The Farming Narrative will be told – its up to farmers to decide how it will be remembered

Ar4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert’s presentation to the audience at the NSW Department of Primary industry’s workshop on SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE – CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY answered the question posed by the FarmOn team in their recent blog ‘So are farmers ready to care’ found here

We at Art4agriculture are thrilled that the organisers of the event acknowledged that youth are passionate and committed to doing whatever it takes to get the narrative right and  chose to give youth a voice through Josh to tell their story

Below is an abbreviated version of Josh’s talk

Connecting with the community – the narrative

My name is Joshua Gilbert. I am, a fourth generation Braford breeder on the Mid North Coast of NSW, an area my ancestors have farmed for over 40,000 years. I commenced my law and accounting studies in 2009, with the aim of working in community practice. In the process of studying, I found myself drawn back to agriculture, and recognised that my skills could complement both my on farm operations as well as my fellow farmers.

Josh Gilbert Braford Breeder

My long-term aim is to go back to my family farm. I know that agriculture has changed, and that it now requires high level skills for farmers to be successful in the tough climate we find ourselves in. At a wider level, my background will also help me support farmers to up skill in financial literacy.

I am also completing a law degree with a view to spending some time in policy, and getting a greater understanding of what can be achieved. I also hope this training will ensure that I can add value to policy discussions, and ensure we get the best outcomes for agriculture. I am also considering a career in politics.

As a young person who is passionate about the cattle industry, watching the impact of the Live Export scrutiny on our fellow farmers in the Northern Beef Industry, I realise the greatest threat to sustainable red meat production in this country, is no longer harsh climatic conditions and volatile prices, but rather, whether or not our customers find our farming and animal welfare practices socially acceptable.

I also acknowledge that negative consumer images and perceptions about modern farming practices are seriously threatening farmers’ social licence to operate. I feel very passionate about ensuring I have the knowledge, skill sets and a team of people-around me, to help turn this around.

I identified the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions as a group of young people who felt just like me. A core focus of the program is to provide training in how to effectively engage and build relationships with consumers. Through our learning and interactioins we are finding this is an important foundation to success.

image

Meat and Livestock Australia Young Farming Champions

I  have just completed my first year of training, which involved learning how to tailor my presentation to an audience in a way that resonates and how to engage with school children. What is particularly exciting about the program is we are also able to engage with their teachers and friends to build a cohort of people who become ambassadors for agriculture and are excited about careers in agriculture.

As part of the program we also get to be the young faces of farming and go into schools participating in the Archibull Prize. This gives students the chance to ask questions about farming practices and careers in the agriculture sector. As part of the Archibull Prize the students create artworks, blogs and multimedia animations, which help take agriculture’s story well beyond the classroom

The program teaches us that the aim is not to educate. The aim is to engage and provide opportunities for consumers to have open, honest and transparent conversations. In this way, we are able to convey we care just as much about the environment and animal well-being as they do.

We are in turn able to show them how challenging it is to farm in a world with declining natural resources, and that if we are going to do this successfully, we need to build strong partnerships between agriculture and the community.

We are also given media training with a strong focus on handling the difficult questions. This has been particularly rewarding for me and shown me it’s not as hard as you might think.

I was recently asked to participate in a live radio interview with the ABC about an upcoming presentation I was to give to the NSW Farmers, Wagga District Council. Having completed a few interviews before with very supportive journalists, I knew I had been lucky and that this would not always be the case.

Prior to the event, I prepared my key messages and because of my Young Farming Champions media training, I was able to stay on message no matter how hard the journalist wanted me to focus on the negatives of agriculture.

In the past, I would have fallen into the trap the journalist set for me. However, I had recently attended a Young Farming Champions workshop where, in the safety of a training environment, I was grilled in the art of staying on message and getting the outcomes I wanted from the interview. This was a very rewarding experience and gave me new confidence

Next year I will have the opportunity to hone my skills by going into schools as part of Art4Agriculture’s programs. Once I have graduated to the next level, I will be given the opportunity to attend master classes, where I will learn how to engage with a diverse range of audiences. Art4Agriculture has recently built a relationship with Rotary and Young Farming Champions who have done master classes will now have an opportunity to present to Rotary groups across Sydney.

