The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
Veronika will join the program in the initial year where she will develop skills to advocate for agriculture while being mentored by a Young Farming Champion.
“ As part of the Young Farming Champions network I will have the opportunity to share my story to a wide audience, have greater impact and enable change. To do this I require confidence and skills to communicate, and the program will give me that. I want to be able to give back to the community by sharing the knowledge and experiences I have had with a younger audience and to encourage and excite the next generation about how food is produced, and the technological and environmental advancements agriculture has made.” Veronika said
Emily has already completed her initial year with the program and is aiming to widen her agricultural horizons and take on a mentoring role for the next generation.
“I am looking forward to increasing my network of like-minded agriculturists and to share the good news stories of agriculture to showcase the opportunities the sector can provide. This program will help me craft these stories and, in doing so, help champion our young people, particularly young women, who will be part of the changing face of Australian agriculture.” Emily said
In addition to the scholarship winners, Corteva will put two of their own– Connie Mort and Steph Tabone – through the program.
“Corteva is excited to have two of our talented staff members as a part of this impressive program. The training and networking opportunities available will greatly enhance their skills and personal development, setting their professional careers up for the future. As a business we are looking to young agricultural professionals across all industries to help us tailor our solutions to address the challenges that growers, consumers and communities are facing now and how we can ensure progress for generations to come. The PYiA Cultivate Growing Young Leaders program aligns extremely well with our goals and aspirations.” Dan Dixon, ANZ Marketing Director for Corteva Agriscience said.
Today we are excited to introduce you to Stephanie Tabone, the second of our Corteva Agriscience team participants in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. Steph is a Sydney girl who has fallen in love with agriculture and the opportunities it presents.
In 2017 Stephanie Tabone had a light-bulb moment.
“A couple of months after North Queensland was hit by Cyclone Debbie I remember shopping for fruit and vegetables when I noticed a customer unsatisfied with the store for not having tomatoes. The customer was seemingly unaware many crops were badly affected by the cyclone and that North Queensland was a key region supplying produce at that time of year. As a fellow consumer I understood how she felt, because I too have grown up in this world where produce has always been readily available.”
Stephanie was on the cusp of her career in agriculture, working for vegetable grower Kalfresh in southern Queensland after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from The University of Sydney. She’d already come a long way from the city streets of her childhood as she embraced her new world at university.
“I soon learnt that agriculture was a small, close-knit faculty where everyone became like family. Through laboratory and field practicals, rural field trips and placements on-farm, I quickly learnt of the diverse opportunities the industry had to offer and it was here I developed my true passion for agriculture and came to appreciate the industry’s importance in providing food for millions of people.”
Stephanie’s next lightbulb moment came in 2019 when she was nominated for the Young Grower of the Year award, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, and attended an industry dinner at the Melbourne Aquarium. Here she met Corteva’s Rob Kaan and Elizabeth Hernandez and had some of her agricultural preconceptions shattered.
“After the dinner, my perspective of Corteva as a ‘chemical company’ changed. Corteva had such strong values, they were empowering women farmers and women across all levels of their business, they were truly passionate for sustainability and implementing real change and had some great leaders in their business. I realised they had the power to push the industry towards sustainable production and were already taking tangible steps to do so.”
So impressed with Corteva was Stephanie that when circumstances saw her return to Sydney she approached the company looking for work. Corteva was also impressed and created a project-based role for her. Today Stephanie is both territory sales representative and Stewardship Manager, a role where she oversees products from inception to discontinuation.
“It involves understanding and managing risk prior to product launch, promoting responsible use by end users, reporting and learning from adverse effects and involvement in food chain.”
Now into her second year with Corteva, Stephanie is looking forward to joining the Young Farming Champions program to further her agricultural understanding.
“I would like to contribute positively to the industry by ensuring growers have the expertise and tools they need to meet the challenges they face now and in the future.”
Through the YFC program I want to strengthen and polish my existing skills, learn new skills and ultimately gain confidence to step up and share my story. I am also looking forward to engaging with young people about agriculture and the various careers available.”
Connie is a Territory Account Manager for the Riverina.
Connie Mort grew up surrounded by sheep on a Merino property near Mudgee in central west NSW where her family have been farming for over 50 years, so it was only natural that holidays from boarding school were spent running her hands through fine wool and learning the finer points of stock husbandry. After high school she continued this education on a sheep and cattle station in the wilds of north-east South Australia for a gap year.
