The first cut is the deepest

A toast to health, wealth and happiness

Art4agriculture is a proud supporting partner of the National Centre for Farmer Health photography competition and I am speaking at their conference in September

The Centre provides national leadership to improve the health, safety and well-being of farm men and women, farm workers, their families and communities across Australia.

The NCFH has been operating since November 2008 and the Centre focus revolves around the ethos “that a healthy Australian farm is a healthy farm family”

Worryingly the the Victorian Government has just cut the Centre’s budget by $1M which will seriously impact on its ability to continue to function.

Passionate advocate for rural communities and rural mental health services Alison Fairleigh has started a petition asking the community to join her “in sending a message to the Victorian government that our farmers are important to the future of this nation and we will not let them be undervalued in this way”

“Last week I was left flabbergasted by news that the Victorian state government had cut funding to the National Centre for Farmer Health which will have implications for farming communities across the whole of Australia. Farmers make an extraordinary contribution to the Victorian economy, as they do to our nation’s economy.  It defies reason that a government would entre into a false economy by cutting back in important areas such as health, mental health and welfare, which will only cost them more in the long term. We as a nation can ill afford to lose any more of our farmers!” said Alison

According to the federal Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, it is unlikely a cut to continued funding for the National Centre for Farmer Health was a political move and was more likely about tough economic times than politics. He is appealing for a Federal Government lifeline for the centre.

Greens leader Christine Milne says “The greatest challenge for rural and regional Australia is to lift productivity without access to more land and without access to more water. That means massive investment in research and development.”

“They (regional Australia) also need an investment in mental health services, because there are huge consequences for individuals and communities in rural and regional Australia, who have very limited access to mental health services, and they are entitled to their fair share.”

Senator Milne said more investment in nation-building was needed to move Australia “away from the resource based economy it is dependent on and towards a creative, brain based, service and information based economy”.

I am not a great fan of the Greens but Christine is spot on here and it saddens me this country cant seem to get the right balance between health and wealth.

In the case of our farmers we readily admit non-one is forcing us to farm. The majority of us go into it with our eyes wide open to the fact that farming in this country has a volatility index of at least 300%. That’s 3 times that of big supermarkets.  We chose to farm knowing there is no government support and we are at the mercy of both the weather and international events.

Farm Cash incomes

Last ten years have been a bit scary and dairy farmers are not alone

One farmer recently described the last 10 years for farmers in Australia as akin to putting everything you own on black at the roulette table and red came up.

Dairy farmers who supply the domestic milk market are selling their product into a hostile environment.

  1. At processor level and retail level – milk companies like Lion who don’t have a profitable market for their milk are cutting farmer quotas not because consumers aren’t buying fresh milk but because the milk price wars are destroying the milk supply chain
  2. At consumer level. – Modern consumers have little knowledge of modern farming practices and are often unnecessarily concerned about intensification of the industry, environmental stewardship and animal welfare

The declining terms of trade are impacting on farmers ability to manage risk and our ability to secure capital.  This is evidence by the bank sectoring tightening lending for dairy farmers particularly in NSW and QLD. This does not bode well for the future of fresh milk in this country.

Far too many of our farmers are being pushed to the limit physically and this seriously impacts on our ability to cope emotionally

Lets not forget our farms and farmers produce so much more than food that we as a community often take for granted. They produce experiences and values that are often overlooked like our farming culture and heritage and generations of handing down of skills and knowledge,

I agree with Dick Smith when he says

I believe that we have reached the time
when our political leaders should show leadership and say there is always a time when
“enough is enough” and we need to stabilise and  grow the quality of life, not  just the
“quantity” of life.

This petition is the perfect opportunity to send a message to all our governments (State and Federal) that if you don’t have health, wealth becomes meaningless.

You can have your say by signing the petition here

Our farmers our future

I am not feeling the love

When I was invited to speak at 2012 Agricultural Land Conference  “Managing the future of Australian farm land” being held by Australian Farm Institute at the end of May I was very excited and honoured

“This two-day conference brings together policy-makers, industry representatives and landholders to consider the most up-to-date information on these issues, and to engage in discussions about what future Australian farm land policy should aim to achieve”.

