How does agriculture rebuild its fan base?

As a 6th generation farmer who has worked beyond the agriculture sector,  conversed with the bright minds in Getup and the World Wild Life Fund, designed and delivered 21st century learning agricultural and environmental awareness programs for schools I am very grateful for all the community insights meeting people in those sectors has given me.

I know Australians love farmers, I know its actually very easy to attract young people to consider careers in agriculture. After all everyone wants to work in an industry that has all these attributes

  • Modern industry that is evolving
  • Massive opportunities for graduate roles compared with other industries which have much greater competition
  • Salaries that are highly competitive with other industries
  • Diverse career pathways that provide a sense of achievement
  • Multiple opportunities to make a positive impact on the world

I am going to put my armour on and list what I think are the two biggest barriers to agriculture moving forward

  1. Silo mentality – we all know that for our individual farming industries to thrive, agriculture as a whole has to thrive. I look forward to us putting the ‘collaboration is the key to success’ concept into action
  2. Farmers who sit on boards that value outputs above outcomes. Sadly it took a lot of dying fish to give us the crowds its time to build up our fan base again

We are all in this together Australia. Farmers do care.  What we have to learn to do better is listen.

So how do we rebuild our fan base ?

Like a lot of farmers I am inspired by Jacinda Ardern’s concept of reporting on a Well-Being Budget .

“This year, for the first time, we will be undertaking a well-being budget, where we’re embedding that notion of making decisions that aren’t just about growth for growth’s sake, but how are our people faring? How is their overall well-being and their mental health … how is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.” Jacinda Ardern

Lets show everyone how Australian farmers underpin the health, wealth and happiness of Australian families

Well done Nicole McDonald – captured beautifully with this HT to Dorethea McKellar

Nicole McDonld

What sort of person professes to love animals yet abuses people?

Yesterday I saw this tweet from Fiona Simson in my feed. In made me feel sick in the stomach

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What sort of person professes to love animals yet seems to think that gives them a licence to abuse people?

The next issue of RM Williams Outback Magazine will share Fiona Simson’s story. I am looking forward to it. She fascinates me. What sort of resilience does it take to be president of the National Farmers Federation? What sort of resilience does it take to be on her team? How often does agriculture say thank you to these people?

Also in my feed yesterday was a fabulous quote from Young Farming Champion Jasmine Whitten tagging the people she values in her circle. I know lots of young people like Jasmine and I am very grateful they are in my circle.

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Fiona must have a huge circle of support as well because she is one very brave, courageous woman.

Looking forward to 2019 being the year we #culitivatekindness #strongertogether

A little bit of family history scandal makes fascinating reading

With a close friend currently doing dairy genomic research in Ireland I was inspired to try and locate my family origins and see if she was close by

Both sides of my family arrived in the Illawarra region of NSW via Ireland between 1830 and 1841.

By the time I found myself back to my dairy roots, my father’s family hadn’t been dairying for 20 years and family history was rarely discussed

But as they were early settlers there is no shortage of family history online and I must admit I was fascinated by the evocative language of the time. The obituaries (see bottom of page) in particular make compelling reading.

And I am so glad I did this research I just would have loved to have known my great, great grandfather. It appears he was a bit of a trendsetter, didn’t mind standing out from the crowd and had his fair share of knockers.

John LIndsay

This is how he is recorded in local history – don’t you love the language

‘John Lindsay was one of the leaders in the dairy industry. John was an innovative thinker, willing to take risks in building up his dairy cattle. He owned a herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle that was the envy of his peers.

Lindsay was born in Ireland, in 1832, arriving in Australia in 1841 on the Orestes.  In 1878, John created a minor scandal when he purchased “The Earl of Beaconsfield’, an Ayrshire bull, for 100 pounds ($200). Local farmers thought this was foolish and extravagant. These cattle enabled him to make his herd outstanding, producing prized dairy products and show animals for many years. A daughter of Lord Beaconsfield named Honeycomb was declared the Champion Cow of the World in 1889 wining 62 ribbons and producing 36 litres of milk per day.

and the fabulous HoneyComb

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Cows in Australia today can produce up to 120 litres per day and over 23,000 litres per year and some 160,000 plus litres in their lifetime. One of the key visual differences is the length of the cows teats. In 1889 it was preferential for cows to have longer teats because they were milked by hand.

