Salute to those who paved the way

I have just had the most wonderful 36 hours visiting Crookwell for the Zone 3 Land Showgirl finals. See previous post

I met some amazing young women and possibly the most adorable and funniest not so young woman I have come across in a long time.

Meet Judy Offley, grandmother of Young Farming Champion Adele Offley


Adele and Judy Offley pretty in pink

Now I did a little bit of research on Crookwell before I went and discovered that believe it or not in the early 1900’s it was dairying that was the prime driver of local economy with potatoes coming a close second. According to the Town and Country Journal 1907 the Offley Family were one of the leading potato growers. 

This is a little quote from the 1907 article that amused me that was less than wax lyrical about the famers in the area who didn’t fall into the “leading” category. I am confident  the author left town shortly afterwards and possibly not voluntarily  

The country at Crookwell is both hilly and undulating, and whilst being well adapted for dairying and mixed farming is also suited for grazing. A rich red chocolate soil, of great productivity, predominates over the ridges.  A good deal of the land has, of course, been cleared, but a ‘good deal of it still remains heavily timbered,and on hundreds of acres where the trees were felled years ago tho timber still lies on.tho ground. It is, however, not altogether surprising that many of the farms don’t present a highly improved appearance Old ideas and methods die hard in long-settled districts, and as some of the oldest established farms in the country, together with some of the most veteran farmers, are to be found here. Crookwell affords a rare mixture of up-to-date methods, combined with much that is primitive and slovenly.

Well there is certainly no dairying in Crookwell anymore and Judy told me that after growing potatoes for 25 year straight without making a profit (and the accountant telling them they must be crazy) they are very pleased and proud to riding on the back of the merino these days. Whilst there may only be four potato growers left in the Crookwell District my table last night was labelled ‘Sebago’ and every other table was named after a variety of potato. Hail the potato – almost gone but not forgotten in the farming history of Crookwell 

Judy is also very proud of her award winning garden and rightly so with it featuring in some of Australia’s leading magazines. IMG_4117

Judy’s love of flowers has found her in some very amusing situations and a story that I loved today was Judy being invited to do the floral arrangements for the opening of the Goulburn Civic Centre by Premier Nick Greiner 30 years ago.

After spending considerable time on the signature arrangement that Nick Greiner would be standing in front of when he officially opened the centre Judy was approached by two very serious young men in suits who told her that it was very important that the flowers were very firmly secured in the vase as the bomb squad would shortly be giving them the once over.

With a twinkle in her eye Judy told me she thought far too much attention was being paid to the welfare of Nick Greiner and not enough to her vase that the flowers were being displayed in and she would have thought twice about using her own vase if she knew there was a chance it would be blown up.

After many wonderful stories like this we went on a tour of the famous garden and the stories didn’t stop there


Judy has over fifteen different varieties of hydrangeas in her garden.


Being a bit of hydrangea fan myself I asked her what was the secret of keeping the cut flower fresh.


Judy said the key was giving them long soaks in the bath. Something the family did apparently not appreciate coming home from the paddock on a hot summer day to find the bath and shower full of hydrangeas 


Judy and her husband John recently went on a holiday and left the gardens in what they thought were the trusted hands of the family only to return home and to find that the ‘local hairdresser had been invited in their absence to trim the sacred Weeping Elm and give it a basin cut “


The Weeping Elm in recovery mode

Everyone else was almost as flabbergasted as Judy and as it turns out the sacred Merino rams were the mystery trimmers.

Judy says to Bruce her son today. ‘Surely those rams must have been in the garden for days before anyone noticed” Bruce just gave her one of those cheeky farmer smiles that say butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth


I got the feeling it would be quite some time before Judy would leave the garden for too long in the future

Crookwell also has the proud history of being the first branch of the national icon that is the Country Women’s Association and nobody is more proud to be a member of the CWA than Judy. I found this lovely story about Judy’s involvement with the Crookwell CWA here

Judy’s motto: “The farmer’s wife can have a say with CWA!”