We recently hostedDr John Keniry in his role as NSW Natural Resources Commissioner who also just happens to be chairman of the board of Australian Farm Institute and you should have seen his eyes light up when he spoke about the work the institute does and what it achieves and I don’t blame him I am very proud of it too

So why did I get this gig and why I am struggling.

Well I got the gig because I am expert in the joys and challenges of farming in a peri urban landscape with both our farmshaving a high rural urban interface.

The tentative title of my talk is “Farming in a Goldfish Bowl – is it doable” Well at the moment it is but it’s not getting any easier and I am starting to question our resilience and why we bother. Now as anyone who knows me or has heard me speak there is no-one more upbeat about farming and proud of farmers being part of the noblest profession than me

In fact I started a Youth Movementto shout it far and wide but at the moment I am not feeling the love and I am angry

Let me share with you why

I normally start my talks with “I have big picture vision for agriculture in this country. I want a dynamic, innovative and exciting agrifood sector that the next generation best and brightest see as a career of first choice but agriculture has a number of internal issues to address before this will happen”

The elephant in the room is farmers lacking the very necessary skills sets to effectively and productively engage with consumers and policy and decision makers and come to the decision making table with the solutions.

Farmers are less than 1% of the population and we know as little about the other 99% as they know about us and that’s dangerous. Sadly it is becoming very dangerous for food security in this country.

Internationally renowned agriculture sustainability expert Louise Fresco points this out very well.

“Never before has the responsibility of feeding the world been in the hands of so few people. Never before have so many people been oblivious of this and have the luxury of taking food for granted” Hear her insightful TED talk here

How does this relate to our story?

Setting the scene. We farm in paradise on possibly the most fertile soil with highly reliable rain fed pastures in Australia – there is no denying that


View from my front verandah

We supply more than 50,000 Australian with milk every day on just 118 ha and to top it all off we do this in a highly sensitive rainforest environment


Wow I just love bringing those cows home through Picasso Corner and taking in what we have achieved through strong natural resource management community partnerships

We do it in the middle of a dairy centric rural residential subdivision where houses sell for in excess of 2.5 million and even include a Glenn Murcutt house

Dining court yard with lights

We do it on the edge of Jamberoo where not only do the thousand people who live in the village see our farming practices everyday so too do the tens of thousands of people who travel by on the highway each year .


Now don’t get me wrong our region loves its farmers and so does the local council. Sadly in the main they love their farmers not because they produce food but because they maintain the landscape and paradise. We do such a good job the local real estate agent took a picture of the Lemon Grovefarm and splashed it right across one of their exterior walls. (must get a picture of that myself)

My Clover Hill neighbours are gorgeous but there a number of them who say privately they love the vista the cows provide but would prefer the cows and their manure had a virtual presence. There are times I cant blame them – turned up to a few events with manure on my shoes myself.  We know reality says you can’t have one without the other. I do hope the ever declining farmer terms of trade and external pressures out of our control don’t determine my neighbours actually witness the ramifications of a cow free landscape shortly.

But I can live with these minor frustrations what I am really angry about is despite successful farming in this country requiring ongoing innovation, efficiency gains, increasing intensification and active farmer/community/decision policy maker engagement this isn’t happening.

Why isn’t it happening you ask?

At a regional level farmers find themselves locked into a system where they are unable to free up capital constrained by archaic planning systems based on prohibition and mathematical exercises. We have regulators who impose urban ideas of separation and rigid rules which they apply in isolation with no understanding of the landscape or landforms.

Too often so called agricultural experts are selected by tender not expertise leading to regulators being ill-informed. The one size fits all and a lack of collaborative ethos stymies diversification and innovation. Well-meaning green councillors have preconceived ideas and prejudices of farmer motivations and are driven to reinvent the landscape into what they think it should look like. In fact this was recently played out when all of the “prime agricultural land” in Jamberoo was zoned landscape or environmental land and because of lack understanding of how our local dairy farmers farm the dictionary definition of dairy farming actually precluded dairy farming. Just as well we identified and reversed that impending disaster before it was too late.

