On The Land

10 June, 2023

Farmers connect with businesses

AN event which aimed to connect farmers with businesses in Malanda recently has exceeded all expectations.

By Brigitte Daley

Guest speakers the night Joanna Srhoj (left), comedian and co-host Georgina Humphries (centre) and Lynette McGuffie (right). Image: John de Rooy.
Guest speakers the night Joanna Srhoj (left), comedian and co-host Georgina Humphries (centre) and Lynette McGuffie (right). Image: John de Rooy.

Funded by a Queensland Government grant, Grow Malanda the event was initiated by the town’s Chamber of Commerce to explore farmers’ needs as part of the Queensland Small Business month in May.

Chamber media officer Ross Robinson said the night brought together some of the farming community in the greater Malanda area to interact with the local business community.

“We received very positive feedback for the initiative as previous incarnations of the Chamber had not sought to involve agricultural businesses not in the town,” he said.

“This is something we will definitely be pursuing as the dairy industry and other farms are strong, important pillars of the economic success of our town and its surrounds.

“We hope this night achieved a starting point for that.

“The talks were incredibly illuminating for everyone. Most people who aren’t farmers don’t realise how much work it takes to produce the milk we take for granted and expect to be there on the supermarket shelves every day.

“I think this went beyond a simple networking event into an evening of education, understanding, and merriment.

“We have future events planned, including a rural mental health event in October, but after the positive comments on the night, we will be investigating how we, as a chamber, can help connect our agricultural and town businesspeople.

“We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support of our Malanda community. These things do not happen in a vacuum, and it is the people, the community, and those that put their hand up that make things better for everyone.

“This was the chamber’s first opportunity to have Bega represented at the event and they outlined their vision as a complete food company and showed us the range of products they now make.”

On the night, participants were encouraged to buy local, “show up” at shows and to take care with social media and be mindful to get good stories out.

Bega Senior Farm Services officer Howard Smith, who has had 33 years of experience in the tropical dairying industry, spoke on the night.

“A farm gate value of $40 million goes from the Tablelands dairying industry into the local economy each year,” he said.

In January 2021, Bega purchased the Lion Dairy and Drinks business which included the Malanda factory.

In a plus for the region, attendees heard that the number of younger dairy farmers per head of the farming populations on the Atherton Tablelands was amongst the highest in Australia.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries dairy development officer Joanna Srhoj was the first guest speaker for the night, giving a well-received presentation on “Building Resilient Dairy Businesses in Far North Queensland”.

Jo is based in North Queensland where she has many roles in the dairy industry including facilitating a dairy discussion group, working to increase pasture intake and supporting North Queensland extension efforts.

She gave participants a valuable insight into the complexities of a dairy business.

The second guest speaker for the night was Lynette McGuffie from the Rural Financial Counselling Service in Atherton.

Lynette has extensive experience assisting producers to understand their business and identify options and strategies to improve their financial performance. Her passion is helping agricultural businesses and families achieve their financial and personal goals and providing advocacy and support for clients.

Lynette works with primary producing families who are at risk of financial hardship or who are experiencing it, offering a totally free service with no costs to producers. The service also offers a Small Business financial counselling service.

There are also “Business Wellness” coaches that are available who have had mental health training to help with emotional wellbeing and stress support.

The “Question and Answer” session on the night generated a lot of interest, triggering discussion on the greatest challenges that farmers currently faced.

Ms McGuffie said interest rates, land prices, succession planning issues, labour and commodity prices, cattle prices coming back and the cost of inputs were all impacting on farmers.

The highly enjoyable night was co-hosted by Gail Barton (known as the formal one) and Georgina Humphries (known as the funny one).


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