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Setting the scene

Six months ago, while in the midst of drafting the 2021 State of the Australian Grains Industry Report, I found myself in a room discussing ways to share the key facts of the report and the grower stories that make the industry so interesting. With our members spending so much time in vehicles and machinery, an obvious option was to develop a podcast series featuring the best and brightest.

As the meeting progressed, it was assumed, to all but me, that I would be the host. Two thoughts simultaneously rushed through my head: I don’t have the experience and the time to do this; and, this could be an amazing experience.

Here is what I learnt from hosting and developing a six-part podcast series on the Australian Grains Industry.

1. Overrule the voice in your head – be courageous

I had wanted to do something in this space for many years, but I never had the opportunity or took the time (or indeed had the courage) to make it happen. So often in our professional lives, we let the day’s to-do-list dominate, which stops us exploring the weird and wonderful things that we could do, if only we had the time.

Sometimes we need to forget the to-do-list and take a leap of faith.

This was one of those moments where the voice in my head begged – don’t do it, you don’t have time for this. Really though? If you think about the purpose of GrainGrowers – building a more profitable and sustainable grains industry for the benefit of Australian grain farmers – how could I not have time for this? The benefits abound such as:

  • Engaging with our members and discussing what makes them tick, exploring their early memories on the farm, the challenges they face and the successes they’ve had
  • Speaking to industry experts about their perspectives and how our industry has solved the tricky problems that have arisen and how we’ll solve the looming challenges ahead
  • Learning a new skill set, being pushed out of my comfort zone and being challenged
  • Working with an amazing podcast producer to see how a podcast gets made from the inside

And so off we went.

2. Find your voice

Having listened to so many podcasts over the years, and appearing on one earlier in the year, I thought, how hard it can be? Upon reflection, it’s hard.

Firstly, it takes a lot of time to build a narrative and map out what you want to achieve. Finding the key messages that you want to ‘pop’ and ensuring that the content is aligned. Also, owning the space and have the confidence to be bold, to engage and to enquire.

3. The people

Once the scaffold was developed, we had to map the interviews, and find the talent. With 20,300 farmers nationally and a huge pool of industry professionals, it’s no mean feat picking the ones that help bring the vision to life.

You have to work through the topics to discuss, find the evidence and the data to support the conversations and insights for each guest. And this needs to be stitched together in a way that is coherent for the listener.

4. A global pandemic making face-to-face interviews difficult

Designing a podcast with guests from across the country in urban and regional areas sounded like a great idea. But during a global pandemic…This meant we couldn’t always sit across the table from those we interviewed. We had to postpone interviews while we waited for negative COVID-19 tests and so on. We had to juggling face-to-face where possible along with the need to do it virtually.

5. Refining 20 hours of interviews for a short podcast is hard work

When all the interviews are completed, the wizardry begins – the long process of finding the gold and mashing it all together in a way that works for the listener. This is where great podcast producers come into their own. We were so lucky to work with @Rhiannon Mooney, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the output was concise, considered and above all professional. The finished product was a vivid illustration of grain growers across Australia, their memories, their challenges and successes, and above all their ingenuity and passion for what they do.

Key takeaways

The passion within our industry runs deep. Passion for how we do things now, but importantly passion for the future – how we can continue to adapt and change to thrive in a different operating environment, characterised by a changing climate and a changing consumer. It’s heartening to know we have such great thinkers who are fully committed to ensuring we can meet the challenges ahead and latch onto the opportunities before us.

It’s been a fantastic opportunity and I am much richer for the experience. It’s one of the brilliant things about @GrainGrowers – we have the ability to try new things and be bold. If we don’t have the skills on hand, we can access brilliant minds to help us make it happen. What a privilege to get these opportunities, and what a platform from which to grow personally and professionally.

Check out the report or listen to the podcast here.

(Pictured with Ag Minister David Littleproud in Canberra)

Words by GrainGrowers General Manager - Policy & Advocacy, Zach Whale.

The special 6-episode State of the Australian Grains Industry Podcast is available to listen on all major streaming platforms including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify and is host by Zach Whale.