#Strongwomen. "I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it." Kristin Armstrong
Its almost 20 years since I returned to my farming roots and went on a mission to change the conversations around agriculture.
Agriculture as a career choice
Agriculture’s environmental credentials
My vision was for agriculture to be perceived an exciting industry
– where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
– where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and
– where partnerships across sectors are encouraged and nurtured
– that was part of the solution to solving the world’s wicked problems.
When my work started attracting young people and they become the focus of our work and the face of our programs, my team asked ourselves how can we give back to them as individuals and the organisations that support them.
To achieve this we asked them what they wanted. What did they say
Young people said we may be only 20% of the populations but we are 100% of the future we want agency and voice in designing that future.
We then asked schools and teachers who are given the important role of ensuring young people are ready for the reality of life beyond the classroom what they want
They said we want:
an Ecosystem of Expertise we can tap into where our students are connecting with real people, with lived experiences to investigate real issues together.
opportunities for our students to enhance their wellbeing, build their reliance and leadership skills.
To achieve this we have 3 foundation programs:
Our school programs (The Archibull Prize – secondary school )and Kreative Koalas -primary school ) engage students in agricultural and sustainability awareness, understanding and action through art, design thinking, creativity, teamwork, and project development.
The face of our school programs are our Young Farming Champions. Young people who are role models of who you can be in agriculture who we train to be confident communicators and trusted voices. They become dedicated life long learners like me committed to changing the conversations around agriculture. Our Young Farming Champions represent the diversity of people in agriculture. Sam Wan is a first generation Australia forging a career as wool broker still turning up every month to our workshop to learn how she can wake up tomorrow to do it better
Twenty years ago when I returned to the farm, I was flabbergasted when someone said to me farming was an esoteric career. I was frustrated to see stories about women in agriculture being focused on our shoes.
I was even more horrified by statistics like this from some research Fiona Nash commissioned
In my previous role as Federal Minister for Regional Development, I examined a six-month period of regional stories across the two major metropolitan newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne.
In Melbourne, 80% of the regional stories were negative, 15% were neutral, and just 5% were positive.
In Sydney, around 75% were negative and only 25% were positive.
When this is the narrative city people are fed, it’s no wonder they fail to understand the reality in the regions, the huge driver the regions are for city economies as well as regional economies, and the huge, untapped opportunity they present for businesses and individuals alike. Source
Young people like Sam are changing the conversations around agriculture and Action4Agriculture is super pumped to be supporting Next Gen to do that in the agriculture sector and in the community.
Many moons ago I was runner up to David Blackmore for an award and I remember saying to him at the time it must be an extraordinary feeling to see your brand on menu at all the top restaurants.
David said to me if you keep doing what you are doing Lynne your milk could achieve this too and blow me down he was spot on. A few years later we got the big offer and blow me down again the other partners in our family business didn’t want to be the face of a brand and so we passed on the offer.
I still get super excited when I see brands on the menu of people I know because I know how much it means to have your produce declared the best of the best
The taste sensation that is Skull Island Prawns
My foodie friend Jules and I seem to be able to pick all the right places to experience the taste sensation that is Skull Island Prawns and the first thing we do is send a picture of taste sensation to the fleet manager. Meet Bryan
We have all become used to seeing the names of the vineyards on our wine lists. I am saluting all the restaurants sharing with the world who is producing their food
Jules and I are on a mission to eat at the best restaurants in Sydney showcasing producers. We highly recommend Cirrus at Barangaroo – all the food is delicious
Like the non-renewable energy sector, agriculture is participating in the race to develop and scale solutions that will pave the way for a greener world. To enable the net-zero transition, farming businesses and the value chains they supply are reimagining nearly every aspect of their businesses, from partnerships to talent and innovation. Doing so requires creating the right conditions to foster innovation, as well as investing in the right resources.
At Action4Agriculture we are working with highly diverse strategic partners that bring outside perspectives to how to source agriculture’s talent pool.
University of Auckland where students in the Web Development and Consulting Club are designing a careers EXPLORE-CONNECT portal for us. See footnote
We are looking forward to creating a culture in agriculture where getting outside perspective is the norm. It requires deliberate effort and we are confident it will produce so much value. Whilst switching perspectives can be surprisingly hard to accomplish. it gives us the best possible information from which to advocate, allows us to examine our contribution to a situation (which enables us to then change it if we desire), and empowers us to design a workable solution..
Seeing things from another person’s point of view can feel like putting on a new pair of glasses: initially it takes work and focus and may feel unpleasant before your eyes adjust. But getting that perspective is important. It helps us move from a black-and-white (and often biased) view of a situation to having a “learning conversation,” where we grow in our understanding of an issue rather than remain stuck. ” Alex Carter “Ask for More”
Footnote. The Web Development & Consulting Club provides opportunities for passionate students to gain industry experience by establishing pro bono projects on website design and development and to give back to the University of Auckland and the local community by offering our services.
