Nobody loves me – Get back to me

This video is currently doing the rounds and it worries me that many in our industry think it is important that somebody makes videos like this because we desperately need to feel good about ourselves

Whilst I can understand why farmers might feel the need to cheer for the hero in this video sadly all it does is promote the ‘them and us” mentality.

As farmers we tend to spend far too much time focusing on our detractors. We close our ears to our supporters and turn up the loud speakers when the activists come out to town.

We are not victims and people do loves us. Its time to party with the people who energise us

Some great feedback in this article from video create Ashley Walmsley and farmer extraordinaire Georgie Somerset http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bushtelegraph/farmers-frustrations-on-youtube/4899388

Clear as Mud

Today’s guest blog comes from the very talented Bessie Blore city girl and journalist and now wool producer and Australian Wool Innovation Young Farming Champion.
Bessie writes the very popular and often very funny blog  Bessie at Burragan. Bessie recently attended her first YFC workshop

BessieBloreSheepShute2

Whilst Bessie

anticipates many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.”  I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that to share my farming stories with the world.

 IT IS EASY to feel isolated when you live 110 kilometres from the closest small town – or even if you live in those small towns. It’s true that things like phones and Facebook combat the loneliness, solitude and other mental aspects of isolation. But as one of the 11 percent of Australians who don’t live in “urban areas” – that’s cities and towns of more than 1,000 people, according to ABS – it’s still reality to sometimes feel as if you are out of sight, out of mind, and out of touch.

Of all the various issues surrounding living on a relatively remote sheep station, when Shannan (ST) and I first moved to Burragan I was most constantly anxious about the possibility of being “rained in.” There’s about 35 kilometres, give or take, of dirt road between the Burragan house and a bitumen highway, and although 35km isn’t much in the scheme of things, the thing about dirt is that when it rains it turns to mud. And the thing about mud is that it’s pretty much impenetrable by man… or woman. So when it rains you either get out quick (not always an option), or bunker down at home in preparation for a period of house and shed-bound jobs.

ST always alleviated my fear by telling me that if we ever simply had to get out after rain, we could take the motorbike cross-paddock to the highway. Over time my anxiety eased as I became used to this plan, and when people asked what happened when we were rained in, I simply answered, “We really could get out on the motorbike, across the paddock, if we needed to.”

In my mind this was acceptable. I would never be totally trapped. Obviously I hadn’t given it much further thought. You know, about, like, exactly what happens when we get to the highway and only have a motorbike to travel on and are still 80 kilometres from the closest town? Yeah, that bit… hmmm… interesting you bring that up… I hadn’t really thought about that bit.

So it was part traumatic and part wild adventure last month when we had 50 millimetres (that’s 2 inches for the oldies out there) of rain overnight and I was due to catch a flight out of Broken Hill. Then the true physical issues behind the motorbike-cross-country plan finally became clear… much clearer than mud – yet still with the exact same colour, consistency, and chemical structure. So yeah, pretty much as clear as mud – except actually clear. Are you with me?

I was due to catch this flight to Sydney because of my #3 Super Exciting Amazing News that I’ve been busting to tell you about for months now. I’ve been chosen as a 2013 Young Farming Champion to represent the wool industry as part of theArt4Agriculture and Archibull Prize programs! (Insert claps, cheers and wolf whistles here!!) If you haven’t heard of this, then let me explain…

Art4Agriculture is the brain child of Illawarra based dairy farmer Lynne Strong. At its heart Art4Ag aims to bridge the divides between food and fibre producers and consumers, through awareness and participation. Just one aspect of the program is the Archibull Prize, where participating schools are provided with a life-size fibreglass cow statue to decorate in the theme of a particular primary industry (think cotton, wool, beef, dairy etc). The Archibulls, along with blogs and video projects, are then entered in the annual Archibull Prize competition against all the other schools. Part of the program – and this is where I come in – is to train up young farmers as champions for their industry, and partner each school with its own Young Farming Champion to help inspire their themed Archibull entry, but also to teach students all about how fun, innovating and exciting Australian agriculture is as a whole. Doesn’t it sound great!!??

