Leasing our Farmers Future

Our Young Farming Champions and I are lucky enough to meet lots of exciting young people through the increasing profile of Art4Agriculture. It was a pleasure to work with rising star young journalism student Courtney Deeth recently who achieved a High Distinction for this well researched and articulated expose on the challenges of young people entering the farming sector

Increased foreign ownership of Australian rural real-estate, high level of risk, and long out-dated laws, has seen leasing become an unpopular choice amongst our farmers in an already volatile industry.

But with rising land prices and an ageing farming population, it seems as though it may be the only option in the years to come.

Award-winning dairy farmer, Lynne Strong, is leading the way to the farming future in our country, and proves that it is possible to have a successful career on land that you don’t own.

She opens her farm gate to Courtney Deeth.

Listen to Courtney’s award winning interview with Lynne and Young Farming Champion Jess Monteith  here Leasing our farmer’s future   

Jessica Monteith

Young Farming Champion Jessica Monteith looks forward to combining her passion for dairy cows with a career in the agribusiness sector

Milk comes from thistles or is that coconuts

This post is in honour of International Bacon Day which just happens to be today (now I bet you didn’t know that) 

According to Wiki ‘Bacon Day celebrations typically include social gatherings during which participants create and consume dishes containing bacon, including bacon-themed breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and drinks’.

Bacon Day was conceived in  Massachusetts in 2000.  International Bacon Day has now spread to Canada and other countries where it is often held at different times of the year   The record for the number of different bacon dishes belongs to Thomas Green, of Ottawa, Ontario who created ( I don’t think he ate them all ) 12 bacon dishes. This list included candied bacon, maple bacon and chevre points, bacon screwdrivers jell-o style, bacon vodka gazpacho, chili bacon vodka, pork stuffed with bacon, apple and sage, bacon donuts, chocolate bacon brownies, banana bacon cookies, bacon martini, bacon burger sliders and bacon and egg sliders. A veritable pork smorgasbord

The post is inspired by this twitter conversation instigated by Farmers Angel Alison Fairleigh yesterday that believe it or not revolved around bacon and its origins

Bacon 

This reminded me of this picture and then of course who can forget that frightening statistics from the @OZPIEF study that found that too many kids think yogurt grows on trees

Cat milk

Now as you know it breaks my heart that farmers don’t have the marketing power and financial might to tell the real story of agriculture but as you can see there is one hell of a great opportunity out there if we can just get it right.

This week I spoke at the ABARES regional conference in Bega. This is part of what I had to say and a couple of my key messages    

I have a vision for agriculture that is full of promise.

I want an innovative exciting dynamic and profitable agrifood sector. A sector that our next generation best and brightest sees as a career of first choice

I see my role is to turn my vision for agriculture into everyone’s vision

We need smart and articulate and capable people working in agriculture so we can take it to the next level?

We need a supply chain culture that values our farmers

We need government and industry programs that believe in our farmers and invest in them?

We need to identify our young people in agriculture, nurture them and promote them and ensure we retain this talent.

There was a lot of questions from the floor about how we best tell Agriculture’s story with the limited resources and funding we have. It was very clear that the Young Farming Champions program concept truly resonated with everyone in the audience.

But there is nothing more powerful than a living breathing example of the program in action and no-one was more proud than me to see Young Farming Champion Jess Monteith in action on the ABARES panel which rounded off the conference  

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Jess Monteith, Young Farming Champion with Sonia Muir and Lana Mitchell  on the ABARES Bega Panel 

Now this isn’t an easy gig for a young person. Check out the panel topics which included demographic change, agricultural trade and markets in an Asian century, water, energy, trade and efficiency, future producers, labour and skills, future industries (& foods), new technologies and regional development  futures, Agri-tourism, Urban-rural relationships, land-use (conflicts).

When Dr Anna Carr from ABARES asked me to put forward a name that fitted the brief “Non farming background, young face – someone who has energy to burn and ideas in abundance who will show agriculture in a new context” Jess’ name sprang instantly to mind.

Like me fellow panellist Sonia Muir believes creating a community which is engaged with, & informed about agriculture is our most important job and the way to do this is to ensure we have articulate, well educated, charismatic young farming people telling our story for us.

The question was asked of Jess how do we get the real story of agriculture out there into the wider community

She answered “Engagement is the key, we need a nationwide network of young farming champions like the group I am part of, professionally trained to go into schools and tell our story and agriculture’s story to young people and the community” 

Jess is so right. Who better to tell the real story of food than the farmers, the hands that grow it and the caretakers of the land that produces.   

Its time to get smart agriculture we have a few skill sets to hone but if Jess is an example of what can happen with the right skills sets we could make no better investment   

Why Coles should stop the Milk Price Wars

Today Young Farming Champion Jess Monteith and I went to visit her friends Tim and Natalie Cochrane. You can read an earlier post about  Jess here

Jess wasn’t born on a farm but after meeting people like Nat and Tim who own a dairy farm at Terara just north of Nowra and helping them show cattle she fell in love with all things dairy . Jess’ little herd of registered Holstein and Illawarra cows now live at Tim and Natalie’s property with each new drop of calves helping set up a future for Jess to start providing milk for lots of Australian families just like her friends.

The visit today was to get some more photos for Jess’ Archibull Prize in school presentation. Jess is being sponsored by Paul’s Milk and will visit Caroline Chisholm College at Glenmore Park in her role as a Young Farming Champion.

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Jess and her favourite cow Eve

I was struck today by all these young people full of hope for a bright future in the dairy industry not just Jess but Tim and Nat who have two small children

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Tim and Nat milk four hundred cows. Generations of farming families and cow families make them and their cows the team they are today

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The next generation wait their turn to join the herd

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Everybody waiting and wondering if there will even be any dairy cows let alone farming families on the flats at Terara if the crippling milk price wars don’t stop soon.

AJK Eve First calf 

Jess’ favourite cow Eve on the day she was born

People in the dairy industry have a very close relationship with their cows. The nature of the industry means husbands and wives work side by side and often their children join them in the dairy.

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This photo says it all

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Dairy farming today is technology rich and phenomenal efficiency gains mean we can produce 60% more milk from 50% less cows than we did 50 years. They tells us if we do x,y, and z we can achieve further efficiency gains and maybe even survive this senseless round of milk price discounting being conducted by Coles.

But we can only work so many hours a week, what we need is smart young people like Jess working in agriculture and we need a milk supply chain culture that values people       

The dairy industry needs to be able to invest in our young people and nurture them. Tell me Coles how we do that on milk that is being valued at 15c/litre.

Help the dairy industry invest in Jess’ future Coles. You can do this. Its easy

STOP USING MILK AS A LOSS LEADER