A slice of life

Host: AgForce Queensland
Written by Sharon Purcell, AgForce Southern Inland Queensland Regional manager.

AgForce has been the unifying voice for Queensland’s beef, sheep and grain producers since 1999.  Our strength continues through our membership and a strategic vision to secure the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the agribusiness sector. AgForce has approximately thirty staff based in Brisbane and regionally around Queensland.

Representing the rural industry as an AgForce regional manager is one of the most rewarding and most frustrating roles I’ve ever undertaken.

Rewarding because the rural producers I work with are some of the most innovative, passionate people and frustrating because I feel their pain when decisions that are made by people with no understanding of their industry, impact heavily on their ability to continue their amazing work.

On property visit: (L to R) Regional manager, Sharon Purcell with AgForce members, Ron and Merv Phillips, Currawong, Mitchell.

As a regional manager, my role is diverse and frenetic but I love it when we get a win for the rural industry!

Like last year when AgForce helped producers fight a ‘David and Goliath’ battle against the Federal Government when the Defence Force tried to compulsory acquire farms around the Shoalwater Bay and Townsville areas to expand their training areas for an overseas army. Our industry stood together and fought for the right to say no to selling agricultural land to the Defence Force. We were able to get them to back down and those producers can carry on producing cattle for generations to come on those properties.

A seemingly never-ending issue that we are always fighting is the ability for producers to manage vegetation. Unfortunately, we lost the recent battle to reject changes to the Act. AgForce won an extra 18 months for our industry in 2016 when we stopped the same changes back then. These laws make it harder for Queensland farmers to produce food and fibre and the ‘stand together and fight’ attitude of our industry was and still is, liberating to witness and to be a part of.

Rural Queenslanders are a resilient bunch and will work tirelessly on their own properties but if you treat our industry unfairly, you will see unity like never before and it’s still building.

I cover an area from Taroom and Injune in the north, to Mitchell and Bollon in the west, across to Chinchilla and Goondiwindi in the east and down to the Queensland/NSW border.

The job is a mix of understanding and explaining issues, service of members, publicity for the organisation and representing the issues with politicians and other organisations.

(L to R) Member for Gregory, Lachlan Millar, Regional Manager, Sharon Purcell, AgForce Grains policy officer, Zach Whale and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Tony Perrett.

I try to spend Monday in the office and use this time to collate and distribute my regional newsletter. Keeping everyone informed about what I’m doing with my time and who I’m talking to is well received by members. I let them know of any AgForce or other events that are coming up in our area in the future. It is time consuming but vital for open communications.

The rest of the week is extremely varied.

AgForce events are organised and delivered by the regional manager. There are five of us across Queensland and we do everything.

  • Organise the venue and catering
  • Arrange the speakers and their transport and accommodation
  • Coordinate sponsors for the event
  • Arrange invoices and monitor the budget for the event
  • Create the agenda for day
  • Produce flyers and promote the event
  • Take registrations
  • Ensure the event flows smoothly

AgGrow field days in Emerald: (L to R) Andy Hawkins, The Gemfields, Regional Manager, Sharon Purcell, John Baker, Middlemount, AgForce Vegetation Policy officer, Greg Leach and Ian Burnett, Emerald.

A large part of our role is to attend as many events in our area to ensure members can approach us about any issues on their own patch.

Brisbane resident, Pamela Lutton called into the Roma office on her way to Emerald to get a new AgForce sticker for her car.

Regional managers drive membership increases and are considered the faces of AgForce in the regions. We work with elected members to ensure the events we are organising are reflective of the sentiment in the industry at the time and have fantastic support from members and elected members in the promotion and delivery of events.

AgForce has a team of almost thirty staff members in the Brisbane office and regional managers liaise regularly with these staff to ensure we are thoroughly up to date with policy direction and board decisions. As a regional manager, we are the first point of contact for member enquiries and we try very hard to be broadly across all issues but we know where to get more information when required.

AgForce host events to bring producers together to network and learn. Ross & Steve Daniels, Sharon Purcell, Jean Cottam and Boyd Schwartz.