So, there I was, at home, due to catch this flight to Sydney for my very first meet and greet with this year’s fellow Young Farming Champions (there’s a few of us –check us out HERE) and our initial training workshop. We’d had a little bit of forecast rain the day before and the usual protocol here, when no more rain is forecast for the immediate future, is to hope for some warm and windy weather to dry out the roads. With 24 hours still to go before I was due to leave for my 4pm flight from Broken Hill, we decided to enact this kind of watch and wait plan. And while I went to bed hoping for a windy night to harden up the muddy track to the highway, ST, I’m sure, was secretly hoping for a heavy 5inch downpour to fill our drying dams.

As I lay in bed I heard the rains tumble down. In June.

Fifty-millimetres had fallen by the time we woke. And it wasn’t warm and windy and dry. It was cold and still and wet. ST was delighted. I was anxious… and a little bit peeved. And feeling extremely traitorous for not being delighted.

But everything would be OK, because we could just push out through the paddock on the motorbike, right? Right. Except, then what? Our bikes are only ever used on the property, so they’re not registered for use on main roads. It would be illegal, not to mention highly dangerous given the amount of fuel (and my luggage) we’d need to strap on for the trip, and too slow going anyway, to take the motorbike all the way to Town. And asking a friend for a casual old lift to the airport is just a fraction more than your average favour when the airport is 330km away.

Plan C? ST braved the freezing rain on his motorbike to check the state of all our roads, to see if there was any possible way of me making it out to the highway in the car. Now that is love; having one billion other things to do and dropping everything, to ride 70km through mud and slush, in awful weather, all to make his new wife hap… Hang on a minute – it has just come to me that all this time I thought he was doing something super-sweet, when really maybe that’s just how much he really, really wanted to get rid of me for a few days!? Hmmmm…

Anyway, ST returned two hours later bearing bad news. The road turned to soup closer to the highway and it was more than likely any attempt to escape by car would end with me stuck not only a long way from the airport, but also a long way from the house.

Plan D? Call all the neighbours for a road report on all possible access points through their properties – perhaps I could make it the back way? But as I rang around the neighbours, the time was a-ticking. With at least three and a half hours of travel between Burragan and Broken Hill I was going to have to leave soon, or risk missing the flight altogether. Of course, the neighbours were just was rained in as we were…

Plan E? Helicopter? Ours was still at the mechanic, being serviced. Damn! (Hahaha, I wish!)

Plan F? As it slipped passed midday and I lost my window of opportunity to reach the departure gate in time for take-off, I was left with no other option but to call the Art4Ag crew in Sydney and apologise in advance for missing my flight. I disappointedly began dialling.

Plan G? Plan H? Plan I, Plan J, PlanKPlanLPlanPlanPlanlanananannnnnnnnnaaaarrrggghhh!!! Plan Z?

There was ONE other option ST and I could come up with. Every night a bus stops at the local roadhouse on the highway about 50km away, journeying from Sydney to Broken Hill. If my flight could be changed to the following day, there was a possibility I could somehow catch that bus and make it to Broken Hill, stop over at a friend’s place for the night and be at the airport early the next morning.

It was going to be risky, first relying on the possibility of changing the flight at such late notice, then relying on the availability of seats on the bus, then being able to make it all the way to the highway on the quad bike – with my luggage – without being covered in mud by the end of it, and then the dilemma of making it a further 15km on the highway to the roadhouse, given the aforementioned dangers and illegalities of riding on the road. It would be a battle of determination and strength, a test of will and cross-country quad riding skills, a trial of friendship and mud-proof luggage wrapping abilities, a journey of epic proportions, a story of courage and undying lo… Oh, have I gone too far?

Following the all clear for the flight to be changed with the proof of road closures from the Road Traffic Authority (easy done!), I rang the bus company to see if they could make an exception for me and stop at our turn off on the highway. They said no. I didn’t argue the point. Instead, I calmly hung up and I may, or may not, (but most likely may) have cried at this point. It was beginning to look like the universe was trying to tell me something, and that I was not supposed to make it to Sydney.

