I was somewhere a little while ago and heard a quote, from whom I can’t remember and I didn’t write it down at the time, the essence of it was to investors in agriculture: ‘if you don’t love your land, find someone who does and let them.’
Many of us will be able to relate to this sentiment, and for me it was one of those random moments which reminds of a very basic principle, this one being that the passion for managing our country in a sustainable and responsible manner is one of our greatest strengths in Australian agriculture.
The strongest agricultural businesses that I have been involved with have been either family owned and operated businesses or long term investment properties that have had long-term managers running them. There are so many intricacies with understanding land and getting to know your property and it is astounding to still hear the comments of amazement from some people who have purchased well managed properties and cannot work out why they can’t get it to achieve the same performance as the previous owners/managers, when they place a somewhat pre-determined management approach over it.
Speak to anyone who has grown up on or spent a long period of their life on a piece of land and you will quickly realise what they know can’t be read about or learned in a classroom or indeed on any other piece of land.
Very few people, relative to the number working in agriculture, will get the chance to do this, particularly in corporate agriculture. But, the opportunity here is to make the most of knowledge and experience from the senior people and through giving the opportunity (where feasible) to younger people to gain exposure to different situations in terms of land, business and enterprise management. By providing exposure to a range of situations, we are enabling a much more resilient and broad thinking cohort of people who will be well positioned to manage agricultural businesses as they progress through their career. This could happen on a local scale for example with three or four producers who don’t have enough work for a full time employee, but between them would have, a salary structure and housing arrangement could be organised and the critical timings worked out for each of the businesses for that employee to be placed through the year most efficiently for all involved.
We had a field day out here (Hay) last week with a fantastic group of university students studying agriculture and a presenter offered that if you’re going to work with farmers in any capacity, get a job on one and get some good practical experience. I would hazard a guess that half these students won’t be able to find a good on farm job, and will therefore lose out on gaining experience that could otherwise be paramount to a valuable contribution to our industry.
We should all keep that in mind.
Dan Korff is Chair of the Future Farmers. This article first appeared in The Land, Fairfax Ag Media, "Work to ensure an agricultural future"