The gate is open, Michelle

Today’s post comes from the heart and is a reprint of this article in The Land

Tom Tourle is one of a group of young farmers extending an invitation to Michelle Bridges:

Tom Tourle is one of a group of young farmers extending an invitation to Michelle Bridges: “Come and see my farm“.

A FURORE erupted in farming circles last week when fitness trainer Michelle Bridges reignited the inflammatory debate on ‘ag-gag’ laws with a column in the Sun Herald.

Now a group of young Aussie farmers wants to “open the gate”, inviting Ms Bridges on a journey to see how they farm.

Ms Bridges’ opinion piece called for Australian consumers to resist the introduction of US-style ag-gag legislation which would restrict filming of animal production by activists. In response, the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) published an open letter asking Ms Bridges if she would mind having cameras set up in her own home.

Ms Bridges defended her column, posting this on Facebook days later:

“Aussie farmers – I have huge respect for what you do and realise the majority of the industry do the right thing. But I do believe that those who don’t should be held accountable.

“My article takes a stance against proposed new laws that I believe are unjust. It does not condone, encourage or endorse illegal activity.”

Regardless, the AFI open letter went viral, spawning countless tweets and Facebook posts and generating unprecedented online traffic. Amongst the understandable outrage, a clear trend emerged: farmers were keen not to defend the industry but to educate people disconnected from the reality of agricultural production.

Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber is one of many producers who’ve extended an invitation to Ms Bridges to share their stories.


An open invitation


Dear Ms Bridges,

My name is Hannah Barber and I am lucky enough to have been brought up on the family farm. We have now been proudly producing sheep, beef cattle and crops to feed and clothe Australian families for over 100 years.

After being thrown into the melting pot of people from different backgrounds at school and in the wider community I realised that I had taken for granted people’s connection to agriculture. I realised that not all people had the opportunities to have a connection to the land and farming and my childhood was unique and special.

I have now been lucky enough to be selected to represent the cattle and sheep industry with 40 other young people from the grains, wool, cotton and dairy industries in the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion’s program. These 40 young people are either proud to farm or have careers in the exciting, innovative and dynamic sector that is Australian agriculture.

Part of the reason I applied for the program was that it gave me multiple opportunities to provide others with the connection I have with farms and farmers, families and communities who grow the clothes they wear and food they eat.

When I read your article in the Sydney Morning Herald Lifestyle Section – “It’s time to take a stand over proposed “ag-gag” laws” – (by the way, I am confident you didn’t mean to infer that you supported the rights of people to break into farms) I saw a wonderful opportunity to literally take you on a journey to share my farming experiences.

I would like to extend an invitation for you to join me on a road trip to visit my family farm and those of some of my fellow Young Farming Champions to see how our animals are raised and how we get them ethically from paddock to plate (and everywhere else in between). After all, the fresh, healthy food you promote for fitness, health and weight management is grown by Australian farming families, like ours.

From my cattle in Parkes, you could maybe then visit Tom Tourle’s sheep farm in Dubbo, Georgia Clark’s chooks at Lake Macquarie and Prue Capp’s horses in the Hunter Valley.

The farmers who help put the cheese on your crackers Tom Pearce and Andrew D’Arcy could show us around their dairies in the home of cheese itself, Bega, and we’d better also drop in on Richie Quigley and Ben Egan growing the cotton for our socks out in the beautiful Macquarie Valley.

After who wouldn’t want to meet pin up boy Ben Egan

As young farming champions we are also scientists studying in various fields for our PhDs, we are agronomists, nutritionists, vets and rural entrepreneurs to name but a few. We are nurturers and environmentalists. In fact there is a career and a role for you in agriculture from A to Z.

My Mum also makes some mean scones too, so I suggest you plan to stay for smoko.

On behalf of the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions I look forward to hearing from you.

Hannah Barber

– Cattle and Sheep Industry Young Farming Champion

A salute to the people who feed and clothe us

When I was 18 I fell madly in love with this guy who was my blind date to the Jamberoo Footballers Ball.

He had bypassed a chance to play with Penrith to follow his parents to a Jamberoo dairy farm .

We did the long distance thing for three years with me at Uni studying to be pharmacist Michael Crop 1and him playing first grade football and doing odd jobs during the week.

