For farmers sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel can feel like a train coming straight at you

This is a long post that I have given a lot of thought. Anyone at all connected to the Australian dairy industry will know farmers have tough times ahead and they need all the support they can get

AA-Hope-Hang-on-pain-ends-53

Upfront to me there seems to have been a lack of honesty and transparency from people the farmers ought to have been able to trust. The challenge now is how do we ensure that market opportunism doesn’t make a bad situation worse and the farmgate price decision makers realise now is not the time to feather their nest with bonuses and its time to look after the farmers who look after them.

Honesty is a two way street

Ht Rod Gribble 

These days I sit on the sidelines and feel others pain. My contribution now lies solely beyond the farmgate and my reflections below are from the other side of the fence

Last week I attended the PIEFA Food and Fibre Matters conference

To me PIEFA is an organisation that builds and nurtures relationships between agriculture, government, service providers, education experts teachers, students and industry

There were some phenomenal presentations from teachers, industry and education experts. See here

There were some great examples of success stories from both overseas and Australia.

US guest speaker Jay Jackman clearly defined the role of Ag-Educators (Teachers) and those whose role is Ag-Literacy (AGvocacy)

In the AGvocacy space the CEO of RIST Bill Hamill’s presentation tackled the elephant in the room “how do we balance the need to attract the best and the brightest to careers in agriculture with the realities of how financially and emotionally tough farming can be”.

The current crisis in the Australian dairy industry is a prime example and its heartening to see there are some people doing that very well

Before I share with you some of these lead by example media and initiatives I would like to share with you some of Bill’s findings that show review after review has identified poor image and perceptions of agriculture by young people as an impediment to the study of agricultural science and careers in farming.

Part of Bill’s PhD research aims to

 ‘To assist key stakeholders servicing the agribusiness sector to adapt the language they use to describe their industry and careers in order to positively engage with the Generation Z students and increase both the number of enrolments into agricultural science and the pursuit of careers in agriculture more generally’.

Below is some of Bill’s previous findings as well as some of his PhD preliminary findings

  • Gen Z
    • are worried about financial insecurity.
    • Are looking for positive and engaging careers.
    • ‘work to live’
    • are more likely to pursue a career in agriculture if they were introduced to it at an early age with practical and positive hands on training.
  • Key influences
    • Parents have the strongest influence on young people’s career aspirations.
    • Employers have a strong influence on retention of young people in agricultural careers.
    • Language and images used by the industry have an important connection to attraction and retention.

Bill reviewed

  • Rural Newspapers – 150 front pages selected in years 2011 and 2012 (VIC, SA, NSW, WA)
  • 20 submissions to Government Inquiries by farmers, industry spokespersons, government (2003, 2012 x3)
  • University web sites (provide degrees in Agricultural Science) x 2

His preliminary findings found that whilst only 18% of jobs are behind the farmgate the discourse of agriculture is focused about the farm and activities related to farming and there are four sub – discourses tied into this:

  • Negative discourse on farm income – 52%
  • Negative discourse on instability within the industry -39%
  • Negative discourse of the stereotype of who represents agriculture – male, old, poorly presented – 63%
  • Negative discourse of the work environment of agriculture – 30%

Bill used this quote from 2013 to make a point

‘With farmers across Australia struggling to maintain their financial stability in the face of continued dry weather conditions and other challenges, including fluctuating commodity prices and rising rural debt, the increase to the national minimum wage had the potential to create a further cost burden to the agriculture industry’.   CEO National Farmers Federation

Post Bill’s presentation I had a conversation with a farmer I admire greatly who has spent a lot of time in the political lobby and AGvocacy space and she reflected by saying ‘our leaders use this type of language because they think this is what their farmers want them to say’

Bill summed up his presentation with

Ask not what ‘they’ can do to make agriculture more attractive for Gen Z, ask what you can do to promote agriculture as a positive and fulfilling career to the next generation.

At the moment that is a tough call in drought affected areas across Australia and in the Australian dairy industry.

Some questions we could ask ourselves are

  • Do we really want our industry leaders to share the doom and gloom stories?
  • Do we want sympathy or empathy?
  • Who do we want to hear from when times are tough

I think in the main farmers want to hear from trusted voices with skin in the game.

As always dairy farmer blogger Marian MacDonald is showing great leadership  See here

Farmers want to hear from industry leaders who are doing more than talking

Loving this media example from David Basham SA Dairy Farmers Association President who is leaving no stone unturned.

