With a little bit of help from Beyonce we can save the waterways

There is no denying that agriculture can have a significant and detrimental impact on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, This is a big concern for governments, landcare groups, farmers, and the public alike. More and more Queensland farmers are trying to change that and farmers whose waterways flow into the Great Barrier Reef Catchment are keen to showcase how their industries are meeting their responsibility to farm in a way that protects the Great Barrier Reef.

Tambo SHS

Today’s post is a Hats off to the students at Tambo State High School who participated in The 2015 Archibull Prize. It was clear that the health of the reef is a the forefront of these young people’s minds and they have done a great job of using music to show how farmers and they, as the engineers of the future, are protecting waterways

Fencing in the beauty and fencing out future problems   

Tambo State High School

Sadly the distance to Tambo means art judge Wendy Taylor wont be able to meet these amazing students in person.  Which is a real shame as they sure are a talented lot. Check out their blog here

The farmers’ case for leaving coal and coalseam gas in the ground

These days when some-one asks me to speak at, or judge something they usually request a photo and a bio

The photo part is easy but the bio gets more and more difficult. Yes I can always tailor it for the audience I am presenting to or will be meeting but I don’t even know what to call myself any more.

At the moment as I collaborate with a diverse group of people who are helping to send Young Farming Champion’s Josh Gilbert and Anika Molesworth to Paris for COP21, I am finding myself being referred to as a global campaigner for equity for farmers as we lobby the Australian government for action on climate change.

Anika Molesworth

Australian Young Farmer of the Year Anika Molesworth

What does being a campaigner for equity for farmers mean for me?

It means creating awareness and getting government to ‘embrace the future’ by recognising agriculture does so much more that produce food and fibre.  It creates jobs, grows wealth and vibrant, healthy and resilient rural and regional communities. This is the bright future all Australians want and deserve

It means getting our government to understand climate change is happening and it is a real threat to reliable access to safe, affordable and healthy food not only in 20 years’ time but now.

It means I fully support these comments that agriculture can play a big role in helping deliver the solution

Australia’s food production sector can make a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving our communities, environment and economy to a more sustainable basis.  ….

Farming systems that produce their own renewable energy, and are based on sustainable agricultural practices that increase carbon storage in vegetation and soils, reduce the need for expensive nitrogen-based fertilizer, reduce soil degradation, save water, and protect our natural resource base will have win-win impacts – helping reduce the prospects of climate change to which we cannot adapt, as well as increasing the reliability, profitability and quality of our food supply.

Feeding a Hungry Nation: Climate change, Food and Farming in Australia 2015 by Professor Lesley Hughes, Dr. Martin Rice, Professor Will Steffen

Farmers are perfectly placed to contribute to the solutions to Climate Change. Not only are they on the frontline of Climate Change already, they are innovative, resourceful and determined.

Our Australian farmers are part of a global farming community. They know they have to learn from each other’s successes and failures in order to help us all move forward. Farmers have always been focused on feeding and clothing us, and now they also in a position to POWER us as well using renewable energy technologies.

Its means that I am dedicating every spare minute I have to ensure our farmers are provided with the knowledge, the skills, the support and incentives necessary to help them feed and clothe and power us profitably

With a 2am start this morning catching up on all the things I don’t know that I need to know to be effective at what I do – bloody hell yes did I relate to this story Coal Seam Gas and Country Women #gogirlfriends

Women are very passionate and if you threaten our homes, families and livelihoods we swing into action. Clean water, air and soil are a right for every man woman and child in this beautiful country. We have a right to know how and under what conditions our food and fibre are grown. We owe that to ourselves and our children and grandchildren. The methane is still in the coal seams under the ground so the fight is not over. Sustainable energy is the way of the future. “You can’t eat coal and you can’t drink gas”. Australian agriculture has a huge job ahead feeding the world with only 6% prime agricultural land. If our precious agricultural lands are left unmined, future generations of Australian farmers will still be feeding the world in the centuries to come.

