Advocacy at its best – when three very courageous women in agriculture stand up for human rights

My recent post Advocacy at its worst – when agriculture chooses the divide and conquer route to market  created significant discussion.

Problems are challenges to be solved and when we have the right solution we need to advocate at the highest level to ensure those solutions are put in place.

And we have some very wicked problems in Australian agriculture including  human rights and modern slavery issues we should have addressed a long time ago.

The more modern and sophisticated the whole AgriFood sector becomes, the less room there is likely to be for unethical operators, particularly in labour hire, and the mistreatment of transient workers. The Committee is strongly of the view that every possible means should be brought to bear to stamp out these ugly practices. Source 

Photo source The Weekly Times 

What does real advocacy look like – three very courageous women in Session 11 at the recent ABARES conference showed Australian agriculture industry leaders exactly what it looks like.

“This is real issue for industry bodies and it goes to industry leadership we can’t address our workforce labour issues until we deal with the elephant in the room… and stop sweeping our problems under the rug” Professor Joanna Howe

Professor Joanna Howe answers the question “What is the problem”

The problem is, when there’s so many people doing the wrong thing, and when there’s a reliance on undocumented workers and dodgy contractors, which are unregulated, and when the industry hasn’t shown the leadership on these issues, it becomes very, very difficult. The main thing that the industry has fought for, is an ag visa and for more expanded migration pathways without recognizing that they’ve lost their social license. That there are real issues with the industry saying, give us more visas, give us more overseas workers, when investigation, after investigation is showing problems. I think that there is a need for the industry bodies to step up and to own this issue and to face the difficult solutions that will result in structural change.

There are growers that need to go out of business because their business model is based on exploiting workers. There are other growers that can then pick up the slack and expand their operations because they have the economies of scale and the competency, but it’s not just about large business. For example, in the Northern territory, a small mango farmer that we knew, that we interviewed, he brought in six workers on the seasonal worker program. It was more expensive for him to do so, but he was running a very sharp operation and making profits, even though that program is quite expensive, but he knew that it was a better program for him to use than the backpacker program, which is a revolving door for undocumented migrants. It’s not just about the small farms, bad, big farms compliant, that’s not what it is, and there’s not what I’m saying, but the industry needs to recognize that there’s some very hard decisions ahead and just arguing for an agriculture visa without acknowledging the extent of the problem or being open to doing real hard work about it.

For example, industry created the Fair Farms initiative through Growcom in Queensland. Good program, but if I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t involve … I’m just being honest, it doesn’t involve unions. Yes, it’s got involvement from the Fair Work ombudsman, but the amount, they have very few inspectors across an entire country. We know that there’s problems across this workforce and while unions cause a lot of trouble for farmers, they are a necessary evil. If we’re going to put it that way from the growers perspective. In that, they do monitor standards. If we need to clean up the industry, they’re a part of this and they’re going to be involved. We saw the impact that they can have and the piece rates case. The fair farms program should be tripartite. Otherwise, it’s just the good growers who sign up to that accreditation program and who use it. It does nothing to affect the bad growers who are doing the wrong thing and getting away with it” Watch the video here

What does best practice look like

We ALL have a role to play – everyone in the supply chain from farmers to retailers to consumers can ask themselves what role can I play in stepping up to say no to modern slavery in this country


It is such a joy when the movement you started spreads its wings

Starting and sustaining a movement is both rewarding and exhausting. I have spent the last 15 years searching for organisations to work with that:

  • understand why agriculture is so conservative
  • acknowledge the barriers to innovation and change and
  • want to work with others to help our farmers turn perceived problems into opportunities.

I am at that point where I believe we have those partners and I can move on to the next chapter in my life

One of the greatest joys from my journey has been watching the emerging leaders we identity and train to be confident communicators who are curious about the world beyond the farmgate becoming changemakers and influencers in the agriculture sector.

They are innovators and life long learners and active in their communities and they are making things happen

This year’s innovation highlight has been the Leadership is Language series where they have identified thought leaders from across the globe to be part of this webcast series where they can share what they are learning with everyone.