Then Connie changed tack completely. “During 2010 I spent time travelling overseas and then seven months teaching English to 12–21-year-olds at Ikwiriri Secondary School in Tanzania,” she says but a “steady passion and interest in agriculture” drew her back to Australia and The University of Sydney where she studied a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
“From a young age I had gained a foundational understanding of farming and agriculture and at university I was able to learn more and explore different areas.” With the university she travelled to Laos and Timor Leste to study farming systems in developing countries and investigate international agricultural research initiatives. She did her honours project in soil capability and security and was awarded the USYD Faculty of Agriculture & Environment Brian G. Davey Memorial Scholarship in Soil Science in 2014.
“Leaving uni, I didn’t really know which direction I wanted to go with my career, so I kept my options open and applied for all sorts of jobs. I was keen to explore a different side to agriculture that I hadn’t experienced and landing the job with Corteva has given me exposure to broadacre cropping, horticulture, and summer irrigated cropping.”
In her role with Corteva Connie collaborates with many people to develop and distribute Corteva products and is continually learning as the industry itself evolves.
“It’s exciting to be part of the years-long process involved in bringing a new product to market and satisfying to see how these innovations can make growing a crop just a little bit easier or make farming more sustainable for the grower.”
Life-long learning and exploration of agriculture’s diversity is a strong theme in Connie’s work attitude, and she sees many challenges and opportunities in the future for agriculture; something she wishes to share with the wider community.
“I am passionate about people being provided with information backed by science and the latest research so they can draw their own conclusions and opinions from a position of fact,” she says and to this end she has joined the Young Farming Champions program to develop her communication skills and to build a network of colleagues from across agricultural industries.
Welcome to Series 3 of Leadership is Language – Conversations with Thought Leaders. Our first interview sees Dr Jo Newton OAM interview Josh Farr, Founder of Campus Consultancy as they discuss how leadership is service for the greater good.
“We take a broad approach to the notion of leadership as service. Our philosophy is if you are helping somebody else, if you’re taking proactive action and not stepping back, if you’re leaning into challenges, if you see as problems as a way to add value to the world, then that is leadership.”
Leadership is Service. Leadership is not necessarily a title, it’s the actions you take that make you a leader
Confident communicators don’t become less afraid, they become braver
To become an effective communicator find people you admire and study them, practice, practice, practice
After gaining a First Class Honours Degree from UNSW and beginning work as a civil engineer, Josh underwent his first mental health training program. Realizing he had much to learn and contribute beyond his technical experience, he spent the next 2-years travelling to 39 countries before returning to Australia to work in education and non-profits. Josh worked as the Victorian Recruitment Manager for Teach For Australia and saw the impact of education on young people experiencing disadvantage.
In 2017, Josh founded Campus Consultancy and has grown the company to be a market leader to empower young leaders to be their own agents of change. His team has since taken more than 21,000 student leaders from 33-universities and more than 30 high schools through his workshops on leadership, entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence. He’s delivered 2 TEDx talks including his most recent titled, “Leadership is service.”
At the age of 31 Jo was recognised as an OAM on the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her service to agriculture through her advocacy and support of young people, volunteering and contribution to dairy research. Passionate about research that delivers tangible benefits for farmers, since obtaining a PhD in animal breeding and genetics from the University of New England in 2016, Jo’s work has focused on practical tools to illustrate the benefit of better herd-improvement decisions on farm. This includes 6 months as a visiting scientist at Teagasc Moorepark, Ireland on an Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Jo currently works as a research scientist for Agriculture Victoria. Jo has a history of active involvement across the wider agricultural sector, particularly in advocacy and support of young people in agriculture. Her volunteer contributions span 17 years and dozens of leadership roles across 14 not-for-profit organisations including her current roles as a Non-Executive Director of Picture You in Agriculture and a member of the Youth Voices Leadership Team.
Jo’s contributions to agriculture have been recognised through numerous awards including: – Medal of the Order of Australia 2020 – University of New England’s Young Distinguished Alumni Award 2018 – Leadership Category Victorian Young Achiever Awards 2018 – Royal Agriculture Society of Victoria’s Emerging Leaders in Victorian Agriculture Award 2018 -Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence List.
“I don’t believe you can have a conversation about leadership without having a conversation about morality and ethics”
Watch the video
“How you communicate, empathise and make people feel is fundamental. There are many ways of getting your ideas out to the world – verbally, written, artistically – the key is finding the medium that suits you and that you enjoy creating.”
