Droughts and flooding rains are highlighting the Voices of talented Youth in Agriculture

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When I came back to the farm in 2001 from a career in pharmacy I was quick to realise milking cows was not my forte. I wanted to contribute beyond underwriting the business financially when cash flow was short. In the Australian dairy industry that happens far too often and far too often it has nothing to do with poor business management skills. 

I decided I would use the marketing and consumer insights skills I learnt in pharmacy to see if I could find a tribe of people who shared my passion to ensure that the product farmers produce was genuinely valued by everyone in the supply chain.

Interestingly enough that tribe came from outside the dairy industry and they were all under 40. After 15 years that tribe is growing exponentially and I couldn’t be more proud. To be honest it couldn’t come at a better time. My advocacy role was seriously starting to impact on my health and what is extra special the young people in the tribe could see that and wow have they stepped up.

Australia has a leadership problem. Far too many of our politicians are a disgrace. To address our leadership problem the tribe of young people I have surrounded myself with have reached out to other bright young minds in the agriculture sector ( and there is no shortage of them) to create a new agriculture grass roots youth led leadership model. Its called Cultivate- Empowering Influencers.

Initially it is a partnership between the Youth Voices Leadership Team of the Young Farming Champions and the NFF2030 leaders who advocate under the banner of This is Aus Ag . That partnership will grow. Its a model based on collaboration. Its a model for the bright future of agriculture and this country as a whole.

However not everything is rosy – its time my generation stepped up. I have found agriculture’s squeaky wheels are determined that anybody who advocates on their behalf must be resilient and the friendly fire to help you do that can be vicious.  Agriculture has far too many people who sit on the sidelines and criticise.  If you don’t think the people who lead your organisation are delivering then do something about it besides whinge.

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Lets start with investing in our young people to ensure they have the capacity to lead within the highly complex supply chain vagaries of the 21st century.

What skills do they need?.

Do we have programs that meet those needs?.

Do we have the support networks and the people within those networks who can mentor, inspire, coach and connect them with other like minded thinkers?

If not invest your valuable time ensuring we do.  Decide what your legacy will be. Are the people in your tribe supporting a positive future for agriculture or they contributing to the friendly fire.

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Ht Anika

Are you part of a youth group that loves to collaborate with other bright young minds?

FYI The Youth Voices Leadership team and their collaborating partners are also working on a model for policy development immersion workshops and mentor support. They also have a number of new advocacy programs and school education programs incubating. Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are all in this together and we are #StrongerTogether

How does agriculture rebuild its fan base?

As a 6th generation farmer who has worked beyond the agriculture sector,  conversed with the bright minds in Getup and the World Wild Life Fund, designed and delivered 21st century learning agricultural and environmental awareness programs for schools I am very grateful for all the community insights meeting people in those sectors has given me.

I know Australians love farmers, I know its actually very easy to attract young people to consider careers in agriculture. After all everyone wants to work in an industry that has all these attributes

  • Modern industry that is evolving
  • Massive opportunities for graduate roles compared with other industries which have much greater competition
  • Salaries that are highly competitive with other industries
  • Diverse career pathways that provide a sense of achievement
  • Multiple opportunities to make a positive impact on the world

I am going to put my armour on and list what I think are the two biggest barriers to agriculture moving forward

  1. Silo mentality – we all know that for our individual farming industries to thrive, agriculture as a whole has to thrive. I look forward to us putting the ‘collaboration is the key to success’ concept into action
  2. Farmers who sit on boards that value outputs above outcomes. Sadly it took a lot of dying fish to give us the crowds its time to build up our fan base again

We are all in this together Australia. Farmers do care.  What we have to learn to do better is listen.

So how do we rebuild our fan base ?

Like a lot of farmers I am inspired by Jacinda Ardern’s concept of reporting on a Well-Being Budget .

“This year, for the first time, we will be undertaking a well-being budget, where we’re embedding that notion of making decisions that aren’t just about growth for growth’s sake, but how are our people faring? How is their overall well-being and their mental health … how is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.” Jacinda Ardern

Lets show everyone how Australian farmers underpin the health, wealth and happiness of Australian families

Well done Nicole McDonald – captured beautifully with this HT to Dorethea McKellar

Nicole McDonld

What sort of person professes to love animals yet abuses people?

Yesterday I saw this tweet from Fiona Simson in my feed. In made me feel sick in the stomach

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What sort of person professes to love animals yet seems to think that gives them a licence to abuse people?

The next issue of RM Williams Outback Magazine will share Fiona Simson’s story. I am looking forward to it. She fascinates me. What sort of resilience does it take to be president of the National Farmers Federation? What sort of resilience does it take to be on her team? How often does agriculture say thank you to these people?

