For Bessie Thomas life in the outback is often 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?

What does it take to reach 18 million people with your story

Farmers in this country are less than 1% of the population and number 10 on Reader’s Digest most trusted professions list.

Above us are ambulance officers, doctors, nurses , pharmacists and fireman. Why is this you ask?. The answer is easy. If you are an ambulance officer, a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist or a fireman there would be a time in most people’s lives when they would be reminded just how important their profession is.

With food in abundance in this country there is little opportunity to remind the community just how important our farmers are.

I recently had the pleasure of sharing the podium with Michael Trant at the Agconnect conference in WA two weeks ago. Michael Trant for those of you who don’t know him is the very passionate sheep farmer behind the #Hadagutful campaign

The conference was attended by WA’s most passionate young people in agriculture. Young, enthusiastic, dynamic people determined to carve out a future for themselves and their peers in agriculture in this country and bursting at the seams to be heard.

Advocacy was a hot topic and number 1 on their list of big ticket issues that must be addressed if we are going to have the dynamic, innovative, exciting and profitable agrifood sector we all crave.

As is the norm with young people there was quite a lot of admiration in the room  for the French farmers model. A model we all know that involves quite a lot of militant tactics.

It was Michael Trant’s response that I believe most resonated with the audience. Michael recently had a one on one meeting with Federal Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig to discuss and hopefully find a solution to that wicked problem Live Export. A meeting which at the time was recorded as quite hostile in the media.

Michael told the people in the room that he listened very closely to what Joe Ludwig had to say and he gave these wonderful young people in the room the same sage advice.

“We can do things that will piss people off like dump wheat on the docks at Freemantle or I can let rams loose in Kings Park or we can come up with campaigns that actually resonate and generate empathy and understanding with the 18 million people on the Eastern seaboard.

I agree and so should all farmers but farmers telling their story and having two way conversations with the most important people and the white elephant in the room otherwise know as consumers and voters is not something farmers in general have the skill sets or expertise for. In the past we have let anti animal livestock lobbyists tell our story and that has been a disaster of momentous proportions and it is one of the key reasons why agriculture is currently on its knees in this country.

So how do fix this. We can do it. I know because I have found the successful model and I am going to share it with you over the next 12 months. Like any idea its not the concept but the people who make it work and for agriculture it will be our young people. They are out there. I have a whole cohort of them in Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program. Our Young Farming Champions are now working side by side with our Young Eco Champions to tell agriculture’s story in a way that DOES resonate with the 18 million people on the Eastern seaboard.

Like most farmers (and like me) not all these young people were born these skills sets and expertise. They need to be identified, engaged and nurtured and supported every step of the way. It is imperative we invest in them  I know this because this is my journey to where I am today and I relive it though them by sharing my learnings, positive and negative, by introducing them to the wonderful people who support and nurture me.

I am using Art4Agriculture as the vehicle to introduce them to the people who can supply them with the necessary skills sets to deliver on behalf of industry. I introduce them to supportive industries, the key influencers, to the doers and most importantly I introduce them to the most important people in the room, the people who give agriculture its social license to operate and they are the people who buy our goods and services and the people who vote

What does it take to have young people who can talk like this, who can inspire other young people to follow in their footsteps. What does it take for our young people to be the change that agriculture so needs to have?.

I have the formula and the results speak for themselves?. Listen to the video. Follow their journey

THE 2012 YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

BEEF

Sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia Target 100 program


Stephanie Fowler
Wagga Wagga, NSW

Steph grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a small coastal suburb, Green Point. A decision to study agriculture in high school created a passion for showing cattle and in 2012 she started a PhD in Meat and Livestock Science, with a project that is looking at the potential of Raman Spectroscopy in predicting meat quality.

“When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would end up joining an incredibly rewarding, innovative and exciting industry that would take me across the country and around the world.”

Read Steph’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Bronwyn Roberts
Emerald, QLD

Bronwyn is a Grazing Land Management Officer with the Fitzroy Basin Association. Her family has a long association with the cattle industry in Queensland and her parents currently run a 5500 acre cattle property near Capella.