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Today their teats are much shorter, their udders more compact and cows have been bred to have the ability to produce large volumes of milk from increased feed conversion efficiency ( that is ability to turn grass into milk very efficiently) which means they generate less green house gas emissions per litre of milk produced.

I am confident my great, great grandfather would be very excited about the dairy cows of the 21st century and would be enthralled by the genomic research that Dr Jo Newton is doing in Ireland. I feel a guest blog coming on

*  the obituaries make compelling reading. This is how the death of my great, great grandfather’s younger brother was reported

THE LATE MR. T. F. LINDSAY.
As briefly stated in last issue, Mr. T. F. Lind
say, of Unanderra, died somewhat unexpectedly
at his residence on Friday afternoon. Mr.
Lindsay had been in his usual state of health
Thursday, on which day he was engaged branding
calves. While overheated, he drank rather
copiously of water, and in the afternoon com
plained of severe cramps in the stomach. Dr.
Thompson was sent for, and pronounced the
attack one of British cholera, at the same time hold
ing out little hope of recovery. Though everything
that medical skill could devise was done, Mr.
Lindsay, after a brief illness of less than
twenty-four hours, but which was very severe
while it lasted, succumbed to the dread malady
in the afternoon of Friday. Mr. Lindsay being
widely known throughout the district and
deservedly held in the highest esteem, a very
large concourse of people had assembled at his
late residence at noon (the hour fixed for the
funeral), but a telegram having been received by
the family from an only sister of the deceased
gentleman who resided near Melbourne to the
effect that she was leaving by the express train,
and asking to delay the funeral if possible, the
mournful procession was delayed until 2 o’clock.
The funeral cortege was one of the largest ever
seen in this district. On reaching St. Luke’s,
the coffin was conveyed into the church, where
the Rev. J. Stack, the incumbent, conducted a
short service, after which the body was consigned
to the tomb in close proximity to the graves of
the deceased’s lamented father and mother
and other members of the family, Rev.
J. Stack again officiating. The late Mr.
Lindsay was of a genial and kindly disposition,
and universally esteemed for his many virtues.
For some years past he took a warm interest in
municipal matters, and occupied a seat in the
Central Illawarra Council. He also took an
active part in the formation and furthering of the
interests of the Unanderra dairy factory, of
which he was also a director. Like the rest of
the family of that name, he was a successful
dairyman, and at all times took a prominent part
in connection with the Dapto Agricultural and
Horticultural Society, being an active member of
the committee up to the time of his death. The
deceased gentleman was the youngest member of
the Lindsay family, and was almost a native of
the district, being only one year old when he
arrived here with his parents. He died in the
full strength and vigor of his manhood, having
only reached the age of 49 when he was thus
suddenly cut off. He leaves behind him (in ad
dition to other relatives to mourn their loss) a
widow and twelve children, the ages of the latter
ranging almost from infancy to well on towards
25 years.

PETA vitriol reminding us to be kinder to humans

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Social media has opened the door for everyone to have an opinion, and too often showcase just how nasty we can be to each other.  So when I got Airlie Trescowthick – Founder of Farm Table newsletter this week and reached the section on feedback they received on this Facebook post a little piece of me died. This wonderful team of people doing such awesome job on behalf of farmers being attacked by farmers.

I had glanced at the original post briefly, smiled and moved on. What on earth could possibly generate all this vitriol?

Some responses against the content of the post stated:

  • “Why are we quoting and promoting such an anti-farming group from a group called Farm table? If nobody took notice of their stupidity, they would have no platform and no following to do the extreme damage they do. Disappointed, to say the least.”
  • “I hope this bullshit is just a joke? Surely? If not then you need to eliminate your cottonwool wrapped fairy genes out of the genepool. Seriously, get a grip!”
  • “Not worth the oxygen they breathe”.

Some of the language used was violent and directed slander at PETA and/or Farm Table.

