About art4agriculturechat

This blog will share farming stories from our family farm Clover Hill Dairies. What you will discover however is that farming today is so much more that growing food and fibre. By opening the door to my role in our family business I am hoping you will gain greater insights into the passion and committment of the people and the places behind the land that produces our food and hands that grow it

Identity crisis and stereotypes – farmers with akubras and bandy legs

cool urban dude with surfboard

Image credit

The Art4Agriculture team have created a complementary program model to The Archibull Prize that will allow us to roll the program out nationally. The students participating in the program will be investigating and reflecting on the theme

Feeding, Clothing and Powering a Hungry Nation is a shared responsibility

with the word ‘power’ referring to farmers potential to provide the community with renewable energy sources


So of course we needed  a logo and I briefed  the graphic designer who happens to be male and he comes back with


Okay so this was James stereotype of a farmer – love the bandy legs

Okay James farmers can be women too

So James sends me this


So girl farmers have bandy legs too !!!!!!

So then I said OK lets make it a partnership and James comes back with this

Archibull Connections

then we thought about it some more and we thought lets have the farmers on one side of the plug and people from the city on the other

So how should I brief James?

What does a stereotypical urbanite look like. Does he/she evoke images of super cool people with 9 to 5  corporate careers who surf after work and party on the weekends ??????


The sage minds on twitter have delivered me a solution – farmer Gus Whyte has proposed a salute to the middle man.  I will ask James to replace the farmers with  a tradie wearing hi viz. But still have the problem of sex and ethnicity

Tradie wearing hi viz

Further reading

Miranda column: The glamorous face of farming

Some serious food for thought  –  Identify crisis – the default setting 

What my readers are saying

Everyman need a canoe

Everyman needs a canoe ht JK

Active wear

According to TE our cities are full of people who look like this

Farmers focused on being part of the solution

Food is an extremely hot topic but its a long time since farmers have had a seat at the discussion table when its discussed beyond the farm gate. Today farmers are less that one per cent of the population. Whilst it’s time for people with firsthand experience to leverage social media leadership to influence public opinion, rather than react to rhetoric, we cant expect the wider community to understand the origins of food, today’s practices or what’s really happening if we’re not using new media to communicate?

A number of like minded farmers have come together and formed very powerful partnerships that are now giving farmers a voice on Climate Change. Its interesting when you join forces with organisations that have 160,000 followers on Facebook and another 24K on Twitter just how big a voice farmers can have in the wider community and in this case its interesting what the community has to say

Climate Council Facebook Page

One of those farmers using her off farm skill sets to give farmers a voice is Marian McDonald who blogs as Milk Maid Marian  who was invited by The Guardian to turn her latest blog into an Op-Ed which I have reprinted below

Climate change has not been answered for farmers: we need more information, not less

Cuts to the CSIRO’s climate and land and water research will make finding solutions – and making milk Australian families can afford – ever more difficult

farmer and cows
‘We knew we were stuffed early enough to do something about it, thanks to the CSIRO,’ author Marian MacDonald with her family on her South Gippsland farm. Photograph: Heather Downing

“… in the last decade we’ve definitively answered the question that the world’s climate is changing. What keeps me up and night and I think what keeps most of the country up at night is what are we going to do about it? How are we going to mitigate it?” – CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall, ABC’s 7.30, February 4

Perversely, I’m pleased CSIRO chief Larry Marshall is lying in bed worrying about how to mitigate the effects of climate change. I’m only glad he’s not a farmer like me, because I doubt he’d cope.

Standing in the paddocks of my Gippsland dairy farm, I guess I have an advantage over Marshall because it’s here that the rubber of climate change adaptation hits the road.

This is one of the worst seasons on record around here and the only thing that has made it survivable has been good, early planning.

We sold 10% of our cows and planted turnips for summer feed almost two months earlier than usual to eke out moisture deep in the soil. We pushed bloody hard to get an irrigator up and running so we could offer the cows a lush oasis of millet with water from our farm dam.

Most importantly, we were quick to speak with our bank manager and buy hundreds of tonnes of extra hay and silage. It was not a pretty plan. It was a survival plan in the teeth of a failed season and a milk price that is below our break-even point.

We are still a long way from next Spring but the survival plan is getting us through. I can’t imagine how we would have managed without it.

Central to our planning were the CSIRO’s soil moisture maps and Pastures from Space. Combining the two tools, we could see that not only were our pastures notgrowing in the peak of Spring, there was little chance they could. The soil was powder dry all the way down to a couple of metres. That can only be fixed by weeks and weeks of rain.