Watch some of these magnificent women here

Where does this leave all the wonderful people who work in the coal industry?

As some-one who has friends with friends who work in the coal industry its is also very important to me that there will be great jobs in clean energy technologies to keep them in work. Here is a great story about Mark Wiggins who after 20 years working in coal and hydro is a coal miner who has successfully made that transition

A career in power generation moves from coal to wind

With the mining boom now at an end, Australia is grappling with a sharp jobs contraction in the coal, gas and resources sectors. As thousands of workers contemplate their futures, many of those in regional Australia will increasingly look to jobs in clean energy technologies to keep them in work.

Wind farms are a logical next step for workers experienced in fossil fuel power generation and that neatly describes the trajectory of AWA member, Mark Wiggins. After 20 years working in coal and hydro, Mark is now Operations Manager at Boco Rock Wind Farm, standing on the Monaro plains, 150 km south of Canberra

Never underestimate our farmers – not only can they feed the world they can also power the world

We all know farmers feed, clothe and house the world the question that is the key focus of my lobbying activities going forward will answer is – can they also power the world through renewables?


Working alongside me are the  dedicated Young Farming Champions team at Picture You in Agriculture who also believe our farmers can help power the world. They are not alone and they have joined forces with a very powerful group (both in size and capacity) of people who vehemently share this belief

There is no denying that an poltical environment in Australia that facilitiates and encourages our farmers and their equity partners to invest in reneawble enery will provide a watershed opportunity for our farmers to not only leave a phenomenal legacy for the planet, it will also provides a new, exciting and pivtoal opportunity for farmers to significant reduce the market and prodcution inputs volitiltyand business risk that a reliable source of dual income from farmers putting energy back into the grid offers

I look forward to sharing our journey to get the Abbott government to share our vision and make it their mission to deliver the necessary incentives and policy to turn “Farmers feed and powers us” from possible into reality

This week as I attended face to face meetings and participated in conference calls from unique locations I was constantly reminded of another often unrecognized service our farmers provide

Last Wednesday saw me travel down the south coast of NSW to meet with farmers and bright minds who share my vision and I documented my journey through the following photographs

Enjoy this pictorial reminder our farmers are the unpaid park keepers of Australia.

Sunrise on my front verandah greeted me like this…….

Sept 9 2015 Clover Hill Sunrise (7)

Salute to Michael and Nicholas Strong who wake up every day committed to growing the best pasture ( and they do) the magnificent rain fed soil the landscape at Clover Hill rarely fails to deliver 

Sept 9 2015 Clover Hill Sunrise (1)

Salute to the magnificent and adorable herd of record breaking “girls” our family has selected and bred over the past 40 years 


On my journey I took this picture of contented bliss on the Burke family farm


My meeting with Mike Logan ( Dairy Connect) and  Rob McIntosh ( Chair NSW Farmers Dairy Committee) took place in front of these scenes at the McIntosh Family farm 

IMG_3542 IMG_3544 IMG_3547and then it was back home as the sun set on our gorgeous girls 
Sept 9 2015 Clover Hill Sunrise (4)

Yes our farmers and Australia’s landscape are definitely worth my time. I look forward to sharing our journey to ensure Australian farmers get a fair return on their significant investment in the health, wealth and happiness of all Australians

Farmageddon Indeed?

Having spoken to a number of people who were interviewed for this article I know it was months in the writing.

Farms Way

What do I think about it.? I don’t know.  It does raise some issues that concern me. I think the main one being does this megatrend and the FTA mean ‘foreign workers”

What it does clearly indicicate is the world finds technology very exciting except it appears when it comes to using it to help produce our food

I had a pre theatre meal in Sydney last week with a small group of non farming background people some of whom I met that night for the first time. Robotic dairies came up as part of the dinner conversation and one of the group said she was uncomfortable with the concept as from what she had seen on television robots for milking cows meant less human/animal interaction

I know where she is coming from Michael Strong always said the reason he loves to dairy is because he loves to milk cows so I can’t see any robots on the horizon for Clover Hill in his lifetime

