The importance of speaking your truth

Watching Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, being inspired by Cathy McGowan and her sister Ruth and politicians living their values like Helen Haines and Bridget Archer I am getting more and more courage to be honest about how tough it can be when you make the decision not to learn to fit in

To support our  Young Farming Champions and ensure their voices are heard over the past few years I have recommended they take my place when I get requests to do conference presentations or interviews .

I realised I had lost confidence when I was the only one who could take up this opportunity from Channel 7 .

I was smiling when I saw it.  It was a great reminder you cant always control the message.  Watch where this sentence gets tweaked “I love the science and technology and my family just loves milking cows”

To get my confidence back I have been accepting a few more interview opportunities as long as they promise to interview a Young Farming Champion as well.

Just like the Channel 7 team the majority of journalists will do a very thorough background on you and you can make it easy for them to do minimal edits by being prepared.

In my case no matter how much I say I want to talk about the work I do now, everybody wants to talk about my farming background.

That’s not easy for me to do these days.  Yesterday I got a request to be part of the media for 10 year celebration of the Bob Hawke Landcare Award and the request really hit a nerve.

Awards can be a blessing and a curse. They can put you on a pedestal or they can put you in a cage

Winning the inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Award  was the most extraordinary night of my life. The team in the Dept of Agriculture Water and Environment (as its now called) had put together the most extraordinary prize package. There was a  large cash prize, personal and professional development opportunities and invitations to be part of a blue sky visioning think tank. When I won the award the Labor Party were in government, 8 months later the LNP where in government and Barnaby Joyce was Minister for Agriculture. He took away everything but the cash prize. I was devastated.

I had only been back in agriculture less than a decade when all these opportunities came along. I had so much to learn,  it was happening and then Barnaby Joyce and his wrecking ball came along and crushed my spirit. I resonated with Grace -yesterday. The poor bureaucrats, the phone calls kept coming in “Minister Joyce would like you to resign from this committee” and the next day another bureaucrat would ring up apologizing asking me to resign from something else. I stood my ground I refused to resign to find all the opportunities no longer existed. It wasn’t just me, there were lots of other people getting similar calls.

On the farm my family were exhausted from keeping the farm spotless for the never-ending stream of visitors and media.

Its takes a lot of work to milk 300 plus cows and turn around and put on a function like this 3 hours later 

They were very hurt by the strange reaction from the industry we got up every day to promote. Just going down the street to get groceries was something to avoid

“ah the greenies from the hill are in town”

The dairy industry values quiet achievers – its rewards people who learn to fit in. It prides itself on the level of science and technology in the industry

Yes, it has a high level of science and technology but only 20% of farmers know how to collect the data and analyse it and use it to make on farm decisions

It’s the cotton industry that uses science and technology at a very high level

The dairy industry has a lot to be proud of that it doesn’t talk about ( or it didn’t then)

Our dairy farmers were the first to practice regen farming

They were the first to use cell grazing

The first to fence off their water ways and put water troughs in all their paddocks

They were the first to become gurus of growing water efficient and fertiliser efficient grasses

The animal genetics and animal nutrition knowledge is incredible. Australian dairy cows have doubled their capacity to produce milk in the last 50 years.

Slide Credit Dr Jo Newton

The reduction in green house gas emissions per litre of milk produced is  definitely something to shout from the roof tops.

Our farm was talking about things, that didn’t appear to be on the Australian dairy industry’s radar to have conversations about at that time. In reality we probably didn’t stand out from the crowd we had just done the sums

What have I learnt from this experience?

I have learnt being in the spotlight is a lot of pressure, its very important to have an inner circle that supports you. Its very important the organisations handing out awards have a pastoral care package in place. I learnt it would be wonderful if we all learnt to be a little kinder to the people we put on pedestals



Author: Action4Agriculture

The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.

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