No more Pity Parties – One Australian farmer feeds 700 people – its time to celebrate

At least once a week for the past three months I have been receiving calls from print and TV journalists asking for recommendations of farmers to participate in drought stories.

My first question is, “What is your angle?” and if the answer is clearly a “pity story” then I say I don’t have farmers in my network who want to share pity stories.

Over the last five years I have made a deliberate decision to surround myself with farmers who share stories of hope. Because it’s hope that gets me out of bed every day.

When farmers share stories of hope they are not ignoring the fact that the drought is tough.  They are NOT saying, “It’s hard, just get on with it.” What they are doing is sowing seeds of resilience.

When you share positive stories of drought farming strategies that have worked for you, there is a chance somebody, maybe several people, will read your story and think, “Maybe that might work on my farm.”  They are not saying they have all the answers, but they may have one. Not everyone’s farming situation is the same, so we need lots of farmers from everywhere sharing their drought strategies. The more we share with each other the more we can learn from each other.

Jan Davis.png

Compassionate wise words from Jan Davis and farmer stories of hope in The Australian here  

Farming today is a big gig. Farmers can’t do it alone, we need each other and government, business and the community working side by side with us. What we don’t need is PITY. Pity doesn’t give anyone a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And pity doesn’t solve problems.

Project based learning is the 21st Century teaching technique being promoted in schools. This method of teaching mobilises students to work together to rethink their world and solve tomorrow’s problems today. The Archibull Prize is project-based learning that brings together art and agriculture. When we invite the students to partner with farmers to design a food secure future, this is the information we give them:

Some little-known facts:

  • In Australia, farmers make up less than 1% of the population, yet they provide 93% of food that is consumed here.
  • 25% of our farms produce 70% of our food
  • Our wool farmers harvest 80% of the world’s fine Merino wool, and our cotton farmers clothe 500 million people.
  • Our farmers look after 60% of the Australian landscape and the majority of Australia’s natural biodiversity. Hence our farmers are both our largest biodiversity managers and our source of food and fibre.
  • Less than 6% of Australia’s landscape is suitable for growing crops and fruit and vegetables.
  • In 1950 one Australian farmer fed 20 people. Today one Australian farmer feeds 700 people using less land. But there is no denying this hasn’t come without an impact on the environment.
  • Yes, we have a lot of land. But we are also the hottest, driest inhabited continent. 35% of this country receives so little rainfall, it is classified as desert.

Australia is one of only a handful of countries that produces more food than it consumes, producing food for around 60 million people, and most Australians have access to an abundant and safe food supply. This makes Australian farmers important to everyone. A thriving modern agricultural sector can be a lasting source of prosperity and an effective and efficient steward of Australia’s landscapes, natural resources and ecosystems.

Australia is also considered one of the most vulnerable developed countries in the world to impacts of the changing climate, already 22% more climatically variable than any other country. Rising temperatures, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and declining water availability in some of our most important agricultural regions pose significant risks for the nature, distribution, quality, and affordability of our food supply.

The problems are complex and there is no single model solution. Making well-informed and timely decisions will help farming businesses prepare, build resilience and manage risks, regardless of the challenges ahead.

The solutions lie in farmers, consumers, businesses, scientists and government working together to:

  1. Fill the food production gaps

For example:

    • Wise use of fertiliser and water – more crop per drop.
    • Increase yields through improvement in plant and animal science.
    • Doing more with less i.e. producing more grain/cotton per hectare of land, more milk per cow, more kg of beef per cow, more grass per hectare of land, more kg of wool per sheep.
    • Adoption of technology. Particularly using the new digital agriculture era to allow farmers to make a higher quality, more informed decision, in a tighter window.
    • There is great opportunity to increase food quality rather than food quantity. If we merely aim for volume at all costs, then the natural environment will be the ‘cost’. However, if we send the signal that it is quality from an increasingly healthy natural resource base, then both the natural resource base and farmers will be the beneficiaries.
  1. Sustain productive capacity by addressing:
    • Climate change.
    • Pests and diseases.
    • Land and water degradation.
    • Competition between land for food, houses and mining.
  2. Reduce waste and over consumption.
  3. Managing the risks to the food system.