The two most recent interviews are a must watch for everyone in the agriculture sector and every in business 

This is a heart wrenching interview What if you don’t come home? between Young Farming Champion Dione Howard and Austral CEO David Carter who shares how we can all learn from worker, health and safety mistakes

And our most recent interview with two extraordinarily courageous women in agriculture who exemplify anticipatory leadership discussing the Icky and the Ouchys of Social Licence

Catherine Marriot reminds us 

“Just because people don’t like hearing it, doesn’t actually make it any less true. And so the risks are still coming at us. I guess we can choose to address those risks and be proactive rather than reactive.” 

and Alison Penfold invites us to 

 “ get on the front foot and collectively work together so that we are in control of managing the risk.  Ensure we are not actually divesting it or delegating it to others, including government, to manage on our behalf. So I think anticipatory leadership is, for me, absolutely critical in any leadership job” says Alison Penfold  

“I think with anticipatory leadership, you need an extra special level of courage and clarity of communication skills, because you’re bringing up things that are pretty Icky and pretty Ouchy. And in order to put those across in a way that enables change, you need good communication skills” say Catherine Marriott

Mega proud of our team who are not only learning to lead themselves and lead others they are sharing what they learn with the world and multiplying their impact 

Happy National Ag Day everyone 

#AgDayAU #YouthinAg




Anticipatory Leadership – training yourself to see problems as opportunities

“The difference between a good leader and a great leader is one who
learns to anticipate rather than react.” —Craig Groeschel

There is no shortage of extraordinary women in the agriculture sector who have courage. 

It was exciting to bring two of our most courageous communicators Catherine Marriott and Alison Penfold together for this interview for the Leadership is Language series.

A must listen. Two authentic women. So real, so gusty discussing the Icky and the Ouchy

They offer agriculture a new way of doing what matter most – communicating to create shared value for everyone who produces and everyone who consumes

“New challenges always equal new opportunities. When you see a
problem, train yourself to think ‘opportunity.’” —Craig Groeschel

Farmers and the community sending strong signals they want to be part of a culture of collaboration on conversations about food.

.. the two most important voices in the food system today are those of farmers and those of consumers. Their futures, and their ability to thrive, are becoming increasingly interconnected. This is especially true as the demand for safe, abundant and nutritious food is increasing, all while the integrity of the world’s food supply is being challenged by issues like extreme weather and diminishing natural resources Source

To participate in Picture You in Agriculture’s (PYiA) school programs ( See footnote) teachers commit to a culture of collaboration that brings together multiple subject areas of expertise to answer the big questions facing us all.

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PYiA programs are meeting the need identified by Corteva Agriscience in this fabulous survey  Currently young people and young farmers feel they are the missing voices in the conversation about how we produce safe, affordable, nutritious food on profitable climate resilient farming systems in the 2st century.  At at the heart of everything we do is supporting teachers to empower young people to be critical and creative thinkers who can be informed voices as part of the broader conversations about food and farming.

My question is are we supporting farmers to be part of the broader conversation? And what would the vehicle to do that look like if we did.? Does this graphic excite you as much as it does me. It excites the voting public

Farmers and NGOs

#CollaborationCulture #EnableUs #EmpowerUs #GenerousAncestors

Agriculture has come a long way 


At Picture You in Agriculture  we are delivering sustainability education programs through the lens of agriculture

The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas -Design a Bright Future Challenge are connecting learning to:

  • Real world issues
  • Real world people
  • What young people value

Our programs are linked to all the key learning areas in the Australian curriculum as well as the general capabilities (employability skills) and the three cross curriculum priorities.

The programs also helps deliver the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration goals

In the process we are giving students agency and a voice and the opportunity to be an informed participant in conversations about how we want our food produced in the 21st century

National Farmers Federation and farmers challenge the government to put a flag on the hill on Climate Change

This week the National Farmers Federation put a flag on the hill and made a Climate Change statement 

One of the country’s most conservative industry organisations, the National Farmers Federation, has called for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, which sets a more ambitious climate change agenda than the Morrison government.

“Overwhelmingly our members support an aspiration for an economy wide commitment to net zero emissions by 2050,” said National Farmers Federation (NFF) president Fiona Simson, who represents a membership comprised of industry and state agriculture groups with grassroots farmer membership. Source

Its been a long time coming and kudos to Fiona Simson having tackled that challenge at NSW Farmers a number of years before she must have been pulling her hair out with frustration that it took so long to get a national statment over the line.

That just leaves the federal government living in the dark ages.

At Picture You in Agriculture we use the concept of the Sustainability Circle model ( see footnote) to demonstrate to young people in schools the range of issues that must be balanced and managed by farmers and agricultural professionals when producing food, fibre and energy.

TAP Sustainability Circle

We invite them to be farmers and tell us what they would prioritise

Sustainability Circle Question

We collect, track, and analyse the data to understand patterns and trends and make forecasts about what the community is thinking, feeling, talking about and will act on. We measure to detect what is broken and refine interventions. We experiment to learn what works.