Most of all I am angry with Coles. $1/litre milk is not sustainable. Food has not been realistically priced in this country for a long time and now Coles is hell bent on devaluing it to the level where farmers feel worthless.

What is the answer?

Well Coles and their partner in crime in this race to the bottom to demoralise farmers and destroy agriculture’s viability in this country are out of my control.

However engaging with, and convincing the community and the regulators that fostering the rural idyll of 1950’s style agriculture is unrealistic and counterproductive to innovative, dynamic, profitable sustainable agriculture in the 21stcentury is one I will pursue fervently.

We all have a role to play Australia. Countries who do value food because they can’t grow it themselves will continue to buy farmland in this country. Don’t get angry with them instead recognise valuing your farmers is not enough. Firstly we must be prepared to vigorously lobby our regulators to give our farmers a mandate to innovate, achieve efficiency gains and intensify their businesses. Most importantly we must realistically value the food our farmers produce and be prepared to pay for it.

In the words of Louise Fresco “Food is as important as energy, as security, as the environment. Everything is linked together.” Yet we continue to ignore this at our peril and we are denying these young people a future as part of the noblest profession and this wont happen eitherJulia if we don’t have the farmers to fuel the agribusiness sector.

Thank you Australian Farm Institute for the opportunity to be heard and vent and hopefully help bring the solutions to the table

Some other food for thought can be found here

Richard Black – Farming needs “Climate Smart” Revolution

Geraldine Doogue – Foreign Investment in Australian Agriculture

Shaun Coffey – What Price Cheap Food

Marian MacDonald – Confidence to Grow

Lynne Strong – I must be a good person because I am a Christian

Nate Berg – One things missing from the Urban Farm Movement – Farmers

Farmers holding positions of influence

Today Clover Hill Dairies hosted a visit by Natural Resources Commissioner Dr John Keniry and A/Executive Director Bryce Wilde. As always we take every opportunity to share farming stories and farmer commitment to people, animals and the planet with the wider community and people of influence.

Can you imagine how excited I was to find out the commissioner is also a sheep farmer from Cumnock running lambs and producing wool.

With farmers at less than 1% of the Australian population you don’t tend to run into people of influence with a strong farming background who know as much about growing pasture as you do


Dr John Keniry and the SRCMA team at Clover Hill

As it turns out Dr Keniry has worn many hats in his lifetime including a degree in chemical engineering with first-hand experience in the food and sugar industries. He is Chairman of the Pork CRC and Sheep Innovation CRC and Chairman of the Board of the Australian Farm Institute so he comes to the Natural Resource  Commission with an understanding of the everyday challenges of farming and managing on farm issues and that’s very comforting to this farmer.


The pasture was looking pretty impressive. I can see the cows licking their lips already when they see this. Erin’s wildlife corridors were looking equally good. Look at those trees grow Erin. What about the Persicaria a vulnerable species that has taken a liking to our creek beds. How rewarding is it that we have been able to link, enhance and establish additional populations of this native herb around the farm  



Not been able to join us for lunch Michael is not complaining as there is plenty of Panacotta left over to keep him dairy indulged over the next few days




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Permeate what’s all the fuss?

I wasn’t going to write a post about this topic but people I respect are now  concerned about the addition of permeate to milk and one of Art4agriculture’s Young Farming Champions wasquizzed about it and wasn’t confident answering the question when she gave a recent presentation. So I decided it was time to debunk the misconceptions and get it out in the open

Permeate so why all the fuss?

As always controversy sells newspapers and attracts viewers in droves for TV shows and apparently food controversy does this better than any other topic.

In fact it’s become so popular that we could have controversy food isles and controversy free food isles in supermarkets and food products and brands would be moving backwards and forwards like yo yos as long as the issue continued to improve ratings .

This week its milk and how it is standardised. Below is a nice simple diagram of how milk is standardised. Standardisation means you can put accurate fat and protein percentages on milk product labels.


Fairly straight forward stuff wouldn’t you say? What the labels don’t say is how the milk was standardised and this is causing controversy because the word permeate now emits “controversy”

So how did permeate fall into the controversy isle of the fridge. My opinion is lack of transparency. Transparency within food systems refers to full disclosure of information about rules, procedures and practices at all levels within a food production and supply chain. Transparency ensures that consumers have detailed information about production of a given food item.