I come from a family that doesn’t do difficult conversations full stop and it remains a skill set I have failed to master. Great article here on why its important and how to do it here. As the second article reminds us the language we use in conversations matters and the importance of not letting our emotions dictate our delivery.

Here is a further cut and paste of the section from Airlie’s newsletter

‘Last week, we shared PETA’s new phrases to replace common ones in our vernacular. As expected, the feedback we received was incredibly polarising. What was most striking to us was how people shared their respective view points –  comments I received from fellow producers or people involved in ag in support of the language change were written in a very measured, thoughtful and practical manner, whereas those against were often very rude and used shocking and defamatory language.

However, those respondents that chose to contact me directly via email raised some very valid and salient points that I also wanted to share here to see another viewpoint.  For example, I received one email that read, ‘We should all endeavour to undertake continuing education to keep evolving and improving the lives of animals in our care rather than languishing in the dark ages. Is it unreasonable to say “feeding a fed horse” rather than “flogging a dead horse” (because the horse was flogged to death in the first place by an unethical owner)? A positive spin is far more uplifting than a negative one. In future, I hope you can use the well-meaning observations of those that sit at one end of the spectrum to impact on poor practices that, sadly, are still occurring at the other end of the spectrum!”

Whilst I do not agree with many methods and campaigns PETA adopts, I completely agree with these comments and that opening up a positive dialogue around continuous improvement is vital. It also showed that you can sit on whatever side of the fence you would like, but the ability to explain and communicate your stance is so important. What is not useful is name calling and viciousness and last week shows that we are still a long way from having open dialogue in the public realm. Measured and thoughtful comments like those above did not make the public realm on social media for fear of bullying and trolling. How can we endeavour to move forward on issues like this? Part of Farm Table and Farmer Exchange’s role is to be a space to have open debate in a safe environment – we know the importance of this now more than ever.’

I have made my thoughts clear on PETA in the past but this post isn’t about PETA,  its about us, HUMANS learning to be kinder to each other.

I reached out to Graeme McElligott who practices veganism and is the founder of “Aussie Farmers and Vegans Connecting” for his thoughts

” PETA’s recent tweet in regard to the use in common talk of phrases that trivialise cruelty or harms to other animals makes sense when considered from the point of view that it’s worthwhile choosing to be kind when we can. Our choice of language – the words we use each and every day – can say a lot about our attitudes, beliefs and even actions. Choosing words and phrases with positive overtones surely is better than those that express negative sentiments. So in a sense, PETA’s suggestion encourages us to examine our own attitudes and prejudices.

Yet on the whole, the reaction I have seen to PETA’s proposal has been largely negative. One might have thought vegans and animal advocates would have welcomed the suggestion yet even in those quarters there has been considerable outrage. The main complaints seem to revolve around questions of relevancy (“who cares”), to bringing animal advocacy into disrepute (“PETA makes us look like fools”) and to inappropriate or even irresponsible conflating of issues (“comparing these phrases to those that contribute to institutionalised racism or gender inequality etc is just wrong”). I can’t claim to have spent a lot of time monitoring this whole brouhaha, but my overall sense of it is that PETA didn’t receive a positive reaction from either vegans or non-vegans.

That’s disappointing. Because really, when it boils down to it, PETA has just asked us to think about how our actions and words affect others. In this case, the words and phrases are those that make light of the suffering of our fellow animals and to be honest, I rather hope that most of us don’t really wish to be unsympathetic to how animals can and should be treated best. Whether people choose to take PETA up on its suggestion probably isn’t that important. What I think is more valuable is the discussion it might provoke and the concern it expresses. What exactly is wrong with choosing language that utilises more positive views of our relationship with other animals? Should we rather use “flogging a dead horse” over “feeding a fed horse” and if so why? If it is just a matter of tradition it seems to me that we might think about whether this is a tradition we can dispense with.

So, if the real intent behind PETA’s tweet was to provoke more genuine consideration and debate about how we treat other animals, I feel it’s rather ironic that the backlash online was so vitriolic. The very thing PETA was highlighting characterised so much of the online discussions and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because I think we all lose when we take that path.

