I learnt at a very early age there are a lot of simple things other people can do I can’t
I was a pre thalidomide baby – in the era when drugs were used for nausea in pregnancy that later proved to cause serious birth defects
I spent the first years of my life in plaster from the waist down and in and out of hospital in an effort to make me ‘normal’ They did the best they could and in the scheme of things it was pretty impressive
But there are still a lot of things other people can do I can’t
For example I am a good swimmer but I can’t dive. I am good at a lot of sports but there are equally many sports I am very poor at like tennis or anything for which you need good eye-ball contact reflexes
I can’t dance (but then I can’t sing or play the piano either and that has nothing to do with my birth defects). I often trip when I walk because I have no depth of field and there are people (I wish they wouldn’t) who say I walk like an ostrich because of the curvature of my spine. Farming has been identified as the most dangerous workplace and not the smartest place for people with my disabilities to venture into.
Some of these things stopped me doing things I wanted to do. I avoided dances and I stopped swimming because I was embarrassed because of the way I dived and it certainly effected my times. I was a very good horse rider but I stopped when I needed some-one to help me get on a horse over 14 hands tall. I also stayed out of the dairy and off tractors and quad bikes especially on our steep hills
But there were plenty of things I was good at and I was determined to focus on the positives
My blogs on leadership in agriculture in the past two weeks have generated a lot of conversations. Conversations are a great thing and give me other peoples perspective and generate new blog posts that help me clarify their concerns from my point of view. From my observations over the years of writing blogs and sharing my opinions too many farmers are concerned about things they believe they can’t do or don’t have the time for (and please note I am saying THEY believe)
As I said I have made myself a promise to focus on what I know I am good at. One of those things is identifying people I believe have the potential to be great agricultural advocates and spokespeople and future influencers
To help them do that I run programs that provide them with experts who can help them be the best version of themselves they can possibly be. These program’s focus on developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.
The programs equip and prepare the participants for that often very daunting experience: of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The outcomes show this leadership development model is providing a rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.
Through these program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the participants are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends. The participants are focused on the big picture and have shared interests in mobilising movements that influence policy, practice, and culture.
To become part of the program in the main requires an application via an EOI process but I also approach people I come across or others have identified that have the unique skills required to share their story in a way that resonates with the values off the audiences they talk too and it is a very unique skill. Not everybody I approach signs up for various reasons with the main reason being a lack of time at that point in their career pathway.
Lots of people in agriculture have the right attitude and capability in the advocacy space but equally lots of people don’t put their hand up.
My team provides the people who do put their hands up with the experts and the tools and the support to funnel them into other leadership development programs that can help them lead their industry and the sector as a whole. My team and the organisations that fund them are very impressed with the commitment and the capacity of youth in Australian agriculture
Agriculture now has people who share their story and their opinions on very serious issues confidently in mainstream media. Agriculture now has young people who appear on and are the lead story on prime time TV programs like The Project (Channel 10) and the 7.30 Report on the ABC and ABC radio
Whilst I grew up on a mixed farm and spent 6 weeks a year for 5 years as the weighbridge clerk at the grain handling authority (as it was called in those day) in my region I don’t tell farmers how to grow crops or produce wool or raise beef. However I do find there are some very vocal and sometimes very unpleasant people in some of those specialities who do those things well with little expertise in my speciality area very persistently giving me unsolicited advice on what I do well.
There also people who don’t like that I focus on the positives in agriculture but I know from lifetime experiences focusing on the negatives leads to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence and lost opportunities
My life hasn’t been a fairy tale. I have made lots of mistakes but all these things define who I am today. I am proud of what I do, I am very proud of the young people I work with and NOTHING is going to stop me believing what I do is just as important as producing food and fibre.
I say to the naysayers don’t sweat the small stuff and please don’t let what others do well cloud your perspective and don’t spend your life wallowing in the negatives. Most of all
Here is a very inspiring story to highlight why our worst deeds dont need to define us – we can all be better people than we are today
The part at around 8mins in where he says “its was like Fred Flinstone walking into the set of the Jetsons” really made me smile
What a great analogy for people who find themselves in a space that is undergoing great change – embrace it