For this question wee know what young people choose – I wonder what farmers would pick

Join farmers everywhere in telling the Prime Minister we need an Australia-wide net zero by 2050 target. Sign the petition here 


Why farmers farm the way they do may be more complex than it first looks.

Producing affordable, safe and nutritious food means famers must balance production challenges with community expectations while maintaining a profit margin that can sustain their business.

Commonly when sustainability is mentioned, it is environment considerations that are at front of mind. While farmers and the agricultural professionals who support them are highly aware of their responsibilities to manage natural resource under their care, other issues must also be considered.

Sometimes, different community members and groups only focus on only one aspect that they see as important to them. This can leave farmers to meet a combination of unachievable and competing community expectations and regulatory requirements.

The Sustainability Circle highlights this diverse range of issues that must be considered, balanced and managed by farmers and agricultural professionals when producing food, fibre and energy.

The Sustainability Circle is divided into seven sections which are in no particular order and their importance will change depending on the decision under consideration.

Why does the media seem to think farmers are at war with consumers?

There was an article in The Weekly Times (TWT) on 4th September 2019 titled Farmer fightback: Agriculture spending millions on trust campaigns.  Titles are meant to grab our attention and this one certainly grabbed mine.

To reduce my stress levels I made the decision to not read the even more red rag to a bull editorial Battle to justify leaves farmers weary where according to the Editor of TWT “Farmers shouldn’t have to justify what they do to consumers who want high quality food and fibre at a low price, argues The Weekly Times.” 

According to TWT millions are being spent ‘responding to a burst of animal activism and anti-farmer sentiment this year’. The paper then poses the question “Is too much money being spent promoting and justifying farming?”

The first two questions I would like to ask TWT and fellow farmers are.

  1. Is the media promoting these campaigns as some sort of war farmers have to fight doing us any favours?
  2. Isnt building relationships of trust between producers and consumers part of everyday business in 21st century?

Going back to the TWT question. If my area of expertise was communication I would know there are three different types of communication models

  1. Deficit – one way information transfer. The most expensive example of this would be TV advertising
  2. Dialogue – two way information transfer where ideas and information are shared
  3. Participatory – farmers and consumers work together. Consumers are involved collaborators in the process. This one is my area of expertise. Impact study found here 

Then I would know there are two different types of TRUST

  1. General
  2. Interpersonal

Then I would list all of the TRUST building campaigns under these categories. I would then ask for impact studies and a whole heap of other stuff and then I may just be able to hazard an educated guess on the question we should be asking. Are we spending our producer/consumer relationship building dollars the best way?

Can we improve on this?

Archibull Prize Evaluation Survey .png

I have been in this space for almost 20 years. I wrote an opinion piece for TWT close to 15 years ago that said something very similar to the current editor. I have learnt a lot in 15 years. We could replace the words “climate change” in this cartoon with “social license” and ask oursleves exactly the same thing.

climate-change (1)

Farmers have the same B2C challenges and issues ( and a few more ) any other business in the 21st century has  We also have the same opportunities to market our businesses and our farming practices well

Going to war only ever leads to death and destuction- lets find a smarter way together to build interpersonal relationships of trust between farmers and consumers.


Will billboard advertising make Australians proud of our farmers

One Australian farmer feeds 700 people - time to celebrate

Farmers are understandably feeling powerless and undervalued in the current climate. Livestock farmers are shocked at the vitriol being unleashed on cotton farmers. Cotton farmers are en masse updating themselves on their industry facts and sharing with them with the world and wondering why this modus operandi doesn’t seem to be resonating.

Everyone is looking for somebody to blame and the quick fix. Industry representative bodies and National Farmers Federation are getting some flak. The farmers’ quick fix appears to be TV adds and billboards. I haven’t seen anyone put forward a *value proposition yet. Nor have I seen anyone suggest what our key messaging should be and who our audience is.  We seem to have reached the destination without deciding where the journey should begin.

Tim Minchin is his 2013 Occasional Address  declared ‘ Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world.’ Anyone who has spent anytime in a 21st century classroom will surely agree with him

I was recently invited by a secondary school principal to speak at a secondary school principals’ event. I asked her how I should start the presentation. She said “Show them your websites – they are a teachers dream”  Whilst I was happy to take the compliment, it got me thinking how long is it since an industry body contacted me to let me know they had made changes to their school resources websites. Too long it seems and my dream website is now my nightmare and I look forward to those industry bodies providing me with the info to update this site in particular.

