On a farm 30km north of Horsham, in the Wimmera district of Victoria, David Jochinke is combining grain and sheep farming with Agri politics – helping to form a future for the industry he is passionate about. For more than a decade he was heavily involved with the local Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Wallup district, which led to higher executive roles as VFF treasurer 2010-2011, and as vice-president from 2012 – 2016. In 2016, he became VFF president and in 2017 National Farmers Federation (NFF) vice-president.
A third-generation farmer with his heart firmly ensconced in the land he works with; circumstance and history have moulded David into a leader.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who took up a soldier settler block after World War II, he is also tracking his father, who managed the land until illness made it necessary for David to take up the reins as an 18-year-old high school graduate.
“I have a passion for farming and agriculture is still an industry which offers huge opportunity. It is vibrant with so many facets,” he said.
Determined to continue to learn while “making the decisions and managing the cheque book” on the farm, David also studied full-time at Longerenong, graduating with a Diploma of Applied Science.
That education laid the groundwork work that saw David grow to be an adopter of technology, using the latest techniques and applications to make his property more sustainable, and ensure others see fit to see the advantages of building a full circle, sustainable industry.
His GRDC sponsored place in the 2011 ARLP intake enabled him to combine his knowledge of global agricultural systems with effective leadership skills – a combination of assets that’s continued to prove handy both on the farm and in the board room.
“When it was suggested I apply, I was reluctant because I didn’t think I was leadership material, but I can say now that it’s a life changing experience that I have never regretted,” David said.
“The program took us to India, the Kimberley and other parts of Australia offering challenges of different kinds, and really expanded our leadership potential by exposing us to different elements of being a leader.
“I have always been action oriented, not process oriented but the experience in the Kimberley reinforced the importance of process,” he said.
“By taking the time to consider situations, actions and outcomes, people were kept safe and goals were still achieved – that’s an important lesson in leadership.”
David said the experience, which involved physical and emotional trials, gave him a better understanding of his own limits and the limits of others.
“The whole program really contributed towards making me more aware of people and situations, as well as being more adaptable,” he said.
“These are really important skills if you want people to walk beside you and choose to take on the same goal.
“With the skills I developed through the ARLP I know how to do that to a point whereby I’m confident enough to encourage others to develop their own leadership skills too.
“I’ve learned that empowering people is the greatest gift a leader can give, and ARLP gave us the skills needed to allow us to help others to blossom.”
In his roles with the VFF and NFF, David is now particularly focused on getting young farmers involved in representation to ensure the next generation of leaders are supported to lead, and the organisations continue to provide a good value proposition to members.
“Listening to and valuing the perspectives and input of others is important and I’m pleased to have those skills to help me both further the interests of the people in my community but also the industry I represent,” David said.