About Farming Ahead of the Curve

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

Why my dad hates ANZAC day

I am lucky enough to be able to surround myself with some of the brightest, talented, most socially responsive, selfless and caring young people in agriculture

One of those young people Hannah Barber just sent me this …… I love it and I am confident you will too…………..

My father hates the tradition of ANZAC day.

Naturally, being a farmer, he hates the idea of any day when the rest of the country closes for business, because he never does. He hates the idea of young blokes getting drunk, gambling their money and making a mess of themselves in town. Most of all, my father hates that our country has relegated celebrating our gallant ANZAC’s, remembering their heroism and living up to the sacrifices they made for us, to just one day of the year.

My father loves the ANZAC’s. He loves reminding us of those who came before us, those who toiled sun up & sun down to make this country what it is today. “You have to know where you’ve come from to know where you’re going” – whether it’s knowing the hardships and blind loyalty of our ANZAC’s, or knowing my great-grandfather chopped through a pine forest and raised his family in a tent to establish our farm; knowledge of the past is inspiration for the future.

Hannah Barber and her dad

My father believes we should all live everyday as though it were ANZAC day. Every day we should be grateful for those who have given us this opportunity, this society.

Be grateful for the ANZAC’s who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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Be grateful for the women who have forged the way to allow me to be a woman of the land, independent and choose my own career pathway

Be grateful for the teachers who fought for our rights so when I do eventually (hopefully) marry my strong, handsome farmer, I can stay in that occupation that I love so much.

Be grateful for my mother’s amazing ability to raise all of us in such a loving, giving household and be grateful for my father’s, grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s commitment to leave our land a little better than they found it each time.

Think of those who you ought to be grateful for and remember. Each and every day.

In the meantime, just for tomorrow, wake up early. Pull up your sowing rig or shed the picker if you’re in the cotton game, get the kids out of bed or give your housemate a nudge, and remember in the fashion Australians do best

Celebrate our mighty ANZAC’s. Let the ring of the last post stand your hair on end, don’t fight the tears as returned servicemen salute their fallen brothers. Feel the heat off the light horse as he powerfully strides by and soak up the rising sun over our lucky country as we rise in unison and promise “Lest We Forget”.

Well done Hannah its great to see young people inspiring young people to share your values

Hannah Barber inspiring

Stay Safe Be Safe

Grass is grass isn’t it? As it turns out no it’s not . Some grasses are slippery than others and more challenging for tractors

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The production of affordable, nutritious, safe milk for Australian families relies on our dairy farmers providing the best quality pasture for their cows to eat all year round. At times planting this pasture often has to be done under very challenging conditions and its not always as easy as it looks.

In our region farmers have been planting annual rye grasses since early March to ensure their cows have the best quality pasture during autumn, winter and spring that suits our climate and our soils Sprung

Sprung- this young cow thought she would just sneak through the fence and see if this brand new paddock of lush ryegrass was tasty enough and report her findings back to the farmer. MMMH maybe not she looked pretty guilty when she realised she had been spotted

The massive downpour our region has received over the last four days and the now new slippery landscape conditions is going to play havoc for the farmers on the steep hills who are yet to plant their rye grass

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Lessons learnt

Be safe

Stay safe

Check out what other farmers in Australia are planting on their farms here 

Farmers unite and celebrate – don’t give the bullies oxygen

Twitter can be great fun and yesterday I was enjoying some great cheeky banter between our dairy farmer tweeps and their networks when some-one send me a twitter feed with the comment “I see the bullies are at it again”.  It appears there was a side conversation happening.

Twitter can also be sad. Because of these side conversations there are a lot of wonderful people who are small farmers or farmer supporters who don’t feel welcome or feel they will be attacked in these side conversations. These disenfranchised people become twitter watchers rather than active participants so everyone else on twitter misses out on the wealth of knowledge they could share with us

Some-one else who saw the side conversation sent me this wonderful post Am I a Farmer.

