While it wasn't possible to meet face to face for the 2020 Gathering, Tasmanian Women in Agriculture (TWiA) hosted the Gathering in the Cloud, a first for the organisation. The event took place on the 23rd of May 2020 with a fantastic line up of speakers – Pip Courtney from ABC Landline, Todd Babiak from Brand Tasmania and Minister Guy Barnett opened proceedings. Attendees were also treated to a virtual farm tour from Circular Ponds Farming which is available here to view.
Upon opening the Gathering Minister Guy Barnett congratulated TWiA for their positive, innovative and engaging participation in supporting families, communities and businesses during the COVID. The Minister talked about the importance of keeping jobs and maintaining productivity, while committing to continued safety. The brand Tasmania has around its many attributes from our water infrastructure and renewable resources to our biosecurity and pure, fresh image. Tasmania has many key ingredients for success into the future. There are undoubtedly challenges, but many opportunities for the future. We are able to use our island state to our advantage, which is an opportunity for large and small businesses. People are wanting authenticity with the produce they purchase. This presents many opportunities for educating consumers from paddock to plate.
Our keynote speaker, Pip Courtney from ABC Landline, talked about how Tasmanian businesses have evolved. Tasmania has one of the best ag brands, which is able to leverage the island brand. Pip talked about how urban people are open to positive ag stories, providing education will pay off in the long term. Pip talked about the incredible work of the Barfield Station in Central Queensland, who have experienced a range of setbacks, which they have adjusted to and made their business model more agile. The Leather family runs 4000 cattle producing organic and conventional grassfed beef for local and export markets, with three properties spread over 17,600 hectares. Prior to COVID-19 the family were exporting their ‘Four Daughers’ brand to China. Melinee Leather feels in just a few short weeks, COVID-19 has achieved wonders in awakening Australians to just how easily obscure diseases can arrive and spread and the importance of biosecurity measures; however market access at the moment is a fine balance. They have been agile with adapting their business, moving from export to local ‘Rump Runs’ to sell product that would otherwise sit underutilised. The family have been confronted with challenges and pivoted to meet it. They have focussed on risk mitigation and have utilised social media to create opportunities for their business.
Ella Anderson from Circular Ponds Farming took attendees on a whirlwind trip across their beef property. She expressed the love the family have for sharing their story, while they don’t sell direct to consumers, there is still a responsibility to share what it is they do. Farmers have a great story to tell and have the power to tell it. Ella talked about feeling a responsibility to share the how and why of farming, in order to impart knowledge about the care they have for the land, their cattle and the people it supports.
Tasmania has interviewed a range of Tasmanians to see what their answers were around key questions. Such as, what would break your heart if you had to leave? Todd talked about the clean and green brand can be claimed by 140 other places. What made Tasmania stand out was the aspects of hardship and adversity. A long-standing history of being seen as second best in the Australian context. This has led to a quiet humility in the pursuit of achievement. Businesses have individual stories to tell. It can be hard work being honest about struggles and mistakes, but that makes a human connection.
All our speakers highlighted the importance of storytelling, providing an authentic experience that can change minds. The benefit isn’t necessarily monetary but in creating social license and connection between consumers and producers. These experiences fill our trust account with consumers for the future. Storytelling is an important tool of connection, which all of the speakers provided key insights into.