Success requires farmers having access to a range of agricultural solutions, education to gain necessary skills, and financial incentives. Sustainable farming solutions already becoming standard practice include no-till planting practices, crop rotations, bringing vegetation back to degraded land and planting vegetation around fields to prevent erosion, and transitioning to green energy technology.

Resourceful land use also contributes to mitigating climate change. Globally 2 to 3 billion metric tons of carbon can be stored per year in soil. Farmers can produce higher yields on existing farmland, prevent further loss of fertile land, and find innovative ways to make use of marginal land, especially in developing countries.

Technology is an important part of the solution, but we must also partner to share knowledge. An unprecedented level of global collaboration must take place between farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs, governments and companies, civil society and multilateral organisations. Governments must support resource use efficiency and environmental stewardship, and the private sector must develop new technologies that enable these practices. People should be able to make informed choices about the crops they grow, the products they buy, and the agricultural systems they use. Agriculture should be viewed as a productive investment that drives economic development and builds long-term economic, political and environmental stability.

Drought stories that focus on pity ignore all this. They change the conversation around agriculture from collaboration, celebration, solutions and resilience, to blame, despair and failure.

Only one of these ways of thinking is going to get a farmer out of bed tomorrow to feed another 700 people. Let’s choose hope.


The current drought hardship is real. If you would like to support people in rural communities who are struggling to put food on the table a donation of just $40 to Foodbank will supply a hamper. You can donate to Foodbank here  

#onedayclosertorain #strongertogether #drought18

Animal Care under scrutiny. Is video surveillance the answer ?

When I don’t sleep I find it cathartic to blog about the things going round in my head. So today you get two very different posts

I want to throw something out there for consideration and it concerns that highly emotive topic – animal  welfare and husbandry practices.

This week a horrifying story has come out of Canada which if you haven’t been in the loop you can read all about here. I cant watch the footage and it just horrifies me that EIGHT people were involved. Obviously this is a very big farm and yes farmers do need our support because as the statistics keep reminding us animal abuse on farms is very much in the minority compared to the the abuse of domestic pets and in particular animal hoarders.

Regarding the Canadian incident (is that a strong enough word ) I was extremely impressed by the BC Dairy Association response which started with the following first step:

First and foremost, we pushed for the immediate installation of video cameras at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, allowing for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm.

Interestingly enough the world’s leading expert on humane treatment of cattle, pigs and sheep Temple Grandin also recommends remote video monitoring in large facilities to maintain high standards of animal welfare.

So I put it out there is there should Australian farmers routinely install of video cameras to allow for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm?.

After all is there anywhere (except the family home) today humans who live and work in cities can go without being under video surveillance to monitor our honesty, work ethic and safety.

So in this changing social and economic climate is it inconceivable that livestock industries follow suit if we want to ensure high standards of animal care as well as limit the impacts on our businesses and ensure long term sustainability.

I agree with this comment

In an era of increased scrutiny and demands for greater transparency, it is not a matter of “if” a painful or stressful  husbandry practice will come under scrutiny but a matter of ‘when’. Siting back and waiting for the next  media ‘expose’ is not a wise approach to the issue.

As farmers I am sure you will all agree that we must be more proactive and engage with the Australian community and assure them the faith they have in the food and fibre we produce is warranted.


We must agree that it is very stressful let alone hurtful when this happens as it appears to have in Canada if the online vitriol is anything to go by

Now it’s branded every dairy farmer in the country as a vicious sadist whose gleeful pursuit of profit comes at the cost of the animals in his or her care.

As I have said I have put it out there. Do we have anything to fear and perhaps everything  to gain by taking the lead and installing our own on farm video equipment?.

I welcome your comments.

