Preaching farmer pride
Farmers find different ways to feel proud about their work. Some look at a well-fed cow or a fast-growing pasture and reflect on the good job they have done. Anne Adams’ proudest moment came after talking to a church women’s group in Warrnambool.
“I was invited to speak about the dairy industry,” Anne said. “Afterwards two dairy farming women came up and said I made them proud to be dairy farmers. I thought that was a good day’s work.”
Anne has put in many a ‘good day’s work’ for the dairy industry, which led to her induction this year onto the Western Victorian Dairy Industry Honour Board.
Anne joined the dairy industry in 1966 when she married Graham Adams and moved to his family farm at Wangoom.
Having grown up on a dairy farm it was not foreign to her, although it was still a big change from her previous three years as a maths and science teacher at Warrnambool Technical College.
They started with 191 acres and after expansion were at one stage milking 700 cows.
Now retired, Anne remains an interested industry onlooker. Their son Alistair and his wife Andrea now own the farm while Anne continues to live at Wangoom.
In the early 1980s Anne suggested Graham become involved in United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) as the industry was facing significant changes and was experiencing a downturn.
“He said he was too busy and I should do it. That was the start of it.”
Anne became the Warrnambool branch president and secretary and delegate to No2 District Council, the first female member of the UDV Central Council and the UDV vice-president in 1993-95.
Her background in education influenced her ongoing involvement as a member of the UDV Education Committee and chairperson of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Education Committee, and member of Victorian Primary Industries Training Board, Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture, the University of Melbourne Institute of Land and Food Resources and South West Institute of TAFE.
Anne also became a board member of Australian Dairy Farmers and represented UDV members on the VFF General Council and the VFF executive.
Other notable appointments include the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority, Dairy Food Safety Victoria, Australian Dairy Corporation and chairperson of DemoDAIRY. Anne was an inaugural member of the Western Victorian Dairy Industry Committee, the precursor to WestVic Dairy, and was a board member of the Warrnambool Co-operative, Western Herd Improvement, Genetics Australia, South West Water Authority and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Authority.
Her inclusion on the Western Victorian Dairy Industry Honour Board is just the latest of many accolades.
Anne says her most cherished award is a Centenary Medal for services to agriculture and agricultural education by the University of Melbourne Institute of Land and Food Resources.
In 1996 she received the Warrnambool City Council’s Rural Achiever Award and was a 2002 Churchill Fellow.
She says becoming active in the industry was worthwhile personally and professionally.
“It’s hard to manage a farm properly if you don’t understand the issues of the industry. “I know it’s hard for self-employed people to leave their business, but it pays off.”
Anne was particularly interested in farmer education and training and the uptake of new technology, and was chairperson during the establishment of DemoDAIRY.
“There was no focus in this region for dairy research and education,” she said.
“I knew that farming wasn’t necessarily something you had to learn from your father. The farming environment and industry and business environment was all changing.”
While technical and farming practice changes are obvious to Anne, she laments another industry trend.
“For me an important change, and it’s not a good change, is that cooperation seems to have gone. Farmers are not as collaborative as they used to be, which is reflective of wider society.”
Instead she sees farmers competing at the farm gate.
“Farmers concentrate on farming well but if it’s not going to be a regulated market place, the only control farmers have is through owning the manufacturing and taking control of where the milk goes. Farmers need the ability to negotiate on pricing. Individual farmers can’t do it on their own. That’s why I support the concept of Murray Goulburn.
“People ask why New Zealand has grown and we’ve struggled to maintain production. I think you need to look at the payment system and farmers taking some control in their marketplace.
“If I was starting now I would not dream of supplying anyone other than a cooperative. That’s the only way farmers can control their price.”
Anne says payment incentives have attempted to shift factory throughput risk back onto the farmer.
“Some people can do out-of-season production and it suits their farm, but it should not be driving the pricing.”
She also advocates the need for collaboration and the power of farmers working cooperatively.
Anne says industry organisations such as the UDV and VFF are important not only as a voice for farmers but to encourage more people into decision-making positions.
“Bill Shorten is Opposition Leader and came from the Australian Workers Union. Wouldn’t it be good if the leader of the conservative side came out of the farm network?”
Anne also says farmers need to face a changing world.
“I see a positive future but we have to be open minded about things like climate change and how it might affect our ability to trade.”
Her son went into dairying and Anne would encourage her grandchildren to follow the same route if they chose.
“Of course you would. It doesn’t matter how clever humanity becomes, we’re always going to need to eat.”