I am reblogging it today as my tribute to all of those wonderful people who support farmers. The bullies will never go away. They live in their own little world where they self justify but please be assured the rest of us salute our passionate supporters

Everyone who loves the land and advocates for a a fair return on investment for the people who feed,clothe and put a roof over our heads has skin in the game. Today Savvy Farm girl helps celebrate your selfless contributions

Savvy Farm Girl blogs here and below is a reprint of her post Am I a farmer

This question, or a variation of it, has been posed to me multiple times over the past month, and it seems like a day hasn’t gone by I haven’t thought about it: “Do you consider yourself a farmer?”

At the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Conference in Toronto last month I was asked the question by a young woman in the audience. I responded, “yes, for the most part I do,” then continued to elaborate as to why I felt this way.

In many of the circles I frequent day-to-day, whether it be at work or with friends, I am as much a farmer as my parents, brothers, and my farming friends (real and online). In fact, I may be the only “farmer” they know. Many farmers likely have friends like this. My friends don’t know so much about the specifics of farming, but they know I do and if they want to know about dairy or grain farming, I’m the person they ask. They definitely don’t care that my income is not derived from the farm. Some have visited our farm after knowing how much I care about it, and they saw the same passion in my family. For them, knowledge and passion might be enough to justify why I fit the term.

Yet, for farmers it seems to be different. It feels like there are those among us that believe unless you earn your living from the land directly, you don’t “deserve” to call yourself a farmer. It leads to an “impostor syndrome” of its own. Even if I work with farmers in my job, if my family is all farming, I spend most weekends there, helping in the barn or field, I read almost exclusively about the agriculture industry and think of nearly nothing else; I am not a farmer in the eyes of other farmers.

Why do we do this to each other? Is it because we think you must have “skin in the game” to truly understand or care about the industry? Or are we just scared? Scared those who have time to commit to an industry may indeed make an impact and cause it to change? Status quo is so comfortable and farmers are often so busy with the day-to-day, there is little time to challenge it.

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This is exactly why my family has empowered me to speak on their behalf. I’m not on the farm everyday and if I was, I couldn’t do what I do or it would be exceptionally harder. For more reasons than just having the time too; physically, our farm is located further from the “hub” of Ontario agriculture than many others are and rural broadband can be unreliable. My parents also taught us to do what we love and for me, it’s all about talking – public speaking, networking, socializing, debating. I love them all. I’m not sure our cows nor my brothers would care for me to be at the farm everyday. Usually, they’re done listening to me after a weekend.

At the end of the day, “farmer” is still a label. It’s more than an occupation, because it also encompasses a lifestyle and a connection to the land many of us will never shake, but it is still a label. For me, it’s more important I uphold the values which were instilled in me growing up on a farm and do work which betters the lives of farmers I grew up with and the community I grew up in. This betterment could take many forms, but if my talents are used to their fullest by telling my farm story and speaking up for other farmers in pursuit of common goals, isn’t that what’s more important anyway? The income stream is just a means to achieve a goal and should not define who we are

Who is Savvy Farm Girl – you can read all about the wonderful and gutsy Jen Christie here

Who is Savvy Farmgirl?

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My name is Jen Christie. Thank you for checking out Savvy Farmgirl!

I grew up on a dairy and grain farm outside a small, rural Ontario town. As a kid, before I could head off to swimming lessons or the movies, the barn chores had to be done, the rocks picked or the hay unloaded. The work wasn’t easy but at the end of the day, it was rewarding to know you had accomplished something and we saw the fruits of our labour daily on the dinner table. Today, our 6th generation family farm is a busy spot, and I enjoy spending my free time there in the barn with the cows or in the tractor cab in the field.

So, that’s the farm girl. What about the savvy part?

I love marketing. I love networking. I love social media. I love challenging the status quo.

In my undergrad, I lived the mantra; “don’t let your schoolwork get in the way of your education.” I didn’t get it all right, but when other students went to the Agri-Marketing Conference competition in the U.S. to compete and party, I went to meet industry marketing leaders and be enlightened by the speakers. I learned about social media at one of those events before Twitter probably even existed.

These events gave me a deeper appreciation for marketing and cultured my fascination with branding. Working for one of the most widely known brands in the world, let alone, agriculture, allows me to see brand power at work everyday.