When I graduated we did what all young people madly in love did in the 70’s we got married.

michael & Lynne Strong

Everybody has their dream career and for him it was being a policeman. Really I was flabbergasted. Policeman, what an undervalued career that was and so many risks. So the in-house joke was if you become a policeman I am going to be become a nun   

Six months into our marriage he comes to me and say I have been offered an opportunity to go back to my roots and be a dairy farmer.

I was mortified. I grew up on a farm ( 6th generation) I knew how tough it was. Of all the careers out there, for me only crazy people farm.

But dairy farm he did and I did what so many women who support the people who produce our food and fibre do, I took my expertise and worked 24/7 to support the people who feed and clothe us.

In 2001 I decided those people who feed and clothe us deserve better than this and bought 22 years in marketing back to the farm.

That has morphed into the Archibulll Prize and the Young Farming Champion’s programs.

This week the Archibull Prize 2013 entries flowed in.  I have taken a back seat this year and have only seen the entries at this point via their blogs and already the tears are in my eyes. Wow so many young people from non farming backgrounds who truly get how important our farmers are to them, to so many people overseas, and to the health, wealth and happiness of everyone in Australia and I couldn’t be more proud. I salute them all.

Over the next ten days art judge Wendy Taylor and I will get up close and personal with these fabulous artworks and the bright young minds who created them and I cant wait to share them with you.


Its time agriculture stepped up and defined the “pull”

On Friday I am participating in the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture Forum. The Blueprint will map out where we as an industry want to go and how we are going to get there.

The big ticket question participants are being asked to answer on Friday is   

What do you see as the most pressing issues and therefore the most important goals for us to focus on right now?

I have given this a lot of thought and I believe the elephant in the room is the most important issue  – its people. Agriculture is yet to acknowledge before we do anything else we must build the capacity of agriculture to nurture our people and we must start with our young people.

As a farmer, as someone who engages with industry, trains young farmers and runs awareness programs in schools, I work within the fragmented structure that is agricultural capacity building, every day.

Like our individual food and fibre industries, we need a better “supply chain” for young people to develop skills that enable them to engage, grow and take charge of their industries.

We have to start with our young people. But long term capacity is not going to result from engaging with them through government and industry programs in the usual way.


Currently, we see a number of programs aimed at developing individuals at various stages in life, but many lack the mechanisms to support and mentor and galvanize these people into roles that have meaning within our industries, in the medium to longer term.

At Art4Agriculture, an important part of our mission is to link our Young Farming Champions alumni with further opportunities within their industry to continue the journey of growth and leadership.  There is no point training young people if we then abandon them; believing our job is done after holding workshops and camps for them. If we don’t continue to develop our young people, we lose a generation of leaders, innovators and workers as they seek opportunities elsewhere. There will be no-one to take over the farm, or work in our agribusinesses.

Because of the skills sets our Cotton Young Farming Champions have gained through the program we have been able to include them in a number of events to engage the community well beyond the school students participating in the Archibull Prize.

They are young, smart, articulate, passionate, from a variety of backgrounds, living in a range of locations, involved in interesting, rapidly changing fields of agriculture, taking advantage of the plethora of exciting opportunities available to young people – they don’t just tell the message we want current students and teachers and the community to be taking on….they are the message. Sophie Davidson Cotton Australia

A range of factors make it difficult for farmers to employ staff on farm. This lack of opportunities for farmers and young people will only be exacerbated by climate change, exchange rate issues and farmer returns and agriculture’s reputation for not being an employer of choice .

Therefore, we have to ensure the skills and capacity we are providing our young people align with industry identified needs. I’ve met too many young people who found themselves trained or developed for roles that just don’t exist in our industries.

We need to position agriculture/agrifood as the career of choice for Australia’s best and brightest.  But this cannot simply be a “push” situation by industry and government, it needs agriculture to step up and define the “pull”

Further, it’s not enough to simply develop our young people, but we must create opportunities for them to engage with consumers and supply chain participants.
They must understand and feel confident to engage along all the full breadth of the supply chain, if we are going to build creative and sustainable agricultural industries.

Mike Logan says it all in this comment below

The Blueprint is a work plan.

We need a vision.

The Blueprint tells us what we are going to do.

Not why.

The ‘why’ question is integral to our own understanding of our role in society, but also in society’s understanding of us.

Why have agriculture?

To feed and clothe a portion of the world?

With healthy food. Full of nutrition.

From healthy environments?

By people who care?