Free range chooks – the food chain pecking order

“All you gotta do is get a free range chicken. It doesn’t matter how you get it, buy it or hunt it down with a knife. All that matters is that you treat the animal with respect.”  Christopher Walken

Trust me there are a lot of great reasons why chooks should not be free-range


Free Range chooks live the rural idyll at Clover Hill

I love (d) my chooks and have had them for five years now and it broke my heart to see them penned up. Once they had experienced life beyond the chook house they would look up at me with their sad eyes and run to the gate to be let out.

This time last year I had 30 chooks (and a lot of eggs I couldn’t eat)

I had this many chooks because I just love chickens and could bear to take the eggs away from the brooding mothers ( I’d go broke fast if I had commercial chooks)


I had favourites


This gorgeous little thing and her identical twin sister are (were) a cross between a peking/silkie rooster and a silkie hen


They were so soft and gentle and you could pick them up and cuddle them and they had a great time in the garden. – dig dig digging

But the rural idyll was short lived and over the last 12 months the foxes and the Goshawks have taken every single one and I have shed a lot of tears and felt very guilty about their demise

Dead Rooster Killed by Fox 

Now its one thing to have pets that produce enough eggs for you and your family ( and the whole street if you are like me)  and another thing entirely to have animals that feed the masses   

So now that Woolies have bought into the ‘caged vs free range’ trend lets take a look at some proven facts

Firstly let’s look at it from a sustainability level. Whilst free range egg production systems may improve the welfare ( that word with so many definitions) of laying hens, these systems on average emit 20% more carbon dioxide and use 25% more land per kg of product.

Secondly let’s look at that word ‘welfare’. Welfare includes factors such as whether hens are free to move; whether the system allows them to engage in behaviours that are normal for hens; whether they are protected from disease, injury, and predators; whether food and water are available in the appropriate amounts and type, and are of high quality; and whether the hens are handled properly.

Obviously maintaining good welfare within housing systems usually involves trade-offs.

For me my desire to watch my chooks have fun in my garden was much greater than my focus on their survival ( and the guarantee that I would have eggs)

In the commercial world for example housing systems that allow hens to perform natural behaviours (e.g., nest building for laying hens) may, in fact, result in more challenges for disease and injury control. Conversely, improving disease and injury control by more intensively confining hens can limit the hens’ freedom of movement and ability to engage in normal behaviours

Here it is in table format found here


A Comparison of Cage and Non-Cage Systems for Housing Laying Hens

No matter which way you look at its complicated See “Fewer hens doesn’t always mean happier hens’ and in a country where consumers are in the main only interested in cost and convenience I shudder to think what it will cost egg producers to meet Woolworth’s criteria and what will happen to egg production in this country if Woolworths don’t pass those costs onto consumers.

Back to me and my seriously dwindling companion animals.  I have decided fish are the go. As it turns out I have a ready made fish pond in the rainforest section of my garden.

Rainforest garden

All it needed was to clean out the filter and change the water (and most probably add some wire to keep out the birds – the food chain can be a scary place to be) .

Fish Pond

As it turned out it was full of tadpoles so I will wait for them undergo the metamorphosis  into frogs (most likely in my area green tree frogs) and then I will be the person who keeps fish 

Frog pond

and In reality my chooks had a wonderful life albeit short life in paradise.

To quote Lenore Skenazy 

“You don’t remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go.”

And if you need a good laugh like I do when I think about my chooks then this will really make your day – courtesy of Christopher Walken

Sadly I know too much about drought

Bessie Blore is a wonderful journalist, a girl from the city who married a boy from the the bush and I am so proud to know and work with her as one of Art4Agriculture’s Wool Young Farming Champions

Our place “Burragan” is 110km from the nearest town, 200km from the nearest supermarket, and 330km from the nearest major centre – Broken Hill. When I’m not out in the paddock helping with sheep work, I like to write, keep up with global issues, and uncover the strange secrets of our beautiful bush landscape.

Bessie writes a wonderful blog Bessie at Burragan where she shares the highs and lows, the laughs and the not so funny moments with her readers

I have been away for a week and the drive up the hill on Friday tugged at my heart strings.

