By Oli Le Lievre
Wow, well what a year it’s been, I feel like 2020 has thrown it all at us and then some. It only seemed fitting that I do a quick year in review from my bedroom - which has been my home and office this year.
At home in Australia, the lead in to 2020 was hazy, our cities spent months blanketed by smoke, our regions devastated by drought followed by the worst fires in history as we lived through the ‘Black Summer’ of 2019/20. 24 million hectares burnt, three billion animals were killed or displaced (9 News), followed by flooding rains the impacts of Climate Change on our doorstep with the world watching.
On the 8th of January I was in the freight facility at Melbourne Airport looking at Rock lobster bound for China as the first indications of the impact of Corona Virus began to show its face. Before we knew it our streets were empty and the shelves were bare, friends were losing jobs and a virus, in effect nature was in control. The world stopped.
With our lives fundamentally changing before our eyes I had so many questions that I wanted to ask - we needed to actually talk about these challenges, engage in real dialogue and challenge the status quo to deliver solutions that create more vibrant and prosperous societies.
In order to make agricultures influence in our daily lives relatable, I knew I needed to broaden our perspectives as who we see influencing our food and fibre system from paddock right through to plate. I needed people to share their own stories, yet I lacked the confidence and courage to speak about it myself and dreaded to put my face to it – my first video took me more than a week to upload after recording.
I reached out to Chef and co-Founder of Three Blue Ducks, Mark LaBrooy and with a gentle shove from Brianna Casey the Humans of Agriculture podcast was launched, complimenting our photo stories we were sharing.
Providing me the chance to ask those ‘dumb questions’ (that I really wanted to ask); to understand more about people, to get better at listening to their stories and develop my own understanding. Some 41 episodes on, our content has been downloaded more than 15,000 times in 56 countries around the world. Thank You!!
There’s been a lot of memorable moments and so I wanted to share a couple that really stand out and to me, they were moments when things clicked and I felt like maybe despite feeling like I was going around in circles there could be relevance:
And yet amongst a year of challenges, through grief and some incredibly lows, we were able to put the wheels in motion for a community of people that have an interest in bettering themselves and the world around them through their relationship with agriculture. Through sharing more than 105 stories we are able to create a better understanding of the role agriculture plays in the lives of every person everyday.
We’re 1% of the way to our goal of sharing 10,000 stories of people involved in agriculture. In 2021 we’re looking to partner with people and organisations that share our vision that agriculture is fundamental to healthier, happier and more prosperous communities. We know storytelling is incredibly powerful to help grow our understanding and shape the futures we desire.
So if you’re interested get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org as we get More People, More Often, Identifying with Agriculture.
I hope you have a safe Christmas, and that 2021 is a year of opportunity, that we continue to learn and adapt to the world we live in and that we acknowledge the importance of connection.
Stay safe and stay sane and see you in 2021!
By Lucy Ziesemer
It may be hard to believe, but I’ve never given too much thought to the fact that I’m a woman in agriculture. With no sons in our family and being the eldest, I guess I assumed the role of Dad’s right-hand man/ gopher early on. I loved the outdoors, especially watching Dad work cattle and observing his way with stock. I have memories of sitting on the top rail in the backyards watching Dad and his stockmen yard up. Prior to the advent of cross breeding and knowledge of the ways it benefitted the Australian beef industry, a significant number of beef operations were Hereford based. By the time I was old enough to know the front end of a beast from the back, Mum and Dad had moved into Charolais cows for their Charbray operation. It was an artwork to six-year-old me. White cows flowing like foam from a wave funnelled together by an invisible fence conjured by some sort of magical force the men created placing their bodies and directing their eyes to just the right spot. It was mesmerising and I yearned to know the secret. I wanted to know where to point that magic yard stick that was an unspoken language between human and beast.
It never occurred to me that Dad’s ringers were always male. I would blunder into the yards with Mum delivering smoko and share an Iced Vo-Vo with the men, listening to them discussing things I didn’t understand. I still remember the day I realised ‘beast’ was a singular term for cattle and not the savage monster from my imagination. As I got older, I didn’t care that I had skinny arms and needed both of them to close the slide gate when the men shut it with a finger. The same is true today. Some may call it poor parenting, but I couldn’t disagree more. I was not mollycoddled as a kid. If I fell off my bike and skinned my knee, Dad would quite literally “rub it better” so hard that the friction burn distracted from the stinging graze. Cut up hands from fencing with barbed wire? Find a solution- get some gloves. If a pipe needed digging up, you marched into the mud with your shovel and dug like you had a job to do, not like a girl. I was never treated differently for being a female even if some days I would have loved someone say “you’re right darlin’, have a spell.” That’s why I never paid any attention to the fact that a woman working on the land was somewhat unusual. I knew I wanted to be there come Hell or high water, so I got on with it.
There will always be aspects of the job I’m less capable at. Take something as simple as straining a fence for example. I can get it pretty damn tight and totally stock proof, but I’ll guarantee if a bloke came along they’d get one more click on the chain every time. This doesn’t worry me in the slightest, it’s just a fact. But there’s a conflicting ideology applied to women in the workplace, whatever workplace that may be, that puzzles me. We’re seeing women in traditionally male dominated roles more and more and on the one hand we call out for equal representation because we’re good at what we do and it’s normal for women to perform these tasks, and on the other hand we expect to be cheered along the way for simply doing a job. Shouldn’t the goal be to get the job done and share a knock-off beer at the end of the day?
The rise of #womeninag excites me. I’m on board for celebrating women in agriculture, and before you shout HYPOCRITE, I will say I think the hashtag serves a greater purpose of celebrating agriculture itself. I think it’s great we’re showcasing women’s achievements on the land because it’s drawing attention to what we’re actually trying to promote- Aussie agriculture. We know we’re tough and fine-tuned to hard work, but we love what we do and the daily grind it entails for us. It is my hope that #womeninag inspires the next generation of producers to question where their food and fibre comes from, encourages them to embrace Australia’s vast landscape and the potential it holds, and fosters a love for agriculture through watching the men and women paving a path before them.
Oli Le Lievre
Oli's experience is extensive for someone his age; from AgTech to production agriculture to consulting. He was a key member in the development of Australia's largest agrifood event in 2019. Oli's passionate about a resilient food system and believes engaged people are pivotal to this success.