For me, social media’s power is amplifying brand promises. Hiding behind an avatar online is even more difficult than it is to hide behind a glossy advertisement. Those who aren’t leveraging social media are being passed in the marketplace by those who are connecting with customers who want to do business with them. Understanding that it’s no longer possible to be perceived as the best, brands literally have to be the best at what they do in the eyes of those who love them is creating a great opportunity in every industry today. Including agriculture.

For me, this means constantly challenging the status quo in agriculture. We can always be better and there is literally nothing that can’t be improved in our industry. When I decided to go back to school for my EMBA and my father asked why, my response was; “If I’m not going forward, I’m going backward.”

This mindset has created an insatiable curiosity about the definition of sustainable agriculture and the social licence with which farmers operate. It perplexes me the world has as many obese people with too much to eat as it does hungry people, dying from not enough to eat. Agriculture plays a role in changing this dynamic, and I believe it’s all of our issue to own and address individually, in our home and on our farms.

I love the lifestyle farming has and continues to offer our family. I seek to promote this everyday in my career, my community through speaking opportunities and online. If you’ve followed my blog or think this sounds like something you’d like me to work with your organization on, let’s chat. I’d love to see how we can work together

Gary Helou and Lynne Strong – Egos and personalities

I was looking forward to a very uneventful day.  My day started wonderfully, breakfast with special friends and then I got a call asking me if I had seen The Australian today

The caller was concerned that I would not be happy to find myself the farmer face and spokesperson in the front page feature story in the Business Review section that included an interview with Murray Goulburn Chief Gary Helou.  See story here (Note you will need to be an online subscriber to The Australian to view the story)

Well my caller couldn’t have been more right and I am not happy.

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Wasn’t happy to see the big picture today 

I was not contacted for the story. The photo is a file photo taken for a different story written by another Australian journalist Sue Neales over two years ago

The blog post quoted was from September last year in which I was commenting on a marketing campaign, not MG’s capital raising activities. I did indeed say I was worried about Gary Helou then because I could see commentators “playing the man” and this is potentially damaging when farmer livelihoods are at stake. I still hold this view.

What I did not say in the blog post was that I thought Gary Helou was thin skinned and I categorically state now I DON’T think Gary Helou is thin skinned

One of the key reasons I started my blog was because every farmer knows that every day the supply chain gets more complex and if farmers want to ensure they are not gobbled up by the challenges and have the capacity to grab the opportunities then we must be as active beyond the farm gate as we are on the farm.

This requires us to invest in developing strong financial literacy skills, having a robust understanding of how to best leverage value from the supply chain and having the capacity and desire to build strong consumer/farmer bonds.

Having an online presence whether it be twitter or blogging or whatever vehicle you choose allows you to start a discussion, learn from others, find other people who share your vision and sometimes drive change. It can also be very cathartic to share your story with others and writing my blog has been in the main a very rewarding personal experience.

I am not a journalist and I will never claim to be and I certainly agree with Mr Helou when he says ‘I don’t like personal attacks. I don’t conduct them on others and I think it’s a terrible state (of affairs).’

I accept that my blog is on the public record and will be quoted from time to time. I stand by every comment I make. However, in this instance, I am disappointed my quotes were used to support a story on which I was not commenting.

I would like to reiterate what I also said in the blog quoted today by The Australian and once again say it’s time to focus on the big issues, not the egos and personalities.  The Australian dairy industry doesn’t need or want to be floodlit in this manner.

We need a strong healthy cooperative culture of working together to get the best outcomes for every-one in the cow to carton process.

We need to focus more on company performance, not personalities.

Murray Goulburn is the largest of our country’s milk processors, with a share of the milk pool approaching 40 per cent. It is owned by 2500 Australian dairy farmers.

Australians want MG to succeed

The Australian dairy industry wants MG to succeed

I want MG to succeed.

Mr Eastwood you have not made my day

According to the Australian JBS Australia boss Brent Eastwood remarked on a panel at the Global Food Forum this week that it was hard to get good talent on the land and that ‘many had good faces for radio”

I have been giving this a lot of serious thought beyond the amusement that Mike Logan’s follow up comment generated. See footnote at bottom of post

I grew up in a large regional town which at that time was underpinned financially by the agricultural dollar. The farmers came to town well dressed and to me as a person growing up in that town were highly respected. If some-one had asked me whilst I was growing up which industry demographic had the best faces for TV I would have said without a doubt  agriculture.