Also in my feed yesterday was a fabulous quote from Young Farming Champion Jasmine Whitten tagging the people she values in her circle. I know lots of young people like Jasmine and I am very grateful they are in my circle.

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Fiona must have a huge circle of support as well because she is one very brave, courageous woman.

Looking forward to 2019 being the year we #culitivatekindness #strongertogether

PETA vitriol reminding us to be kinder to humans

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Social media has opened the door for everyone to have an opinion, and too often showcase just how nasty we can be to each other.  So when I got Airlie Trescowthick – Founder of Farm Table newsletter this week and reached the section on feedback they received on this Facebook post a little piece of me died. This wonderful team of people doing such awesome job on behalf of farmers being attacked by farmers.

I had glanced at the original post briefly, smiled and moved on. What on earth could possibly generate all this vitriol?

Some responses against the content of the post stated:

  • “Why are we quoting and promoting such an anti-farming group from a group called Farm table? If nobody took notice of their stupidity, they would have no platform and no following to do the extreme damage they do. Disappointed, to say the least.”
  • “I hope this bullshit is just a joke? Surely? If not then you need to eliminate your cottonwool wrapped fairy genes out of the genepool. Seriously, get a grip!”
  • “Not worth the oxygen they breathe”.

Some of the language used was violent and directed slander at PETA and/or Farm Table.

I come from a family that doesn’t do difficult conversations full stop and it remains a skill set I have failed to master. Great article here on why its important and how to do it here. As the second article reminds us the language we use in conversations matters and the importance of not letting our emotions dictate our delivery.

Here is a further cut and paste of the section from Airlie’s newsletter

‘Last week, we shared PETA’s new phrases to replace common ones in our vernacular. As expected, the feedback we received was incredibly polarising. What was most striking to us was how people shared their respective view points –  comments I received from fellow producers or people involved in ag in support of the language change were written in a very measured, thoughtful and practical manner, whereas those against were often very rude and used shocking and defamatory language.

However, those respondents that chose to contact me directly via email raised some very valid and salient points that I also wanted to share here to see another viewpoint.  For example, I received one email that read, ‘We should all endeavour to undertake continuing education to keep evolving and improving the lives of animals in our care rather than languishing in the dark ages. Is it unreasonable to say “feeding a fed horse” rather than “flogging a dead horse” (because the horse was flogged to death in the first place by an unethical owner)? A positive spin is far more uplifting than a negative one. In future, I hope you can use the well-meaning observations of those that sit at one end of the spectrum to impact on poor practices that, sadly, are still occurring at the other end of the spectrum!”

Whilst I do not agree with many methods and campaigns PETA adopts, I completely agree with these comments and that opening up a positive dialogue around continuous improvement is vital. It also showed that you can sit on whatever side of the fence you would like, but the ability to explain and communicate your stance is so important. What is not useful is name calling and viciousness and last week shows that we are still a long way from having open dialogue in the public realm. Measured and thoughtful comments like those above did not make the public realm on social media for fear of bullying and trolling. How can we endeavour to move forward on issues like this? Part of Farm Table and Farmer Exchange’s role is to be a space to have open debate in a safe environment – we know the importance of this now more than ever.’

I have made my thoughts clear on PETA in the past but this post isn’t about PETA,  its about us, HUMANS learning to be kinder to each other.

I reached out to Graeme McElligott who practices veganism and is the founder of “Aussie Farmers and Vegans Connecting” for his thoughts

” PETA’s recent tweet in regard to the use in common talk of phrases that trivialise cruelty or harms to other animals makes sense when considered from the point of view that it’s worthwhile choosing to be kind when we can. Our choice of language – the words we use each and every day – can say a lot about our attitudes, beliefs and even actions. Choosing words and phrases with positive overtones surely is better than those that express negative sentiments. So in a sense, PETA’s suggestion encourages us to examine our own attitudes and prejudices.

Yet on the whole, the reaction I have seen to PETA’s proposal has been largely negative. One might have thought vegans and animal advocates would have welcomed the suggestion yet even in those quarters there has been considerable outrage. The main complaints seem to revolve around questions of relevancy (“who cares”), to bringing animal advocacy into disrepute (“PETA makes us look like fools”) and to inappropriate or even irresponsible conflating of issues (“comparing these phrases to those that contribute to institutionalised racism or gender inequality etc is just wrong”). I can’t claim to have spent a lot of time monitoring this whole brouhaha, but my overall sense of it is that PETA didn’t receive a positive reaction from either vegans or non-vegans.

