PICTURE this: it’s 1957 in Australia. Your car is a chrome-smothered FE Holden, your Prime Minister is Robert Menzies and Peter Costello was just born. Queen Elizabeth was in her fifth year of reign and the population was just over 9.5 million.
Slim Dusty’s "A pub with no beer" is all the rage and if you're installing a kitchen, you're probably thinking lime green and pastel pink tones.
It's also the year a 23-year-old man has his first drop of 1800 lambs on a east-coast property in Tasmania.
He's newly married and after growing up in Hobart, he's now farming following four years as a jackeroo.
He's £25,000 in debt but has a burn for success that’s vital among youth in our industry. At the peak of this lambing, he's washed away in 10 inches of rain on a freezing day and he bumps around picking up freezing lambs, ferrying them back to his wife. She rotates them in the “plate warmer” in the slow combustion wood stove to keep them alive. Not a success.
On his last load for the night, as he stumbles around in the dark, soaked to the bone, he pauses. He looks up into the black night and with shivering fists and tears in his eyes he screams “Why?” - a question we’ve all asked.
This moment, this man: this is my grandfather.
This is a classic example of the struggle we have in our industry, not just in caring for and producing animals.
As an industry we’ve become tough and resilient in these situations, dealing with the emotional, physical and financial obstacles. And this event, like so many we've lived through, sits alongside droughts, dollar rises, commodity price flutters, floods and now activist movements.
However there's a new obstacle we face in Australian agriculture: although it can’t be seen, touched or felt it’s as real as those freezing lambs and the emotion my grandparents felt on that grim day in August.
This new challenge farmers and agribusiness professionals have to face up to is the “brand” of agriculture.
Think of a big brand, national or international, and you’ll find the bigger they are, the more effective they are, and the richer and more comprehensive their culture is.
Brands create culture. And it’s the strength of a culture that determines it’s penetration and success and longevity. It’s often said a brand is the single most valuable asset to a company.
So how healthy does our brand look?
I’ve been asking this question in all levels of our industry and urban areas for months on end, and I’m afraid to say, strength, effectiveness and continuity are not words I’ve heard. Our brand is creating friction, indecisiveness and a disjointed feeling amongst us, and it shows.
Our brand doesn’t fill our consumers with confidence, pride or faith. And it’s this that makes us vulnerable to activist groups and alike. The overall culture in Australia still gives us a special spot as it’s a huge part of our history, but from where I’m sitting, we’re not building on that.
So before it fades further, we’re looking at an imminent re-brand. Like Harley Davidson in the mid 80’s, Apple in the 90’s and McDonalds going from fat to fresh in the 00’s. It’s possible, and please don’t put it in the ‘too-hard’ basket.
We will always rely on and give time to the grunt, determination and passion of men and women like my grandparents, but we also need to support and be proactive about the new breed of professional men and women in agriculture - those that are needed to “re-package” what we do as a safe, healthy and bright industry, one that our population and millions of others are proud to tuck into every day.
I’m committed, as are many others who are devoted to this uniquely diverse and wonderful industry. What about you?
Sam Trethewey is a third generation farmer from Tasmania, now based in Victoria. Sam's message is 'think clearly, get muddy': inviting everyone to be clearer in and on farming by rolling up their sleeves, learning and taking action.