How do farmers move beyond the Ultimate Betrayal

“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.

Albert Einstein

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

We have got to do more than buy the tee shirt

Its time do more than just buy the T Shirt 


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

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

9 thoughts on “How do farmers move beyond the Ultimate Betrayal”

  1. Lynne this is a very pertinent point and one that frankly is no surprise to me. I haven’t been involved with our local state farmer body because of the culture that abounds at the meetings and the subjects discussed aren’t big issues at all, more about egos and to be honest most are blokes that are busy putting someone else down to make them look good. For my own state of mind I can’t be part of the local organisation, or that is the way it seems as I need to distance myself from negative people in order to keep myself in a healthy state of mind. I would think that the leaders of such organisations are very out of touch, (the paid leaders CEO’s, etc.) they also don’t ask the gutsy questions enough. Do you honestly think I/we are covering the right issues? What do you think we should do better? Then actually listen to what the person has to say only clarify the issue and never ever defend your current position, that is the only way to get accurate feedback. In the past when i have offered my honest opinion I have been made to look a fool so you get sick of that and choose to go with the flow. In closing I would love to be involved with a positive group of people that were genuinely there for the future of agriculture, currently I can’t identify that group.

    1. I too feel your pain having been there done that and walked away in disgust many times. This time I have faith in the current leadership team at NFF and I would love to have a cohort of resilient bright minds with a cohesive, collaborative and whole of industry and Australia wide vision backing my judgement. We don’t all have to go to every meeting or even stand for elections we just have to stand up and be proud and loud and when people like Georgie Somerset put their hands to do the hard yards for us we must back them all the way. When we do this then others like Georgie will put their hands up. I see the light at the end of the tunnel in Georgie but she cant do it alone.

  2. I certainly would be happy to support, advise and work with a group of like minds behind the scenes assisting leaders to get a better picture of the Ag community. I certainly feel very proud and should support people like Georgie when they put their hand up to stand up for our industry. I’m aware 1 person can’t do it alone, I struggle to find a good avenue where my opinion will be respected and encouraged. I do like to be very involved and have a large input to organisations if my time and thoughts are respected and listened to, I’m well aware that others don’t agree and that isn’t what I ask respect is different. Happy to stand beside the likes of Georgie, yourself and others.

    1. Gus has put it out there Who would like to join a cohort of resilient bright minds with a cohesive, collaborative and whole of industry and Australia wide vision backing gr8 leaders like Georgie Somerset. We are not asking you to attend meetings or stand 4 elections just be loud and proud

  3. Count me in! Love the sound of it. I have to say I am still in the “young, naive and optimistic” category. We only moved back to our family farm at the end of 2010 and as yet, I have not been burned or crushed. I do however, respect totally what Lynne and Gus have said and I understand. I would love to be part of a “cohort of resilient bright minds with a cohesive, collaborative and whole of industry and Australia wide vision backing gr8 leaders like Georgie Somerset”. I love following all the wonderful proagers on twitter and I am compelled to be more involved. Let me know what’s next!

  4. Yes great article, agree and understand both Gus and Lynne, and would be honoured to shout loud and proud. I try very hard to do this to who ever will listen on topics that I have knowledge on; and I love learning about other areas of our wonderful diverse range of Australian Agriculture. There are many amongst us that either have some extremely clever implemented ideas, decades of knowledge, or both. Others that are born leaders that can talk the talk and walk the walk that make me extremely proud. Yes let them all be heard.

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