That’s disappointing. Because really, when it boils down to it, PETA has just asked us to think about how our actions and words affect others. In this case, the words and phrases are those that make light of the suffering of our fellow animals and to be honest, I rather hope that most of us don’t really wish to be unsympathetic to how animals can and should be treated best. Whether people choose to take PETA up on its suggestion probably isn’t that important. What I think is more valuable is the discussion it might provoke and the concern it expresses. What exactly is wrong with choosing language that utilises more positive views of our relationship with other animals? Should we rather use “flogging a dead horse” over “feeding a fed horse” and if so why? If it is just a matter of tradition it seems to me that we might think about whether this is a tradition we can dispense with.

So, if the real intent behind PETA’s tweet was to provoke more genuine consideration and debate about how we treat other animals, I feel it’s rather ironic that the backlash online was so vitriolic. The very thing PETA was highlighting characterised so much of the online discussions and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because I think we all lose when we take that path.

British philosopher Philip Kitcher in his book “The Ethical Project” suggests that humans have been involved in what he terms an ethical ‘project’ since our earliest times. His explanation for how and why we have ethical attitudes is that we have always come together as communities to fix failures of altruism. More to the point, it’s through genuine discussion and debate about the issues that confront us all that has guided this ethical project and the many real positive changes our civilisations have made. Whether he’s right or not in an historical sense is open to debate but I think he makes a good point. It is possible and I think preferable for us to come together in good will to share ideas, to listen openly and  honestly to each others’ views and to subject our own beliefs to scrutiny.

How can we make progress, develop better ways to tackle the trickier aspects of our societies and create stronger communities if our automatic reaction is to laugh at, deride or even dismiss those with whom we disagree? The world of social media has elevated this kind of disagreement almost to an art form and I reckon it’s not quite what Professor Kitcher has in mind. The truth is we can make better progress and develop stronger ties between different elements of our communities by being willing to consider what others have to say. We learn more by listening and talking, not by bullying.

PETA represents a particular view of the world and while we may have our disagreements with the organisation and its methods, at the end of the day I think this one tweet has opened us to a difficult conversation. A conversation between farmers and vegans, animal advocates and the livestock industry, between producers and consumers, perhaps even between farmer and farmer. All too often this conversation has been dominated by the negative, but there are signs for change. Vegans and farmers have come together to discuss various perspectives and beliefs on Facebook pages, the agricultural sector has shown itself increasingly aware of the need to meet with and be sensitive to community expectations, farming groups have developed initiatives to help build genuine channels for communication between agriculture and consumer (for example Farm Table, Art4Agriculture and This Is Aus Ag).

With the challenges facing society in the not so distant future – such as how to sustainably feed a global population of 9 billion and the impacts and effects of climate change – now more than ever it is important for us to create honest and respectful conversations. Conversations that might build closer ties across diverse groups with diverging views and help us move forward on these big issues. I saw an example of this positive approach on Facebook recently. A group in the UK called Friends Not Food regularly hold vigils at the Tulip Slaughterhouse in Westerleigh, hoping to raise awareness in regard to animal exploitation and suffering. This group invited slaughterhouse management and staff to join them for a vegan Christmas dinner, which apparently many attended. That is a real example of reaching out, building shared stories and promoting open, honest communication.

I truly think we can do this.”

Successful 21st century businesses rely on teams that are creative, collaborative, adept at problem solving and have the capacity to have difficult conversations that have a positive effect on the team.

I salute Airlie and Graeme who have mastered the art of difficult conversations. I am still learning how and I look forward to many others in agriculture joining me on the journey.

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Highly recommended reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

 

 

How much can you give before people take everything you have?

We all know the story of the Giving Tree.

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“At face value, the story is about a tree’s sacrifice for the love of a boy. At first, they happily play together every day, but eventually the boy grows up and pursues the trappings of adulthood: money, a house, a family, travel. So the tree gives the boy her apples to sell, her branches to build a house, and her trunk to make a boat. By the end, the tree is a stump, but the boy — now a tired old man — needs nothing more than a quiet place to rest, so he sits on the tree and the tree is happy. The end.

But it is the tree who longs most for what was lost, and it is here — at the intersection of time’s passing and the tree’s love — that the story is most powerful. Every time the aging boy returns, the tree gives at great cost to fulfill the boy’s desires, aching to regain Eden for him: “Then you can…be happy,” as happy as when the boy played among the branches long ago.