YFC 2014

If we want to go further we are given training in how to create a TED talk. We are also provided insights into the art of successful marketing and how important it is to take your audience on the journey with you

But there are plenty more people out there, who are just as passionate as me. People who want to be proactive and build relationships with the community, so we can all work together.

Similarly, they need training, mentoring and ongoing support. Too often I see passionate advocates provided with half day media training and then expected to talk to the media and get it right.

We all feel a huge responsibility when we talk on behalf of our sector and the industry we are part of. It is our responsibility to ensure that the people who take this role on are provided the best training and support, that people who are the faces of the corporate world receive.

We also need to acknowledge not everyone is suitable for this, and we need to support and show how people can value-add to advocacy in many different ways at a level that they are comfortable with.

I am using the skills, knowledge and networks I have developed as an MLA Young Farming Champion to help other youth recognise the social networks and relationships that underpin the new community interest in how our food is produced. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with consumers, and have two-way conversations, that will generate a mutual understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints.

I believe that as farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, however we have not historically been good at communicating this. Our narrative is not to change people’s values, but to demonstrate that farmers share these same values. We have immense pride in what we do; we just need to share these narratives beyond our farm gates to instil trust and confidence in our practices.

Rather than bombard consumers with more science, research or information, I believe it is integral that we demonstrate that we share our consumers’ values on topics that they are most concerned about—safe food, global warming, quality nutrition and animal welfare.

As part of the Young Farming Champion team I now have access to mentors and training, to help develop the skills sets, knowledge and confidence to be part of the solution. These mentors have hands-on, coal face experience, and share this openly and passionately- to help all those involved in the program. This experience is critical to our success- a crucial knowledge bank and practical resources that ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes that we may have made in the past.

We need to be talking about our farms and our values to become just another role  of the farmer. However it is important to note that this process does not involve educating people, but rather being open and transparent when they want to engage with us.

Just like farmers learn how to use  new farming equipment and technologies, we need to build up our farming community to be confident and have skills  to talk about what they do and why they do it.

My Young Farming Champion story has shown what is possible, it has shown what the backbone of the farming narrative needs to be, and that we can build a confident and skilled group of likeminded people, prepared to talk positively about farming.

It is important agriculture comes together, up skill its people and start telling its story to the world. While everyone has a different story, there are common messages and ways to tell our story that will start people talking positively about farming.

The farming narrative will be told

ht to Greg Mills and Ann Burbrook

#YouthinAg Leadership Hub

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia wide network of Young Farming Champions with diverse roles in the our  food and fibre industries that are passionate and skilled in sharing their values and experiences with the non farming community.

The program equips young farmers, in a safe and nurturing environment, to be the next leaders of agriculture on a national and world scale.

To be a leader you have to have many qualities including the desire, drive and courage to get the best outcomes for the common good.

Meat and Livestock Australia supported Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert is definitely a young man with a great deal of desire ,drive and courage. He recently penned this blog for the NSW Farmers initiative AgInnovators 

Uniting a fragmented industry

17th Nov 2014By Josh Gilbert, NSW Young Farmers

When R.M. Williams first opened his first store in Adelaide, Sir Sidney Kidman celebrated his birthday in the heart of the city with a rodeo and Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup, 14 percent of the Australian population was employed in Australian agricultural sector. Both rural and urban communities celebrated the industry and a career in agriculture was highly valued.

Today less than three percent of the Australian population is employed in agriculture. Our farmers’ commitment to producing high quality produce has never been stronger but a majority of urban consumers have little concept of what we do and appear relatively indifferent to the origin and quality of the food they select from supermarket shelves.

The bright light in what otherwise could be a depressing picture is the small but growing group of people in society who are interested in how their food and fibre is produced and who are willing to pay for quality.