If we can develop messages like that, then we earn a social licence to operate for agriculture.

Guess who was on the radio this week

Its been a busy week at the farm with Michael and his brother Bill off to International Dairy Week in Shepparton with two of our cows. What was so rewarding about this show trip was for the first time in years Michael had enough strength in his knee to actually lead his cattle in the ring and nobody was more happy about this than Michael . 

Meanwhile I got back into the swing of things for Art4Agriculture for 2013. The week started with the launch of the 2013 Archibull  Prize on ABC Illawarra

Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt and I popped into ABC Illawarra offices in Wollongong on our way to Chatswood to hook up with the team from Landcare Australia for an interview with the very charming Justin Huntsdale

You can read what we had to say here and hear the audio version by playing the YouTube clip here 

Nothing like being in the studio – Justin and Megan test the audio

Later in the week I caught up with the Art4Ag team at the new offices of Event Directors in St Leonards.

Event Directors at St Leonards

Event Directors in St Leonards

We spent the day putting the final touches on the exciting new direction Art4Agriculture is taking in 2013 to ensure we can source funding to train as many Young Farming Champions and get the story of Australian agriculture into as many schools as possible.                                              Watch this space 

Whilst in St Leonards we took the opportunity to visit the new headquarters of NSW Farmers where we caught up with some of the NSW Farmers ream including Danica Leys and Brianna Casey

Danica Leys @ NSW Farmers St Leonards

Danica Leys is the Senior Industrial Relations Advisor at NSW Farmers as well as the  2012 NSW/ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner and cofounder of the most successful rural social media movement in Australia, #AgChatOZ.

As you would expect the Art4Ag team are discerning diners and we take every opportunity to see what local chefs are doing with the fine Australian produce our farmers grow. Here are some highlights from our two days in Sydney  

In St Leonards we discovered the delightful Wooden Whisk 

Wooden Whisk

where I had the Breakfast Grazing Board whilst the team dined on

brioche french toast with fresh banana, strawberry, mascarpone (sans) and maple syrup and the parma ham plate .

Also at St Leonards we were recommend the Moody Chef.

Moody Chef

On the left hand side of the photo you see the quaint touch of all the herbs growing in pots

Salmon and Avocado Moody Chef

This was my lunch and they did the salmon and avocado farmers proud

A special treat was dinner at the Star where we dined at Black by Ezard overlooking Darling Harbour


I had the LAMB RACK with  mustard, herb and black olive crust, house made dry spiced
fresh curd, zucchini, eggplant caviar and lamb jus. It wasn’t cheap but it was divine

Lamb at Black by Ezard 

I asked where my lamb came from. Sadly the waiter didn’t know and the kitchen couldn’t enlighten him. Hopefully next time when another restaurant patron asked the same question they will have the answer



The OCEAN TROUT with crushed spring peas, bacon, caramelised pearl
onion, heirloom carrots, pea and wasabi sauce looked awesome as well and I am told it was

The Pièce de résistance was this delightful morsel which we shared. My only disappointment was I didn’t think to film the pouring process where the hot sauce is spread all over the chocolate ball and it melts and blends into this divine layer on the plate  


CHOCOLATE with Warm couverture ganache, dulce de leche ice cream, peanut butter mousse

Black by Ezard is a lovely restaurant with wonderful food and service and I was curious to see so many American wines on the wine list and I asked why. The waiter told me it was their point of difference. Personally I would like to think in the future they may consider listing all the names of their farmers suppliers and using this as their point of difference.

BTW we had lovely Australian bubbles and pinot gris to help us enjoy our superb meals  

The spirit lives on

I am on a roll, five posts in five days and with a sudden do or die rush to hospital shortly before Christmas I have plenty of time to think as I recuperate and reflect 

Today with 2012 coming to end here is a little reflection from me on Australian Year of the Farmer which started with a bang and sadly closed with a whimper.

I know co founders Philip Bruem and Geoff Bell had all the best intentions and invested their heart and souls into their baby so I am not going to talk about all the things that went wrong but I do want to talk about some of the ways we as farmers can leverage the momentum going forward of what was a great idea executed with too little money and not enough grass roots involvement .

