Dairy – a whole lot of love

As the #DairyCrisis heads into a round-table between industry stakeholders and the Deputy PM  I am reflecting on the last 8 months journey for dairy farmers

Excitingly out of the negatives  can come so many positives especially if people analyse all the issues and directly address them with the aim of ‘putting the fight back in the dog’

And what a great segue that is to highlighting this wonderful initiative   

Black Dog Ride for Charity

Just yesterday this wonderful Facebook campaign started by a school in Vincentia on the NSW south coast who are selling bumper sticker they have designed to raise money for farmers appeared in my new feed. Check out Fight the $1 White here 

Fight the $1 white

The outpouring of #dairylove from the community has just been phenomenal

The grass roots driven initiative that just keeps on giving that has overwhelmed with its success is the Show some #dairylove Facebook page started by some very switched on and caring female dairy farmers from Victoria with the face of the page being Di Bowles.

Di Bowles

In fact, it has been a life saver for some farmers

This site has helped turn my life back around. I’m very much a loner ………. My biggest social outlet is Facebook.

And eye opener for some follower members of the wider community who have not traditionally been supporters of our industry.

What I have seen (on this Facebook site) does reassure me that on the whole,
most dairy farmers are decent, caring and genuine people

I have so many favourite postings on the site and I would like to invite Show some #dairylove Facebook followers to identify theirs for me to showcase here

 

Here are some I have recently shared on my Facebook page

#dairylove2

katherine botterill

#dairylove4

 

#dairylove3

#dairylove1

#dairylove

This one from Clancy Burn found here 

I look forward to filling this page with highlights

You can email me on  lynnestrong@art4agriculture or message me on Facebook here

 

FYI If you would like to follow this page you can make a request to Dianne here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1591950161115622/

 

Celebrating the long list of “doers” in agriculture

Dreamers-and-Doers-e1428383638886

This week has made me smile. Two seemingly unrelated things happened at once.

I got an email from a lovely lady in cotton who questioned the accuracy of a statistic I had just released and at the same time I had a request to answer this question

Who are your role models both professionally in the ag sector and then in the general public arena, and why you look up to these people?

I have been asked a similar question a number of times over the last 10 years and I was amused how quickly I replied this time compared the two weeks of in-depth reflection that went into this answer   

I was able to reel off a list of people I see as role models and the characteristics that I value and why I value them and why those people are important for me personally

I admire 

  •  Brave and independent thinkers
  • Doers and people who connect doers.
  • People who selflessly share their knowledge and experience for the good of the whole
  • People who understand that the whole can’t thrive unless all the individual components of the whole thrive
  • People you know have got your back.  

I look up to these people because they have all these qualities and they also recognise my fragility and they keep me grounded and feeling safe

It was an interesting exercise. I divided my list into gender and people over 40 and under 40 and I look forward to reviewing that list and the ratios in another 10 years time.

Doers 1

Now how does this relate to my statistical error problem?  Well up until the Australian Year of the Farmer (AYOF) in 2012 nobody in Australia had ever told the story of Australian agriculture in an eye catching way.

Thanks to the AYOF team we are now telling Australian Agriculture’s story in a way that appeals to the diverse audiences our sector wants to reach.  Because the necessary statistics were not easily accessible at that point in time, the  AYOF team relied on American statistics to determine how many people Australian farmers feed

This is AYOF video

 

This is the real story after AYOF provided the little kick up the derriere needed

Now as you can see there is a big difference between US Farmers with respect to this statistic

AYOF 2012

and Australian farmers

Art4Ag 2012

As it turns out the Australian Farm Institute’s Mick Keogh reviewed those figures last year and announced 1 Australian farmer now feeds 700 people.

Through The Archibull Prize our Young Farming Champions are able to test various scenarios and find out what information and graphics and styles of presenting resonate with young people thinking about careers in our sector

This year the Young Farming Champions have found this exercise of students identifying all the careers in the production chain for their allocated industry of study has really turned the lights on about the diversity of careers in agriculture

IMG_6858

So back to my statistical stuff up, recognising the AYOF video had been viewed many many many many more times than the follow up. I went into overdrive in my efforts to recall my mistake and get the correct statistic out there in its place.

We are all busy people and when you want the right answer you go straight to the source . What a frustrating time that was – it reminded me just how much time some people choose to spend telling you how busy they are, in preference to looking up something they have at their fingertips.

It also reminded me what an awesome resource the Australian Farm Institute is. Kudos to the team of doers and bright minds this organisation always attracts.

Now that I am confident in my stats and very grateful to my never toooooooooooooo busy graphic artist I can spend my weekend recalling the previous competition flyer and getting the right one out there.

