

Chair of the inquiry, Dick Adams (Member for Lyons, Tasmania), on the importance of agricultural public policy to be more strategic in future with respect to assistance to farm businesses:

Putting our resources into black holes is not where the future is and not a good way to spend the public dollar. I think the Australian people would rather be assisting enterprises that have a business plan looking to the future; that will adapt to climate change and the issues that confront us in the next 20 to 30 years. We’ve also got to look at the opportunities at the enterprise level and look at where we’re going in a world sense. I think farmers will get left behind if they don’t adapt and look for opportunities.  Dick Adams 

This post is about farmers taking their destiny in their own hands and I want to hear from those farmers so I can share their story. Today my feature farmer is James Walker.


James with two of his daughters

I am lucky enough to know James. Young Farming Champion Bron Roberts and I enjoyed James company over dinner in Brisbane in December and what a dynamic, exciting and far sighted young man he is.

James is a Nuffield Scholar and Western Queensland mixed enterprise wool grower grazing 15,000 sheep at Longreach. You will find a great story on James and his farming operation here

James has even mixed it with royalty a number of times with he and his wife Manny among a group of four young families representing the next generation of graziers invited to meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall during the Longreach leg of their Australian visit in November 2012.

James Walker and family meet Prince Charles

Yes and doesn’t Queensland remember 2012 well – the year of the floods. Sadly again Queensland farmers like many in NSW and Victoria are living through another nightmare weather event caused this time by not enough water, with Queensland having the hottest year on record in 2013

James Walker and his family far doing it very tough but he is not standing still. James and his wife Manny are using social media and the Agrihive  website they have set up to help tackle the big challenges around farming including drought.


The Agrihive team commitment says it all

If you have a concern problem or opportunity in Agriculture, Agrihive does not sleep until we are on the other side of the concern, problem or opportunity.

Agrihive will move mountains to achieve business, lifestyle and agricultural goals.

Our team is committed, exposed heavily to Agriculture and will provide results.

James has fire in his belly and he is in it for the long haul. James is also a person who DOES care about other people and I can assure you when you read his story you will be just as impressed with this young man as everyone who meets him

This is the Agrihive story in James words…..

Many efforts have been made to fundraise and subsidise the farmers that are facing annihilation. The results of these efforts are limited and lack long term strategy for a weak and fading industry that is exposed to tactical policy changes that lack foresight and courage from our leaders.

Farming needs delivery of business strategies on ground right now that can help and this initiative aims at doing everything possible to deliver opportunities going forward. With no stock, no grass, no rain forecasted and no money in the bank it paints a very grim picture around the kitchen table at most farms around Australia.

We need a revolution in Agriculture, we need to enable farmers to navigate and recover from this complex situation. We need high levels of information that is not rhetoric and long winded, we need result focussed information right now to help us. We do need to accumulate suggestions for long term policy but we need to create opportunities now before another farmer quits our system. That is why we have created Agrihive.

Agrihive is a site that requires you to join, provide real ideas, concepts and results for right now, which will be delivered to the farmers. It honours the resilience of the farming community in desperate unchartered times. As famers we want to take control of the situation.

We want to dust ourselves off and continue being the best producers of food in the World and contribute to the Australian Economy. We are not whinging we are just searching for answers and we are becoming desperate for them. which is best achieved through training, awareness and interaction.

As an example the first instalment of Agrihive is to provide a free 25 minute audio you can access by clicking here. The file contains interviews with three experts in the fields of marketing and feed and fodder analysis.

Farmers will learn what other leading producers have learnt;

  • How to buy fodder like a professional
  • The 3 key measurements for effective feeding
  • How to compare different fodder costs
  • 2014 Cattle market expectations from a marketing expert

Click here to access nowDrought, Fodder, Finance and Future

Agrihive has a suite of information and templates to take control of your business in the drought.

We are progressively covering the following topics and have a growing Agricultural business community.


There are many layers of cost reduction in Agriculture, Agrihive will uncover spending through key expert eyes and unlock some new discoveries for farmer savings.


The ability to accumulate revenue generating assets is the key to recovery from drought. Agrihive reveals a systematized approach to business performance.


See the Possibilities

Please join now for updates at www.agrihive.com and contribute to real change.

Agrihive will create new opportunities and levels of thinking; revealing new options.

