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 

 

 

Young people in agriculture lobby for action on stuff that matters to them

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I am a very different person to the person I was when I began my mission ten years ago to have my fellow farmers proud and loud of what they do and the industries they produce food and food and fibre for

I credit that change in the way I think and act to the young people I have met on my journey

I sell hope, they sell hope, together we have started a movement to create a new era of communication and transparency from the agricultural sector between farmers and the community. This allows farmers to raise awareness of the challenges they face to provide Australian families with safe, affordable and healthy food now and in the future.

Our programs and activities open the door for the community to ask questions and receive answers to questions on stuff that matters to them.

We do this because deep down our farmers feel unloved loved and undervalued. Our programs and activities provide matchmaking opportunities – a dating service if you like for farmers to connect with, and partner with the people in the community who love and appreciate them and people in the community who will love and appreciate them when they meet them

We do this by

  • designing and delivering events and activities through partnerships between young people in the agriculture sector and young people in schools using art and technology and two way conversations.
  • building capacity and the confidence of young people in the agriculture sector to share their story and deploy them using innovative vehicles such as The Archibull Prize to deliver agriculture’s key messages in a way that resonates with the audiences they reach with the mantra “People don’t care what you know until they know you care”

Whilst  I am very proud of this legacy, deep down its these young people that light my fire. On their journey they have developed the confidence and courage to share their story and lobby for action on stuff that matters to them

Let me introduce to Anika Molesworth and Kirsty McCormack – two young women in agriculture with a high profile in the media blazing a trail for us all

Farmers believe in climate change, so why don’t the politicians who say they represent them? 

“Anyone sitting in Parliament saying they represent rural and regional Australia should be figuring out how the decisions they make today are going to determine whether our farms are profitable in the years to come.”

“If we want something done about this then we need to do more than whisper across the back fence. It’s time to start shouting, and if our politicians fail to listen and catch up with the times then they risk being left behind.”  Anika Molesworth

anika-molesworth

Social Media for the future 

“We’re a generation who don’t want to sit down and read facts and figures, we want to hear from individual people, and hear their stories,” Kirsty McCormack

kirsty-mc

#youthinag #stuffthatmatters #YFC #ArchiullPrize

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

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

FARMERS FEED US THEY CAN POWER US TOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept 9 2015 Clover Hill Sunrise (7)

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

Sept 9 2015 Clover Hill Sunrise (1)

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

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

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

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

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

Planet to Plate with Love

I am lucky enough to be the ‘sunrise’ in the wonderful cookbook that can be purchased here that celebrates Australia’s fresh produce and the people who produce it – our farmers

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 Doing some promo for the book recently with Masterchef 2014 runner up Lynton Tapp

For me the whole thing has been one amazing experience after another and part of that experience is that it’s allowed me to give back to some of the special people in my life. Like local photographer and all round beautiful person Linda Faiers who worked with me in the beginning to record the journey of all my projects in pictures. Linda is such a talent and this cookbook showcases that

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A sample of the genius that is Linda Faiers – we had such fun capturing the Sunrise 

As the ‘Sunrise’ or forward to the Cookbook I am finding myself doing multiple interviews to promote it – which I must admit is giving me great pleasure – it is just so fantastic that we now have such a beautiful resource that showcases so many of our wonderful farmers, their practices and their values

These days there is plenty of material on the internet that tells people who I am and I always ensure that the journalist interviewing me has seen the ones that I believe best portray what I do, what I stand for, and why I do it

This means that the journalist interviewing me can focus on what they believe will interest the readers of the publication they write for

No matter who interviews me I get that question “why farming – there are so many other careers out there that don’t require you to work 24/7 for such a small return on investment?”

Now anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows farming was definitely not on my list of career choices when I was growing up

If I am going to be honest there was no career I wanted to do less than farm (that probably is a little extreme)

As a child I grew up in house that had a mother who thought she had married a man with the bank account the size of Robert Sangster and all she had to do was look beautiful and attend garden parties (bit harsh – I loved you mum and must admit I always fantasized about what that lifestyle would be like myself )  She soon found out that wasn’t true and farming in Australia is a tough gig and not too many people manage to support their farms without one person working off farm

When I was eighteen and had found out I had lots of options to do whatever I wanted at Uni I grabbed the opportunity and got off the farm as fast as I could

Now Rebecca Ferguson sings this beautiful song where she assures us

 Nothing’s real but love

No money, no house, no car,

Can beat love

So when just before I went to Uni I met my future husband Michael I thought Rebecca Ferguson had totally nailed it. I loved uni. I loved spending every spare minute I had with Michael.

