Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from immediate past chair Megan Moses.
Watching the current natural disasters unfold over the last few months I have marvelled at the efforts of the volunteers fighting drought and bushfires from all angles to defend their own communities, and many other communities across the east-coast. I personally know several spray pilots and firefighters from my own patch of turf in Moree, northern NSW, who have dedicated their time and resources to the bushfire efforts in NSW and Queensland, while many other friends and family members have rallied around drought efforts to provide water, fodder and preserve the mental health of our drought affected towns and businesses.
While I certainly can’t claim that my own volunteering efforts have saved as many lives and properties as these brave champions, I feel an undeniable sense of pride as I look back on my time volunteering with the Future Farmers Network (FFN). This will be my final column on behalf of FFN, as I retire from the Board in 2019 with very mixed emotions!
I joined the ranks of FFN in 2016 and I’m incredibly proud of the contribution that our team has made to the industry and the future of agriculture in that time. The role of Non-Executive Director in a not-for-profit organisation has many unique challenges, and as any volunteer knows all too well, there were moments where I wished there were more hours in the day. Balancing the everyday trials of life like moving house, changing jobs, planning a wedding, starting a family – Murphy’s Law will forever dictate that life really ramps up when you take on a volunteer role!
My own experience of volunteering has provided me with countless personal, business and life skills and some of my most valued friendships. It has also taught me the true importance of support from family, friends and colleagues, who have so often come to my aid when I have needed it most. I have no doubt that my tendency to over commit to volunteer causes close to my heart has certainly added pressure to my personal relationships, and these causes have only truly come to fruition thanks to a full team effort from my nearest and dearest.
My heart swells with pride when I see and hear stories of volunteers in action, especially in our own industry but more broadly as Australians. As Mother Nature’s disastrous conditions show no signs of abating in the short term, FFN would like to thank all our volunteers, in the limelight and the shadows, and encourage you all to look after each other and take a rest where you can. Your contribution is the most valuable gift we could receive this Christmas.
Wishing all FFN members, sponsors and readers a safe and happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from director Richard Kohne.
It is common for farming families to send their kids to their local capital cities for a formal education.
As they progress through school and sometimes university, opportunities arise that attract them to jobs in new industries and locations. Ultimately however, it seems these kids come to realise that life on the farm and in the country is in their blood and they look to return.
For some this may be as simple as calling their parents and asking for a job, but for others this option doesn’t exist.
So, what can the youth in agriculture do to get back on the farm? The increasing corporatisation of farming in the past decade has seen record levels of capital descending onto farmlands, contributing to a steady increase of land prices, which unfortunately now seem out of reach for most young farmers.
This is made more difficult by the unwillingness of most banks to provide loans to younger farmers who can’t demonstrate a history of profitable operations and likely do not have a material amount of collateral. It appears therefore that the traditional owner-operator model isn’t going to work for these young entrants.
Operating under a lease model removes the need for upfront capital however does not provide long-term certainty for the farmer over their land access and leases with an option to buy only deferring this requirement for capital (unless the farm has been extremely profitable during the lease period).
Share farming is another arrangement available, similar to the lease operating model however, instead of paying fixed charges farmers enter into a risk-weighted, profit-sharing arrangement. Again, unfortunately this does not provide land ownership unless a specific equity mechanism has been agreed and often young farmers feel they aren’t provided the autonomy required to influence results.
Perhaps a solution exists in history. Following the First World War, a soldier settlement scheme was implemented in each state to place servicemen who had fought overseas on Australian farms.
While the program was not perfect it does provide a concept worth exploring today.
While there may not be surplus farming land available for allotment, a government-funded program where individuals meeting certain criteria are provided with a long-term loan to purchase proven productive agricultural properties will greatly assist young farmers.
The loan might have annual key performance indicators to ensure the farms are staying viable and the land value is being preserved.
While the Agristarter Loans pledge is aimed to assist young farmers in a similar way to this, it appears to require a level of corporate debt to be obtained. Investing in a dedicated funding scheme of this nature would mesh with the current government’s goal to build vibrant rural and regional communities across Australia by increasing participation in farming.