The front paddock tells it all, the cows rotate around the farm every 14 days. It is 14 days since they were in this paddock and whilst it has a green tinge there is nothing for the cows to eat.

On my travels last week I went through Tamworth on my way to Gunnedah – there is no feed in the paddocks for the cattle there either. It was depressing and unfortunately those  farmers are not alone. Much of NSW and a great deal of Queensland are once again in drought.

Unlike me Bessie is new to the ravages of drought but she tells it so like it is in this wonderful blog post

I don’t know much about drought. Even when I saw her face, I didn’t recognise her.
Years before I moved to Burragan, we visited ST’s mum and dad one summer. Their house yard was a true oasis in the middle of a desert, in every sense. Outside the confines of the garden fence, they were feeding hay to cattle and saving animals from of empty, muddy dams. At the time, I didn’t realise that was what she looked like.

I don’t know much about drought. But I know that she’s inevitable.
I am lucky – or perhaps unlucky and lulled into a false sense of beauty and romance – to have moved to Burragan in the middle of several great seasons. This year, we’ve already had our annual average 11-inches of rainfall. We are thankful for that. And yet it’s dry. It’s dusty. It’s only getting hotter.

I don’t know much about drought. But I can feel her creeping up on us.
The signs are there. Selling stock. Buying hay. Blowing bores. Boggy dams. Empty tanks. Moving stock. Fierce winds. Thunderstorms that are no longer viewed as salvation, but instead, as fire threats. Those afternoons that smelt like rain; but when they came, they looked, and felt, and taste, like dust. Perpetrations for a dry summer.

I don’t know much about drought. But I know she’s more than a lack of rain.
She’s stress. She’s suffocation. She’s the haunted eyes of men whose strength is buckled by the weight of the world, and women who wish they could take the load off.
I don’t know much about drought. But I wonder if we will recognise each other, when we meet again.
I know we can’t be friends, and yet, to survive in this environment I cannot view her as the enemy.
We might have to learn to get along for quite a while.

Clover Hill one day in paradise

How I long for the farm to look like this again and for farmers everywhere to see drought pack its bags and go into hibernation

Todays Youth Tomorrows Farmer

Last weekend I went back to my roots and visited my dad who I have always called John

John is one of a large number of farmers who are contributing to the rising age of the average farmer i.e. still going strong at 83.


John and Lucy

I always thought the ‘average age of farmers’ figures are pretty woolly in that farmers who continue to live where they work never retire.

John and John IMG_6996

Just to prove my point meet John’s  next door neighbour also called John (on the bike – check out my John’s hot Ute) 82 years old  and still running a slick operation his farm 

As my John says “what would I do”.  Indeed unless your lifelong dream is to spend your retirement travelling the world then where better to spend your time than doing what you love best. clip_image003

In my dad’s case that is growing prime Angus steaks for your table


And growing the best pasture he can (and conserving it) to make sure those cows he loves so much are well fed

Now my dad is still waiting for his son to return to the farm.


Things where looking up 3 years ago when all his worldly possession arrived on the door step

But he was lured away by lucrative offers from the mining companies and my dad lives for the time he comes home on short breaks as he is this week. I will do a whole blog post on my dad and his farm shortly.

We know young people are the key to success for agriculture and I know agriculture has talented young people ready to take on the challenge. Young people with fire in their bellies taking every opportunity to generate a buzz around Australian agriculture   .

I know this because I work with these exciting young people every day

This weekend I am down in Bega and taking time out to visit two of these dynamos in  Art4Agriculture Young Dairy Farming Champions, Andrew D’Arcy and Tom Pearce.