But I had one final card up my sleeve, or more accurately, business card stuck to my fridge door. I phoned the owner of the local roadhouse and begged for a favour. If she wasn’t too busy, if it was not too much trouble, only if she had the time, would she please, pretty, pretty please be able to meet me at our turn off at sundown and take me back to the roadhouse in time to catch the bus? I’m fairly certain I heard angels singing in the background as she said yes.

And so ST and I prepared for battle, fuelling up the quad, donning 70 million layers of winter clothes, and wrapping my luggage in plastic bags, before setting off through the paddocks, highway headed.

True to her word, the lovely roadhouse owner ferried me to the warmth of the roadhouse, where she fed me delicious cappuccinos and hot chips as I waited for the bus for two hours.

And then I sat on the bus for three and a half hours while my feet numbed from the cold, arriving in Broken Hill around midnight.And then I sat in the airport for three hours the next morning while my flight was delayed and eventually diverted via a longer route.

Oh Sydney, you tried to avoid me, but ain’t nobody gonn’ stop me! You can attempt to delay me for approximately 24 hours, but you will never evade me completely! I showed you! So I eventually made it to Sydney, and loved my first training weekend alongside a fantastic group of fellow Young Farming Champions. I am really looking forward to my time with them and in schools across the country.

This is an opportunity I am embracing with both hands, not only to excite urban audiences about Australian agriculture, but also to break down the barriers between those who grow our nation’s food and fibre and those who eat and wear it…
To traverse that gulf, between you and I…

And to fade that feeling of isolation, for the 11percent. It can take us a little longer to make it to where the action’s at, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying hard to get there.
I anticipate many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II (because I think we can all agree the original Matthew Wilder version is just a little too weird), “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.” And I warn you, I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that.

Are we clear?

Editor’s Note: Yes, I am aware the next line of the song is, “Nobody’s gonna slow me down,” and that that contradicts my previous statements about delays/interruptions/lags/minor hold ups etc… But for the sake of me really needing to end this blog, can we allow some poetic licence and let it slide?

Getting past the ‘them’ and ‘us’

In February this year I was approached  by WWF to share a story for their new 2 Degrees Initiative

I said yes and you can read my story here

Perhaps not all farmers will be happy with me for a number of reasons. See footnote

WWF was recently described as  an “EXTREME green lobby group attacking Queensland farmers” by the Queensland Country Life when WWF launched this video.

But lets not forget at a basic level, farmers and WWF want the same thing – a sustainable environment that we leave in better shape than we found it. 

We have to acknowledge that we’re all this this together, we share the same planet.  We all want to support our population while leaving the smallest possible footprint.

Farmers are stewards of over 60% of Australia’s land mass. We take our role in managing that resource for future generations very seriously.  We all prioritise the well-being of our environment and animals in our day-to-day operations. Most farmers would have in place practices that respond to variations in climate, none of this is new.  But often, the only people who know about it are our neighbours – usually other farmers.

As a Climate Champion I have seen many amazing farmers doing incredible things for the environment. We need to celebrate this loudly.

It’s important for farmers to share our practices with audiences that may have some queries about the way we operate. I am committed to seeking out these people to engage in meaningful ways to create understanding and partnerships.  These people will not come to us. In many instances, they wouldn’t know where to look!  So by sharing my story with WWF, I am able to engage with an audience I may not normally encounter.  I am hopeful this will encourage a discussion around how farmers can work with everyone to build a future in which people and nature thrive.

working-together

For too long agriculture has promoted ourselves to agriculture. We need to expand our reach to engage all participants along our supply chains, to create awareness and understanding that will underpin sustainable production into the future. We cannot afford to turn out backs on those who may be uncomfortable with agriculture. They are too important to our future to ignore.

Footnote

Some interesting research on farmer attitudes to climate change found here 

Overcoming the climate change sceptics

Many primary producers are resistant to the challenges of climate change. In a study of Australia’s Farming Future the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, surveyed 1,000 farmers in relation to their attitudes towards climate change. They also surveyed 1,000 people from urban areas.