Want to attend the Australian Dairy Conference in Melbourne next year but budget feeling the pinch? Then you’ve come to the right spot! FFN and ADC are giving out not ONE but TWO complimentary tickets!
It’s time to get inventive! We want to know…
Why do you want the dairy industry to be your future?
And you can tell us any old way you like! Write it, video it, photograph it, sing it – we really don’t mind! Just as long as you either EMAIL it to firstname.lastname@example.org or POST IT to social media and tag FUTURE FAMERS NETWORK & AUSTRALIAN DAIRY CONFERENCE, you’ll be in with a shot!
Oh two more things – we need you to be a FFN Member (sign up here) and we need your entry by 10 January 2019 pretty please!
Want more good news? For the first time ADC is offering a ‘Young Farmer’ registration for Australian dairy farmers aged under the age of 40 for only $440 (early bird farmer registration is $770).
Young dairy farmers around Australia are encouraged to consider the Australian Dairy Conference as a key forum to enhance and advance their career. ADC President and Tasmanian dairy farmer Ben Geard said that ADC was aiming to make Australia’s premier dairy event more appealing to the next generation of dairy leaders by making attendance both more affordable and accessible.
“ADC is a forum for farmers by farmers hence topics are specifically directed towards knowledge acquisition and advancement however the biggest value is about the people you meet from fellow farmers through to CEOs and global innovators.
“I think many young farmers probably don’t consider ADC a forum for them. However attending can really broaden your horizons and as a result we are opening up opportunities to encourage them to attend,” he said.
Only 40 young farmer tickets at $440 (GST inclusive) are available via an application process. Apply now here!
Article excerpt provided by SuperFriend and Sunsuper, a valued partner of FFN.
Major events like relationship break-ups or the death of a loved one can be life-changing. However, if an entire community goes through a challenging period, such as the droughts and bushfires we’re currently seeing, we need to work together as a community to lighten the load for each other.
Shared experience provides the opportunity for communities to come together in a way they may not do so otherwise. It is this connectedness that benefits our community and there are ways we can all encourage this connection, as a protective layer against the feeling of helplessness and despair.
If someone is doing it really tough – ask how you can help
Experiences that aren’t within our control often leave people feeling powerless. Something that can help a friend, neighbour or member of your community to restore some sense of control in their life is to ask their permission for anything that you do. This will also allow them to direct you to the most effective way you could provide support. The act of giving support to someone else is also one of the proven ways to improve your own wellbeing.
Give yourself permission to feel how you feel
Feelings of loss and sadness – even if they are not your own – can challenge us personally, as it is natural to share the pain of others. These feelings are completely normal at any time, and even more so during difficult circumstances. Your experience will be as unique as you are and there is no right or wrong way to go through trying times. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel and remind yourself that it will get easier.
Know what to do when you’re not feeling good
Not feeling good is your trigger to pick up the phone, text or go and visit someone you know. Even a short chat can bring us back to the present moment and away from feelings of worry. Everyone will have different coping mechanisms, so it’s important to know what yours are. Often people find that doing something practical gets them out of their heads. Practising mindfulness using an app like Smiling Mind or Headspace can get you ready for those times you need to focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past or future.
Care for yourself Sometimes it can be tough to help others. It can leave us feeling tired, sad or low. It’s as important to care for yourself as it is to care for those around you. An important part of this is knowing what your limits are. We all have limits to our time, our energy and our skills. By knowing the limit of what you can do, and by not going beyond that limit, you can avoid doing damage to yourself and the other person.
Find support when you need it
The mental health sector has developed excellent resources which collate helpful information around how to cope with natural disasters. We would encourage anyone impacted by the bushfires to familiarise yourself with these materials if you have an opportunity to do so.
Learn from the experts
SuperFriend is Sunsuper’s workplace wellbeing partner and together we support employers to build mentally healthy workplaces for their staff. Visit superfriend.com.au and head to the ‘Resource’ section to download a number of free resources including ‘Building Thriving Workplaces’ booklet.