When I finished Uni we got married.  I had a degree and an assured secure income and I didn’t care what Michael did as long as he had a career where people valued him and it wasn’t dangerous

I should have twigged that these two priorities did not sit at the top of his list when he told me he wanted to be a policeman. Is there a career more dangerous and less valued than a policeman? Well yes there is (in fact there is a very long list of them) and one of those is being a farmer.  I used to joke with Michael saying when you become a policeman I am going to become a nun and that certainly reduced his interest in being a policeman.  But six months into our marriage some-one came along and offered him a share farming opportunity and I was horrified. But as fifth generation dairy farmer himself some-one had opened a door he never even dreamt would open and nothing no matter how against the idea I was, was going to stop him accepting

I always say hate is not an emotion it is a disease and for me it was. I hated the idea of going back to the nightmares of my childhood, no money, lots of resentment and parents wanting to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves as children and couldn’t and when Michael said yes a little piece of me died and it ate away at me for over 25 years

Like most women on farms one of my roles was to open the bills and write the cheques and find the money when it wasn’t there. For me with a degree in pharmacy the answer was fairly simple just work longer hours in the pharmacy.

I was working in the new era of Night and Day Pharmacies. These pharmacies were open 7 days a week, 14 hours a day. There weren’t  a lot of people who wanted to work those hours and the people who did could earn quite a bit of money and I became one of those people.

No matter how hard I tried by the time the stress of the deregulation of the dairy industry came around I hated farming, I hated my job and the disease had eaten me away to the point where I felt dead inside.

By that time I had found out that whilst pharmacists are highly valued by the community it can be a very dangerous profession.

In 2000, the year of deregulation, which also happened to be the year our son decided he wanted to farm I was managing a very large pharmacy with a staff of 20 people  that was being held up by the same two people wearing pig masks and wielding knives on such a regular basis I can’t recall how many times it was until they were caught.

It’s the most horrible thing – the hold-ups themselves are horrendous- but watching the long term detrimental effects on the people you work with and have come to love just broke my heart.

So without going into the ugly details I found myself on farm 24/7 and it was then that I understood why farmers are so passionate about what they do. I understood the emotional attachment, the love of their livestock and the landscape and now I too share that passion

I understand why they make the sacrifices they do. I understand why they continue to do what they do when there is no future for their farm

This is why I do what I do and that is fight for a fairer future for our farmers where everyone not just Coles and Woolworths gets a fair return for their efforts

Now our son owns the farm and his father works for him. Our son comes from what many call the Entitled Generation. I prefer to call it the Privileged Generation.

All I hope is that he appreciates the sacrifices his father has made for him because Rebecca Ferguson has missed something very important and Pharrell Wiillams is right You can’t have real love without happiness and you can’t make other people happy by funding their dreams and scarificing your own

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Keep your eye out for the cook book its called Planet to Plate

Its a fabulous celebration of our farmers, our great Australian chefs and the many people who help our farmers supply the wonderful safe, nutritious, affordable food and fibre that Australia and its beautiful natural resources allow us to

Random Acts of Kindness

As a follow on to  my post yesterday which I probably could have called Deliberate Acts of Meanness I came across  this video today and it so moved me to tears I thought I wouldn’t stop

Watch it – its worth every second

I have never stood behind some-one in a queue that didn’t have enough money to pay for something so I started to think of any acts of kindness that I have performed this year.

None came instantly to mind and I started to think about the random acts of kindness people had performed for me this year and I was overwhelmed with names and reflected on just how lucky I am to know these people

There is even ( goes without saying) a website encouraging simple acts of kindness

I was going to say thank you to all the people who were so kind to me this year by listing them and then I thought I will forget some-one and so what I will say instead is

A Simple Act of Caring Creates and Endless Ripple

I hope it  comes back to you

ripple

You don’t have to win to feel like a winner

“Speed eliminates all doubt. Am I smart enough? Will people like me? Is my bum too big in this plastic jumpsuit?” ― David Sedaris (with a slight tweak)

Agriculture can be a pretty tough operating environment when you are part of a small dedicated team trying to drive change and map out a bright future

There has been plenty of self doubt and self reflection on my behalf over the last 18 months. Many times I have questioned myself and my methods and my personality style and taken the next step and sought the advice of a business coach and done a number of courses to give me the strength I needed to stay on track

So to that wonderful group of people who nominated me for Australian of the Year I say a huge thank you – best Christmas present ever. Your faith in me will help ensure the doubters are just an insignificant noise and give me the inner strength I so needed to stay focused

To agriculture in general please take a little time to pat some-one on the back who is trying to get the best outcomes for everybody. Too often we wear out out our champions and they just walk away    Replace what if with hell yeah

Some more of my favourite self doubt quotes that ensure I don’t take myself too seriously

