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.
Art4agriculture was formed to fill a gaping hole in the agricultural landscape. That gaping hole is agriculture’s ability or rather inability to promote itself as an innovative, dynamic and exciting agrifood sector. A sector that our next generation best and brightest see as a career of choice
We knew from day one that we could not fill this gap alone and agriculture must adopt a cohesive, collaborative and whole of industry and Australia wide vision if we have any hope of creating a community which is engaged & informed with agriculture
So when in good faith the National Farmers Federation brought together a range of people from across the education, skills and training spectrum in March this year to discuss labour, education and skills in the agrifood sector we got very excited and headed to Canberra determined to play an active role. The aim of the forum was to identify the critical issues facing the sector and to move to address these issues through collective effort. NFF then facilitated a subsequent working group of the forum to further these actions and Art4agriculuture is a proud member of this working group.
Today the National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce (NEST) met for the third time and proudly put out this press release. Art4agriculture invites every single Australian to join us in helping agriculture be the change it must have.
Sector working together to tackle education & labour shortages
Key players in the Australian agricultural and education sectors have come together to address critical issues around education, training, skills and labour in a bid to encourage more students to take up agricultural careers.
The National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce, facilitated by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), has today resolved to work together to identify issues critical to the success of the agricultural sector and to develop solutions to overcoming them.
NFF President Jock Laurie said the organisations that make up the National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce have shown their commitment to tackling the ever-growing challenges of ensuring Australians are more aware of where their food and fibre comes from and attracting people to work in this exciting sector, at a meeting hosted by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW in Sydney today.
“The Taskforce recognises that the time for action on agricultural education is now. Today, the group has resolved to collaboratively address these issues, and take the agreed solutions and actions to key decision-makers on behalf of the wider agricultural sector,” Mr Laurie said.
“This is a very positive step forward for the agricultural sector and demonstrates that we can – and will – work together to overcome issues affecting agriculture in Australia.
“According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations the agricultural industry has experienced the largest decline in employment over the last ten years – and predictions show that employment growth will be subdued over the next five.
“Industry estimations show that 100,000 jobs are currently available in agriculture, and we are all already all too familiar with the many challenges to rebuilding the workforce: our labour force is ageing, there are fewer young people entering our industry, drought has resulted in people leaving the industry, and other industries are competing for our workers.
“The purpose of the Taskforce is to work together to tackle these issues and ensure the agricultural industry rebuilds its image as a viable and attractive employment option,” Mr Laurie said.
The National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce consists of representatives of the following organisations: National Farmers’ Federation; the Agribusiness Association of Australia Ltd; Ag Institute Australia; Australian Cane Farmers; AgriFood Skills Australia; Australian Council of Agricultural Societies; Australian Rural Leadership Foundation; Art4Agriculture; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; Future Farmers Network; Digital Farm School; The National Association of Agricultural Educators; Primary Industry Centre for Science Education; Primary Industries Education Foundation; SA Primary Industries Skills Council; Royal Agricultural Society of NSW; Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation; Rural Skills Australia; SkillsOne Television; The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency; TAFE; Thomas Project Services; the Tractor & Machinery Association of Australia; University of Queensland, Victorian Farmers Federation Young Agribusiness Professionals and Australian Year of the Farmer.
Today’s guest blog comes to you from Wool Young Farming Champion Stephanie Grills who frocked up as a guest of Australian Wool Innovation for the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.
It was a privilege and an honour to attend the Farmer of The Year Awards 2012 held at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, last Wednesday September 12, 2012 with my three fellow Wool Young Farming Champions. This opportunity was made possible by Australian Wool Innovation and I would like to extend my sincerest thankyou to them.
2012 Young Farming Ambassador Kathleen Allan and Champions Stephanie Grills, Lauren Crothers and Sammi Townsend
It was also such a privilege to be amongst a room of such high calibre producers from across the country as well as industry professionals. Not only were we in a room with these people but we were seated with them for the awards night. Over the course of the night I got to sit with a range of people, including John Webb Ware who is a Senior Consultant for the Mackinnon Project, the lovely Annie who has a background in genetics and Dubbo sheep producers and Wool Producer of the Year finalists, Don and Pam Mudford of Parkdale Merino Stud.
Don Mudford, along with his wife and sons, focus on breeding animals for both meat and wool characteristics on their 4200ha farm. Labour efficiency is a key driver in their operation, with a focus on easy care sheep. The management on farm and also farm facilities help to make this achievable. They have selected rams for their breeding values, focussing on eye muscle and fat depth.