Support tools to help in times of natural disaster
The world of agriculture has become increasingly complex and sophisticated. Global demand for food and fibre products is continuously increasing. With new markets, emerging technologies, globalisation of trade, climate change and sustainability, comes new opportunities.
Australia’s agricultural industry needs passionate professionals who are ready to help navigate these future markets. Professionals like Anika Molesworth. Anika is a thought leader, keynote speaker and researcher in international agricultural development. She’s won many agricultural awards, including the 2018 NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Award for Agricultural Innovation. Anika is also a two-time Charles Sturt University graduate.
“I have an unwavering love for what I do. Rural Australia is so beautiful, yet so fragile. The people in these places are so resilient, yet so vulnerable. I have great conviction for my cause – to create truly sustainable and resilient food and farming systems. I want to see healthy landscapes supporting prosperous farm businesses and vibrant rural communities. My future depends on it, and so does the future of the next generation of farmers.”
Anika’s interest in agriculture and sustainability began after she witnessed a decade-long drought on her family’s sheep farm near Broken Hill in far western New South Wales. She later began a career seeking ways to build resilience in fragile farming systems and help rural communities stay vibrant.
“I wanted to make a positive difference to a sector I care deeply about. To do that I knew I would have to get the right skills in my tool belt.”
Anika studied both a Bachelor of Agribusiness and a Master of Sustainable Agriculture with Charles Sturt University. And it was these experiences that helped shape how she approached her career.
“My time with Charles Sturt equipped me with critical and creative perspectives. It fostered systems thinking and encouraged me to never stop exploring and questioning. I was given some fantastic abilities and a knowledge bank I’ve been able to take out into the world.”
As part of her master’s, Anika joined a project with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. She moved to the town of Savannaket in Southern Laos to develop her understanding of Southeast Asian farming systems. Her research included investigating how farms were adapting to climate change.
Anika’s interest in climate change saw her establish Climate Wise Agriculture. This is a knowledge sharing platform that helps to facilitate the transfer of information and skills regarding climate change and farming.
Anika also helped establish Farmers for Climate Action. The organisation is an alliance of farmers and leaders in agriculture who work to ensure Australia takes the actions necessary to address climate damage and supports the farming community. Since its launch, the group has built a tremendous network of supporters, run climate smart masterclasses and sent delegations to Parliament House to discuss best strategies for a bright farming future.
Who is she? Kiri grew up on the mid north coast of NSW. Travelling long distances to attend horse riding events as a child and teenager, she fell in love with rural Australia. She is currently working for PwC Sydney in the Innovation & Ventures team, where she works on anti-counterfeit and traceability platform (PwC’s Food Trust Platform). Their goal is to mitigate the risk of food fraud in domestic and international markets, and to bridge the connection between producers and consumers. She is passionate about breaking down the rural and city divide, and giving Australian farmers a voice. It excites her that the platform they are building will allow producers to communicate directly with their end customer. Who was she most excited to hear from? “I am most keen to hear from is Krista Watkins, co-founder and Managing Director of Natural Evolution. Krista comes across to me as someone who has ‘challenged the status quo’ and is positively disrupting the food industry. As an industry, we are standing at a point in time where we can no longer continue the mentality of ‘business as usual’; we need women like Krista who re-imagine and reshape the way the food industry operates.” Emily Southwell – Assistant Relationship Manager, Westpac Agribusiness
Who is she? Emily grew up in Narrabri, NSW and has been interested in agriculture for as long as she can remember. Having grown up in the ‘millennium drought’, she decided to head towards a career in sustainable agriculture. A key part of sustainable ag is the ability to strategically plan for and finance different initiatives, be it efficient irrigation technology, carbon sequestration or succession planning, hence, why she has landed a career in agribusiness banking. Emily has worked for Westpac Agribusiness, as an Assistant Relationship Manager in Tamworth NSW since 2016. Who was she most excited to hear from? “I’d be most keen to hear from Lorraine Gordon, specifically in relation to her work in regenerative agriculture and valuing natural capital. If we’re going to combat the impact of climate change on agribusiness & primary industries, we can’t sit around and wait for government policy to save us. I am passionate about the role that private enterprise (e.g. lending institutions and insurance companies) can play in encouraging more sustainable land management.”
