No typical day for mixed enterprise farmer

Sharon Groves, daughter Charlotte Groves and Chris Groves plan to enjoy the recognition National Agricultural Day will bring their industry.
Sharon Groves, daughter Charlotte Groves and Chris Groves plan to enjoy the recognition National Agricultural Day will bring their industry.

“If we were just a single enterprise sheep farm the typical day would be; you’d get up feed the dog, go and check the sheep, but there is no typical day when you run a mixed enterprise farm.”

Each year the average Aussie farmer feeds 400 Australians, and 600 people around the globe, a fact Cowra mixed enterprise farmers Chris and Sharon Groves know well. Today, Australia will celebrate all of the remarkable contributions of Australian agriculture with National Agricultural Day.

Chis and Sharon said they hope the day will develop and grow into a useful engagement tool for farmers to educate and make the public aware of their industry.

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“It’s good acknowledgement that… the industry is as computerized, mechanized and switched on as any other Australian industry and just as global,” they say.

“In our industry four per cent of the population controls 96 per cent of the land mass… what we aim to do is hand it on to the next generation in better condition than when we get it.”

Chris and Sharon say no two days are ever the same.

“In our case because we have more than one enterprise we end up bouncing four balls rather than one,” they say. 

With agriculture powering 1.6mil Australian jobs, Chris and Sharon say the biggest hurdle the industry is facing is making sure it brings the general public along with it.

“What we have to do is make sure the public are educated about what we are doing and why we do it,” they said. 

“If every farmer is feeding 400 people we have to be able to continue to increase production, because as population grows, the number of farmers aren’t going to increase but the demand for food and fibre is,” they say.

They both agree that the future of agriculture is changing attitudes and changing technology.

“Twenty-five years ago when Chris and I first got married, when Chris went along to something and I went with him it was pretty unusual,” Sharon said.

“Now if you go to anything, be it a farmer’s meeting or a field day, 20 per cent of the people are women… you're not so much a female you're just another set of hands about the place.

“The internet and mobile phones have been huge,” Sharon continues.

“When we really notice it is when we have a break down, Chris can be on the phone and if he doesn’t know what he’s looking at or can’t find a manual, we can Facetime a mechanic or a vet.”

“If they have phone service or internet service,” Chris said. 

“There are plenty of farmers, who click on a webpage and then go… make a cup of tea and wait for it to load.”

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Both Chris and Sharon say that the divide between those Australians living in the country and those in the city is growing.

“People don’t realize that we are one of the most productive valleys in the country,” Chris says.

“When I was a kid there wasn’t someone who lived in Sydney who didn’t have a country cousin or a farm somewhere that they would go and visit … it’s our changing demographic,” he said.

Chris said the same goes for the policy makers and people currently looking to enter the industry.

“Agriculture is a trending profession to be in, for young people and those who want to be involved in agriculture, you do have to have had your hands dirty at some stage and have a good foundation of the basics,” he says.

“It’s no good wanting to be in agriculture when you’ve been to uni, done a degree and get a white collar job. Because you have no idea, no idea of the challenges we face and no idea about the day to day life.”

Finally while Chris and Sharon will enjoy the recognition brought on by National Agricultural Day they both say it will be “no different than any other regular day”. 

If you would like more information on National Agricultural Day or just want to celebrate what our local producers do go to www.agday.org.au

This story An opportunity for the agricultural industry first appeared on Cowra Guardian.