Advocacy – how to avoid the pitfalls

Over the last few months I have been invited to participate in some events that have significantly lifted my spirits and reinforced I am heading in the right direction.

One of those events led to me being invited to be a community Australia Day Ambassador. I must admit I was flabbergasted (and proud) when I asked what they wanted my key messages to the community to be in my speeches and conversations with people on the day. Wow, The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions concept appears to have no end of value adds for communities right across Australia.

This blog is about the invitation I received from the Australian Women in Agriculture team. AWiA is nurturing 20 young women from the agriculture sector through their AGenHer initiative and those young women were invited to nominate 4 women in Agriculture  that they would like to do a webinar with.

awia

It was an exciting invitation that I saw as an opportunity for me to hear from them

  • how can Agriculture better invest in its young people
  • what are the personal and professional development gaps for young people
  • how do young people in agriculture hone their newly learned skills in a safe environment
  • who should we be lobbying to help fill those gaps
  • who should be investing the $
  • and what are the safe environment vehicles and opportunities to hone their skills

But there was a trade-off before that conversation happened. The brief  was to firstly share a little bit about my journey and the background behind Art4Agriculture and why my wonderful team of Young Farming Champions do what they do.

My journey mmmmh – not a road I would wish on anybody – the positives yes but how do I help others avoid the nightmares

So as I always do these days I call on others in my life who are much wiser than me in these areas – my brilliant business coach Mike Logan and my very special mentor Zoe Routh

Zoe said talk about what its like to put forward a radical idea that you passionately believe has the best interests of agriculture at its core. A big idea that only a few will get from the beginning and how you bring people on the road to a successful and enduring roll out of that big idea .

So what did I say

I am a big believer in the saying

‘whilst young people may only be 20% of the population they are 100% of the future’

1_laura

At Art4Agriculture our mission is to ensure that Australian agriculture is investing in its future.

We are harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of our young people to create a better future- for both agriculture and Australia.

We are helping our young people to be confident and independent thinkers

We are developing their talent and growing their ideas

We are creating a culture of collaboration and cooperation across industry sectors. We are throwing out the silo mentality that has been crippling agriculture for far too long

These skills not only benefit you as individuals they are absolutely critical for the food production systems that provide Australians with 93% of the food that is consumed in this country

Yes, the future of farmers in this country is really important to every single Australian who eats and wears clothes and benefits from all the social and environmental value adds that Australian farmers deliver

From a personal perspective, the reason I do what I do –  i.e. my “why” is

I am a proud farmer and I want my fellow farmers to be loud and proud too. But Australian agriculture hasn’t been traditionally good at sharing its story and I have made it my mission to change that culture. A new culture of communication and transparency and two way conversations

A new culture of selling hope not despair – agriculture has for far too long sold despair.  We sell it par excellence

The reality is – Hope attracts people – Despair repels them

I am big ideas person and often my big ideas have been perceived as quite radical

I am very grateful to the industries who have believed in my big ideas and supported them with funding.

My journey hasn’t been easy. There has been lots of blood, sweat and tears. Lots and lots and lots of tears

At a grassroots level, i.e. my peers – As a broad sweep generalisation women get my “why” They understand that it is pivotal for agriculture to be consumer focused

Men ( again broad sweep generalisation) tend not too – they have this mindset – ‘I am a farmer you should appreciate me’ – ‘Thank a farmer’

Our agricultural boards are stacked with men

So men control where the $ go

They are focused on research and development (R&D) and they don’t think that marketing and looking after our people and building their capacity is a high priority

They don’t see the elephant in the room and that is the biggest immediate threat to farmers’ livelihoods is negative consumer images and perceptions of modern farming practices and how we (the agriculture sector) can meet or exceed consumer expectations.

At an industry level, there is a silo mentality – farming industries in Australia don’t traditionally play well with each other. They compete. Very few people who work in our industry bodies come from farms. They have been to university and they are experts in their fields. They don’t want a farmer telling them how they should do their job.

So how did I cope with rejection after rejection?

One of the best pieces of advice I got in the beginning was to treat the word “no” as “almost yes” and never give up

I surrounded myself with people I could learn from. Interesting enough in the beginning the majority of those people were men.

If you are a big ideas person you tend to be tactical, the men I surrounded myself with have taught me to be strategic

I needed all the help I could get. I started my personal and professional development journey in my 50’s I had a lot of bad habits that I had to undo and personal demons I had to shake off

Note to self- start young

To quote the gorgeous Megan Rowlatt –

INVEST IN YOU – IT’S THE BEST GIFT YOU’LL EVER GIVE YOURSELF

and that is truly the take home message I wish from the bottom of my heart these young women took away from the webinar

Don’t do it my way. My public face and my private life are polar opposites. I wasn’t in any shape or form ready to take on this journey  emotionally

I have no downtime. Getting the best outcomes for agriculture and particularly our young people in agriculture is all consuming and this crusade has taken a very heavy toll behind the scenes.

Resilience what’s that? Getting out of bed and putting on the brave face mask when you go out in public is exhausting. I love what I do but its one thing to have a big idea – its another thing entirely to have the emotional resilience to keep on doing it no matter who or what barriers you come across.

Love this little animation

I have taken Megan’s advice – I only wish I had done it 40 years ago.

2017 is the year I am investing in me and a big shout out to the wonderful people and scholarship providers who are helping me do this.

Take home message ‘Start your journey by investing in YOU

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Advocacy – how to avoid the pitfalls

  1. Pingback: Advocacy – how to avoid the pitfalls – educationforsustainabilityblog

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