Ardhibull Prize Industry Resources.JPG

It got me thinking whilst farmers like to think our profession is the most important in the world, for us teachers are certainly the most important. .

Teachers today have been tasked with ensuring their students are work ready and that means they have to deliver on the 4C’s as well as the 3R’s  because  21st century employers value the 4C’s well above the 3Rs. 4 C versus 3 R

Graduate Skills Most valued by Employers Source AAEG 

Some of our agricultural industries in this country DO have world class school education resources.

How many farmers know what resources their industry body has created to make teaching agriculture related concepts joyful and easy.

How many farmers know they exist and where to access them?

Are they as impressive as these Learn About Wool 

If not why not?

Are your farming industry’s resources empowering teachers to engage their students in the 4C’s 

How can we best support our industry bodies to ensure all our farming industries have world class school education resources?

Lets all work together to ensure we are as enthusiastic about understanding  and appreciating our audience as we want them to be as enthusiastic and an appreciative of us

Archibull Prize.JPG

#StrongerTogether #agriculture #farming #teachers #education

To get the best return on investment the Gold Stand requires measuring  Impact. My experience working with farmer boards is they are outputs focused.

Outputs and Outcomes.jpg

*Fascinating measure of outputs. How often do you look a billboard beyond when you are stuck in traffic?

How do billboard companies measure the results?

The Outdoor advertising industry utilise a revolutionary audience measurement system called move, move measures the total traffic passing by a particular billboard and delivers an accurate understanding of the number of people who will actually see the billboard. This measurement include the reach and frequency of viewing. In order to further understand your individual business conversions, we recommend directing people to a unique phone number or web page url, or listing a specific offer shown only on the billboard face.

The Sheep Live Export Trade is an ethical challenge – one farmer’s thoughts

Clover Hill Cows.jpg

Supplying 50,000 Australians with the milk for their breakfast everyday is a noble role – Cows at Clover Hill meander home to the dairy 

There has been a lot of robust conversations about the Sheep Live Export Trade recently and for good reason. As a farmer I have made decisions to send dairy heifers to Vietnam to dairies that I knew were run to very high standards. I have chosen not to send heifers to other countries not because I was concerned about animal cruelty but because our heifers were raised to produce a lot of milk from high quality feed and those countries didn’t have the capacity to provide the feed that would allow our heifers to thrive in their environment. We chose exporters with an excellent reputation and where able to get feedback on their new life in Vietnam.  The dairy export trade is an opportunity trade for dairy farmers. As far as I am aware no-one in Australia is growing dairy heifers specifically for the export market. It is a very important market when dairy farms in Australia are in drought and can mean the difference between dairy cattle being sold for meat in this country or living out their lives in developing countries providing nutritious milk for their families.

I am a farmer and like the majority of Australians I know very little about the live sheep export trade beyond what I read in the press. What I do know is our sheep are providing a very important protein source for people in developing countries. Rob Egerton-Warbuton a sheep farmer from Western Australia has written a very seminal piece that truly moved me. You can read it here.

Jen Warbutton.jpg

Jen Egerton-Warbutton Source

I first came across Rob and his wife Jen when we were both finalists in the National Landcare Awards in 2010. When I heard their story I was fascinated. I loved the way they farmed and the way they talked about it. So I was very keen to read what Rob had to say. Its a story from the heart and gives great insights into how the majority of livestock farmers feel about their animals and their commitment to give them the best whole of life expereince they can.

“To farm livestock is very hard. Every animal we bring to life through our husbandry will die, and that weights heavily on every farmer. My wife gets very emotional when they leave on the truck” Rob Egerton Warbutton Source 

Livestock farmers in Australia play a very important role. We cannot feed all Australian families on the land we have by growing plants only. (See footnote) Nor can we feed all  Australian families on the land we have if every farmer followed organic farming principles.

So my thoughts on the Sheep Live Export trade. Human beings can do dreadful things to human beings. Rick Thorburn certainly reminds us of that but nobody is suggesting we shut down the Foster Care system.  We are outraged when we read about child abuse but nobody is suggesting we shut down Catholic Churches . We are outraged when we read about Harvey Weinstein et al but nobody is suggesting we shut down the Movie business . We are outraged when we read about students being shot in schools in America but nobody is suggesting we shut down schools. This is very sobering reading

The Sheep Live Export Trade system is broken, it must be fixed. Whose role is it to make sure that happens?  This is an extract of what Rob has to say…….

Animal welfare and the policy environment around it is 100% the responsibility of farmers. The problem is in my view we haven’t done a very good job of it. We tend to be too protectionists of our practices, too guarded about our feelings, and too resistant to change. ………..