  1. We have already spoken to the SA Minister for Agriculture’s office to ensure the Minister has an understanding of the implications this situation may have on the dairy industry here in SA.
  2. We have also spoken at length with the Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture, SA Senator, Anne Ruston.
  3. We are seeking indications from other major dairy processors operating in SA regarding the probability that they will re-evaluate their prices for the current year.
  4. We are also seeking an indication from the companies on their ability to accept extra supply.
  5. Our incoming CEO, Andrew Curtis has written by email to all affected members offering the support of SADA in the days and weeks ahead.
  6. We are also speaking with financial institutions and others regarding the ramifications of this decision. We would be happy to discuss our findings with all members of SADA
  7. We will continue to engage with Murray Goulburn staff and staff of other processors to encourage them to talk directly with their suppliers and discuss the current situation and how this will affect the suppliers going forward.
  8. We have also spoken with Rural Business Support (formerly Rural Financial Counselling Service) to alert them to the situation and would encourage dairy farmers to make contact with them to help may have on their businesses.

“Our concern is the health and wellbeing of our farming families, and also the service sector that provides such valuable support to the dairy community.

As soon as we are confident we understand the long-term implications on farmers and the dairy communities we will be contact again with our member” David Basham

Farmers also want to know government and the community care.

Dairy farmers Diane Bowles and Catherine Jenkins have created a great iniitaitve that is allowing farmers to help support each other and also invite the community to “show some #dairylove” Story here and join the Facebook page here

Show some ‪#‎dairylove is a group created to support our great Australian dairy farmers and to encourage everyone to buy more of the world class dairy products produced by caring farmers. Eat more dairy and show us your #dairylove!

Nick Reynard

And whilst dairy farmers have traditionally given the ‘suits’ a bit of a hard time they too have an important role to play and Dairy Australia has ramped up Tactics for Hard times

Blurb  Dairy Australia will ramp-up the rollout and use of DairyBase to assist dairy farmers in revising their budgets for 2015/16 and developing budgets for 2016/17.

Dairy Australia is examining all of its support programs to see where it can adapt, adjust and respond with relevant advice, information and support. It will also support the efforts of milk processors and other dairy community service providers.

According to Alison Ledgerwood in this TEDxUCDavis Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck) farmers are not alone and people in general have a fundamental tendency to tilt towards the negative. Her research has shown that it easy to move from a positive view of things to a negative view but far harder to shift from negative to positive.

Alison tells us

Literally this takes work. This takes effort. And you can practice it. According to Alison you can train your mind to do this better.

We can also rehearse good news and share it with others. We tend to think great that misery loves company that venting will help get rid of our negative emotions, that we will feel better if we just talk about how terrible our day was. And so we talk. And we talk. But we forget to talk about the good stuff.

And yet that’s exactly where our minds need the most practice. So my husband who has this disconcerting habit of listening to what I say other people should do and then pointing out that technically speaking I’m a person too has taken to listening to me for about two minutes on days when I come home all grumpy and complaining about everything. And he listens. And he says okay but what happened today that was good.

And so I tell him about the student who came up to me after class with this really interesting insightful question. And I tell him about the friend who emailed me out of the blue this morning just to say hello. And somewhere in the telling I start to smile. And I start to think that maybe my day was pretty decent after all.

I think we can also work in our communities to focus on the upside. We can be more aware that bad tends to stick. Our minds may be built to look for negative information and to hold onto it. But we can also retrain our minds if we put some effort into it and start to see that the glass may be a little fuller than we initially thought.

Sound of rain

For all those dairy farmers desperately looking for the positive I have reprinted this glass half full review of the Murray Goulburn situation on LinkedIn by former CEO of Dairy Connect Mike Logan

What went on at Murray Goulburn? Will you be disappointed? Or, is it an opportunity?

 Since leaving the dairy industry representative body Dairy Connect last month, Murray Goulburn has been in the news and I have been asked my view. While not having any skin in the game any more, I have been sufficiently involved in the dairy market to have considered it. 

I can say this; Gary Helou and the MG Board have tried to do something different in an industry that desperately needs a fresh approach. That they have not yet succeeded is a pity, but it is time that is needed.

Time and financial markets are not friends. 

Gary Helou came in and attempted to modernise a very old and conservative company. MG needed to approach the future with a new strategy because the world is changing rapidly and so should MG. Without doubt, Helou was brought in to do that. It was never going to be pretty, but it is still needed.

