Fertilise the Tall Poppies

It’s that time of year when awards that celebrate our Australian farmers and the people who support them are opening for nominations.

As a person who has been lucky enough to win some of these awards and benefited greatly from the exposure they bring I have also witnessed the impact on my family of the pressure to “live up” to microscope they feel they are under.

Whilst the naysayers don’t interest me, I do understand when quiet achievers like my husband and son would prefer not to be in the spotlight. My son in particular finds the derogatory comments from some of the local farmers hard to take and I find that very sad.

I remember vividly attending the 2010 National Landcare Awards and being so excited when we won and then turning to my husband who said ‘You collect the award I don’t think what we do is any different to thousands of farmers across Australia’. But I knew differently, it’s not how you farm that counts, its how what you do translates into a community good benefit that counts.

I stood tall and proudly accepted because I knew what we did was something to be proud of.

My speech went something like this

Today most media in Australia generated around food is about cooking and eating, recipes and restaurants, with little attention paid to the origins of the key ingredients.

At Clover Hill Dairies we haven’t been fooled into thinking people don’t care.

We believe meeting or exceeding the community’s expectations to deliver affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food is doing the right thing by our business and our customers

There are plenty of Australian farmers committed to ethical food production… JUST AS WE ARE 

But there are some things we are equally passionate about that sets us apart

Beyond best farming practices we are dedicated to

  • Building lifelong relationships between city consumers and rural providers. Because it is these urban communities who will decide the future for primary produces either as consumers, governments and decision makers or as competitors for Australia’s natural resources and workforce. The next generation of consumers and decision makers must see responsible agricultural production as a legitimate use of land, water and other resources.
  • Encouraging and furnishing opportunities for young people to enter food value chain career pathways
  • Forging cross community partnerships to secure our social licence to operate and right to farm   

Winning this very prestigious award offers us the very best possible platform to build on this passion – thank you so much for opening this door

In 2013 I would make a very different speech and I would be less nervous because my journey since that night has been so exciting and so fulfilling and I have so much more confidence and met so many wonderful people who are sharing my journey. One thing that hasn’t changed is I would be just as proud.

Most excitingly there was some-one in the audience who heard me speak and believed in my Young Farming Champions concept and invested in it (thank you Ken)

I recently had an email from a young lady inspired by one of these young farming champions to take up a career in agriculture

It is absolutely beyond my wildest dreams to communicate with young farmers (of their nature) and have been so fortunate to be in brief contact with Richie Quigley after being sent his Art4Agriculture video and contacting him and being mentored by him towards the most appropriate university degree for me next year – his input has been invaluable.

We are far from perfect farmers but what our farm has done very well is to open the door to invite the next generation to visit and experience what we do which one of the Art4agriculutre Young Eco Champions Erin shows so beautifully here. 


We do need a new way of thinking about agriculture. We need farmers who are prepared to work beyond traditional boundaries and challenge the conventional thinking of primary industries and individuals.

We need a paradigm shift in thinking and a collaborative re-allocation of resources and responsibilities

We must be able to deploy agriculture’s young people like Richie and Erin into schools to build relationships with the next generation of consumers.

So if you know some-one who has a big picture vision for agriculture then nominate them for awards.

As an industry

‘we can inspire and motivate and galvanise our people or we can ridicule and sap energy from them. Its our choice’  Derek Antoncich

Lets celebrate our farmers sharing their stories beyond the farm gate

Nominate some-one you know today 

Farmer of the Year Awards http://www.farmingahead.com.au/FarmerOfYear

Coles Please remember real people farm

Today I am re-blogging below  this post from Milk Maid Marian which highlights the heartbreaking issues in the Australian dairy industry. Marian makes some very powerful and insightful comments and puts forward some thought provoking and very doable solutions. The question are the right people listening and most importantly will they act?

In my neck of the woods  I spoke to my Parmalat Farm Services Officer yesterday who I know has been feeling the strain of working with dairy farmers for the past six months and struggling to deal with the devastation she is witnessing in the Australian Dairy industry. She asked me how our cows handled the heat. I said surprisingly well but then we had learnt from our past mistakes and put in 48 hours with almost no sleep to assist our dedicated team to hose our cows down (and other mitigation strategies) in the 43 degree heat to ensure they were as comfortable as possible and so far it has worked .

I also want to share this video with you.

It is powerful for a number of reasons, but mostly it highlights something Coles seems to have forgotten and that is real people farm and a lot of them are in pain because of Coles marketing strategies.

michael strong Photo Sylvia Liber

Coles remember real people farm – Photo by Sylvia Liber

Woolworths on the other hand are getting smart and recognising how important their farmers are and doing something about it . See article here. As Marian warns don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg Coles.

The video also highlights farmer should never underestimate the impact of building direct relationships with their customers which is the very reason why I instigated Art4Agriculture  and the Archibull Prize 

Back to Marian –  this is what Marian had to say this morning ……..

Dairy farmers gathered in their hundreds in south-west Victoria last night for a crisis meeting. What makes it a crisis? Very simply, dairy farmers are working seven days a week for free and petrified of losing our shirts.

Local agribusiness bankers tell me they are busy refinancing and arranging extra debt but land sales are at a standstill around here. Reporting on last night’s dairy crisis meeting, Simone Smith of The Weekly Times, described a “dire picture”:

“Warrnambool-based Coffey Hunt farm accounting specialist Garry Smith said across his client-base, farmers milking mostly between 450-500 cows, average feed costs were up 15 per cent – a $150,000 rise – with the cost of power for the first quarter of the year up 50 per cent.”

