Taking control to improve performance
The Red Meat Profit Partnership set up action groups to put farmers in control of what they want to improve, how they want to achieve it and who they wish to get help from to learn and implement required changes. The AgriBusiness Group has been involved with the facilitation of these groups for the last 16 months.
Farmers are innovators and have a desire to improve continuously: be it increasing the kilograms of product produced or ensuring areas of the farm are restored or maintained for the long term viability of the farming business and its environment. Farmers are people who enjoy working with animals and the land they live and work on.
Two years ago, the Red Meat Profit Partnership set up action groups to put farmers in control of what they want to improve, how they want to achieve it and who they wish to get help from to learn and implement required changes. The AgriBusiness Group has been involved with the facilitation of these groups for the last 16 months.
These action networks bring together small groups of farm businesses who want to continue their business growth and development by working alongside other farmers and industry experts. The AgriBusiness Group facilitates six groups in Canterbury to assist the groups and individual members in achieving set goals and objectives. Facilitation involves keeping the groups on track, planning and organising group activities and connecting groups with the right industry experts to answer the questions that group members have. A key part of the Action Network porgramme is that farmers are in control over what type of activities they engage in, who they like to hear from and what they would like further information on to understand how to make a real difference to their business. This means every group has different goals and objectives it wants to achieve.
Facilitation is a critical component in the group's development and achievement of goals. It includes identifying the right industry expert and preparing the group and the expert for the activity to ensure all the group members benefit from the discussion or exercise. Therefore facilitators are essential in driving on-farm change by providing the set action is achievable and will lead to improved performance and efficiency.
As a facilitator, what I enjoy the most is the interaction on the day between farmers and the industry expert. The farmers take the opportunity to ask the expert for professional advice and even personal opinions. The initial meet-up with industry professionals often results in excellent opportunities for networking afterwards. A recent day with a focus on genetics in a sheep breeding programme has led to one of the farmer members bringing the expert into their business to assist with guidance and decision making for the future of their flock. Establishing meaningful connections and seeing the farmers take the opportunity is incredibly rewarding!
Members across all groups that we are involved in are implementing many small changes to their farming practices and are starting to see improvements to their businesses. Many changes that are made now might not reveal immediate outcomes but will result in improvements further down the track. Important is to be proactive about these decisions to achieve set goals and targets sooner.
Our action groups members enjoy the benefits of being in small groups and having the opportunity to discuss their challenges and successes openly. Smaller groups make it possible to ask personal questions to one another that otherwise participants might not be comfortable with at larger industry field days. The success of these groups comes down to the engagement of the farmers involved and the information they receive to implement into their farms.
Occasionally, farmers bring along key decision-makers of their own businesses to attend relevant activities and are able to take the discussion from the group to their farms. One of our members said that they caught themselves discussing changes they were going to make in the coming weeks and realised that these conversations were due to both having attended the action group activities together.
The AgriBusiness Group facilitates action groups with a variety of areas of focus. They range from increasing legume quantity in the farm system and diversification to making irrigation viable. Other discussion topics are sheep milking systems in Canterbury and the importance of spending time working on the business as opposed to in the business.
It is exciting to see these groups select activities that we know are going to add value to their business and are beneficial to their farming system. Farmers gain confidence from each other by learning from other group members who have tested and trialled different systems. This can make the decision-making process on the farm much more manageable. Farmers also gain confidence through hearing from industry experts about the trials, the failures and the successes of particular topics of interest.
At the AgriBusiness Group, we see it as our responsibility to create an environment that empowers farmers to improve performance, increase profitability and take ownership of the changes they wish to see.