Thanks to our partner Liquid Learning for giving our members the opportunity to attend.
The Future Farmers Network Annual General Meeting will be held in Roma, QLD on Thursday 14 November 2019. If you are unable to attend the AGM, FFN encourages you to submit a proxy by November 12 to ensure your voting entitlements are executed.
You will find the following AGM documents attached:
Dylan Male is determined to make a real difference to the agricultural sector. The Charles Sturt University student wants to help tackle world hunger by improving agricultural systems in Australia and overseas.
Dylan’s passion for farming communities and agricultural systems was sparked from an early age.
“Growing up on a farm for most of my life, I have been exposed to agriculture and the great lifestyle that goes with it. There are so many different career pathways in agriculture that I find very appealing. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the processes behind how the world feeds itself.”
Excited by the possibilities that a career in the agricultural sector has to offer him, Dylan is driven to help solve existing problems and improve the agricultural systems of the future.
“Agriculture is such a broad field, with so many different potential career opportunities ranging from a district agronomist to working in government policy. There are many issues and challenges facing agriculture both now and into the future. My dream career would involve working to find solutions to help overcome these issues, which is why I am currently interested in following a research career pathway.”
Keeping true to his rural roots, studying at a regional university was always on the cards for Dylan. And as Australia’s top university for agricultural graduates who get jobs, Charles Sturt was a natural fit.
“I chose to study with Charles Sturt University for many reasons. Firstly, I wanted to study locally and in a regional location. Since I grew up in the Wagga region, Charles Sturt seemed like a great option for me. I found that the Wagga Wagga campus was perfectly located to pursue my passion for agriculture. The campus has agriculture literally right at its doorstep, with the Riverina region being known for its agricultural diversity.
“Studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at Charles Sturt University has really made me aware of how complex agriculture is and the importance of being critical of information.”
Practical learning makes all the difference for students studying agricultural science at Charles Sturt University.
“At Charles Sturt there is a big focus on getting students job-ready through participation in industry placements throughout their degree. At Wagga Wagga, we’re right next door to the NSW Department of Primary Industries so I’ve had opportunities to do work experience there. There’s also a Charles Sturt farm on campus, which is really handy because we get to go there for a lot of field trips.
“I would highly recommend coming to Charles Sturt University. Whether you’re from the city or country, they will welcome you with open arms. The student body is so diverse, there are so many courses offered and you’ll have a really good time!”
Are you ready to make a real difference in the agricultural sector? Charles Sturt’s Bachelor of Agricultural Science will equip you with a solid scientific foundation to develop new ideas and technologies, implement new agricultural practices and devise innovative ways to produce more from the world’s finite resources.
You can study online or on campus, full-time, part-time, or even a single subject at a time. And Charles Sturt will support you all the way. Find out more.
Australian farmers are becoming increasingly proactive when it comes to succession planning, with close to 70 per cent reporting they are actively looking to incorporate the next generation into their business through transfer of assets or shared ownership, according to a recent survey commissioned by agribusiness specialist Rabobank. This is up from just over 60 per cent five years ago.
For larger-scale operators – those with annual turnover above $1 million – the interest in succession planning was even greater, with 87 per cent indicating they are looking to transfer assets to, or achieve shared ownership with, the next generation. This is an increase on the 73 per cent of larger-scale operators who indicated the same intention five years ago.
With succession planning regularly identified as one of the key issues facing family farming in Australia, Rabobank head of succession planning Rosemary Bartle said the increased willingness to plan for future farm succession was encouraging news for the sector.
“Our work with farming families suggests farming businesses with a well-developed plan and family members pulling in the same direction have the greatest opportunity to increase profitability and grow wealth, enabling the farm to provide for future generations,” Ms Bartle said. “And this bodes well for the agricultural sector, as in so many cases the most efficient business model is the family farm.”
The recent survey of 1000 Australian farmers – which formed part of Rabobank’s latest quarterly Rural Confidence Survey – found 69 per cent of farmers overall are actively planning to incorporate the next generation into their business.
