We hear all the time about the need for young people to be attracted into agriculture, and the difficulties, particularly in getting them interested in livestock. Just recently I have heard a number of people say that the high prices will get them in. “Look there is money in livestock. It’s the place to be”.
Firstly it is critical to understand that money isn’t everything with the younger generations coming through our ranks. Absolutely it is important, but it certainly isn’t everything. There is a threshold where money falls out of the equation, because that need is satisfied, and the conversation quickly turns to “bigger” things, like:
Autonomy – the ability to manage themselves and control their own destiny.
Mastery – the opportunity to be the best they can possibly be.
Purpose – being part of something bigger than themselves.
Also consider the fact that livestock pricing (lamb, mutton, wool, beef) across the board recently has been sitting close to the 99th percentile when compared to pricing of the past 15 years. So by the time a young person entering the industry has a chance to really earn money generated by livestock, which direction will prices have most likely moved???? Down. Hopefully not far, but nevertheless, down. So is price really that much of an incentive? It will help, but it isn’t the answer.
So take a moment to think about what influenced your decision to become involved in the industry? Was it as simple as “mum and dad did it, so I will too”? This week I have been forced to reflect on that again myself with the passing of my Grandmother. As a kid who grew up in town, my influence came from my grandparents on both sides of the family, and my Uncles, Aunties and Cousins who were all on dairy, sheep or cropping farms.
What was it that really got you hooked? For me it was bringing cows in for milking down in the Otways in pouring rain, washing out the dairy, losing your gumboot in the mud and waiting for someone to rescue you. At the age of 2 I had already made my decision. I would be a farmer (I didn’t know about consultants back then!). Later it would be my time rounding up sheep, helping pen-up at crutching, drenching ewes, and everything else in between on my other relatives’ properties.
To this day the smell of the bush in the Otways takes me immediately back to those times in an instant. Or perhaps it is those days with constant rain, but no wind. For some reason they take me there too. It’s interesting though, both my brothers did all the same things as me, and while they love the bush, they were never going to pursue agriculture. So what was the difference?
I wanted to be my grandfather. Grandpa Jackson was the most impressive person I had ever come across. In my mind he was huge. Larger than life. A dairy farmer, doing something he had always wanted to do.
His path to farming wasn’t exactly standard either. He was a fitter and turning in Melbourne who had an affinity with the land. He wanted to be a dairy farmer. So he bought a book, a farm, and moved his pregnant wife and five kids down into the depths of the Otways. Brave man.
No one could tell him that it wouldn’t work. He had a burning passion and was always going to make it work. If you want to know where my interest in Ag came from, that is it. One man, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, who inspired me to do the same.
It is never the money, the type of farm, the fancy campaign to attract people to the industry. It is always the people. If we want people to come into agriculture, then we need to inspire them. Show them the excitement, show what we love about it, why we love getting out of bed every day.
Is that what they see of our industry though? Hell no. They see drought, they see how hard farmers work, how difficult life is, how we need financial help, how we are “salt of the earth” (which can be translated as dumb, but nice), how we wear big hats, and have a piece of straw hanging out of our mouth. Is that you? I highly doubt it. But that is what people see, because that is what they are told. That won’t inspire a single bloody person to get involved in Ag.
So where is the inspiration? It will come from you. Every one of you. No more excuses, no more playing the victim, and no more letting others tell our story. If you are genuinely excited about what you do, and how you do it, tell someone!
I hate the word AGvocacy, because I believe it has the potential to result in people pushing a bullshit story that doesn’t actually exist. I don’t want you out there pushing your beliefs onto others. I just want you to be excited about what you do, and show even just a bit of that to others. Excitement is infectious, and inspiration comes from genuine people, not marketing campaigns.
So are you doing your bit to inspire others, like my Grandma & Grandpa did for me, or are you pushing people away from Ag with a lacklustre attitude, or persistent moaning about seasons?
We happen to be involved in the best industry there is. With the technology and opportunities coming, if you aren’t excited about livestock right now, you never will be. As I farewell my grandmother next week, I will be farewelling another piece of the inspiration puzzle that got me into agriculture.
June Edith Jackson, aged 93, 27/3/24 – 19/6/17.