As a local social researcher specialising in rural, I am confident to stand by my farm-related theory that "get big or get out" is a myth.
Since the RISER conference at Horsham in March and the Art Is Grey Matters forum, I am humbled to know my theory has resonated with our oldest generation. I recognise so many people in our communities are disheartened by the shrinking town populations, the larger farms, merged football clubs and the loss of community groups.
I acknowledge everyone placed in the small towns and on farms travel an exceptionally long way for goods and services. The days of a butcher, baker and candlestick maker in every town are indeed over.
Despite nearly three years of researching population decline, I'm afraid I don't have a magic fix to reverse the trend. What I have learned is that the solutions lie within us.
It's also time to recognise new shops have to look and be different from tradition if they are to compete with supermarkets. We need to look at social enterprise, rather than relying on the same volunteers to get things done. Hidden resources and duplications of services need to be re-thought, and this starts with sharing ideas.
We also need to decide on how we define ourselves. Are we remote, or rural or regional? Once we agree, let's tell government how we want to be defined and referred as, to make them fit their box around us.
Over the next few months, as I pull my thesis together and cut and polish the document ready for examination, I will be writing about where farmers may be losing money, resources and data unnecessarily; three factors contributing to their identity and ultimate exodus.
I will offer a new way that GRDC could invest, to help farmers become stronger rather than be the last place where costs are passed. It's our job as a community to identify what keeps us here, regardless of the population statistics, and look for new opportunities to make our region count for the future.