Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 047 November-December 2003 - North
Tracey Gianatti could fit several small European countries into her "patch". The coordinator of the Grower Group Alliance in Western Australia is responsible for an area that stretches from Geraldton to Esperance, spanning more than 300,000km2. "But it's not like I cover every square centimetre," she hastily points out. "I work with people who are located across the WA grainbelt." Networking across such vast territory includes regular phone and email contact with the six grower groups and five research institutions that make up the Alliance. Face to face meetings are often held to decide key issues. Formed only a year ago, Alliance members are continually looking for new and more efficient means of communication. One place they thought they might find some new ideas about communication was at the 1st Australian Farming Systems Conference at Toowoomba in September. This was the Grower Group Alliance's first interstate trip as a group. With funding from the GRDC, six growers and three staff from nine different grower groups were able to attend. In addition to communication tips, the trip provided valuable insights into other farming systems and cemented relationships between members of the Alliance. The conference also offered networking opportunities with grower groups from all over the country. As well as finding issues in common, the encounters made apparent the unique aspects of the WA model. "The Grower Group Alliance operates quite differently from anywhere else in Australia," Ms Gianatti says. "In WA, grower groups are entirely farmer driven and manage their own funds. This provides grower groups with a large degree of autonomy, and allows farmer members to identify their own key research issues." Groups involved in the Alliance include the Minginew-Irwin Group, the Liebe Group, the Facey Group, the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group, the South-East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) and the Pulse Association of the South East (PASE). The research institutions are all Perth-based, including three within the University of Western Australia (see graphic Page 15). What are the benefits sought from this WA model? "We hope this approach leads to more collaboration between researchers and growers from ideas inception to actually getting it on the ground," she says, "Rather than researchers involving farmers once a project is already developed. "The other main hope is to increase the amount of communication between researchers and farmers and to allow farmer ideas to influence research direction -- it's a positive reinforcing flo w. "We also expect to have more information flowing between grower groups -- it can be an isolating thing if nobody knows that somebody else is already doing similar research." GRDC RESEARCH CODE MIG00003, program 6 For more information: Tracey Gianatti: Ph 08 9380 3410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Leadership was a common thread in many of the issues discussed at the GRDC's grower group seminar at Mildura in August. Col Hacking, executive officer of Southern Farming Systems, believes that identifying and fostering potential leaders among young growers is critically important to the future success of grower groups. He is drawing on GRDC project funding to enable 48 young growers to undertake a leadership program at Marcus Oldham College near Geelong. The 2004 intake will be the third year of the GRDC-sponsored initiative. Applications are welcome from all over Australia. After the five-day course, participants are asked to take part in a project to strengthen their leadership skills. A two-day follow-up and ongoing mentoring reinforce the course. "We need to increase the skills of the next generation of farming leaders," Mr Hacking says. "Succession planning can be a problem for grower groups that rely too heavily on a few strong leaders. If we don't encourage more young growers to get involved, then we risk losing the benefits of the work that has been done." Page 20: developing tomorrow's leaders GRDC RESEARCH CODE SFS00005, program 6 For more information: Col Hacking: Ph 03 5229 0566 or email email@example.com. Applications close on 30 April 2004. The 2003 GRDC Neighbourhood Grower Group Awards What you have to tell us The following information is required Demonstrated commitment to professional development: Provide specific examples that illustrate how your group meets this criterion and detail the outcomes and benefits. Relevant activities can include short courses, farm walks, specific discussion topics, guest speakers, leadership courses or trips to end users. Include examples of individual professional development undertaken by group members. Linkages to other groups and technical or research people: Explain how you link to other groups, technical people and researchers. Provide examples of how your links benefit your group and cropping practice. Detail any joint activities with other groups. On-farm research and development achievement: Detail your research and development activities; include both your analysis and how you used your results. Engaging young growers: Provide evidence that the future of the group is secure. What does your group offer young (aged 18-25) growers? How are farming families involved? Social engagement and fun: The best groups have a social dimension and have fun. Some pictures would be good. Show us the learning, the practice change and the benefit of belonging to your grower group. Anything else? Additional information you believe is relevant. Maximum length: Four A4 pages in 12pt font size. Entry details The winning categories 1. National neighbourhood grower group 2. Six state winners (one from each state) The criteria 1. Demonstrated commitment to professional development 2. Linkages to other groups or research partners 3. On-farm research and development achievement 4. Engaging young growers 5. Social engagement and fun The prizes State winners: $4000 for the group to use as it sees fit for a group- based activity. National winner: (Chosen from the state winners) $4000 plus a local dinner for group members and guests to celebrate the event. The national winner will be presented with their winning award at the Grains Week conference. Funds are available to enable group representatives to attend the Grains Week conference. The judges Ian Buss, Mike Southan, Dale Baker, Jan Mahoney, Victor Dobos and Ross Cutler, plus growers from the previous year's national winning group. State referees: M Cahill, F Simson, A McCutcheon, E Hancock, K Falconer, S Alexander. Process The judges will short-list the award winners and confer with state referees before nominating the winning groups Eligibility The awards are open to small neighbourhood groups involving a maximum of 30 regular farming businesses. Entries will not be accepted from groups that have won a state or national award within the past three years. Applications close 31 January 2004. The 2003 GRDC Neighbourhood Grower Group Awards Group Name:________________________ Location:____________________________ Group leader or contact person:______________________ Contact address:_____________________ _____________________ _____________________ Phone number:_______________________ Fax number:__________________________ Email:________________________________ Number of members:_________________ Post to: GRDC National Grower Group Award Attention: Katie Poidomani GRDC Box 5367 KINGSTON, ACT 2604 Fax: 02 6271 6430 Inquiries Ross Cutler, Ph 03 5255 5614 APPLICATION FORM OR COPY For more information: Ross Cutler Ph 03 5255 5614 email: firstname.lastname@example.org GROWER GROUPS 16 NOVEMBER 2003 A restructure at a Liverpool Plains grower group in NSW is offering members more choice about how much -- or how little -- they sign up for when they join. AgVance Farming Pty Ltd has been running since 1999 and its members are shareholders who have enjoyed the benefits of advice from its independent agronomist. Since it restructured on 1 July, members have three choices. Entry-level membership provides participation in discussions and up to date information while 'membership plus' reflects the business focus of the group by adding on marketing services, purchasing power, agronomic phone advice and an annual visit from the agronomist. Agronomic members receive the additional service of weekly visits from the agronomist and input into the research direction of the group. Director and immediate past chairman Ian Carter says the company structure is an advantage, along with the group's relatively small membership of 17 at the time of writing. "Being a shareholder makes a huge difference because you own the company, rather than being on the periphery." Frank communication is maintained because everybody knows each other. "We are all open in our discussions. It's not one person up the front addressing a big crowd," he says. AgVance recognises that its size may limit its research power in the future and uses networking to tap into work being done by others. GRDC RESEARCH CODE AMP1, program 4 For more information: Ian Carter: Ph 02 6747 4681 or email connamara@ bigpond.com.au, www.agvance.com.au Leadership: program looks to the future Management: members who are also shareholders Communication: beating the tyranny of distance Col Hacking. Tracey Gianatti.
Ground Cover 048 February-March 2004 - North