When permeate first appeared in the media the reaction from the big milk companies and industry bodies was “no comment”.  Not the wisest decision they ever made.

Milk companies it’s time to fix this mess. If the milk is standardised with permeate put it on the label. Australian shoppers are not known as most discerning in the world, the statistics say we buy on cost and convenience and take 1.7 seconds to make a food item purchase decision in the supermarket. It’s a pretty fair bet that the word permeate on the label won’t even make a dent in sales but the consumer has a right to know and it’s time to show them that respect

Let’s hope this is a lesson learned “truth in labelling” should be nothing to fear. After all if you are not proud of what goes in your product and you can’t talk about it don’t add it.

Back to permeate – Let’s get fair dinkum I can confirm for milk consumers permeate is nothing to fear. It’s just a milk by product just like cream is but I won’t be whipping to put on my dessert any time soon

Food Myths Everywhere

Just what are we teaching our kids?

Yesterday I wrote a post titled “Cows lay eggs don’t they” for Art4agricultureChat after I discovered that a large number of young people going through the Egg Dome at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Food Farm thought that eggs and dairy foods come from the same place. Then of course there was the ACER survey that delivered the international media heading Australian Kids think yogurt grows on trees. Embarrassing indeed. 


Now whilst those with the knowledge can all have a good chuckle, everyone should be concerned about this lack of knowledge of the basics of food and fibre production. Why you ask? Think about it like this. These young people grow up to become our decision makers. They get to decide how to balance feeding and clothing people with housing people with an ever decreasing amount of land, water and energy resources and that won’t be easy and often there won’t be right or wrong choices just wise choices for people, animals and the planet

Yes Australia, with its vast size and diversity of climates can continue to produce a wide range of high quality produce and products to satisfy its consumers, while contributing to Australia’s economic wellbeing. But these production issues and decisions need to be addressed by all and let’s face it common sense says students should be equipped with the capacity and motivation to make informed decisions about such questions as well as be provided with the opportunities to gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, fibres they use and the environment they live in. This knowledge and skills should involve all the processes of production, marketing, consumption, sustainable use of resources and waste recycling, i.e. complete paddock to plate and beyond.

To do this, a variety of skills and knowledge are essential, including scientific, technical, problem solving and critical thinking. Knowledge of the past along with innovation is required. The required interest, knowledge and skills need to be encouraged and progressively developed through the curriculum from kindergarten through to Year 12. The Australian Curriculum should provide these opportunities in a manner that is appropriate with student development and at the moment it doesn’t and we should all be lobbying our current decision makers to fix this.

So if agriculture isn’t embedded into the curriculum from K to 12 what opportunities do young people get for hands on food and fibre experiences and knowledge and how is industry helping to address this conundrum ?

Art4agriculture worked with Meat and Livestock Australia on their display at the Brisbane Ekka last year and it was a huge success. This year Art4agriculture have been working with Ann Burbrook and 12 students from Caroline Chisholm College via 4agriculture and Archibull Prize to add a little something extra special to the Meat and Livestock display in the Sydney Royal Easter Show Food Farm for 2012 and I will write a post about that shortly.

In fact MLA actually participates at 5 Royal Shows around the country (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth). They believe Royal shows give them a wonderful opportunity to engage with urban Australians in an environment where they are thinking about agriculture. In each case they aim to have a paddock to plate presence but that depends on the space and location.

So let’s have a look at some of the activities that MLA as part of the 14 day Agri-Disney experience that has become the Sydney Royal Easter Show do to help fill the knowledge gaps our school curriculum doesn’t.

Research over the last five years confirms that 93% of visitors to the Food Farm come to see animals and so “Livestock in the Round” was developed.

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No shortage of people to share the Paddock to Plate story with in the Food Farm  This photos shows how Freeway, the Charolais bull, attracts a crowd to “Livestock in the Round” while Sarah and Lisa talk about cattle and beef production

This format allows people the opportunity to get close to, and touch, very large animals that they normally never get see, let alone touch.  The presenter talks about a range of things relating to beef cattle production (or sheep meat production if sheep are in the ‘Round’) and visitors can ask questions.


