Agriculture – an endangered species

MPP-hand-threat-spec-web620Just like this little cutie agriculture in this country is under threat and this can potentially have huge ramifications for access to safe, affordable, nutritious food for Australian families  

If we are going to ensure food security in this country agriculture has to be a partnership between farmers and the community

So lets investigate the Australian communities relationship with food ( please assume when I write the word food, I am referring to the two f’s-  food and fibre)

Nobody likes to be put into a box and labelled. However sometimes it’s very useful to help you make a point so please forgive me for putting Australian consumers of food  into 4 boxes.

In one box you have the million people in Australia who are labelled Food Insecure and that means 1 million people in Australia go to bed hungry every night. Yes you read that right.  5% of the people in our wonderful country go to bed hungry every night. Please take the time to read about it here

Then there is the extremely larger box that holds the people who buy their food in the main based on Cost, Convenience and Quality (CC&Q) with a huge focus on cost and convenience

Then there is a small but growing box that I am going to label the people who ‘care’. I am going to call them this because they are the group that will potentially make purchases and are prepared to pay a premium for food grown in a way that meets their values. This group of consumers are interested in the ‘how and why’ of growing food and fibre, and also environmental values, sustainability, appropriate animal care, safety, nutrition, affordability and so on.

Values are an emotion. They in the main are not measurable and everyone of us has different values and how they prioritise them so the descriptors of the word “care’ can be very diverse.

At the other end there is a little group I am going to label “Extreme” for the want of a better word. What I mean here is that this group of people have very very strong views about what the word “care’ means and these people sometimes join organisations to lobby policy and decision makers to regulate and legislate industries to align with their values

For the people who sell food direct to consumers in this country like “Colesworth” for the ‘Food Insecure’ there are initiatives like Foodbank and  Second Bite they can donate food to. Food for example that is going out of date or does not meet the quality expectations of the C,C&Q group

The C,C&Q  are easy to satisfy. Sell food at rock bottom prices and build beautiful mega stores in areas that are within easy reach.  The C,C&Q group scare the living daylights out of ‘Colesworth” and their ability to meet shareholder expectations. Selling food at rock bottom prices from stores that cost you a motza is a no-win race to the bottom for profit margins.

So the group that “Colesworth’ is extremely interested in is the people who “care’.  The group that may pay more if you can meet or exceed their values expectations and help them feel good about their food choices. Colesworth want to grow this group. What is extremely disappointing is Coles in particular have chosen fear based marketing campaigns to grow their market share. I say to you Coles – disgraceful conduct.

Our good farmers also want to grow this group and I believe for all the right reasons. We want to grow this group by having courageous and open and transparent conversations with them.

To do this we have to be prepared to ‘open the door’ to our farms and bring consumers on our journey with us and that means not only showing them the ‘how’ – paddock to plate or field to fibre process but also the  ‘why’ of growing food and fibre,

We want to show them they can trust us to farm without feeling the need to ask policy and decision makers to impose overly budensome regualations on our food and fibre industries. Unlike “Colesworth’ farmers had want to allay consumer fears and reduce stress levels

Today our good farmers are now reconnecting with the people who buy their food and fibre. Listening to them and waking up every morning committed to meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations

It is imperative that we take consumers on our journey with us or we run the risk of consumers have increasingly unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations like expecting farmers to wake up every day to produce food at rock bottom prices for nothing. Our farmers have families too and just like everybody else their first priority is to feed and clothe their families.

So the key for farmers is to work with the community to get that very necessary balance. Today more than ever agriculture is a partnership between farmers and the community.

This year the theme for the Archibull Prize will be “Agriculture* – an endangered species” (ht SK) and students and teachers will investigate the many challenges that farmers face and how we build community partnerships to ensure Agriculture can make the most of many opportunities that are on offer and gets off the endangered species list permanently.