With many of her local branches closing she is fervently hoping the Crookwell Branch will be able to celebrate its 100 year anniversary

For Judy I can see that for her its what the CWA does to underpin the health and happiness of rural communities that drives her ongoing support and in particular the Crookwell CWA’s support of CareFlight. Judy was very excited to see the community continue to queue up for Damper (served 6 ways) and Anzac biscuits on Australia Day with the  proceeds going directly to the CareFlight organization to support their community work.

Some of us are born to be mothers and grandmothers and some of us aren’t.  As a mother I set the bar very high when I envisioned what the perfect mother should look and act like and I failed to reach my expectations miserably.

On the other hand I watch my gorgeous friend Bev with her grandchildren and today Judy and am absolutely certain that each and everyone of their grandchildren know just how lucky they are to be surrounded and loved by such hidden treasures.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet you Judy and I salute you. Its women like you who are the heart and soul of rural families and their communities     

Picture You in Agriculture

Picture You in Agriculture

Tonight I am speaking at the Zone 3 finals of the RAS of NSW The Land Showgirl finals

Now it has been said that is this competition is out-dated and is no longer relevant.

Whilst the name of the competition makes me and a lot of other people cringe I can assure you this competition, the opportunities and doors it opens has never been more relevant

I know this because at least 90% of our female young farming champions have been involved in this competition and they tell me the process of preparing for this competition builds their knowledge and confidence and inspires a desire to take the next step and share the positive stories of agriculture with the wider community.

So I am relishing the opportunity to share my story, the Young Farming Champions story and the launch of latest Art4Agriculture’s initiative the Picture You in Agriculture Foundation with the audience tonight and having conversations with the people in the room.

Let me take this opportunity to share with you what I will be saying tonight ……….

Showgirl finalists, ladies & gentleman,

Tonight, I am asking you to ‘Picture You in Agriculture’ –

What does that look like for you?

What does it look like for your family and friends and

What does that picture look like for every Australian out there who relies on Agriculture?

For the showgirls here today, your picture is one that shows your pride for your local community here in Crookwell and the surrounding districts

Its shows a desire to stand up and say we are passionate about agriculture and our rural community.

This is a passion I share with you and I would like to share my story today and what my picture in agriculture looks like.

I was a partner in a family farming operation that proudly provided the milk for breakfast for 50,000 Australians every day.

I have learnt a lot and have grown from the challenges and experiences along the way

I now want to use my learnings to assist young farmers and new entrants into the industry to do the same type of things that I have been able to do.

I want to help them learn what I have learnt. I want them to be proud to share their story.

There is no denying that farmers are the ones feeding the world – they are the body and soul of food production and rural communities.

But farmers cannot do this alone. This is a shared responsibility between farmers and consumers right across the globe,

Every minute the world population grows, adding another 158 more mouths to feed.

More food will need to be produced over the next 4 decades than has been produced during the last 10,000 years combined

We all know these facts we have heard them before but the issue is more complex than economies of scale

The issue that is much more challenging is

how we get the next generation of farmers involved, when farming is becoming more complex, high investment, hard work and there is a perception that it is a low return business?

Moreover becoming a farmer is no longer a birth right but a conscious choice by rural entrepreneurs

So I am going to ask that question that everyone is asking

how do we attract and retain the next generation of rural entrepreneurs and young people to live and work in the rural communities that support them?




It can be done AND it is my generation’s role is to invest in them

Since the turn of the century, the amount of land we can grow food on has been decreasing by about 1% a year

So obviously the majority of the additional food needed by 2050 is going to have to come from increasing yields per ha

On top of this according to the WW Fund, today our global footprint exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate by 50%

So if we continue consuming as we do today we will need the equivalent of two planet earths by the mid 2030’s and we know we only have one

So another very important question

How we reduce waste and produce more food with less water, chemicals and fertiliser?