To achieve a new future, the MG Board decided they needed new markets and a new capital base. The old focus on commodity dairy products had led to low farmgate prices and no growth in their supply base. Their members were getting restless as the looked across the creek to the successful CuzzyBro’s at Fonterra. 

Fonterra’s capital base and government underwriting had made them unassailable in the commodity market. MG had to do something different. MG envies Fonterra’s protective legislation but has to work within the rules of our post-deregulation, crazy-brave competition system. 

Coles

MG got into bed with Coles. Every supplier knows that when you get into bed with Coles you should cinch up and prepare for a rough ride. MG won the Coles private label fresh milk contract in NSW and Victoria after a very competitive and value destroying bidding process. The Board decided to invest in two new factories to supply fresh milk into those markets. 

We heard all the usual hyperbole of state of art/automated/world class/capacity for growth and so on. There is probably no margin in that contract even with the new factories. 

They were investing in a market that was (and is) oversupplied in those regions. Neither NSW nor Victoria needed new fresh milk capacity. It was already well supplied with sufficient but antiquated capacity. Subsequently, the Sydney factory is remarkably underutilised. 

Devondale Fresh Milk

They thought the way to create value from the deal with Coles was to develop their own branded, higher value fresh milk. The Devondale branded fresh milk has not been the success the Board would have reasonably hoped for. It has been discounted as low as 75c/litre so it has been worth less than the Coles homebrand product. 

All of those that are expert in branding questioned the strategy. Simply, building a new brand that has no point of differentiation (unlike a2) is only a function of money. You have to buy the brand space. This may not work. Demonstrably, it didn’t. 

You may have seen their advertising? It made the appallingDairy Austalia Legendairy advertisements look good. One was so bad that it was declared racist.

Capital Raising

In the middle of this, Warnambool Cheese & Butter came on the market. Humility was turned to hubris and the bidding was absolutely stupid. The wiley Barry Irvin came out of the bidding war with dignity intact. He made a quick $100million for Bega.

MG too made serious money on the ending of their shareholding in WCB. Dairy was gold and they had gold. 

MG needed a new capital model and the time was ripe. They followed the old adage – when everyone is buying, you sell.

As a Co-operative in Australia their choices are limited. They came up with a creative solution where they raised a unit trust to support the Co-op’s balance sheet. Then they connected the dividends of the unit trust to the farmgate milk price. They are not a Co-op any more, and not a fully listed corporation. They are half pregnant. The current situation is undoubtedly awkward to manage.

All of the talk about $6/kg farmgate milk price held up the Unit Trust and made the farmers feel good about their new business partners. The MG Board and their CEO, Gary Helou fell for the old trap of over promising and under delivering. 

Suddenly, they were not only a half pregnant Co-operative, but the investment market was soon going to find out that they needed a shotgun. The unconsummated pregnancy has not delivered sufficient satisfaction.

Infant Formula

Finally, here is where they went right. The board has agreed to a series of offshore partnerships to deliver infant formulaand other products to the new and emerging markets. These are yet to bear fruit. The global dairy market has tanked on the back of some unfortunate political circumstances in Russia and the Chinese who overbought Whole Milk Powder to a never-seen-before level of stocks to use. The WMP powder price literally burst like the bubble it was. These are political and market circumstances that the investment market should clearly understand. To add insult to injury, the little Aussie Battler went north to 76cents.

The demand fundamentals of the target export market are unchanged. The demand for manufactured and branded milk products from reliable safe suppliers is growing at a steady and remarkable rate.

Murray Goulburn’s strategy of developing supply capability in partnership with its customers to deliver high value, branded and packaged dairy products such as infant formula is well thought through. The NSW dairy industry suggested this to MG nearly four years ago and was laughed at but they have since seen the light very clearly. 

That market is now recovering and the strategy should work. 

It will work soon – but not soon enough for the impatient investment market who want results every quarter and damn the future. 

Helou sent packing

The Board, probably at the behest of the investment markets, have taken out the shotgun and put Helou out of his misery. There is much dancing on Gary’s grave.

Helou should be recognised for trying to change things. He gave it a go and good on him. It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. He came from the outside of the industry so he was never going to be a favourite. However, everything he did was most probably with the approval of the MG board.

Where to from here?

There are three sides to the question, what should the investors do and what should the farmers do? But finally, what should the Board do?