There have only been 500 free CDs recorded so please act now and feel free to pass this message on to your friends and contacts as they may get something good out of Agrihive as it is committed to a better future in Farming.

You can download your complimentary recording by clicking here

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning” (Winston Churchill).

When I think of James and the conversations I have had with him I think of the quote

THERE are two types of people in this world – the doers and the don’ters.

Doers accept they can create the life they want and then come up with a plan to make it happen. James has got a goal, he has got a plan, he is adapting and look for opportunities.

He is doing what a lot more people need to be doing and that is getting of their backsides and making it happen.

I invite you to join Agrihive now for updates at www.agrihive.com and contribute to real change.

Beef Central have also covered this story here 

Lets not forget people are doing it tough and everybody needs a hand from time to time. This is a great organization doing just that and all Australians can lend a helping hand by supporting them. Visit their website here     

Archibull wins the Event of the Year at Trangie Australia Day Awards!!

Farming Ahead of the Curve:

Lifetime highlights abound

Originally posted on Art4Agriculture Chat:

What a 48 hours the Archibull Prize has had

It started with an overwhelming response from primary schools to the call out for Expressions of Interest for the 2014 Archibull Prize in the Junior Landcare Newsletter

I am beginning to think school teachers work dairy farmers hours The emails started at 4 in the morning and continued till 11pm last night and started again at 5.30am this morning. How exciting to see schools so eager to be involved 

Then this – does it get any better than this –  The Archibull Prize has won the Event of the Year at Trangie Australia Day Awards!!

“The success of the project has been an enormous promotion of Trangie across the whole of Australia. It has absolutely put Trangie on the map!”

Archibull wins Event of the Year

Excerpt from the Narromine News

But wait there is more the Junior Citizen of the Year was Pat Skinner

Pat is…

View original 164 more words

Picture Perfect

Recently the farm hosted Rural Press journalist Matt Cawood ( @matt_cawood) and I have discovered he is an awesome photographer ( he did have a pretty impressive camera with him)

You can read Matt’s story in The Land here

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with the you some of beautiful photographs he took at the farm

Lynne and Paradise Chime 2

Firstly me with the absolutely adorable Mandelyn Paradise Chime. Chime was a twin who came out backwards and I raised her from the day she born  and she is just so friendly and she just loves having her ears scratched.


This is Louise bringing the cows home for the midday milking.

Chrissy in the Dairy

This is Chrissy in the pit milking the cows at midday milking. Note the very curious cows in the background 

Calves in front paddock

The calves in the front paddock. Wow how fantastic is that view

Picasso Cows arboretum

Picasso Corner which 5 local schools revegated in 2008

Desert Pea

The entrance to the dairy

and look at these two divine photos


How special is this one

Bluebird 2

and last but not least our drum art which are hosting some of our endangered or vulnerable  species trees


Matt is an very interesting story himself and there are some wonderful insights here “Australian agriculture reporter leaves isolation for London’s meeting of minds” which includes this quote that I like

“Agriculture is the most fundamental human activity. Without it, we don’t have cities, the Internet, cappuccino. And we are quickly realizing that how we conduct agriculture determines the health of the planet.”

All photos by Matt Cawood .Thank you so much Matt  for sending them to me

Strong Women

The Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) this week announced the finalists in their inaugural ‘Strong Women Leadership Awards 2012’and and how excited are we that the list included Young Farming Champion Kylie Stretton.


Kylie ( Blue shirt) with fellow YFC’s at the Ekka last week

This is Kylie’s story………

All my life I have been passionate about the rural industry but being quite shy, I wasn’t very sure how to go about promoting it. In the last twelve months I have become very involved in Advocating for Agriculture via social media. I was asked to be co-administrator of Save Live Export (a Facebook group created to bring awareness of “the other side of the story” and connect like-minded people), and also invited to be an administrator of Rural and Remote Australian Women (another Facebook group which acts as a virtual kitchen table to connect women who are otherwise isolated, either by location, family commitments etc.). I am the creator of another Facebook group called “Funny Farm” which acts as a meeting place for men and women across rural Australia, who are passionate about their industry, it’s a place to vent and brainstorm on how to protect and promote our lifestyle. I also run trivia nights in these Facebook groups for fun and laughter. My latest project has been a Facebook page and Twitter profile, Ask An Aussie Farmer – An idea grown by real Aussie farmers so that you have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you.