I know this can be done too – because there are many amazing farmers doing this in Australia everyday

Take my industry as an example

Today’s dairy production requires

• 10% of the land

• 25% of the feed &

• 35% of water used per litre of milk produced than it did in 1940

Wow that is something we can all be proud of

But identifying the problems and challenges around global agriculture and feeding the world is one thing, looking for solutions is definitely more challenging

Perhaps women are the key?

We live in a world that is increasingly social, interdependent and transparent and in this world feminine values are ascendant

Powered by these values – like cooperation, communication and inclusiveness – institutions, businesses and individuals are breaking from masculine structures and mindsets to become more flexible, collaborative and caring

Feminine values are the operating system of the 21st century but women have traditionally lacked the confidence factor

And this is why our show societies are so important.

Every showgirl participant, finalist and winner I have met tells me the process of preparing for this competition builds her knowledge and confidence and inspires a desire to take the next step and share the positive stories of agriculture with the wider community.

And this is where I come in

I am obsessed with identifying talent, and with the development of talent, and with the nurturing and celebrating that talent.

I am obsessed with ensuring that farming, and farmers male and female, are able to take their rightful place in the full global value network available to them.

I also recognise the need to take many stakeholders with me on that journey

So I looked at agriculture’s “leadership programs,” and was disappointed that our young people were too often forgotten about when they had finished their formal training.

I knew that if we were going to build a team of young rural influencers and leaders then what was needed was strategic vision for driving these programs so they would deliver consistent and high quality results for agriculture.

To be brutality honest too often our “leadership programs” are developed as a way to appease agricultural R&D levy payers without being able to articulate or deliver REAL outcomes and benefits for industry.

To me it is imperative that we identify, engage, nurture and support our young people in an environment that allows each individual to build and enhance existing knowledge and skills

We want them to dare others to be different. At times they will need to be fearless.

But they needn’t stand-alone: if we find and elevate these champions, we can leverage their impact and catalyse an even greater change.

More importantly, MY generation will leave behind capable people, who can do it all again, and again…

even backwards and in high heels!

But do it they will…because of us.

As I said earlier THEY ARE OUT THERE



If we invest in them – it can be done

It is incumbent on all of us in this room to be loud and clear to our industries that they must invest in our young people.

Show societies have been doing this for generations, why aren’t some of our industries?

In 2011, 1 invited young people working in agriculture to participate in a program that would not only develop their capabilities to farm with confidence, but also to confidently engage with consumers and everyone along the supply chain.

These young people christened this program the Young Farming Champions program

The young farming champions have grown to be a network of young people who share a passion to tell others about the important role Australian farmers play in not only feeding the world but also providing the knowledge and skills sets to help developing countries to grow the capabilities of their agricultural sectors.

They believe in celebrating diversity, sustainability, creativity and progress.

They believe in supplying the world with trustworthy products, that consumers can be confident in.

They do this by bringing consumers and producers together, by visiting schools and raising awareness, and by telling their stories on social media.

These people are young, exciting and champions of their industries.

AND ……

They are making a unique and vital contribution to the sustainability of our industries.

Vitally important they become part of the Art4Agriculture family and we are always there for them even after they finish our programs.

We continually find them opportunities to build their confidence, use their skills, share their stories, build their networks and create their careers.

In the beginning our trailblazers were all young women

That needs to be celebrated.

Because it is awesome that these mums, daughters, sisters, and wives believe in leaving a lasting, positive legacy on an industry that affects and supports every single Australian, every single day of their lives.

But this story isn’t about me. It’s about the dreams and beliefs of this program and every young person who has put their hand up to be involved, and the thousands of other Australians immersed in their industries.

Let me introduce you to the 2013 Young Farming Champions of the Art4Agriculture program, including your very own Jasmine Nixon and Adele Offley.

And I would like to do this by sharing part of a story written by 2013 Young Farming Champion Bessie Blore that will appear in the next edition of Country Web

Bessie Blore was a city journalist who met a farm boy and followed him back to the farm

In Bessie’s words

You won’t see our faces on billboards or bus windows.

