Farm­ing mes­sage taken from trac­tor to the world

Farmer Dave shares life on the land

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

HE’S a man rep­re­sent­ing agri­cul­ture, but Farmer Dave isn’t your av­er­age farmer.

Af­ter a full day in the sun fix­ing bro­ken-down im­ple­ments, then just be­fore be­gin­ning an 18-hour shift plant­ing sorghum, David Gra­ham does some­thing you might not ex­pect.

In­stead of sink­ing into the air-con­di­tioned cab of his trac­tor, and pop­ping on his favourite Game of Thrones au­dio book, he gets out his mobile and starts to live stream a video.

With more than 50,000 fol­low­ers on his Farmer Dave Face­book page, he talks his au­di­ence through a tour of the plant­ing process.

The trac­tor is run­ning smoothly on GPS di­rec­tion, so he is able to jump out of the cab and walk around the mov­ing ma­chin­ery, check­ing the equip­ment, and ex­plain­ing in­tri­ca­cies of farm­ing, like the depth seeds are planted in cen­time­tres.

It would have been eas­ier to tune into the next chap­ter of

Game of Thrones in cool com­fort.

But Dave is as pas­sion­ate about pro­mot­ing agri­cul­ture as he is about be­ing a farmer him­self.

While in the midst of an an­other 18-hour shift, Dave spoke to the Ru­ral Weekly to ex­plain how a coun­try lad from Goondi­windi in south­west Queens­land be­came a pro­lific “ag-vo­cate” in Aus­tralia and abroad.

Be­fore we start, if you think Dave looks fa­mil­iar you are right. He was a con­tes­tant on Big Brother in 2006, who fa­mously made head­lines for an­nounc­ing he was gay on the show.

And, in re­cent years he has per­formed big-ticket live shows with his team of work­ing/trick dogs around the coun­try.

SHAR­ING HIS WORK

Along with his par­ents, Max and Lu­cille, Dave man­ages a mixed en­ter­prise farm­ing business in south­west Queens­land.

When the Ru­ral Weekly caught up with him, he was plant­ing for­age sorghum on Re­treat Sta­tion, which is about 80km north of Goondi­windi.

“We farm about 100,000 acres here, and we have some breed­ing prop­er­ties north-west of St Ge­orge, near Mitchell,” he said.

They breed with roughly 2000 feeder cows on the buf­fel coun­try near Mitchell, and fat­ten cat­tle on Re­treat.

About 15,000 acres is cropped a year, which in­cluded farm­ing chick­peas, wheat, bar­ley oats, sorghum and mung­beans.

And, in the times when Dave is not busy with all of the above, he hits the road talk­ing to stu­dents about agri­cul­ture in cap­i­tal cities.

“I have this re­ally big be­lief con­sumers need to un­der­stand farm­ers. They need to un­der­stand, not just what we pro­duce, but why we pro­duce it,” he said.

“So in school hol­i­days I am teach­ing kids all about agri­cul­ture, about farms and our way of life.

“I want to give them a con­nec­tion.

“I re­ally feel very few, if any, chil­dren in our ma­jor of cap­i­tal cities have a con­nec­tion to agri­cul­ture ge­net­i­cally.

“There is no longer the cousin or un­cle on the farm – there re­ally is a big dis­con­nect.”

Teach­ing kids what goes into mak­ing their hum­mus or Hun­gry Jack’s is a vi­tal, small step, but through so­cial me­dia Dave is reach­ing a larger au­di­ence in­stan­ta­neously.

CON­NECT­ING

Dave joked his live Face­book videos were the re­sult of get­ting board dur­ing “long shifts in a header”.

He talks to the lens on his smart­phone as though he is talk­ing to a good mate.

“I don’t see so­cial me­dia any dif­fer­ent to just hav­ing a chat,” he said.

“For me the page is all about giv­ing that per­sonal in­sight.”

Be­ing open means Dave shares the highs and lows of farm­ing – it’s vi­tal to him his posts are al­ways honest.

“I don’t think it hurts to share your stuff ups,” he said.

“If you make out that you are an un­re­al­is­tic person then you are be­ing a liar. If some­thing goes wrong for me I don’t see it as a bad thing, I think it’s a won­der­ful thing.

“Like ear­lier on to­day I for­got to press a certain but­ton on my trac­tor which meant I had to re­plant an en­tire row. But that’s awe­some, it means I will learn from it – and I bloody won’t do it again, will I?”

Dave viewed his farms as hav­ing an open gate; no ques­tions were off lim­its.

“If I tried and tell a story that was un­true, I think I would come un­stuck in a very big way. So I am not ashamed to say ‘yes, we use chem­i­cals and this is why we use chem­i­cals. Yes I eat meat, and this is why I eat meat’.”

