Today we head south to Sydney to meet inspirational woman, Danica Leys. Last year Danica was awarded the NSW/ACT Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award for her vision and commitment to a vibrant primary industries sector. Danica, a former agronomist, co-created AgChatOz, an online forum which discusses rural issues across Australia every tuesday night on Twitter.  She is currently the Policy Director – Environment  at NSW Farmers’ Association . Danica lives in Sydney having moved there from Dubbo four years ago.

           “I am thrilled am humbled that Nicole has asked me to blog on her site. I have been a big fan of Nicole’s for a long time, and as I sit here, at the end of a VERY soggy and miserable week, I have great plans of returning to the lounge very soon with a cup of tea and finally finishing off “Absolution Creek”…it is of course, the best way to enjoy the rain in Sydney! So yes, I am based in Sydney. I have been here for about 4 years now since our family moved from Dubbo, but I actually grew up here (well in Picton) as well. I know part of the aims of these blogs is to illustrate that fact that isolation is no barrier to achievement, so you may think that I am more that a little smug trying to convey that point as I sit in the big smoke! However, isolation does not have to be just thought about in the geographical sense.

danicaThose that know me well, also know that I am a massive advocate for agriculture and I work tirelessly in this regard, both in paid and unpaid roles, for the better part of my day. I have observed, that yes, there is certainly issues with geographical isolation in agriculture…BUT…I think it is probably fair to say that sometimes, the industry as a whole can find itself ‘isolated’ in terms of government priorities and the recognition of wider society. This is something that I have become keenly aware of since my move here, and through my work. In saying that, I have found social media to be one of the greatest tools EVER in terms of combating these different forms of isolation. Yes, you can tweet/blog and Facebook from wherever you like AND if your voice has not been previously heard, you can begin to have some influence, no matter where you are.

AgChatOZ LogoReaders here are obviously more that aware of this, although I really cant overstate the point enough. From my point of view, even as recently as a few years ago, agriculture was not being heard or seen as it should have been, at least not by a large proportion of society. Yes, it is true that we may still have a long way to go, but for me, when I reflect on the growth of the AgChatOZ community looking for example, I think that we have achieved much. Its not about forcing “agriculture” to the front of every persons mind every single day…as much as we may love that, it is never going to happen. In addition, being too confrontational can be counter productive ie. “We feed you – so respect us!” will almost always get you the reaction of “Ugh, get over yourself” or perhaps even worse “yawn”.

I think though, it is about a much more subtle and nuanced approach in that through our presence on social media, we are there when the questions are asked (as they will be, sometimes tough ones) and we continually present a positive picture of our industry. One that is innovative, efficient, world leading and also lots of fun.

agchatfoundersI am really proud that myself, Sam Livingstone and Tom Whitty have been able to create a community like AgChatOZ, and be a crucial part of encouraging the further uptake of social media in our industry. Its been a whirlwind, and it still is, but we absolutely love it and we love seeing people find their voice through this medium and overcome isolation issues, wherever that may be!