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TAS Country : June 14th 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012 Tasmanian Country 15 Opinion You can all take a bow OVER the FENCE John Rich STRENGTH TOGETHER: Men -- and women -- farmers use a huge range of skills, every day WE are now about halfway through the 2012 Australian Year of the Farmer (AYOF) celebrations. A range of activities have been developed around the country, some in Tasmania, including a display at Agfest in May. The AYOF has been organised by a not-for-profit organisation with corporate and Federal Government funding. This is intended to be a celebration of Australian farming aimed at highlighting the contribution being made by our farmers to the present and future wellbeing of the nation. The program has three themes: Farmers and Our Food, aiming to educate Australians about the essential role of our farmers producing high-quality food Farmers and Rural Communities, aiming to focus on the importance of successful farming enterprises and the ongoing viability of rural communities Farmers as Custodians of the Land, aiming to highlight and acknowledge the great work being done by farmers in managing their land in a sustainable manner for the current and future benefit of all Australians. We can all applaud the AYOF for what they are doing. From my perspective everything about the three themes is completely correct. I do have some concerns and this relates to the fact that I live in the urban environment and unless I am not as observant as I think I am, I have to admit that the AYOF message does not appear to be getting through to urban dwellers. I cannot recall anything significant about this program receiving publicity that is designed to reach and influence city dwellers. I would have liked to see the AYOF program aimed directly at schools in order to tell the current generation of young people about farmers and what they are doing. Having said that, I know there are many readers of Tasmanian Country who are not farmers, but have a keen interest in rural issues. My contribution to the AYOF issue covers some thoughts about farmers and their wives/partners. This revolves around the number of skills they need to have, just to be on the land. Farmers are very often seen to be a male person. This is only partially correct. From the very earliest days of farming activity, the wife or partner, was a critical component of the management of the family farm. Women have worked alongside the men for many years. When they are not helping outside, they are inside the house, very often managing the financial accounts and all office functions for the enterprise. When all that is done, the woman then takes on the role of homemaker, looking after the house and children as well as preparing meals and coping with housework. In these difficult financial times some women also have to seek off- farm employment just to earn additional income to help pay the bills. Women are a key ingredient to the running of the family farm. It was pleasing to read Tasmanian Country (June 1,) featuring Women in Agriculture and the recognition of Ruth Paterson, Jan Richardson, Joan Field and Cheryl Rockliff for their services to the farming community. I remember Ruth Paterson's wise words, quite some years ago, when she said, ''Australian agriculture can and will benefit from women's perspectives, skills and experiences, as it does from the farm men. It's not about men being less -- just women being more.'' Another aspect of farm management that deserves some attention during AYOF is recognition of the number of skills required to be known about and applied on farms. My alphabetical listing of some of the skills I think farmers need to use every day is extensive: Agriculturist (science of farming) Agronomist (soil and plant knowledge) Animal husbandry (livestock care and treatment) Chemicals (accreditation, product knowledge and application) Computer (information technology) Conservation/naturalist (observation and local area knowledge) Diseases and plant/pasture pests (identification knowledge and treatment) Dog training Fencing (repairs and construction) Financial management General maintenance (jack of all trades) Global Positioning Systems (GPS precision agriculture) Human resources (employment, staff training, wages) Hydraulics (operation and repairs) Irrigation and water management (operation, repairs, installation) Livestock movement (yarding, loading, transport) Machinery and farm equipment operation (competent across a range of different machines) Mechanical aptitude (repair vehicles/equipment) Milk harvesting (operate/service/ repair milking machines) Natural disaster management (floods, fire, drought) Occupational health and safety (rules/regulations) Pasture management (fertilisers, grasses) Quality assurance Research and development (access outcomes and information) Weather observation and forecasting Welding and metal fabrication (repairs/construction) Working capital management Work planning The skills required to be a farmer are most impressive. 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