Both Tom and Andrew have been farming side by side with their dads ever since they left school (and in reality since the day they were tall enough to put cups on cows)

The Pearce family lives on Pearce’s Rd as you do when generations of your family have farmed in the one spot. My dad lives on a road named after his farm


940 acres of rolling hills, bush and pasture. The pasture is currently 50:50 perennials to annuals with the traditional kikuyu base over sown with perennial and annual ryegrass, chicory and plantain over sown with oats in the autumn for those into the technical


Norm and Tom Pearce work side by side to milk 260 cows in a 16 aside swing over herringbone dairy

The farm is beautiful

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And the cows  _


and their offspring are happy and contented


This  one peeking around the corner of the tree is a bit like Tom’s dad a bit camera shy

The farm is heaped in tradition and I so enjoyed the walk from the ‘new’ dairy up to the original walk through dairy where the cows where milked by hand up until the 1950’s

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Tom’s sister is getting married shortly here and you can see the views will make for great wedding photos

Tom Pearce (3)

The Pearce’s have recently installed a K-Line irrigation system to improve water use efficiency. Whilst they have a 560 mega litre water license , they currently only have a 40% allocation. Water is indeed a very expensive and very precious water resource.

You can check out how K-Line irrigation works in this great little vid

Tom Pearce is of course the farmer who puts the cheese on your cracker

Tom Pearce (10)

and was recently immortalized on the front of Bega’s Colby CheeseTom-Pearce-Farmers-Tasty-Cheese_thumb.jpg

Tomorrow I am off to visit the Andrew D’Arcy. Wow wait till you see the technology on Team D’Arcy’s farm

BTW Curious like I was what this is

Walk thru dairy (1)

Tom tells me this is an antique wooden ice chest now home to Roger the Rat

If you stuff up it pays to tell everyone

On farm field days are a great way for farmers to learn from other farmers. The successes and the stuff ups that farmers share are equally insightful.


Overview of research and down to the paddock to see it in action 


At the Lemon Grove Research Farm field day we hosted in July as part of the 2013 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium I bit the bullet and shared the “Wish we had the knowledge, skill sets, attention to systems detail and time to do x,y & z better – Clover Hill Dairies story”

What I particularly liked was that I also got the opportunity to identify farmers in our region who were systems focused and balancing all four to get great outcomes for their cows, their farms and their staff whilst keeping the bank manager happy.

One of the keys to profitability in the dairy industry is having milk in the vat in the quantity and quality you and your milk processor want it to be all year round.

Milk yield of a dairy cow depends on four main factors: (a) genetic ability; (b) feeding program; (c) herd management; and (d) health. A good dairy feeding program must consider the quantity fed, the suitability of the feed and how and when the feeds are offered.


Paying attention to herd nutrition in the 90 days prior to calving through lead feeding (aka transition feeding) can mean an extra $200 in milk production per cow.  But it’s not just about the dollars – an effective transition program also makes life less stressful for dairy farmers as well as making their cows’ lives safer and easier.

For smart farmers good herd management also means having your herd as “fresh” as possible. Now that doesn’t mean feeding your cows oysters, it means ensuring you have as many cows as possible in the herd at peak milk production. This means managing herd fertility well is paramount.

The top farmers in our region work with the team from Sydney University Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit.

The Livestock Veterinary Service operates commercial on farm personal herd health and treatment and consultancy services. Activities range from routine procedures such as pregnancy testing through to more complex project planning, clinical trials and disease investigation. A philosophy of the Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit is to promote application of science and technology to problem solving on the farm.

The Livestock Veterinary Service also provides veterinary students with an opportunity to get hands on experience working with livestock and post graduate veterinarians with an interest in livestock an opportunity to pursue specialty training.

Luke Ingenhoff Vet from Sydney UNI  testing  (5)

Dr Luke Ingenhoff  from the Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit preg testing cows at Clover Hill Dairies

I identified Phil and Craig Tate from Albion Park as the farmers I believed would share their story with the field day participants in an honest and open way that would resonate with other farmers like us who wished we were just a little better at it.

Craig Phil and Assoc Professor John House

Craig and Philip Tate with Assoc Professor John House tell their story at Lemon Grove Research Farm field day 

Philip and Craig outlined their reproductive system to delegates describing the ‘systematic
routine’ that they believe is the secret to their success.