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There is no shortage of young talented and ‘beautiful’ people in agriculture just like cotton farmer Ben Egan 

I remember when I first started going out with Michael ( now 5th generation farmer) my girlfriends gave him a heart throb rating of 9.5/10.  I causally asked him ( as young girls do) ‘Do you think I am pretty.? To which in all seriousness after looking me up and down he replied  ‘You are average”  Whilst I would have preferred he said that I made Cindy Crawford pale into insignificance when I walked into the room  as no-one had ever remarked otherwise I took his comment at face value not overly perturbed as I had no desire to enter a career where looks define you.

Please tell me Mr Eastwood has been misquoted. Do looks and talent go hand in hand. Does agriculture only attract people with faces for radio.?

I must admit I get pretty cheesed off when agriculture continues to apparently delight in growing the myth that we cant attract the best and the brightest young people despite Australia’s leading agricultural demographer Neil Barr showing us this is absolute rubbish.

Time to get our act together agriculture and talk about the facts, not perpetuate the myths and find the dollars to invest in and up skill the people we have so we can retain them

As an aside – Mr Eastwood and I must socialise in different circles because there are plenty of ‘beautiful’ people in my agricultural crowd  but then beauty is in the eye of the beholderaudrey-quote

Footnote

The Australian April 17th 2015 in Andrew Mann’s  MARGIN CALL column

Dirty, smelly, ‘sexy’
The twitterati were out in force at the GFF but it was a clear no contest
as to who produced the tweet of the day.
In a panel of the nation’s top food processors lamenting about how hard it was to get quality talent on to the land, JBS Australia boss Brent Eastwood remarked how many in
agriculture had “good faces for radio’’, to which Dairy Connect chief executive Mike Logan added by way of explanation that “It’s dirty, it’s smelly, it’s hot”.
It prompted this tweet from the Camm Agricultural Group’s young dynamo Bryce Camm: “Are we talking about the porn industry or Ag sector? Sounds pretty sexy to me!’’

Industry image – “Are we talking about the porn industry or Ag sector?”

It appears my blog last Monday When farmers are their own worst enemy  has opened the door for agriculture to have the open and honest conversations about industry image (and how to best leverage the great opportunities when they present themselves) its been wanting to have for quite some .

Source See The Land 16th April 2015 See Footnote

Conversations have definitely started. See Andrew Norris Editor of  The Land opinion piece here

I know the sections of the dairy industry and the exhibitors who contacted me are currently 100% committed to working together with the RAS to ensure the Sydney Royal Easter Show provides the best experience for showgoers, exhibitors and the industry.

Well done Dairy Australia, Holstein Australia and the RAS for being quick off the mark. Please dont forget to reconnect with Mike Logan CEO of Dairy Connect who two years ago put forward a brilliant Sydney Royal Easter Show Dairy Experience Extraordinaire strategy that included the milk processors that I believe would be the perfect centrepoint to grow from.

I grew up on a farm and am like Oxley too quite amused by lingo that I hear from time to time.Poor dairy is the focal point this week but our industry is no different to anyone else. Phrases that jumped out at Oxley on dairy cattle show day was cows being described as ‘Oozing dairyness’ and having “silky udders”

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 Source: The Land 16th April 2015 Oxley the Explorer Opinion Page 16

North Coast ABC journalist and presenter Kim Honan found herself at the centre of a potential pornography scandal when she dared to post pictures of cow udders she took at a local show on Facebook.

Dairy Cattle Judging

As you can see from this extract from the Dairy Judging Workbook the perfect cow is a multifaceted beast carefully blended from head to toe with her udder attracting 40% of her overall score.  What the judge and every dairy farmer is looking for is a cow with an udder that shows characteristics for a high milk yield and a long productive life. The udder is deemed so important that there is even a prize for the “best uddered cow”

Best uddered cow

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Now I dont judge dairy cattle but it would appear that ‘oozing dairyness and silkiness’ is a quick summary for all those characteristics listed above.

