Leadership course gives dairy farmers the confidence to take it to the next level

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As the number of dairy farms shrinks, Roisin Powles, a graduate of the leadership program, believes it’s more important than ever that farmers have the confidence to take on leadership roles.

Roisin, from Gillieston near Tatura, saw his confidence boosted after completing the Fairley (Goulburn Murray) Community Leadership Program in 2020 as a Gardiner Dairy Foundation recipient and is hopeful that other farmers will seize similar opportunities.

“It is important for all farmers to improve their leadership skills to give them the confidence to move forward,” she said.

“Farmers are smart people, but one thing that holds a lot of people back is a little confidence.

“If they were involved in community leadership programs, it would improve their confidence and their ability to express their concerns or ideas.

“As the number of farmers decreases, the risk is that our voices will be harder to hear and decisions will be made by people who don’t necessarily understand agriculture. “

Roisin operates a farm with her husband Ron and four children, and enjoys a great affinity with the land and its community.

Their dairy farm has been certified organic for 12 years and Roisin has maintained a long-standing passion for the environment and a healthy local community.

“It’s not a natural thing for farmers to be in opposition to local ecosystems,” she said.

“In dairy products, we can encourage wildlife; the birds in the tree belts help with the pastures.

This passion led Roisin to volunteer with Landcare and St Vincent de Paul and help when needed with other farm and community groups.

With his youngest child now in school, Roisin was keen to reactivate his community engagements, and the opportunity to undertake the Fairley Community Leadership Program was perfectly timely.

“I had gotten a little rusty in my community skills like public speaking, communications and computers, so getting involved in a class was definitely beneficial. ”

While disappointed in some ways that much of the program had to convert to Zoom meetings because of COVID-19, Roisin found the change to have an unexpected benefit.

“It was something we had to learn to use anyway, so it gave us a boost and from there I was able to take our team from St Vincent de Paul to Zoom, and help out in the meetings. and communication for other organic dairy families in need of regrouping. through a difficult time.

“While there have been losses in some things like public speaking and other in-person conversations, the skills given have been directly used and are going to be incredibly useful in the future, regardless of COVID. “

Roisin described the leadership program as “a perfect learning environment” where people from different backgrounds benefit from their interactions.

“They have done such a good job creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable learning and sharing.

“It broadened my knowledge of the different community sectors and the challenges they face, and I was proud to present the perspective of the dairy industry.

“It is important to be confident to discuss with other sectors.

“One thing I kept coming back to was trying to recognize other people’s skills and bring out the best in them.

“This is especially true for farmers who are not always confident in their own skills. So I want to point out to them that they have some really valuable skills and I encourage them to move forward. “

The program inspired Roisin to seek new opportunities to represent the dairy industry or the community at large.

She admits she never considered applying for positions on dairy industry boards, but that could change.

“It probably reflected my own level of confidence, but after talking about the structure of the program boards and the services provided by the board members, you look at it from a different perspective.

“I thought the roles on the board were outside of my skills, but now I would look for opportunities. “

Roisin urged other farmers to consider applying for a Gardiner Dairy Foundation Leadership Program scholarship.

“When you are a farmer you are constantly learning and improving; 2020 has been a challenge, but being involved with Fairley has made it a lot better. “

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