When it comes to being successful in business, one must create systems. Systems provide a framework for your team to use. In order to create high-levels of efficiency you will need to constantly update your systems and be on the lookout for ways to improve your business’s way of operating. Creating systems will take time, but it will more than save you the time on the back-end.

‘‘The system is the solution.’’ — AT&T motto

BTW I had Craig and Phil’s presentation with Assoc Professor John House videoed so you can watch it too. See link below

So impressive was Phil and Craig’s presentation that Holstein Australia commissioned Lee-Ann Monks to write a story for their journal readers and guess who was invited to take the pictures. Well after all who else would do for nix (when oh when am I going to value my time?)

So off I went with my trusty Canon to Macquarie Holsteins, home of the Tate Family dairy and now the workplace for two of our former employees.

What a delight  are Craig and Phil, such great farmers yet so humble and so proud of their cows   


Craig and Phil making use of Smart Phone technology to keep good records

Easy Dairy IMG_5103

Good records in the dairy ensure everyone is in the loop. Knowledge is power

Communication is the true lifeblood of a successful organization – a high flow of information so everyone and everything is connected. Easy to say, hard to do.

1258 IMG_5083

The herd favourite 1258

Craig and Phil IMG_4932

Please note Craig took his helmet of for this stationery pix – trust me he does wear it when the bike is moving

Phil IMG_5060

Mutual respect between farmer and cow is very evident at the Tate Farm

Lousie MacMaster Calf Rearer IMG_5325

Louise Macmaster –  Phil and Craig’s calf rearer extraordinaire

and of course looking after the next generation requires team members who treat the calves under their care with as much love and attention as their children


and what of former Clover Hill team members John and Tim pictured below at our field day?


Tim (left) is now managing the farm across the hill and John is working at the Tate’s along with Louise. 

See and hear Craig and Phil Tate share their successful herd fertility management strategies with the farmers, students and researchers at the 2013 Dairy Research Foundation Field Day at Lemon Grove Research Farm here 


‘‘You must analyze your business as it is today, decide what it
must be like when you’ve finally got it just like you want it, and
then determine the gap between where you are and where you
need to be in order to make your dream a reality. That gap will
tell you exactly what needs to be done to create the business of
your dreams. And what you’ll discover when you look at your
business through your E-Myth eyes is that the gap is always
created by the absence of systems, the absence of a proprietary
way of doing business that successfully differentiates your
business from everyone else’s.’’
— Michael Gerber

Farming is tough My thoughts on how to avoid the Valium

I have had a bit of Annus horribilis in 2013 and looking forward to my Annus mirabilis (Year of Wonder) in 2014.

Do You every feel like Bessie

Do you ever feel like Bessie ( thanks Brian)

I have survived my personal issues by throwing my energy into my professional life and in particular soaking up the bright minds I encounter beyond the farmgate in all of the diverse activities I now engage in. In particular I find the Young Farming Champions particularly invigorating

At home I find writing blogs posts very cathartic and it’s been a very tough week so you might have noticed a plethora of musings from my desk.

When suddenly I found I had no landline and no internet I thought I was going to have a serious meltdown. Mobile service is not great at times in paradise (fix my black spot Tony) and operating off my hotspot is always fraught with frustration

Instead of reaching for the Valium (just jesting) I have made a list of all of the things that are within my power to change that will help my wellbeing and begun ticking them off.


This week I went to my doctor and started that list of tests I should have had 6 months ago (not smart when you have no phone and you are sweating on the results)

Whilst I was there I showed her my health and wellness bucket list and she is helping me work my way through it

Yesterday it was off to the dietician (they call themselves ‘Wellness Specialists” now)

So look out world it is the fit and ideal weight Lynne the world will be seeing sooner rather than later.