Students Annie and Paige from Camden Haven High were guests of MLA in the Round this week

MLA also have a session each day when they get kids into the Round to pretend to be  ‘livestock’. They are tagged (with animal stamp), weighed, scanned (NLIS scales and wand reader) and backline drenched (drench gun with bubble bath) – then they come into an enclosure with 2 sheep and “Heidi the Hereford” (who is a staff member in cow suit). If I was a kid I would think that sounded like a lot of fun.

The Round sessions are supported with interactive and educational games and displays like the Fun on the Farm – which is a touch screen computer game for young children (and the not so young) where players can either water the animals, weight them to make sure they are a healthy weight, move a herd to new paddock to manage the pasture, or protect seedling trees by keeping fences in order.

The picture below shows the Livestock Learning Wall. When you press the button next to the question an LED light trail leads to the right answer


The Farming and the Environment model below shows environmental cycles on farms such as carbon, water and soil nutrients (dung!)


There is also Raise the Stakes which is a touch screen computer game for older children and their parents that is a question and answer game where you can Ask A Farmer or go 50/50 to find the right answer and try to get the highest score. There are also towers with some information on cattle and sheep, as well as food safety, nutrition and cooking as well as DVDs running a cooking session and a loop of photos taken to celebrate Australian farmers. Then there is Patti (below) painted by Richmond High School students as part of the Archibull Prize 2011 whose grass patches show the meat cuts she produces. Patti is surrounded by iPads running the iBeef app that shows what cuts to cook for different cooking methods and how long to cook for the desired result.


Then of course there is the Pièce de résistance Moobix the 2011 winner of the Archibull Prize who highlights the many difference facets of the beef industry but more about this later


MLA staff are also on hand to answer any questions visitors might have and students from Tocal Agricultural College with a support teacher care for all animals whilst they are in the Food Farm.

The provision of opportunities for students to have hands on experiences related to the raising of animals and growing of plants should not be underestimated in the 21st century. Core values of caring for animals and developing empathy with them are an integral part of this learning area, encouraging students to reflect on the past and move with the future.

The Sydney Royal Easter Show does indeed play a very valuable role but surely we cannot expect it to deliver science literate decision makers can we? Off course not.

Our young people should be provided with day to day opportunities to study all facets of food and fibre production and consumption as part of a school curriculum that provides authentic learning opportunities for students, offering a range of opportunities including academic, technical and skills based for students from kindergarten through to the completion of secondary school.

Lets get it right. The Australian School Curriculum should provide unique opportunities for students to interact with the physical and biological environment and to develop responsibilities that help to make them valuable citizens of Australia who can make the best choices for people, animals and the planet.

Judging can be a tough gig

Yesterday I judged the Schools District Exhibit Display Competition at the 2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show.  The competition has the dual purpose of showcasing talented young people and their team work from NSW schools as well as identifying, encouraging and mentoring young people to feed into the iconic District Exhibit Display teams.

Currently 4 of the 5 District Exhibit Display regions are represented in the School District Exhibit display (lack of space is currently the limiting factor)

Woodenbong Central School is the trailblazer in this field and I understand has been winning the Queensland version of this competition regularly for a number of years. Woodenbong won the first Sydney Royal School District Display competition in 2010. I didn’t judge that year but remembered I had a picture.  How could I forget that chest that opened and closed so effectively.

Woodenbong 2010 P1090373

Woodenbong Central School winning display from 2010

This year the big idea had a celebrating Australian Year of the Famer theme. The students’ vision is to connect city people with the farmers who produce their food and fibre. In their words “ the start of a new day, an opportunity to start new relationships and take agriculture forward together”


The school had a six student team representing Yr, 7, 9 and 10 who all come from farming families. Their skills are honed by also studying wood technology, metal technology and art as well as agriculture and having watched them put the display together for the last two years under their agriculture teacher’s eye they are very dedicated to their art.

Woodenbong Central School 3rd Prize

I even learnt  something new from talking to them. Have you heard of Adzuki beans. They are the red colour on their version of the AYOF logo.

