Three Minute Squiz With… Victoria Taylor
17 June 2020
Victoria Taylor is someone we’ve known through a couple of iterations of our pre-Squiz life, and we’ve always admired her for being super smart and someone who is willing to take a risk. An agriculture exec, policy/comms specialist, and board director, she’s been living in Boston for the last year, and in the last few months seen more in the inside of the house she shared with her family than desirable. Please welcome Victoria to the Three Minute Squiz.
How and where do you Squiz?
The time difference in Boston meant the Squiz arrived in time for a mid-afternoon coffee. A vital way to get an Australian perspective on the news.
You’re a proud West Aussie by birth and a Canberran these days. You’ve gotta love the nation’s capital…
Yes, doesn’t everybody?
You have deep experience in the business of agriculture through politics, as a growers group boss, board member and adviser. What is it about the farming sector that’s driven you to forge a career out of it?
Farming is at the heart of things I love: food and fashion. It’s as simple as that, really. If we want to continue to enjoy high quality food and fibre, we need to support Australian agriculture and our farmers.
Last year, I started an online community called Amplify for professionals who advocate on behalf of agriculture. It’s pretty niche, but readers can check it out at www.amplify.how It’s important that our representation is just as high quality as our agricultural products.
So for the last bit of time, you’ve been in lockdown in the US. That can’t have been easy…
Boston went into lockdown in mid-March, so we spent 13 weeks sheltering at home (yes, I’m counting). It was an adjustment, for sure. No shopping, no eating out, no school and legally required to wear masks outside. The lack of human connection was hard. Masks made it hard to smile at strangers, in part because they crossed the street when they saw you coming!
Even when you did go out, the world was different. Toward the end of our time in Boston, you could order from cafes online, then wait outside (socially distanced) before a staff member (in a mask) would call your name and leave your order on a small table near the door for collection. It was an uncomfortable retail experience and did nothing to reduce your paranoia.
But it did have its upsides. Restaurants have obviously been severely affected by the restrictions, but a number of them started hosting Zoom events where you could have ingredients delivered and cook along with the chefs and enjoy matching wine/beer. One day, we may think about “where” we enjoy our restaurant meals, as much as “when.”
Writing that makes me hyper aware of how technology took some of the edge off lockdown. Contact-less shopping, online ordering, home delivery – all tricky without technology.
We left Boston last week to return to Australia, and they were just starting to reopen some parts of the State. You could make a reservation to browse in shops (following one way arrows on the floor), drink at a beer garden (if they sold food), arrange curbside pickup at some shops and go to the hairdresser – all with crowd limits. It will be interesting to see how people embrace this experience. As one expert said recently, it’s not governments that will reopen the economy but consumers.
What did you learn about yourself and the two blokes in your life from that experience?
That my husband is a better teacher than me.
And you’ve just arrived home and have a two week stint in quarantine in front of you. You must be looking forward to getting home, even in the middle of a Canberra winter?
The states of Massachusetts and Victoria have a similar sized population, but there have been 7500+ COVID deaths in Massachusetts so we fully appreciate we’ve come from a virus hotspot and need to be in quarantine before we can resume our lives.
I have mixed feelings about re-entry into the community, sans mask. I’ve been invited to networking drinks when I get back to Canberra, but the idea of mingling with people is strangely terrifying, plus I fear I’ve forgotten how to walk in shoes… As for a Canberra winter, I’ve brought back my snow gear from the US, so I expect to be snug and a little smug this year… As they say in Massachusetts, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. And now, I have the gear.
You’re a home cook of some renown. Do you have a favourite recipe you can share?
Why, thank you! While in lockdown, a weekly Zoom with a group of friends was a key way to maintain mental health (aka drink wine). One of the friends is from Paris and decided to use these sessions to teach us French cooking! My gougères need work, but my first attempt at cheese soufflé was a reasonable success, due in part to this simple recipe.
Name four people – living or dead – you would love to have at your next dinner party.
A quiet night in with Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, Carrie Fisher and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
What’s your favourite book?
Not sure I have a favourite book. I love business books, but I’m currently devouring a range of thrillers and crime fiction to while away the days. It’s not a bad life!
All time favourite movie/TV show?
I’m a sucker for a good documentary. During lockdown, American Factory, Cheer, McMillions, Free Solo, Waiting for Superman and Style Wars informed my US experience.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. “You just have to be patient” is a weapon used by people who don’t want us to progress or succeed.
What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
The stoush over the World Trade Organization (WTO). ABARES found that COVID19 has provided cover for 80 countries to introduce protectionist agricultural policies. But the WTO is weakened at the moment by the US blocking the appointment of judges, the Chief recently resigning and jockeying between the US, EU and China to appoint the new Chief, which may reframe international trade rules. The WTO is not perfect, but it is a forum arbitrating trade disputes. As free traders, none of this is good news for Australia. It impacts our exports, our farmers and ultimately our quality of life.
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