It was also an honour to meet Daryl and Irene Croak from Oak Hills Merino Stud in the Central Tablelands. They are no stranger to awards in the Wool Industry, but said it was great to be a part of a night that wasn’t just focussed on Wool and were amazed at the diversity of Australian Farming. They also had the highest praise for the Young Farming Champions program.
Over the course of the night, it became quite evident that the industry is moving forward. Farmers are more sustainable and resourceful than ever before and it was said that “Innovation” is usually the stuff your neighbours think at the beginning, you’re crazy for trying and question if you haven’t lost your marbles! It is these innovative practices that have enabled Australian Agriculture to be at the top of the game.
Farmer of the Year 2012 winner and also Grain Grower of the Year winner, Peter Kuhlmann, farms 9000ha in possibly one of the most difficult regions of the country, just east of Ceduna, South Australia. With just 291mm average of rainfall per year, Mr Kuhlmann has to balance timing of seeding, weed control and water use efficiency, knowing all too well the phrase ‘that every drop counts’. He describes himself as an innovator and is often amongst the first to adopt new technologies and on farm trials to evaluate them.
It was also very inspiring to listen to the Young Farmer and Farming Woman of the Year finalists and winners. If the night was any indication of what lies ahead, Australian Agriculture has a very bright future.
Today’s guest blog comes from the Wool Industry’s Young Farming Champion Sammi Townsend
You cant imagine just how excited I was when Australian Wool Innovation offered to fly not just me in fact all 4 of the AWI Young Farming Champions to Melbourne for the Farmer of the Year Awards on 12th of September, 2012, This fantastic experience entailed travelling down to Melbourne from my humble town of residence in Orange to meet with AWI representatives and other AWI guests!
Along with the chance to ‘frock up’, the evening allowed me to recognise the passion and innovation of producers from all corners of Australia! Some who were even seated with me at the table!
Me (centre) with Young Farming Champions Steph Grills from Armidale and Lauren Crothers from Dirranbandi
This included Mr Don Mudford who is committed to producing easy-care sheep on his 4200ha farm in the Central West of NSW. Don produces animals for meat and wool, having selected sires for eye muscle and fat depth. Mrs Munford, who was also seated at my table, explained that it certainly took some time for her to convince Don that the breeding females were equally as important as the sire. She stated that now Don sees the girls in an entirely different light and the farm has successfully progressed onwards!
Richard Coole winner of the Wool Producer of the Year award 2012
Young Farming Champion Ambassador Kathleen Allan with Steph and Lauren
I was also seated at the table with Emily King, Project Officer for AWI. Emily also looks after young grower activities in the industry! To see a young woman equally as passionate about the wool industry as what I am was an inspiration- especially because she studied in Orange as well (so there were plenty of topics of choice to talk about)!
Having the opportunity to network with producers from all walks of life was an experience I’m certainly not going to forget! The enthusiasm producers showed towards their industries demonstrated to me that the future for Australian agriculture is in safe hands, and with the “Young Farmer of the Year” award and “Farming Woman of the Year”, I hope to see many people in the industry, particularly women, be rewarded for their devotion to farming sustainably and feeding the world!
The Young Eco Champions and some of our Young Farming Champions recently travelled to Bega for two days of workshops and one day of in the field experiences.
At each of our workshops we aim to provide insights into the workplace of a farmer from the food or fibre industry the champions represent or a taste of the world of natural resource management
Our Bega workshop in the field experiences led us to The Crossing Land Education Trustwhich is the brainchild of two magnificent human beings Dean and Annette Turner. Dean and Annette gathered an amazing array of local expertise together for us to learn from and work with during our time at The Crossing
Dean and Annette Turner
We are lucky to have our A Team of Ann Burbrook and videographer Tay Plain with us to record the experience for us which we will share with you
Tay Plain sets up for the interviews
Hanging out at The Crossing at Bermagui
Our time at The Crossing which saw the team sleeping in converted railway carriages meant the the YFC’s and YEC’s had the opportunity to follow in Young Eco Champion Heather Gow-Carey’s footsteps as well as see the work National Young Landcarer of the Year Megan Rowlatt is doing to engage young people in Landcare.
Converted railway carriages provide a unique sleeping experience at The Crossing
Megan, Heather and Steph share some weekend highlights with you
Starting with Megan ………………………….