I on the other hand never wanted to milk cows, and having been to farms where robots milk cows, I love the concept of cows wandering in to get milked voluntarily, getting their backs scratched on the way out and then wandering back to the paddock

I especially love all the data the system collects that allows farmers to spend more time focusing on cow health and less time washing udders, spraying teats and dealing with all the stress milking time invariably brings twice/three times a day

From a dairy consumer point of view – it’s an interesting article. The journalist very pointedly is it appears wanting to be seen to be giving a balanced viewpoint. – Interviews with two farmers, a Dairy Australia analyst, a couple of university experts, an animal welfare group and an animal liberationist group

It reminded me how right Josh Gilbert is in this article titled Whoever Tells the Story Wins the War.

This is part of what Josh had to say ………………….

In Australia, our agricultural industry made towns, supported and raised families and provided resources through times of struggle and conflict. Our farms became a location where dreams were realised, memories created and history shaped.

But too often we forget to share this story, the journey shaped by where we are and the lifestyle we grew up with. Too often, we surrender our love and incite fear that food will no longer be on the shelves. And too often, we fail to recognise that what we want most is equality and the same opportunities as our city peers.

Late last year I stood before agricultural rockstars and policy makers and stated that;

‘The farming narrative will be told- it is up to farmers to decide who tells that story and how it will be remembered.’

That the agricultural world that we want to portray is our responsibility and if we don’t share our story, we risk leaving it to someone else. Someone else who may not feel our love and our connection of the land, someone else who may criticise our actions, with little knowledge for why we do it.

Having spent time this week with environmental groups, faith groups and Indigenous organisations to discuss climate change, I have come to appreciate that there is great respect and support for what we do by all parties. We have people who want to listen, who are thirsty for information, but their ability to find information is limited. Our opportunity to share our story is the greatest it has been- agriculture needs to grasp it, take advantage of it and realise this potential.

Whoever tells the story wins the war- the war of opportunity and of accurate, positive stories

History is indeed written by the victors. I am looking forward to everyone being a winner in the production of safe, affordable, healthy food produced by people who care and get paid a fair return for their efforts.

Cows in Paradise

When political leaders around the globe are getting on board the clean energy train why is Tony Abbott still on the coal train?.

Just as there is love at first sight between people, there can be love at first sight between a person and a place.

 A landscape is more than a location, it is one party in a relationship – Vaclav Cílek ,

Coming from a farming family that supplies 50,000 Australians with the milk for their breakfast every day we have come to realise that farming is so much more than food and fibre production. It’s nature that sustains us and our cows.  When Nature thrives we thrive..

Cows walking home Clover Hill

We live in a world that is becoming more and more aware of our environmental impact and we realise that what our family love doing could damage the pristine rainforest we were surrounded by.

We see our role as a food and fibre producer and custodians of the land is to ensure the people we employ, the people we feed and Mother Nature and the animals in our care have a voice

We realise for nature to thrive we had to be prepared to evolve just like nature

As farmers whether we own or lease the land we farm on we have a responsibility to plan for the legacy we want to leave behind. Until we have a plan, a legacy is only a good intention.

For the last ten years I have been accessing funding and expertise for multiple land holders in my region to help them leave the legacy they will be proud of

Along the way I have met many people with very different ideas on what their legacy looks like and how much time and effort and personal funding they are prepared to put into it.

As I put the final touches on the latest partnership report I am seriously despairing about what the current federal government think their land stewardship legacy will look like.

Banksia (1)

I have the joy of working with people like Erin Lake as young person passionate about our landscape 

Renae Marcus and Megan

The dedicated bush regeneration team Michael Andrews CEG  (28)

Regeneration work as part of the project   Michael Andrews CEG  (40)

Protecting the endangered Illawarra Zieria (Zieria granulata)

Michael Andrews CEG  (30)

.and the  Illawarra Socketwood (Daphnandra johnsonii),


and filming our work to share with the world

I am with the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy on this one and our politicians need to start acting in the interests of the people they represent.