SHAR­ING HIS STORY

A re­cent post that went vi­ral on his page was Dave’s heart­felt mes­sage of thanks to the Australian peo­ple af­ter the re­sults of the same-sex mar­riage sur­vey was an­nounced.

As a gay man liv­ing in re­gional Queens­land, Dave talked about what the re­sult meant to him.

“As a farmer on a fairly large broad­acre farm I don’t have the person that’s just over the fence who I can ask for a cup of sugar when what I am re­ally want­ing is a hug,” he quipped.

“For me my page can be about ex­press­ing who as I am as a person. That’s of­ten the lib­er­at­ing thing that we all need to do is just ex­press our­selves.

“And of­ten, white, An­glo-Saxon, male farm­ers

are taught never to ex­press our­selves.”

He touched on the fact that not talk­ing openly could lead to men­tal health is­sues – which im­pacted re­la­tion­ships, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

“As a so­ci­ety we need to re­mem­ber that it’s okay to have a chat. That it’s okay to ex­press your­selves. And that’s im­por­tant to ev­ery­one whether you are gay, straight, black or brindle.”

Af­ter shed­ding a tear ex­plain­ing what it felt like “to be re­garded as an equal cit­i­zen”, Dave jumped in his ute and told his au­di­ence he was late to go and plant sorghum.

SHAR­ING LESSONS

In the past, Dave has been open about the dif­fi­cul­ties he faced grow­ing up gay in the bush.

It wasn’t easy.

His mes­sage to oth­ers fac­ing the same sit­u­a­tion was to em­brace the jour­ney.

“Like any­one go­ing through a tran­si­tion from child­hood to adult­hood, you are not alone,” he said.

“You’re not the first person to go through this. You are not Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary, this is not Ever­est.

“You need to learn to en­joy the highs, and en­joy the lows.

“En­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause you are one of a very few peo­ple who get to ex­pe­ri­ence what you ex­pe­ri­ence.

“In fact, you are the only one.

“You get to ex­pe­ri­ence, not only what it’s like to be main­stream, be­cause that is what you are sur­rounded by, but also to un­der­stand what it’s like to be in a tiny mi­nor­ity.”

Dave said he felt priv­i­leged to live a life true to him­self.

“I won the lot­tery of life to be here,” he said.

“We are now for­tu­nate to live in a so­ci­ety that says, ‘you are okay, you are equal to us’, and if some­one says some­thing to you that’s a bit (crappy), you know what, that is their is­sue.”

FU­TURE SHAR­ING

With 50,000 fol­low­ers, Dave is keen to con­tinue spread­ing the good mes­sage about farm­ing.

“What I have al­ways wanted to do with so­cial me­dia is not to high­light my per­sonal life, that my skin is white, my eyes are blue, that I’m sex­u­ally at­tracted to men not women... with all that who I am I just get the hell on with my life,” he said.

“So when I started this page I wanted for young peo­ple to look at my page and say ‘well there is a bloke, we all know he is gay, but he isn’t al­ways talk­ing about it, he is just get­ting on with his life’. He is do­ing what he wanted to do, not what he was forced to do.”

Dave’s fierce pas­sion for agri­cul­ture stems from his love of his fam­ily’s prop­erty.

“I am bonded to my coun­try like I am bonded within my skin. This is ev­ery­thing to me, it’s all I have known,” he said.

“My coun­try is ev­ery­thing so I just want to share that in­cred­i­ble con­nec­tion I have.

“I am so for­tu­nate that I was born into a fam­ily of 11 kids and we could all be on this bit of land.

“It is my heart and soul... I give this ev­ery­thing, which makes it the most cared for part of the world I live in.”

Over­all, Dave just hopes there will come a time when all con­sumers are mak­ing in­formed de­ci­sions about the food they buy at a gro­cery store.

“I just think once they have the knowl­edge, they will want to eat more Australian tucker,” he said.

Search Farmer Dave on Face­book to keep up to date with Dave’s posts.

I just think once they have the knowl­edge they will want to eat more Australian tucker... — Farmer Dave

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

SPEAK­ING OUT: Dave Gra­ham, a Goondi­windi mixed en­ter­prise farmer and “ag-vo­cate” shares a pos­i­tive farm­ing mes­sage on Face­book.

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK

Farmer Dave talk­ing to his 50,000 fol­low­ers dur­ing a live stream on Face­book.

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK

Har­vest­ing on Re­treat Sta­tion.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Dave loves work­ing with live­stock. His an­i­mals are stars on his page.

Dave camps out in the pad­dock dur­ing busy crop­ping times. His hound Jess is mak­ing sure no snakes get into his swag.

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK

Speak­ing with Syd­ney school pupils about Australian agri­cul­ture.

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