I have also been looking at ways to help bring awareness to children about agricultural industries. Teaching the next generation about food and fibre production is extremely important to me as today’s children are tomorrow’s decision makers. Last year I was offered as a “prize” to the winner and runner up of the Archibull Prize at the Ekka, and travelled to Brisbane to talk to primary school children about growing up and working on cattle stations.  I also do relief work at our local Kindergarten and with the blessing of the teacher, I often bring “show and tell” such as photos, raw cotton and YouTube clips to share with the children. I also encourage my own children to be “agvocators” which they are more than happy to do, sharing photos and stories with their teachers and classmates.


My beautiful children – Photo Vicki Miller Photography

To me “Strong Women” are women who lead the way for others, who have strength, courage and compassion. Not only are they leaders, but supporters of others as well.

For the past 12mths I have spent many hours on a computer encouraging people to fight for their livelihoods, to share their stories, to provide a place to laugh, cry and vent without judgment. I try at all times to lead by example, to try things out such as Twitter and Blogging, sharing my success, problems and solutions, to encourage others to follow in my footsteps (and some I have encouraged have embraced this and surpassed my efforts). I try and treat everyone with equal respect regardless if they share my views on a topic and encourage others to do so.

I used to lack “self-worth” when it came to the broader community. I felt like I didn’t have a driving passion, or a direction I wanted to head in. I felt that I didn’t contribute to anything outside of my immediate box. I was quite shy, found it very hard to approach strangers and found it very hard to be a leader. I was quite happy being a follower. In the past 12mths I have found something I’m good at and in turn encourage others to be passionate about the work they do in Rural Australia. I can now (still internally cringing) ring strangers such as media or industry bodies to promote Ask An Aussie Farmer. I have now been in many newspaper articles and radio interviews (each one with less stammering than the last). I also had a great fear of flying which I overcame to fly to Brisbane to talk to the school children (my first proper flight at the age of 30).

I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. I have been given some fantastic opportunities such as going to Brisbane, being invited to MLA’s pilot Social Media workshop, to be spokesperson for Ask An Aussie Farmer, being nominated for QRRRWN’s Strong Women Leadership Award, and being a Young Farming Champion. Each opportunity presents me with a bigger network, more confidence, more information and more will power. If I can pass these things on to more people, that is building a stronger rural Australia.

I asked the following question on the Facebook Group “Funny Farm”
Help….. am writing my Strong Women application. Would you say that in my work in promoting pages such as Save Live Export, RRAW and this page, I have helped people who are otherwise in isolated situations build strong networks and support groups?

The following are some of the responses I received (very overwhelming and humbling to say the least):

Scott Warrington (truck driver, sheep/cattle producer, father NSW): Yes. Also you have enlightened many people, that otherwise wouldn’t have known of said pages. Definitely aided people’s ability to network, with others across Australia.

Raelene Hall (grazier, mother, author, Chief Editor of ICPA Pedals Magazine WA)

A definite yes from me Kylie. I felt the isolation of where I live keenly as no others our age around, too far from town to get involved in things there so these groups have made me feel a) more a part of the pastoral industry b)that there are people all over Australia who will support each other in tough times and c) that we can make a difference.

Jo Bloomfield (grazier, mother, rural advocate NT): When the program 4c (Four Corners: A Bloody Business) first aired I spent the following week writing letters and basically going into panic as I honestly thought I was watching our very livelihood go down the drain. NTCA sent an email around to everyone to become more proactive and take part in the discussions that were happening on pages like Save Live export. From the first time I logged onto that page I felt for the first time after the public backlash of hate that there was support, there was a way forward without destroying my family and our community . Most importantly there were others out there who I could help and have so greatly helped me. Kylie Stretton was a major part of that, a person who’s views I respect, appreciate. Who is not only passionate but compassionate, fair and considers many facets of the arguments. most importantly her humour. Thanks Kylie, you are a special person.

Michael Trant (sheep farmer, live export depot operator, rural advocator and co-founder of Ask An Aussie Farmer WA)

The live export ban to Indonesia last year was the single handed most destructive piece of Government action I can remember seeing. The effect the snap decision had on the men and women who work in and depend on that trade cannot be under estimated. Overnight, fresh from the shock of seeing their cattle subjected to horrendous treatment in a handful of abattoirs, the industry was halted completely in its tracks, leaving the thousands of farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, vets, feed suppliers, yard owners, yard labours and their families not knowing what the future may bring.

