What I learned running a bush pub

What I learned running a bush pub


What AgTech consultant Brooke Sauer discovered when she found herself well outside of her comfort zone.


I was recently thrust into the life of managing a hotel with great gusto.

A whirlwind of emotions flooded me - fear, trepidation, confusion, exhaustion and the overwhelming fear of failure with so many people watching me and quite literally sussing me out.

I have spoken at countless conferences, field days, workshops and roadshows.

I won't deny the nerves still exist, but with time and experience I have learnt how to manage them.

I have comfort in knowing my subject.

But the fear of being centre stage behind the bar crippled me to breaking several glasses, pouring the wrong beer and short-changing either the till or the patron!

I am not completely devoid of skills.

I was a publican's daughter within a small farming community and well experienced as both a barmaid, patron (sometimes both concurrently) during my university years.

Fortunately, I knew what a super chiller is, how to change a keg, use a till and have a conversation.

Years of work in extension has come in handy whilst navigating my way in a very public business.

Interpreting people's reactions to change - particularly as drastic as having a new publican arrive like a hurricane, stirring up old, long held traditions - has been an interesting experience for all.

Nevertheless, inciting change in the "locals" has not been all that different to helping a farmer, startup or venture capitalist to take a leap of faith in the AgTech game.

In fact, the "public" business has taught me many things.

As someone who also needs to adapt, shake things up and learn to take a leap of faith I have realised that just being presented with all the evidence doesn't make the decision to change my practices any more instantaneous nor does anything seem like "a no brainer".

Note to self, erase those terms for when I take this hat off and resume to my normal duties.

People are complicated species. And the way we make decisions is; as individual as the way in which we like our beer poured.

I was not oblivious to this notion, but suddenly being forced to juggle emotions, reality and facts with business sensibility has provided a moment of clarity as to why farmers don't adopt agtech readily.

As simple as deciding to re-introduce the Sunday Roast was plagued with "what if it fails?"

"What if no-one likes the way I make gravy?"

How will I deal with the "small oven" issue if it doesn't fail?

How long do I ride this idea train before I make a decision to move on and try something else?"

Maybe a less risky than adopting technology, but I get it wholeheartedly now.

There is little doubt in most farmers' minds that the digital revolution will result in more profit, greater efficiency or even more yield.

Yet we all expect to fail at some point and this self preservation prevents some of us from "just having a crack".

Brooke Sauer

Brooke Sauer

I have had the most amazing support from the entire town, my family and friends.

I have also had plenty of advice.

But the decision to implement some change had to be our decision, one that we were at peace with.

Finding that sweet spot between where your heart beats, your head speaks and the locals argue takes a bit of to-ing and fro-ing.

So, my advice, drink more at your local hotel. Chat with the local hotel publican - she might know a lot about technology and finally has little bit experienced with taking that leap of faith.

- Brooke Sauer, IntellectAg, is an ag tech consultant and publican, therapist, toilet scrubber, sounding board, taker of complaints, wife and mother.


From the front page

Sponsored by