What is the biggest threat to agriculture in Australia?

What is the biggest threat to agriculture in Australia?

The biggest threat to the Australian agriculture sector is the way the sector talks about itself

We could remind people that Australian farmers supply more than 90% of the food we consume in this country

In these challenging times when ‘food security” could become “national security” almost overnight that makes our farmers very important to every Australian who want to put safe, affordable nutritious food on the table everyday for their families

We could say agriculture is an exciting industry

  • where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
  • where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly.

We could use this language instead we default to using deficit language* and reinforcing the negative

We have some industry bodies who appear to record every negative thing anyone who dares to challenge our environmental and animal welfare credentials says and repeats their list of negatives at every opportunity

This leads to an industry culture of normalising this language and focusing on the problem instead of the solution.

Its leads to our farmers not feeling seen, heard, understood and valued

The language we use has never been more important – lets work together on a common narrative that fosters hope.

*Speaking of deficit language in some sectors the word for resilience has been replaced with anti-fragility. How does the word “anti-fragility” make you feel ?


We are all scared sometimes. Understanding why and having compassion is our only choice.

Like many, many people I have been struggling the last few months.

To help me I have reached out to my tribe and done a lot of reading. Its a scary when you read “13 Things Mentally Strong people don’t do” and you realise that you are prime example of how NOT to react.

I run a charity with a wonderful bunch of people. We are all volunteers. When you are doing something that you hope improves the lives of others it helps to get some sort of validation the work you do is having impact.

In a non COVID year our organisation is able to hold events that celebrate the extraordinary things our schools are doing. 

Before those events I usually tag along with our artwork judge the wonderful Wendy Taylor and visit the schools and see in person what they have achieved and how they are changing the world

I realise its this that I am missing so much.  I miss the teachers and students I so miss having Wendy in my life

I know external validation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s should be combined with internal validation. We need both to be healthy.

How do you ensure your internal validation????

How do you make friends with your feelings ???

How beautiful is this thoughtful piece on COVID and vaccination. And in human connection (ht Nikki Thompson)

The vaccinated people are scared.

They’re scared to get COVID.

They’re scared someone they love might get it and possibly die from it.

They were worried they might not get to travel again or see their international families.

They’re not ignorant or ‘sheeple’ (I loathe that term) – they feel like they’re doing the right thing for themselves and the people around them.

This may not have been an easy choice.

Unfortunately they might have felt obligated to do so.

They might have been scared to get the needle.

While you may not agree with them, it’s important to understand WHY these people have made their choice.

You may think they’re wrong, but I’m sure you’ve felt scared and afraid before.

It feels terrible.

We need to have compassion and empathy for people making a hard choice that’s different than yours.


The unvaccinated are scared.

They’re not inconsiderate monsters who thought “I’m going to try to screw over the rest of the people and not get my vaccine.”

They’re worried about long term side affects.

They’re worried about their immune systems.

They’re afraid of how much the government is stepping in on their personal choices, freedoms and rights.

They’re scared they might end up with Bells Palsy, myocarditis, shingles, blood clots, a miscarriage, a heart attack, heart palpitations, profuse unending vomiting, an autoimmune disease activation or death.

They’re worried they might never see their international families again.

It would be easier to get the shot. 

It isn’t easy to say no to the shot.

While you may not agree with them, it’s important to understand WHY these people have made their choice.

You may think they’re wrong, but I’m sure you’ve felt scared and afraid before.

It feels terrible.

We need to have compassion and empathy for people making a hard choice that’s different than yours.


This is NOT the time to turn on each other.

It is never the time to do that.

Stop the divide.

Come together with compassion, empathy, understanding, patience and forgiveness.

Take a moment to listen without judgement.

Take time to see where the others are coming from. 

Everyone is doing their best.

Lashing out and placing blame will only make things worse.

Shaming is not the way to change someone’s mind.

Understanding why and having compassion is our only choice.


Choose kindness, always ✨

HumanKind. Be Both.