Watch the video
“What is enough? Why are so many people striving for things they don’t want? Gandhi said “happiness is when what you say, what you believe and what you do are in alignment.”
Outback by accident – that could describe Shannon Chatfield, Picture You in Agriculture’s newest participant in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. So exactly how does someone from a hobby farm accidently find themselves on one of the Northern Territory’s largest cattle stations? Let’s meet Shannon and find out.
Shannon grew up on small acreage an hour south of Perth surrounded by horses, which led her to study and work as a veterinary nurse on the completion of high school in 2009, although she wasn’t sure what direction this would take her. She knew she wanted a career in a rural environment so five years later she went travelling and decided to work as a jillaroo in the Northern Territory for a month.
“I was attracted to Kirkimbie Station [Consolidated Pastoral Company – CPC] because it was a remote cattle breeding property with a small station team,” she says. “It also ran a horse stud to top up camp horses for the rest of the CPC places. This was attractive to me coming from a horse background and was the only thing that felt familiar when moving into a completely foreign environment where I didn’t know anyone on the station, let alone in the industry.”
The fact she was not from a strong agricultural upbringing did not deter Shannon.
“I believe that coming from a different background you don’t take this kind of lifestyle for granted and it’s easy to appreciate how amazing and unique the agricultural industry really is.”
This attitude has taken her from a one month contract to an extraordinary career with northern Australia’s cattle industry. She has worked across various CPC stations, completed a Bachelor of Applied Science, expanded her knowledge of the industry through courses facilitated by CPC and the NTCA (Northern Territory Cattle Association) and now holds the role of Research Project Officer for CPC and Manager’s Assistant alongside her partner Jimmy on Newcastle Waters Station.
“What started out as a month contract on a station out of pure curiosity has turned into a new passion and a career with long-term goals.”
Those long-term goals include leadership in an industry Shannon has come to love. She sees social licence, research and technology and the retention of young people as important issues and would like to see the northern beef industry “lead in sustainability both economically and environmentally.
I want to be a leader people look up to; someone who can confidently promote the industry but also talk about the tough issues challenging agriculture and help the industry take steps to overcome these. I want to be part of the solution encouraging conversations between producers and consumers and help support young people within the industry to be future leaders.”
CPC also hosts Indonesian students and as a testament to the opportunities open to young people in the industry Shannon had the opportunity to go to Indonesia in 2020 as part of the NTCA Indonesia Australia Pastoral Program (NIAPP).
“It was an amazing experience to be able to see the whole supply chain from station to Indonesian families buying meat at the wet markets”
With these ideals in mind Shannon is looking forward to embarking on her Young Farming Champions journey, sponsored by NTCA, where she hopes to learn from others, develop skills in communication and engagement, and promote the range of career opportunities in agriculture.
“When I first started out as a jillaroo on a station, I had no idea of the possibilities and career paths within the northern beef industry. All I could see at the time was the promotion to a leading hand, head stockman, then eventually to manager. I could have left the industry soon after, thinking there was not a place or career for me. I think we as an industry could be better at offering and promoting alternative career paths to retain people who may not fit within those specific station roles.”
Welcome aboard Shannon. We recognise your passion for the northern beef industry and look forward to learning from you as you learn from us.
The Young Farming Champions program gives our young agriculturists the confidence to lead and the greatest manifestation of this is through the Youth Voices Leadership Team. It therefore gives us great pleasure to introduce the YVLT for 2021. Taking on the position of Chair is Dr Dione Howard.
“I’ve put up my hand to lead the YVLT and continue the legacy of outgoing Chair Emma Ayliffe because I’m excited for what’s in store for this group. Our team worked hard to deliver flexible online workshops and bring 18 episodes of Leadership is Language to our community in 2020. The YVLT will continue this initiative and have some amazing new projects in the pipeline. I am looking forward to supporting the team to bring these to life in 2021.” says Dione
Last year’s YVLT intern Jess Fearnley has stepped up to the position of Secretary and Jo Newton has retained the position of Returning Officer. Other committee members are Marlee Langfield, Meg Rice, Chloe Dutschke, Katherine Bain, Calum Watt, Tayla Field and Sam Wan. The position of Vice Chair is currently vacant and represents an exciting opportunity for another YFC to step into the leadership role. Please contact Dione if you are interested.
