Saturday, 11 February 2012

Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Managment, Facebook & Uruguayan Agricultural Students

Hi from Massey University, Palmerston North, & Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand where this blog will now be written & produced on a regular basis.
I have recently moved back to New Zealand after a 30 year period of working overseas as a dairy consultant in Australia, UK & France. The blog has been produced in Europe but will now come from the southern hemisphere.
I’ve joined the new “Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management” which is currently funded by the NZ dairy industry & both Massey & Lincoln Universities. Hopefully the other agricultural sectors in NZ will also be involved with the Centre shortly. The Centre is a virtual Centre of Excellence (no bricks & mortar) of the Farm Management Staff at both Universities working together (a joint project) to improve the capability in Farm Management within NZ. We aim to be a serious player in Global Best Practice in Farm Management Research & Education.

I will regularly write about progress in these Research Projects & the Professional Development courses we are developing. I won’t be waiting until they are completed but report on progress to date…..why? I believe it is really important firstly that agricultural research is effective in visible change on farms….for that to happen, farmers & rural professionals need to engage all the way through the process to buffer, blunt, reshape & constructively be part of what I call “The Widget Making Team”. Otherwise the research “widget” will be deemed useless by the farmers & sent to the rubbish bin. Farmers need to both voice their opinions & have their expertise recognised & clearly heard.
My role with the Centre (CEFBM) is partly research, some teaching but mainly communication from the Universities to farmers, farming families, staff & the rural professionals that deliver professional services to the farming communities.

Let me divert…..Yesterday I gave my first my very first lecture to a group of agricultural students #BUTyouhavetolearntolaughatyourself. The students were from the University of the Republic of Uruguay.

I sadly don’t speak Spanish nor they much English. You might quite rightly think that was a recipe for disaster (for my first University lecture) but NO because we started to talk about Facebook. Facebook is the social media of the young (& not so young). A quick survey revealed that 100% of the students use facebook. Now we were on the same wavelength & both talking with passion…..we were now understanding each other!

I asked (through Massey University’s International student support team who translated) how many of their parents used facebook (Can you imagine the “what are you for real…..looks). The answer, about 10% of the Uruguayan agricultural students’ parents were on facebook! That clearly illustrates why today we need to use social media to communicate with the young agriculturists & young well educated farmers who are the face of today & tomorrows food through out the world.
The Uruguayan students & I discussed what role Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, blogs, google, wiki spaces might have in communicating global best practice farm management to farmers & the general public.
“IF I CAN TALK TO THE WORLD (by using social media) YOU ALSO CAN TALK TO THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY, YOUR AGRICULTURE, YOUR FARM & YOUR FOOD” In fact not only can you but you must as city separates from country & consumers become removed from farmers & food production.

Judge for yourself…..despite language differences DID we communicate with each other? Sorry Vice Chancellor….yes I did instruct them to turn on their mobile phones, cameras & make a hell of a lot of noise (probably against all the rules of the University) but it was a lot of fun….thank you fellow students! Great!
I have to confess also that when I was an AgSc student at Massey University back in the 1970s I got seriously offside with the then VC Dr Alan Stewart…..for erecting illegal ramps around the campus for disabled students access (in particular a fellow agricultural student who became a quad during his studies & struggled to get to lecture rooms because of poor disabled access (it was the 1970s)). The fact that our ramps looked remarkably similar to materials off the university farms was probably quite obvious to Dr Stewart too. However the good news is that I was allowed to complete my degree & the University erected proper Disabled Access everywhere…..& today would be very proud that they have good access for all students….little does the current admin realise it all started with fence posts knicked off the University farms!

I think it’s great that today, agricultural students get a chance to travel the world & come to NZ to look at our internationally respected farm business management. Both Massey & Lincoln offer postgraduate scholarships in Farm Business Management, so I hope some of my new best friends (NBFs) from Uruguay might consider studying here in NZ. Uruguay & NZ are already working together including AgResearch projects in Uruguay.
So getting back to my role at the “Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management”, it’s essentially communication. I’m the interface & we intend using every social media tool available to us to talk as often as we can with farmers. We will use Facebook, Youtube, Webinars, Wiki Spaces, Twitter….you name it…if it’s effective we will use it. The Centre CEFBM will have a website shortly.
By the way the Vice Chancellor at Massey University Steve Maharey also uses Twitter. @SteveMaharey.

I strongly believe that farmers need to become “advocates” for their own Global Best Practice, their farming industries & the food they produce. We can’t rely on outside PR agencies to promote or defend farmers & excellent farm management practices. We must do it ourselves. I want to help farmers become “Farming Advocates”. If I can talk to the world YOU also can talk to the world…..& you must!


  1. Students are most Important part of any society. I am Also a student and i like this Article. Very informative snaps are too awesome.

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