 

13599_Picture You in Agriculture Flyer _Page_1      13599_Picture You in Agriculture Flyer _Page_2

And I look forward to finding the time to raising a toast to all the doers in my life. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to identify them all this week  and see just how long that list was

Please note readers.

I dont always get it right.  Please dont hesitate to contact me if you spot something you think i should revisit

The real story on native vegetation clearing and why it is MIA

Below is a reprint of this article from the Australian Farm Institute today. What I find worrying is if the AFI is right why agriculture wasn’t on the front foot shouting all this great news from the roof tops

Knowing the AFI,  I am very confident the analysis is correct – I think the question agriculture should be asking is why we keep making the same mistakes and letting the rest of the world tell our story for us?.

View from Saddleback

   No shortage of native vegetation regeneration at Clover Hill 

BEWARE THE STATISTICS IN MEDIA REPORTS ON LAND CLEARING 

Debates in Australia about land clearing are seemingly unending, in part due to the failure of many involved to recognise some basic truths, and in part due to the very significant divide between media reports about the issue, and what the available statistics actually say about land clearing rates.

Starting with the statistics that are published about land clearing, and the divide between that and what the media actually reports, the latest official report released by the NSW Government on land clearing rates in the state are a classic example.

According to a report by Peter Hannam in the Sydney Morning Herald, the latest available NSW Report on Native Vegetation reveals that, ‘23,000 hectares had been cleared of woody vegetation (for crops and pastures) in the three years to June 2013.’ Note the use of the sum of three years of data, rather than a single year of figures, to make the number sound bigger.

The article continues, ‘unexplained clearing amounted to 13,579 hectares, or 59 per cent’ – again, a reference to three years rather than a single year. The article then reported a quote from the Chief Executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW stating, ‘This report shows that the Baird Government is soft on illegal land clearing.’

Starting with the very basic facts, Geoscience Australia reports that the mainland area of the State of NSW is 80,062,800 hectares. This means that the amount of native vegetation reportedly cleared by farmers over the three years amounted to 0.029% of the total land area of the state.

Reading the NSW Government report a little more closely, however, some other important additional information emerges. First, the figures included in the report as areas cleared are areas that were previously areas of native vegetation (presumably on 1 January 1990) which have since had trees removed. However, (as the NSW Government report states), ‘the report does not identify gains in woody vegetation due to planting or natural regrowth’, meaning that reporting the aforementioned figures in isolation (as Peter Hannam has done) is the equivalent of reporting a football game but only providing one side’s score.

Interestingly, another section of the NSW Government report does provide information that is of use in gaining some understanding of the ‘plus’ side of the native vegetation scorecard, but curiously, this seems to have been overlooked in the Sydney Morning Herald article.

The same NSW Government report identifies that some 71,360 hectares of new native vegetation conservation areas were created in the three years referred to above, and that on average over the past nine years 144,030 hectares of new conservation areas have been created annually.

The same report also identified that 711,850 hectares of land was converted into new or revegetated areas of native vegetation over the past three years, and 2,475,120 hectares of land was included in native vegetation management agreements designed to improve biodiversity through weed control and grazing management.

So, in summary, the NSW Native Vegetation report for 2013–14 identified that 23,000 hectares of land had been cleared by farmers over the last three years, and 3,258,330 hectares of land had been converted into native vegetation conservation areas or placed under management agreements to improve native vegetation, with much of this being land owned by farmers.

This means that the area of land on which native vegetation was removed was just 0.07% of the new areas of land on which native vegetation was either permanently conserved or placed under protective management, yet the author of the Sydney Morning Herald article chose to report the 0.07%, and completely ignore what is a very good news story for those interested in native vegetation and biodiversity conservation in NSW.

Strangely, the article quoted a series of spokespersons all expressing grave concern about the implications of the reported clearing rates. For example Kate Smolski, chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council, said:

We in NSW are in the middle of an extinction crisis – we cannot afford to keep losing wildlife habitat at this rate or we will lose species like the koala forever.

Either the people quoted in the article did not read the report and were contacted by the reporter in the knowledge that they would provide supportive quotes, or the responses confirm that even with the addition of 3.24 million hectares of new areas of native vegetation conservation, environmental campaigners will never be satisfied.

Are farmers the climate change sceptics they claim to be?

Climate Change is a shared responsibilty

Research has shown that 2 to 4 times as many farmers identify as human induced climate change sceptics compared to the community in general. In contrast to this lack of alignment with 97% of scientists and the community, up to 90% of surveyed farmers acknowledged using climate change adaption and mitigation strategies.