So what does that look like to me and this is all about me. I want to be proud of me; other people are irrelevant in this quest

Until I started winning a few awards I was always behind the camera so had to do a lot of searching for pix of me at my ideal weight and fitness. They were indeed hard to find and then I came across this one. clip_image002

OMG not only did I fit into size 11 jeans 10 years ago I had red hair. Yes to the size 11 jeans think I will leave the red hair off the list

I particularly like this photo because I have my arm around one of the most special people in my life Dr Neil Moss our farm consultant. Neil who has not only held our hand through the bleak years in the dairy industry, he supports all his clients at an unparalleled level through their darkest mental and physical challenges.

Read this great story on how Neil helped local dairy farmer Con Watts survive the devastation of the tier 2 milk pricing narrow minded strategy from Lion to combat the Down Down Down campaign by Coles here

My new ideal weight and health guru is Rebecca and of course she is tiny and super fit and wow is she interesting. I have a medical background which includes a fair amount of what I thought was good nutrition insights but I was quite amazed at the mindset change in this area since I left pharmacy

It’s all about portion size, high protein, low carbs and good fats. No counting every calories just healthy eating and quality not quantity exercise.

This means set the treadmill to incline and do the hard yards for half an hour rather than walking on the flat for an hour. So I can see why I looked like that ten years ago (before I broke my pelvis from a fall from the quad bike) and walked the hills of paradise.

What I find very interesting was the discussion we had on protein and how impressive eggs are.


My breakfast this morning.

Now thanks to Jamie Oliver – Woolworths have taken a very strong stance on caged eggs.

As farmer who has chooks as pets I know how hard it is to let them roam free range and not be wiped out by predators and I am very concerned about the viability of the egg industry and the affordability of this very important protein for Australians going forward.

So tomorrow I am go to share my thoughts ( internet allowing) on why I think this stance by Woolworths may be very naive

And of course milk was at the top of the list as the perfect healthy protein so tomorrow I will be whizzing up a breakfast smoothie

For lunch its the divine Dairy Farmers Thick and Creamy Yoghurt ( all good fat) and peaches,

Dairy Farmers Thick and Creamy

Which reminds me sadly no more Tamar Valley

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



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


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


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


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 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

(Click headings to watch on YouTube)


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


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


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


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 Its that easy

Far too much crawling on Easter Sunday

As you know I lay claim to living in paradise. Yet there is so much of paradise I am yet to visit. So this weekend I decided it was time to start to tick of that bucket list and enlisted the assistance of my neighbour Jenny who is building up her stamina to do a week’s trekking in Morocco.  

Over 50% of our farm is rainforest and it is very steep. Much of the the region’s ecological communities are endangered and we follow the RRR principles of bush regeneration and work closely with Landcare Illawarra who collect seed from farms all around our region to help increase the genetic diversity of our magnificent rainforest.

So off Jenny and I went where not too many people have ventured over the last 200 years

Jenny Hammond

and how gorgeous was it


Clover Hill Dairies Rainforest

Jenny Hammond 2

and an hour later it was time to come back to 21st century


thanks to our forefathers and lantana that proved to be quite tricky.


There was a lot of this

Clover Hill Dairies view to Bass Point

We were pretty happy when we found the paddock

Erin and Megan Wildlife Corridor

and just to show you what RRR principles can achieve in 12 months

Picasso Wildlife Corridor March 2013  (2)

It was pretty rewarding to see these trees grown from locally collected seed flourishing 12 months later

Caging the 900 pound gorilla

Everyone who reads my blog (including Coles) knows that since milk went down, down, down to $1 per litre at Coles I have done a lot of Coles bashing. After 30 years in the very switched on world of retail pharmacy I am well aware that it is not smart business to bash your customer and with 80% market share the Australian supermarket duopoly are indeed a very important retail customer in the farm to glass story.

So why have I chosen to ignore this wise advice. It was Mick Keogh of the Australian Farm Institute who first introduced the term, “900 pound gorilla”, in reference to the dominance of the two major supermarket chains.

