Introducing our Farmer eXchange Farmer Advisory Team
Lauren does an incredible amount for her community, her work and her industry, so we felt particularly humbled when she accepted our invitation to assist in the development of the Farmer eXchange.
Lauren is passionate, hard working, kind and clever and we can’t wait to share her story with you below. We have so much to learn from those that have entered our industry relatively recently and the insights and new approaches that they can teach us all. I’m so inspired by Lauren and I will bet money on it that you will be too after reading our interview with her.
Lauren, tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Lauren Peterson and I am a First Generation Dairy Farmer from South West Victoria. In 2014 my partner Tony and I moved to South West Victoria after the birth of our first child, Paddy. Tony transferred from a busy Melbourne Metropolitan station to a country posting with our initial aim to spend a year of my maternity leave enjoying a slower pace of life.
A few weeks into that “break” we saw the opportunity to pursue Tony’s lifelong dream of Dairy Farming and used equity in our home to purchase 32 cows and began leasing a one hundred acre Dairy Farm in Cobden. The first day of our business operating was the first day I had milked cows – I had no idea of the enormity of the task of running a Dairy farm and associated business!
With Tony still working full time as a Police Officer, it soon became apparent that I was going to have to learn many new skills and gain a lot of knowledge quickly to help co-manage the farm and business! We slowly bought more cows and eighteen months later we moved to another lease farm and three weeks later had our second child, Audrey.
We currently milk 160 cows on that farm and Tony and I both still work part-time off-farm in our emergency services jobs. We have been on a steep learning curve; and still are!
With no prior experience or agricultural knowledge I looked far and wide for resources and opportunities to fill the many knowledge and skill gaps I had. I enrolled in a Diploma of Agriculture through a Young Farmer scholarship and attended workshops, online courses, listened to podcasts and spent many hours searching the internet for information. I engaged with the local Dairy Australia RDP and attended as many Dairy related field days and workshops as possible as well as joining local Dairy discussion groups and the Young Dairy Network.
Lets just say if the current version of the Farm Table and theFarmer Exchange was around three years ago it would’ve saved me many hours of Googling; and the number of screenshots on my phone and piles of notes and ripped out pages around the house would be a lot smaller!
I think being a blank slate was actually a great advantage because I had no preconceived ideas and looked outside of a single industry and farming philosophy. A curious and open mind has led to information and resources that have provided invaluable personal and business development opportunities and connections with a diverse range of networks outside of the Dairy industry.
Connecting with other farmers and agricultural advocates has also led to a wide range of unique opportunities including international study tours, speaking at conferences, attending a retreat in the Blue Mountains with climate change experts and farmers, and being invited to an Indigenous homeland to learn from elders on the land.
What is your farming dream and vision?
Our vision is for our business, Grattons Gate Dairy, to have a positive impact on our lifestyle, our children’s’ future and to our wider community and agricultural industry.
We are striving to be productive and profitable, but also very mindful about the role we can play in ensuring sustainable communities and the environment. I suppose this comes from our experience in the Emergency Services and the Community Welfare sectors; we’re values driven.
I’m interested in working on improving the social policy impact on our agricultural industries and communities. We hear a lot about the way particular policies impact agriculture such as economic policy, trade or infrastructure; however we have a long way to go in addressing the inequalities and disadvantages rural and remote communities sometimes experience through Governments’ social policies.
Whilst rural and remote communities are resilient, solution focused and often ‘get on with the job” we could achieve so much more if we had a way to connect, contribute and collaborate together to put pressure on government and other decision making bodies.
We often hear that when farmers are having a good financial year then so is their local community; well it works the other way too. Healthy, (both physically and mentally), and happy farmers, businesses and communities are productive and prosperous too.
I am hoping that the advocacy work I do as part of my role as a United Dairy of Farmers of Victoria (UDV) Policy Councillor and as a member of Farmers for Climate Action (FCA) and Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA) have a positive impact, but at the end of the day I love nothing more than being on the land with my family and our animals going about the daily tasks to produce quality milk for Australians and beyond.
Why did you get involved in Farmer eXchange project?
“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are unsure you can do it, say yes- then learn how to do it later!” Richard Branson
I’ve approached many of the opportunities in the last three years with this attitude!
When I was first asked to be involved in the Farmer Exchange I had a huge ‘Imposter syndrome’ moment and was going to say no! I thought that there are many other people who know more or have more Agriculture experience than I do. However, I saw this opportunity to bring the voice of some of the wider social policy areas that affect farmers and rural communities, in addition to my experience of being a new entrant with no idea how to farm!
One of the amazing things about the agriculture industry is the diversity amongst the people, roles, the farming systems and philosophies that make up the industry. There are some barriers that are preventing this diversity being represented and their voices being heard.
That’s one of the great opportunities the Farmer eXchange enables – an opportunity for farmers regardless of their geographical location or what their role or farming system is to connect, contribute and collaborate. Building a holistic system that provides an opportunity to share information and experiences across all facets of farming and rural communities.
Plus – what an amazing opportunity to work alongside Airlie and the many other inspiring, young rural change-makers and entrepreneurs that are transforming our industry!
Who you think will benefit from the Farmer eXchange?
“If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room!” Marissa Meyer
Often I hear farmers of all ages say that it doesn’t matter how old they get, or how many years they’ve been farming, they are always learning something new.
That is one of the many exciting things about the Farmer Exchange concept – not only do we all have something to contribute, but no matter who we are we will find value from learning from others.
We know how powerful storytelling is in connecting consumers with farmers and producers, however we underestimate the value and impact storytelling from farmer to farmer has in inspiring, supporting and passing on knowledge.
What would be the first question you would ask on the eXchange?
- I’m currently looking for people’s experience in using crops to improve their soil whilst at the same time, maintaining or increasing production on dryland dairy farms. So a question around that.
- I would also love to hear and see examples of renewable energy projects farmers have implemented and how they calculated the cost-benefit analysis.
- In the advocacy space I’m interested in finding out how many farming families who have had a baby in the past few years accessed the government’s paid Parental Leave scheme, and if not why? Anecdotally, the numbers of farmers who have appear low, and with this scheme being such a great help to those I know who did access it id like to help increase the knowledge of and the uptake of it.
Thank you SO much Lauren!
Stay tuned for more updates and our announcement of our Farmer eXchange Roadshow dates – we are coming for you!