In other words, we knew we were stuffed early enough to do something about it, thanks to the CSIRO. It’s survivable if we plan early, plan well and it doesn’t happen too regularly.

Still raw with the discomfort of this experience, I was gobsmacked to hear Larry Marshall say the climate change question has been answered; I realised he’d never make a farmer.

The big question for me looms large: how common will this type of season be in the future?

The climate modelling is neither detailed or accurate. All we know is that, since I was a little girl in the 70s, it’s been getting steadily drier around here and the scientists say it will continue to become drier, warmer and increasingly unpredictable. That’s nowhere near enough information to make good decisions.

To be frank, we don’t even have a worthwhile forecast for the next fortnight or the three months ahead. The Bureau of Meteorology’s oft-reported seasonal outlook is so unreliable here, it is literally as credible as tossing a coin.

I guess farmers are used to running blind into the next season and getting through when things don’t pan out well, but a long term climate shift is not something you can manage by buying in extra hay.

If this type of season begins to roll around every five to 10 years rather than every 20 to 50, it’s no longer going to be viable to keep doing what we’re doing. And it takes years to reshape a farm. I need to know whether we should be working towards farming cows, canola or cacti sooner rather than later.

Farmers are innovators by nature. Rather than simply howling to the wind when it’s all too late, I will do something about it. What, for sure, I don’t know. Cuts to the CSIRO’s climate and land and water divisions will make finding the answers – and making milk Australian families can afford – ever more difficult.


Deb Poole – #hot like a ????

Last night I had a little blast from the past watching Molly and it started with the opening scene

Yes believe or not both Molly and I had a yellow Celica – OMG how embarrassing was the colour of that car but then I wanted a Celica and the yellow one was the cheapest ( Can’t think why)

But the best thing for me about Molly was the adds. I just loved the dairy industry’s Legendairy version of Rhonda

For me Deb Poole you truly rock my socks – now all she needs is her own version of #hotlikeasunrise. Looking forward to the legendairy #hashtag. Here is my 5 cents worth

Deb  Poole UR #nutritious #delicious

Young people in agriculture inspiring a new generation of good digital global citizens

When you think young people are “20% of the population and 100% of our future” it’s a highly rewarding experience for youth in agriculture to be identified as the pivotal link to the success of programs like The Archibull Prize that are helping forge a bright future and truly making a difference

Young Farming Champions and Minister Niall Blair with Cowch

Young Farming Champions with Niall Blair Minister for Primary Industries Land and Water and the winner of The 2015 Archibull Prize “Cowch”

The 2015 external evaluation of agricultural awareness and engagement program The Archibull Prize shows the program delivers impressive educational and community engagement outcomes.

What the educators are saying

The Archibull Prize program fosters Gold Standard in education outcomes

‘It’s simple… the more students enjoy learning, the more they want to be at school and achieve.

Over the past five years The Archibull Prize program has consistently shown that the students involved were deeply engaged in the range of learning experiences the program provided. Teachers saw the impacts first-hand of a successful combination of arts and multimedia activities, along with project-based processes across multiple key learning areas’. Program evaluator

 What the teachers are saying

‘ The benefits of participating tin the Archibull Prize were many, way beyond what I had originally thought. The Archibull Prize has bonded my entire class, they have learnt the value of accepting differences and as a result have gained more tolerance with each other. They have learnt that it is great to take risks in learning and it is OK to make mistakes too, because even then we learn. Through lessons taught inTthe Archibull Prize in 2015, I have been able to “reach” students who were previously disengaged from school, as a result behaviour improved as well as attendance. One of my students was a long term Home School Liaison Officer (HSLO) case (from Kindergarten), he hadn’t ever attended more than 20% of the school year. During Term 3, this year his attendance improved to 70.5%, and he is now off the HSLO case load for the first time ever! Relationships have been strengthened between younger and older students, my Year 8 students were only too happy to invite older students into our space to tell them about our Archi. As a teacher, the Archibull Prize has been wonderful and invaluable as a teaching and learning intervention. The way I choose to teach Archi lessons, put me in the team only as a facilitator, not the leader. This gave students the opportunity to see me not as an authority figure, but just another link in our team. This improved the general classroom climate and also decreased negative behaviours, because we all wanted to keep learning as much as we could. This year, The Archibull Prize artwork was also used as a bit of a welfare project, meaning that students (outside of my class), that were struggling either with school or family issues were referred to me where they were given the opportunity to paint, this worked like art therapy and gave students time to just “chill out”, while also being productive. For many of these students, the Archi provided their first positive experience in education which was just wonderful. As a result, these students have returned to my classroom to talk through issues or to get advice.’ Thank you! Secondary School Teacher

 The Archibull Prize has also reached Gold Standard status raising awareness of, and engagment with farming by linking students with agriculture, farmers and the paddock to plate process and inspiring careers in the farming sector

‘The students experienced an increase in their confidence levels and became keener to share their work with others (both within the class and outside of it). Students also appear to have a greater appreciation for farmers and are more critical of information that relates to the products they use.