Your value is not the awards you have won it comes from the inspiring a culture of “WE”

When I came back to agriculture twenty years ago I saw myself as a person who could give insights into what was working successfully outside the bubble of agriculture.

What I found was a culture that was more interested in who you were,  who you knew and what you had done than any outside world insights you could bring.

So I went on a journey to prove that I might have something to offer. What that journey told me is its not what you do its what you inspire others to do that matters/

My only regret is I didn’t wake up to that sooner. You can win as many awards as your walls will hold they don’t define who you are or what your legacy could be

Seeking farmers who want to meet and work with next gen consumers!

Building leadership capability is the art of learning how to influence change 

This requires us to join forces to share resources, skills, knowledge and experiences 

We cant do it alone and we cant do it in silos 

As I mentioned in my post “Are you curious about how greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programs will empower farmers?” I breathed a big sigh of relief when I found my tribe and “me” became “we”

What started out as an experiment in innovative ways to connect farmers and the community and support the agriculture sector to be appreciated by every Australian who is able to put healthy, affordable food on the table has morphed into a smorgasbord of opportunities for young people from kindergarten to early career.

Some interesting challenges  have been been posed on our journey.  The Australian agriculture sector doesn’t have an ATTRACT-TRAIN-RETAIN strategy and it doesn’t collect and share data from organisations who work with schools.

In the beginning we were often asked to deliver highly unrealistic expectations like tell us how many young people are now working in agriculture because they did your school programs. That type of reporting requires longitudinal studies that agriculture doesn’t fund. Expectations like this made measuring impact an interesting challenge.

Its has become a lot easier when we have funding partners who are very clear about why they fund us and you can meet their expectations.

For example St Vincent De Paul funds us because they have identified our programs build resilience to natural disasters in young people.

How do you measure that?

Well that’s why the tribe is so important. Experts like Dr Nicole McDonald can build questions into our monitoring and evaluation frameworks to measure “resilience building”

Working with schools is a joy because they tells and show us the impact our programs are having. Our competition judges tell us the impact our programs are having. Our teachers tells us the impact our programs are having.

We recently opened our Expression of Interest for Kreative Koalas and we ask our applicants why they want to participate. A return customer said this

“Having been a previous participant, our school values the opportunity to be involved again and integrate the Kreative Koalas program across all classes in the school. The whole school learning which came about from our previous participation, and the opportunity to connect with industry leading collaborators is something we cannot under value.”


The mention of “Industry leading collaborators”  brings me to the big challenge I am yet to surmount. How do we get more of the farmers that we want to build an appreciation for to come onboard. There is an enormous opportunity to involve them and immerse them in our school program experience.

All advice welcome


Are you curious about how greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programs will empower farmers?

We are all searching for meaning – to live a life that matters to us and the world around us

Twenty years ago when I was struggling to figure out what that meant for me and I discovered that I was never ever going to be any good at milking cows I went on a journey to find out how I could be use my skills to do some good.

I found the journey never ends as we learn more and more about the world we live in

In 2009 the programs I was designing moved from being  delivered by “me” to “we”.  (Ever grateful to my mentors, coaches, true believers and the very courageous who stand in the arena with me.)

When we started to identify and train young people in the agriculture sector to be the face of our programs and role models of who you can be in agriculture we soon realised we needed to go beyond training them to be confident communicators and trusted voices and support them with all the other things that help develop “human capital

We began to look at moving beyond skills development, training and education to include more abstract aspects such as self-esteem, empowerment, creativity, increased awareness and mindsets.

When the industry you work in doesn’t have a leadership capacity building framework all we could do was experiment and see what worked and what didn’t.

We also discovered whilst our programs fell into the workforce “Attract-Train-Retain” space, agriculture doesn’t have a workforce strategy either .

Our work has been one big experiment and lots of little ones. We are entering exciting times with increasing interest and invitations to write the story of our journey and publish the learnings from 10 years of collecting unique data sets

We now have a big picture goal to understand how to best support the Australian agriculture sector to develop human capital through a variety of initiatives.

Our farmers increasingly face disruptive changes, including a rise in digital technologies, rigorous food safety requirements, shifting diets, climate change and global pandemics.