It is these people who give us the best opportunity to create partnerships with our consumers and help ensure that the wonderful story of Australia’s agriculture gets spread further and wider into the future.

However, in order to have successful and lasting partnerships with consumers who really care about food quality and sustainable farm practice, we, as the Australian agricultural sector, need to come together as a connected, cohesive and collaborative industry. We need to start behind the farmgate, forming partnerships between farmers and the diverse subcategories we personally represent. Without well-founded industry collaboration, agriculture in Australia will not be able to provide a unified, coherent and respected voice that resonates with the community and government.

To emphasise the challenge we face in achieving unity, I want you to think of the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the words ‘agriculture’ or ”farming?

Are you thinking of a subsector such as beef, grain or dairy?

Or perhaps even a commodity like goat meat, cheese, seafood or apples?

Or what about something more specific like Braford Cattle or super fine Merino wool?

Or a farming region such Darling Downs or the Mallee?

Or state farming organisations like NSW Farmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Perhaps you are thinking of one of the plethora of commercial and government bodies in the agricultural sector providing advice, policy and services.

Currently, there are thousands of voices speaking for agriculture with different opinions and agendas and this is limiting our ability to form better relationships with each other, let alone our consumers. Is it any wonder that urban Australia and our politicians are confused about what agriculture stands for and what agriculture wants?

Of course every subsector of agriculture has different specific production methods and policy issues. But we have far more in common than we have differences.  In order for Australian agriculture to prosper we must agree on the main narrative –  which in my view is about sustaining the quality and integrity of our farming operations and products –  and deliver this narrative effectively with a unified voice. As part of this, we need to create better relationships within the industry, support our colleagues in their pursuits and actively show respect and encouragement for our fellow farmers.

One opportunity I am involved with that is achieving success is the Art4Agriculture program. The platform encourages Young Farming Champions from a variety of sectors to collaborate and discuss their ideas about the industry and how we can best move forward together. My involvement in this program has helped me to see other perspectives and has convinced me of the importance of achieving unity on the really important issues.

In order for our industry to receive the respect and admiration that we previously enjoyed, we must work together. We must formulate, collaborate and be innovative with our ideas as an entire industry rather than continuing to focus on what is happening within our respective boundary fences.

Well said Josh. We look forward to the day when silo farming is a thing of the past

free-range-farming

Calling youth in agriculture. Together we can achieve greatness

Joshua Gilbert Art4agriculture Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion ( sponsored by MLA ) and chair of the NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council had the opportunity to inspire young people in the audience at the inaugural Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball to be the change that agriculture must have

Wagga Ag Ball

Charles Sturt University students (from left) Albert Gorman, Eliza Star, Mikaela Baker, Brittany Bickford, Hannah Powe, Alex Trinder, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Leigh O’Sullivan are organising an agricultural networking event. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Today I share this wonderful speech with you

Josh Gilbert

 Josh Gilbert -photo thanks to Hannah Barber

Tonight, I want to challenge your thoughts on how we communicate as an industry. It starts with a few facts, and how a shift in these completely changes how we are viewed and operate as an industry.

  • In the next 30 years, 50% of the world’s farming land will change hands.
  • We are faced with the oldest average age of workers, running in at around 56.
  • There are 135,000 farm businesses across Australia which means we have 135,000 farmers who are CEO’s.
  • One Australian farmer on average feeds an impressive 600 people on less land, compared to one farmer feeding 20 people 70 years ago.
  • Our great nation is said to have been ​founded on the sheep’s back.

To me these statistics can only mean one thing- there is and will continue to be opportunity for youth in agriculture. But just like our machinery improvements and technology gains and the different styles of farming we see today, we too need to move with the times and change the way we communicate and market Australian agriculture, both here at home and of course overseas.

I expect the Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball will become an annual event for us to discuss these changes. That we will have the opportunity to meet back here each year and challenge our ideals and ways of thinking, so we can best move forward as an industry. I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event and also recognise my NSW Young Farmer colleagues in the room.

Recently someone close to me told me that I can’t need something. That I can’t use this word to try and change things. And while at the time I argued until I was blue in the face that I knew better, I was wrong.