Increased understanding of the issues affecting farming particularly in our region. Increased knowledge of biosecurity and the factors impacting the Australian agricultural industry’. Secondary School teacher


‘As a result of this program, students learnt so much about the wool industry. All the different process wool can go through to get different products. As I led the technology team I saw strong improvements in student capacities in coding, blogging, image use, resource management, problem solving and infographic creation’. Secondary School teacher


‘In depth learning about a range of areas including how farmers are working to reduce and prevent erosion into the waterways, how scientists and specialists are working to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the beef industries, how each part of the beast is used for different by-products and quality meat products’. Secondary School teacher


‘In keeping with our ‘Farm to Plate’ curriculum focus, students not only investigated cotton but also diversified to investigate everything from milk, rice, fish and honey. Experts were called in to deliver presentations, thus ensuring students could make real life connections at every turn. This reinforced how important the ‘Farm to Plate’ theme was and how it related to them both now and in the future’. Secondary School teacher


‘In order to give students a hands on experience of setting up and running a vital cog in the supply chain of food and fibre, students worked collaboratively to design, build and run their own farms on Minecraft in order to service the local community of ‘E Street’. Students used their acquired knowledge of biosecurity in order to ensure their farms and stock were safe and secure at all times. We even grew our very own cotton crops at school. ‘Primary School Principal

 Food has been identified as an issue kids can connect to easily and as a result of the success of The Archibull Prize  we have now been approached to use agriculture to help teach students to become creative and caring Global Digital Citizens -see footnote

Preparing  young Australians with the skills and knowledge to engage in a rapidly changing world where technology is driving new ways of doing business and relationships are no longer bound by borders. To be successful in this new connected world young Australians must be globally aware, skilled in communication and well educated.

 Our team has been excited by this wonderful new opportunity and we have created a complementary program to The Archibull Prize called “Archibull Connections” and we look forward to sharing this new competition with teachers, the community and farmers shortly


A global citizen is some-one who has the knowledge and understands:

  • That the world is interconnected
  • How the world works economically, politically, socially, spiritually, environmentally;
  • That a global ethic is essential to developing and sustaining equity and justice;
  • That humanity is one.

A global citizen is someone who is skilled in:

  • The process of consultation;
  • Team problem-solving;
  • Service to others;
  • The ability to challenge injustice and inequality;
  • Mediation and negotiation;
  • The ability to innovate;
  • The ability to think and plan with complex systems as the backdrop;
  • The ability to see an issue from several perspectives.

A global citizen is someone who:

  • Is empathetic,
  • Acts ethically,
  • Is outraged by social injustice,
  • Is willing to make some sacrifice for the common good,
  • Is willing to ACT to improve the world

Please note the “Archibull Connections” program and competition is not funded by farmer levies 


The time for mutual collaboration and respect is now – are our farmer organisations ready?

Today in The Land newspaper journalist Alex Druce asks the question is Ag’s image in danger

As my readers are aware from numerous posts I have written this year I believe so and I recently also asked who will bear the moral responsibility for this

Farmers currently sit at No 8 in the most trusted profession list. This is because we are trusted to supply to supply  Australian families with safe, affordable and nutritious food. Despite the obviously ill informed assurance of NSW Farmers natural resource committee chairman the 2016 Archibull Prize entry and exit survey results show it is a very different matter when it comes to animal welfare, the environment and water use. See footnote. The graph below also shows The Archibull Prize’s considerable ability to improve the image and perceptions of farmers in these three key areas   Secondary students attitudes to farming A campaign that will see our best practice farmers image tarnished by the actions of the minority will make it very difficult for The Archibull Prize’s to make those considerable gains.  Whilst I no longer farm my family still do and I put considerable personal funds into this program and I will not hesitate to ask those responsible for putting agriculture’s image at risk to be accountable

Josh Gilbert former chair of NSW Farmers Association Young Farming Council recently resigned his position as a result of personal threats from a senior non-staff member in NSW Farmers Association who threatened personal attacks if he spoke out against the NSW Native Vegetation Acts proposed reforms , but chose not to name them.