“I believe consumers have lost touch of how and where their food and fibre is produced. In these current times where agriculture is competing with other industry for land use, labour, funding and services, it is important that we have a strong network of consumers who support the industry and accept our social license as the trusted and sustainable option.”

Read Bronwyn’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Kylie Stretton
Charters Towers, QLD

Kylie Stretton and her husband have a livestock business in Northern Queensland, where they also run Brahman cattle. Kylie is the co-creator of “Ask An Aussie Farmer” a social media hub for people to engage with farmers and learn about food and fibre production.

“The industry has advanced from the images of “Farmer Joe” in the dusty paddock to images of young men and women from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of professions. Images now range from a hands-on job in the dusty red centre to an office job in inner city Sydney. So many opportunities, so many choices.”

Read Kylie’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


COTTON

Sponsored by Cotton Australia


Tamsin Quirk
Moree, NSW

Tamsin grew up in Moree but is not from a farm. An enthusiastic teacher at high school who encouraged the students to better understand the natural world sparked Tamsin’s interest in agriculture. She is now studying agricultural science at the University of New England.

“Growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.”

Read Tamsin’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Richard Quigley
Trangie, NSW

Richie is a fifth-generation farmer at Trangie in central-western NSW. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Sydney and in the long term, intends to return to the family farm, a 6000-hectare mixed-cropping, cotton and livestock operation.

“It’s fantastic to help people understand how their food and fibre is produced and to represent the agricultural industry. Most of the students I talked to are from the city so they haven’t been exposed to agriculture on the kind of scale we work on.”

Read Richie’s Blog post HERE

View his video HERE


DAIRY

Sponsored by Pauls


Jessica Monteith
Berry, NSW

Jess was introduced to the dairy industry by a childhood friend whose parents owned a dairy farm. She is currently undertaking a Traineeship in Financial services through Horizon Credit Union while completing full time study for a double degree in Agricultural Science and Agribusiness Finance through Charles Sturt University.

“I am hoping to follow a career path in finance related to and working one-on-one with our farmers to develop their industries and operations to work to full capacity as well as continuing to work with the next generation. The fact that I don’t come from a farming background helps show that exciting agriculture related careers and opportunities are available to everyone.”

Read Jess’ blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Tom Pearce
Bega, NSW

Tom is a fourth generation dairy farmer from Bega and is actively involved in a range of industry activities including Holstein Australia Youth Committee and the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp.

“The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate. If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.”

Read Tom’s blog post HERE

View his video HERE


WOOL

Sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation


Lauren Crothers
Dirranbandi, QLD

Lauren is passionate about the wool industry and spent her gap year on a remote sheep station in Western NSW increasing her hands-on knowledge. Lauren is now studying a Bachelor of Agribusiness at the University of Queensland.

“Every family needs a farmer. No matter who you are, your gender, your background or where you live you can become involved in this amazing industry.”

Read Lauren’s blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Stephanie Grills
Armidale, NSW

Steph Grills’ family has been farming in the New England Tablelands since 1881 and the original family farm remains in the family to this day. Steph is combining a career on the farm with her four sisters with a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England.

“I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level. I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world-class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career.”

Read Steph’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Samantha Townsend
Lyndhurst, NSW

Sammi is passionate about encouraging young people to explore careers in agriculture and has a website and blogwww.youthinagtionaustralia.com where she showcases the diversity of opportunities. In 2012 Sammi commenced studying Agricultural Business Management at Charles Sturt University in Orange.

“I have found that being an Art4Ag YFC has helped my University this year. This was my first year at University and my first time out there and finding my feet. Taking on this role helped give me a lot of confidence and it has also broadened my own knowledge about my own industry. It is amazing how many things you take for granted until you have to tell someone about them! I was elected President of the Ag Club at Uni in the middle of the year and it is a role I thought I never would have had the confidence to take on. With the opportunities I have been given this year through Art4Ag, I have a new-found confidence to have a go at tackling anything.”