In The Field
With 2021 well underway we welcome a new crop of YFC to the program. A big PYiA welcome to our first fishing YFC Bryan Van Wyk from Austral Fisheries. We look forward to learning more about your watery world. And how is this for possibly the best profile pic ever:
Austral Fisheries Bryan Van Wyk in his favourite place
If you know a young person from the Northern Territory who would make an exceptional YFC expressions of interest are now open, courtesy of NT Farmers; and stay tuned as we introduce more new YFC in the coming weeks.
Two of our YFC alumni have started new jobs. After working for the Department of International Trade in London for a year and a half Laura Phelps has taken up a new position as head of the Regulatory, International and Legislative Strategy Unit at Food Standards Agency. It’s great to see one of our YFCs working overseas in international agricultural policy development.
Dr Calum Watt has commenced his working career but he tells it best:
“Finally graduated from uni after almost 10 years and three degrees all culminating in a book I will dread reading again 😂. Now I have dived head first into the world of wheat breeding with national wheat/barley breeding company InterGrain.”
After close to 10 years Calum Watt has graduated from Murdoch University. Pictured here with his supervisor and mentor Prof. Chengdao Li.
Congratulations Laura and Calum.
Many of our YFC have been dealing with the scourge of a mice plaque in NSW and QLD (I am personally thinking of learning Italian so I have different ways of swearing at them) and an increase in grasshoppers, all of which are part of the challenges agriculture presents. But in the last week the blessing of being involved in agriculture has been realised with the coming of the rain over much of eastern Australia. The rains started in the north. “We have had ample rain at home and I would say everything is replenished – even the swamps are full. Up until recently you didn’t have to go far to find people destocking due to water shortages, but this last week might have changed things,” says Hayley Piggot from QLD’s Carnarvon Ranges. Down in NSW the rain got a bit more serious as Naomi Brannan reports: “Moree is flooding so everyone’s cotton etc. is underwater!” Let’s hope all who need it have had a proper drink, and to those affected by damaging floods we wish you a quick recovery.
Out of the Field
As we said at the beginning of this Muster the YFC program gives our young people the confidence to lead and they have certainly been acting upon this in recent weeks. Sam Wan has commenced the Agribusiness Leadership program with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF), while Adele Smith and Tim Eyes participated in the ARLF Trail program for emerging leaders. Adele and Tim first met each other as 2014 Young Farming Champions.
As part of the Trail experience Adele and Tim heard from the current CEO Han Worsely and former CEO Hannah Wandel of Country to Canberra
Anika Molesworth is as visible as ever in the leadership space. This month she has popped up on Visibility Co and has been announced as a champion for the Country to Canberra program, alongside Elizabeth (Liz) Brennan and Natalie (Nat) Sommerville.
Anika also joined fellow YFC Emma Ayliffe, Bronwyn Roberts and Jasmine Green in a four-page spread in Woman’s Day titled “Real Life – Incredible Aussie Women – Ladies of the Land” (which also featured north QLD grazier Kate Andison). These ladies are superstars!
Not to be upstaged Dione Howard appeared on the cover of The Land!
After reporting last month that Naomi Brannan and husband Sean were expecting we are pleased to announce that, after a dramatic birth, Imogen Rose Brannan has been welcomed into the world. “She was born in Moree via emergency c-section seven weeks early,” Naomi says. “We were in intensive care in Sydney for a week but now she’s breathing on her own but still being fed by a tube because she’s very little still. Hopefully we will be out of Royal North Shore hospital in 3-4 weeks.” We hope so too and send you our best wishes to all your family, Naomi.
Imogen Rose Brannan
mega shout out to our journalist Mandy McKeesick who collates our Muster every month
Lesley Leyland, head of Quality Safety and People at Austral Fisheries, believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom. With primary school students identifying Global Goal “life below the ocean” as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.
“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet Global Goal 14: Life below the Water. We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”
Lesley Leyland describes herself as Chief of Staff for Austral Fisheries, as she oversees human resources, Quality, Safety and People for fleets working from the deep seas of the sub-Antarctic to Australia’s northern reaches. With a background in freight forwarding Lesley joined Austral 22 years ago as their export coordinator. CEO David Carter joined the company as a deckhand 43 years ago. Both are testament to a workforce culture that supports its people and is rewarded with loyalty. So how does this process begin?
“We’re always looking for people with talent, passion and attitude,” Lesley says. “We can teach a lot of things with on-the-job training and we like to upskill our people, but you can’t teach passion and talent. When we see talent, we will invest in it.”
