Ed: Some readers may wonder why we are profiling agriculture and farmers. Although many tech commentators are focused on the latest apps, cloud services and gadgets solving 1st world non problems and wouldn’t know a cow if they fell over it, we see agriculture as being a real world problem which in our opinion is one of the top 5 sectors that technology startups should be focusing on.
There is something very elegant about a business done well. Each bit of the business process re-enforces another bit, in a virtuous cycle.
I like crowdfunding for the same reasons – capital, wisdom, iteration speed, forgiving early adopters and a marketing force – all at once. It makes ideas real and faster if they resonate with a community and take off. It’s beautiful.
But many industries and the businesses within them are not sustainable. An unsustainable massage industry is one thing – an expensive inconvenience. But an unsustainable Agriculture is another thing entirely.
Agriculture is the most important industry because we all eat. Agriculture is where man intersects with nature most directly adding and taking away from the environment.
This ‘Nailing It’ goes out to – Derek and Kirrily Bloomfield who as I’ll explain thoroughly deserve it because they’re making something ‘elegant’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘regenerative’.
Derek and Kirrily have built an elegant business. It’s elegant and regenerative because each part helps the whole in a virtuous cycle.
They are working with nature to regenerate soils, which grows more crops and grass, which slows water runoff and lets more rain sink in, which reduces seasonal risk and becomes more product, which they sell directly to customers who want organic foods.
Being organic and selling direct to the consumer increases the price they receive whilst reducing it for the client. They then have reduced their costs (by not spraying or using chemicals) and get a better margin.
It also reduces the amount of time spent in the yards, which is conventionally needed if you’re injecting artificial factors into beef production. So they are spending more time planning and marketing and less time stressing their stock and paying money to lose a war with nature. This business is elegant and that probably explains why Derek and Kirrily are so in love with it.
It’s not just elegant because of the business model and regenerative because of it’s increasing biodiversity and profit, it’s beautiful.
It’s beautiful to understand that just 12 years ago Derek and Kirrily were thinking of leaving agriculture altogether.
Twelve years ago Derek described their circumstances as typical of many farmers: “We were newly married and living with my parents at Colarado (the property name). But it was tough we were struggling every year and going backwards. There were mental health issues. Everyone felt despondent and inadequate”.
The light turned on when they learned about Holistic Management in 2001*. This allowed them to change their livestock management and start to capture many of the benefits of a better ecosystem. In 2006, they repeated the course and this time found more value in the goal-setting and emotional stuff – the “social stuff” as Derek calls it.
This learning in 2006 coincided with a direct external threat. Their land was part of a rich agricultural region known as the Liverpool Plains. Miners however were keen to access coal and coal seam gas in this region. Some neighbors sold out at premiums and tensions were high in the district. It was made worse by the corrupt politician Ian Macdonald retroactively changing laws to suit the miners that had paid for licenses from his department. Some of these miners were upstarts but many were big names like BHP.
Derek and Kirrily blockaded BHP from their property gate for 2 years. They joined the Caroona Coal Action Group and SOS Liverpool Plains Group. They paid out of pocket for legals in a David v Goliath battle. The mining and facking they feared would impact their water and their organic programs and they had to engage in something farmers weren’t used to at all i.e public relations.
The miners and farmers war rages on despite the obvious stupidity of sacrificing the Liverpool Plains food bowl for 30 years of gas production.
Derek and Kirrily have a beautiful business because this and all the other challenges in their life have made them a stronger unit and seen them extend beyond their comfort zones, so they could reach out and connect with farmers, consumers, policy makers and government extension services.
When times were tough (and you bet there have been many of those times) they spent time on themselves. Engaging in annual personal development courses. Converting the dining room table to the boardroom table and the office as they needed. They assigned themselves professional roles of CEO and COO and they made themselves accountable by getting a business coach.
As an example to any business owner, this is what you have to do to get through – you grow through your problems and don’t let them overwhelm you.
Not many farmers market their beef direct to consumers but Derek and Kirrily have made it happen when they launched theconsciousfarmer.com.au.
It started with Kirrily giving some meat to her cousin who lived in Brisbane. The neighbor enjoyed the meat at the BBQ hosted by her cousin so much that they she ordered too.
Pretty soon the whole street were buying regularly and sharing it. Derek and Kirrily would provide information on how each beast was bred, handled and what to do with each portion for best cooking and nutritional results. They now supply from Brisbane to Canberra.
Not many farmers have recognized the need to market their process and not just the product. But that’s precisely what Kirrily does with her blog theconsciousfarmer.com
In her Blog she shares the practical ways farmers can implement regenerative agriculture in broadacre situations like theirs (sustainability is not just for small farms). It’s a personal and highly engaging blog that works perfectly as window into their inspiring world.
Kirrily has driven The Conscious Farmer blog. It’s growing each month through Facebook and word of mouth. She has connections to Conscious Enterprises, Conscious Chefs, Conscious Parents and Conscious Clubs in the city that resonate with her as the Conscious Farmer. Beautiful marketing,
They are now also working closely with Oz Harvest and other groups.
There are very few Farmers that are running their own crowdfunding campaigns. But, here are Derek and Kirrily offering to report back and share their insights from attending a US based conference with any of the crowd that support them ( Gofundme.com/healthyfarms .
It’s just a really great business when you think about it. They have engagement strategies, production strategies, organizational meetings and structures, they plan and they get things done. They have a story to tell which they do through social media, crowdfunding and direct to consumer product sales. This beautiful business with it’s elegant model is paying dividends far bigger than the recent recognition of Derek and Kirrily as NSW Farmer’s Of The Year.
I have no doubt that Derek and Kirrily will meet their next few decades with same ingenuity and courage as the last 12 years. I’m sure they will have made their patch of dirt better and more profitable. I’m sure they will have taught their sons about farming and given them the permission to do anything else they want. I’m sure that people will be still looking to them for thoughtful ways to regeneratively farm.
Derek and Kirrily, you are totally Nailing It. Well done.