Read Sammi’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE

Listen to their videos on YouTube

YFC ON YOUTUBE
(Click headings to watch on YouTube)

2012 COTTON YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Richie Quigley

The Richie Quigley Story

Richie Quigley Interview students from De La Salle College

James Ruse Agricultural High School talks Richie Quigley at MCLEMOI Gallery

Laura Bunting Winmalee High School Student talks about Richie Quigley

Tamsin Quirk

The Tamsin Quirk story

YFC Tamsin Quirk and Lady Moo Moo telling the story of jeans


2012 WOOL YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Sammi Townsend

The Sammi Townsend Story

YFC Sammi Townsend talks Wool at the Ekka

Teacher Steve Shilling talks about Sammi Townsend Visit to Camden Haven High School

Lauren Crothers

The Lauren Crothers story

Lauren talks to professional shearer Hayden at the Ekka

Stephanie Grills

The Steph Grills story

YFC Steph Grills talks Herefords at the Ekka

YFC Stephanie Grills talks to students from Macarthur Anglican College

YFC Stephanie Grills talks to discovery ranger Kathy Thomas about Potoroos

YFC Steph Grills talks to discovery ranger Kathy Thomas about monitoring Potoroos


2012 BEEF YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Bronwyn Roberts

The Bronwyn Roberts Story

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks beef at the Ekka

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to teacher Simone Neville at Archibull Prize Awards

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to the students at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College at the Archibull Prize Awards ceremony

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to Bush Revegetator Chris Post

Stephanie Fowler

The Stephanie Fowler Story

Stephanie Fowler talks meat and muscle at the Ekka

YFC Steph Fowler talks to students from Shoalhaven High School at the Archibull Prize Awards

Stephanie Fowler talks to Dean Turner from The Crossing

YFC Steph Fowler interviews students from Muirfield High School about the Paddock to Plate story

Steph Fowler finds out why the Girl Guides Exhibit at the Ekka

Kylie Stretton

The Kylie Stretton story

YFC Kylie Stretton talks Brahman Beef at The EKKA

Kylie Stretton talks to students from Hills Adventist College

Teacher Trisha Lee talks about Kylie Stretton visiting St Michaels Catholic School


DAIRY YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Tom Pearce

The Tom Pearce Story

Tom Pearce talking Breeds of Dairy Cattle at the Ekka

Tom Pearce at the Ekka – Cattle Show Clipping

Tom Pearce at the Ekka – Cattle Showing

Jess Monteith

The Jessica Monteith Story

YFC Jess Monteith reporting from Clover Hill Dairies

Jess Monteith at the Ekka

Tara Sciberras talks about Jess Monteith

 

I have thousands of examples like these and write a blogs that share their story viewed by over 100,000 people in 24 countries.

These are currently our government, industry and community partners who have faith in them and invest in them. Is your industry body there

Sponsors Archibull Prize

Who else wants to be on the winning side? We don’t have an eight figure budget and we don’t need one. We can give farmers the best return on investment in the shortest turnaround time our industry bodies can only dream about. If you share the vision you can show your support by lobbying your industry body to join the Art4Agriculture team and they can contact me at lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au. Its that easy

Feeling Part of the Family

One of the things that really saddens me is the dairy industry’s inability to move out of their silo, celebrate success and genuinely work towards building a ‘family’ mentality.

My role with the  Young Farming Champion’s program so excites me as we have put a bomb under this silo mentality for youth 

“I have found that being an Art4Ag YFC has helped my University this year. This was my first year at University and my first time out there and finding my feet. Taking on this role helped give me a lot of confidence and it has also broadened my own knowledge about my own industry. It is amazing how many things you take for granted until you have to tell someone about them! I was elected President of the Ag Club at Uni in the middle of the year and it is a role I thought I never would have had the confidence to take on. With the opportunities I have been given this year through Art4Ag, I have a new-found confidence to have a go at tackling anything.” Sammi Townsend 2012 YFC

One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing  our program funding partners Australian Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia and Cotton Australia’s dedication to excel in this area of investing in youth, cross industry collaboration and celebrating youth .