Earth Hour 2015 will celebrate Australian farmers and the challenges they face under increasing conditions of extreme climate variability 

That the Food Insecure group gets smaller and smaller and that the people who care group gets larger and larger not because they worry about how food and fibre is produced but because they trust farmers and have the time to put their energies into causes like making sure all Australians have full stomachs every night, have clothes to wear and have a roof over their heads

I want to live in an Australia where we all care about people first. I look forward to that day and I am very proud that the Archibull Prize is helping to grow and support that vision.

Kildare Catholic College

In 2014 the Reserve Grand Champion Archibull Prize award winner from Kildare Catholic College exemplified their community – Wagga Wagga


  1. * Agriculture – the industry that provides us with our most basic of needs. The industry that feeds us, clothes us and puts a roof over our heads
  2. Please note this post is a work in progress. It has been updated following excellent feedback from a number of people since it was first posted it.
  3. Rider – I admit the only thing I look at when I buy eggs is how crushproof I believe the box they come in is.
  4. HT – Hat tip to SK – a lovely lady I met at the NSW Department of Secondary Education yesterday. I shared my vision with her for what I wanted to the Archibull Prize to investigate this year and we work-shopped the theme and I loved her idea




Planet to Plate with Love

I am lucky enough to be the ‘sunrise’ in the wonderful cookbook that can be purchased here that celebrates Australia’s fresh produce and the people who produce it – our farmers


 Doing some promo for the book recently with Masterchef 2014 runner up Lynton Tapp

For me the whole thing has been one amazing experience after another and part of that experience is that it’s allowed me to give back to some of the special people in my life. Like local photographer and all round beautiful person Linda Faiers who worked with me in the beginning to record the journey of all my projects in pictures. Linda is such a talent and this cookbook showcases that

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A sample of the genius that is Linda Faiers – we had such fun capturing the Sunrise 

As the ‘Sunrise’ or forward to the Cookbook I am finding myself doing multiple interviews to promote it – which I must admit is giving me great pleasure – it is just so fantastic that we now have such a beautiful resource that showcases so many of our wonderful farmers, their practices and their values

These days there is plenty of material on the internet that tells people who I am and I always ensure that the journalist interviewing me has seen the ones that I believe best portray what I do, what I stand for, and why I do it

This means that the journalist interviewing me can focus on what they believe will interest the readers of the publication they write for

No matter who interviews me I get that question “why farming – there are so many other careers out there that don’t require you to work 24/7 for such a small return on investment?”

Now anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows farming was definitely not on my list of career choices when I was growing up

If I am going to be honest there was no career I wanted to do less than farm (that probably is a little extreme)

As a child I grew up in house that had a mother who thought she had married a man with the bank account the size of Robert Sangster and all she had to do was look beautiful and attend garden parties (bit harsh – I loved you mum and must admit I always fantasized about what that lifestyle would be like myself )  She soon found out that wasn’t true and farming in Australia is a tough gig and not too many people manage to support their farms without one person working off farm

When I was eighteen and had found out I had lots of options to do whatever I wanted at Uni I grabbed the opportunity and got off the farm as fast as I could

Now Rebecca Ferguson sings this beautiful song where she assures us

 Nothing’s real but love

No money, no house, no car,

Can beat love

So when just before I went to Uni I met my future husband Michael I thought Rebecca Ferguson had totally nailed it. I loved uni. I loved spending every spare minute I had with Michael.

When I finished Uni we got married.  I had a degree and an assured secure income and I didn’t care what Michael did as long as he had a career where people valued him and it wasn’t dangerous

I should have twigged that these two priorities did not sit at the top of his list when he told me he wanted to be a policeman. Is there a career more dangerous and less valued than a policeman? Well yes there is (in fact there is a very long list of them) and one of those is being a farmer.  I used to joke with Michael saying when you become a policeman I am going to become a nun and that certainly reduced his interest in being a policeman.  But six months into our marriage some-one came along and offered him a share farming opportunity and I was horrified. But as fifth generation dairy farmer himself some-one had opened a door he never even dreamt would open and nothing no matter how against the idea I was, was going to stop him accepting

I always say hate is not an emotion it is a disease and for me it was. I hated the idea of going back to the nightmares of my childhood, no money, lots of resentment and parents wanting to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves as children and couldn’t and when Michael said yes a little piece of me died and it ate away at me for over 25 years

Like most women on farms one of my roles was to open the bills and write the cheques and find the money when it wasn’t there. For me with a degree in pharmacy the answer was fairly simple just work longer hours in the pharmacy.