Woodenbong Central School is a feeder school for the Northern District display and I understand they have a great mentor/mentee relationship.

Northern District Exhibit

The Northern District parent display in 2012

Menai High School has been competing now for 2 years. This year their display was also an acknowledgement of Australian Year of the Farmer. The display used millet, chick peas, niger, (don’t worry I had to look that one up too) canola, lucerne chaff, wheat and faba beans to give a three dimensional feel to their display. Belinda (seen in the front) is a tribute to women farmers and the display features pumpkins and wool grown by the school.

Menai High School 2nd Prize

Menai High School falls into the Southern District and as you can see from the Southern display (below) at this year’s Sydney Royal which is a tribute to women in agriculture, Menai High School made a fitting link to their mentor display and achieved a very worthy second placing. Menai will also be thrilled to know they took out the Students Choice Award.

Southern District.

Southern District Exhibit 2012 showcased women leaders in agriculture making a difference.

Calrossy Anglican School falls in the region known as Central and have the genius of Architects Craig and Wendy Taylor who have been designing the Central District Exhibit display for over 23 years to tap into if they chose. Calrossy is Wendy’s old alma mater and she is looking forward to sharing her years of experience with the students going forward.

Central District

Central District display takes out Best Design Award at Sydney Royal Easter Sow 2012

The Calrossy display was a tribute to the life blood of their region the Peel River. The display showcased the major food and fibre industries which include the poultry industry, the feedlot industry, olives and lucerne farms. The display also featured plots growing ryegrass and wheat.  The two young men who talked me through the “big idea”  were from Yr8 and Yr9 coming from a dorper sheep stud and a horse, cattle and cropping farm respectively. They both did themselves, their parents and their school very proud and impressed all the judges with their eloquence and passion.

Calrossy Anglican

Muirfield High School falls into Western District and this is their 3rd year in the competition.

Winning the competition in 2011 from Woodenbong by if I remember rightly by just one point last year with this magnificent display (below) highlighting the innovation and science in the agriculture sector in the 21st century.

iMuirfield High School  (2011)

Muirfield High School actively work with and tap into the team from Western District for support, knowledge and produce

Western District Exhibit 2012

Western District won the People’s Choice Award in 2012

Muirfield High School have taken out the blue ribbon again this year with their “one world one plate” theme. Reminding the viewer that the world doesn’t spin without farmers, their  world map is made out of a beach ball that is covered with paper maché. You will note the map of Australia is coloured very brightly which the students said is to highlight that Australian farmers lead the way in innovation (BTW a microwave oven motor drives the spinning ball). The Muirfield team was made up of students from Y8 to Y12

1st prize Muirfield High School

I found the judging task much harder this year with the competition very even and this was reflected in the scores. My two fellow judges Andrew Barnum and Nicole Punt are both well known in the art and design world and I benefited immensely from their broad experience and expertise .

I approached the judging from a farmer perspective being highly appreciative that all of these wonderful young people were helping me tell farming stories to my urban customers – the lifeblood of every farmer’s business. Like the Archibull Prize  judging the highlight is talking the students and finding out the big idea and how it developed and the emotional connection they have with their theme, their study of agriculture and their artwork.

When the judges had all spoken to the students and viewed the displays we sat around the table and chief steward Geoff Bell added up the points to find out the overall winner Ultimately it came down to how well the students had caught your eye and taken you on the journey of their big idea and how they had glued it all together

As Andrew said a “great artwork has a simple clear message that takes a viewer into the artist’s world and holds them there, makes a connection and leaves a lasting impression “

You definitely did that Muirfield. Brilliantly done and this farmer thanks you. In fact I thank each and every student, teacher, parent and community member involved in the preparation of the School District Exhibit displays

You can see the School District Exhibit Showcase in the Woolworths Dome Foyer’s Centre for Agricultural Excellence. It is most definitely worth a look

Special thanks to George Davey for taking the pictures of the winning entries today for me – bit of a superstar with his iPad

Warts and All

Two more sleeps and we open the farm gate warts and all for our Field Day.