Keeping pace with this rapidly changing environment requires farmers to have a stronger capacity to analyse, innovate and respond, while managing their own farm businesses. If we want to transform our agri-food systems to be more productive, sustainable, inclusive and equitable, we need to invest in the people behind them.

Investing in farmers can contribute to autonomy, empowerment and economic development, and is key to successful agriculture and rural development policies.

Yet very little attention has been paid to investing in agriculture human capital over the last decade or so.

In fact less than 3 percent of global agriculture development finance between 2015 and 2018 was invested specifically in strengthening the skills and capacities of agricultural producers.

We look forward to showing how greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programs will result in new technical and business capacities and skills and empowered farmers. This in turn will lead to increased incomes, yields and the inclusion of the previously marginalised groups of indigenous farmers, women and youth .

If this is a space that excites you too – we are always looking for collaborators





Who are your champions of change?

‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’

I have spent the year watching a number of very courageous women tackle a very insidious system and I am reflecting on what it must take to have the resilience to wake up every day and do it again and again until you are confident that change will happen

I look at women like Louise Milligan and Adele Ferguson and I see employers who support them

I see women like Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame and my heart bleeds for them such extraordinary courage and I hope resilience

I see women like Catherine Marriott and wonder why rural and regional Australia and The National Party continues to enable her alleged abuser.

One of my standout Champions of Change is Cathy McGowan. She has become my role model for change. Yesterday she agreed to run a workshop that will support our Young Farming Champions to truly live their values.

When you have a minute listen to two more courageous women truly live their values

Zoe Daniels and Sam Mostyn ask

‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’

In this podcast Independent candidate for Goldstein, Zoe Daniel, and President of Chief Executive Women, Sam Mostyn discuss the shocking revelations uncovered in Kate Jenkin’s independent inquiry into Parliament House culture.



What if Charlie Bell hadnt said yes to the McFlurry

Today I had the opportunity to participate in a briefing of a program agriculture is currently rolling out

What was beautiful was how proud the people who work in the industry are of it

What was scary is the model is exactly what I presented to that industry 12 plus years ago. The model wasn’t my original idea, it was something I adapted for Australia from a successful model from the US

I am shortly catching up with some-one very special in my life. Gaye is a  very interesting contrast to my journey. Gaye is the girl who bought the McFlurry to Australia.

The McFlurry isnt her idea, it was something she saw in the US and thought Australians would love it. How right she was

Its a beautiful thing to hear Gaye talk about Charlie Bell who was the CEO of Maccas when she was the CMO.  How it made such a difference to her career journey that Charlie believed in her and supported her when she presented big ideas. And when Charlie was in charge there was always a cohort of bright minds – so often he would say lets ask “Numbers” aka Steve Jermyn 

The industry body I was part of the briefing for today didn’t believe in my idea  12 plus years ago but there is no shortage of courageous people who did.

What is awesome is Charlie believed in Gaye and Gaye believes in me.

Hoping you have plenty of Charlies and Gayes in your life too








Her husband married a farmer



This image resonated with people across the world on International Rural Women’s Day. On my socials alone it had over 1000 interactions

If you have LinkedIn account the comments in this feed are fascinating

Keri Jacobs post stopped me in my tracks. She could have been writing about my family.

Below is a cut and paste of what Keri wrote

Pioneer’s ad hits a nerve.  A deep one.  A bittersweet one.  I hope my experience about who can be a farmer will help someone else. I am a farm kid.  A farmer’s daughter.  One of three.  My grandpa and grandma were farmers, my great-grandparents were farmers.  It’s a history and upbringing I am proud of.  For most of my childhood, I imagined I would one day be a farmer’s wife. I would follow my mom’s, grandmas’, aunts’ footsteps and be the behind-the-scenes support: the meal-maker, the bookkeeper, the late-night-field-runs taker, the do-everything-else-that-must-get-done-when-he-is-farming person.