“We all fall into the agricultural space but there is not enough spotlight on fishers,” Lesley says. “It’s not just about fishing anymore. We’re about plastics in the ocean, we’re about environment and making sure we have a sustainable product for market. It is important for our business to have a voice and Bryan is a young man who is passionate about the marine environment.”
Upskilling and retaining staff is another critical aspect of the Austral workforce. With an aging executive committee (average age 55) Lesley oversaw the introduction of a leadership development program for middle management.
“There is a lot of diversity in our business with a huge amount of expertise and experience, and so we developed this in-house program as a strategy going forward. We noticed a real lift in middle management and a heightened sense of worth and responsibility.”
Lesley believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom and, with primary school students identifying life below the ocean as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.
“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet SDG:14 Life below the Water. We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”
Young Australians like Bryan Van Wyk are excited about the opportunity to have careers that ensure we have sustainable oceans
“Agriculture is not all about milking a cow, or ploughing a field. We haven’t ploughed a field for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s all conservation agriculture now. The issue, I guess, has been that as a sector we have not promoted what it is that we’re doing, yet our record of conservation, sustainability and increasingly a focus on emissions reduction, are all good news stories. We’ve done more than most other sectors and so we need to get that message out and to let people know that we’re a sophisticated, highly professional sector.” Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley AM
Jim Pratley AM is Emeritus Professor, Agriculture at Charles Sturt University and has dedicated his life to agriculture. PYiA is honoured to call him a friend and a long-time supporter of our work. Our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series would not be complete without Jim’s input and here we chat to him about riding the new agricultural wave.
A recent report from the ABC highlighted the increased number of enrolments in agriculture at Australian universities, headlining COVID-19 and the lower fee structure as driving factors.
Jim believes this is only part of the story.
“We think COVID has played a part by stopping the gap year and so young people have had some of their options closed and are coming to university, but conventional wisdom is the fee structure is not a major driver as kids don’t think about financial obligations that don’t start for three or four years. I think it (increased enrolment) is really a continuation of a trend that’s happened since about 2012, when we were at our low point. Since then agriculture’s image has improved dramatically and industries have worked hard at creating career paths. Salaries for people who have degrees are probably in the top 10 of starting salaries for graduates. So supply and demand has worked really well in agriculture.”
Data collection by Rimfire Resources shows the number of advertised jobs in agriculture has been rising in the last five years, with a steady increase in managerial positions. A managerial position incorporates high technology and high business skills, meaning the image of agriculture as – in Jim’s words – “cow and plough” is receding.
“It’s not all about milking a cow, or ploughing a field. We haven’t ploughed a field for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s all conservation agriculture now. The issue, I guess, has been that as a sector we have not promoted what it is that we’re doing, yet our record of conservation, sustainability and increasingly a focus on emissions reduction, are all good news stories. We’ve done more than most other sectors and so we need to get that message out and to let people know that we’re a sophisticated, highly professional sector.”
Getting the good agricultural message out there often starts in schools such as when Young Farming Champions engage with the next generation through The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas. And this is not possible without the support and enthusiasm of agriculture teachers in these schools. To this end Jim works with national bodies representing these teachers.
“Agriculture in schools has had an issue in terms of its status. Years ago schools would allocate kids to agriculture who didn’t want to do anything else and the good kids would tend to say, ‘Oh, well I’m not going to do that’ and the ag teachers probably felt the same way.” As a result there is currently a shortage in agriculture teachers but change may to be on the horizon as the image of agriculture in general morphs to one of a highly professional and scientific sector. “I was at a Zoom meeting last night with the National Association of Ag Teachers, and they were commenting that they get inquiries from other teachers about transferring to agriculture because of the sense that it’s about to boom.”
“I think what we’re seeing is the fruit of a lot of people’s labour including Lynne Strong (PYiA) and Fiona Simson at National Farmers Federation and industry bodies who now have education and leadership in their strategic plans. We’ve had enormous change in the rhetoric coming out of the key organisations and industry bodies and what we’ve seen is a real professionalisation of agriculture. I think that we’re on a wave at the moment and we want to make sure that we ride it all away.”
And how did Jim find his way into a career in agriculture?
Jim grew up on a prime lamb property near Bathurst, NSW with the intention to return to the farm on the completion of his university education. “Circumstances changed and my parents sold the farm in my final year and so I needed to change direction. I was offered a scholarship to undertake a PhD and was successful in attaining an academic position at Wagga Wagga where I have been ever since.”