“This compares with 61 per cent in mid-2014 when farmers were questioned on this topic previously,” Ms Bartle said.
The latest survey found 46 per cent of Australian farmers are looking to transfer the farm operations to the next generation as part of the succession planning process, while 23 per cent want to share ownership of the farm with the younger generation of family members. Just 19 per cent said they are intending to sell the farm and exit the industry.
Ms Bartle said this increasing trend to incorporate the younger generation into the farm business was one Rabobank had been witnessing over the past 17 years since the bank began offering specialist succession planning facilitation services. Over this time, Rabobank have facilitated 550 family farming businesses through the succession planning process.
“We are seeing a greater willingness of families to talk about the future,” she said. “This stems from a changing culture, with family members more likely to voice their issues and concerns, and understanding that communication is the critical component of successful succession. We are also seeing more children wanting to come home, with the increasing economic prosperity of the sector and the exciting development in technologies.”
Ms Bartle said with increasing competition for farming assets, it is important for families to sit down and discuss ways to accommodate what each member of the family wants to do.
“Those families that start the planning process early, and develop a clear understanding of what the family and business wish to achieve, generally have more options available to them,” she said.
In most cases too, Ms Bartle said, the “driver has to come from the asset-owning generation as they need to be invested in initiating change”, with the process aided by engaging an independent facilitator.
“The role of the facilitator is then to make sure all issues are laid out on the table, and everyone has equal say and is listened to, so the complexity of issues can be explored,” Ms Bartle said.
“Ultimately, however, the plan is decided on by the family. As facilitators, we just bring our experience to the meetings and provide guidance on the process and examples of how other families have tackled similar issues.”
When discussing options, Ms Bartle said, families may need to consider providing opportunities for additional family members to become involved in the business, farm expansion and ensuring parents are in a position to retire if they wish to do so, as well as providing for those children not directly involved in the farming business by arriving at a decision on “what is fair”.
“Achieving fair inheritance for all children is often one of the most difficult issues families face in the succession planning process,” she said. “Quite often parents prefer inheritance to be equal, however the desire for equal inheritance is mostly incompatible with the family’s desire to continue the family legacy by passing on the family farm intact and as a viable business.
“Of all the families we have assisted in succession planning over the past 17 years, only five per cent have arrived at a situation of equal inheritance, which means that for all but a few, families need to come to an agreement around what is ‘fair’ inheritance for all children.”
Ms Bartle said it was also important that the process involved the family’s accountant and solicitor to ensure the proposed plan was realistic from a financial perspective, and could be supported by appropriate legal structures.
“While it may take two to three meetings, and in some cases more, to discuss the options the family has available to them, they are essentially setting a strategy for the future of their family and their family business,” she said. “And while these conversations can be hard, and families often put the process off because of its complexity, families that remain honest about their personal and business goals manage the process well.”
Recognising the growing need for succession services in the farming sector, Ms Bartle said, Rabobank had further bolstered its succession planning team with the appointment of two facilitators, Christine Lensing and Gavin Whiteley – bringing the team to four.
“Christine and Gavin both have a strong association with agriculture,” Ms Bartle said.
“Christine’s family have strong farming roots in South Africa and she has spent much of her career working in rural areas in South Africa and also the US.
“With graduate and post-graduate qualifications in ag science and economics, Christine started out at the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa before embarking on a career in agricultural banking in areas of credit risk management, financial and industry analysis, and agricultural advisory services.”
Ms Bartle said Mr Whiteley also had a lifelong association with the land, having grown up on his family’s cropping, sheep and beef farms in central New South Wales.
“Now based in Bungendore in southern New South Wales, Gavin is still actively involved in one of his family’s properties,” she said. “And with qualifications from Orange Agricultural College and the University of New England, Gavin has worked in accounting, finance and business consulting and also held senior roles at a number of well-known corporate agribusinesses in the cropping, beef and poultry sectors.”
Ms Lensing, who is based in Melbourne, will be responsible for providing succession facilitation services across Victoria and Tasmania, while Mr Whiteley will cover New South Wales and Queensland, and Ms Bartle will facilitate succession for families in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.