Aimee Snowden – a wonderful example of what we get when we invest in our youth

I just got off the phone  from the dynamo that is Aimee Snowden. Aimee created  Little Brick Pastoral to celebrate Australian agriculture through unique photos of a Lego® farmer and show off the diversity of jobs in the agriculture industry.  The Lego® farmer is a labour of love and she is just one of many great young people in agriculture volunteering their time to promote the industry they love for the benefit of us all

I just love young people in agriculture. Young people not only understand the importance of collaboration they actively seek it out

We all know that collaboration is the key to building a better food and fibre future. We know that means learning how to collaborate with different stakeholders.

  • Be that with government
  • Non-government organisations
  • Our urban counterparts
  • Our fellow farming industries or
  • with our supply chain partners.

Because if we pick and choose who we collaborate with we limit our possibilities

We know that collaboration

  • saves effort and $
  • creates opportunity
  • increases connectivity
  • builds community
  • can solve common priorities

Yet how often do we see our sector genuinely reach out and work with others for the common good. Not as often as we would like and not as often as needed to drive real change

This is the reason Picture You in Agriculture works with young people –  they  have seen agriculture make the same silo orientation mistakes over and over and they know change means disrupting this mindset.

What they lack are the skills sets to harness others who need a little push

Our young people want to learn how to influence, and how engage

Our young people want to be confident, independent thinkers and they are grabbing every opportunity to learn and grow

And if you have a big idea what better way to do it than the Heywire Trailblazers program  that Aimee is wax lyrical about.

Trailblazers is an opportunity for people, aged 18 – 28, who are implementing positive change in their region, to have their work celebrated nationally. Successful applicants receive an incredible package of support that includes having their story told on the ABC and a trip to the Trailblazer Lab in Canberra next February.

Applications for Trailblazers are open until July 13.

Everything you need to know to apply can be found here 

And you may just get a ‘deadest’ mentor like Young Farming Champion Laura Phelps 

I was paired with deadset legend, Phelposs (or Laura Phelps as she is more commonly known), who has been so generous with her time and advice and recently secured a place for me to speak at a Young Farmers Business Forum. Read about Trailblazer Alana Black and her Fledgling Farmers concept here.                              See the video here

Please help spread the word – Trailblazers another great opportunity for young people in rural and regional Australia to learn and grow

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The Sheep Live Export Trade is an ethical challenge – one farmer’s thoughts

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Supplying 50,000 Australians with the milk for their breakfast everyday is a noble role – Cows at Clover Hill meander home to the dairy 

There has been a lot of robust conversations about the Sheep Live Export Trade recently and for good reason. As a farmer I have made decisions to send dairy heifers to Vietnam to dairies that I knew were run to very high standards. I have chosen not to send heifers to other countries not because I was concerned about animal cruelty but because our heifers were raised to produce a lot of milk from high quality feed and those countries didn’t have the capacity to provide the feed that would allow our heifers to thrive in their environment. We chose exporters with an excellent reputation and where able to get feedback on their new life in Vietnam.  The dairy export trade is an opportunity trade for dairy farmers. As far as I am aware no-one in Australia is growing dairy heifers specifically for the export market. It is a very important market when dairy farms in Australia are in drought and can mean the difference between dairy cattle being sold for meat in this country or living out their lives in developing countries providing nutritious milk for their families.

I am a farmer and like the majority of Australians I know very little about the live sheep export trade beyond what I read in the press. What I do know is our sheep are providing a very important protein source for people in developing countries. Rob Egerton-Warbuton a sheep farmer from Western Australia has written a very seminal piece that truly moved me. You can read it here.

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Jen Egerton-Warbutton Source

I first came across Rob and his wife Jen when we were both finalists in the National Landcare Awards in 2010. When I heard their story I was fascinated. I loved the way they farmed and the way they talked about it. So I was very keen to read what Rob had to say. Its a story from the heart and gives great insights into how the majority of livestock farmers feel about their animals and their commitment to give them the best whole of life expereince they can.

“To farm livestock is very hard. Every animal we bring to life through our husbandry will die, and that weights heavily on every farmer. My wife gets very emotional when they leave on the truck” Rob Egerton Warbutton Source 

Livestock farmers in Australia play a very important role. We cannot feed all Australian families on the land we have by growing plants only. (See footnote) Nor can we feed all  Australian families on the land we have if every farmer followed organic farming principles.

