Mr Eastwood you have not made my day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote

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

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

Should humans eat animals? Warning reality check ahead

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

Image source 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dog_eat_dog Image source 

When farmers are their own worst enemy

The Sydney Royal Easter Show has been running for the last 10 days. The show attracts close to one million people every year

It is a phenomenal opportunity for farmers to engage with “showgoers” aka general public aka consumers. Those all important people who buy what we produce.

Sydney Royal Easter Show - the audience

Our audience – Opportunity gained? Opportunity lost? Source  

I have been exhibiting at the show since I was eight years old and been involved in various community engagement activities at the Show for the past 10 years.

2008 Dairy activities in Cattle Pavilion

Farm to Fridge Painting Wall

Farm to Fridge Activities

As a farmer in reality I should see exhibiting as a community engagement activity – shouldn’t I?

For example if I was a dairy cattle exhibitor impacted by $1/litre milk sales

  • I would be signing up to be at the show on the most popular days at the show for the general public.
  • I would be doing everything in my power to have conversations with everyone who walked past to show them that I am one of those people that supply their families with nutritious, affordable and safe milk.
  • I would do everything I could to show them that I care for my animals.
  • I would be doing everything I could to show them that I am passionate about the scarce natural resources that my cows graze on.
  • I would do everything I could to ensure those people who walk past me and my cows at the show go home with an emotional bond that makes them think twice what milk they select when they walk into the supermarket.

Last night I had a call from some-one I know well in marketing. It was a very blunt phone call.

He said ‘Has your industry ever thought about the fact that your dairy farmer stud cattle exhibitors at the Sydney Royal Easter Show are doing it more harm than good?”

I said “What do you mean?”

He said “I wandered around the stud dairy cattle pavilion for 45 mins watching how the dairy farmers engaged with the general public. Whilst some do generally engage when they are spoken to, the rest give off this elite aura and some are just plain rude”

I did jump to their defence and said meekly “well they have put in a great deal time, money and effort to get their cows there and they are all pretty much focused on the blue ribbon and tend to find the general public a distraction”

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Sadly he is not the first person to say this. So what does our industry do to engage with the public?

Well our industry doesn’t do anything but the RAS of NSW certainly does and the face of both of these very impressive activities are young people very passionate about the dairy industry who aren’t farmers.

There is the Dairy Farmers Milking Barn promoted as

an interactive and fun experience for the whole family. With demonstrations throughout the day, showgoers can learn about how farmers care for cattle, what the animals eat to stay healthy, milking hygiene and how dairy technology has advanced over the past 200 years.

Showgoers will also have the opportunity to hand-milk some of the gentle, good-natured cows and interact with the farmers.

I have stood and watched as Luke and his team entertain and inform the crowd and it’s outstanding

Also on offer for showgoers and equally popular is the Dairy Farmers Working Dairy promoted as an opportunity to see the on farm technology that is second step in the process of getting milk, butter and cheese from the grassy meadow paddock to the breakfast table?

In an amazing display of modern agricultural technology in action, The Dairy Farmers Working Dairy offers a behind-the-barn-door look at the workings of a modern dairy.

Showgoers will see state-of-the-art machinery in operation, watch as cows are milked and see how today’s dairy farmers monitor their herd for maximum performance.

Visit The Dairy Farmers Working Dairy and the nearby The Dairy Farmers Milking Barn for a look at the incredible changes that modern technology has brought to the business of agriculture.

At the Dairy Farmers Working Dairy the showgoers get to see the exhibitors cows milked.

The face of the Dairy Farmers Milking Barn is a young veterinarian and multi-media megastar Cassie MacDonald

Cassie MacDonald working dairy

– again like Luke and his team she gives a world class stellar performance.

But do these exhibitions leave a long lasting emotional bond that translates into branded milk sales? After all they are pitched as the opportunity to see the technology?

Technology is a thing. Extensive social research tells us people relate to people

Are the dairy cattle stud exhibitors doing themselves more harm than good?

Well that’s a question for industry and ultimately those farmers themselves to decide and do something about.

Milk Bottles

Milk is milk no matter how it is branded or is it?

BTW Other industries are doing some amazing “showgoer’ engagement activities at the show. I will blog about those shortly

Footnote

This post has had 50 Facebook shares in 15 minutes of it being posted. Many of these comments are very concerning. Are showgoers idiots? I don’t think so. How many stupid questions would farmers ask if they went to their workplaces. Why cant we see that the difference between farmers and everyone else it we were lucky enough to grow up surrounded by agriculture . Its time to show some respect and thank the people who buy what we produce and stop wasting massive opportunities like this one Facebook Commentsand this Facebook posting from Robin says it all don’t you think?- if you are going to turn up make the most of it

Robin on Facebook

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

Footnotes

  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

 

 

 

Hate is not an emotion. Its a disease that eats you alive from within

Like the rest of the world I woke up to the heartbreaking news that the siege in Martin Place had ended in tragedy

I write this post this morning to remind people that hate is not an emotion. Its is a disease that eats you alive from within

I just cant imagine what it would be like to have family and friends directly involved in a life threatening situation like the Martin Place siege and my heart bleeds for them

But I have seen the way Australians are talking and thinking about people who follow the Muslim faith change over the last 12 months and it truly saddens me.

Like everyone I have access to a plethora of background information on the man behind the siege and until anybody can prove otherwise I will remain firm in my commitment  that the siege is not the work of an organised terrorist group.

“This is a one-off random individual.  It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged-goods individual who’s done something outrageous.” Source

Lets all remember no matter what religious affiliations we have every religion  has its fanatics who will use their beliefs to help justify barbaric acts

As I thought about the community yesterday and how this would be impacting on our day to day lives I am so proud of Rachel Jacobs who initiated the  #illridewithyou campaign and our fellow Australians who followed her lead.

I will ride with you

Read the Rachel Jacob’s story behind the #hashtag here How #illridewithyou began with Rachael Jacobs’ experience on a Brisbane train

Lets remember when we reflect on this tragedy.  Hate is not an emotion, it is a disease that eats you alive from within.

Some reflections that have also moved me

This post on the Lindt Facebook site

lindt

 

This reflection by a year 9 class in this post  If Martin Bryant was a Muslim 

Today’s reporting of the incident in Martin Place exemplifies what the students identified. We will always be afraid of terrorists if we keep making them. This lone gunman in Martin Place is a psychopath, the media made him a terrorist.

 

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

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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.

IMG_0845

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.