So the question is “why” do so many farmers prefer identify as sceptics? This article by Gabrielle Chan in The Guardian – Climate change is spoken of in hushed tones but it wasn’t always this way provides some excellent insights.

Peter Holding, grain farmer, Climate Champion and founding member of the farmer group (shortly to be officially announced) Farmers for Climate Action recently made this observation on the ABC. Source

“I don’t think it’s any secret that debt levels are pretty high in the farming community.

“That makes some farmers, I believe, reticent to talk about climate change when they’re talking to their banks because they have to prove that they’re viable, and they might not be under a new scenario of reduced yields and productivity.”

 As a farmer myself and coming from a family who prefer to talk “climate variability’ rather than “climate change’ I found the research by Laurie Buys et al titled ‘Perceptions of climate change and trust in information providers in rural Australia’ visionary on the subject of “why” and resonated with me.

I was particularly interested in the findings of Norgaard (2006) that emotions also play a part in constraining people’s willingness to address climate change. With agriculture identified as the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases I feel farmers have been blamed for climate change for so long that they would prefer to be seen to be sceptics as  “a means of fending off the unwanted feelings of insecurity, helplessness and guilt that are sparked by thoughts of climate change, its causes and ramifications.”

Farmers are on the front line of climate change and they are clearly adapting at a rapid rate and highly committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and lets not forget of the top four identified green house gas emitters agriculture is the only sector to have decreased emissions in recent years.

Farmers have a lot to be proud of and they are currently leading the pack in helping the community understand how they too can adapt and mitigate.

Professor Rich Eckard agrees farmers rethinking approach to climate change

While the effects of climate change have been increasing, so too has the acceptance for action amongst farmers, according to Dr Eckard.

“It’s changed over the last 15 years [and] when we first started, there was a fair bit of resistance in the farming community to the concept of climate change,” he said.

“And if you think about it, that’s not surprising because it’s actually quite a big issue to take on.

“Someone coming along and saying ‘you might not be able to farm like you are now in the future’ … that’s quite something to take on board.

“But I think we’ve seen a shift in that period of time where probably about 65 to 70 per cent of the farmers we deal with say ‘yep things have changed, we recognise they’ve changed, we need to do something, we need to adapt to that change’.” Source 

The Archibull Prize surveys mirror those done in the wider community which show that whilst almost everyone has heard of climate change, few understand it. Realistically if you can’t understand how can you possibly make changes in your life to reduce the human induced climate change impacts and meet the 2 degrees target.

Climate Change Pyramid

Teachers are looking at ways that they can make climate change relevant to students today. This example from Tenille Dowe at Northlakes High School

This year as part of The Archibull Prize challenges we have given the students the theme “Climate Change is a Shared Responsibility”. Using farmers and their farming practices adaption strategies as examples we hope to help the students take that important leap to community adoption action.

Climate Change and Red Ferrari

The students are on their journey and reflecting on what farmers are doing and how they can identify ways that they as individuals and part of a school community can follow  our farmers’ example

For example, farmers are very aware of how precious our natural resources are and this requires them to use our natural resources wisely.

Some of the ways farmers are doing this is by becoming more efficient and finding sustainable ways they can produce more food and fibre per ha of land and grow more “crop per drop”

Students are investigating the research that has been developed to grow more drought tolerant species that require less fertiliser.

Students have then been tasked with taking action by following the farming sectors lead?

For example, looking at their school

  • gardens – do they contain native drought tolerant plants and shrubs?
  • water and electricity use
  • recycling and reusing of waste

In 2015 The Archibull Prize impact study showed our Young Farming Champions were initiating and shaping these very important courageous conversations and it is clear the students are stepping up to

Slide3

Slide2

I look forward to sharing with you the outcomes after all the future depends on humans getting this right.

Postscript

The latest report from the Climate Council On the Frontline: Climate Change & Rural Communities highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change  on rural and regional communities. It examines the systemic disadvantages experienced by rural and regional communities, which are likely to worsen if climate change continues unabated.

The report found

  • Climate change threatens to exacerbate the urban migration trend
  • Climate change is reducing water availability in areas of the Murray-Darling Basin
  • Farmers are adding additional revenue streams to their properties from renewable energy. About $20.6 million is paid annually in lease payments to farmers and landholders hosting wind turbines.
  • Renewable energy can reduce electricity costs for rural and remote communities, who traditionally pay much higher prices than their urban counterparts.
  • Many ag industries have made changes to the way they operate to counter climate change – but there is a limit to how much farmers can adapt – and it can be expensive and difficult

There is also good news the report also found rural and regional communities are already reaping the benefits associated with climate change solutions which provide unrivalled opportunities to attract jobs and investment back to these areas.

