Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Family, Community & Land Management

 Angus Whyte has continued on from his last guest post :

Well I’m going to start this with a bit about change in general within this environment and then I’ll talk a bit about us.
In Western NSW where we live, it is grazing land, predominately sheep for wool and lately meat as well.  The focus is on the animal making sure that they have feed and water and are kept in good condition.  How we judge the land condition is on the condition of the animal and the grazier’s skill is based on the quality and quantity of the product that they produce.

This makes sense because as a community this is the only way that we pay graziers and a farming business is the same as any other, so need a major economic focus.  So as a community if we feel that landholders have degraded the land, then we are part of the problem as we have chosen to only pay for produce and not recognise “managing the land” as an outcome.

The focus of skills is around being able to manage livestock, selecting good quality and managing the business, very little focus on managing the landscape.  I realise that not everyone fits into this category and it will offend some as when you generalise you always do, I feel it is important to set the scene as up until 10 years ago we were very happy being part of the above.

So when about 15 years ago my eyes started to be opened as to the opportunities associated with improving the landscape, this was another language to most of our peers.  As the decline in the landscape had happened so quickly in the late 1800’s and then since then decline has been slow, most would say the landscape is in good health and you have no control over the land, only “Mother Nature” can do that. 

In order to change so that you succeed, you need to have as many people “fighting in your corner” as possible to support and advise you through change.  This is required as a change away from the norm in any community can be viewed as a threat to those that consider they are leaders and don’t wish to change.  The thinking is “what if they succeed and become viewed as good farmers, the hierarchy of the community will change”.  This is the “old bull versus the young bull” stuff and can be very confronting and hurtful if you aren’t prepared for it, take it from someone that wasn’t prepared and felt the pain.

So we come to our change in our business which was to look at the livestock, the land, the people and the money as equals and they all needed to be in “balance”.  While this may not be considered a significant change, in order to “balance the books” in the beginning we had to forego some livestock productivity and money in order to put our land on the same footing, all this at a time when we had a drought, young family and low equity.  This is where the power of a meaningful vision and goals is important as it is so easy to lose focus and run off track.

The message that I would like to get across is that the decision to change pathways in whatever you do in life is relatively simple, success is based on the strong support networks that you have around you and making sure that the end goal is meaningful to you and not someone else’s goal.
Next time I’ll talk about the changes on “Wyndham” and some of the obstacles that we have faced.

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