Heading to the far south coast is always a win for me. I absolutely love the landscape and the fact that the coastal communities have been relatively untouched by development. But this trip was even more special. Being amongst such incredibly passionate young farmers and eco champions always leaves me walking away with my head swimming with ideas and feeling inspired to put more energy into what I do for my industry.
Megan leads the team on a tree guild planting exercise
Learning more about the agricultural industry from other young people who are actually actively involved in the industry is fast becoming one of my favourite components of being involved in this program.
See Megan’s interview with Dean Turner here
Heather shares with you some background on quest to save the Koala population on the South Coast……………………….
This year, I have been lucky enough to be able to undertake an Honours project that is both very close to my heart and that will have very real and practical outcomes. Koalas have long been found in the Bega Valley, they were so common that by 1865, the Bega District News reported that it was possible to ‘catch a Koala or Native Bear in the main street of Bega’.
Heather with Chris Allen
The population continued to remain at a high level for the remainder of the nineteenth century, able to support extensive fur trade beginning in the 1890’s, with several million skins being exported from NSW over a 20 year period. The fur trade soon collapsed and it was estimated that koala numbers in the late 1930’s were “only hundreds” throughout NSW. Though the koala populations may have recovered somewhat in the past 80 years, the distribution of koalas on the South Coast has been severely limited due to their vulnerability and inability to adapt to changing habitat conditions.
Learning about koala poo before going out to search a survey point for any evidence of koalas
Going down to The Crossing was a great opportunity to show the other YEC’s and YFC’s the importance of the koala survey work that has been conducted by hundreds of volunteers over the past 4 years. The purpose of the surveys is to try to gauge the current population levels as well as the main areas where they inhabit. From the survey work to date, it is estimated that in the forests to the north-east of Bega, no more than 42 individual koalas remain… and so many people do not realise this!
Chris Allen teaching everyone how to search the base of trees for koala scat
Not only are the surveys quantifying the population, they are educating so many people about the South Coast koalas and the importance of this population. There is the possibility that these koalas are the last remaining truly ‘wild’ koalas, being completely endemic to the region. With such an important and iconic species on the brink of localised extinction, it is great to work alongside people like Chris Allen (OEH) and Dean and Annette Turner (The Crossing) who are so dedicated to the surveys and are always very interested to hear about the progress of my thesis.
It is so rewarding to know that my university work will be able to be used in the field, with the preferred tree species that I have identified, along with the areas of prime habitat that I have mapped being used to assist the survey work along with the revegetation of wildlife corridors. My overall objective is to assess the habitat quality of the region, and my research has raised many interesting questions. It was originally thought that the habitat was marginal or low-quality due to the lack of ‘primary’ feed species and the poor soils and rugged terrain where the population is now limited to, but this might not be the case. It has been thought that these koalas may have a unique ability to forage an existence in this ‘marginal’ country by having unique genes and an inherited knowledge of country and place. Also, other recent research into the nutrient levels of the most utilised trees on the South Coast revealed that they are hardly different to the nutrient levels of many of the primary tree species that koalas are eating in other regions. So the habitat may now not be as poor as originally thought!
Learning about the work The Crossing is doing to create koala friendly wildlife corridors.
I really enjoyed this workshop because it was a chance to share my research with the other young people involved in the YEC and YFC, all the while learning about their industries and lines of work. It really is a two-way learning street and I think that is what I like most about the entire program. It has really made me realise that there is more to agriculture than what I originally thought and it has opened my eyes about how much more there is to learn. The interactions between the farming and natural environments cannot be separate and in order to manage either, it is important to have a knowledge of both. So that is now my goal, to learn as much as I can about whole farm management and best management practices… so I can go off and save the world!
and more thoughts from Megan…….
I think we all took away much more from this workshop than we usually do from each other, and this was all thanks to our wonderful hosts Dean and Annette from The Crossing. Not only did we hear about sustainable design and how we can use resources we already have access to live comfortably, we were able to hear their stories of how they got to where they are today.
Sharing ideas, trials, errors and successes, that’s the key really, in anything we do. Sharing what we learn and then allowing the next generation to come in and build on this, is how we progress and improve. Sharing our stories is the most powerful tool we have in improving our future. It’s just that simple. And spending time with such inspiring people such as Dean and Annette who open their doors to the world to learn from them, just made this resonate with me even more.