Some of those benefits include

  • Australia’s rural and regional population is falling and in 2011, there were nearly 20,000 fewer farmers than in 2006. Climate change threatens to exacerbate this urban migration trend.
  • Many agricultural industries have made changes to adapt to the changing climate, such as changing sowing and harvesting dates or switching to new breeds of livestock. But there is a limit to how much farmers can adapt – and it can be expensive and difficult.
  • Farmers are adding additional revenue streams to their properties from renewable energy. About $20.6 million is paid annually in lease payments to farmers and landholders hosting wind turbines.
  • Renewable energy can reduce electricity costs for rural and remote communities, who traditionally pay much higher prices than their urban counterparts.

 

 

 

Your best teacher can be your last mistake

We all make mistakes. Mistakes we are not aware of, like Karl through ignorance and sometimes like Karl your mistake becomes a national talking point

I don’t normally watch morning TV, in fact I hardly watch TV at all any more but I did catch this segment sitting in an airport lounge and I remember thinking at the time is that word PC?

As Karl found out it isnt. I have always felt its how you handle the mea culpa that defines who you are

Mistakes

In this case it was one of the best mea culpa’s I have ever seen. Everybody who heard it would have learnt something. I did.  The acronym LGBTQIA itself is inspired as previously if I had heard some-one say Queer in this context I would have wondered if this term PC

We all make mistakes. When they become very public it can be tough and I imagine making a public apology isn’t the only ramification Karl has to deal with.

I have made a few mistakes myself that have had some major ramifications and I have spent a lot of time beating myself up. I will be forever grateful to the people who gave me pastoral care during those tough times. The is the best advice I have ever been given

Fail-Fast-and-Move-On.-300x300

When life gets tough for me I remind myself of all of the wonderful people I have met on my journey. A shout out to the Young Farming Champions, the Art4Agriculture team and all the teachers and students who participate in The Archibull PrizeIMG_7063 and to the cows. Views like this would cheer anybody up

Well done Karl.

 

 

A livestock farmers take on Meat Free Week

The concept of Meat Free Week can send shivers up and down the spine of livestock farmers

The Youth Food Movement recently shared their thoughts on Meat Free Week here  and gave Sheep Meat Farmer and Young Australian Farmer of the Year Anika Molesworth the opportunity to share her views

Anika-Molesworth-meat-farming-Australia-716x393 (1)

I have reblogged it below

Meat Free Week is a time for thinking about meat eating – but what about meat farming? We asked Young Farmer of the Year (and keeper of sheep) Anika Molesworth for her perspective on one of the most fraught food conversations most people can have. And we were totally taken aback.

They say just beyond Broken Hill you can see the curvature of the Earth. The red plains seem to stretch out forever. On hot summer days willy-willys, also known as whirly-winds or dust devils, dance across the horizon. Parched earth rhythmically twirls heavenward as if in an ancient Chinese ribbon dance. For those who choose to live here, their affinity with the land and the environment is indissoluble.

As a farmer of the arid inland, I know poignantly the impacts of climate change. To the untrained eye this land looks deserted and lifeless. But for those who have witnessed the migration of a thousand emerald budgies, a snow field of white paper daisies, or the magic of a rock wallaby’s first stumbling hops, it is undeniable that this land breathes and evolves as the seasons change. But this ecosystem is fragile – an eggshell of interdependent and symbiotic relationships. And as the climate challenges facing inland Australia rise, the protection of these delicate lands is paramount.

“The bush has moods and changes, as the seasons rise and fall, And the men who know the bushland – they are loyal through it all.”
Banjo Paterson

The hardened salt-of-the-earth farmers I know that occupy this land may not first appear appropriate for this vital task. Some with more sun wrinkles crisscrossing their face than the ephemeral creeks that transport life after rain. However, it is these custodians of the land that protect the balance. From their hands they produce food and fibre that feed our nation and those across the seas. They nurture the native flora and fauna, which has adapted to these unique environments, and protect the timeless landscapes. These farmers value more the soaking rainfall than diamonds that number the stars on a clear outback night.

Farming sustainably requires good information, adaptability, support networks, and a fire in the belly to strive forward even when the odds are not in one’s favour. Holistic management is operating with a birds-eye perspective. It involves a comprehensive, anticipatory design approach. In extensive grazing systems this means working with, not against, the resources within the property boundaries and beyond. It is about not only maintaining natural assets, but enhancing them – the notion that these fragile inland environs can produce quality food and fibre without exhaustion or degradation when carefully managed.

