By John Oliver
I have been very fortunate to have been a supporter, and committee member, of Farming Champions for many years. Being associated with this group has been important for me because it enables the opportunity to showcase Farming Families to the wider community, especially to city people.
Although not a farmer I do operate a small business servicing rural areas with Information Technology. In this role I see the importance of farming families, they contribute directly to the economy of our nation, to the structure of our communities and our identity as Australians. I was born and bred in the country and apart from having to go to the city for tertiary education have lived my life in rural and remote areas in WA and the NT. This meant having family and friends on fantastic farms, enjoying sharing the lifestyle and developing a broad range of skills, knowledge and values appropriate to being a contributor to our communities.
In my involvement in rural areas, I have seen the struggles in communications technology that all communities, and farming families, in particular, have to face and manage. Not just access to phone and internet but also actually accessing appropriate technology and learning how to make the best use of these limited resources. The constantly changing technology has meant farming families, just like all rural families, have had to adapt and change to keep abreast of things, mostly just to remain a viable industry. I am an enthusiastic supporter of all rural businesses and belong to several groups that assist and promote small businesses in rural areas, I know that most family farmers are a critical component of our rural business scene.
Over the years I have personally had to deal with issues like poor communications infrastructure, lack of medical services, non-existent education facilities, expensive goods and services, and being ignored in the bush. This has led to some innovative solutions and like most rural farming families have developed skills in areas that have been taken for granted by our city cousins. I have been involved in a wide range of things like Chair of the Historical Society, Art Director of an Art Prize competition, Principal of a Remote Community School, Chair of a Land Care District Committee, a member of advisory committees for government agencies and political bodies, and managed projects to bring art, culture and life experiences to children and families in rural areas.
Being a husband and parent in rural WA has meant I have had to manage many of the same sorts of issues as our Farming Families and have empathy with the situations that they must cope with on a daily basis. This is not just getting food on the table but also managing the business, providing a real education for our children, dealing with all sorts of health matters, staying in touch with the wider family, and learning how to acquire, use and repair anything and everything.
Fortunately, all my family love the bush and enjoy travel and camping, so we have shared many wonderful experiences in some amazing places. We have travelled extensively throughout Australia (and overseas) doing some fantastic things. We maintain a blog when on the road so all our family and friends can also share in some of these pleasures. Often when travelling we spend time on farms, stations, and in rural communities where apart from enjoying the good life we support as best we can with our Information Technology business, trying to improve the lives of our fellow rural residents.
Farming Champions has also allowed me to bring the importance of our Farming Families to the city through the Farmer on Your Plate event. Since its inception, I have been involved as a committee member and helped with IT and communications, done some photography, interviewed members, participants, and visitors, and thoroughly enjoyed being part of a very important team bringing knowledge and experiences to the city for people that do not normally get a chance to see what it’s like in rural areas.
Get to this year’s event: Farmer on Your Plate | Friday 2 September 2022 | Forrest Place | 9am – 3pm