The DemoDairy Foundation was pleased to provide funds towards Carlie Barry attending the Regionality Farm2Plate Exchange in Queensland recently. Carlie’s comprehensive report is provided below.
An Unconventional Convention- Regionality Farm2Plate Exchange Scenic Rim QLD May 2021
By Carlie Barry
As an organic dairy farmer focused on sustainable farming practices and interested in expanding our paddock to plate enterprise, the opportunity to attend the Farm2Plate exchange was not to be missed.
Taking time off-farm during possibly the busiest time of the year, calving, along with managing three little kids, was not a decision taken lightly and with support from my Husband Owen and Mum, I was able to make it happen. I am also very grateful to the DemoDairy Foundation for their support and thanks to the Foundation I was subsidised part of my conference and travelling costs which was very appreciated and I encourage any dairy farmers looking to further their knowledge through attending conferences, courses or training to contact the DemoDairy Foundation to see what opportunities they have to offer.
The jam-packed two-day conference started with a bang with regenerative agriculture expert Charles Massey and Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe exploring the theme of renewal, how do we as farmers go from being seen as climate change contributors to being part of the solution? My favourite quote from Charles was “As a species, we are right on the edge. We may only have one generation to turn things around…We’ve got to get used to change so we can save the earth.” As the mum of four girls and of course a farmer, this really resonated with me as I feel that my generation has this fantastic opportunity to make a massive difference if equipped with the right tools and knowledge to make it happen.
Regenerative agriculture is the right thing to do by the people, soil, plants, business and society, and yes it can be a polarising topic, particularly with the older generation but it’s a conversation that needs to be had. I enjoyed Bruce’s talk on First Australians and how they incorporated working in harmony with ‘their country’ and for thousands of years practised regenerative farming in some of the most inhospitable areas of Australia. I was especially interested to learn more about how they would grow native grasses, harvest the seed, and make bread and there is a growing market now for these native grasses. However, the cost can be prohibitive with native seeds priced at upwards of $2000 for 25kg.
A large focus of the conference was paddock to plate produce, linking consumers with direct produce as this links in nicely with the organic and regen system. There were some fantastic guest speakers who were doing this well and on a large scale including Lauren Mathers from Bundarra Berkshire and Murray Plains Meat Co-Op who inspired me with her talk on the collaboration between herself and other local producers with the purchase of their own abattoir and on-site butchery. Collaboration was a theme that was touched on many times throughout the two days, and something I had not really thought about much before attending the conference, but the importance of linking in with other farmers in your region is so beneficial not only for business but also your community. There is no point being a lone ranger in the agritourism and paddock to plate game, there are no competitors, we are all in it together and it’s important to help each other out when we can. There can be many regulation hurdles when diversifying your business so if you can get help and advice from someone who has been down that pathway it can save many months or years of frustrating setbacks!
Agritourism is a growing industry and interestingly Queensland Farmers Federation was a major sponsor of the event with the goal for Queensland to be the number one Agritourism destination in Australia by 2030. I enjoyed the discussion on agritourism and some take-home messages were what agritourism visitors wanted from their experience – including authenticity, education, a photo or social media opportunity and most interestingly the fact that food and drink is the new souvenir.
We were very fortunate to spend the first night at Tommerup’s dairy farm where they combine farmgate produce including dairy, pork, eggs, lamb and beef with agritourism and they do it very well. Many consumers are disconnected from their food, it was only a generation or two ago that almost everyone had a grandparent or aunt/uncle on a farm but sadly due to the decline of smaller farms there isn’t that link anymore. People are learning about farming via YouTube and this can lead to a lot of misinformation. Giving consumers and children the opportunity to visit a real farm is not only beneficial for the farm business providing the service, but also for the industry.
One of the most engaging speakers was Professor David Hughes, based in the UK, who spoke about how COVID-19 has changed consumer preferences. The EU Green Deal was also discussed, and organics and regenerative ag is part of the strategy. The EU is very influential in regards to regulation and policy and the market will need to respond. The EU Green Deal’s agenda is ultimately to influence the world. People will in the future need to adapt to paying more for food, eating less but eating well.
Attracting and retaining young people in agriculture is a topic that I’m very passionate about, particularly with my background as a first-generation dairy farmer who has grown our business with my husband from the ground up and also from my previous involvement with the Victorian Young Farmers. I was enlightened to see so many excited and enthusiastic young people at the conference and there were speakers such as Shannon Kelly from Full Circle Farm and Alex Sims from Hand to Ground that spoke about their journey from a career unrelated to farming, to now running paddock to plate regenerative agriculture enterprises. It was their exposure to regenerative ag podcasts and videos from Regen Gurus such as Joel Salatin that started them on their journey to a healthier and more rewarding lifestyle for their families and the desire to provide sustainable healthy produce direct to the conscious consumer. After listening to their talks, and with Joel Salatin himself presenting at the conference, I do honestly believe that if we want to attract the next generation, we need to be more open to different farming systems and practices as well as diversification. The upcoming generation is hungry for change and the majority do want to make a difference whether it’s by making more informed purchases or by taking the big leap and actually growing their own produce and we as an industry need to engage better with these conscious consumers and potential new entrants.
After attending the conference, I have returned with new knowledge, ideas, and networks that I believe will be beneficial for not only my own business but for the wider community and dairy industry. Strong, profitable farming businesses equal a strong healthy community and I look forward to implementing some of my many ideas in the near future and collaborating with other farming enterprises for a more resilient local economy.
Thanks again to the DemoDairy Foundation for supporting my attendance at the conference and in closing I’d like to share this message from speaker Alex Sims which resonated with me having experienced many ups and downs during our personal farming journey…
“If you are in beginning of your regenerative journey, and need hope, know this – The World Needs You”
Woolvie Jerseys and Golden Girls Organics