A huge amount of work has gone into getting both farms ready (or as close as we can with all the major rainfall events) both on farm and at the regional Landcare facilitator’s office at the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

I have three presentations to get ready which is bad enough and now I hear the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry is going to film the entire event.

Research shows 9 out of 10 farmers learn from other farmers. We know we push boundaries and we don’t always get it right so its important what you share.

So I have decided to focus one of my talks on what we could do better.

This started by listing 10 things we do well and then listing 10 things we want to do better and second list was frightening

Firstly I wrote down what I thought, then I asked Michael and then I got Nick’s opinion and OMG did I end up with a long depressing list. So I think the first thing we need to do better is not be so hard on ourselves   

So here is the list of what we do well

  • Very focused on doing what it takes to stay in business and employing young  people and contributing to local economy
  • Animal well being and environmental stewardship focused
  • Chase knowledge and implement technology
  • Outsource the expertise we don’t have
  • Push the boundaries
  • Grow pasture well
  • Engage with the community
  • AGvocate
  • Monitor inputs and outputs
  • Share/communicate our story with the farming community
  • Whole of industry vision and we partner and collaborate

Now I am off to whittle down that long list of things that we could do better


Meanwhile David and the dry cows get on with seeding season. See previous post here

Don’t tell the cows but yoghurt grows on trees

This story by Saffron Howden  “Cultural cringe: schoolchildren can’t see the yoghurt for the trees”made the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and not only that it was the most read article nationally. I am not sure I should tell you this but the whole world is talking about it. If you Google “yoghurt grows on trees”  you get almost 1.7 Million hits on the web on this story line

At the farm we have decided that we wont tell the cows that 27% of children surveyed think yoghurt comes from trees. It will break their hearts.


It was bad enough to learn that most people didn’t know cows had four teats let alone this latest travesty.

But seriously what is it we want people to know about agriculture. I am sixth generation farmer. I grew up on a beef and sheep farm not returning to the dairy industry until I was 22. I will readily admit I had no idea how many teats a sheep had until I looked it up the other day. They have two by the way

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Sydney School students visit Clover Hill Dairies

Today farming is diverse, its complex, underpinned by the latest science and research and is highly technical. Its also dynamic, innovative and can be a very rewarding career pathway.

One of my next door neighbours is an engineer and for quite sometime taught advanced engineering at Sydney Uni. He loves living on the farm and being part of a working dairy landscape. We have had many many discussion about educating people about agriculture. He tells me its not so much about educating but building an appreciation. He uses the mobile phone as an example. He tells me the mobile phone is the most technically complex device on planet but it is not necessary for people to understand how it works they just appreciate it works and he believes this is where agriculture should focus.

For agriculture I like use the Sydney Harbour Bridge as an analogy. We value it as an Australian icon. We appreciate its a complex structure, but we don’t need to understand the intricacies of how it is put together. When we cross from one side to the other with our most precious cargo, our families, on board  we just need to have confidence in the people who designed it and trust who the people who built it .

My neighbour is right. The key is for farmers to actively engage and have two way conversations with urban Australia to build trust and appreciation of Australian agriculture so the community will value the hands that grow it and the land that produces it.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

There are many ways to do this and Art4agriculture was conceived for agriculture to have these conversations as early as we could.

On the farm we have taken every opportunity to share the Clover Hill Dairies story and its definitely a highly rewarding experience having two ways conversations with the people who not only love yoghurt but also know it is made from milk from happy healthy cows

Yogurt is made from milk from happy healthy cows0064

The environment is what we eat

Every now and then something that touches your heart happens. This week it was a young lady called Grace Mahon who is in Year 5 at Jamberoo Public School.

Grace entered the prestigious LandLearn NSW public speaking competition at the end of last year and she has been selected as a finalist to compete at the Dubbo Beef Spectacular on March 15.

Grace’s first round speech that caught the judges’ ear was entitled “The Environment is What we Eat. I don’t know Grace but her mother Ros tells me she wanted to focus on something local and did a little bit of internet research and found our farm.