I’ve seen many things change for the better over the last 12 months. Colin Beetles reflects on the big picture here. I want to talk about what I see is happening at grass roots level and in particular the social changes 

I am noticing more and more farmers are less indignant. We know we cant afford to sit back and say people should appreciate us because we feed them. We know it is our role to build the relationships beyond the farm gate with our communities and our customers and the decision makers and start those two way conversations. Gone is the idea  that the community should wake up everyday and say “thank a farmer” and more and more our farmers are saying “ thank a consumer”

We are looking at new and innovative ways to raise awareness and build a sense of pride and support for our committed, caring and professional  farmers. I for one salute our farmers on their growth in 2012.

We are seeing a new type of AGvocay leadership working side by side with our agri- politicians and they are taking on the tough issues like Live Export. Its going to be a long road but they are cutting through 

There are now a lot of damned good grass roots initiatives out there stepping up to the plate and building the farmer to consumer value chain partnership and letting industry take a back seat and concentrate on what they do best  Whether it be quirky things like the Great Cafe Challenge, using social media like Ask an Aussie Farmer, sharing our stories like Fleur McDonald’s 52 Farming Stories in 52 Weeks, starting campaigns or writing petitions or just great photos like this one. A great example of its not what you say but how you say it that delivers the goods

Sheep On Verandah

Sheep on Andrew Irvine’s verandah during Murrumbidgee Floods, Wagga Wagga in March 2012. | Photographer: | Andrew Irvine

We know farming today has moved to a new dynamic. It is all about relationships, about values and about people – its all about selling the sizzle not the steak (whilst appreciating and respecting the cow that produces it ).

We know that selling the sizzle is very often out of our area of expertise and it we want to do it well ( and we must our future depends on it)  we need new skills sets.   In particular it is the women in farming who are seeing this new way of farming as their area of expertise and its the grass roots who are putting together the programs and providing the training and our women in agriculture are chafing at the bit to get involved and they are en masse.

Yesterday I mentioned Women Influential, there is the great work of Georgie Somerset and the QRRRWN network, Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions Network and between us I am positive we could list another 50.

And back to Australian Year of the Farmer, Art4Agriculture has been very lucky to come to the attention of one of their celebrity ambassadors Sara Leonardi McGrath. I am very excited to tell you that for Glenn and Sara celebrating our farmers and the great food and fibre we grow is NOT going to finish at the end of 2012.


Sara is a little dynamo and since I first met with her in January this year her mind has been ticking over looking at some clever ways she can use her talents and connections in the art world to build city country relationships and take them to a whole new level via a partnership with Art4Agriculture. She is great fun to work with and the team and students and schools involved are loving it 

The partnership starts with an exhibition of 8 of our Archibulls at Sara’s MCLEMOI GALLERY in Chippendale in the last two weeks in January Read all about it here.

Sara is also supporting us to launch another new concept which I hope to be able to share with you in early February. The Art4Agriculture team have been investigating ways to enable all Australian farmers to be in driving seat and ensure the success of the Art4Agriculture vision and programs and with Sara’s support we think this concept is goer

So fellow farmers whether you have #hadagutfull are #proud2farm encouraging the community to support #duopolyfreefriday ringing the bell on #agchatoz telling your story on #AskanAussieFarmer or are proud #youthinag the Year of Farming Families is just around the corner so lets work together and keep up the momentum and in the words of Connie Ross

Despite droughts, floods and bushfires, the spirit lives on.

Most farmers just never give in! ‘

Cause, despite the frustration, we’re feeding the nation

And that’s a great battle to win!

and remember its our “battle” – lets do it our way

We can and should be proud and loud of our farmers

I am the National Program Director for Art4agriculture and one of our signature programs the Archibull Prize is currently rolling out in NSW schools.

So we can get an understanding of where we should be focusing our efforts and whether we are achieving our objectives we conduct entry and exit surveys 

The Archibull Prize has a number of objectives and those which specifically relate to this blog are

  • To provide a platform for farmers and students to connect, share stories and improve understanding of modern farming practices and work through potential solutions together.
  • To communicate to students, schools, teachers and parents that Australian farmers are professional and caring and committed to working towards sustainable farming production systems.
  • To provide a vehicle for urban communities to understand that our farmers must be able to innovate, achieve efficiency gains and intensify their businesses where necessary in order to continue to deliver affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food for Australians and many other people around the world.

The preliminary results of the entry survey are in.  We did not ask questions about the students’ knowledge of the paddock to plates process or whether they thought yogurt grows on trees or not. We knew this wasn’t necessary as we are very confident  the program will provide them with excellent knowledge of where their food comes from.