I was working in the new era of Night and Day Pharmacies. These pharmacies were open 7 days a week, 14 hours a day. There weren’t  a lot of people who wanted to work those hours and the people who did could earn quite a bit of money and I became one of those people.

No matter how hard I tried by the time the stress of the deregulation of the dairy industry came around I hated farming, I hated my job and the disease had eaten me away to the point where I felt dead inside.

By that time I had found out that whilst pharmacists are highly valued by the community it can be a very dangerous profession.

In 2000, the year of deregulation, which also happened to be the year our son decided he wanted to farm I was managing a very large pharmacy with a staff of 20 people  that was being held up by the same two people wearing pig masks and wielding knives on such a regular basis I can’t recall how many times it was until they were caught.

It’s the most horrible thing – the hold-ups themselves are horrendous- but watching the long term detrimental effects on the people you work with and have come to love just broke my heart.

So without going into the ugly details I found myself on farm 24/7 and it was then that I understood why farmers are so passionate about what they do. I understood the emotional attachment, the love of their livestock and the landscape and now I too share that passion

I understand why they make the sacrifices they do. I understand why they continue to do what they do when there is no future for their farm

This is why I do what I do and that is fight for a fairer future for our farmers where everyone not just Coles and Woolworths gets a fair return for their efforts

Now our son owns the farm and his father works for him. Our son comes from what many call the Entitled Generation. I prefer to call it the Privileged Generation.

All I hope is that he appreciates the sacrifices his father has made for him because Rebecca Ferguson has missed something very important and Pharrell Wiillams is right You can’t have real love without happiness and you can’t make other people happy by funding their dreams and scarificing your own

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Keep your eye out for the cook book its called Planet to Plate

Its a fabulous celebration of our farmers, our great Australian chefs and the many people who help our farmers supply the wonderful safe, nutritious, affordable food and fibre that Australia and its beautiful natural resources allow us to

You don’t have to win to feel like a winner

“Speed eliminates all doubt. Am I smart enough? Will people like me? Is my bum too big in this plastic jumpsuit?” ― David Sedaris (with a slight tweak)

Agriculture can be a pretty tough operating environment when you are part of a small dedicated team trying to drive change and map out a bright future

There has been plenty of self doubt and self reflection on my behalf over the last 18 months. Many times I have questioned myself and my methods and my personality style and taken the next step and sought the advice of a business coach and done a number of courses to give me the strength I needed to stay on track

So to that wonderful group of people who nominated me for Australian of the Year I say a huge thank you – best Christmas present ever. Your faith in me will help ensure the doubters are just an insignificant noise and give me the inner strength I so needed to stay focused

To agriculture in general please take a little time to pat some-one on the back who is trying to get the best outcomes for everybody. Too often we wear out out our champions and they just walk away    Replace what if with hell yeah

Some more of my favourite self doubt quotes that ensure I don’t take myself too seriously

It doesn’t matter if I’m off the beat. It doesn’t matter if I’m snapping to the rhythm. It doesn’t matter if I look like a complete goon when I dance. It is my dance. It is my moment. It is mine. And dance I will. Try and stop me. You’ll probably get kicked in the face.”
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

“Self-doubt is a persuasive mistress; careful not to shag her or you’ll never get your balls back.” – Simon Hunt”
Dannika Dark, Twist

Courage to do the same

Show me a farmer who doesn’t care

When the term ‘social licence to operate’ first came on the radar for agriculture in this country about six or seven year ago everyone looked wise and then rushed to the nearest bathroom to ask Dr Google what it meant

It’s one of those terms like sustainability that has a mind blowing number of definitions. 90% of them in a lingo nobody understands and far too many people used that excuse to put it in the too hard basket