While 58% of the urban population believed climate change was real and caused by human activity, only 26% of primary producers held this view. As illustrated in the following diagram these farmer groups were segmented into different types of sceptic. Some were sceptical but had been hit by drought and therefore were prepared to start taking action. Others were sceptical and had not yet felt any environmental impacts so they felt no need to take action.

Primary producer segments in relation to climate change Donelley, Mercer, Dickson and Wu (2009)

The ‘strugglers’ were not only sceptical but had no resources to apply to any remedial action. Even those who accepted climate change science were of the view that government assistance was required to allow them to take action.

These attitudes amongst rural producers are important as they will determine how readily many farmers adopt more sustainable farming practices, reduce new land clearing and introduce programs such as enhanced biodiversity of cropping, interlocking crop cycles, dense polycultures, biochar and carbon management.

The best revenge is happiness

When I looked out the window this morning two hours after letting my chooks out I had a gut feeling today was not going to be a great day for soul.  And I was right (sadly) not a pretty sight when I ventured outside

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I wont be forgiving this fox anytime soon but I am not going to lump everyone in the same box as this creature so I  thought I would share this wonderful post from Bushbelles found here which adds to my series on Success is a Journey

7-let-go-and-forgive

 

So talking about forgiveness (you weren’t?  Hmm maybe that was me).  We all have times when traumatic and difficult (crazy, bizarre) things happen to us (or our children).

Its a process (believe me), but here are some great ways to hopefully, eventually, when enough time has passed to forgive and move on.

Some snapshots

Stop trying for a while

 

If you’re trying hard and haplessly making zero progress, stop trying. 

Stop trying and start being.

Instead of believing that you are not there yet, be grateful that you are right where you are meant to be at this moment.

Yes, by all means set goals and take steps in the right direction, but don’t disregard the steps as you take them – these steps are your life’s story. 

Love

Feeling sorry for yourself and sabotaging the present moment with resentful thoughts of the past won’t make anything better.  Hurting someone else will never ease your own inner angst.
If you’re disappointed with yourself or frustrated with someone else, the answer is not to take it out on the world around you. 

Forgive the past, forgive yourself, forgive others, and love the present moment for what it’s worth. 

There are plenty of beautiful things to love right now; you just have to want to see them. 

Loving is never easy, especially when times are tough, yet it is easily the most powerful and positively enduring action possible.

If you’re feeling pain, don’t take action that creates even more pain.

Don’t try to cover darkness with darkness. 

Find the light. 

Do something that will enable you to move forward toward a more fulfilling reality. 

There is always something good you can do. 

Fill your heart with it and act in everyone’s best interest, especially your own.

 

Seek positive revenge by living well (I love this one)

 

Are you contemplating revenge? 

You know that’s a negative thinking getting the best of you. 

However, there is a way to seek revenge positively.

How?  Forget about them.  Remember you. 

The bottom line is that the best revenge is happiness, because nothing drives your adversaries more insane than seeing a fresh smile on your face.

and the Pièce de résistance

If all else fails go shopping

 

Original  inspiration found here

Which one will you feed

I have posted two blogs in the last 24 hours about young women in agriculture who where inspired by their grandfathers. So not surprisingly this tweet from Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber caught my eye.

Hannah Barber 

and that quote that has had so much influence on Hannah’s life

two wolves

I have found as you travel life’s journey, you will meet many inspiring people who will give you wise advice. Its what you then do with that wise advice that determines how smart you are  

A wise woman recently said to me ‘You can never have too much passion but too much emotion can get in the way”

So I am feeding my passion and putting my emotion on a diet

Fertilise the Tall Poppies

It’s that time of year when awards that celebrate our Australian farmers and the people who support them are opening for nominations.

As a person who has been lucky enough to win some of these awards and benefited greatly from the exposure they bring I have also witnessed the impact on my family of the pressure to “live up” to microscope they feel they are under.

Whilst the naysayers don’t interest me, I do understand when quiet achievers like my husband and son would prefer not to be in the spotlight. My son in particular finds the derogatory comments from some of the local farmers hard to take and I find that very sad.