British philosopher Philip Kitcher in his book “The Ethical Project” suggests that humans have been involved in what he terms an ethical ‘project’ since our earliest times. His explanation for how and why we have ethical attitudes is that we have always come together as communities to fix failures of altruism. More to the point, it’s through genuine discussion and debate about the issues that confront us all that has guided this ethical project and the many real positive changes our civilisations have made. Whether he’s right or not in an historical sense is open to debate but I think he makes a good point. It is possible and I think preferable for us to come together in good will to share ideas, to listen openly and  honestly to each others’ views and to subject our own beliefs to scrutiny.

How can we make progress, develop better ways to tackle the trickier aspects of our societies and create stronger communities if our automatic reaction is to laugh at, deride or even dismiss those with whom we disagree? The world of social media has elevated this kind of disagreement almost to an art form and I reckon it’s not quite what Professor Kitcher has in mind. The truth is we can make better progress and develop stronger ties between different elements of our communities by being willing to consider what others have to say. We learn more by listening and talking, not by bullying.

PETA represents a particular view of the world and while we may have our disagreements with the organisation and its methods, at the end of the day I think this one tweet has opened us to a difficult conversation. A conversation between farmers and vegans, animal advocates and the livestock industry, between producers and consumers, perhaps even between farmer and farmer. All too often this conversation has been dominated by the negative, but there are signs for change. Vegans and farmers have come together to discuss various perspectives and beliefs on Facebook pages, the agricultural sector has shown itself increasingly aware of the need to meet with and be sensitive to community expectations, farming groups have developed initiatives to help build genuine channels for communication between agriculture and consumer (for example Farm Table, Art4Agriculture and This Is Aus Ag).

With the challenges facing society in the not so distant future – such as how to sustainably feed a global population of 9 billion and the impacts and effects of climate change – now more than ever it is important for us to create honest and respectful conversations. Conversations that might build closer ties across diverse groups with diverging views and help us move forward on these big issues. I saw an example of this positive approach on Facebook recently. A group in the UK called Friends Not Food regularly hold vigils at the Tulip Slaughterhouse in Westerleigh, hoping to raise awareness in regard to animal exploitation and suffering. This group invited slaughterhouse management and staff to join them for a vegan Christmas dinner, which apparently many attended. That is a real example of reaching out, building shared stories and promoting open, honest communication.

I truly think we can do this.”

Successful 21st century businesses rely on teams that are creative, collaborative, adept at problem solving and have the capacity to have difficult conversations that have a positive effect on the team.

I salute Airlie and Graeme who have mastered the art of difficult conversations. I am still learning how and I look forward to many others in agriculture joining me on the journey.

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Highly recommended reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

 

 

How much can you give before people take everything you have?

We all know the story of the Giving Tree.

Giving-Tree-Spread

“At face value, the story is about a tree’s sacrifice for the love of a boy. At first, they happily play together every day, but eventually the boy grows up and pursues the trappings of adulthood: money, a house, a family, travel. So the tree gives the boy her apples to sell, her branches to build a house, and her trunk to make a boat. By the end, the tree is a stump, but the boy — now a tired old man — needs nothing more than a quiet place to rest, so he sits on the tree and the tree is happy. The end.

But it is the tree who longs most for what was lost, and it is here — at the intersection of time’s passing and the tree’s love — that the story is most powerful. Every time the aging boy returns, the tree gives at great cost to fulfill the boy’s desires, aching to regain Eden for him: “Then you can…be happy,” as happy as when the boy played among the branches long ago.

But they cannot go back. The boy returns each time to the tree, dissatisfied and desiring more, until he grows “too old and sad to play.” The book ends with a shadow of Eden: the boy and the tree together again, but ravaged by time.” Source

I am once again at that point of the year where I feel like the stump –  I have given everything I have to give and feeling highly undervalued. It breaks my heart that I see the people who want to take everything the tree has to offer before I see the people nurturing the soil and the roots ( and there is no shortage of those people).

And then I get a chance to nurture another young person who appears to be making the same mistakes I have and I dish out that advice I so need to take on board myself.

If you don’t value yourself no-one else will

and I beg that young person don’t be me – its very, very lonely. I know she wont be me because she believes in me and because of her I get up everyday and I say thank you.

