Author: Cindy Cassidy, 2015 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award
As featured in The Country Web magazine issue 63, published August 2016
As the 2015 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner for NSW-ACT and in my role with FarmLink, I am driven by my commitment to the future of Australian farming. This passion and drive comes primarily from my family who are fifth generation farmers.
I believe research and innovation are key to securing our farming future. When I think about the future of farming in this country I envisage: productive, profitable, sustainable farms; prosperous, healthy farming families; and robust, vibrant rural communities.
A future that is as positive as it is achievable is dependent on: recognition at a social and government level of the important role that our farmers play; development of sustainable farming systems; and ultimately, the ability of our farmers to adapt to change.
Farmers feed and clothe the nation. The food and fibre that they produce supply the needs of Australian citizens and those of our neighbours. Our agricultural sector is an important source of export income and it is a food security asset. It is encouraging to see this recognised in the Agricultural White Paper, along with a growing social awareness of where food comes from. But we can take it further. Farmers should be feted as heroes.
Regardless of what each of us do day to day, it is our farmers who truly put dinner on the table and the shirt on our back. Focusing on the mental health and wellbeing, as well as the social, physical and financial wellbeing of our farmers as a national priority is important in securing the future of farming.
Reaching the stage where our farming systems are sustainable as well as productive and profitable delivers benefits for all Australians. And it is often our farmers who are best positioned to preserve and enhance our land and water resources. They have considerable personal wealth and family history invested in their land and water. The motivation to protect and enhance these natural resources for both productive and personal reasons represents a real asset to the pursuit of sustainable farming practices.
The opportunity to work with farmers to achieve sustainable environmental, economic and social outcomes is real and one that is being recognised in our evolving approach to Landcare, among other things.
Public opinion and government policy that recognises and supports farmers in their pursuit of a prosperous future is one part of the equation. The other is very much about the farmers themselves.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is often referred to as ‘survival of the fittest’. When in fact the key element of his theory was that ‘it is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’.
A key determinant of the future of Australian farming is the ability of our farmers to adapt to change. Agricultural research is the key to the creation of new ideas and technologies in response to change. As a nation we invest around $470 million annually in Agricultural research and development. However, it is the development of technologies and ideas into practices that can be adopted; and the act of supporting farmers in their adoption, that sees us overcome constraints and create more productive, profitable and sustainable farms.
At a recent FarmLink event I was excited to hear one of our members, who had worked on the family farm for more than 15 years, finally felt able to call herself a farmer rather than a farmer’s wife. Women represent 50 per cent of the agricultural workforce worldwide. Equally, young people are important sources of farm labour and must be recognised as the future.
I love hearing my young daughter and her cousins proudly describe themselves as farmers. Farmers are a mixed bunch. While they are passionate about producing food for the nation and committed to the ever-changing face of Australian agriculture, our farming future is in fact everyone’s responsibility and everyone’s reward.
Next issue of the The Country Web
Out 2017 annual issue of The Country Web will explore the theme Connect and Collaborate. We want to hear from contributors about creating meaningful connections, mentoring and sharing wisdom, books and people that have inspired you. Contributions are due by 21 April 2017 for publication August 2017. Send your contributions to RWN