This got me thinking about our marketing strategy for agriculture and how we bombard ourselves and our consumers with statements such as ‘every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’ or that we should ‘ thank our farmers because we ate today’. And while you and I understand the rationale behind this, I think we’re sending the wrong message out to people who don’t necessarily share our enthusiasm or knowledge of our industry.

So this poses the next question. Why is it that we use this language?

Is it because we feel we are the forgotten ones?

Is it out of fear of losing something that means a lot?

Is it because we feel undervalued?

Is it out of insecurity that we have our “right to farm” and at times our farming practices being questioned?

Whether we like it or not there will always be consumers who don’t care where their food comes from as long as its affordable and nutritious. And in reality this is a good thing and our role as farmers is to maintain or enhance the underlying faith those consumers have in the food and fibre we produce.

There is however up to 10% of the population who care very much about how their food and fibre is produced and are questioning modern farming methods. It is imperative we acknowledge that part of our role as a farmers and members of the agriculture sector is to actively engage and build honest and transparent relationships with these consumers. It is imperative that agriculture offers them access to real farmers and the opportunity to ask questions even the difficult ones. Its is imperative that our farmers not get defensive and have the skills sets and knowledge to engage  with non farmers audiences in a language that resonates with them.

It is essential that each of us be prepared to tell our stories, that we put a face to and share our values of why we farm the way we do to help ensure the community has the confidence that our farmers are committed to producing affordable, nutritious, safe food and quality fibre. This is the greatest opportunity and most effective way we have to connect with our consumers.

Trust, respect, pride and faith in farmers and farming practices are developed through positive messages and transparency, through messages that build a connection and pride  Playing the sympathy or the you “need me” card on the other hand only polarises the very people it is so important we build these connections with. The truth is farmers and consumers need each other.  We must rise above this ‘them and us’ mindset and focus on sharing with the community that Australian farmers are committed to being leaders on the world’s stage in safe, affordable nutritious food and quality fibre production.

To ensure that we get the ball rolling tonight, I’d like for you all to pull out your phones. I have a tweet here that will link to my Facebook that states ‘The future ag leaders at #WACAgBall14- we all love what we do, we are all proud of what we do,so let’s share it with the world’. What I’d like you to do is this- retweet, share, like, comment, favourite the message and start sharing your stories. If we are to create this change- we need to start working on it now.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to keep the conversation going. Think about why you’re involved in agriculture, the impact that you play and what you want the future to look like. Then plan and share- because together we can achieve greatness.

Together, we can show that Australian agriculture has deserves the respect, pride and idolisation that we received decades before and still does.

 

Thanks Josh very inspiring indeed

Meet Josh Gilbert who believes the beginning has the seeds of everything else to come

Today’s guest blog post comes from Josh Gilbert who is combining a degree in law with a role on the NSW Young Farmers Council to advocate for young farmers. Josh is a great believer in the ethos of Eric Thomas.

‘You are the executive director and screenwriter of your life…. Never underestimate the importance of the beginning. The beginning has the seeds of everything else to come.”

This is Josh’s story ………

Hi, my name is Josh Gilbert. I’ve just completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Newcastle and now in my final year of my Law degree. I currently have a Finance Cadetship at the ABC, but my dream is to provide high quality legal advice to those living in the country, while building a large scale agricultural corporation.

My blog today shares with you my agricultural journey thus far and gives insights into my hopes for the future.

My love of agriculture started on my Great Grandparent’s farms in the Mid North Coast of NSW. My family have always been farming, with my Dad’s side producing beef cattle and my Mum’s all being dairy farmers.

Josh Gilbert Tractor

Me with my dad on my grandfather’s tractor

I grew up in the wheat and sheep belt of the Northern Canberra Tablelands- in a small town called Boorowa. The town boasts a rich pastoral and Irish heritage, primarily emphasised by the Running of the Sheep every year. It is in this community that I learnt of the importance of local farms and the impact that farming families had on a small community.