Furthering the analogy, he said for farmers, dealing with the supermarkets was like being hugged by a gorilla; the initial embrace may be warm and comforting but over time the oxygen gets squeezed out. GorillaHug

That’s just how I feel like my life blood is being squeezed out. Like most dairy farmers I feel helpless, undervalued and in the current climate of relentless supermarket discounting of milk it’s so hard to feel positive about the future for NSW and Queensland dairy farmers and indeed the ongoing availability of fresh milk in both of these states

Should I be feeling this way?

Yesterday one of the speakers at the Dairy Innovators Forum in Queensland said if we have 134,000 farms in Australia we have 134,000 CEO’s and 134,000 CFO’s and its time we got together and found our inner strength and found out just how powerful we could be if we all worked together.

So what’s stopping us I keep asking myself?  Highly frustrating to me the Australian dairy industry just seems to be sitting in a rowing boat waiting for the wind to change in its favour rather than determining the place they want to be and buying the biggest and most powerful motor to take us there.

So is the ACCC announcement that they are launching an investigation into Coles and Woolworths over possible misuse of their market power and “unconscionable conduct”  going to help save the dairy farmers? Is the ACCC a toothless tiger no more? Will they cage the 900 pound gorilla?

Let’s have a look at some of what Mick Keogh for the Australian Farm Institute has to say on this announcement here

The recent announcement by ACCC head Rod Sims of the supermarket investigation gained wide publicity (see here, here and here ).  The response from the major supermarkets has been tinged with surprise and indignation (see here and here ).

When both major Australian supermarkets are listed amongst the largest retailers in the world despite Australia’s relatively small population, it gets a bit hard to argue that their market share is actually less than everyone thinks!

Unfortunately for the major retailers, however, their responses to the ACCC announcement directly contradict their own actions and advertising, so are unlikely to garner much public support or sympathy.

By demonstrating the reality of their market power through, for example, unilaterally declaring that from now on the price of a major staple such as milk will be $1 per litre or the price of bread will be $1 per loaf the major retailers have sent a very clear message to consumers that they have the power to set the price of goods they retail, even though it is clear that the major retailers don’t actually produce those goods.

Complex explanations that the retailers have funded these price cuts from their own businesses and not as a result of lower prices being paid to suppliers simply don’t sound believable in the face of evidence that dairy farmers are leaving the industry and dairy processors are reporting major operating losses while supermarkets report major increases in profits.

No amount of slick advertising based on images of retailers and their moleskin and Akubra-clad celebrity spokespersons standing arm in arm with smiling farmers will be sufficient to contradict the raw display of market power that is repeatedly demonstrated to consumers every week, when they pick up their $1 a litre milk or the $1 loaf of bread.

It doesn’t take a great deal of thought before consumers make the connection between the extent of the market power that major retailers have demonstrated, and the potential to misuse that market power unless there is adequate regulation and transparency. When reports emerge from the ACCC that 50 suppliers have come forward with complaints this hardly comes as a great surprise to consumers.

Ultimately, the major retailers have promoted their market power as a major benefit for consumers, so to then try and claim that in fact they don’t have that power, and even if they did have it they would never misuse it is simply not likely to pass the “smell test” in the court of public opinion.

The Conversation also had some very interesting commentary here and here. Let me share some of what resonated with me

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced last week that it is investigating claims that Coles and Woolworths are bullying suppliers. The issue is serious, but the ACCC investigation only treats the symptom and diverts attention away from the real cause of the problem: supermarket power.

That’s right this is all about power and it’s time for the dairy farmers to use their power and get serious and smart about how we deal with the supermarkets. The good news it is starting to happen. Tomorrow’s post will share with you some of what is happening in NSW

In the meantime check this out from clever young full-time vet student and part- time dairy farmer Cassie MacDonald. Cassie has created her own infographic to counter the half truths in the Coles version. Cassie says “Coles it’s clear you don’t give a buck” The video is averaging 1500 views and it’s pretty impressive


Update: Cassie Macdonald has not had 50% more hits on her video in 3 days than Coles have in 2 months

Cassie Macdonald update