Investors:

The investors came into the unit trust in full knowledge of the circumstances of the milk price and their dividends. They also knew that it is agriculture in a rapidly changing global market. At the moment, the situation looks grim, but the fundamentals are good. The investors will do what investors do, but they are only holders in a unit trust and they usually have the forsesight of a rear view mirror.

Farmers:

They farmers are the ones feeling the pain but they are the ones that should be the adults in this situation. They should stick with their co-operative and encourage the Board to deliver on the longer term strategy. 

Board:

Directors should now brace themselves for a tough ride, but continue to assure the farmers – the suppliers to their business – that the strategy has had a few setbacks, but is still correct. They should tell the investors to look through the windscreen. 

Now everyone is selling, should you buy?

Show some #dairylove because you might just be the light at the end of the tunnel for some-one else

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Speaking up, burning bridges and the point of no return

I thought I would share leadership guru Zoe Routh’s newsletter with you today. As a person who does speak up but has often has found themselves at the ‘point of no return’ I do admire people who can both speak up and drive change without burning their bridges.

Looking forward to getting that balance myself but then again

Burning-bridges.

 

Why Don’t We Speak Up?

“What do you think, Zoë?”

Holy crap. This was it. I had to say something.

My colleague had just thrown me a bone in a meeting. He knew I was peeved about the contract and was quietly stewing in frustration.

And not saying anything.

It was only when he set me up directly that I sat up, and spoke up.

It wasn’t easy. I got emotional. Apparently I cared more than I thought. And I felt better for it afterwards.

Speaking the truth always feels better. Eventually.

So why don’t we speak up? Why do we keep quiet when we’ve got something to say? An opinion to express, an idea to share, a criticism to make, a concern to raise?

Here are some reasons I’ve found in my own life, and work with my clients:

We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

We don’t want to rock the boat and risk our status in the group.

We’re afraid we’ll go past the point of no return and the unknown looms as a menacing void.

We’re afraid of the can of worms that might be unleashed, and we don’t like conflict.

We’re afraid we’ll be judged. Or rejected. Or hurt. Or dismissed.

In essence, we’re afraid of feeling bad.

So we shut down, shut up, and shrink.

And that’s the worst kind of feeling bad.

When we don’t speak our truth, our soul wilts a little, our heart grows a little more brittle, and the emotional pot goes on simmer.

Not speaking our truth is the worst kind of personal damage we can do to ourselves. It’s the deepest form of pain. So we numb it with alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, overwork, over exercise, food, or any other kind of distraction that keeps us from feeling into the depths of our inner world.

But when we do speak up, when we share what is going on in our heart, on the other side of the unknown mess that may ensue, we have a chance of a bigger horizon. We show ourselves and others that we matter, that we are worthy, that the stories we tell ourselves, even if they are wrong, matter. They matter because they help us connect better to ourselves and each other.

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown says, “I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.”

The equation looks like this:

Truth – – – MESS – – – Feel better.

Speaking up is a leadership moment that matters. It can rattle cages, upset the apple cart, ruffle feathers, and every other metaphor for sh*tstorm, but speaking the truth is the song of the soul.

What helps is having a tether to our values and the willingness to walk in integrity. I have an intention that I want to model what I teach others, to embody what I know to be true, no matter how challenging.

So when my colleague looked to me and asked, “What do you think?” I took a deep breath, and spoke.

What calls you to speak the truth? What keeps you from speaking it? And what, if anything, will you change?

Zoe Routh

p.s. Don’t forget to register for the Grace Under Fire webinar series that starts next Wednesday. Register here: http://innercompass.com.au/grace-fire-webinar-series/

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

FarmerAnnimation_Man

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

13306_FarmerIllustration_Page_1

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

13306_FarmerIllustration_Page_2

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 ??????

Update 

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

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 Act proposed reforms. “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.

Footnote

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. Dairy Australia also find similar results in the survey they conduct

 

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

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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?

r28_47_1753_1017_w690_h388_fmax

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

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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

The danger behind the hypnotic trance of leadership stereotypes

I watched the announcement of the pairing of Sarah Pallin and Donald Trump on TV last night and I will be polite and say it didn’t exactly make my day.