This is what Kelly had to say here

Most Australians want to do the right thing for the environment, but we are seriously lacking in political leadership on protecting nature, life and our shared future.

There are ….local climate action groups working with councils and businesses to reduce their impact on the planet. … Landcare groups restoring creeks and replanting trees on degraded land. …. solar panels going up on rooftops all over Australia. (Did you know one in five Australian households now has solar power?)

….  we should celebrate these acts of leadership which are actively creating a better future.

If only our political leaders would follow suit. Unfortunately political inaction is holding us all back. In fact, some political decisions are driving environmental destruction.

Australia’s environment has never needed a helping hand like it does now. Yet, more than ever, our leaders are turning their backs on our natural places.

…. politicians are making decisions that go against the interests of the people. And right now across Australia decisions affecting our future are being made.

The good news is clean energy is here, ready and waiting, and other countries are deploying it at a fast and furious pace. We just need the political will in this country to move towards a clean and safe future.

At a national level we desperately need multi-partisan support for strong climate change action, after all, it will take more than one term of government and therefore more than one political party to solve climate change.

Most political leaders around the globe are getting on board the clean energy train. It makes me wonder why our Prime Minister is still on the coal train.

I think one of the most important ways to tackle Australia’s environmental challenges is to raise the voices of people in this country who love nature and who want a safe future for their family and friends. That pretty much describes all of us.

Like Kelly my aim is to make it so that our political leaders find it impossible to ignore these concerns.

Surely they can see the management decisions they make now will have impacts far into the future. Surely they care. I look forward to them showing me they do

Want to join me and take a stand and Keep Australia Great Sign the petition here 

Keep Australia Great#aimhigher

Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate

Being a dairy farmer can be extraordinarily rewarding but there is no denying its 24/7 and you just can’t turn the cows off and shut up shop and go on holiday whenever you want to.

So just imagine if a technology came along that milked the cows for you.

Well it has – bring on the robots courtesy of the highly innovative team at Future Dairy at Sydney University

Cows that milk themselves voluntarily with the help of robots is only one example of the many technologies that are available to our dairy farmers. At the moment there are 34 robotic milking farms in Australia (with at least another 8 being installed).


Robotic Rotary Dairy

This represents a total of 135 robots milking around 9,100 cows, producing almost 50 million litres of milk per year. A small proportion of the Australian dairy industry (9.2 billion litres), but definitely growing in interest and adoption.

The average Automatic Milking System (AMS) farm has 268 cows milked through 4 robots (range of 110 and 2 robots to 550 and 8 robots).

These AMS installations cover every commercially available type in Australia (two brands offering single box robots, two brands offering multi box robots and one brand offering the robotic rotary).

The AMS operate across a range of farming system types from grazing with some supplementary grain feeding (82% of farms) to farms where all the cows are housed (12% of farms).

Ciows supplementary feeding

Cows live the luxury life with access to supplementary feed under shelter

Every dairy state in Australia has farmers that are currently operating with AMS and farmer discussion groups where they can share their trials and tribulations and success stories have been established in Victoria and Tasmania as well as the NSW Dairy Innovation Group which discusses all things technology and innovation.

There is no denying the gutsy early adopter farmers should be applauded as new technology invariably comes at a large capital cost with a high new technology frustration cost and a small group of vocal detractors sitting in the wings waiting with glee for you to go broke.

Different farmers adopt technologies for different reasons. So it’s imperative that farmers achieve the expectations behind the technology adoption and there is no denying expectations need to be the right ones too!! Check out the Future Dairy’s Case Studies.

Imagine how excited our industry is to hear the Future Dairy team is in the running for Australia’s most prestigious science accolade The Eureka Prize

Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate – the bright minds who wake up every day with big ideas to change the way we live, work and play and the brave people who the test the waters and help the innovators get it right for the rest of us.

