Why does the media seem to think farmers are at war with consumers?

There was an article in The Weekly Times (TWT) on 4th September 2019 titled Farmer fightback: Agriculture spending millions on trust campaigns.  Titles are meant to grab our attention and this one certainly grabbed mine.

To reduce my stress levels I made the decision to not read the even more red rag to a bull editorial Battle to justify leaves farmers weary where according to the Editor of TWT “Farmers shouldn’t have to justify what they do to consumers who want high quality food and fibre at a low price, argues The Weekly Times.” 

According to TWT millions are being spent ‘responding to a burst of animal activism and anti-farmer sentiment this year’. The paper then poses the question “Is too much money being spent promoting and justifying farming?”

The first two questions I would like to ask TWT and fellow farmers are.

  1. Is the media promoting these campaigns as some sort of war farmers have to fight doing us any favours?
  2. Isnt building relationships of trust between producers and consumers part of everyday business in 21st century?

Going back to the TWT question. If my area of expertise was communication I would know there are three different types of communication models

  1. Deficit – one way information transfer. The most expensive example of this would be TV advertising
  2. Dialogue – two way information transfer where ideas and information are shared
  3. Participatory – farmers and consumers work together. Consumers are involved collaborators in the process. This one is my area of expertise. Impact study found here 

Then I would know there are two different types of TRUST

  1. General
  2. Interpersonal

Then I would list all of the TRUST building campaigns under these categories. I would then ask for impact studies and a whole heap of other stuff and then I may just be able to hazard an educated guess on the question we should be asking. Are we spending our producer/consumer relationship building dollars the best way?

Can we improve on this?

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I have been in this space for almost 20 years. I wrote an opinion piece for TWT close to 15 years ago that said something very similar to the current editor. I have learnt a lot in 15 years. We could replace the words “climate change” in this cartoon with “social license” and ask oursleves exactly the same thing.

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Farmers have the same B2C challenges and issues ( and a few more ) any other business in the 21st century has  We also have the same opportunities to market our businesses and our farming practices well

Going to war only ever leads to death and destuction- lets find a smarter way together to build interpersonal relationships of trust between farmers and consumers.

 

Leaders who leave legacies we can all be proud of – where have they all gone?

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I got a call earlier in the week from some-one looking for Bob Hawke’s Statement on the Environment speech from 1989. This was the day he announced that he had done the impossible and bought together farmers, conservationists and governments to form the Landcare movement. This week marks the 30th anniversary of Landcare

In Bob Hawke — 23rd prime minister, true moderniser and Labor giant — Australia found a political leader the likes of which we’d never seen before. Catherine Taylor Source

I knew I had a copy because I quoted from it when I won the inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Award in 2012. That was the night I first met Bob Hawke (who clearly on the night would have preferred I was a little shorter for the photos). Its fascinating the things you remember from highlights in your life. What I remember most was Bob Hawke’s presence when he stood at the podium to make his speech. This was a man in his eighties who had the room spellbound. This was a man who was a great orator, a man who had achieved so much and left legacies like Landcare we can all be proud of.

Watch his fabulous interview with Pip Courtney here

What makes Bob Hawke stand out from the crowd is summed up by the man himself in this response to a question from Pip

Pip Courtney:

You brought warring parties together, farmers and conservationists. Is that your enduring legacy?

Bob Hawke:

I did that not only in regard to Landcare, but my whole approach in government was a consensus approach. When I said to business and trade unions, I said, “You each have legitimate objectives, business, to grow your businesses, unions, to gradually improve the wages and conditions of your members. You’re much more likely, each of you to achieve those legitimate objectives if you work together.” And we did that on the economic side, and I used the same approach in regard to the environment.

I was extraordinarily fortunate then having two great men to work with, the late Rick Farley, of the National Farmers Federation, and Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Remarkable Australians, and they’d basically been at loggerheads so much and I brought them together, and we formed a tripartite approach, which brought the strengths of government, the conservation movement and the farmers together, well we’ve seem the results.

Yes we all know #collaboration is the key. We all know there is no #PlanetB. Yet we struggle to elect leaders like Bob Hawke who understand that humans have to find a way to live in harmony with nature

It’s time to empower our new generation of courageous champions who will leave legacies we can all be proud of.

Legacy

 

Can we teach courage?