For me as a farmer having a social licence means the community trusts that I care as much as they do about the environment, producing safe food, my employees and my animals that they don’t feel that it is necessary to ask the government to create an ad infinitum list of red and green tape regulations to make sure I do the right thing

The NSW Government has pulled social licence well and truly out of the too hard basket and put it very visibly on the table as part of their AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY ACTION PLAN DISCUSSION See here

I was very honoured and excited to be part of the discussion on the four social licence policy items proposed in the Industry Action Plan at the SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE – CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY workshop yesterday

I was also so proud to have one of the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions as a speaker at the event. Josh Gibert’s topic was ‘Social Licence the Narrative’ and wow did Josh do a fantastic job. I will blog Josh’s presentation on Art4Agriculture Chat

Pip Courtney facilitated the event brilliantly and a number of actions were put forward at the end of the day.

I personally have no concept of why many of our farmers are tip toeing around social licence. After we all want the same thing as the community and our consumers.

Safe, affordable, nutritious food and quality fibre produced by people who care

Find me a farmer who doesn’t care because if you can that person doesn’t belong in agriculture and they need to be told that. I am confident that will be a very short list.

Agriculture has not told its story well and as a result we are often seen as a sunset industry in this state, Minister Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Director General Scott Hansen and their team are determined to shine the light on agriculture again.

Our farmers have a very important role to help them do that. Let’s start by making our journey a partnership with the community

After all we do want the same thing

Safe, affordable, nutritious food and quality fibre produced by people who care

Lets tell our story, take community on the journey with us and the narrative must be underpinned by why we do it.

MERCURY.WEEKENDER. Pic taken at Clover Hill Dairies Jamberoo for Two page feature and history and future of Clover Hill Dairies ..pic of Lynne Strong feeding some calves. pic by sylvia liber. 6 September 2006. job number 00065069 SPECIALX 00065069

Why am I feeding our calves?. Marian MacDonald tells you why here


Farming land versus housing land. Does it need to be a competition?

Its been a big week and I have learnt a great deal.

On Tuesday I presented an overview of the local dairy industry and its threats and potential at a local community forum of residents who were keen to get an understanding of  what the Draft Illawarra Regional Growth and Infrastructure Plan meant for them and our community

I was overwhelmed. More than 10% of the community filled the local bowling club to hear the speakers, express their views and hear how they can have a voice and have their voice heard where it can make a difference and value add to the decision and policy making process

My presentation started with this slide which of course is the view from my front verandah

14 November 25 Jamberoo Community Meeting Lynne Strong _Page_01

However I too as a householder am not immune to urban expansion.

This is the current view from my kitchen window. Note the newly cleared area under the gum trees. This time next year I will be looking a very big house.


This block of land has been sold more than 4 times in the last 15 years . The last time for over $1 million (and believe it or not there is less then half an acre of land to build on).

Life as I know it like my community is constantly changing. Its not easy to get your head around

Any way what did I have to say about our local dairy industry and its place in the world and  how do we keep it profitable and sustainable and value adding to the community

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I look forward to seeing our community harness the energy  in the room and get the best outcomes for our little piece of paradise

White knights don’t deliver story book endings

This time last week I had the next 4 weeks mapped out. A hugely successful Archibull Prize and Young Farming Champions program in 2014 needed refunding for 2015/16 and once again all my energy would go into do everything I physically and emotionally could to ensure these great initiatives would continue

But as always something comes out of left field that too often seems like a white knight request. Some-one, something, some-where is a victim needing saving from the big bully. This time the big bully is apparently the state government and their Regional Growth and Infrastructure plan which some believe could mean the end of dairying in this region and our regional community as we know it.

I have been in this space now for 15 years and I have learnt white knights are rarely appreciated, are used and abused and in reality achieve very little. So I have a new approach and that is building capacity for people to have the skills sets to help themselves. Sadly the dairy industry is a long way behind in understanding what it actually takes to provide their farmers with these skill sets.

Free range farming

For me on a personal growth level his head in the sand attitude has delivered great outcomes. It has meant success has had to come from building networks with people and organisations (and learning from them) who have the grunt, desire and drive and COURAGE to get the best outcomes for the common good.