So my thoughts on the Sheep Live Export trade. Human beings can do dreadful things to human beings. Rick Thorburn certainly reminds us of that but nobody is suggesting we shut down the Foster Care system.  We are outraged when we read about child abuse but nobody is suggesting we shut down Catholic Churches . We are outraged when we read about Harvey Weinstein et al but nobody is suggesting we shut down the Movie business . We are outraged when we read about students being shot in schools in America but nobody is suggesting we shut down schools. This is very sobering reading

The Sheep Live Export Trade system is broken, it must be fixed. Whose role is it to make sure that happens?  This is an extract of what Rob has to say…….

Animal welfare and the policy environment around it is 100% the responsibility of farmers. The problem is in my view we haven’t done a very good job of it. We tend to be too protectionists of our practices, too guarded about our feelings, and too resistant to change. ………..

Its clear why farmers need to be involved in animal welfare and the policy that surrounds it. Its for the protection of animals, not from farmers but from those who imagine they protect them without understanding how they live. Source

Its a very emotional issue and

Being ethical is a part of what defines us as human beings. We are rational, thinking, choosing creatures. We all have the capacity to make conscious choices – although we often act out of habit or in line with the views of the crowd. Source

 In the digital world  it would appear we are all instant experts with strong opinions and too often simplistic solutions.  This excellent article from the team at Agrieducate asks the question  SHOULD AUSTRALIANS TAKE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LIVE EXPORT, AND ARE WE READY TO?

 Below is an extract under the heading Burden of Responsibility 

We are either responsible for the welfare of sheep (in good times and in bad) or we move this responsibility offshore and accept the standards of third party countries to continue a trade dominated by Australia.

If we do accept this responsibility everyone needs to be in the game. Political responses to simply appease generalised conservative and rural voters by the Nationals and Liberals, or urban and greens voters by Labor and the Greens won’t fix this problem. So if we do take on this responsibility, there needs to be political maturity in deciding on a bipartisan approach, with concessions of both sides of the debate. This political maturity is arguably not there, and needs to develop quickly.

It can’t continue to be “greenies” vs. “hard working farmers” or “animal rights activists” vs “cruel farmers”, both sides need engaging about accepting responsibility for the welfare of the sheep and improving the regulation of the entire supply chain. Continuing as adversaries propagates political immaturity for cheap votes, and fails the welfare of sheep, the livelihoods of farmers and ourselves as Australians.

So, irrespective of your political views and the level of political readiness take the first step and ask yourself this “am I comfortable shifting our welfare responsibility offshore, or am I comfortable taking on the responsibility of welfare here in Australia”?

There’s no right answer, and no intended underhand comment designed to influence your thought, but it is a tricky question and it must sit with our individual values before this issue will be resolved.

Pressing problems which require urgent action today are too often the direct result of a lack of action in the past.  We rarely get the perfect outcome but as human beings its important to be consistent in our judgements. I don’t have the answers but I would like to see Australia step up and take on the ‘Burden of Responsibility” and set the bar for animal stewardship across the world

Footnote

  1. 93% of the food consumed in this country is produced by Australian farmers
  2. less that 6% of Australia is suitable for growing crops
  3. Australia farmers feed  everyone here and more than 40 million people around the world

 

Never underestimate the Power of Women in Agriculture and their humble icon the scone

I have no words. Best thing I have spotted for a long time #gogirlfriend

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This is what Fiona says in her Instagram post that has attracted so much attention

Recently I heard someone I admire say something very dismissive and sarcastic about how lovely it would be if only scones could save the world. The implication being that baking is far less important than actual political action and meaningful debate. That may be partly true. But I’d like to take a moment to stand up for scones. They’re cheap and simple and this round version is categorically Australian. They bind the Country Women’s Association together, which in turn has networked and supported rural Australian women for almost a century. They’re great for afternoon or morning tea, which represents a break in your day to stop, drink tea, nibble a scone with jam (or lemon curd) and breathe. And I think that perhaps baking a batch of scones shouldn’t necessarily be seen as non political. My goodness we are saturated in capitalism and surrounded by commercialism and told every day to devalue the domestic (because it is female) and so dammit I will go and make scones and feel powerful doing so. Not only can we transform basic ingredients into something delicious, no one can tell us what is meaningful and purposeful, we figure that out all by ourselves. Scone baking as revolution. 3 cups self raising flour + 80gm butter + 1 cup milk. Mix, not too heavy handed (my grandma used a knife), roll and cut, then bake hot, 200 degrees, 20 mins. Teach your daughters and your sons and maybe just maybe scones can save the world, or, at least, mine.

