If you believed in a greater power, it could be accepted that external factors conspired to combine their effects to exaggerate the impact of each other.

But this leaves no one to blame, which is necessary to do to help get through the consequences of this. A drought on its own can almost be accepted as an almost necessary part of weather variations or cycles which have to be endured. There are a number of farmers this year who will be finding it difficult to offer any acceptance because of the extreme nature of dry. The drought management packages are always brought out when those weather events occur. But when some of the key actions advised to take in such packages are not available because of the aforementioned conspiracy, the outcome can be very dim. Add to that so much uncertainty about what is ahead and it can be hard to feel really positive. Whenever there is a commentary about how well we are placed because we produce much needed protein there is another commentary about the difficulties in accessing such markets. These latter commentaries always soften their concerns by highlighting the benefit to farmers of a falling dollar. Almost as if this has been a saving strategy.

So where to from here? I have been virtual interacting with a number of farmer groups and farming businesses over the last few weeks and have been heartened by the rational discussions and focus on factors that maintain productivity.

That has to be the focus with so much uncertainty. Review everything later in the year.

This virtual interaction is being touted as the communication of the future. Being forced into it presently has required some learning but also some reflection on what the most effective way is to communicate to farmer groups, a small business team or an individual. For individuals, the communication channels of the past have continued.

But as the primary channel, replacing face to face is difficult to accept. A recent virtual advisory board meeting for a farming company went well and was as effective as if we had all been together as in the past.

We knew each other well, and we all had a good understanding of the topics being discussed. From a time effectiveness point of view, it was awesome. In three hours we had it completed. In the past there has been half a day travel there and back, the meetings took more like four hours due to more discussion, and banter, and longer coffee breaks. Was the virtual meeting the other day more enjoyable? No.

The virtual farmer group meetings, which are replacing get together meetings are a different story. Usually I do not know any of the farmers. My presentations I rattle through in about half the time than speaking to them directly. By the end I have answered about half as many questions than in the past. I cannot tell if I have penetrated any minds and do not know any farmers any better than before. So how effective was it? This virtual platform prevents changing course in presenting which I often do once sensing what the audience is wanting or in response to me sensing that I am not hitting home. Instead I just charge on gazing at the screen almost oblivious to where my words are landing. This is certainly the case for one-off meetings. Another group that I interact with about every two weeks is becoming much more interactive. I knew the members of that group before the new communicating style and the topics are very specific. Still not as effective as being together and certainly not as enjoyable. Interacting with people is what we are programmed to do and what I enjoy.

The future could be a blend of virtual and actual interaction. Reducing the amount of travel is one benefit of virtual communication, along with more time spent at home.

Having just spent over eight weeks at home I am thinking that benefit might not be as big as it might appear. On the other hand, going around a farm sharing that farmer’s commentary of how it is farmed is precious. So much can be learned, the farmer can feel understood in what he/she is doing. As long as I am not critical, my assessment of pastures and stock condition for example can be made and a basis for further discussion is set.

Virtual farm appraisal can never do this. But maybe farm business meetings can. I am yet to be convinced that virtual group meetings or discussions can ever be as useful. The changes ahead are those of opinions and may not be as restricting as many are suggesting. Changes that lower enjoyment will be a hard pill to swallow though.