6E6D1DEB-BF9D-400E-805F-AF839E7941C0.JPGWith the National Farmers Federation about to launch their Telling our Story Initiative, lets not kid ourselves it takes a lot of courage to stand up and share your story. You can listen to other people tell you how to do it until the cows come home, doing it yourself is something else again.

Having spent the last ten years sourcing funding for Picture You in Agriculture to support young people in agriculture tell their story I am always on high alert looking for others leading the way we can partner with.

I get so excited when I read an application for the Young Farming Champions program that tells us they are a Heywire Alumni. Why? Because Heywire has nailed giving young people in rural and regional Australia a voice and wow dont they use their voices powerfully

I am a huge admirer of this program because it undertands the leadership development journey thay young people require that agriculture in the main hasnt quite grasped yet. We have made some well meaning token gestures inviting young people in agriculture to the decision making table but in the main beyond a few shining examples agriculture struggles to hand over the reins and actually give them a voice.

Here is the super simple version of the highly successful Heywire model.

  1. Young people in rural and regional Australia tell their story.
  2. If your story is selected you are invited to a week long summitt in Canberra where you work with ABC producers to have your story heard on the ABC.
  3. You also get to work with other young people who share your passion to develop a project that makes regional Australia a better pleace for young people with over $100,000 up for grabs to implement your project ideas.

A lot of other great stuff happens at the week long summit

But its what happens next that makes this program so special. Remember there is $100,000 up for grabs to put these young people’s ideas into action and it how the grantees are selected that lights my fire.

The funding for the grants is coordinated by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal who invite and mentor an alumnus from the Heywire Trailblazer  program to help them short list the grant recipients. Intern Ashley Eadon blogged about her experience here

“I have given my honest opinion on the applications as a Heywire winner, previous grant recipient, but most importantly, as a young person. I can now safely say, that after reading over 100,000 words in applications that I have an insight into the philanthropic side of grants that most 20-year-olds don’t. It was evident that the strongest applications had involved youth in the grant writing process. Key take away: when youth share their ideas and feedback on projects targeting them, and this perspective is valued, the projects are more likely to succeed. Overall, there were many strong applications put forward (some completed solely by youth). Once these projects are implemented, they will serve to create positive change in areas of mental health, racism, safety, employment and ‘adulting’.” says Ashley Eadon

The next step in the process also involves young people with the grant recipients being selected from the short list by a panel of alumni who have come through the program.

It gets better! The grant winners are announced at a ceremony at ABC Melbourne MC’d by Heywire Alumni. What a joy it was to attend the latest annoucement of grants and do a bit of amateur filming of the event. ( next time I will sit a bit closer)

Look what happens when you guve young people a voice – listen to Chanceline sing around 10.50 mins – magnificent

Wait there is more!!! Heywire Alumni also get a role in selecting the story winners for the following year. This is called giving young people agency (see footnote ). BTW I also filmed the speeches by MD of the ABC, CEO of FRRR and Minister McKenzie which were all very impressive. I am very confident, like me, everyone in the room remembered the impact the young people had on them. My gut feeling is if we adopted a similar ethos in agriculture we could change the culture from despair to hope overnight!

Brene Brown is 100% confident you can teach people courage and so am I – lets do it Agriculture

 

Footnote

Agency in context – Agency is the power people have to think for themselves and act in ways that shape their experiences and life trajectories. The opposite of agency is Learned Helplessness

Heywire stories featured in this blog

1. Ivan Reyes

2. Chanceline Kakule

3,  Lauren Paynter

 

 

 

 

 

Describing the Australian dairy industry crisis in a nutshell

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Following this Facebook post  I had a non-farmer ask the question

” Outsider looking in question. In a nutshell, what is the “current industry crisis”?

I thought great question and I gave him the link to the Dairy Plan website and threw the question back at him.

This is his answer after a review of the Dairy Plan website?

Well, that was interesting Lynne. I *think* I have a better sense of the issues – a mix of structural and environmental concerns. The background seems to be an industry that has changed reactively without a particularly broad view of how change should be facilitated. Big changes too, such as the move away from co-operative processors that offered more direct farmer participation and influence to hard-nosed and parochial business undertakings where farmers have been hostage to arrangements beyond the farmgate.

I’m curious what you see is needed in terms of culture though. Structural issues are probably better dealt with through more proactive and strategic policy/practice frameworks while many of the environmental concerns have probably been tackled by other industries already and aren’t peculiar to dairy.

