When we think about what makes Australian farmers tick, typical characteristics spring to mind such as; hard-working, resilient, stoic, patient and enduring.
We think about our farmers as being humble, civic-minded quiet achievers with hardened attitudes formed by the compound impacts of battling nature's best and worst, season in, season out. These professional battle scars may be largely unspoken, yet the journey is obvious by looking closer and deeper at the contours of their tanned, leather-like skin.
But how often do you hear anyone come out and declare that a typical Australian farmer is a young, enterprising woman defined by their unyielding passion for continuous improvement?
How often do people stand up and shout about Australian farmers as being business-minded individuals driven by modern science, product innovation, and a quest for sustainable results, not measured by profit alone? Of course, some of us already do this - especially when we talk amongst ourselves in the agribusiness sector on topics such as digital connectivity - but it's obviously not said loud enough or often enough for others to properly absorb.
However, this is a conversation that needs to be shared with a much wider audience to help expand and broaden the world's understanding of just how dynamic, progressive, determined and inventive our modern farmers are. Despite the constant challenges of battling drought, fires, floods, fluctuating commodity prices and geopolitical trade tensions, many Australian farmers maintain a steadfast focus on striving for continuous improvement.
One such success story in this regard is Eccleston egg producer Sarah Sivyer. Sarah's Nuffield scholarship research report on increasing competitive advantage through customer value is one of the best sources of information I've recently read on the business of farming. I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone, to read her research report and gain a deeper insight into the true value of applying this concept of continuous improvement to your farming business.
But this also comes with a warning that this type of thinking may not apply to all producers.
I'd like to end with the following quote, which summarises and highlights her main messages, and hope that you investigate further and consider this sensible and practical thinking.
"The over-riding takeaway for me has been that farmers face challenges everywhere, however, the businesses that stand out are those with founders with an absolute passion for excellence. They are never done in improving what they do, they are obsessed with understanding their customer and accidentally or not, in their pursuit for improvement and excellence, they are applying elements of the Japanese "lean culture" in all that they do".
- Robbie Sefton is a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains, and managing director of Seftons.