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Hobbits and Hope

The Christmas and New Year break is now past – and January 2016 has started with a rush!  Some welcome rain is falling around Queensland and it gives some hope for many of the properties that have faced drought over recent years.A delight in a recent trip to New Zealand was a visit to Hobbiton.  A great example of diversification!  There in the middle of a sheep and cattle property, among the beautiful green rolling hills of New Zealand was this magical legacy of Hobbiton – with clothes drying on the line, food on the tables in front of the hillside dwellings and so well kept that you can imagine that the hobbits are just away for the day!

The reason for being in NZ was to accompany a group of grain consultants from Australia as part of the GRDC EATS project to explore different ways of working in extension and advisory work with producers.  The dairy industry provides a wealth of effective approaches.  We also met with James Turner from AgResearch to discuss insights from the Primary Innovation Program/Co-innovation project.

Visiting Chile again was a highlight!  So good to catch up with my Chilean colleagues. This time the focus was on workshops with consultants who are contracted to support smallholder farmers.  It was a learning experience for me as well!  The course covered the family farm system and how to consider technology in the context of the social aspects on the farm as well as understanding learning processes and barriers to change.  This project goes for a couple of years – so there is an opportunity to support this group over time.

The APEN conference in Adelaide was excellent.  There were new conversations about supporting change with a focus on the public and private complementary roles – a lot of energy and new insights into extension.  And the conference organisers did us all proud with a great social program and special touches as well.  With many of the participants from the private sector finding this extension network as a key support group, it bodes well for the future and direction of extension.

So on with 2016 – and hope!