As an earlier post this week from me indicated I have predicted that 2016 is the year that our leaders in Australian agriculture will be required to step up to the plate in a way they have never been tested before and if we can’t find this decade’s Rick Farley Australian agriculture is looking at irreparable brand damage    

‘When did we last see a peak representative body deliberately and strategically reach out to its perceived opponents, seek to understand their position fully, and commit to work together to find a way through? ‘ Professor Andrew Campbell  Source 

Let’s have a look at how Leadership Experts in the US are reflecting on leadership selection  after yesterday’s “political marriage” in hell. In this case Will Marre

The Most Common Reason We Select Lousy Leaders

Lousy Leaders

Source

About this time in most political campaigns a majority of voters begin to look at who is running and say, “Is this the best we can do?”  Seriously, out of 335 million citizens, are the people up on stage really the most qualified candidates to lead the most powerful nation in the world?  Are you kidding me?

There are many reasons why the most qualified people don’t ever end up running for President or even leading major business organizations.  But I believe the root cause is our collective judgment falling under the hypnotic trance of leadership stereotypes.

Harvard Research reported that the book Compelling People confirms that our “fast brains” prefer leaders who are assertive, competitive, decisive and tough.  Our superficial thinking is that these leaders will protect us.  The problem is our “fast brains” are quite stupid. Our quick judgments are primarily ruled by primitive emotions and ingrained prejudices that lead us to foolish opinions.  Our smart brain needs to take time to analyze facts, test claims and exercise wisdom. However, using our smart brain takes a lot of time and energy that we mostly exhaust getting through our daily lives leaving us vulnerable to bad judgment and emotional bias when it comes to choosing leaders. This is a problem. A big one.

Our bias for mistaking confidence and competitiveness for leadership starts at a very early age. A brand new research report from Harvard graduate school of education, “Leaning Out,” confirms that by high school 40% of boys and even 23% of girls believe that male political leaders are more effective than females. Both male and female teenagers prefer males on the student council.  Even a majority of moms of teenage girls  believe that boys are more effective student body officers.  What?

The root of our problem is that most of us don’t understand the science of leadership.  In fact most people may not know that effective leadership has become testable science.  It has.  For instance if we agree that excellent business leaders should be able to:

  1. create and produce profitable products and services that improve the quality of life of customers;
  2. inspire and motivate employees to consistently perform their jobs extraordinarily well;
  3. consistently produce profits (once the company is beyond the startup phase) and;
  4. conduct business in a socially responsible manner that produces benefits to communities and minimizes or eliminates harm to the environment;

then we can identify leadership factors that actually produce those results. And we have.

Our problem is that neither our business schools nor Wall Street fully agree that these four worthwhile goals of business leadership really matter. Instead they focus on things like competitive dominance and financial results.  This leads companies like Volkswagen to pay their engineers to fool regulators instead of coming up with brilliant technology. It’s what led GE’s Jack Welch to spend two decades paying fines to the EPA rather than cleaning their toxic waste out of the Hudson River.  It’s what enables the financial pirates known as investment bankers, who caused the needless suffering of the last recession, to pay fines but escape jail.

Likewise in politics, too many of us seem to like puffed-up roosters bellowing about going to war, building walls and solving complex problems through the shear force of their will.  It is natural for us to wish the world be simpler than it is.  But this wish makes it easy for really strong sounding leaders to promise to deliver what we emotionally wish were true.  It’s simple.  When we feel overwhelmed we are easily suckered.

Strong but stupid leadership has created the world we currently live in. In the 1990s we thought all war was over and perpetual prosperity could be engineered by Alan Greenspan.  Instead we have begun to recycle the geopolitical problems of the last thousand years and the ugliness of the unrestrained self-interest of the Gilded Age of 100 years ago. And we will continue to recycle our problems at even more extreme levels unless we understand the leadership qualities that will produce a world that works for everyone.

The actual science of leadership is based on a meta-analysis of what creates sustainable abundance confirms this:

  • Hard power, which is characterized by competitiveness, aggressiveness, decisiveness, single-mindedness and self-interest, is primarily effective at achieving short-term, easy-to-measure goals.  This isn’t to say it’s useless, only to say it is an inadequate way to run a complex organization or the most powerful country on earth.
  • Soft power, which is characterized by collaboration, teamwork, empathy and systems thinking, works well in complex environments where knowledge and information is widely distributed.  However, organizations led only by soft power tend to be indecisive, slow and uncompetitive.

The answer of course is the synthesis between hard and soft power.  It is the third way. It capitalizes on the goal-focus of hard power and social intelligence of soft power.  Is the basis for something I called gender synergy.  It’s no secret that most males favor hard power and most females exhibit soft power strengths. We need both.

The challenge we face is that we need to raise the new generation of SMART Power leaders pronto. The world economy continues to shake, new kinds of wars and medieval violence assault our peace, and businesses exhaust their employees, exploit the environment and fail all too quickly in the face of agile competitors.