Young people aged between 18 and 35, who are studying or who have completed tertiary education, are invited to apply for the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. Successful applicants will receive an incredible two-year package of support including media training, networking and mentorship opportunities to help them share their stories with the nation.
2021 represents the first year of collaboration between PYiA and NT Farmers.
“NT Farmers want to encourage emerging leaders to promote the diverse farming industry, from cropping to horticulture, and lead the industry into the future,” NT Farmers Education Development Officer Anna Day said. “NT Farmers chose the Young Farming Champions program as part of a range of initiatives to promote agriculture to future generations as well as highlight some of the fantastic work being done by young people in NT agriculture. NT Farmers are investing in educating and engaging young people to develop and enhance a vital industry with fantastic future opportunities. The Young Farming Champions program is a great opportunity for young NT farmers to receive coaching and mentoring as well as networking opportunities and intergenerational expertise.”
Alumni of this prestigious program include climate change thought-leader Anika Molesworth, winner of the Leadership category of the 2018 Victorian Young Achiever Awards Dr Jo Newton OAM and 2019 wool-broker of the year Samantha Wan.
High school students from urban areas may think they have little connection to agriculture, but Scott Graham, Head of Agriculture at Barker College in Sydney, is not only challenging that belief but spearheading a revolution in the way the subject is taught, leading to a greater uptake of ag-related courses at university.
In January 2021 the Sydney Morning Herald analysed the 2020 HSC results and identified Barker College as an emerging centre for agriculture. Much of this emergence is credited to Scott who commenced work at Barker College in 2010 when 120 students studied agriculture in Years 9 to 12. This year Scott, and his team of five teachers, will oversee 365 students, 95 of whom will sit agriculture in the HSC.
Growing up in Sydney Scott is not from an agricultural background but was introduced to the subject at high school, where it was compulsory in Years 7 and 8.
“I may not have chosen agriculture otherwise [if it wasn’t compulsory] but I really enjoyed it and when it was voluntary from Year 9 onwards I continued and did it for the HSC in Year 12,” he says.
Scott Graham – Head of Agriculture at Barker College
With an interest in science and biology Scott chose to study agricultural science at Sydney University and in 2010 joined Barker, even though enrolment numbers meant he was only teaching three classes of agriculture, compared to a teacher’s full load of five classes. But agriculture at Barker was changing.
“We’ve positioned agriculture as a science in the same way as chemistry or biology, and by making it more academic have attracted the more academically talented students. We also try to make it relevant to their lives. Even if they are not going into agriculture [as a career] they are still going to consume food every day and need to know about it as much as anyone else. There is plenty of talk about how urban people are disconnected from the food supply chain and as interest from kids and their parents grows we need to promote agriculture in the right way. But, actually getting students interested is easy. One of our main issues is getting agricultural teachers as there is a severe shortage across Australia,” Scott says.
Most schools teaching agriculture will have a led-steer and show program but not at Barker College.
“I think this is an old image of agriculture and probably the completely wrong way around. I think if we started showing animals our numbers would drop because our image would change. Agriculture is not necessarily about being a farmer; only 18% of jobs in agriculture are on-farm,” he says.
Scott is researching this new way of teaching with a PhD through Charles Sturt University, looking at how to increase enrolments in agriculture at secondary schools and consequently increase agriculture enrolments at university. He believes the key is high school.
“You’re never going to fill jobs and positions at university if students don’t study agriculture at school and we need to capitalise on this with our students from Year 9 onwards.”
This changing approach to teaching agriculture is reaping rewards. Of the 1300 students sitting agriculture in the HSC across NSW in 2021, Barker College has 95 or over 7% of the total in one school. Of these Scott estimates 30% will go on to study an agriculture-related degree at university and become part of the 82% of people who work off-farm in the food and fibre supply chain.
Crafting a career in agriculture has never looked so good.
And how did Scott find his way into agriculture?
Scott grew up in Sydney with no exposure to agriculture until it was a compulsory subject in Years 7 and 8 of high school.
“I may not have chosen agriculture otherwise, but I really enjoyed it and when it was voluntary from Year 9 onwards, I continued and did it for the HSC in Year 12.”
With an interest in science and biology Scott chose to study agricultural science at Sydney University and in 2010 joined Barker College where he is now Head Teacher of Agriculture.
Visit Barker College Agriculture YouTube channel here
Scott interviews three of his past students who studied food and agribusiness at Sydney University and who are now working in varied agricultural-related fields in urban environments. Watch the video here.