See People in Cotton

Beyond the Bale

MLA Feedback Magazine

One of amazing benefits of being a Young Farming Champion is the industry insights and the cross industry networks they generate.

They are  embraced by so many other Youth in Ag programs like YAPs, Horizon Scholarship, RAS of NSW Foundation, RAS Youth Group, ASC Youth Group, AgConnect and Women Influential. Twitter, Ask An Aussie and the Climate Champions program, Landcare Australia, the ARLP, Rex Airlines OutThere, NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council, Future Farmers Network   and the Kondinin Group  to name but a few. A special mention to Fairfax Journalist Carlene Dowie  whose passion for Youth in Ag promotion know no bounds

It agriculture is to have a bright future in this country its young people are pivotal to the success and our focus must be on retaining the talent we have, investing in them and celebrating them

“I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level. I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world-class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career.” Stephanie Grills YFC 2012

“Growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.” Tamsin Quirk YFC 2012

  

Wow how energising was it to build that list of partners. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and if I have missed anybody send me an email. We are here to celebrate  

The spirit lives on

I am on a roll, five posts in five days and with a sudden do or die rush to hospital shortly before Christmas I have plenty of time to think as I recuperate and reflect 

Today with 2012 coming to end here is a little reflection from me on Australian Year of the Farmer which started with a bang and sadly closed with a whimper.

I know co founders Philip Bruem and Geoff Bell had all the best intentions and invested their heart and souls into their baby so I am not going to talk about all the things that went wrong but I do want to talk about some of the ways we as farmers can leverage the momentum going forward of what was a great idea executed with too little money and not enough grass roots involvement .

I’ve seen many things change for the better over the last 12 months. Colin Beetles reflects on the big picture here. I want to talk about what I see is happening at grass roots level and in particular the social changes 

I am noticing more and more farmers are less indignant. We know we cant afford to sit back and say people should appreciate us because we feed them. We know it is our role to build the relationships beyond the farm gate with our communities and our customers and the decision makers and start those two way conversations. Gone is the idea  that the community should wake up everyday and say “thank a farmer” and more and more our farmers are saying “ thank a consumer”

We are looking at new and innovative ways to raise awareness and build a sense of pride and support for our committed, caring and professional  farmers. I for one salute our farmers on their growth in 2012.

We are seeing a new type of AGvocay leadership working side by side with our agri- politicians and they are taking on the tough issues like Live Export. Its going to be a long road but they are cutting through 

There are now a lot of damned good grass roots initiatives out there stepping up to the plate and building the farmer to consumer value chain partnership and letting industry take a back seat and concentrate on what they do best  Whether it be quirky things like the Great Cafe Challenge, using social media like Ask an Aussie Farmer, sharing our stories like Fleur McDonald’s 52 Farming Stories in 52 Weeks, starting campaigns or writing petitions or just great photos like this one. A great example of its not what you say but how you say it that delivers the goods

Sheep On Verandah

Sheep on Andrew Irvine’s verandah during Murrumbidgee Floods, Wagga Wagga in March 2012. | Photographer: | Andrew Irvine

We know farming today has moved to a new dynamic. It is all about relationships, about values and about people – its all about selling the sizzle not the steak (whilst appreciating and respecting the cow that produces it ).

We know that selling the sizzle is very often out of our area of expertise and it we want to do it well ( and we must our future depends on it)  we need new skills sets.   In particular it is the women in farming who are seeing this new way of farming as their area of expertise and its the grass roots who are putting together the programs and providing the training and our women in agriculture are chafing at the bit to get involved and they are en masse.

Yesterday I mentioned Women Influential, there is the great work of Georgie Somerset and the QRRRWN network, Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions Network and between us I am positive we could list another 50.

And back to Australian Year of the Farmer, Art4Agriculture has been very lucky to come to the attention of one of their celebrity ambassadors Sara Leonardi McGrath. I am very excited to tell you that for Glenn and Sara celebrating our farmers and the great food and fibre we grow is NOT going to finish at the end of 2012.