You will find us in the paddocks of our farms, the lecture halls of our universities, the labs of our local research facilities, or the factories of our food and fibre processors.

And when we’re not there, we’ll be visiting schools in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra (and maybe one day Australia wide), talking to primary and secondary students through our roles as Young Farming Champions.

We’ll be opening their eyes to the diverse, exciting and innovative career opportunities obtainable through agriculture.

Of the 16 people selected to represent the 2013 Art4Agtricultre team, 12 of us are women.

Jasmine Nixon, Hannah Barber, Danille Fox, Naomi Hobson and Kylie Schuller represent the beef industry;

Kirsty McCormack and Liz Lobsley are on team cotton;

Cassie MacDonald a young vet is representing the dairy industry and

Cassie Baile, Jo Newton, Adele Offley and Bessie Blore are flying the flag for wool.

Some of us are fifth generation farmers, and others like me couldn’t tell a sheep from a goat when they were thrown into the industry

And given the average Australian farmer is a 52-year-old male, we’re kicking the stereotype of a weathered, middle-aged farmer, leaning against an old, wooden fencepost with his Akubra dipped to the sunset.

These days the face of farming is just as often female.

Although I’ve focussed on the achievements of women in a typically male industry, the young men involved are no less notable, stepping out of their comfort zone and into city classrooms to share their passions and dreams.

This year alone there is Martin, who flies planes, and writes blogs from his tractor cab;

Ben, who grows enough cotton each year to produce more than 1million pairs of jeans;

Billy, who grows almost everything you’d find in a box of fibre packed cereal;

and Andrew, whose dairy farm is partly staffed by robots. ROBOTS! I’m serious.

We don’t want to be thanked.

We don’t want you to think of us every time you eat a meal or get dressed,

We just want you to believe that what we’re doing – growing food and fibre is as cool as being an architect, or lawyer, or teacher, or doctor, or astronaut…

We think it’s cool, because agriculture is not about farmers. It’s about people.


My work with Art4Agriculture and in particular the Young Farming Champions’ program has allowed to me to realise it will not be me who shapes and changes the face of agriculture but the quality of young people I can deliver for agriculture and their communities through these social enabling programs like the Young Farming Champions

• I’m now devoting my time to creating a Foundation to provide ongoing funding so that we can secure and expand these activities.

• I want to make a difference; the young people I work with want to make a difference. In fact I know we’ve already started to make a difference. And I want to make certain that with the support of my generation we can continue to do this.

• Enabling the next generation of farmers to feed the world sustainably requires knowledge, adoption and implementation of both existing and new technologies, and paddock to plate collaboration and training. Enabling people in this way will help produce the leaders of tomorrow and shape the future face of farming in this country.

The call to action for my generation is

By investing in our young people, and joining me and focusing our time on these activities we can use our time and energy and $ in the best way we can contribute to future of the farming communities that we hold so dearly.

Young people such as our Showgirls here tonight who have shown us they want to make a difference.

Your farmers. Your future. By Bessie Blore

In the future… you will have health.

In the future… you will be valued.

In the future… your world will be even more beautiful than today.

How do I know this?


Today I am planting the healthiest seeds, to grow the best crop.

Today I am tending my flock, to harvest the highest quality fibres,

Today I am nurturing the next generation of calves to produce delicious nutritious milk

Today I am sowing water efficient pasture for my cows to provide the best value proteins.

Today I am using the most advanced technologies in the world, to ensure a flourishing environment, and happy healthy animals.

Today I am a farmer.

And in the future – all this becomes yours.

To the showgirl finalists, be fearless, tell your stories and continue to Picture You in Agriculture


Thanks for the inspiration

The Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions

Professor Shaun Coffey

The Future of Farming – The Rise of the Rural Entrepreneur – A Rabobank publication

Bessie Blore – Visit Bessie at

Sacha Bonsor – “Do nice girls really finish last” –