 

 

Central Australia – an awe inspiring kaleidoscope of colour and texture

After an evening of superb food, great company and sleeping under the stars in the riverbed in my swag, albiet with plenty of merino wool to keep me warm and not overthinking how close those dingo howls were it was time for Day Two of my Larapinta Trail experience

The full 223km of the Larapinta Trail spans between the Old Telegraph Station and Mt Sonder. Day 2 took us to the Ormiston Gorge to trek the Ormiston Pound circuit.  Regarded as one of the best walks of the Larapinta Trail it offers sensational views of the Chewings Range and Mount Giles. It can be a little challenging with some rock hopping and takes approximately four hours to complete. Setting off, the trail winds around scenic slopes, dropping into the Pound and returning along Ormiston Gorge via the main waterhole. We also took the detour to Ghost Gum Lookout.

Ormiston is also a sacred site for the Western Arrernte people. It’s name in Western Arrernte is Kwartatuma.

Ormiston Pound Walk Map

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First port of call was the snack bar and there in the middle was my ideal weight maintenance nemesis – chocolate bullets. I wish I could say I stayed strong and resisted the temptation but I would be fibbing. You will be pleased to know I did also grab a couple of bananas.

We made it to the top of the Pound Walk savouring the beautiful weather

Day 2 Pound Walk to Ochre Pits (14) Our  wonderful guide Clare pointed out all the highlights as far as the eye can seeDay 2 Pound Walk to Ochre Pits (22)

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There were plenty of opportunities for me to practice my rock hopping

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I’ll bet this young lady regretted doing it in thongs. OMG

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Clare leads the way to the Ghost Gum Lookout

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Where the view was indeed outstanding – though I must admit I kept away from the overhanging edge

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then the girls (sans Lynne) braved the chilly waters and took a dip or two

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and at the end of the day I was smiling from ear to ear with a very sunburnt nose tip

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Bring on Day 3

 

Looking to put the joy back in your life – Try Larapinta it worked for me

Joy is what makes life beautiful. It’s what gets us through challenges and allows light in to illuminate the shadows. Joy heals our wounds, inspires us to greatness, and fills our souls with goodness.

I signed up for the Inner Compass 4 Day Larapinta Trail Trek to help put the joy back in my life.  And you know what my ‘Get out in Nature’ with some inspiring people beyond the agriculture sector may just be the smartest thing I have done in recent times.

Our little group of six got to see the views most tourists don’t even know exist. Trek Larapinta ( what an awesome customer service business they are) has built relationships with the traditional land owners who generously provide non-indigenous Australians ( and overseas visitors) with genuine cultural awareness experiences and access to some very special places.

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Meet Trek Larapinta Guide and Aboriginal  woman Deanella Mack. Dee took us into her world through her storylines and humour that made her people and their culture so real to me. You can find out more about Dee and her business Cultural Connections here 

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Dee sees that a system that has failed Aboriginal people in Central Australia for generations has also failed non-Indigenous people in how they learn about or appreciate Aboriginal cultures, histories and concepts.
She believes cultural misunderstandings, often come with the best intentions and as being “like when you’re driving a car and you feel something’s wrong but you don’t know how to fix it. Others may not even think anything’s wrong.” Those that have had the most positive experiences in her sessions and went on to positively impact communities later were “open-minded and had the willingness to receive new info that may not sit well with their current beliefs and experiences”. Source 

Dee welcomes us to country

Dee shares with us the making of hunting spear

With that new appreciation of the landscape our group became earnest learners listening and looking with new eyes

Amongst many other things we learnt to recognise the male and female cycad and the seed 

Standley Chasm is a very beautiful place

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You can see what the tourists see