274822-mcgraths

Sara is a little dynamo and since I first met with her in January this year her mind has been ticking over looking at some clever ways she can use her talents and connections in the art world to build city country relationships and take them to a whole new level via a partnership with Art4Agriculture. She is great fun to work with and the team and students and schools involved are loving it 

The partnership starts with an exhibition of 8 of our Archibulls at Sara’s MCLEMOI GALLERY in Chippendale in the last two weeks in January Read all about it here.

Sara is also supporting us to launch another new concept which I hope to be able to share with you in early February. The Art4Agriculture team have been investigating ways to enable all Australian farmers to be in driving seat and ensure the success of the Art4Agriculture vision and programs and with Sara’s support we think this concept is goer

So fellow farmers whether you have #hadagutfull are #proud2farm encouraging the community to support #duopolyfreefriday ringing the bell on #agchatoz telling your story on #AskanAussieFarmer or are proud #youthinag the Year of Farming Families is just around the corner so lets work together and keep up the momentum and in the words of Connie Ross

Despite droughts, floods and bushfires, the spirit lives on.

Most farmers just never give in! ‘

Cause, despite the frustration, we’re feeding the nation

And that’s a great battle to win!

and remember its our “battle” – lets do it our way

There is no room for ordinary in agriculture anymore.

These days I get asked to speak at many varied events and that pleases me greatly

This month it is the Future World Eco Technology Centre in Wollongong and the topic is ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production”

Once upon a time when I was just starting my crusade ( Farmers Call to Arms) to give the community real farmers they could relate to and most importantly talk to; Rosemary Stanton was the face of sustainable agriculture at every community forum I went to. I was mortified. Expert on human nutrition she may be, commercial farmer she is not and whilst my degree gives me a sound knowledge of human nutrition and I have opinions about it there is no way I would up put myself up as an expert. Rosemary has strong opinions indeed about sustainable agriculture but that’s all they are, armchair expert opinions.

So I asked myself why is Rosemary asked to talk on this topic and not a farmer. After hearing her speak a couple of times and attending a few agriculture conferences the reason was obvious Rosemary Stanton is a damned good highly charismatic presenter

It then became very clear to me agriculture desperately needed farmers who were both experts in their field and charismatic speakers who could relate to urban audiences and urban audiences to them.

This is why I love and fight so hard for the Young Farming Champions program. (See footnote)

In November last year I presented at the Future Focused Ag Oz forum to a group of 20 young rising stars of agriculture. The topic of my presentation was “Wanted extraordinary people for an extraordinary challenge”

I started my presentation with a picture of me and said “My name is Lynne Strong and I am extraordinary”  Slide 1

This was followed by a picture of Michael and Nick with the statement “ I farm with my family and they are extraordinary”  Slide 2

I then put up a slide with a picture of our cows and said “our cows supply 50,000 Australians with milk everyday and they are extraordinary” Then I said “ as you can see there is a pattern forming here extraordinary can be contagious.” Slide 3

With that I asked each person to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them and then tell them they were extraordinary and of course these exciting young people got into the groove straight away.

Slide 4 went on to say “Feeding, clothing and housing the world now and in the next 50 years is going to require an extraordinary effort. This means we need extraordinary people to take up the challenge.  There is no room for ordinary in agriculture anymore”

Now when I do a new presentation that’s a bit out there I run it by my family. This time I only showed them slides 1, 2 and 3 without telling them who the audience was.  They both looked shocked and said “You are not giving that presentation to dairy farmers are you?”  When I said no its for a group of young farmers with similar mindset to the Young Farming Champions they were quite comfortable with that but assured me I could never give that presentation to a group of dairy farmers.

I recently asked a wise person who works across all industries why dairy farmers are such quiet achievers.? Why has it been inbuilt in dairy farmers to play things down? Why aren’t we encouraged to celebrate?

He said the dairy industry is like the egg industry. They are the two most silo orientated industries in Australia and this mindset is embeded in their culture.

