Its there anything worse than feeling helpless


When I saw this post from Milk Maid Marian this morning I was very sad. I admire Marian very much and seek her wise counsel often and I know how much it pained her to write to this post.

Our co-op, MG, is rushing onwards with a “capital raising project” that would forever change it from being 100% farmer-owned to “farmer-controlled”. It’s one of the biggest changes in the co-op’s history

It might well be wonderful but what’s certain is that the ramifications are complex. It’ll take time for us to:

  • understand why we really need to raise half a billion dollars of external capital
  • understand the proposal
  • tease out the pros and cons
  • consider the alternatives and
  • debate it.

Our Kiwi counterparts took five years to make such an important decision about their co-op. We seem hell-bent on doing it in weeks. Why?

I know she has spent weeks in the background politely but firmly trying to get Murray Goulburn management to see the errors of their ways.

And as you can see its not so much Marian’s concerns over the concept but how MG have communicated (or in this case poorly communicated) what they are trying to achieve for their farmer stakeholders/owners.

Sadly this bureaucratic attitude is endemic in the Australian dairy industry and it frustrates the hell out of me and I am often not as polite as Marian about it and then I get cranky at myself.  Vicious circle but I am working on it – even going so far as to get a business coach.  

Marian and I are certainly not alone sharing this frustration and there are currently some very wise minds in the NSW dairy industry doing smart things to help address this These people are very focused on the win:win and I admire them immensely for that

Personally I see in the main the problem lies with a patronising culture at the top that views clear and transparent knowledge sharing unnecessary and farmers are on a need to know basis and apparently they need to know as little as possible.

I readily acknowledge that communication is a two way street and farmers need to play an active role but this mindset must start at the top with great leadership and a genuine desire to acknowledge if there is ongoing dissent then model is broken

To me there is no excuse. Bureaucrats today are lucky enough to all have the opportunity to build their capacity to succeed via extensive personal and professional development in their careers and all successful bureaucrats are taught and know and act on the number one rule for success. 

Be a good communicator –

Share information and resources with your team. Remember, you’re all there for one purpose – and by keeping everyone informed, you contribute to that goal.

On Monday I have seat at one table of people trying to create a new model and change the culture. I certainly hope the wise minds who have worked so hard to bring everyone who has influence (or could have influence if they chose to use it) together do get a win:win for farmers in NSW  and Australia as a whole.

There is so much potential for the Australian dairy industry to grow and prosper but  growth remains stagnate despite strong price and market signals.

I look forward to a culture of cohesion and collaboration but most of all I look forward to a culture that sees Australian dairy farmers feel empowered and confident.

To end with something a little light hearted I am with Elizabeth Taylor on feeling helpless


and I also I love this quote.  

A girl is only helpless when her nail poish is drying

So for a while to control my feelings of helplessness I stopped wearing nail polish and then I discovered Shellac. Such technology gains. Wow nail polish that dries instantly. Can it get any better. My goodness I now even have nail polish on my toes. That makes me feel like a film star. And it gets better if you have it done in a salon you sit in these amazing chairs that massage your back. 

and the final word from Marian

Part of cherishing the co-op is questioning it

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

One thought on “Its there anything worse than feeling helpless”

  1. Thanks for understanding, Lynne. I am a firm believer in the co-op, which is why I have to stand up and say “hang on, let’s think about this”. Sadly, some people will label me a heretic and questioners are rarely popular but questioning is critical to the vitality of any co-op.

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