Drawing on experience to help NSW farmers

By Rick Bayne

FORMER DAIRY farmer turned rural support worker Peter Brown hopes to change things on the farm and across the industry.

Appointed under the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Rural Resilience Program, Mr Brown will support farming communities in the Lower Hunter, Gloucester and Manning areas.

His primary role will be to listen, learn and link farmers to professional services if they need help, but he won’t shy away from supporting them on a broader industry basis.

“I hope I can listen to their needs and issues and push them back up through the lines to policy makers,” he said. “If some policies need to be changed we can pass things on so those who make the policies aware of what’s happening.”

Mr Brown grew up on a dairy farm and returned 25 years ago. He sold his family property near Taree in June, settling on his 60th birthday. He was treasurer of the Mid Coast Dairy Advancement Group for 15 years and chairman for three years.

“Dairy has been good to us and we enjoyed it but wanted the challenge of doing something different,” he said.

“I’ve been through the mill with farming and primary production and this job is all about helping farmers in difficult or challenging times and creating opportunities for farming communities,” Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown has a Diploma in Agriculture but says his knowledge of farming provides the perfect base.

“You know what they’re facing and what can be done,” he said.

Mr Brown supports all rural primary production industries; including dairy, beef, fishing and oyster farming.

“The idea is to listen to their needs and issues and link them to someone who is qualified to help. It could be financial, agronomy, herd health or mental health,” he said.

“I’m not a counsellor; I just take their needs and issues on board and see what I can do to get someone to help. Farmers are very resilient but sometimes they need a bit of support to build up again.”

Mr Brown said networking and socialising could help. “A lot of farmers feel they’re the only ones facing problems but if you can get them to network with others it helps a lot. It’s surprising how many times you hear the comment that I didn’t realise so many people are facing the same things I’m facing.”

Two months into the role Mr Brown said farmers appreciate the support.

“I’m trying to get to as many farmer meetings as I can to get myself known and I’m looking at others ways to help, such as getting farm suppliers on board so they can tell us if something’s not right.”

Information on the Rural Resilience Program is available on the DPI website