Being a young grain farmer is one of the best jobs going around. You can be your own boss and every day is a different challenge. Farmers combine science, technology, problem-solving and strategy to grow food and fibre to feed and clothe literally thousands of people. And you live in that most beautiful of places, regional Australia!
There are many entries into the job of a farmer. You could grow up on the family farm, leave school at Year 10 and go straight into it. Or you head to university and complete a degree in agronomy or ag science before ending up on the farm. Many of my friends that I grew up with went and got a trade, usually as a mechanic, fitter and turner or boilermaker before returning to their first love of farming. Then there are those that see agriculture from the ‘outside’ and come from a totally different background whether it be from the city or another industry but see the prospect of becoming a farmer as a viable career path.
The opportunity to run a multi-layered business where the turnover and income can be substantially more than the average 9-5 trade or sales job is tantalising for many, but also requires long hours and weekend work, as well as a hundred different skills from operating heavy machinery, mechanical repair, agronomy, business acumen, plumbing, accounting, marketing, building, not to mention relationship building with the myriad of suppliers, agents and consultants required to assist in the operations of a farm.
In my experience working across a couple of different sectors as well as on the family farm for a number of years, the all-consuming nature of farming and agriculture can limit professional development. Taking time away from the farm to complete a course – whether it is in business management, leadership, or agronomy – is often frowned upon or put in the ‘too hard’ basket. But invariably the most successful farmers are those that take the time away from the farm to focus on their own strengths and weaknesses and look to continually improve how they think and operate.
However, professional development opportunities can open the eyes of a farmer and small gains in the management of the farm can add tens of thousands of dollars to the bottom line. The value of getting off-farm, taking a step back and assessing what is working and what is not is often overlooked.
But where do you start? GrainGrowers’ conference for young farmers Innovation Generation is a great ‘first step’ for growers who want professional development but are not sure where to dive in. The conference brings together over 30 presenters that cover a huge range of topics like succession planning, grain marketing, leadership, mental health, just to name a few. There are also four off-site industry tours, including John Deere’s national headquarters, a baking for non-bakers course, brewery tour and a look at the local sugar cane harvest.
Meeting like-minded young farmers from across the country is an added bonus of attending the conference, sharing ideas and opportunities about how to overcome some of the challenges faced by each other. After a year of no events, it is a great opportunity for farmers to get together and begin on their own journey of professional development.
Words by Daniel Reid, Events Manager at GrainGrowers