2Overview The origins of grower groups in Australia. Why have Grower Group Alliances emerged?The Victorian Grower Groups Alliance
3“Grower” groups in Australia (i) Long tradition of farmers working together to address common concerns:Formal and informal groups, local community to national,Farmers’ unions (apolitical ), representative political parties, marketing cooperatives, buying groups, farm bureaux, soil conservation, vermin & noxious weed control groups, catchment management, environmental conservation, district fire brigadesIncreasing acceptance of an adult education/learner centric model of extension coincided with increasing use of local groups by agencies as a preferred vehicle for farmer education & extension of new practices:From the 1960s, district & enterprise-based farm management discussion e.g. dairy, grains, grazing, wool, pigsFrom the 1980s, some focus on business management skills e.g. FarmFacts, FM500From the 1950s to commodity marketing e.g. Prime Wheat Association, SEPWA, Best Wool,Farm conservation practices e.g. Landcare, catchment protection, Potter Farm Plan, Farm Advance
4“Grower” groups in Australia (ii) As withdrawal of corporate and government services from regional areas gathered pace, the decentralised, community-led model for service delivery was grasped by policy makers and community leadersFamily & community support servicesFinancial counsellors & farm debt lobby groupsHealth services , farm safetySmall Towns Study late 1980s – LOCAL LEADERSHIP CRITICALToday:Most industry/private benefit advice and training is delivered through commercial networks e.g. input suppliers, consultants, and NFP grower/industry-led groups, aka “grower groups”.Services delivered include training, extension projects & applied R&DThis approach is now institutionalised into the fabric of rural Australia. Many grower groups have been operating for 20+ years.
6Why grower group alliances? Do individual group have the scale, capacity and resources to effectively deliver on the expectations of membership and stakeholders?While groups compete for grants, sponsorships and sometimes members, they have many common needs and interests outside the competitive space and much to gain from cooperative action in agreed areas.Existing models in SA Ag Excellence and the WA Grower Group Alliance now in its 12th year of operation.
8VGGA Origins2008 discussions between DEPI & number of Victorian groups led to 2009 conference.DEPI agency view (then) that a single grower network covering all grain-producing regions of Victoria would be better able to deliver statewide projects in the absence of DEPI field extension services.DEPI seed-funded creation of a Victorian alliance, with expectation this would gain industry and other support and perform a range of functions previously undertaken by agency.
9The VGGA MissionTo improve the research, development, and extension outcomes for farmers in its members’ regions through cooperation, collaboration, and communication between member groups, within and between regional D&E networks, national rural research programmes, and centres of excellence.
10VGGA nowIncorporated association of 7 member groups with independent chair and part-time coordinatorGuiding principles – no competition for funds with member groups, equal say regardless of size (see notes for details), facilitate cooperation between members.Regular meetings of all members represented by Chairs and EOs.Strong interaction and project/operational cooperation now between members’ organisations Sharing of research equipment and field machinery sharing and significant financial and in-kind support for joint applied R&D and extension projects.Members pay annual fee which tops up DEPI grant and pays for projects and coordination.DEPI remains engaged through nominated executive contactscapacity review and risk assessment of VGGA member groups completed. Members agreed on priorities to be addressed on their behalf by VGGALed to VGGA project: Improving Grower Groups’ Capacity & Risk Management.Phase 1 underway targeting Improving OHS Systems & Procedures at member groups.From mid-2014, GRDC project funding for 2nd phase of Deepening relationships between staff of member groups.