In the first instance we see an exciting opportunity to reframe gender balance as one of the century’s most obvious business opportunities. But first we have to acknowledge, understand and maximize the complementary differences between men and women. The challenge here is not to treat everyone equally and the same, but to treat everyone equally and different, with a deep understanding of what those differences are.
We need to look at the blueprints of our workplaces, to understand how the policies, processes, structures, employee behaviours, leaders, and culture in our workplaces can value women and their contributions
We started looking at ways we could tap into that as yet great untapped resource in agriculture – women
Women comprise 32% of workers in agriculture (ABARES, 2021). Women are 51% of the Australian population and bring valuable skills to a workforce, such as building empathetic innovation driven systems and early adoption of technology.
And we took on this challenge
And I know that a lot of people who have done the hard yards on this are going to be very excited to learn we are going to get a chance to see if we can make it happen
Watch this space
Books I am reading and referencing
Brandsplaining by Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts
The Fix by Michelle King
Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap. The good news here is we have crossed the starting line. The Action4Agriculture team look forward to having their Action4Youth initiative funded to experiment and see what works, what has potential and what we can park
Clear Pathways between 1 and 2. I am confident if funded Professor Felicity Blackstock can bring together a team of bright minds to make this vision a reality
Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags. We know what we need to do, building a critical mass to make it happen is another thing. We must focus on the huge cost of inaction on this one
The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together. This one is particularly close to my heart and I will continue to work with my tribe to celebrate the wins on this one – no matter how tiny
In April our Young Farming Champions will be participating in a workshop under the tutelage of the wonderful Gaye Steel former National Marketing Manager of McDonalds and Telstra. Gaye will share with agriculture’s Next Gen advocates the dangers of reinforcing the negative ( agriculture’s area of expertise) and how to flip the conversation (like to the Coalition for Conservation have )
I took some-one to lunch today to say thank you for the all the pro bono work they had done for me and our organisation.
I selected the restaurant because it knew it featured the produce of one of our supporting partners. A partner I am very proud to be aligned with. The menu featured a number of branded produce yet not once did the restaurant team members tell me and my dining partner why this produce was on the menu. The big question is why?
I remember when I was returning to the farm and still doing a few shifts in pharmacy and I would meet new people and they asked me what was my day job I would alternate between saying I was a farmer and a pharmacist
I remember vividly the day some -one replied “That’s an esoteric career” when I said I was a farmer . ( BTW I had to look up the word esoteric later)
This inspired me to go on a journey and work with the Action4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to “normalise” careers in agriculture.
How are we doing that?
We start by telling people agriculture- farming, food and fibre is so much more than the farm
It starts before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea.
It progresses to encompass the farm itself;
The stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences.
Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.
None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another).
Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another.
Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian agriculture (farming, food and fibre) sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.
I love the way the report talks about agriculture being so much more than the farm and to recognise this the committee chose to use the term “Agrifood”
It is a spectrum comprising a number of stages. Starting before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea, it progresses to encompass the farm itself; the stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences. Ultimately it is the end consumer’s preferences that dictate the workings of each stage. Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.
It goes on to say
None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another). Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another. Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian AgriFood sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.
The committee noted with concern
the converging problems of agricultural workforce shortages, reduced employment opportunities for young people and poor perceptions of agricultural jobs and careers.
As we face increasingly complex major global and domestic challenges, Australia’s social and economic future is reliant on a fit-for-purpose education system and easy to navigate training pathways that equip young people with the skills they need to transition through school, to higher education and/or the workplace and thrive
The committee then made this beautiful statement
If the sector places capability development of its people at its core, if a general recognition prevails that this is a highly diverse sector encompassing a number of stages, if the ultimate arbiter is acknowledged to be the expectations of citizens and the tastes of consumers, if industry leaders rise to the challenge, and if they unite to plan actively to recruit and educate the new workforce, Australian AgriFood will not just survive in the 21st century. It will thrive.
I came to agriculture from a 25 year career in retail and I have always been frustrated by the lack of desire or lack of availability in the agriculture sector to upskill from a human capital perspective.
For example I spent 3 years at uni learning pharmacology – my degree did not prepare me for the world of retail but the University of New England and Financial Management Research Centre (FMRC) filled that gap 30 years ago. I don’t know of anything similar in agriculture except the Rabobank Business Management offering . I havent done the Rabobank course so I don’t know if it covers team management and motivations.
I was so impressed by the FMRC course I still have the manual 30 years later
Is agriculture having enough conversations with our team members? Are we doing regular surveys like this one from McKinsey? What do we know about our team members?
There is some very important work being done by Professor Peter McIlveen and Dr Nicole McDonald looking at the Vocational psychology of agriculture. (e.g., the skill, knowledge, openness to change, and motivation of farmers). Their research couldn’t come at a more important time
This research by McKinsey shows why we shouldn’t guess and why the research is so important.