Dan Sheridan bio

When Dan Sheridan, Coonabaraban, NSW received a call from Grain Growers asking whether he would be interested in participating in the 2015 round of the Australian Grain Farm Leaders Program (AGFLP) he thought it sounded like a great opportunity.  Following his involvement in the program, Dan was so inspired he decided to replicate his experience at the local level.

“To participate in the AGFLP I needed to have a project in mind that I could develop throughout the 12-month program,” Dan explained.

“My original project was not was not the idea I pursued, like many of those in our group, all that changed after meeting with the Grain Growers Board and policy group — after seeing the bigger picture, your whole outlook changes.”

“In the end I focused on getting local farmer groups together to experience some of what we did in the AFGLP, but on a more local scale.”

For Dan, the experience of getting together with a group of like-minded grain growers from across the country and sharing their operational challenges, successes and approaches was invaluable and something he wanted local growers to have the opportunity to engage with.

“There were six growers in our AGFLP group and we caught up three times throughout the 12-month program. Whenever we caught up we talked and bounced ideas from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed. I thought if we could do that with a national level, why couldn’t I encourage the same type of program at a local level.”

In additional to being able to share experiences with his AGFLP peers, Dan and the group also gained an insight into the challenges of three diverse businesses and were able to ask the tough questions of the key decision-makers. 

“For me professionally it was valuable to be engaged with people who were prepared to share their business strategies and targets,” Dan explained.

“Our business is focused on 1000ha of summer and winter cropping with 500–600 breeder cows on the remainder of our 2400ha. Although the businesses we visited were vastly different to our family operation, we are now doing some things differently as a result of our disucssions — we will probably integrate more of our grain into feedlotting and make some adjustments to our marketing and storage structures.”

Having the support of his peers during the mentoring and professional development components of the program was something Dan also appreciated.

“Because we were all in the program together —learning or refining a new set of skills — I never felt I was on my own,” Dan said.

While Dan is not a fan of the buzz word ‘networking’, he is quick to admit that getting out of his own little corner of the world and meeting new people was a key benefit of the AGFLP.

“As a family operation we would count as one of the bigger operations in our area, but still small in the scheme of things,” Dan said. “So being exposed to a multitude of growers and industry representatives from around the country and being able to step inside a number of large commercial operations and assess whether you are on the right track or not is reassuring — it’s reassuring to know others are facing the same limiting factors.”

Like his AGFLP peers, Dan has observed that most growers are reluctant talk about issues on a local scale and the relative anonymity of the AGFLP allowed individuals to open up and bare their souls a little more readily.

“I think being part of the AGFLP allowed us all to realise we share common issues and these issues do not reflect on us personally — they are industry-wide issues we are all trying to tackle.  An environmnet like the AGFLP allows people to be more open about things like their marketing, fertiliser usage and herbicide resistance.”

“This safe environment encourages people to share their challenges and brainstorm a few ideas.”

In terms of his project, Dan has already made progress towards bring local growers together around the table.

“We had our initial meeting during spring 2015 and will meet again during autumn  — it was a good start. A couple of my AFGLP peers joined us to kick things off,” Dan said.

“The plan for future get-togethers is to bring in speakers and incorporate industry to come and join the group and tell us what they want, so we can deliver the product they need, with confidence.”

For Dan the relationships he has forged during the 12-month AGFLP have been the cornerstone of the program — he is keen to maintain these relationships and build on the benefits of shared experience within his own mixed farming operation well into the future.