Helping Farmers to Make Informed & Confident Decisions – CEO Report

By Nathan Craig, WMG Chief Executive Officer

This year is shaping up to be a very challenging year for many growers in the region as the impact of last year is really felt from low livestock prices and the dry season reducing income in many farm businesses. It will be more important than ever for growers to make good confident decisions to ensure a profitable outcome for this year, particularly in choosing which new practices or technologies to employ to improve the returns from the limited resources available. In this situation, looking for new farming practices or technologies can boost farm profitability or increase operational efficiency and have a positive impact on the farm business, as long as you avoid the dreaded “I wish I didn’t do that this year” from adopting something new that failed to deliver. 

The role of WMG in the process of selecting which new practice or technology will drive farm profitability is to ensure that farmers have the information available to make an informed decision. Sometimes not adopting is the best outcome as it may not be the best fit for your business. This is often a trap for many industry solutions to farming problems, where it is assumed that every practice is completely adoptable by all farming businesses. While there is a plethora of information available to farmers nowadays, it can be very overwhelming trying to work out what will make money and what is just snake oil. 

After nearly 2 years in the making, WMG has now pulled the covers off its newest tool on the shelf to guide farmers in successful adoption of new farming practices. Our aim is to help farmers make an informed decision of whether or not to adopt a new practice by ensuring that they have the information available in the first instance. What we have found is that there is a process that all farmers go through, albeit at different speeds, in looking at new farming practices and technologies. 

The adoption pathway lays out the steps to adoption that are commonly tackled by farmers as they look to further improve profitability of their farming business. From initially becoming aware of a new practice and learning, the first steps of the adoption pathway are about assembling the information needed to understand the basic concepts. At some point, the decision to trial the new practice is taken, and this can come in many different forms: choosing to conduct a small trial or attend a field day to mull things over in your mind. If successful, adoption then follows into the farming business. 

At each point along the way, there are many and varied reasons why farmers get stuck in learning about new farming practices. The adoption pathway identifies this so that we can provide the extra information or support to ensure each new practice or technology can be evaluated with the right amount of information.  

The end result that interests WMG is the number of advocates developed for each new farming practice; those farmers who can support other farmers in trialing the new farming practice. Our biggest asset is our farming members and while each of the WMG Team are likely to come and go over time, retaining the knowledge in the farming community is a key step to build the capacity of the region and the resilience of farming. 

As farmers in our region engage in the discussion style events, they will come across the adoption survey as it is now part of all WMG activities we conduct with our farmers to measure progress in evaluating new practices. It only takes a couple of minutes to participate but will be an important tool that reduces the uncertainty in deciding whether or not to adopt a new farming practice or technology.

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