For the finals her topic is ‘Australian vs. Foreign produce. How can we win”.  Winners, runners-up and a rising star will win cash prizes and the overall winner of the day will be invited to deliver their speech at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

With Grace’s permission I have used my favourite pictures of Clover Hill to turn her speech into a video which you can watch here


Thank you Grace we feel truly honoured and we are very confident you will give the other finalists a strong run for their money in Dubbo next month

Food is our common Ground

Previous winners and finalists speeches can be found here


I was like an excited little kid waiting for Christmas Day and arrived early for day 3 of the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Show judging. It is widely recognised the Sydney Royal Wine, Dairy and Fine Food Shows set the standard in Australian wine and food judging and offer producers a platform to benchmark their products within the Australian market. Only the most exceptional quality is recognised with gold and silver medals providing a perfect platform for marketing exposure.

Lynne Strong

All dressed up and ready to work

Today I was to have the ultimate sensory ice-cream experience stewarding the ice-cream judging at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like ice-cream and there I was eyeing off the best the country has to offer.

The Sydney Royal does everything with style and the day started with a yummy breakfast for judges and stewards.


I had a birds-eye view of the massive upgrade being undertaken on the arena


I had the pleasure of meeting international legend that is Herve Mons


Herve Mons discusses the day’s duties with Chairman of the Royal Dairy Produce Show Gerry Andersen

My mentor for the day was RAS Councillor and former chairman of the Sydney Turf Club Bill Picken. Bill is all personality and with lots of wise advice I soon got into the swing of things.

Bill Picken

Racing Identity Bill Picken

Mark Craig and Susan

Ice-cream judges Susan Burns, Craig Davis and Mark Livermore.

The steward’s role is to ensure the judging process runs smooth and effectively. This includes ensuring each entry is presented to the judges at the correct temperature.

A scoop of each ice-cream is placed on a separate plate behind the entry so the judges can view its melting profile. The judges then take numerous samples for tasting.

Ice-cream is judged on Flavour, Texture, Appearance and Melting.


Susan closes her eyes and mind to the world about her and holds each sample approximately the same length of time in her mouth,


As the ice cream melts on your tongue there should be a pure taste

To evaluate the flavour a small amount of the frozen ice cream is placed directly into the mouth and quickly manipulated between the tongue and palate and the taste and odour sensations are noted. By pressing a small portion of the frozen ice cream against the roof of the mouth the smoothness, the coarseness, the sandiness, and the relative size of the ice crystals can be determined


Mark clearly enjoys the task

The experts can get a fairly accurate impression of the ice-cream’s body and texture characteristics by dipping the ice cream. The judges notice the way it cuts and the feel of the dipper or spoon as its cutting edge passes through the ice cream.

You may have heard that the overall quality of an ice-cream line can be judged by tasting its vanilla. True. Simple and pure, a scoop of vanilla should have a distinctive but delicate flavour that lets you experience the texture of the ice cream without masking other quality indicators.


There was no shortage of flavours on offer

Appearance/Presentation –  Ice cream should look freshly made. Icy crystals on the surface or around the edges of the tub indicate either that the ice cream has been melted and refrozen or that it’s old.


There was even a Banana and Vegemite Flavour

Texture –There has to be some “air” in ice cream or else it would be hard as ice. But you also don’t want it to be all fluffy. The surface of the ice cream should be smooth. There should be some heft to a cup of ice cream, and when you dig in your spoon, you should feel a little resistance.


A team of 5 RAS staff ensures everything runs smoothly and double and triple check every score card

Once the individual classes are judged and the gold medal winners decided the top four gold medal winners are bought out in each section to determine the champions in their respective categories


The judges from all the sections come together to decide the champions. One of the finalists was a Lamington flavoured ice-cream. Not surprisingly this was a flavour our French judge was not familiar with

Lamington Icecream

Fellow judge Rob Elliott describing the Ozzie icon the “lamington” to Herve Mons


Champion Ice-cream

Champion Icecream
Entry 413 Class 49 Premium Ice Cream or Gelato, any flavour, minimum 12% fat content. GUNDOWRING FINEST ICE CREAM GINGER

Don’t quote me but I got the impression that our Aussie Gelatos and ice-creams could compete with the best of the best world wide


And a great day was had by all including me. I look forward to doing it all again next year

See here for a full list of the Gold Medal Winners

Great follow up from ABC