Hey, wait.  Maybe I could farm?  It took a lot of years for me to figure out that I wanted at least some of my time on this earth to be spent intricately tied to the land–our family’s land–and farming like my dad and grandpa were.  It’s in my blood. 

But the decisions had been made, even before I was born.  There was nothing that anyone could do about it, not really even by the one who COULD have changed it.  I will never forget the time I challenged this.  There was one person with the ability to make or break my desire to be one of our family’s farmers.  I asked if I could one day own some of the family’s land, when it was time to pass it along.  I did not expect equal ownership with my male cousins, just a small piece of the land that I grew up on, played on, rode with Dad in the tractor on, walked bean fields on, and where we buried our family pets.  The same land that raised my Dad and grandpa.  Something to own and farm and carry on.  But it was not possible.

Why?  Because somewhere along the way, maybe even before my grandparent’s had a say, farming became about a family name.  A legacy rooted in our surname, and therefore in gender.  It broke my heart when I was told that if I wanted to farm and own land, I should marry a farmer.  I was handed a plat book so I could see who owned land in the area. I was told I would have to marry into land.

As a woman who might take another man’s name in marriage, I was a threat to the family’s legacy. I was a threat to what my grandparents and their parents built.  Because of my gender.

I hope this is changing.  I think it is. I see examples of how it is.  And I love this ad for pointing out a really big problem…and a really amazing change and opportunity.  Our collective notion and nostalgia about a way of life historically tied more to gender than to things that really matter, like desire, ability, and values is changing. 

We cannot take land with us when we die.  Who can say for sure, but we also probably cannot enjoy it after we die.  If you are a farmer wondering who will continue YOUR legacy of caring for the land, caring for animals, caring for the environment, producing the foods we eat, I hope you will evaluate your successor on the things that made YOU a great farmer.  My grandpa was a great farmer.  That fact had nothing to do with his gender or last name.

Thank you Keri beautifully expressed and this from Peyton Merriam

We move the peg as a society when we embrace diversity and inclusion as an industry, not just individually. Let’s keep challenging the status quo! 

#diversity #inclusion #WomenInAg #farmHer

Kindness – what does it look like to you. Who are your role models?

I sit on the Action4Agriculture board and we recently workshopped our values which our graphic artist is currently working his magic on to load on our web page

Our values are

The final wording is from board member Dr Jenni Metcalfe with inspiration for Kindness coming from the work of Brene Brown who says

“Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.”


Brene clarifies her quote this way

We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

Why courage? and What’s getting in the way of building more daring cultures? Of the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as barriers to courage, there was one issue that leaders ranked as the greatest concern: Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback. Source 

My personal top two values are Courage and Making a Difference. Brene helped me realise I needed to spend more time walking my fear

As a life long avoider of tough conversations I am grateful to Brene, our board and the brave people I truly value who I have stepped up to have tough conversations with recently.

I found some of those people are like me and walk away rather than have them and others have role modelled to me what “Best practice” looks like. I thank them for helping me learn and grow and hopefully change

Taking time to celebrate the journey

Last night was a major milestone for me as I handed in my resignation to the Young Farming Champions (YFC) Leadership Team committee ( formerly Youth Voices Leadership Team)

Nothing brings greater joy than to see something that you started grow and evolve and handed over to next gen.

This committee of YFC bravely stepped up to see what skills, knowledge, experiences and support are needed to going from young people learning to lead themselves to leading  teams

Their generosity of spirit and pay it forward mentality has seen them go on the journey themselves AND create a cachet of resources and templates for those that follow them.

Special shoutout to our three team chairs Dr Jo Newton OAM, Emma Ayliffe and Dione Howard , our secretary Jess Fearnley  , and our partnerships Ambassador Dr Anika Molesworth

It was a wonderful moment to go round the room and have each member of the team share their highlights.

“the skills I have learnt being part of this committee have helped me grow as a person. They are equally transferable to my workplace and my other volunteer roles. They have given me the confidence to be a peer to peer mentor and a coach.”

“We believe we are walking examples of Action4Agriculture’s vision to grow tomorrow’s leaders today to cultivate farming systems and practices that are good for farmers, people and the planet”