Do our politicians care about us?

Its pretty easy  to think about the world and be cynical. I know at my age I can certainly write a list of the people who have let me down.

But we all know selling despair, ruminating  on the people you wished hadn’t crossed your path and on what could have been gets us nowhere. On the other hand selling hope and focusing on a bright future by engaging and working with the people who share your vision keeps the fire burning in our bellies

I keep the fire burning in my belly by surrounding myself with exciting young people. Young people in schools, young farmers and young activists for social and environmental justice .

Last Friday night  I attended the NSW ACT Young Achiever Awards to support Young Farming Champions Anika Molesworth and Joshua Gilbert who were both finalists in the Environment and Sustainability Category   

Anika Molesworth

Anika Molesworth Winner of  the Environment and Sustainability Award

Millennials and the generation before them don’t exactly  get the best wrap and are often described as self absorbed .  Reading the bios of the finalists in all categories  certainly drew everyone’s attention to a group of young people and their support networks who are turning  the self absorbed label on its head.

Why theses young people do what they do  and how they do it is both fascinating and inspiring.   Last year’s winner in the opening speech said something that gave me food for serious reflection. This young lady is a very passionate member of AYCC who lobbied their peers to sign up and vote at the last election. She quoted some phenomenal numbers as a testimony to their success.

She expressed her motivation by saying  something along the lines of “politicians don’t care about young people and young people don’t care about politicians”. She went on to say part of the mission of AYCC is to show young people how important it is to care about politicians and what they do and don’t stand for and to vote for the one’s that align with their values

Do politicians care about young people.? Do they care about us?  I think they do but I can certainly understand why people in general wonder what they do stand for. How do we fix a system where it appears that too many of our politicians only care about the needs of big business and the powerful people and not enough about the quality of life and well being of everyday Australians?.

AYCC have got it right. It’s up to everyday Australians to hold our politicians accountable and that starts with making sure we have the right politicians in office and support fiercely the one’s who align with our values.

Congratulations to Anika Molesworth, a fierce campaigner for #youthinag and the viability  and resilience of Australian farmers and social and environmental justice

Anika’s acceptance speech – its easy to see why she is in demand as a keynote speaker 

 

 

Little vs Big Agriculture – are objective views lacking??

grist

Foodies I need help.

The Picture You in Agriculture team has paired up with the Intrepid Landcare tribe to create and deliver a program that builds on the success of the Art4agriculture initiatives – The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions to help young people in schools get their heads around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and take local action

Schools participating in the Kreative Koalas program ( note landing page only at this stage)  will partner with Young Sustainability Ambassadors (Expressions of Interest open here  ) and investigate and reflect on seven of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

goals_ppt_16x9

We are finding ‘Responsible Production’ tricky. Coming from generations of primary producers that these days would be seen as Big Agriculture, my mission is to show the Little vs Big Agriculture story is not a binary argument – Good vs Bad or Romantic vs Reality or Sustainable vs Non-Sustainable or Non-Sustainable vs Sustainable but a continuum. I am looking for objective views and some great cases studies on both Little and Big Ag.

Landline is an obvious choice for content but no-one has yet identified OZ food bloggers/journalists of the likes of  Tom Philpot from Mother Jones, Nathanael Johnson from Grist  and  Helena Evich from Politico for me

Do we have food journalists that write level-headed assessments of Australian agricultural systems in plain English?  If the answer is yes – please share them with me

HT Richard Heath and Dr Heather Bray

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

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?

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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

How many ways can you tell inspiring tales from the farm

I have had a very inspiring 3 week road trip which started with an invitation to judge the Spirit of the Land Farm Art Sculpture’s competition. You can see my photos of this amazing event here

Following the Lockhart Festival I joined The Archibull Prize artwork judge architect Wendy Taylor on her yearly whirlwind tour searching for the WOW Archie. Poor Wendy this year proved to be very stressful – the wow factor was off the scale as you can see here.

For me as a farmer the highlight of this trip is talking to the teachers and students and listening to their journey and finding out the impact the program has had on them, their school and the wider community.

Did the students and teachers and farmers have the courageous conversations we all need to have to ensure Australian farmers can continue to feed and clothe Australian families in the highly challenging environment we find ourselves in on so many levels?

The big threats to reliable access to safe, affordable and healthy food in this country like increasing and prolonged extreme weather events, declining access to land, water and non renewable energy sources, food waste, biosecurity risks and and increasing consumer concerns about modern farming practices.

The students looked at all these big ticket issues and many more. They created artworks, they blogged and they animated and wow did they have courageous conversations,  They have thought boldly . They have  shown they have  the courage to drive change and find new and better ways of doing things . Mega kudos to them and their outstanding example to the rest of us

Lockhart Public School

These little cuties from Lockhart had such a great time making pom pom sheep 

The Archibull Prize is a very costly program to run as you can imagine.  Australia is a big country and transporting life size fibreglass cows doesn’t come cheap. Many people donate their time and expertise to ensure the program is delivered on behalf of farmers everywhere to the level of significance our wonderful Australian produce deserves

In fact the Young Farming Champions – some of Australian agriculture’s most inspirational young people donate thousands of hours between them to gain the skills and knowledge to go into schools participating in The Archibull Prize to tell agriculture’s story and share their values, hopes and dreams for a bright future for agriculture in this country

Interestingly enough it was Cotton Australia who was the first industry to put their hands up to participate in The Archibull Prize. Always an industry that thinks outside the box they could see the potential of using a blank fibreglass cow to tell the story of cotton. Although I must admit it did take me a while to convince them the award shouldn’t be the called The Archiboll Prize. Just to show you what I knew about cotton at that time I had to ask what a ‘boll’ was

Let me show you how inspiring an innovative vehicle, a blank fibreglass cow, an exciting young farming champion and some great classroom resources can be to tell Cotton Tales in a way that resonate with the people that matter – the people who buy what farmers produce and I am not even going to show you the artwork yet

The Many Faces of Cotton

Investigating the Australian Cotton Industry

and this

Did you know Australian Cotton is the best in the World?

How to make a Cotton Calf

And we haven’t even talked about cows telling sheep tales yet

Well check this out

Where there’s Wool There’s a Runway

Weaving the Woollen Dream

And this is just a sample – so glad I am not judging these

BTW Check out the Learn about Wool school resources 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

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