Change is hard

I must admit when I played a big role in the management decisions at Clover Hill there were so many times we were tempted to get on board with some of these new technology breakthroughs that were thwarted by lack of funds, lack of room, lack of IT knowledge ad infinitum but never a lack of desire to get the best outcomes for our cows, our team,our business and the land we have stewardship of

Innovators and Early Adopters, both work hand-in-hand to bring new technology into use. Innovators are the great thinkers in the realm of technology; they create the latest and greatest, cutting edge technology, while Early Adopters can see what the Innovators have created, and find the practical application of the new technology and begin using the Innovators’ creations and applying their ideas.

I sit in the stands and watch with fascination and loudly cheer on all the early technology adopter farmers in our dairy industry.

You are a gutsy bunch of people and you deserve every success and you couldn’t have a better support network than the team at Future Dairy

Also hearty congratulations to Professor Snow Barlow another legend in agriculture for his selection as a Eureka Prize finalist

Thanks to Dr Nico Lyons for his assistance with the data in this article

Interesting article How Robotics is Transforming 21st Century Farming 

Early adopter farmers are agriculture’s biggest threat

This year as part of The Archibull Prize students in schools across NSW and QLD are studying and reflecting on the biggest challenges facing agriculture in this country.

We have told the teachers and students those challenges are:

  • Climate Change
  • Declining natural resources
  • Food and Fashion Waste
  • Biosecurity

We have left out the most immediate challenge and the most important because the program itself by default addresses this

That problem is consumers are increasingly concerned about the way their food and fibre is produced

Surveys continually back up the following

Consumers want  Safe, affordable and healthy food

Consumers are concerned about

1. environment

2. animal welfare

3. chemicals in food

4. Farmers ability to make a living

I have dedicated the last ten years and the next 20 years of my life to showing consumers that they can have faith in the way food and fibre is produced in this country

I am lucky enough to work with a wonderful team of supporting partners and advocates helping me do this including agriculture’s rising stars

The biggest barrier to achieving major gains in building trust with consumers is our farmers themselves. There is a culture in agriculture that values quiet achievers and frowns upon being proud and loud

Too often I hear those early adopter quiet achievers say that the farmers talking in the media do not represent the majority and are not walking the talk whilst they are at home doing what they do best and don’t need to share it.

Let me tell you early adopter quiet achievers. You are the biggest threat to agriculture in this country and I put it to most of you that like me ten years ago you are very proud of what you do and would be delighted to talk about it if you had the confidence and skill sets to do so.

I have spent the last ten years building my confidence and skills sets and now help others by sharing my journey and providing them with the same technical experts that I was lucky enough to have access to.

Let me share with you what I believe the problem is.

You can break farmers up into the following demographics

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

Interestingly enough you can break consumers up into the same demographics. Looking at mainstream technology – love this graph but can’t understand why it wasn’t the girls who were the innovators. See postscript


In agriculture the early adopters get their information from the experts and other farmers follow by having conversations with and witnessing the successes of the early adopters. We have all heard the stats –  9 out 10 farmers learn from other farmers.

Agriculture’s big problem is early adopter consumers have great difficulty accessing agricultural experts or early adopter farmers prepared to share their journey so they get their information from the internet. In a lot of cases that’s a very scary thought. Dissemination of information in the community occurs in just the same way as it does in the farming community. Early adopters (or thought leaders) are highly respected by their peers and listen to what they say.

So I rest my case. Like it or not Early Adopter Farmers is time to come out from behind the bushel and it you were like me and want to build your confidence and skills sets –  lobby the organisations you pay levies to for the access to technical experts to help you Because in reality this is the only way you can save your fellow farmers from extinction.

Self driven extinction by our lack of across the board acknowledgment that the consumer is King and Queen and without their support we are wasting our time and money and our physical and emotional energy


I just love twitter my question as to why girls weren’t the innovators re the iPhone the brains trust on Twitter tells me and you will love this-  its because boys watch porn online that’s why they are innovators. Bit confused but amused

Now there is a research topic for the scientists – Online porn the driver of innovation