Farmers focused on being part of the solution

Food is an extremely hot topic but its a long time since farmers have had a seat at the discussion table when its discussed beyond the farm gate. Today farmers are less that one per cent of the population. Whilst it’s time for people with firsthand experience to leverage social media leadership to influence public opinion, rather than react to rhetoric, we cant expect the wider community to understand the origins of food, today’s practices or what’s really happening if we’re not using new media to communicate?

A number of like minded farmers have come together and formed very powerful partnerships that are now giving farmers a voice on Climate Change. Its interesting when you join forces with organisations that have 160,000 followers on Facebook and another 24K on Twitter just how big a voice farmers can have in the wider community and in this case its interesting what the community has to say

Climate Council Facebook Page

One of those farmers using her off farm skill sets to give farmers a voice is Marian McDonald who blogs as Milk Maid Marian  who was invited by The Guardian to turn her latest blog into an Op-Ed which I have reprinted below

Climate change has not been answered for farmers: we need more information, not less

Cuts to the CSIRO’s climate and land and water research will make finding solutions – and making milk Australian families can afford – ever more difficult

farmer and cows
‘We knew we were stuffed early enough to do something about it, thanks to the CSIRO,’ author Marian MacDonald with her family on her South Gippsland farm. Photograph: Heather Downing

“… in the last decade we’ve definitively answered the question that the world’s climate is changing. What keeps me up and night and I think what keeps most of the country up at night is what are we going to do about it? How are we going to mitigate it?” – CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall, ABC’s 7.30, February 4

Perversely, I’m pleased CSIRO chief Larry Marshall is lying in bed worrying about how to mitigate the effects of climate change. I’m only glad he’s not a farmer like me, because I doubt he’d cope.

Standing in the paddocks of my Gippsland dairy farm, I guess I have an advantage over Marshall because it’s here that the rubber of climate change adaptation hits the road.

This is one of the worst seasons on record around here and the only thing that has made it survivable has been good, early planning.

We sold 10% of our cows and planted turnips for summer feed almost two months earlier than usual to eke out moisture deep in the soil. We pushed bloody hard to get an irrigator up and running so we could offer the cows a lush oasis of millet with water from our farm dam.

Most importantly, we were quick to speak with our bank manager and buy hundreds of tonnes of extra hay and silage. It was not a pretty plan. It was a survival plan in the teeth of a failed season and a milk price that is below our break-even point.

We are still a long way from next Spring but the survival plan is getting us through. I can’t imagine how we would have managed without it.

Central to our planning were the CSIRO’s soil moisture maps and Pastures from Space. Combining the two tools, we could see that not only were our pastures notgrowing in the peak of Spring, there was little chance they could. The soil was powder dry all the way down to a couple of metres. That can only be fixed by weeks and weeks of rain.

In other words, we knew we were stuffed early enough to do something about it, thanks to the CSIRO. It’s survivable if we plan early, plan well and it doesn’t happen too regularly.

Still raw with the discomfort of this experience, I was gobsmacked to hear Larry Marshall say the climate change question has been answered; I realised he’d never make a farmer.

The big question for me looms large: how common will this type of season be in the future?

The climate modelling is neither detailed or accurate. All we know is that, since I was a little girl in the 70s, it’s been getting steadily drier around here and the scientists say it will continue to become drier, warmer and increasingly unpredictable. That’s nowhere near enough information to make good decisions.

To be frank, we don’t even have a worthwhile forecast for the next fortnight or the three months ahead. The Bureau of Meteorology’s oft-reported seasonal outlook is so unreliable here, it is literally as credible as tossing a coin.

I guess farmers are used to running blind into the next season and getting through when things don’t pan out well, but a long term climate shift is not something you can manage by buying in extra hay.

If this type of season begins to roll around every five to 10 years rather than every 20 to 50, it’s no longer going to be viable to keep doing what we’re doing. And it takes years to reshape a farm. I need to know whether we should be working towards farming cows, canola or cacti sooner rather than later.

Farmers are innovators by nature. Rather than simply howling to the wind when it’s all too late, I will do something about it. What, for sure, I don’t know. Cuts to the CSIRO’s climate and land and water divisions will make finding the answers – and making milk Australian families can afford – ever more difficult.


Deb Poole – #hot like a ????