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Or you can follow Section 3 of the Larapinta Trail and go where the hikers go

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If you go with Trek Larapinta  you see and do and feel even more

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Its one thing to see the beauty of Standley Chasm from the front but when you get the opportunity to come in the back door its an experience you will treasure for ever

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Lynne was a very happy camper

“These days the knowledge around cross-cultural awareness is at your finger tips, so ignorance is no longer an excuse.” Dee Mack

A tribute to all the quiet achievers in agriculture

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2018 has been a year where I have been honoured to have been identified as a leader who inspires and a rural influencer. I have had several requests to share my insights and advice and my inspiration

I struggle with the title leader – I am not a model I would want to emulate

Influencer – Yes that one I am more comfortable with

What is a leader?

I am a person who learns from others and the leader I have learnt the most from is Anna Rose. Anna is half my age and I so wish she came into my life earlier.

How to influence?

I can write a template for this. The question is ‘Do others want to do it my way’?

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I am a great advocate for the Anna Rose model.

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Who is my inspiration?

That’s easy – Michael Strong has been my inspiration. A man with an enormous respect for the rainforest environment he farms in and even greater love and respect for the cows he works side by side with.

When I read Marian McDonald’s post today on her interview with Cathy Phelps it reminded about the quiet achievers in my life

Cathy Phelps work in natural resource management in dairy has been a shining light for Australian agriculture across the country yet very few in the media have heard of her.

Lynne Strong has plenty of accolades as the powerhouse behind Clover Hill Dairies, yet it was the quiet achiever in the family Michael Strong who inspired her passion for the family to leave an enduring legacy.

This post is a tribute to all the quiet achievers male and female in agriculture

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Australian Farmers can supply us (and the world) with so much more than food and fibre

With 21st Century thinking and smart government policy there are many new and exciting opportunities for Australian farmers to thrive in a world of big data, a community screaming out for clean energy options and developing countries with a burning thirst to soak up our knowledge as well as our produce.

A number of our Young Farming Champions work with, share their knowledge and learn from farmers in developing countries. A number of them have taken advantage of the Crawford Fund scholarship support to engage in international research, development and education for the benefit of developing countries and Australia.

Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins has just landed a job with ACIAR and this article by Professor Andrew Campbell CEO of ACIAR is a great opportunity to share the work they do and the exciting opportunities for Sam in his chosen career in the Australian agriculture sector .

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Sam Coggins taking his knowledge and passion for the Australian agriculture sector to the world 

Agricultural aid is in Australian farmers’ interests

Andrew Campbell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research considers the pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Why should Australian farmers support overseas aid?

Especially agricultural aid – doesn’t that just give a leg-up to our competitors?

Well, no.

Leaving aside moral arguments that overseas development aid is ‘the right thing to do’ for wealthy nations like Australia, there are also pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Specific examples of benefits from aid flowing back to Australia described below all stem from the direct experience of ACIAR – the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

ACIAR was established by the Fraser government in 1982, out of a recognition that Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry science has much to offer developing countries in our region as they seek to feed their people and develop their economies.

ACIAR is an independent statutory authority in the foreign affairs portfolio, reporting directly to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  I am just the sixth CEO of ACIAR in 36 years.  We have enjoyed remarkable stability over that time, enabling us to build very solid long-term partnerships from east Africa to the Pacific, developing many projects that have delivered benefits back to Australian rural industries and communities.

Last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched our new 10-year strategy.

In many ways ACIAR is similar to Rural R&D Corporations, in that we organise and fund research, but our focus is overseas, taking Australian science to developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and we work across livestock, crops, horticulture, fisheries, forestry, land, water and climate.