Living in remote Australia has many benefits, which could fill this and many more pages. It also has it’s disadvantages. Isolation is the big one. We can’t just up and wander down to the main street of the nearest capital city to march in protest. We can’t strike. And trying to organise people spread out over thousands of miles into a single voice has been described to me as trying to herd cats.

I am not in the cattle game, but I am very reliant on the sheep live export. I could only imagine what the people who had cattle in the yards ready to go, or mustering choppers in the air with trucks rolling in, were going through. But it was so far away from me. Save for a few talkback callers on the radio, I didn’t know what was happening and how they were coping.

Back then, I wasn’t a big Facebook user, it was mainly to stay in touch with old school mates. On a whim, a searched for Live Export, and in amongst all the Ban this, Stop that, Shame this, stood out a Save Live Export page. I asked to join, and shortly my request was accepted.

That was my first contact with Kylie Stretton, one of the groups founding members.

In the weeks and months that followed, I witnessed something truly remarkable. Farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, vets, feed suppliers, yard owners, yard labours and their families were connecting with each other in a way I had not seen before nor imagined. Stories were told, advice given, rage vented and grief consoled. Ideas discussed, plans formulated, politicians lobbied and media contacted. Debates were had, fierce fiery debates on the opposing Facebook pages. Some might ask why, what’s the point of arguing with someone over the internet? Because for the first time, we can, we can put our view across. And maybe, just maybe, someone might listen.

In the middle of all this, was Kylie. Her enthusiasm was contagious. A relevant news article would be published and within minutes she’d have it posted in the group for all to see. An outlandish, incorrect and just plain wrong comment would be made online and she would point us to it, where we would set upon correcting a few things. How useful this was is unknown, but it made people feel they were doing something. Anything. Miles from nowhere, this was our best way to become involved.

Eventually, our governing bodies woke up to the fact that this online Social Media thing might just be useful, and began encouraging farmers to tell their story online to the masses. We were way ahead of them. From the Save Live Export group we have people on Twitter, blogging, and in March the Facebook Page Ask An Aussie Farmer was launched, a page where anyone can ask any question about food and fibre production, to be answered by farmers. Again, Kylies dedication, enthusiasm and willingness to put herself out into the mainstream media as our spokesperson is inspiring.

Kylies work gave people the outlet they were looking for, a place to meet likeminded individuals. Her research has given us facts to counter often hyper exaggerated claims. Her dedication has given us inspiration to venture from our comfort zones and stand up for what we believe in. And her humour has brought a smile to many, including myself. I have never met, nor even talked with Kylie, our contact is purely through messages over the internet, however I consider her a close friend who I am lucky to have met.

She is committed to rural Australia and I could not think of a more deserving person for this recognition.

My aim over the next few years is to bring more awareness about the importance of agriculture to the general public. I’m hoping to get more publicity for Ask An Aussie Farmer and for teachers and parents to be aware of it and to use it as a tool for educating the children in their care. We’d also like to get a fun website up and running to help promote our cause. I’d also like to be able to visit more schools and talk to students face to face.

My other aim is to continue helping others with social media, to help them tell their stories and continue administrating the FB groups I have, building larger and stronger connections. I have a lot to learn, and I feel that being awarded the QRRRRWN “Strong Women Leadership” Award will present me with so many opportunities. I feel it will provide me with stronger networks and education, which in turn I can pass on to others building stronger communities and a stronger Rural Australia.


We think Kylie embodies everything this award stands for Don’t you?

For more information on QRRRWN go to www.qrrrwn.org.au or phone 1300 795 571.

The Big Permeate Controversy – What a storm in a tea cup?

Let me explain why I and my fellow dairy farmers would like everyone to buy permeate free milk even though permeate is completely harmless

I wrote this post the day after some brands of milk went “Permeate Free” and low and behold it was so popular it actually trended on Google. The reason for this was consumers went shock horror when they saw the Permeate Free label on Australia’s most beloved milk brand and that advertisement on TV that made me so cranky. As it turns out most people had never heard of permeate and rushed home to Google it to find out what it was.