Livestock that graze upon the arid lands in Australia are generally managed differently to those you see and hear about in the documentaries you might see from the States. They’re in a low-intensity, low-stress environment. The resources on which they depend, such as nutrients and water, are cherished fervently by the farmer. Soil cover from vegetation keeps precious nutrients and organic matter on the ground, reducing the chance of wind and water erosion. The vegetation takes up these nutrients which are then utilised by the livestock to sustain them. Rainfall is caught in large in-ground dams, and distributed across country through pipe networks, to feed distant troughs and the dependent livestock. The importance of renewable energy is well understood by farmers, with solar and wind energy commonly used to transport this water and provide electricity. Looking after nutrient and water reserves now means greater security for the future and the continued ability to raise livestock here.

When one works all day without seeing another human face, you could easily be mistaken by thinking that the arid inland is a lonely place. However, peering a little closer with quiet patience, it is only a matter of time before the whole gamut of biodiversity and relationship intricacy is realised. Farmers understand the land on which they live and operate, the challenges that climate change presents, and the opportunities that must be sought.

To make the most of these opportunities for farmers to do good, we need more eaters to realise the power of what’s on their plate. It’s heartening meeting farmers like Anika and our volunteers who get it. Now it’s time to start a conversation with those who haven’t. Yet. Looking for more meaty discussion? Check out our series about Beefjam, where we first met Anika.

 

Agriculture needs a new way of supporting our Young Farmers

I must it admit I was very sad when I saw the results of this survey. My heart went out to these young people that feel the answer to their problems is greater access to money  for I assume the 35% who want to buy farming real estate and start or grow a farming enterprise

I would have loved them them to say –

We want a new model for agriculture where  farmers get a fair return on investment so we have the confidence to borrow money and the opportunity to pay it back at commercial rates like everybody else 

 

NSWFA YFCouncil Survey

I believe it starts with getting out of our agricultural silos and working with communities and organisations who are supporting young people in diverse and exciting ways

What a great model the Foundation for Young Australians is

From their website…… 

The future is going to look very different. At FYA we believe young people are not a problem to be helped or solved. Young people are ambitious, creative and capable of rethinking the world and solving tomorrow’s problems today. And can do it all with a social conscience that will let them build a better world in the process. FYA is all about backing the next generation of young people who are going to rethink the world and create a better future.

At FYA we ❤ young changemakers – the innovators, the makers, the dreamers, the thinkers, the doers and the creators.

I know young people who have been through their programs – many of them using Heywire as a launching pad on their journey to be the change they want to see in the world

I also work with exciting young people in agriculture. They too are creative, ambitious, have a strong social conscience and have the capacity to solve tomorrow’s problems today

They can do this because they have put up their hands and said we have a thirst for knowledge and we want the tools  to create a new and fair model for the agriculture sector and young farmers

To do this they have sought out a diverse array of community experts and undertaken extensive personal and profession development so they can be

  • Be brave.
  • Be independent thinkers.
  • find and connect to purpose.
  • Think big.
  • Find their communities of influence.
  • Build their networks.
  • Take action on stuff that matters.
  • Lead and change the world.

Excitingly 50% of the young people surveyed said they want training and education. Its time for agriculture to genuinely invest in building the capacity of these young people.

This survey was undertaken by the NSW Government and NSW Farmers. They can both help by providing our young people with the tools and the knowledge to help

  • develop the substance of policy
  • understand who the influencers and
  • how to successfully lobby for change.

Most importantly this starts with giving them a world view. Young people in agriculture have same problems as young people across the world and politics is the art of the possible. Young people today struggle to get loans to buy a house. Agriculture is risky business and the last position the banks want to find themselves in, is having to repossess a farm

How do we deliver the change that agriculture must have?

For farmers this will mean working beyond traditional boundaries and challenging the conventional thinking of primary industries and individuals. It will require a paradigm shift in thinking and a collaborative re-allocation of resources and responsibilities amongst all stakeholders in the value chain.

It will require deploying agriculture’s young people into the community to build relationships with the next generation of consumers. It will need innovative and fun ways of engaging the next generation of consumers in considering the issues affecting sustainable food and fibre production.

The legacy is the ability of  farmers of all ages to participate in, and extract greater value from the field to fabric and the paddock to plate supply chain.

It is only in this way will we see a viable future for our young farmers and the communities that support them

 

Footnote

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As a matter of timely interest the Australian Farm Institute released today a wealth of insights on whether Rural property a good Investment found here