In the end though, profitability seems the main concern. When input costs have risen but milk prices have been under downwards pressure that isn’t surprising, so a milk price market at least offers greater transparency and risk visibility for farmers. So long as it’s backed by genuine structural and policy reform.

All of that said, I didn’t miss the references to matters such as domestic demand, possible global markets and our compromised role as an exporter, and social licence. Given recent developments around health and environmental concerns, it seems clear that meat and dairy are on notice domestically. Like I said recently, I fail to see how seeking to grow local demand is able to be reconciled with domestic tensions. Feasibly, dairy genuinely has to contract or become more focused on global markets. At least, that’s how it looks to me. And globally, you might find you need to rely on markets that have yet to fully grapple with the same environmental concerns our domestic market faces. In other words, exports might be a short term hedge and little more. That’ll work for a while I guess (if I am right), but a longer term focus might prevent more of the same in a few decades…

I am confident 100% of Australian dairy farmers would agree that profitability is the main concern for farmers. The question I have for the industry is why dont we have Australia’s version of the Tesco Fair for Farmers model

Tesco Milk – Fair For Farmers

At Tesco we are committed to selling high quality milk, sourced from British dairy farmers who benefit from our long-term support and are guaranteed a fair price for every pint.

Since 2007, we have worked directly with 600 dairy farmers, with herds ranging from 60 to 1,800 cows, who supply us with fresh milk. In return, we pay guaranteed prices and agree long term contracts, through the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG). This year that number will rise to around 800 – the largest group of dairy farmers working directly with a retailer.

All of our milk is 100% British, from cows who receive great care and attention.

Increases in EU milk production following the removal of the European milk quota system and global changes (including decreasing demand from China and a Russian ban on European imports) has caused a worldwide surplus and falling wholesale milk prices.

The TSDG is one of the long term ways Tesco continues to provide support and security to British dairy farmers during periods of economic uncertainty.

Having put the Tesco Fair for Farmers model to Woolworths in 2013 to no avail I look forward to other people’s thoughts ( outside industry perspectives highly welcome)

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Australian consumers can feel very proud of their dairy farmers 

Dairy Plan – the current big idea

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I want to throw something out there to the business world for feedback.

If your business was in crisis for multiple reasons.

Many that were outside your control like:

  • market forces and terms of trade
  • climate
  • a campaign by supermarkets that devalued your life’s work and destroyed your morale

Would your solution be a national TV adverstising campaign that essentailly tells TV audiences what nice people you are

Would that be your smart business decision to turn your business around?

 

Are you watching The Hunting – its haunting

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Are you watching The Hunting? – its haunting. Lots of lessons on how not to parent. Lots of reminders of the dangers of peer pressure for young people. Its a scary world out there for young people who overshare on social media.  The series comes with its own How to Guide for Teachers and Parents

I am watching the parents’ reactions and thinking what would I have done.  As a former SnowPlow parent I say kudos to SBS for tackling this.  It aint easy being a parent nor a teacher and this program gives you insights from all sides.

One school’s answer to over zealous parents – have listen it will make you smile 

Modern teaching in Australia follows the How2Learn ethos – nicely explained by my local school here

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I may have made a lot of mistakes as a parent but very proud to be part of a team of wonderful volunteers celebrating they have been designing and delivering world class How2Learn programs for 10 years. 

Under the skin, we are all flesh and blood with a miraculous beating heart, doing the best we can, every single day. The only kind of expectation we can really have is of ourselves. I am excited our schools are building resilient and responsible young people with the skills to thrive in the 21st century and I can just going skiing

Valuing fresh milk – lost in translation

Tonight I am staying in a hotel in Sydney CBD. I am a bit of a coffee freak so prefer to stay in hotels that provide a Nespresso Machine or equivalent. These day most hotels ask your preferences and mine is always is to ask for a minumum of 250mls of fresh milk ( not UHT in my fridge) and I bring my own milk frother just in case one is not provided

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Tonight’s hotel apparrently asks for customer requests and then ignores them.

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So I make the call.

Me: “Please send me up more coffee pods and 250ml of fresh milk.”

Housekeeping: “Madam are you aware there will be a charge of $5 for the fresh milk?”

Me: “You must be kidding. There is a Woolies around the corner I will get my milk there? How much for the extra coffee pods?”

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Housekeeping: “No charge Madam”

This 6th generation dairy farmer is flabbergasted. $5 for 250ml of fresh milk. Please dont tell the cows