Dairy Farmers Milk now Permeate free

Nowadays food scares are a media magnate and consumers greatest fear as surveys show Australians care most about food and their health. Thanks to programs like a Current Affair who when they are chasing ratings routinely do a food scare segment and the “evil” permeate was becoming a favourite  Food scare stories are so popular what we have now in the supermarket is essentially foods in the “Controversy free isles” and foods in the “Controversy isles”

Now I assure there is nothing evil about permeate, its just a milk by product. See this previous post which explains what permeate is. But in their wisdom the major milk companies decided making milk permeate free and advertising it would increase market share for their brands. Well all it has done is put Permeate Free milk front and centre of the Controversial foods isle thanks to this very misguided labelling and advertising campaign by the milk company in question.

But there is an excellent reason why you should buy it.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE everyone buy permeate free milk as the milk processors need to buy 10-15% more milk from dairy farmers. This is because previously they added 10 to 15% permeate to milk to standardise it. Permeate free means they standardise it by essentially taking some of the cream off the top. Which means Permeate Free milk is just like it comes out of the cows with some homogenisation and pasteurisation .

Read what Dr Heather Bray has to say on this here

Hear me talking to Sarina Locke from ABC National here

There is a Sting in the Nettle

Last weekend it was a pleasure to host Angela Bradburn whi is the policy officer with Cotton Australia her husband Scott and father in law Grahame. Angela has a background in Natural Resource Management and Scott is keen cyclist always looking for a new mountain to climb and we certainly have one of those living on the side of Saddle Back Mountain

As it turned out Grahame who is a school teacher by profession has keen interest in Native Orchids and was very keen to see our rainforest


Team Bradburn at Clover Hill


Scott and his dad enjoyed the visit to Fountaindale Dam wall 

Fountaindale Dam

The spectacular Fountaindale Dam See video here

Now I have a serious aversion to the Giant Stinging Nettle tree which thrives in our rainforest IMG_3720

Lots of  Giant Stinging Trees are regenerating in our rainforest


The reason for my aversion to the Giant Stinging Tree is I once once mistook a little one (see picture immediately above) for a small Tobacco Bush and grabbed with both hands to pull it out. Ouch does it have a sting to remember


Baby Tobacco Bush

Giant Stinging Tree

Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide exelsa) They get very big don’t they?

I now have a new respect for the Stinging Tree as Graham tells me they host Native Orchids and I just adore Native Orchids

Pink rock orchid

Another beautiful bush on our farm is the endangered Illawarra Zieria

Ziera Like this one

Zieria Habitat at Clover Hill

Confidence to Grow Photos for Facebook   (9)

Zieria Granulata in flower

The native Stinging Nettle also flourish at the farm.


An interesting combination of the beautiful and the beware don’t touch species

Alive and Cooking

Big day at the farm today with Clover Hill to be the back drop for chef James Reeson to do his cooking show on WIN 4 “Alive and Cooking”.

Filmed on location at some of the country’s top food and wine regions as well as in James’ kitchen, James prepares a feast of delicious dishes for the occasional cook and cooking expert.

The show takes you to the heart of cooking, on location across Australia, inland, on the coast and using the best wines, oils, and different foods developed by each region.

What a perfect way to celebrate quality, authenticity and local producers and produce. The perfect vehicle for connecting food production with food consumption. We food producers salute you James and Win4 

We also get very excited when we have the opportunity to showcase the Australian dairy industry to the community. We put a lot of work into ensuring that everything is spick and span and that means putting in a lot extra hours to ensure this happens.

Setting up

Setting up


Ready to go

Nick assures me he will be clean shaven and well dressed for the scenes in the dairy. I roll my eyes. “Leave it to the last minute Nick” that my gorgeous son Nick a complete contrast to me 


Even the poddies are ready to be part of the action. How cute are they


And its all still happening in the background at the farm. Loads of grain arrive and unload. Michael is in trouble for making to much noise with mixer wagon and Louise is up in the calf shed making sure her babies put their best foot forward


Meanwhile back at the filming we have moved the action to make desert get the best light. This episode has been called off 5 times due to rain and they have bought the rain with them again today


Who was the lucky girl who got the main course. Then it rained and the dairy shoot had to be put off again. The hard workers shake their heads but at least we have the cleanest dairy in Australia

Catch some of the action here and I will be sure to let you know when the program airs