Dixie dairy farmer Brad Collins wants to hear more farming voices in community leadership roles.
In 2019 Mr Collins participated in Leadership Great South Coast, a community leadership program that gave him an opportunity to develop his leadership skills.
He was 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.
Mr Collins is a third-generation farmer and runs the dairy business with his wife Tammy at Dixie, south of Terang.
They milk about 240 cows, almost half the previous peak, but for Mr Collins this is a more sustainable and profitable balance.
He said the leadership program helped to inspire his “cleaner and greener” farm.
“It’s not about being a greenie, but 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, and that’s what the community wants as well.”
While Mr Collins gained life-long benefits from the leadership program, he often felt like a lone voice for farming communities.
“The hardest thing for me was being the only one from an agricultural business.
“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.”
Mr Collins wants that farming voice to grow and he is encouraging other dairy farmers to nominate for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation leadership scholarship.
“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 is using his strengthened leadership skills to work for the dairy industry, joining WestVic Dairy as an associate board member and 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.
“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.
Apply at: www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/vrclp