Australian farmers and rural communities benefit from the work of ACIAR in several ways:

  • At the most basic level, as an exporting country, we do better when the countries in our region can afford to buy our products.  As economies develop and people get richer, they consume more meat, dairy, fruit, processed cereals, sugar, wine and wool, and they demand higher quality food.
  • Australian scientists working on pests and diseases in developing countries can help to manage risks and limit the spread of major problems before they reach Australia.  In doing so, they also get opportunities to work on problems that thankfully don’t (yet) exist in Australia, enabling them to build skills in detection, diagnosis and control of exotic diseases.  This has proven of crucial value for Australia, for example with Panama Disease in bananas, and Newcastle Disease in poultry.
  • ACIAR investment in collaborative breeding programs gives Australian industries access to new varieties.  For example, seven new citrus rootstocks were recently released into the Australian market, developed from disease-resistant and salt-tolerant Chinese cultivars through a collaboration with NSW DPI funded by ACIAR.  Germplasm used by Australian wheat breeders to release high performance varieties to Australian growers draws heavily on material from CIMMYT – the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico – funded by ACIAR and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
  • ACIAR-funded fruit fly research directly helped mango farms in North Queensland, when exports to Japan were withdrawn in 1995 due to fruit fly incursions. The Queensland DPI was able to develop postharvest treatment protocols for Australian mangoes much faster because of their work for ACIAR in Malaysia, resulting in approval to restart exports at least six months sooner than would have been possible otherwise.
  • ACIAR often supports Australian researchers to work with partners in neighbouring countries to tackle a shared challenge.  The strength of our innovation system leads to new technologies being trialled and adopted first here. Research on growing tropical tree crops, such as mango, jackfruit and cocoa, on trellises for greater productivity and cyclone resistance, led by Queensland DAF with support from Horticulture Innovation Australia and ACIAR, is now offering trellising as a potentially transformative technology to Queensland growers. Research to tackle productivity problems associated with plant viruses in sweetpotato crops in PNG, has led to virus therapy techniques and virus-free planting material being adopted as the foundation for a more productive sweetpotato industry in Australia.  Techniques developed by Prof Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University to restore degraded fringing coral reefs in the Philippines (by stocking hatchery-reared coral larvae at the time of larval settlement into enclosures over the reef) are now being trialled on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • ACIAR is an important source of applied research funding for regional universities and state departments of primary industries, with major flow-on benefits for regional centres like Wagga, Armidale, Orange, Lismore, Toowoomba, Gatton, Roseworthy, Mildura, Yanco, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Maroochydore.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

 Andrew Campbell, CEO, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

All over the world, evidence over the decades since World War 1 has shown that investment in agricultural research delivers great returns, within and between nations.  ACIAR has a fine tradition of measuring and tracking the impact of our investments.  Some projects deliver exceptional benefit to cost ratios.  For example, clonal improvement of eucalypt and acacia plantation genotypes in Vietnam delivered returns of around 80:1, and vaccination of village chickens in east Africa delivered returns of around 60:1.

Perceptions that our aid helps competitors to out-compete our own exporters don’t hold up under closer examination.  Smallholder producers in developing countries rarely compete in the same high-value markets as Australian exporters.  The gap in most instances remains very large, and reducing it somewhat usually creates opportunities for Australian industries.

For example, Indonesia wants to become self-sufficient in beef, and ACIAR is funding the University of New England, CSIRO and the University of Queensland to help lift beef productivity and production in eastern Indonesia in particular.  But beef self-sufficiency for Indonesia remains a very long way down the track.  In the meantime, they will need many breeding cattle from Australia and multiple linkages with the northern beef industry in particular.  Building these links will help Australian exporters and producers.

Mangos are another example.  Market studies around the Asia-Pacific, led by Griffith University in collaboration with the Australian Mango Industry Association, with input from state and territory DPIs and support from ACIAR, have shown how mango markets are differentiated by seasonal time slots and price points, local market preferences and varietal characteristics.  Innovations in pest and disease management, flower induction and post-harvest handling can bring benefits to the mango industry in Australia and in partner countries.

Overall, over the last 36 years, using very conservative assumptions and only counting the benefits that can be quantified and costed, the ACIAR portfolio has delivered benefits at least five times greater than our total expenditure.  Many benefits from more recent projects are yet to be fully realised.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

Being a trusted science partner across our region, helping neighbouring countries to tackle some of their most pressing problems using Australian know-how, is a very tangible, practical demonstration of our commitment to regional security, prosperity and sustainability.  In doing so, we learn a lot and we develop new capabilities that help our own industries, and in the long term we create more and better market opportunities for Australian farmers.

In short, the 2.5% of the Australian overseas aid budget managed by ACIAR delivers terrific value for Australian farmers, rural industries and rural communities.

Andrew Campbell is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research