Last night I had a little blast from the past watching Molly and it started with the opening scene

Yes believe or not both Molly and I had a yellow Celica – OMG how embarrassing was the colour of that car but then I wanted a Celica and the yellow one was the cheapest ( Can’t think why)

But the best thing for me about Molly was the adds. I just loved the dairy industry’s Legendairy version of Rhonda

For me Deb Poole you truly rock my socks – now all she needs is her own version of #hotlikeasunrise. Looking forward to the legendairy #hashtag. Here is my 5 cents worth

Deb  Poole UR #nutritious #delicious

Young people in agriculture inspiring a new generation of good digital global citizens

When you think young people are “20% of the population and 100% of our future” it’s a highly rewarding experience for youth in agriculture to be identified as the pivotal link to the success of programs like The Archibull Prize that are helping forge a bright future and truly making a difference

Young Farming Champions and Minister Niall Blair with Cowch

Young Farming Champions with Niall Blair Minister for Primary Industries Land and Water and the winner of The 2015 Archibull Prize “Cowch”

The 2015 external evaluation of agricultural awareness and engagement program The Archibull Prize shows the program delivers impressive educational and community engagement outcomes.

What the educators are saying

The Archibull Prize program fosters Gold Standard in education outcomes

‘It’s simple… the more students enjoy learning, the more they want to be at school and achieve.

Over the past five years The Archibull Prize program has consistently shown that the students involved were deeply engaged in the range of learning experiences the program provided. Teachers saw the impacts first-hand of a successful combination of arts and multimedia activities, along with project-based processes across multiple key learning areas’. Program evaluator

 What the teachers are saying

‘ The benefits of participating tin the Archibull Prize were many, way beyond what I had originally thought. The Archibull Prize has bonded my entire class, they have learnt the value of accepting differences and as a result have gained more tolerance with each other. They have learnt that it is great to take risks in learning and it is OK to make mistakes too, because even then we learn. Through lessons taught inTthe Archibull Prize in 2015, I have been able to “reach” students who were previously disengaged from school, as a result behaviour improved as well as attendance. One of my students was a long term Home School Liaison Officer (HSLO) case (from Kindergarten), he hadn’t ever attended more than 20% of the school year. During Term 3, this year his attendance improved to 70.5%, and he is now off the HSLO case load for the first time ever! Relationships have been strengthened between younger and older students, my Year 8 students were only too happy to invite older students into our space to tell them about our Archi. As a teacher, the Archibull Prize has been wonderful and invaluable as a teaching and learning intervention. The way I choose to teach Archi lessons, put me in the team only as a facilitator, not the leader. This gave students the opportunity to see me not as an authority figure, but just another link in our team. This improved the general classroom climate and also decreased negative behaviours, because we all wanted to keep learning as much as we could. This year, The Archibull Prize artwork was also used as a bit of a welfare project, meaning that students (outside of my class), that were struggling either with school or family issues were referred to me where they were given the opportunity to paint, this worked like art therapy and gave students time to just “chill out”, while also being productive. For many of these students, the Archi provided their first positive experience in education which was just wonderful. As a result, these students have returned to my classroom to talk through issues or to get advice.’ Thank you! Secondary School Teacher

 The Archibull Prize has also reached Gold Standard status raising awareness of, and engagment with farming by linking students with agriculture, farmers and the paddock to plate process and inspiring careers in the farming sector

‘The students experienced an increase in their confidence levels and became keener to share their work with others (both within the class and outside of it). Students also appear to have a greater appreciation for farmers and are more critical of information that relates to the products they use.

Increased understanding of the issues affecting farming particularly in our region. Increased knowledge of biosecurity and the factors impacting the Australian agricultural industry’. Secondary School teacher


‘As a result of this program, students learnt so much about the wool industry. All the different process wool can go through to get different products. As I led the technology team I saw strong improvements in student capacities in coding, blogging, image use, resource management, problem solving and infographic creation’. Secondary School teacher


‘In depth learning about a range of areas including how farmers are working to reduce and prevent erosion into the waterways, how scientists and specialists are working to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the beef industries, how each part of the beast is used for different by-products and quality meat products’. Secondary School teacher


‘In keeping with our ‘Farm to Plate’ curriculum focus, students not only investigated cotton but also diversified to investigate everything from milk, rice, fish and honey. Experts were called in to deliver presentations, thus ensuring students could make real life connections at every turn. This reinforced how important the ‘Farm to Plate’ theme was and how it related to them both now and in the future’. Secondary School teacher