“I was told that if I was to come and speak out against (the reform), the people who already attack me would increase in number and increase (their efforts), including people in NSW Farmers. My interpretation was that it was a threat,” he said. Source 

Josh is hopeful that partnerships between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience can find a way through. I hope and pray our farmer organisations see the wisdom of this before it is too late

“Achieving sustainable land use for profitability and sustainability in the short and long term requires collaboration between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience. Coming together through a shared love and appreciation of the value of land, the food and fibre it produces and our environment, we stand to create partnerships for the true long term prosperity of our nation. We can build on the 40,000 years of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and mutual respect for our delicate landscape to form fair, equitable and long term policy, not one which sacrifices future prosperity for short term ‘gains’”……..

Josh asks

Are we ready to truly partner and ensure the equality of agricultural reporting for long-term equity, justice, fairness and profitability? I believe the time for mutual collaboration and respect is now.

Below is Josh Gilbert’s recent opinion piece that has attracted considerable attention in the main stream media.

Josh 2

Josh Gilbert 

Farmers have a natural affinity with their land. The farm is the home of their family’s dreams and aspirations; the page upon which they write their stories of passion and love; their life; their livelihood; their heart.

From outside the farm gate the view is different. Consumers place large amounts of trust in the farmer to produce what they need and when they need it. However, as societal views shift around the governance and sustainability of corporations, so too does the interest in food production and animal welfare. Farmers are increasingly held accountable for their actions and asked not only to provide, but also to protect and care for the environment and animals that support the production of food.

Corporations and businesses paved the way for triple bottom line accounting practices, considering social, economic and environmental factors. Now, agricultural corporations and family farmers find themselves at a crossroads, pondering what practical accounting and social metrics should be developed specifically for the agricultural industries. This discussion is brought further to life over the proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Act in NSW, policy which intends to provide farmers with less red tape by allowing self-assessment regarding the flora and fauna on their property. Without full appreciation of the value of native vegetation, this policy risks not only the repetition of past errors, but also of trading long term profitability for short-sighted practices.

This controversial policy highlights the need for all to reconsider the interaction between the three areas of triple bottom line reporting – not only finance, social and environmental, but also the corporate social responsibility to apply them in the unique field of farming.

Times are changing and in this new world our society needs to shift its thoughts on this matter. Do we as society value pursuit of money over the longevity of social cohesion, the natural environment and our accountability to the public?

Kinship for the land is not just felt by farmers, but also by my Indigenous brothers and sisters and the broader environmental movement. With the desire to create fair, just and equitable policy regarding the natural environment, it is negligent that these voices have been hushed and ignored, often trumped in the public and political discussion by large farming organisations.

Other changes taking place are the partnerships that are being built where once there was nervousness and mistrust. Recent disputes over mining activity have seen farmers and environmental groups stand hand in hand, united in their desire to protect the land. This relationship though, is at risk as legitimate concerns from the environmental movement regarding native vegetation fall on deaf ears within farmer associations. Comparable policies within Australia have seen over 300,000 hectares of native vegetation ripped from the landscape in Queensland, despite industry best practice. Australia has also become number three for the worst land clearing rates amongst developed nations. And still, some industries continue to lobby for self-regulation in order to provide the opportunity for them to destroy our native landscapes.

We are at risk of losing prominent native vegetation in Australia. This also increases the risk of negative public perceptions increasing towards farmers. Recent experience demonstrates to us the cost of these negative perceptions. The live export debate questioned every farmer’s right to farm, and cost beef producers dearly in the short and long term, forcing some farmers to leave the industry. Similarly, the proposed ‘native vegetation policy’ lacks foresight and vision and further risks the brand of “Australian agriculture” and the livelihoods of our farming families and rural communities. The drive for farmers to increase their land value and productivity seems to focus only on a single ‘bottom line’ factor, and negates any public accountability and social and environmental responsibility farmer otherwise aspire to achieve.

There is hope though.

Achieving sustainable land use for profitability and sustainability in the short and long term requires collaboration between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience. Coming together through a shared love and appreciation of the value of land, the food and fibre it produces and our environment, we stand to create partnerships for the true long term prosperity of our nation. We can build on the 40,000 years of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and mutual respect for our delicate landscape to form fair, equitable and long term policy, not one which sacrifices future prosperity for short term ‘gains’.