Connecting with staff from National Parks and Wildlife Services, environmental educators Dean and Annette from The Crossing, landholders involved in biodiversity projects, and Aboriginal cultural officers all at once really cemented the fact that we are all connected to the land in one way shape or form and we all have a roll and responsibility, but we also have the ability to make a positive change by working together. The South Coast Koala Habitat project is so vital to the survival of this last remaining population of an iconic Australian species on the far south coast of NSW.
So the highlight for me, was taking part in the biodiversity planting and survey work.
Knowing that as volunteers our small efforts were contributing to such a valuable project was rewarding. I always like getting my hands dirty and physically contributing to something worthwhile. And to see so many partners and community members working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the future of this Koala population is fantastic. And we are now a part of this too.
Some thoughts from meat scientist Dr Steph ………
The best thing about the workshop was that it was hands on. After a short demo on how best to plant the trees for survival and talking about why it was important to do it that particular way, off we went to plant some.
And getting there was lots of fun. Dr Steph in the middle with Heather and Ann ( at the back)
After a chat about the koalas what they face as an impact of habitat fragmentation and how they look for them, off we went to look. Had anyone told me that as a Young Farming Champion I would be looking for koala scats, I am not sure that I would have believed them but the enthusiasm of the group was infectious and we were more than willing to participate.
The infectious enthusiasm of the group drove me to want to participate and learn about everything and Tay’s work behind the camera was no exception.
When Tay needed a hand behind the camera to adjust the lighting, I found myself on the other side of the light and eventually managed to graduate to using the switches on the back. It’s mastering these skills you never think you would ever possibly get a chance at doing that I often find the most rewarding.
From behind the camera, it wasn’t long until I was back in front of the camera interviewing Dean from ‘The Crossing’.
Dean and Annette have a real connection with the land and the environmental education programs, such as the Sea to Snow and the koala surveys, they run there. It was inspiring to have a chance to interview Dean and hear so eloquently, how the landscape around him has altered the journey that he has taken and how that now inspires others.
The significance of ‘The Crossing’ certainly has not been lost and we thrilled to have been part of this experience and to have the opportunity to share it with you .
Here at Art4Agriculture HQ our family farm produces the milk that sustains 50,000 people in Sydney everyday. It is what we do. Like all Australian farmers its our job to keep families healthy – bringing them fresh, safe & nutritious, affordable, ethically produced food and fibre every day.
In some ways our team, and every other Australian food and fibre producer, is responsible for the health, and wealth and happiness of Australians, and many other people around the world.
It’s a big job – and going to get a lot bigger over the next 20 – 50 years and we couldn’t do it without the support of the wonderful natural resource management professionals we tap into for knowledge and skills to help us keep our landscapes healthy and our waterways clean.
LIFE is about people across Australia, just like you, getting involved in Landcare in their everyday lives.
Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions at The Crossing at Bermagui
We all know planet earth is struggling to maintain the balance of LIFE for all of the species that call it home. Here in Australia our fragile landscape is under constant pressure from an ever-growing and consuming, modern way of life. Landcarers everywhere are working together to maintain the health of their local environments, but the time has come for everyone to help maintain the balance of LIFE by becoming involved and thinking about their actions each and every day and what impact they have.
Whether you live in a city or a one pub town, on the beach or on a station, in the Top End or the Island State, this website is designed to give you ideas on what you can do or how you can join others in caring for the land and our environment, because after all, the land is the reason we exist and the reason we continue to survive. Getting involved in Landcare and getting involved with LIFE means many different things to different people, but one thing for sure is that no matter who you are or where you live, there’s a way that you can make a difference. There’s a way that you can help.
Check out your local council website and see what environmental or sustainability events and workshops you can attend. You can even be involved in Landcare in your own backyard!
Is there a Landcare, Bushcare, Coastcare or other environmental community group in your local area? Why not get in touch with them and see if you can lend a hand?
It’s not all about weeding and planting you know. Volunteer groups need all types of help – can you write, publish and distribute a newsletter? Maybe you can update a website or help with accounts? Whatever you can do, there’s a way you can help.
Maybe you love surfing and swimming but hate seeing your beach covered in other people’s litter? Get together with some likeminded people and set up a Coastcare group today. Together, we can make a difference.
These are just a few of the many, many ways that people can get involved with LIFE. For every local environmental problem, you can bet there’s a group of people who want to take action to help fix it, and you can be part of this action. LIFE is about the land, and the land is what gives us LIFE, so why not get involved in maintaining the circle of LIFE?
