By Sue Middleton

Autumn 2010

Born into a small South West Queensland rural community on a beef and cropping farm, community giving and environmental awareness were strong family values. It was inevitable that my career choice was Community Economic Development.
Starting my first EDO job in Barcaldine, Queensland was in the grip of a series of extremely severe droughts. Told it was ‘structural adjustment’, we needed to work smarter to become more competitive as businesses operating in a ‘global economy’! I found some amazing older women in each community who mentored me. I learnt from them how to build and sustain communities and projects. My Fairy Godmothers, as I call them.

Moving to WA to extend my learning, I knew how to revitalise one community, but I wanted to learn how to do it in several communities at once. Landing my dream job coordinating the Community Builders Program as part of Progress Rural WA, I met many amazing people in the program.
I still run into graduates who are working for positive change in their communities. They did then, and still do, inspire me enormously. During that time I met Michael who was to become my life partner and through him, I returned to family farming after swearing for years that I would never marry a farmer. That taught me to never say never!! I started my own consulting business, Grassroots Development. It’s a great business because I love the work – facilitation, project development, fundraising and strategic planning, for groups I like and share common values.

The family has always been involved in the pork industry.
In 2008 Michael and I visited an English biodigestor that was using supermarket food waste, liquid waste from their on-site piggery
to produce all the liquid fertiliser for their cropping program, and generate methane to create electricity. The most profitable part of this whole cycle of products was the price they were paid for the food waste.

We have since visited a Victorian biodigestor operation. Not only was the farmer producing power and compost, he was producing chocolate flavoured pork for the food service market by feeding the pigs waste chocolate. I’d never envied a pig before that day!Given the world focus on greenhouse gas reduction, I am extremely interested to find out how we can get biodigestor technology more widely adopted in the WA pork industry and see if electricity generated from pig waste can be sold back to the electricity grid as part of an emissions mitigation scheme or similar. Shoppers are looking for products where animals have been raised with welfare friendly methods and in an environmentally sustainable manner. There will be opportunities for food products that have these characteristics in the future food markets.And when the market is ready, I want to be there with our pork product. Hopefully it’s not a chocolate pork product, because the chocolate won’t get past our office.