WithTheGrain: Adviser upskilling the focus for extension efforts

Author: | Date: 09 Apr 2018

MRZ RCSN member Mick Faulkner says it is important to work towards identifying where an adviser is in their career development and their capabilities to work out how to best to guide extension efforts into the future.

The importance of supporting farm advisers in performing their critical role to create farm profitability was a key topic discussed at the most recent medium-rainfall zone (MRZ) Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) meetings.

The MRZ RCSN recognises the level of knowledge of skills of advisers is critical to the profitability, risk management and/or compliance of farm businesses. The group also understands more effective extension of valuable research and development findings to advisors will better enable on-farm practice change and enduring profitability for all grain growers.

Ag Consulting Co’s Jeanette Long spoke on the topic at the meeting and highlighted the role of advisers in grain, and mixed, farming, which has increased in importance as government has reduced its role in extension over the past 20 years.

Mrs Long highlighted the social, economic and technical complexity of the role advisers play puts them in the position as change-makers for farmers. Results from the 2016 GRDC Grower Survey indicate 50 per cent of growers nationally were paying for farm management advice.

MRZ RCSN member Mick Faulkner says it is important to work towards identifying where an adviser is in their career development and their capabilities to work out how to best to guide extension efforts into the future.

Mr Faulkner, an adviser himself based in South Australia’s Mid North, says there are three types of adviser in the operational area and others again who take a more business management and strategic approach. Those three are best described as:

  • the “spot and swat” advisor who visits the paddock, identifies the problem and largely makes the decisions for the farmer in terms of a course of action, such as spraying for a particular weed.
  • the “joint decision-maker” who takes a more holistic approach with a farmer where a course of action must fit with the capability and intent of the business and external considerations.
  • a “coach adviser” who coaches a farmer in how to make decisions and arms them with the information that helps them decide if and how practice change will fit the business.

“We can’t offer training for advisers unless we know where their capabilities lie,” Mr Faulkner says.

“There is a place for each of these roles in our industry but offering extension and training in the southern region can’t be a one size fits all approach. We want to give them really good information so that they can go out and do a really good job.”

Mr Faulkner says the GRDC acknowledges each adviser has professional needs and tailoring training to advisers in different career and operational stages would make sure the people farmers are trusting to help with their operation are well-equipped.

More information

Mick Faulkner, 0428 857 378, mick.faulkner@bigpond.com