What we wanted to find out is if the students had the necessary knowledge to enable them to value all services that Australian farmers provide including ecosystem services, healthy food and quality of life.

We readily admit we asked questions we only knew the answers to because we are in this space and what we discovered is what we already knew and that is agriculture has done a very poor job of telling its story.

We asked questions that would help the students think about food security. Scary isn’t it whilst 93 per cent of the food we consume is produced in Australia our young people thought it was more like 45%.and I wonder how many adults think the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if its a very similar proportion.    


When asked the question how much of Australia’s land is suitable for food production?  The most popular answer was 61% when in fact less than 6% of Australia is suitable for food production.


When asked about the cost of food as you can see the students overwhelming thought food spend as percentage of income was higher than it has ever been and everybody who reads my blog knows that food has never been cheaper in this country.

In relation to organically produced food our surveys have always found myths abound. Now I admire immensely anyone who can produce food organically and get a premium for it but no way in the world does it have a lower carbon footprint than conventionally produced food. But as you can see from the graph below the students overwhelming think it does. What was heartening is the students do acknowledge the massive farming productivity gains in Australia in the last 60 years     


This year the ‘Archibull Artwork’ will embrace the theme: “What does it take to sustainably feed and clothe your community for a day?”
The program will cover issues like
1. The role of Australia’s food and fibre industries in sustainably feeding and clothing our  communities.
2. Understanding the challenges our farmers face to feed and clothe people sustainably in a world with a declining natural resource base.
3. The disconnect between consumers and farming practices – how do we find common ground?
4. Understanding the disconnect between the food we buy and the impact that it has on the environment when we throw it away.

Other issues the students will explore include the future of farming and what direction the students see farming going in a social media world as well as looking at the faces of farming and how to personalise farming in a globalised society.

This will be enhanced by visits from young farming champions from rural NSW who will come to the school and talk to the students and share their farming experiences.

We believe this program not only helps turn the light on to the wealth of opportunities that careers in agriculture delivers but also highlights the valuable role our farmers play in the health, wealth and happiness of Australians and many people around the world.  


My family has been farming for 180 years. 180 of great farming stories waiting to be told. But how, but where and to whom. My family aren’t alone farmers across Australia have great stories to tell.  So I decided to fill this gap and what better audience than our future, our school students, the next generation of consumers, decision makers and our workforce.

So Art4Agriculture was born. Our signature program is the Archibull Prize and now we have paired the Archibull Prize with the Young Farming Champions program which I hope will be my ongoing legacy.


The Archibull Prize Awards and Exhibition Day is the highlight of the Art4Agriculture year 

It was yesterday and it was huge. Woolworths rolled out the red carpet and hosted the event. The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson not only presented the winners she spent considerable time viewing the artworks and talking to the students  


I love the Archibull Prize. Every entry gives me one of those ‘feel good’ moments.

It reminds me that young Australians are interested and positive about the future and they are filled with hope.

Don’t believe what you read in the papers – our school students are engaged, they are talented and they are truly inspiring!

And this competition proves it!

This year was second time we have rolled out the program in Western Sydney with 5 primary schools and 15 secondary schools participating.

20 bulls have made their way to the judging ring and today we found out which schools have triumphed in each of the categories and who is the Grand Champion Bull


Once again it has been an outstanding success

I thought the entries last year were impressive – but the schools who participated this year have taken things to a whole new level.

  • We have some amazing examples of fine art
  • We have discovered digital technology we didn’t no existed
  • We have entries that have astounded the heads of the food and fibre industries our schools have showcased

World class is the only way to describe the efforts of the teachers and the student participants in the 2011 Archibull Prize

and the winners are ?

Announced by the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson Minister for Primary Industries and Small  Business


Primary Winner

Secondary Winner


Macarthur Anglican School


Caroline Chisholm College



Macarthur Anglican School


Model Farms High School



St Michaels Catholic Primary School


Colo High School ($250.00)

Model Farms High School ($250.00)


Schofield Primary School


Caroline Chisholm College


Overall 2012 Archibull Prize Winner

Caroline Chisholm College ($1,000.00)

“Moobiks Cube”

Artwork Award of Excellence

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Quakers Hill High School

Richmond High School

Innovation in Technology Award of Excellence

Windsor Public School


See all the picture from the Awards and Exhibition Day on Flickr