I have now read the draft strategy and I am excited. For the first time I am reading a government document that is using language that gives me hope they might just get it. But success will only come if the community uses its skills and local knowledge and expertise and takes a collaborative and cohesive approach and works with them.

My post yesterday “When good men do something” showed you can achieve change the seemingly impossible almost overnight if you nail the right course of action.

Yes it’s important for the community to stand up and be counted but it’s how they do it that will define the future for the Illawarra

BTW this document really puts first world problems into perspective.

Our region is going to grow by 65,000 people over the next 17 years and 25% of them will be over 65. We apparently need 45,000 more houses for those people. On top of somewhere to live they need jobs, infrastructure and food and we need to ensure that these needs are balanced with the environment and their lifestyles.

I am a farmer. I know 158 more people worldwide a being born every MINUTE. That’s a 158 more mouths to feed every minute and in our region apparently every 1.5 people needs a house?

That is a very serious first world problem!!!!!!!

So what will be my call to action when it’s my turn to speak at the community meeting?

Let’s work with the state government (not against it) and get it right. It’s time to use our energy wisely and smartly.

When good men do something

Once upon a time I was a mouse. Head down, bum up, working my butt of to get a pharmacy degree which thanks to Gough Whitlam was within my reach

Today I was doing the big clean up and came across this newspaper clip

The Sun Lynette Lindsay Feb 8 1977

Lynette Lindsay – student

I remember the 8th of February 1977 at Central Station when the photographer approached me wanting a photograph and a grab for The Sun newspaper and I nearly had a heart attack. OMG should I do this. What I am going to say.  But I bit the bullet and I did it and said something ( in hindsight not very supportive of the man who got me an education) then for another 30 years I said nothing.

What I found was that not much gets done when you say nothing.  Edmund Burke famously said ‘evil triumphs when good men do nothing”. These days its known as the bystander phenomenon.

Agriculture traditionally has applauded the heads down, bum up approach and sadly the world has moved on without us.

These days I say a lot when I think it is important to say something and DO something. In 1977 I was catching the 4.24pm train from Central to Kiama. You needed to get there very early to get a seat because the train only had four carriages and almost 40 years later catching the same train you needed to get there even earlier because that same train still only had four carriages. But these days I believe everyone can make a difference if we use the skills sets we have wisely and smartly.

In those 40 years I have learnt a lot. I have learnt bystanders are very important people. They can either watch the world go by or they can get actively involved in defining what the world looks like.

In October 2014 the 4.24pm had 4 carriages. In November 2014 the 4.24pm has 8 carriages. This is a story in part about the power of twitter but most importantly its a story about deciding what you want your world to look like and recognising sometimes its up to you to not only envision it, you have to paint it, frame it, hang it and invite people to see it and celebrate it

Who did I tweet. Some-one who could and did make a difference. Extract from Hansard



