Location Launceston, TAS
What part(s) of the industry do you work in? I work in agripolitics – representing the interests of farmers.
Job title Chief Executive Officer
What does your company/ business do? I work for Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA), the state’s peak agricultural body.
Agriculture has been Tasmania’s most important industry since settlement. Today it is the quiet achiever among the group of economic drivers that make Tasmania the special island it is for all who choose to live here. Agriculture is also the stabilising influence in the economy.
Those who work within this $1.8 billion industry require a strong bond and sound representation. The TFGA is committed to promoting the vital contribution the agricultural sector makes to Tasmania’s environmental, social and economic fabric.
TFGA represents big and small farms. We make no distinction among farms or farmers. Our role is to provide a single, strong voice to deal with governments at all levels and with other industry bodies. Our prime aim is to ensure that the agricultural base of the state remains competitive and profitable.
Operationally, the TFGA is divided into separate councils that deal with each of the major commodity areas: meat, wool, dairy, vegetables and other agriculture. Those commodity councils meet regularly on a statewide basis. Each has a voice on the board of the TFGA. As well, standing committees deal with cross-commodity issues such as climate change, biosecurity, water and weeds.
Describe your job on the average day I could be doing anything from stuffing envelopes to meeting with the Premier. I do a lot of public speaking and media; I read, write and review policy documents; I manage a great team of subject experts; I sit on boards and other committees; and I work with fabulous farmers. On a good day, I get out and meet with farmers in the field; on a bad day, I sit in interminable boring bureaucratic meetings!
How did you get involved with agriculture? Quite by accident – I’m city born and bred and didn’t set foot on a farm until I was 35! Looking for something new to do after ten years as a teacher, and following a keen interest in gardening, I ended up as CEO for the nursery industry association. From there, each career move took me further and further into a more traditional farming environment – across four states of Australia – until I ended up here in Tasmania.
Bachelor of Education
Grad Diploma of Education
Grad Diploma of Environmental Studies
Masters in Environmental Planning
Masters in Agribusiness
If you studied/ trained in agriculture, why did you choose that degree/ certificate? My original qualifications were not in agriculture; but I have subsequently done a Masters in Agribusiness to give me a broader understanding of the sector.
What are/were you plans after school/TAFE/university? I have trouble planning for next week – let alone a career! I’ve essentially followed my nose in career planning – and taken opportunities as they’ve arisen. I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up.
Teaching – school, TAFE, university
What are your interests? Gardening, reading, Scrabble, and my critters. Oh, and chocolate.
What is your favourite thing about the industry? I work with dedicated people, passionate about what they do, and who make a difference to everyone’s lives every day. And what I do makes their jobs easier. That’s amazingly rewarding.
Best experience in agriculture? I meet inspirational people every day that reinforce why I do what I do.
Worst experience in agriculture? I’ve been involved in some very emotional situations and events over the years. The weeks after Cyclone Larry hit when I was working with farmers in Queensland were one of my worst experiences. The devastation to families, farms and lives was overwhelming.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of the agricultural industry in the future? Getting Australian consumers to understand how important our farmers are to our nation. We’ve become spoilt and lazy – and take for granted the fact that we have the best and safest food in the world available at low prices every day. If as a community we’re not prepared to support them, the industry will inevitably decline and we’ll eventually be reliant on third world food producers – and that’s not a place any of us want to be.
Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture? It is inevitable as there are fewer and fewer farms; and more and more technology used in the industry. That doesn’t mean anything other than that there are some competitive advantages from scale for farms and in decreasing reliance on entry level skill positions.
Margins are small for most farmers and wages on actual farms are generally not high – but that is often more than made up for by the quality of life offered in many farming environments.
And remember – many people who work in agriculture don’t work on farms at all – we work in towns and cities across the world.
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into agriculture? I’d suggest focusing on their core skills and finding out where they fit within the industry. Talking with people already out there and learning from their experiences would also be a good thing to do. The only limit to opportunity in this industry is your own lack of imagination!
How important do you think an agricultural background is to become involved in the industry? On the basis of my experience – and from what I have seen over many years in this sector – it is not important at all. It is more important to have a passion for what you do and an inquiring mind.
What do you think is the most common misconception about agriculture? That it is all about the farmer – who is traditionally pictured as old, leaning on a fence post with a daggy hat that the kelpie has had puppies in and which has been run over by innumerable utes, with a dust storm in the background, and sounding like Hanrahan.
It’s not like that at all – there is space for anyone with pretty much any set of job skills and training in agriculture.