Road trips can be exhausting at the best of times. Even with family and friends.
Imagine being bundled into a car with relative strangers for a whirlwind tour of properties up to 1000 kilometres away from home?
In what could be described as the ultimate trust exercise, that's how 11 aspiring beef industry leaders from within 200km of Roma kick started their Advancing Beef Leaders (ABL) Program and got to really know each other.
Known as the Maranoa group, Allison Becker, Tim Clay, Cody Close, Samantha Curran, Elsie Dodd, Leanne Hardwick, Sophie Hartley, Ann-Maree Johnson, Mitch Koster, Tom Nixon and John Syme make up the fourth cohort to start the program.
ABL is a tailored leadership and professional development program for emerging producer and community leaders.
Delivered by a partnership of Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) extension staff and private consultants, ABL aims to skill and enthuse those who wish to become more involved in community and industry organisations.
Tim Emery, DAF coordinator for the Maranoa group, said they were due in Townsville for the inaugural Advancing Beef Leaders Forum and the idea was thrown out there to embark on a group road trip, incorporating property visits along the way.
"I was so excited when all participants committed to the concept, because what better way to get to know your other group members than share a car with them for 20 odd hours?" he said.
"Furthermore, these young ag enthusiasts were about to be exposed to a number of progressive producers from another region who were willing to share insights into their business."
After removing ice from their windscreens in the dark in Roma, the group made tracks for the first stop, Clermont-based Darren and Alice Marks, Winvic Pastoral, and Doug and Amanda Burnett, who manage Burnett Enterprises Pty Ltd.
The group were given business overviews and then headed into the paddock to see weaners, a flourishing multi-species crop, technologies in use and bulls.
Late in the day, Josie Angus and Tess Camm treated the group to a tour of the Signature Beef Abattoir and a feedlot visit at Sondella near Moranbah.
An early start the next morning from Belyando Crossing saw them visit the Bennetto family at Virginia Park Station near Charters Towers for smoko, with DAF's Bob Shepherd also sharing his knowledge and experience about the region.
"The producers we visited are all incredibly passionate about the beef industry and are innovating in a range of areas. And in the case of the Angus', building a whole abattoir," Mr Emery said.
The Maranoa group then joined another 40 aspiring beef leaders in Townsville for an engaging forum encompassing succession planning, access to inspiring leaders and the start of their official program.
"One of the most amazing parts of the ABL program is the exposure the participants get to leaders across the whole supply chain," Mr Emery said.
"It's important that the group are challenged and engaged and by committing to such a trip in a time poor period, they've given themselves the best chance at success."
Tim Clay is part of a family beef business between three properties around Westmar, Moonie and Cecil Plains.
His parents, Ralph and Von Clay, and sister and brother in law, Fraser and Annie Webb, run 550 Angus breeders and trade around 2000 head.
He said he joined the leadership program because of the exposure to high level thinkers and personal and professional development opportunities.
"We squeezed as much out of that trip as we could," he said.
"The best thing was not only bonding within our own team and learning what people were doing in our immediate area, but tapping into the ABL networks in other parts of the State.
"It's also brilliant that everyone wants to talk about cows."
The ABL course is approximately 12 months and overlays relevant technical skills with self-development; encouraging participants to build stronger networks and spark the confidence needed to contribute and influence.
Participants are paired with a mentor from the wider industry who challenges and encourages them to not only engage with the content, but contribute to their businesses and communities.
Sophie Hartley, from Kinka west of Injune says the value of conversations came from the relaxed and intimate nature of the visits.
"It was great being able to chat to them over a cup of tea before heading out to the paddock," she said.
"But the best part of the experience was dropping in again to some of the businesses on the way home.
"We had more open discussions, with more insightful questions after we were able to mull over the information we received on the first visit and discuss it in the car."
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