It is clear to me and the exciting young farmers I meet and work with we need a culture of change as being quiet achievers is achieving very little. Agriculture has great stories to tell and farmers should be loud and proud. If agriculture is going to overcome the challenges and grasp the opportunities with both hands it is imperative that we find vehicles for our young farmers to stand up and show Australia (and the world) just how extraordinary our farmers are.

I am currently putting together a number of blog posts for the Art4agriculutureChat site that have been written by some of the inspiring young farmers I have met over the last 12 months.

Last week we featured Melissa Henry and thanks to the twitterverse and Facebook Melissa’s story is now one of the Art4AgricultureChat most popular blog posts. It is clear that the community is interested in stories about young farmers written by young farmers  and we will be sharing them with you as often as we can

Next up is Young Farming Champion, AYOF Roadie and NSW Farmers Young Farmers’ Council Chair Hollie Baillieu followed by Horizon Scholar Rozzie O’Reilly. Two extraordinary young farmers of the future.

You can read Hollies post here Agriculture can take you anywhere you chose

If you know an exciting young farmer and would like to share their story with the world send me an email at Lynnestrong@cloverhilldairies.com.au

Footnote

The Young Farming Champions program was inspired by the most impressive initiative I have ever been involved in which is the Climate Champions program.

The Climate Champions program is a cross industry partnership of farmers across Australia which has exposed me to the bright minds from other industries. There is nothing more rewarding for your personal development than surrounding yourself with innovative thinkers you can learn from. The Climate Champions program is managed by the fabulous team from Econnect who not only deliver the workshops they support each of the 34 farmers 365 days 24/7

The Climate Champions program is a collaboration between the Grains Research & Development Corporation, Managing Climate Variability and Meat & Livestock Australia

AND THE WINNER IS

My family has been farming for 180 years. 180 of great farming stories waiting to be told. But how, but where and to whom. My family aren’t alone farmers across Australia have great stories to tell.  So I decided to fill this gap and what better audience than our future, our school students, the next generation of consumers, decision makers and our workforce.

So Art4Agriculture was born. Our signature program is the Archibull Prize and now we have paired the Archibull Prize with the Young Farming Champions program which I hope will be my ongoing legacy.

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The Archibull Prize Awards and Exhibition Day is the highlight of the Art4Agriculture year 

It was yesterday and it was huge. Woolworths rolled out the red carpet and hosted the event. The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson not only presented the winners she spent considerable time viewing the artworks and talking to the students  

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I love the Archibull Prize. Every entry gives me one of those ‘feel good’ moments.

It reminds me that young Australians are interested and positive about the future and they are filled with hope.

Don’t believe what you read in the papers – our school students are engaged, they are talented and they are truly inspiring!

And this competition proves it!

This year was second time we have rolled out the program in Western Sydney with 5 primary schools and 15 secondary schools participating.

20 bulls have made their way to the judging ring and today we found out which schools have triumphed in each of the categories and who is the Grand Champion Bull

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Once again it has been an outstanding success

I thought the entries last year were impressive – but the schools who participated this year have taken things to a whole new level.

  • We have some amazing examples of fine art
  • We have discovered digital technology we didn’t no existed
  • We have entries that have astounded the heads of the food and fibre industries our schools have showcased

World class is the only way to describe the efforts of the teachers and the student participants in the 2011 Archibull Prize

and the winners are ?

Announced by the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson Minister for Primary Industries and Small  Business

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Primary Winner

Secondary Winner

Artwork

Macarthur Anglican School

($250.00)

Caroline Chisholm College

($250.00)

Blog

Macarthur Anglican School

($250.00)

Model Farms High School

($250.00)

PowerPoint

St Michaels Catholic Primary School

($250.00)

Colo High School ($250.00)

Model Farms High School ($250.00)

Video

Schofield Primary School

($250.00)

Caroline Chisholm College

($250.00)

Overall 2012 Archibull Prize Winner

Caroline Chisholm College ($1,000.00)

“Moobiks Cube”

Artwork Award of Excellence

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Quakers Hill High School

Richmond High School

Innovation in Technology Award of Excellence

Windsor Public School

 

See all the picture from the Awards and Exhibition Day on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/art4agriculture/