My family moved back up to the coast in 2000 and a few years later purchased a part of my Grandfather’s dairy farm and started a Braford cattle stud which we called Riverside Park Brafords.

Josh Gilbert

My first Brahman cattle purchase

We are now third and fourth generation Braford breeders, originally chosen by my Great Grandfather due to their natural resistance to ticks and their tolerance to droughts.

Brafords

One of our newest calves- Riverside Park Marvelous

Whilst I originally chose a career in law since we established our cattle stud and working on the farm, my enthusiasm for the agriculture industry has been re-ignited. This passion has prompted me to join the NSW Farmers- Young Farmers Council and seen me attend the 2013 Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship in Sydney.

Josh Gilbert WABS

Touring the meat aisle at the 2013 Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship program

Inspired by cattle pioneers James Tyson and Sir Sidney Kidman and my interest in business and commerce, I have big aspirations to create one of Australia’s largest, privatively owned, mixed enterprise, farming companies. I have since started working towards this dream, attending cattle courses, writing farm profitability formulas and conducting further research into the field.

However, my interest in agriculture stems beyond my personal endeavours- with further concerns around farmer mental health issues, the need for assistance to encourage young farmers and the vital role of education for viable farming futures. I believe Government policy and funding is strongly needed in these areas, with agricultural industry support and guidance to help implement suitable measures.

Australian agriculture, especially the beef industry, is supported by strong historic foundations. I believe the long term viability of beef cattle production now relies on farmers getting a fair return for their efforts, community support, adaptation and adoption of environmentally sound farming methods, while ensuring animal care standards are delivered at the highest level.


“You got an opportunity to make a dream become a reality – and when you do, you just got to take advantage of it.” – Eric Thomas

I believe the future of the agriculture sector rests in our hands and it is up to us to ensure we build capacity to continually improve the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of Australian agriculture.

There are many difficulties facing farmer’s everyday, namely; ageing and fewer farmers, difficulties in the retention of younger generations, mental health issues, problems ensuring profitability, concerns obtaining finance and reduced consumer knowledge of where their food comes from combined with increased consumer expectations about how their food is produced. While there are many challenges facing the agriculture sector at large, I believe there are many opportunities.

To take advantage of these opportunities, it is pivotal that the agriculture sector has a unified voice and a cohesive, united brand that we are all proud of. That farmers share their enthusiasm and passion for what they do and why they do it with not only the rest of Australia, but also the World.  It is equally important that farmers have the opportunity to improve their business skills and have access to mental health services, while also drawing upon the ability to develop quality relationships along the food chain with our urban communities.

Young people have the opportunity to gain a broad education that allows us to work off farm to increase our knowledge of successful business practices and gain an appreciation for urban life. This also provides us with a chance to discover the ways urban and rural can work together to ensure the agriculture sector prospers.

Our government will also have a strong role to play. Together, farmers and government must develop policies that will assist young people to access the capital that’s required to get into farming and provide additional financial education to ensure realistic business accounting. Currently, the costs of farmland and infrastructure are a huge barrier to many younger farmers, with government intervention the most applicable way to help change this situation.

Further policy is also needed to help encourage young people to become involved in agriculture and help the sector realise its potential. Additionally, we also need to continue to develop higher-level skills and training for the sector, while promoting agriculture as a positive, diverse and rewarding career path.

Greater skills and knowledge in areas such as finance, marketing and legal, is the key to helping farmers think actively and ask questions to ensure our personal businesses and the wider industry grows. I believe our entire future livelihoods rest primarily on the engagement, recruitment and retention of these people.

We have a real chance to make these dreams a reality. We have the opportunity to make the agricultural profession as reputable and important to others as it once was. It won’t be easy, but the rewards will be great.

I look forward to taking an active role and working with farmers and our communities to realise this.

Well said Josh and I am sure you will agree with me that Josh is a young man prepared to do the hard yards to achieve his big dreams.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams, just know that all roads that lead to success have to pass through Hardwork Boulevard at some point. Eric Thomas                                             

You can read Josh’s Target 100 profile here