Do I end with this??

strong-women-quotes-entity-3-800x720.pngNo I end with this

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Hannah Wandel for Prime Minister

Last night Hannah Wandel an extraordinary young Australian was acknowledged for her quest to empower young rural women with the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year Award. Read the post Hannah wrote for Art4AgricultureChat here .

I love working with Hannah. To me she epitomises everything that is good and right in the world.  It gets better Australia, her long term vision is to represent you in parliament.

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Today in Western Australia Catherine Marriott, Tracey Spicer and Skye Sanders are holding the #USToo luncheon to raise funds to support women who are not prepared to walk past sexual harassment behaviour any longer. Like many well known and highly respected women Hannah stood shoulder to shoulder with Catherine

Hannah Wandel Catherine Marriott

I was moved by this article written by Daisy Turnbull Brown to her modern history class of 2018. It will resonate with everyone around the world who stands for what is good and kind. It will resonate with everyone who is on a quest for change.

Daisy says

Not all of you will be news junkies like I am, not all of you will be politically active. But please be anything but apathetic. Spend ten minutes a day knowing what is happening in the world. Listen to the radio. Listen to podcasts. Read the news, argue with your friends, watch shows like Tonightly & the Project. Find a handful of issues that you are passionate about and become experts in them. Know that policies made today might affect you in 20 years.

I hope a few of you will go into public service. Be more than a political hack. Earn a crust, learn the efficiencies of business and apply them to politics, not the other way round.

But most importantly, know that despite everything, kindness will triumph. That dictators rise but they always fall. Apathy is the enemy of history. And you are more equipped than most to see what is happening and do something about it.

History has its eyes on you, ….  never stop asking questions.

and taking a leaf out of Hannah Wandel and Catherine Marriott’s history book today.

“Here’s to strong women.

May we know them.

May we be them.

May we raise them.

May we champion them”

 

#strongwomen #strongtogether

Thank you Bruce McIntosh

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Bruce McIntosh. Photo source 

Have you ever looked at the world around you and thought…

Why am I finding things so hard?

Have you ever found your inner voice asking again and again and yet again

Surely there must be something else?

Surely there’s something more in this life for you?

And…

somewhere in all this you guiltily reflect

About all that you do have

You remind yourself how very grateful you should be

And yet your inner voice continues to irritate, and nag and ask

What else is there?

What new journey will you embark upon?

What new worlds will you explore?

Back in 2004 I decided it was time to do more than just ruminate

I decided to act

I decided to move beyond the familiarity and comfort of my little world

I decided that my journey was to improve the world for other people

So…What was my starting point?

My world is a dairy farm on the side of a mountain at Jamberoo

This is the view from my front Verandah

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I can see for miles across the Pacific Ocean.

When the sun comes up it looks even better than this

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It looks idyllic doesn’t it but as the never-ending drought stories remind us farming can be a tough gig

As I watched the seasons come and go

Watched my family get out of bed every morning at 3am to start another long day’s toil

I developed a burning desire to re-imagine the way the community values our farmers and what they produce

If you want to make a difference you have to shine a spotlight on your cause.

To quote Richard Branson “No-one is successful alone”

Building a network for personal growth in the 21st century hinges on connecting and collaborating with the right people, openly sharing knowledge and insights with individuals who understand at a deeper level our goals and aspirations and who nurture a collective interest in our growth and that of the whole group. Its only when we learn to move together that we start to move faster

One of the early people in my network was Bruce McIntosh. RIP Bruce McIntosh 1928-2018.

Bruce was one of two people on The RAS of NSW Cattle Council who took me under their wing and listened to my big ideas for revamping of the dairy cattle judging and promotion of dairy at the show. He encouraged me to join forces with others, utilise  collective skills and experience, to add new connections and insights and communicate the support I needed to step into the future.

Bruce was a big picture thinker who gave his time and expertise freely, because he knew that by doing this the pie gets bigger for everyone.

Thank you Bruce I am very grateful you came into my life.

_2017 Landcare Conference Lynne Strong 16_9 _Page_01.jpg