I remember vividly attending the 2010 National Landcare Awards and being so excited when we won and then turning to my husband who said ‘You collect the award I don’t think what we do is any different to thousands of farmers across Australia’. But I knew differently, it’s not how you farm that counts, its how what you do translates into a community good benefit that counts.

I stood tall and proudly accepted because I knew what we did was something to be proud of.

My speech went something like this

Today most media in Australia generated around food is about cooking and eating, recipes and restaurants, with little attention paid to the origins of the key ingredients.

At Clover Hill Dairies we haven’t been fooled into thinking people don’t care.

We believe meeting or exceeding the community’s expectations to deliver affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food is doing the right thing by our business and our customers

There are plenty of Australian farmers committed to ethical food production… JUST AS WE ARE 

But there are some things we are equally passionate about that sets us apart

Beyond best farming practices we are dedicated to

  • Building lifelong relationships between city consumers and rural providers. Because it is these urban communities who will decide the future for primary produces either as consumers, governments and decision makers or as competitors for Australia’s natural resources and workforce. The next generation of consumers and decision makers must see responsible agricultural production as a legitimate use of land, water and other resources.
  • Encouraging and furnishing opportunities for young people to enter food value chain career pathways
  • Forging cross community partnerships to secure our social licence to operate and right to farm   

Winning this very prestigious award offers us the very best possible platform to build on this passion – thank you so much for opening this door

In 2013 I would make a very different speech and I would be less nervous because my journey since that night has been so exciting and so fulfilling and I have so much more confidence and met so many wonderful people who are sharing my journey. One thing that hasn’t changed is I would be just as proud.

Most excitingly there was some-one in the audience who heard me speak and believed in my Young Farming Champions concept and invested in it (thank you Ken)

I recently had an email from a young lady inspired by one of these young farming champions to take up a career in agriculture

It is absolutely beyond my wildest dreams to communicate with young farmers (of their nature) and have been so fortunate to be in brief contact with Richie Quigley after being sent his Art4Agriculture video and contacting him and being mentored by him towards the most appropriate university degree for me next year – his input has been invaluable.

We are far from perfect farmers but what our farm has done very well is to open the door to invite the next generation to visit and experience what we do which one of the Art4agriculutre Young Eco Champions Erin shows so beautifully here. 

 

We do need a new way of thinking about agriculture. We need farmers who are prepared to work beyond traditional boundaries and challenge the conventional thinking of primary industries and individuals.

We need a paradigm shift in thinking and a collaborative re-allocation of resources and responsibilities

We must be able to deploy agriculture’s young people like Richie and Erin into schools to build relationships with the next generation of consumers.

So if you know some-one who has a big picture vision for agriculture then nominate them for awards.

As an industry

‘we can inspire and motivate and galvanise our people or we can ridicule and sap energy from them. Its our choice’  Derek Antoncich

Lets celebrate our farmers sharing their stories beyond the farm gate

Nominate some-one you know today 

Farmer of the Year Awards http://www.farmingahead.com.au/FarmerOfYear

You have enemies? Celebrate

Jas Hannah and Steph

I recently had a conversation with the dynamo that is Catherine Marriott and the topic of driving change in agriculture came up and that led to a discussion about how lonely it can be when at times the words of your detractors drown out those of your supporters

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

In creating the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program one of the key things that drove me was the overwhelming desire to provide support for the changemakers. We all know that that driving change often galvanises those who desperately don’t want change.

Whilst the change resistors don’t represent the majority their fear of change can be so draining and so vocal you often allow them to question your judgement and cloud your vision for the future.

Believe me you can never overestimate the power of surrounding yourself with positive people you can learn from.

Catherine has a great passion to drive change and harness the energy of rural women and I feel the same about young people in agriculture .

To empower and provide rural women with the skills sets to be the change that must happen in agriculture Catherine has set up Influential  Women

In Catherine words

Influential Women is a movement that creates conversations that connect urban and rural Australia by building confidence, capacity and skills in rural and regional women. Currently, rural Australia has a huge opportunity to connect with our customers, as people are becoming more interested in how their food is produced. We need to take advantage of this interest by being engaging, fun, informative and innovative in our communication and this communication needs to be two way. As farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, but we haven’t historically been very good at communicating this.