We each have a personal responsibility for not only our future, but also for the future of our descendants. Each day, we have the ability to encourage change, create hope and create equality. Our views on the environment, agriculture and our way of life should be treated no differently.

The challenge for us all is to lift our gaze beyond our current horizon. Money should not be the sole imperative. We need to focus on the long- term outlook and understand where our interests and connection to the broader society should lie. We must equally value the three pillars of triple bottom line accounting, while creating agricultural metrics showing mutual respect for the views of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Are we ready to truly partner and ensure the equality of agricultural reporting for long-term equity, justice, fairness and profitability? I believe the time for mutual collaboration and respect is now.


Flabbergasted that some farmers organisations continue to self assess consumer attitudes. After all this is not the first time consumer attitudes to  farming have been surveyed. The Archibull Prize program 2015 survey reinforces Parberry and Wilkinson’s findings on Victorian’s attitudes to farming from 2013

FYI The Parberry and Wilkinson report is no longer available on the web. I have a copy and give URL for access when I have time


Why are Aussie farmers out of love?

Did you catch -Gregor Heard, Fairfax Media grains writer recent opinion piece reprinted below? Why are Aussie farmers out of love?

I like to throw this idea out there. Its us not them – we don’t get out enough – people DO love us.  And whats even better I have the hard data to prove  it


Why are Aussie farmers out of love?
Jan. 27, 2016, 9 a.m.Opinion
JUST what have Australian farmers done to be so disconnected from the broader community?

In other nations across the globe, people involved in the most fundamental industry of all, food production, are respected as the primary plank of a functioning society.

Yet here in Australia, broadacre farmers cop a bum steer in terms of community perception.

They are variously described as whinging farmers being propped up by hard working city folk or mercenaries ruthlessly jeopardising the health of a nation in search of additional profits through the administration of veritable witches’ brews of toxic chemicals.

As those living in rural communities know, nothing could be further from the truth, but these ill-informed ideas have a damaging effect on the Australian agriculture industry across a range of issues.

But why does the Australian urban public seem to have so little time for farmers?


You look at the US, a similar culture to our own, and the nation celebrates the importance of those who produce its food. Here, however, the disconnect between country and city means the majority of urban dwellers have no idea of the work and financial risk required to put food on the national table. Kaniva, Victoria, farmer Wal Meyer has an interesting theory on how farmers have lost the public relations battle. He believes that the very phenomenon that theoretically should have improved relations between mainstream farmers and the metro public has worked against it. The resurgence in interest in where food comes from, driven in part by Australia’s seemingly insatiable appetite for reality cooking shows, should have seen the public thanking the Australian farming community some of the safest food in the world.

Partially, we did see increased appreciation of the role of the farmer, but only a certain segment. The public latched onto key phrases such as ‘organic’ and ‘rare-breed’ raising small scale, niche market growers to the level of minor celebrities.

Well done to these guys and they are certainly making a go of their enterprises and producing some fantastic food in the process. But as Mr Meyer lamented, this success often comes at the expense of other farmers. “People keep talking about organic this and that, and saying how bad for you conventionally farmed food is, when the facts are, that all Australian food products pass through a rigorous screening process before it is declared safe to eat.”

Another issue for those interested in environmental issues is whether organic farming is more sustainable than systems using herbicides. Certainly, it is a nice warm and fuzzy feeling to know no chemicals have been used, but the situation is not so cut and dried. Organic grain production systems rely heavily on tillage, which in turn creates problems with erosion and salinity.

As the crop protection lobby argues (of course with its own interests to the fore) it is likely that judicious use of herbicides and synthetic fertilisers may be better for the planet as a whole. But perception is all, and at present conventional farmers and livestock producers are often pigeon holed as ‘factory farmers’ without a proper analysis of their methodology.

Farmers cop a similar bad rap when it comes to the processed foods that land on consumers’ tables. There is no doubt artificial preservatives and colourings are best to be avoided, as any parent of a child who has partaken in too much red cordial will attest, but nutritional issues with food on the supermarket shelves owe more to the manufacturing process than to the raw food the food processing sector is provided with.

Advocacy groups are out there arguing agriculture’s case, you see the Grains Legume Nutrition Council promoting healthy grain products and agriculture as a whole must continue to invest in these initiatives that bridge the gap between producer and consumer. Only then will we see a similar level of respect afforded to our primary producers as in other nations.

Source -Gregor Heard, Fairfax Media grains writer


Its time to listen to the stats and get off the couch and get some sunshine, avoid the selective hearing trap and talk to people and actually listen- its amazing what we might find and I can assure you it will be good for the soul