Kim’s situation reminded me of a conversation I had a number of years with my local council economic development officer. At that time the local dairy industry had put together a very professional magazine to promote local dairy genetics to international buyers

Now for those who have never seen a stud dairy cattle magazine and suddenly see one that features pictures of udder after udder you could understand his first reply. ‘My goodness this looks like cow porn’

Best udddered cow

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So when we farmers think about it, its time for mutual respect – it is clear the general public might be forgiven for thinking we say the odd ‘silly’ thing ourselves

On a lighter note this little titbit from The Australian April 17th 2015 in Andrew Mann’s  MARGIN CALL column

Dirty, smelly, ‘sexy’
The twitterati were out in force at the GFF but it was a clear no contest
as to who produced the tweet of the day.
In a panel of the nation’s top food processors lamenting about how hard it was to get quality talent on to the land, JBS Australia boss Brent Eastwood remarked how many in
agriculture had “good faces for radio’’, to which Dairy Connect chief executive Mike Logan added by way of explanation that “It’s dirty, it’s smelly, it’s hot”.
It prompted this tweet from the Camm Agricultural Group’s young dynamo Bryce Camm: “Are we talking about the porn industry or Ag sector? Sounds pretty sexy to me!’’

Footnote

Re The Land 16th April 2015 story correction

My blog was written 24 hours before show day. The ‘mystery shopper’ experience was through the cattle sheds not on show day. Show Day is a whole different ball game and the breeders ability to exhibit with as little stress as possible needs to be factored very high on the list of engagement strategies for show day

Should humans eat animals? Warning reality check ahead

This excellent post Communicating Matters of Life and Death by Judy Kennedy resonated with me this morningreality-check

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I grew up on a cropping, sheep and cattle farm in Central NSW. I raised every motherless lamb I found. My father too was a home butcher but I couldn’t go anywhere near our ‘home abattoir”.  As I get older the death of animals in my care affects me more and more emotionally. I cried for a week when the fox killed my chooks. Such a waste of life he only took 3 of the 30 he killed.

I know I over sensitised my son to death. He was even discouraged from keeping lizards as pets as I didn’t believe we had the necessary expertise to ensure their well being.

On the dairy farm I have seen both Michael and Nick shed tears when an animal they were attached to died.  We got the vet in to euthanize animals that we could not save and ensured that everyone who was hired knew that a respect for our cows and animal wellbeing was their first priority.

Running the Young Farming Champions program where agriculture’s wonderful young ambassadors who are excited about sharing their journey with people who aren’t lucky enough to have been surrounded by agriculture growing also too find sharing the farm cycle of life story with non-farmers daunting and are very committed to doing it well Our champions take their stories into the community and take the community on the journey of modern and innovative farming practices and show that we too have strong emotional values that underpin the way we do business. These relationships create accessibility to an agricultural industry that is open, transparent and available to consumers.

Pivotally our Young Champions are lucky enough to have access to the brilliant technical specialists Ann Burbrook and Greg Mills who can smooth the path for them and give them the skills to do this in a way they are comfortable with. NIDA trained actor/director.

Ann is a vegetarian and provides a great insight into why she made this choice. Ann like all of us is a consumer and understands that 99% of the cow is used by humans in some form of another and she respects that. She wears leather shoes and carries a leather handbag She has no problem with people who choose to eat meat. It’s just her personal choice not to.

I admit I am far too oversensitive to death and empathise with some animal liberationists and like Milk Maid Marian I am a proud animal activist myself. But it  is very important to put humane human consumption of animals as an energy source into perspective. Whilst I do my very best to block out the fact that something else died so I could live I am comfortable that it is the cycle of life and its common sense. Ecosystem

It’s at the heart of a balanced ecosystem. Less than 6% of this wonderful country is suitable for growing crops and our sheep and cattle are stewards of the landscape not covered by native vegetation. I respect people’s right to have access to nutritious affordable and safe food whether they choose to eat animals or not.

But let’s not kid ourselves if we all became vegetarians, humans will compete for the same food animals do and animals will be smart enough to know when its a matter of life and death they will be eating us

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