The concept behind the Influential Women’s came from watching the live trade ban unfold. I started to reflect on the agricultural conversations that had been happening across the board and realised that we are under increasing consumer scrutiny. It doesn’t matter if you are in the chicken industry where there are questions about the cages are cages, the pig industry with sow stalls, the grains industry with GM or the beef industry with hormones and live export, we are all facing consumer pressure. The time has come for us all to be a part of the conversation. If we aren’t, the space will be taken by people who have an ill-informed, agenda driven opinion that is anti farming.and it mostly comes from ill-informed groups with a negative agricultural agenda.

Now as farmers, I believe we have nothing to hide, we need to share what we do on our farms openly and most importantly why we do certain things. We need to be proud of what we do in agriculture and share it with an intrigued and interested consumers and celebrate the roles that we play in providing the Australian public with safe healthy and nutritious food and fibre.

As farmers we need to have a voice……. and that voice needs to be constant, articulate and concise, friendly, engaging…. and delivered regularly.

How exciting is it for me to find some-one equally determined to not only drive change but most importantly invest in it .

At every opportunity I find ways and means of exposing our Young Farming Champions to the like-minded networks that Catherine gathers around her at her workshops.

In the words of Beef Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber who attended an Influential Women’s workshop recently in Holbrook

Having heard of Influential Women and the fantastic work this organisation does to connect and empower rural women, I was very grateful to the Holbrook Landcare group for their sponsorship to attend a workshop. Flanked by two other Young Farming Champions Steph Fowler and Jasmine Nixon, we met a range of impressive women of all ages, from all backgrounds involved in a variety of industries with one thing in common, our love for agriculture. Of these amazing women, leading the way forward was facilitator Catherine Marriot, who, teamed with her mother Cath, make up the very aptly named Influential Women.

Catherine’s talent as a presenter and facilitator are matched by her personal warmth and genuine desire to help rural women be the best they can be. Nearly every break Catherine forwent the casual conversation and refreshments to personally connect with & continue conversations with attendees.

After lunch on day one, a bare-footed Catherine presented a vital section on social media, something Steph, Jasmine and I were able to assist other women in the room to connect to, and understand the various social media avenues. The isolation of our rural societies was in the past, a major issue and blockade in the quest for farmers to connect with each other and consumers, thanks to the development of the internet and social media we now have the opportunity to be heard in our cities and have our issues recognised and addressed; we have a voice and united we can achieve great things as we have seen particularly over this past month.

I walked away from the Influential Women’s workshop very proud of our rural women, the Art4Agriculture program and with a virtual schoolbag of skills and knowledge I will be able to apply to various sectors of my personal and professional life. The networking of talented and driven women at the workshop and the guidance of Catherine who makes herself unreservedly available to workshop alumni, made the Influential Women’s workshop a very worthwhile way to spend my first two days of uni holidays and I highly recommend the workshops to women of all ages, abilities and industries, you will gain friendships and knowledge guaranteed.

and this from Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Steph Fowler

Over the years I have done personality profiling type exercises and have long known that I am an extreme extravert, intuitive, thinker, perceiver or ENTP in Myers Briggs. While I have known what it means for my personal strengths and benefits, I haven’t seen how to apply this knowledge in a social context. Until the Influential Woman’s workshop in Holbrook that is. During the Myers Briggs session at the workshop, once we had all figured out our personality types, Catherine divided us into opposing types for the different sections and gave us a task which highlighted the differences. For me this opened up a whole new world where suddenly I can identify what I can do for other people to help them get what they need out of a situation rather than just allowing my own personality to dominate, objectify and focus on the big picture. The Myers Briggs personality type was one session out of many that provided not only the knowledge but also enabled us to apply it within our context and to things that were relevant to us. I gained so much out of this applied approach to the sessions and after spending two days with some of my fellow country woman who are all amazing in their own right, I am now more empowered and motivated than ever.

Catherine and the rural women who attend her workshops and the Young Farming Champions inspire me to get out of bed everyday, block the detractors from my mind and celebrate change. I salute you  all