Tuesday 21 October 2014


New South Wales Legislative Assembly

Mr GARETH WARD (Kiama) [9.25 p.m.]: I take this opportunity to congratulate my friend the member for Drummoyne on his elevation to Parliamentary Secretary. My electorate of Kiama is the most beautiful in the State. As a life-long resident, the reason I stood for Parliament was to do something for the community I grew up in. Whilst I may be a member of a political party, my first and foremost commitment will always be to my electorate and my home. It is for this reason that I bring to the House the case for improved public transport. The 4.24 p.m. Central to Kiama service makes a sardine can look spacious. While I appreciate that there will be fluctuations in demand for various services, I have never had such a consistent stream of complaints as I have with this service.
In dutifully representing my constituents, I have faithfully referred all complaints to Transport for NSW and the Minister. The response I have received from the department is simply inadequate. In language that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby blush, I am told that Transport for NSW is “monitoring” the situation. Is it really? Has the department monitored people having to stand for uncomfortable distances on a daily basis? Is it monitoring customer frustrations as calls for change are made without any reply? Is it sympathetic to the cause of commuters or is the talk of delivering a timetable with commuters in mind rich on rhetoric and thin on substance?
Lynne Strong is a woman from my electorate who rarely needs introduction, but for the benefit of the House Lynne is a cutting edge dairy farmer from Jamberoo. Lynne frequently has business in Sydney and likes to utilise our train system to avoid driving to Sydney. In Twitter exchanges with Lynne earlier in the year I saw photos of crowded trains with passengers jammed in, with many standing the entire distance from Sydney to Wollongong. Having caught this train myself, as late as Friday, I am also aware of the problems associated with this service. After meeting with Lynne and other frustrated commuters, I decided to petition the Government in order to make it clear that this is a situation I will no longer tolerate. In order to make my point I have been tabling a page a day in the House in order to continually remind Transport for NSW of this problem.
I place the House and the Government on notice. This petition will continue to be run until this problem is fixed. I will not accept obfuscation and bureaucratic fob-jobs as acceptable responses to my constituents’ concerns. What is clear is that there will be no shortage of signatures to fill the pages I will present to the House. And if I have to fight the Government, of which I am a part, that is exactly what I will do. Make no mistake: These words are strong but also deliberate. They are strong because I came to this Parliament to be my community’s voice on issues of importance to us; and they are deliberate because I have also experienced the problems so many of my constituents have experienced.
I am grateful that so many public transport fights have yielded success in the past. Since becoming the local member of Parliament, the South Coast line now has 125 new express services. The timetable has been changed to speed up Labor’s slowed services to ensure that commuters save more than an hour a week because of changes to the timetable. The Government is presently constructing a brand new station at Shellharbour Junction. We have secured station upgrades at Albion Park and Gerringong, and new commuter car parks at Kiama and Oak Flats. We now have an electronic ticketing system—a system that Labor spent $127 million on attempting to introduce without a single ticket sold. We now have quiet carriages and more police on the line. I trust the House does not think that these changes have not come without my gratitude.
But the most basic fact remains: If you purchase a ticket you should expect a seat, and the 4.24 p.m. Central to Kiama service is over-subscribed. I call on the Government and my friend the Minister to listen to these concerns and make the necessary changes our community demands. In the past I have brought many petitions to this place. One petition related to positron emission tomography [PET] scanners at Wollongong Hospital. All members in the Illawarra, both Liberal and Labor, got together to petition the Government for that change—and we fought and won. Another petition related to aeromedical services. When there was a proposal from Ernst and Young based on a submission requested from the Government we faced the possibility of losing this important aeromedical service for our community. Again we fought and won that valuable fight. As someone who is passionate about the community I grew up in and who wants to make it a better place, one of the best things I can do is to ensure that this House is a vehicle to facilitate the concerns and express the views of my local community.
At village visits and community meetings and in my electorate office, I have spoken to concerned commuters who just want to have the service that they deserve. I am at my wit’s end. For that reason, I use this opportunity in the House today to do what any good local member should do, regardless of who is in government and any loyalties or allegiances involved. My first and foremost allegiance and loyalty will be to the people who put me in Parliament, that is, my constituents. Today I send this Parliament a message that better commuter and transport services are required. The 4.24 p.m. service is inadequate. I call on the Government to make the necessary changes so that commuters do not have to stand on trains from Wollongong and Central and people have a comfortable journey on longer distances. I thank the Government for the changes it has made but I make it very clear that this change is important to me and my community and I expect this change to be delivered.

A few words from Margaret Heffernan to take away

We all enjoy so many freedoms today, hard-won freedoms: the freedom to write and publish without fear of censorship, a freedom to vote, which women in particular had to fight so hard for; the freedom for people of different ethnicities and cultures and sexual orientation to live the way that they want. But freedom doesn’t exist if you don’t use it.

 I’m going to take on the naysayers, because they’ll make my argument better and stronger. I can collaborate with my opponents to become better at what I do. These are people of immense persistence, incredible patience, and an absolute determination not to be blind and not to be silent.

We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking.

Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?

See great Ted Talk here by Margaret Heffernan (ht Julie I)