It doesn’t matter if I’m off the beat. It doesn’t matter if I’m snapping to the rhythm. It doesn’t matter if I look like a complete goon when I dance. It is my dance. It is my moment. It is mine. And dance I will. Try and stop me. You’ll probably get kicked in the face.”
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

“Self-doubt is a persuasive mistress; careful not to shag her or you’ll never get your balls back.” – Simon Hunt”
Dannika Dark, Twist

Courage to do the same

Women don’t ask and society suffers

Preface:

I am writing this post because my blog is now widely read and I am seriously hoping that this post will help stimulate conversations and most importantly actions.It will also serve as a reminder to me that I have set a personal goal and my role is to reach it

I am using my personal experiences as examples to share why I am so passionate in this space and highlight that society as a whole ( men and women) equally have a role to play in addressing the issues I raise .

I am a mentor to 25 young women in agriculture and I take that role very seriously. So seriously in fact that this year with the support of the Bob Hawke Medal prize pool I have hired a business coach and with his advice am undertaking a series of personal and professional development courses that will provide  me with the knowledge and tools to significantly value add to the support I am able to give these inspiring young women.

Firstly I believe that I have a pretty clear picture of my strengths and weakness. I have assessed the best description of my predominate leadership style is Pacesetter (see this great article by Daniel Coleman Leadership that Gets Results.) In summary this type of leader sets the bar, leads by example and  expects everyone to do the same. In the wider world  I admire people who set the bar higher than me and lead by example. I admire people who have Affiliative ( the capacity to bring people with you) and Coaching styles  even more highly

Pacesetter style of leadership only works if you are working with like minded people and it works very well with the Young Farming Champions because they are all high achievers.

If you are working with people who aren’t comfortable working in this climate then it can lead to a toxic working environment and as this chart from the article shows if you happen to be working with some-one with a coercive style it can be disaster. Sadly been there done that – the outcomes weren’t pretty and I so wish I had identified the problem and walked away from that working environment before it did irreparable damage.

leadership styles

My aim is to balance my Pacesetter style with Affiliative  and Coaching styles. I look forward to meeting that objective more than I can describe.

This week my search for enlightenment and self improvement took me to Melbourne for a three day course at the Melbourne Business School. The facilitator was brilliant and very generous with her time and she recommended to me that I read the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock. There is a great summary of what the book has to say here. I subsequently downloaded the book using my Kindle app and thanks to a speed reading course my parents sent me to when I was in high school I read it in 24 hours and I was mortified by how many traps I had let myself fall into in my lifetime

As the scientific evidence in the book shows there are a number of reasons why women don’t ask and undervaluing their contribution is a serious problem for society and should be addressed urgently

This is just one of them

Undervaluing themselves and being undervalued by society can be bad for women’s health. The close link between a positive “self-perception” and psychological good health is well-known. More recent research now indicates that the opposite is also true. A negative self-evaluation combined with stress can lead to depression, and two-thirds of all depressed adults are women. Depression is not only a problem in itself but can lead to other health problems. As reported in the January 20, 2003, issue of Time magazine, “Each year in the U. S., an estimated 30, 000 people commit suicide, with the vast majority of cases attributable to depression.” Time also points out that depression makes “other serious diseases dramatically worse,” such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis. Unfortunate for each individual, depression often represents a real cost to society as well

Then there’s the question of lost productivity due to depression, which Time estimates “costs the U. S. economy about $50 billion a year.”

So where do we lay the blame for the inequalities that have led to women undervaluing themselves.

Many studies have shown that as a society we expect women to be more oriented toward the needs of others and men to be more oriented toward their own needs and ambitions. And this is where problems arise, because the ideas we share about gender roles are also normative—they involve qualities and behaviors that we believe men and women should have. So a man who is not especially ambitious risks being  called a “wimp” or a “loser.” And an assertive, ambitious woman runs head-on into society’s requirement that she be selfless and communal. Wanting things for oneself and doing whatever may be necessary to get those things—such as asking for them—often clashes with the social expectation that a woman will devote her attention to the needs of others and pay less attention to her own.

Firstly we ( women) have to stop blaming men and glass ceilings and start playing our role

Two major social forces seem to be responsible for the stubborn persistence of gender-linked norms and beliefs. The first involves the socialization and development of children and the second involves the maintenance of gender roles by adults.

This tells girls that they are not the principal “actors” in life’s dramas and that it is boys or men who take center stage in the world and make things happen. This lesson is not likely to encourage girls to step forward and grab what they want for themselves; instead, it teaches them to watch and wait and accept whatever comes their way.

