Laying the foundations of future leaders

Better not bigger: lessons in leadership

Dairy
NEW SKILLS: Brad Collins, a dairy farmer from Dixie, polished his leadership skills through the Leadership Great South Coast program sponsored by Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

NEW SKILLS: Brad Collins, a dairy farmer from Dixie, polished his leadership skills through the Leadership Great South Coast program sponsored by Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

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Dairy farmer uses leadership program to develop skills.

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Dixie dairy farmer Brad Collins wants to hear more farming voices in community leadership roles.

In 2019, he participated in the 'Leadership Great South Coast' program that gave him an opportunity to develop new skills.

Sponsored by Gardiner Dairy Foundation, Mr Collins said he was now more confident talking to people from different backgrounds and more aware of how others viewed the dairy industry.

He said through the program he learned more about the local community and was able to foster a better appreciation of agriculture among fellow participants.

"It opened my eyes to the region and the people in it," he said.

"It gave me the confidence to talk to them and I now understand that everyone is capable of being a leader - you just need passion and belief in yourself."

Mr Collins is a third-generation farmer and runs the dairy business with his wife, Tammy, at Dixie, south of Terang.

The couple milk about 240 cows, almost half of their previous peak numbers, and are finding this is a sustainable and profitable balance.

Mr Collins said the leadership program helped to inspire his 'cleaner and greener' farm.

"It's not about being a 'greenie', but more about listening to peoples' needs and growing our businesses to suit those needs," he said.

"Bigger is not always better and we should always strive to be better.

"I wanted to make my farm self-sufficient, environmentally sustainable and profitable.

"That's what the community wants as well."

While Mr Collins said he gained life-long benefits from the leadership program, he said he often felt like a lone voice for farming communities.

Lone voice

"The hardest thing for me was being the only (participant in the course) from an agricultural business," Mr Collins said.

"It made me feel like I had to stand up for everyone in business.

"I think it's important to have farmer representation.

"Our communities wouldn't exist if it wasn't for agriculture."

I now understand that everyone is capable of being a leader - you just need passion and belief in yourself. - Dixie dairy farmer Brad Collins

Mr Collins wants that farming voice to grow and he's encouraging other dairy farmers to nominate for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation leadership scholarship.

The Gardiner Foundation supports leadership opportunities for people working in the industry and in dairy communities because the vibrancy and health of dairy communities is as important as what happens on farm or in milk factories.

"We need to give people a better understanding of the dairy industry and agriculture in general and we need to understand the differences between town communities and agriculture and see how we can bring them together," Mr Collins said.

He is now using his strengthened leadership skills to work for the dairy industry. He has joined WestVic Dairy as an associate board member and is participating in discussion groups.

Mr Collins has also started planning an on-farm community art project and is pushing the region's credentials as Australia's food bowl.

During the leadership program, he was part of the Gateways to Growth community project to support the Great South Coast Food and Fibre Council - promoting the region as a premier food and fibre destination.

"Every day I look back and realise how much I got out of it," he said.

"I can now appreciate the different ways people think and build that into my thoughts and even into my farming practices.

"We're building the dairy industry but it's not about the way we want to do it; it's the way consumers want it.

"There are a lot of good positive stories throughout the dairy industry and we want them to be told."

  • Gardiner Dairy Foundation is inviting applicants for its 2021 Regional Leadership programs in south-west Victoria, Gippsland, northern Victoria and north-east Victoria.
  • More Information: www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/vrclp/
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