Its clear why farmers need to be involved in animal welfare and the policy that surrounds it. Its for the protection of animals, not from farmers but from those who imagine they protect them without understanding how they live. Source

Its a very emotional issue and

Being ethical is a part of what defines us as human beings. We are rational, thinking, choosing creatures. We all have the capacity to make conscious choices – although we often act out of habit or in line with the views of the crowd. Source

 In the digital world  it would appear we are all instant experts with strong opinions and too often simplistic solutions.  This excellent article from the team at Agrieducate asks the question  SHOULD AUSTRALIANS TAKE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LIVE EXPORT, AND ARE WE READY TO?

 Below is an extract under the heading Burden of Responsibility 

We are either responsible for the welfare of sheep (in good times and in bad) or we move this responsibility offshore and accept the standards of third party countries to continue a trade dominated by Australia.

If we do accept this responsibility everyone needs to be in the game. Political responses to simply appease generalised conservative and rural voters by the Nationals and Liberals, or urban and greens voters by Labor and the Greens won’t fix this problem. So if we do take on this responsibility, there needs to be political maturity in deciding on a bipartisan approach, with concessions of both sides of the debate. This political maturity is arguably not there, and needs to develop quickly.

It can’t continue to be “greenies” vs. “hard working farmers” or “animal rights activists” vs “cruel farmers”, both sides need engaging about accepting responsibility for the welfare of the sheep and improving the regulation of the entire supply chain. Continuing as adversaries propagates political immaturity for cheap votes, and fails the welfare of sheep, the livelihoods of farmers and ourselves as Australians.

So, irrespective of your political views and the level of political readiness take the first step and ask yourself this “am I comfortable shifting our welfare responsibility offshore, or am I comfortable taking on the responsibility of welfare here in Australia”?

There’s no right answer, and no intended underhand comment designed to influence your thought, but it is a tricky question and it must sit with our individual values before this issue will be resolved.

Pressing problems which require urgent action today are too often the direct result of a lack of action in the past.  We rarely get the perfect outcome but as human beings its important to be consistent in our judgements. I don’t have the answers but I would like to see Australia step up and take on the ‘Burden of Responsibility” and set the bar for animal stewardship across the world


  1. 93% of the food consumed in this country is produced by Australian farmers
  2. less that 6% of Australia is suitable for growing crops
  3. Australia farmers feed  everyone here and more than 40 million people around the world


Agriculture and social licence are we setting ourselves up to fail?

This week AgChatOz will invite participants to reflect on and share their insights and opinions on social licence

AgchatozVery topical with the NSW Government recently taking out this one page infographic the Telegraph. My previous blog on this issue can be found here 

Greyhound Industry

Having identified a huge gap in agriculture consumer engagement programs eight years ago Art4Agriculture made maintaining agriculture’s social licence our core business and created The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions programs.

This week I showcased what we do at the Future Cotton Leaders dinner and the IGen session at the 2016 Cotton Conference. After the IGen session the Young Farming Champions in the audience told me the most common comment they heard around the room was “I hadn’t thought of it like that”

We talk about social licence a lot in agriculture. Its like the words ‘climate change’, lots of people have heard of it, too few understand it and acknowledge its not a right its a privilege and know what it takes to maintain that privilege.

This recent talk by Kim Williams AM titled: The unwavering march of general ignorance  at the Alumni Speaker Series on 21 July 2016 has some very wise words for agriculture.

‘We have witnessed the largest power transfer in human history. I refer to the unprecedented transfer of power from producers and authorities to consumers, or as I prefer, citizens. The significance of this shift is difficult to exaggerate. Impossible to stop.

Those who ignore the essential elements of change, where citizens are now increasingly in charge, are destined to fail. Those who enter this new environment openly, with a determination to adjust and adapt, have the best opportunity to prosper. ‘

Some many of our industries have so much to be proud of, but with respect to social licence maintenance too many are relying on the underlying belief that everyone who wears the title ‘Farmer’ will do the right thing. Farmers are people, in the main when we stuff up its because of ignorance – been there done that myself.

It’s time all farmers stood up and said “We all want industry defined standards and guidelines and auditable industry driven QA systems because its important to us and our business and our industry and Brand Australia that we can show our customers we are committed to doing the right thing”

People often say the world is changing. This misses the point. The world is not changing – it has changed. Forever. …..Kim Williams AM July 2016 

I found this documentary from Canada which poses the question “Will farmers stand up and share their story or will they stay silent and lose their licence to farm” well worth the watch