Of course both men and women can learn the skills of SMART Power.  I am focusing on developing women leaders because women are listening.  Brand-new research reported in the book Broad Influence confirms that when any leadership group, whether it’s top executives, Boards of Directors or the U.S. Senate, reaches a critical mass of between 20% and 30% women, the group becomes much more effective in achieving its goals.  This phenomenon is being repeated all over the world. I believe more women in leadership is the most powerful trend that will revolutionize our future and get us out of the spin cycle created by the leaders who are currently in charge.

We need to celebrate it and accelerate it. You can help by calling out bad leadership.  You can put the name “hard power” on shortsighted, blindly aggressive leaders.  You can support socially intelligent, soft power leaders by helping them become SMART using the tools of goal setting and accountability. You can change the future right now, right where you are.

Will

Don’t expect to see positive change if you surround yourself with negativity

As soon as you pass through the magnificent avenue of trees at Gundowringa at Crookwell you realise you have arrived at a farm steeped in heritage

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Charlie Prell inspired by the visionaries who came before him 

On your left is the 160-year-old  woolshed that in its heyday accommodated 16,000 sheep and the stone shearer’s quarters built in 1916

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Today it sleeps up to 18 to supplement the farm’s income through fly fishing and farmstay opportunities

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On your right is a stone cottage of the same era and to the right of the stone cottage stands the pavilion that once overlooked the cricket oval

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But the pièce de résistance is the homestead. Everything else is a reminder of when the country rode on the sheep’s back. The homestead underpins why the family is so committed to making farming work for them and the generations to come in the 21st Century

Gundowringa Homestead was built by Chas E Prell in 1905 out of basalt and granite and roof tiles that were used as ballast on ships doing the round trip from UK to Australia 

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Chas E Prell – the first of 5 generations of the Prell family on Gundowringa

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The gardens were laid out while the house was being built. There are some very impressive large trees, some now over 100 years old. Including what is believed to be the oldest and largest Linden grown in this country. Other breathtaking species include an evergreen example of the liquid amber family the Liquidamber festerii

It was the rose garden and the horizontal elm, with the flattened canopy designed to allow you to walk under that caught my eye.

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The house has maid’s quarters and when first built visitors were greeted at the door by a butler. At the height of the wool boom the property supported thirty jobs

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The homestead was adapted to use as farmstay accommodation in 2000 by Charlie’s parents Jeff and Jess Prell until Jess death in 2008

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Jeff Prell – a man with every right to be proud of what his family has achieved and the perfect host to share his family heritage past

Jeff has found love again and married local artist Margaret Shepherd whose studio and artworks bring a new vibrancy to the homestead

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The current generation have a lot to inspire them and inspired they are. Inspired to adapt and move with the times. Inspired to respect the landscape and work in partnership with it

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Jeff and Charlie Prell marching into the future 

Like his great grandfather and his namesake Charlie Prell knows that pioneers who advocate and help drive change are often initially perceived as being radical in the extreme particularly by people entrenched in the past

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Charlie Prell – a bright future relies on innovation and making the most of the ssets you have 

What we often forget is what traditionally sets people like Charlie and his great grandfather apart is their commitment to the greater good. Charlie Prell has leased part of Gundowringa to a company who will install a wind farm. He is also helping farmers across Australia find alternate fresh income streams from renewable energy technology.

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The site of the future Gundowringa Windfarm

Charlie is using part of his new stream of passive income to reinvigorate and drought proof the farm and embrace the opportunities that the combination of the diverse income streams of renewable energy, tourism and food and fibre production offer to sustaining generations of Prell family members as long as they wish to remain there.

Nobody will ever be able to say that Charlie Prell is a victim of the disconnect between reality of the vargaries of farming and the idealism of the view that food and fibre production alone will keep Australian farming families in business for the long haul in the 21st Century

Today it’s hard to believe that the now acknowledged visionary Chas E Prell the man who epitomised the “producing more with less’ ethos and pioneered pasture improvement utilising superphosphate fertiliser was in his time considered a maverick who didn’t follow convention. Its a reminder that its important not to forget the past. What’s even more important is to learn from it.

Change is the law of life

I recently heard some-one say the jobs available in ten years’ time to young people currently in primary school wont have been heard of today. My greatest hope is that agriculture becomes a visionary in learning from its past and embracing the opportunities a partnership between farmers and nature offers