‘In order to give students a hands on experience of setting up and running a vital cog in the supply chain of food and fibre, students worked collaboratively to design, build and run their own farms on Minecraft in order to service the local community of ‘E Street’. Students used their acquired knowledge of biosecurity in order to ensure their farms and stock were safe and secure at all times. We even grew our very own cotton crops at school. ‘Primary School Principal

 Food has been identified as an issue kids can connect to easily and as a result of the success of The Archibull Prize  we have now been approached to use agriculture to help teach students to become creative and caring Global Digital Citizens -see footnote

Preparing  young Australians with the skills and knowledge to engage in a rapidly changing world where technology is driving new ways of doing business and relationships are no longer bound by borders. To be successful in this new connected world young Australians must be globally aware, skilled in communication and well educated.

 Our team has been excited by this wonderful new opportunity and we have created a complementary program to The Archibull Prize called “Archibull Connections” and we look forward to sharing this new competition with teachers, the community and farmers shortly


A global citizen is some-one who has the knowledge and understands:

  • That the world is interconnected
  • How the world works economically, politically, socially, spiritually, environmentally;
  • That a global ethic is essential to developing and sustaining equity and justice;
  • That humanity is one.

A global citizen is someone who is skilled in:

  • The process of consultation;
  • Team problem-solving;
  • Service to others;
  • The ability to challenge injustice and inequality;
  • Mediation and negotiation;
  • The ability to innovate;
  • The ability to think and plan with complex systems as the backdrop;
  • The ability to see an issue from several perspectives.

A global citizen is someone who:

  • Is empathetic,
  • Acts ethically,
  • Is outraged by social injustice,
  • Is willing to make some sacrifice for the common good,
  • Is willing to ACT to improve the world

Please note the “Archibull Connections” program and competition is not funded by farmer levies 


Not happy scammers and not happy bank

Anyone who has been the victim of credit card fraud will feel my pain today and I must admit I am a bit unhappy with my bank.

Coles Stores

It does have an amusing side – in the main my scammer/s chose to spend their ill gotten gains in Coles and Kmart and Liquorland in all of above suburbs in a little over 24 hours. They did 6 balance enquiries, spent the same amount of money 10 times and even managed to overdraw the account without the bank being concerned. The bank even charged overdrawn fees and then reversed them for some reason and still the scammers went unnoticed

Why is this amusing – well as a protest on behalf of dairy farmers everywhere I can count on 1 hand the amount times I have shopped at Coles since the Milk Price Wars began.

Please don’t mention this to my fellow agricultural advocates either – the card was cloned whilst i was doing a dairy industry related advocacy  TV interview –  as you can imagine at the present moment I am seriously questioning whether its all worth it

What the scammers don’t know is what I use this card for and it has been very easy to identify who and where the card was cloned. Its not your lucky day scammers


You might have fooled the Falcon but I know who you are 


Speaking of dairy farmers don’t you love this cheeky little add

Dont be nuts

Pretty confident the bow has been photoshopped – I now have official confirmation that no testicles where harmed in the making of this commercial and even better news another cheeky version is about to be launched. Watch this space ht SJS


War has been declared – who will wear the responsibility for the collateral damage

Feeling the pain on behalf of Mike Baird and the NSW Govt today having to cop the flak for the folly of others – it’s started


This is just the beginning I am told

My  question at this point in time is will NSWFA be prepared to accept the moral responsibility for any damage to Brand Australia for agriculture from potential fall out from these campaigns?

Is it doing the right thing to propose a legislation that instigates campaigns that potentially will  put the spotlight on farming in a negative way  when you have been warned that it  hasn’t got a chance in hell of being passed by the NSW Legislative Council

So there is a real risk all this pain will be for nothing – if this isnt a folly nothing is


Australian farmers a crisis is looming 

Australian Agri-Politics another brave soul bites the dust

otto-von-bismarck-leader-politics-is-the-art-of-the (1)


Rule No 1. Ask for something that is possible

Feeding a hungry nation – what the thought leaders are saying

Today’s blog is a reprint of Richard McLellan* piece for the Centre for Policy Development  4 December, 2015. I have referred to Richard’s vision previously and in light of current events I thought it timely to revisit what some of this country’s recognized thought leaders are saying

Richard McLellan: Gifting a sustainable food future requires a radical rethink

A decade doesn’t seem like a long time. But by the second half of the 2020s we’ll be experiencing some of the challenging climate scenarios that experts have been warning about for years — including in the recent report by the Climate Council of Australia Feeding a Hungry Nation: Climate Change, Food and Farming in Australia.