Girls learn from the toys they receive that it is important for them to take care of others—bathing and dressing their doll “babies,” serving “tea” to friends, preparing food and cleaning up after meals. Boys learn from their transportation toys that they can move freely through the world and from their construction toys that they can define the earth around them by constructing buildings, roads, and complicated machinery. The net effect of this “toy-coding” is to teach girls to subordinate their needs to the needs of others and to teach boys to take charge of their environment

Oh my goodness I am sitting shaking my head I have so followed this trend throughout my life This is one place where I have not set the bar and led by example and I am so determined to address that and it is now a life goal and will underpin everything I do going forward.

Let me share some of my experiences and I want to make it very clear I don’t see myself as a victim and I not laying blame. My life experiences follow the pattern that the majority of women  find themselves in

I am one of three children who could be 6th generation farmers. It was very clear that my parents loved us equally even though my sister and I were told from an early age my brother would inherit the farm. Both my mother and my father believed it was his birth right and he believes it is too ( why wouldn’t he). Whilst the three of us worked equally on the farm growing up my sister and I weren’t rewarded financially yet my brother was always given a cow and got to bank the proceeds when it was sold. My brother is very clever and  built a Lotus from scratch when he left school. Whilst I was flabbergasted that my sister and I were expected by our parents (pretty sure it wasn’t my brother’s idea) to help him purchase the kit to build it with a substantial financial contribution ( which he did pay back) I was furious but I did it anyway . My parents aren’t to blame they are just the product of 5 generations of ‘institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions that have perpetuated these inequalities for centuries’

I remember so clearly when Michael accepted his first share farming role and the owners ( who just happened to be women) of the business where mortified I went out to work and worked 14 hour shifts and wasn’t home to feed and look after Michael when he got up for breakfast and came in from the dairy at night. I must admit they soon came to realise without me working there was no way that Michael could financially stay farming on the income he was receiving and they became highly supportive

But working off farm and being paid for it is where I stopped valuing myself and my time. In my spare time I was very hands on in the farm business but did I ever take a wage ridiculously no. I am absolutely positive that if I had asked Michael who has a very democratic leadership style he would have thought that me taking a wage from the business was most appropriate but I just had this bizarre idea in my head that one day I would be rewarded for all my selfless efforts.

It didn’t stop with the farm. For the last 15 years I have worked pro bono for the dairy industry ( nobody asked me too)  and now for many other industries as well ( again nobody asked me too). I have had lots of wonderful mentors along the way who constantly reminded me that if I didn’t value myself no-one else would.

What have I achieved emotionally from all this selfless activity. Well I am bitter and angry and its affected some of my relationships personally and professionally and I am really sad that my self imposed baggage has found me in this position

But I am determined to change and lead by example. It is my time to shine, to do what’s best for me, have an exciting career that doesn’t involve supporting anyone else but me and negotiate a financial package that my skills deserve. I am not saying everybody should do this but it is the best thing for me at this point in my life journey. I admit I do question my capacity everyday but I am determined (please cheer for me in the background I am going to need all the supporters I can gather)

(BTW as an aside you might remember at the beginning of the year I set a Goal with a Deadline and I am thrilled and very proud of myself that I can announce to the world that I have lost almost 20% of my pre goal weight and reached my ideal weight and I am so loving it.)

Every day I get up and tell myself I can do this. Wonderfully I have the Bob Hawke Medal prize money to thank for playing a huge role and kick-starting the process. All my work for agriculture has been valued through this award not just with a trophy and accolades but also a significant  financial project dependent package that has allowed me to create 3 projects.  One that could help benefit farmers locally. One that could help farmers across the country and the one that I am now most proud of that is also benefiting me personally

I have called this project ‘Feeling the Love’. The background behind the project came from my journey to be a change catalyst in agriculture. I found that agriculture has many farmer champions (men and women) who take time out from their businesses to volunteer for the greater good of industry. These farmer champions often find the workload overwhelming. It is clear that advocacy models relying on volunteer labour are in the main unsustainable. Consequently the champions become worn out and disillusioned. Farmer champions need support – financial, emotional and physical to take on these roles.

The aim of the project is to create an ongoing legacy that reflects the strength of my commitment to capability building in the agricultural sector.

This will be achieved by developing a portfolio of first class, tried and proven professional and self-development courses and building a directory of lifestyle and business coaching professionals who can help people maintain perspective, stamina and mental health.

For me its starts with valuing myself and not being afraid to ask

As Linda Babcock tells

Its time for society to teach all of us how to recognize the ways in which our institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions perpetuate inequalities–inequalities that are not only fundamentally unfair but also inefficient and economically unsound.

Women-dont-ask-

Update

Alison Germon recently shared this article with me. The story content is very worrying and make sure you check out the video ‘Cute alpacas learn about gender inequality’

Footnote I have many people who have inspired me and to thank for their wonderful support over the years. Today I would like to thank one of them and that is my business coach Professor Shaun Coffey