Cane Generation Gaps Are Closing

This Article Originally Appeared in the Cassowary Coast Independent - 22 June 2017

It seems that barely a day goes by without yet another reminder of the ever-growing generational divide.

Whether it is a story about the recent US election, the “shock” Brexit decision or the latest trend in social media, we are constantly reminded of just how different the generations can be.

Innisfail might be a world away from the US or the UK, but look closely enough and the generational issue is at play here also, especially in the cane fields.

The average age of growers is getting older and younger growers entering the system are getting harder and harder to find.

So, what does this all mean?

Some have suggested that older growers are entrenched in their farming practices and are not as likely to embrace change as they once were.

Other have suggested that younger growers are too hasty and impatient, lacking respect for the history and tradition of the industry.

Younger growers clearly hold the key to the future but the older generation are the current main decisions makers and are arguably guarding all the doors.

How do you reconcile these two worlds to bring about a better future for the industry?

One way is to ensure that new projects and activities designed to work with cane growers don’t prioritise one generation over the other. All growers matter. Younger and older.

Last Tuesday, younger and older growers from across Innisfail came together at the Innisfail CANEGROWERS office to address industry issues and to start planning for the future.

Over 25 growers from the district got together to discuss how the industry can better respond to some of the challenges it is facing. How does the industry best respond to the sustainable production of sugar, the various environmental challenges and the ever-widening gap between younger and older growers?

The growers who were present agreed to make this a regular event whereby the generations come together to help prepare the industry for the future.

A highlight of the night included watching younger growers mingling after the event remarking that they rarely got the chance to talk about their on-farm practices and learn from each other.

If you took the time that night to chat to growers, the picture that emerged was one of unity, respect for one another and a desire for a better future.

You saw growers rising to meet the challenges that face them. Growers that want a better future, not for themselves but for their industry, their community and their family.

This workshop is part of the on-going roll out of Project Cane Changer. Cane Changer is a CANEGROWERS initiative that works with growers and other industry groups to build better recognition of growers, capture and communicate the grower story, and enhance the role of different generations within the industry.

The next workshop will be coming up in a few months and the project team would like to extend an invitation for all Innisfail growers to take part. The Cane Changer project is also rolling out in Tully and similar events will be taking place over the coming months. If you would like to get involved, speak to your local CANEGROWERS office or head over to canechanger.com to get in touch.