“He estimated across his client-base earnings would be 10 per cent down on last year with a combination of cash-flow and income down $260,000.

“Charles Stewart real estate agent Nick Adamson said better quality farms had dropped in value between 8-15 per cent, while others were up to 45 per cent down on peaks of several years ago.”

None of this is pretty and astonishingly, Peter Reith decided to appear on ABC’s The Drum website with a six-point plan that, at first, I thought was a spoof. Take a look and make up your own mind.

It’s not as simple as cutting petrol taxes and municipal rates. It’s tricky because of this conundrum: milk and dairy foods are considered so important that nobody wants to pay what they are worth to produce.

Every day I read comments on Twitter that go something like this: “My kids drink three litres of milk every two days, so I can only afford to buy $1 milk”. I know first-hand how tough it is to feed a family when you’re on struggle street, so I have a lot of sympathy for people in this predicament and it’s impossible to respond with anything other than compassion.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that there is no political appetite for an increased milk price. But the truth is this: dairy farmers should not and cannot fund an ersatz Australian welfare system by subsidising the cost of food. Welfare is the role of government.

So, while my dander is up, here’s a simple list of five tricky things that would make a big difference to this dairy farmer:

1. Deal with the supermarket duopoly
Down, Down, Down is not about you, dear milk drinker. The real reasons for the supermarket war are expressed in corporate ROIs rather than family budgets. At the end of the day, it will be the little people with the least market power – you, the shopper, and me, the farmer – who will pay.

2. Level the global playing field
Julia Gillard announced that Australia would be Asia’s food bowl but guess what? Unlike the world’s most powerful dairy exporters, the Kiwis, we do not have a free trade agreement with China, putting Australian dairy at an immediate 15% disadvantage. Nor do we receive the government subsidies that support our European and North American competitors.

3. Assist with the impact of the carbon tax
Australian dairy farmers are suffering a double whammy under the carbon tax. First, processors are passing the extra cost onto us in the form of lower farm gate prices (because the consumer won’t pay extra and nor will global commodity markets), reducing our incomes by around $5,000 each per year. At the same time, our costs – especially electricity and refrigerants – are rising in quantum leaps each quarter.

4. Support smart farming
Long exposed to the blow-torch of global export markets without subsidisation, Australia’s dairy farmers are among the most efficient in the world, according to research body, Dairy Australia. We can produce very high quality milk at a very low cost because we have invested in research and development. No longer. We are spending less and less on R&D and the Victorian government has just made massive staff cuts to our brains trust, the Department of Primary Industries.

5. Remember, I am the goose that lays the golden egg
I will not be able to continue to deliver high quality milk at such a low price while enhancing the environment and caring for our cows without sacrificing the basic wellbeing of my family and that, I refuse to do.

Coles and Woolworths in the Spotlight

Its another week on the road for me doing different and exciting things every day. I am noticing in the background Colesworth are getting their share of the conversation on Twitter and in the press from all angles.

Firstly twitter is a buzz with indignation from farmers and their supporters that the big two are major sponsors of the National Farmers Federation Congress. I have some considered thoughts on that so expect a blog post later in the week on this one.

Then there is Animals Australia in the news again and the Coleworths PR machines earning their crusts piggybacking on the media circus surrounding them.

Animals Aus now their is one clever organisation organisation with seemingly endless buckets of money to fight for their ideals for animal rights. Whether their vision for animals is right or wrong I just shake my head. Its man’s inhumanity to man that is indefensible and the suffering of women and children in some third world countries just beggars belief, yet rich people and some not so rich donate millions and millions of dollars for Animals Australia Trojan horse campaigns to convince meat eaters to become vegans.  Enough said on that

Yesterday saw me back at my old alma mater Sydney University for a board meeting. This gave me the opportunity to catch up with a very special young man doing agricultural science at Sydney Uni who lives at Andrews College which was a hop skip and jump away from my board meeting venue. Though when the rain bucketed down as I was walking there it wasn’t near close enough and to top it all off I had hot pink shoes on and now I have hot pink feet.

Richie Quigley has stepped in at the last minute to a fill a gap in the Cotton Young Farming Champions team.


The facilities at Andrews College at Sydney Uni are quite astounding. I asked Richie to pose behind the bar for this shot 

With a blog post, video and now a PowerPoint presentation and after yesterday a  two hour session with Art4Agriculture personal and professional development coach Annie Burbrook now under his belt wow does agriculture have a superstar rising fast.

Richie’s family run Quigley Farms. Check out their Facebook site here and Richie’s blog post for Art4Agriculture here. This is one family crazy about cotton and very proud to grow it in the most efficient way they can. What an inspiring afternoon I had learning all about it from Richie 

Richie as I said earlier lives at Andrews College on the Sydney Uni Campus. Andrews College is steeped in tradition and it was quite a déjà vu  moment to walk up the steps yesterday.


There are photos of the walls showing cows in the paddocks in front of the college. Apparently in those days you could donate cows to the college to pay for your board


Magnificent wood panelling and stained glass windows everywhere 


Andrews College has many fond memories for me. I mentioned to Richie I had attended a formal with HT ( short for heart throb – the nickname given to Michael by my uni friends) there where the bands Airsupply and Sherbet and Andy Gibb played all on the one night. I had a feeling their albums where not in Richie’s collection.


I just had to take a picture of this tree yesterday. This is where HT first said those three little words that make a girl’s heart sing when she knows the man of her dreams feels the same way about her. Aaaaaaaaaaaah mmh memories