Written by: Emily Dempster | Finance and Administration Manager | 0410 789 164
I once had someone misunderstand what I meant by “PD”. They thought it was a personal day, and that I was going for a manicure. I quickly assured them it was professional development, work-related, serious stuff! But it made me realise that professional development isn’t common lingo in farming. And it made me wonder if it should be?
The development benefit of PDs is quite obvious, provided you can access relevant, good quality opportunities. In attending, you will gain knowledge and skills, learn about new trends and gain the confidence to enact change for the benefit of your business and industry. You will also have the opportunity to develop your network, and often achieve some personal growth too. Spring field walk days are common examples, but we don’t typically refer to them as professional development events.
The Australian Council of Professions defines a ‘profession’ as “a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards…
are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level…
and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.”
There is a lot to unpack from those three statements – I believe we are a profession, but public perception would disagree. Let me explain: Firstly, there is an implied difference between ethical standards and legal standards. We know we comply with legal standards. But where our practices actually fall on the perceived ethical scale depends greatly on how well informed the public is about actual farm practices.
Secondly, as far as specialist knowledge, we know that knowledge is a significant barrier of entry to being a farmer. But the public doesn’t. It is difficult for the public to appreciate the diverse skills, knowledge and experience farmers have since we seldom have a piece of paper to prove it.
Thirdly, we see the work we do as ‘feeding the world’. But more and more often, this message is getting twisted into ‘farmers are killing the environment’.
The crux of all three statements is public perception, and how it engenders trust (or mistrust) in an industry and its services or products. Trust allows an industry social licence to operate and to charge a fair price for its services or products.
As an example of an industry that lost the public’s trust: After the “Fees for no service” scandal, the financial advice industry had to reform in order to re-establish trust between the public and themselves. Part of the reform was legislated minimum CPD requirements and upskilling across all financial advisers. (Unfortunately, by letting the industry get to such a poor state of professionalism, the resulting mandated reform has become a significant cost burden on the industry.)
The Agricultural industry has already identified slippage in the public’s trust. In an effort to better inform the public and change this perception, a few brave growers are trying to shift public perception by sharing their message on social media platforms and in mainstream media. However, that isn’t an option for most growers.
So what can you do? [Warning: cliché incoming] TALK THE TALK! (This is the same theory as talking positively to children, and thinking positive thoughts.)
To engender trust in the Agriculture industry, we need to talk like professionals. We are already walking the walk – we are already holding ourselves to higher standards than the law, we are already highly knowledgeable and skilled, and we are already doing what we can for the public good.
But since the public can’t see that, you need to talk the talk too. Simple changes that will cost you nothing:
- Refer to that field day, GRDC update, or seminar you go to as professional development, and let the connotation and association of the words trickle into the public’s subconscious.
- See the value in professional development opportunities, not only in your own development, but in engendering public trust in our industry.
Planfarm’s Commitment to Professional Development Planfarm strives to make a difference to our clients, our team and our industry. In part, this includes promoting the values of knowledge and professionalism not only within our own business, but also within our industry. As such, we proudly sponsor professional development opportunities such as the Rural Edge Inspire Summit, Nuffield (WA), The Facey Group, RRR Network, GRDC Business Updates and numerous regional seminars etc. We are also very proud of the training opportunity growers can access through the Planfarm Academy. (Spoiler alert: Brand new Carbon Farming units to be released in Spring 2023!)
Jefferson Allan speaking at the Nuffield (WA) luncheon
Bronson Gledhill on a panel at Rural Edge Inspire Summit