“Et Tu Brute” This well-known Latin phrase historically believed to be the last words of Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus at time of his assassination is widely used in Western culture to signify the ultimate betrayal.
Recently some-one I have known and admired for a couple of years said to me “Lynne I am proud of you, you are in indomitable”. Now “invincible, tough, unconquerable” I am confident are not words people who have stood side by side with me for the long haul would use to describe me. I would think “fragile” would be more the word that comes firstly to mind.
Some-one I also know and admire greatly has said to me “There are times when I hate agriculture. I have worked in so many fields including politics and I have never seen so much backstabbing and nastiness as I have seen in agriculture”
I haven’t worked in politics and despite considerable pressure being put on me currently to stand for local government it is not something I am considering entering but I have recently witnessed something in agri-politics that has rocked to the core. People say farmers are their own worst enemy and in the past many farmers would have agreed with them. Well sadly fellow farmers some of the organisations funded by large chunks of taxpayer money to ensure agriculture has bright future I believe are setting you a very poor example and do not have your best interests at heart
Let’s bring it all together “ultimate betrayal” and “fragile”
Firstly fellow farmers you are I believe being betrayed by people/organisations who should know and do better and secondly I am not the one who can go into battle on this on your behalf. This is something we can only surmount and win if we all do it together. This will require a cohort of resilient bright minds with a cohesive, collaborative and whole of industry and Australia wide vision
Let me explain
My vision is for a dynamic, innovative, exciting and profitable agrifood sector that the next generation of food and fibre producers see as a career of first choice. I know this is achievable but from what I have seen over the last ten years we have a highly fragmented agrifood sector seemingly hell-bent on a path of self destruction.
I have chosen to achieve my vision in in two ways.
Firstly I am committed to finding every ideal opportunity and vehicle I can to show our farmers why we should be proud and loud that we feed and clothe 60 million people with a strong commitment to do this with the best interests of people, animals and the planet at the forefront of our minds.
Secondly I believe creating a community which is engaged & informed with agriculture is our ‘MOST IMPORTANT JOB’ and is the key to the sustainability of, not just agriculture – but to the entire fabric of our modern advanced society. To do this I work with a wonderful and growing network of young people who deliver the Art4agriculutureprograms into schools currently in NSW and Queensland and hopefully (fingers crossed) right across Australia in 2013-2014
So when in good faith the National Farmers Federation brought together a range of people from across the education, skills and training spectrum in March this year to discuss labour, education and skills in the agrifood sector I got very excited and jumped in my truck and headed to Canberra determined to play an active role. The aim of the forum was to identify the critical issues facing the sector and to move to address these issues through collective effort. NFF then facilitated a subsequent working group of the forum to further these actions and I am a proud member of this working group.
When NFF CEO Matt Linnegar facilitated this working group he made it clear from the start that one of the key priorities in the first instance was to identify the lead body for this working group. Prior to this everybody invited was asked to “bring a friend” By this I mean each body was given a list of the organisations invited to the table and asked to identify any others they felt should be in the room. Every hour on the hour Matt gave everybody in the room the opportunity to put their hand up to be the lead body and every time everyone in the room identified NFF as the appropriate body. Everybody then agreed to work together, identified where they believed they could play the most effective role and how we could get the ball rolling and off we went to take it to the next stage and I drove home all warm and fuzzy. After 50 years of navel gazing ( the words of the statesmen around the table) this time the agrifood sector was going to address image, labour and skills shortages and community education and awareness of agriculture through collaboration and innovation to achieve great things
So naïve, so altruistic was I and couldn’t believe my ears when the phone calls starting coming in. ‘Lynne have you heard about the “Canberra Roundtable – Rebuilding the Agricultural Workforce” to be held on 19thJune 2012’.
No I hadn’t and everyone I spoke to agreed it was essentially an attempt to duplicate the NFF process with some but not all of those represented by the working group and as such would only serve to fragment the sector at a time where we most need to work cooperatively.
Now I am highly confident that 99% of farmers would never have heard of the “Group of 4” that convened and supported the ethos of the Canberra Roundtable – “Rebuilding the Agricultural Workforce”
I felt farmers had been betrayed because with only limited money available in this space more silo building at this time is the last thing that industry requires to enhance industry image and reverse the skills shortage. Equally the last thing we need are groups without direct farmer membership seeking to direct the shape of our industry.
I personally felt betrayed because one of the ‘”Group of 4” I promoted at every opportunity as they do wonderful things to encourage high schools students to take up science careers in the R&D field. Why on earth they believe however that their tiny little organisation should take a lead role in defining the future for Labour, Skills and Education for agriculture in Australia is too bizarre to even think about.
One of the other organisations I was an ambassador for and I had never heard of the other two. I have since resigned from my ambassador role for this organisation because as a farmer first and foremost my allegiance is with NFF who represent my fellow farmers. I know the current leadership of NFF is committed to a whole of industry coordinated approach to tackle labour, education and skills in our sector and with vocal support from farmers and genuine collaboration from the agrifood sector as a whole I am very confident they can deliver.
Traditionally Agriculture has been fragmented with each industry thinking they have unique problems and issues. We have got to move beyond this paradigm. We all have common macro problems and issues and it’s only when we work together to address these can we solve the micro issues that affect individual industries
A recent study* showed Australians are most concerned about food and health. Ensuring our farmers can continue to grow affordable, nutritious, ethically produced food is the key to health, wealth and happiness of every person in this great country. It’s time for farmers to take back control of their own destinies and work together.
So if farmers don’t want groups without direct farmer membership seeking to direct the shape of our industry what do we want?
Call to action –
Farmers in the main just want to get on with the job of farming. Between email, snail mail and Twitter and Facebook I get invited to at least one event everyday so it’s important for productivity and clarity, that farmers have strong representation that allows them to get on with the job of farming.
Then it’s as plain as the nose on your face the way forward out of this quagmire is for farmers to join their state farming organisations and direct the change you want to see through that process
If you are not happy with your state farming organisations or grower groups et al identify, support, encourage and vote in farmers and leaders who can make the wisest decisions and most importantly work together for the greater good. Only in this way can they deliver on your behalf
Its time do more than just buy the T Shirt
FARMERS WE CAN DO THIS AND WE MUST DO THIS
PS Twitter has been very busy discussing this post but few have put pen to paper and commented. Remember the third biggest regret people who are dying have is I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result”.
* What Matters to Australians:Our Social, Political and Economic Values A Report from the Anatomy of Civil Societies Research Project March 2012