Twelve years doesn’t sound very long, but my Dad could tell you how much productivity changed on our farm in the West Australian Wheatbelt in the 12 years immediately after he changed from teams of horses to mechanised tractors. Or after the introduction of superphosphate. Or how many more grey hairs he grew as the winter rains and run-off in Southwest Australia markedly diminished within 10 to 12 years in the 1970s.

Fortunately, he and many other farmers across the WA Wheatbelt adapted to that change. Aussie farmers like my Dad have always been good at dealing with changing circumstances, and have been among the most innovative and adaptive in the world.

But I’m not so convinced they’ll be able to keep-up with the speed, scale and intensity of the climate change impacts that are predicted to affect agriculture across Australia in the years ahead. As clearly spelled out in the recent Australian National Outlook report by CSIRO: “the types of adaptation that have previously served Australian farmers well may simply not be enough in the future.”

Incremental change probably won’t be enough to address the immense challenges of a changing climate, or provide sufficient guarantees for the future sustainability of farms and rural communities. The authors of Feeding a Hungry Nation instead called for “Transformational Adaptation” (see chart below), which would require new farming products such as ecosystem services and wholesale translocation of farming sectors, and developing new skills for farmers; new markets and supply chains; and new infrastructure.

From Feeding a Hungry Nation, p 56.

I’m also convinced that only transformational change will be enough to ensure our agricultural sector survives, and indeed thrives — as we all want it to. To meet current and projected challenges of rising temperatures, increasing drought frequency, and water insecurity, paradigm shift is essential. Changes to stubble management will not be enough.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) believes we need to go even further. It calls for “radical adaptation” involving comprehensive preparation for possible future scenarios and a “fundamental sector-wide re-think of policy.”

Whatever you choose to call it, that’s pretty much the conclusion I’ve arrived at. Edging ahead with incremental change simply won’t guarantee a sustainable farming future. It’s time for a radical re-think.
“Business as usual” and small-scale testing the waters are not solutions. Solutions need to be big and bold, and bloody quick.

Farming has changed a lot in the past few decades, but this is nothing compared to the ‘radical’ changes needed to ensure our farming regions are still profitable and sustainable at the end of the century. Now is the time for a huge increase in investment in funds and ambitious policy change to prepare the country for a very different future.

By all means, let’s keep up the incremental changes: new crops and varieties, rotations, minimum/no tillage, soil optimisation, and the like. But this won’t get us far unless we really start thinking, planning and acting longer-term to catalyse “new generation” diversified and sustainable farm income opportunities.

Richard Facebook

This must start with ambitious policy and economic incentives.

Let’s provide the policy arena to drive a “clean and green” future.

Let’s seriously invest in innovation, and in integrated research and development, policy and practice that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the agricultural sector. Let’s radically rethink our energy system — not only in terms of production but also in delivery and consumption.

Let’s start paying farmers for investing in and protecting biodiversity, for foregoing land clearing, for providing ecosystem services, for sequestering carbon, for changing land uses and food production systems to what will be truly sustainable.

Let’s stop simply reacting to drought, and instead incentivise real, long-term, climate-smart systems that can cope with our challenging environments and climates.

Let’s provide sufficient government-supported funds and schemes — such as a climate-smart, “future fund”, paid for by a carbon tax or the diversion of current fossil fuel subsidies to help facilitate this outcome.

Let’s invest in producers, supply chains and markets that are prepared to demand and trade in truly sustainable agricultural produce.

Ultimately, let’s provide the policies and economic drivers that will ensure the Australian countryside is still filled with profitable, productive and sustainable farmers in a century’s time.

We need farmers in the bush. They are potentially our “best-bet” resident bush conservation rangers and land stewards, and best-placed to manage our country’s natural assets while providing essential ecosystem services that benefit everyone.

Richard McLellan is Chief Executive of the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council. 

This is the fourth piece in CPD’s ‘Secret Santas for Australia’ series. Each day we will reveal one ‘gift’ of good ideas from a prominent Australian on a policy issue close to their heart. You can see the full set here