The end of 2013 is nigh and its time for reflection. This year I put my hand up to officially enter the world of agri-politics and as 2014 fast approaches I am seriously asking myself is this the best use of my time, energy and expertise? Very importantly is it the right thing for my emotional well-being?. As I listen and learn and process I am constantly being reminded of the Edmund Burke quote
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing.
I am also constantly buoyed by the great men and women I meet and last Monday saw me in Brisbane at the invitation of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) at their Climate Adaptation Producer Workshop. I was quite excited to be attending this workshop because MLA has a collaborative mindset and producers from a number of industries were attending and I love these cross industry think tanks.
The group was tasked with answering the following questions (considering all elements of the enterprise – animals, plants, people and the overall system)
1. What are the key research needs for climate for our farming systems?
2. What are the human skills and capacity needs for climate for our farming systems?
3. What do we already know about climate, and is that information (& decision support tools) sufficiently available to livestock producers?
4. What would an ideal farming system look like for your business in 2030? What resources or tools would you require to be more profitable in the future?
Now anybody who has spent even the smallest amount of time with me will know that to me agriculture in this country won’t have a viable future until we start genuinely investing in our people. See previous post here
To me it is imperative that we identify, engage, nurture and support our young people in an environment that allows each individual to build and enhance existing knowledge and skills and pivotally provides ongoing training and development to help them become more effective, and take on bigger and more significant challenges. This also requires us to establish conditions that will allow individuals to engage in the process of learning and adapting to change.
So it goes without saying that I would firmly ensconce myself at the table that was focusing on question 2.
It would not be a discussion without leadership or rather lack of rearing its ugly head and this brings me to the reason why I am finding myself emotionally drained at the end of 2013
In my role as a national dairy industry councillor I attended a number of dairy industry events last month. The hot topic behind the scenes was how was Dairy Australia taking the Horizon 2020 project forward?. No matter how you look at it this is a brilliant document – Horizon 2020
This project explored possible future scenarios for the Australian dairy industry in 2020 and described a desirable outcome.
In the words of the working group it was about ‘looking long and thinking differently’ and creating
- the necessary farm business “fitness”
- a positive and proactive culture;
- (dairy) industry leadership to succeed in achieving a desired future in 2020.
The working group said
These imperatives will require industry to do a number of fundamentally new things and to address existing agendas differently compared to today.
Excitingly Horizon 2020 was to be the start of a process to
stimulate the Australian dairy industry to focus on the future – the opportunities that this future presents and what it will demand of our industry.
There were a number of young farmers on this working group who got the opportunity of a lifetime to travel the world and meet the first movers and the innovators and the champions in dairy right across the supply chain from the US to Europe
Fundamentally for these young farmers leadership growth they were promised by Dairy Australia that
“this process should create an ongoing process of insights and thought leadership to guide industry decision-making in future,
and they would be part of the team
‘to monitor progress on follow-up to this initiative”.
Now we all know there is nothing more motivating that being part of success story
Sadly for this group of young farmers the promise from the powers that be that they would continue to be part of the journey were hollow. I can tell you having been there done that a ‘thank you very much don’t call us we will call you (and don’t hold your breath)’ outcome is pretty demoralising and I was devastated speaking to some of the young farmers and hearing their disappointment .
Now these young farmers do have choices and they can challenge the process and I know a few very passionate people are already in their court ready to stand beside them to help them do it. I am telling this story because I want more great men and women in dairy to join this team to fight the good fight
I am reminded of the Theodore Roosevelt quote
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
The man who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings;
The man who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Yes Agriculture is full of timid souls but I can assure you it is also full of leaders. Leaders who need more than token a ‘leadership alumni” they need support, ongoing training, access to bright minds and people with blue sky visions who discuss the big ideas. Sometimes they even need their hands held.
I know it can be done Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions prove this to me everyday and they inspire me to keep going and excitingly they have inspired the corporate sector to invest in them.
I will give it a couple of weeks to see if I have the strength to help drive change at Dairy Australia. I am not alone in this endeavour but more farmers need to put their hands up. I look forward to them stepping up to the challenge. Its time to look long and think differently and that starts with challenging the process