But they cannot go back. The boy returns each time to the tree, dissatisfied and desiring more, until he grows “too old and sad to play.” The book ends with a shadow of Eden: the boy and the tree together again, but ravaged by time.” Source

I am once again at that point of the year where I feel like the stump –  I have given everything I have to give and feeling highly undervalued. It breaks my heart that I see the people who want to take everything the tree has to offer before I see the people nurturing the soil and the roots ( and there is no shortage of those people).

And then I get a chance to nurture another young person who appears to be making the same mistakes I have and I dish out that advice I so need to take on board myself.

If you don’t value yourself no-one else will

and I beg that young person don’t be me – its very, very lonely. I know she wont be me because she believes in me and because of her I get up everyday and I say thank you.

Do I end with this??

strong-women-quotes-entity-3-800x720.pngNo I end with this

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Hannah Wandel for Prime Minister

Last night Hannah Wandel an extraordinary young Australian was acknowledged for her quest to empower young rural women with the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year Award. Read the post Hannah wrote for Art4AgricultureChat here .

I love working with Hannah. To me she epitomises everything that is good and right in the world.  It gets better Australia, her long term vision is to represent you in parliament.

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Today in Western Australia Catherine Marriott, Tracey Spicer and Skye Sanders are holding the #USToo luncheon to raise funds to support women who are not prepared to walk past sexual harassment behaviour any longer. Like many well known and highly respected women Hannah stood shoulder to shoulder with Catherine

Hannah Wandel Catherine Marriott

I was moved by this article written by Daisy Turnbull Brown to her modern history class of 2018. It will resonate with everyone around the world who stands for what is good and kind. It will resonate with everyone who is on a quest for change.

Daisy says

Not all of you will be news junkies like I am, not all of you will be politically active. But please be anything but apathetic. Spend ten minutes a day knowing what is happening in the world. Listen to the radio. Listen to podcasts. Read the news, argue with your friends, watch shows like Tonightly & the Project. Find a handful of issues that you are passionate about and become experts in them. Know that policies made today might affect you in 20 years.

I hope a few of you will go into public service. Be more than a political hack. Earn a crust, learn the efficiencies of business and apply them to politics, not the other way round.

But most importantly, know that despite everything, kindness will triumph. That dictators rise but they always fall. Apathy is the enemy of history. And you are more equipped than most to see what is happening and do something about it.

History has its eyes on you, ….  never stop asking questions.

and taking a leaf out of Hannah Wandel and Catherine Marriott’s history book today.

“Here’s to strong women.

May we know them.

May we be them.

May we raise them.

May we champion them”

 

#strongwomen #strongtogether

Thank you Bruce McIntosh

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Bruce McIntosh. Photo source 

Have you ever looked at the world around you and thought…

Why am I finding things so hard?

Have you ever found your inner voice asking again and again and yet again

Surely there must be something else?

Surely there’s something more in this life for you?

And…

somewhere in all this you guiltily reflect

About all that you do have

You remind yourself how very grateful you should be

And yet your inner voice continues to irritate, and nag and ask

What else is there?

What new journey will you embark upon?

What new worlds will you explore?

Back in 2004 I decided it was time to do more than just ruminate

I decided to act

I decided to move beyond the familiarity and comfort of my little world

I decided that my journey was to improve the world for other people

So…What was my starting point?

My world is a dairy farm on the side of a mountain at Jamberoo

This is the view from my front Verandah

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I can see for miles across the Pacific Ocean.

When the sun comes up it looks even better than this

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It looks idyllic doesn’t it but as the never-ending drought stories remind us farming can be a tough gig

As I watched the seasons come and go

Watched my family get out of bed every morning at 3am to start another long day’s toil

I developed a burning desire to re-imagine the way the community values our farmers and what they produce

If you want to make a difference you have to shine a spotlight on your cause.

To quote Richard Branson “No-one is successful alone”

Building a network for personal growth in the 21st century hinges on connecting and collaborating with the right people, openly sharing knowledge and insights with individuals who understand at a deeper level our goals and aspirations and who nurture a collective interest in our growth and that of the whole group. Its only when we learn to move together that we start to move faster

One of the early people in my network was Bruce McIntosh. RIP Bruce McIntosh 1928-2018.

Bruce was one of two people on The RAS of NSW Cattle Council who took me under their wing and listened to my big ideas for revamping of the dairy cattle judging and promotion of dairy at the show. He encouraged me to join forces with others, utilise  collective skills and experience, to add new connections and insights and communicate the support I needed to step into the future.

Bruce was a big picture thinker who gave his time and expertise freely, because he knew that by doing this the pie gets bigger for everyone.

Thank you Bruce I am very grateful you came into my life.

_2017 Landcare Conference Lynne Strong 16_9 _Page_01.jpg