See how Art4agriculture HQ is playing their part here
The Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show has partnered with the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RAS Foundation), with a vision to assist the development of Australia’s next generation of dairy industry leaders.
The RAS Foundation is now in search of students who are passionate about forging careers in the NSW dairy produce industry and who need funding assistance to make their dream a reality.
Made possible by a donation from long time Sydney Royal award winning producer Country Valley, the scholarship will be the first in what’s planned to be a suite of Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarships. Gerry Andersen, Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Committee Chairman said the RAS is committed to supporting the industry at the grassroots level and fulfilling the RAS charter of promoting education in agriculture. “Students who are passionate about forging a career across a broad range of skills within the dairy industry are able to apply. Careers can include but are not limited to; agricultural science, farm management, veterinary science, food technology, lab technician, marketing and journalism professionals,” said Mr Andersen.
RAS Foundation Executive Officer, Jocellin Jansson said the scholarship aims to reduce some of the financial challenges students often face when it comes to pursuing their education and training goals. “The Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship will provide vital support and help foster opportunities for students who are passionate about pursuing careers which will make a positive contribution to the NSW dairy produce industry.” The Scholarship offers $5,000 for full-time study and $1,500 for part-time study.
The successful scholarship recipient will also be provided with the opportunity to steward at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show as well as attend the National Cheese and Dairy Judges Accreditation Course to be held in 2013. “Stewarding at the Cheese and Dairy Produce Show will not only provide a rare insight into the judging of dairy products from across the country, the recipient will also be able to network with leading cheese makers, dairy manufacturers and technologists, food media, retailers and chefs from Australia,” said Mr Andersen.
Applicants simply need to fill in the online application form found at http://www.rasf.org.au explaining why they are passionate about the NSW dairy produce Industry and how they want to play a part in its future.
Applications close 30 November and the Scholarship will be awarded in February 2013.
My name is Richie Quigley and farming is in my blood and I couldn’t be happier about that
Growing up on our family farm in Trangie, the Macquarie valley, Central Western NSW I have been involved in agriculture as long as I remember.
Our farm “Muntham”, has been in our family for 125 years and my brothers Tom and George and I will be fifth generation farmers
We are lucky enough to have both an irrigation and dryland farming business and grow 500 Ha of cotton as well as about 2200ha of winter crops which include wheat, canola, and chickpeas. We also have 1500 breeding ewes and 150 breeding cows.
Most of our childhood photos are of my two brothers and me outside playing in the dirt and the mud pushing around toy tractors (more often than not with no clothes on), maintaining our miniature interpretation of our family farm in our veggie patch. The fence still bears the scars from when we cut it as we ‘bought’ more land (much to mums delight). As we grew older, our passion for farming grew when we were able to move from our “Tonka” farm to outside the fence with dad.
A typical busy week on the farm can include spraying to keep fallow paddocks weed free, sowing crops, spraying for weeds in the crop with selective herbicides, spreading fertiliser, harvesting, ground preparation for cotton, irrigating cotton, planning crop rotations, animal husbandry, and general farm maintenance and mechanics.
All of us had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. This opened the doors to so many opportunities and experiences (considering the local school had about 6 students in each year), but was often seen as an inconvenience as holidays and harvest never seemed to line up completely!
A highlight of my school life happened in my final year when I was lucky enough to be selected and represent Australia in the “Australia A” Schools Rugby Union. This was an amazing opportunity that I am confident may not happened if I didn’t have the chance to attend boarding school.
After finishing school, I had a gap year working at home before heading to university.
I made this choice to gain strong foundation hands on experience that would allow me to relate my future studies back to practices and principles that are currently used or could possibly be used on our own farm. My gap year reinforced that my future lay with farming and how much agriculture has to offer and working outside is so much better than a class room or an office.
There are so many career options available, and so many job opportunities. I am currently studying Science in agriculture and will major in agronomy – which the link between scientific research and primary producers, and am very much interested in the production side of agriculture. I want to grow it.
To assist with my university studies and access a diverse array of opportunities I applied for and was lucky enough to win a Horizon Scholarship.
My sponsor is Woolworths, and as part of the program the students spend two weeks of industry placement with their sponsor. My placement saw me spending two weeks in Woolworths head office, working with the fresh food department. It was an eye opening experience to see what happens to our produce after it leaves the farmgate and the sheer volume of food that is distributed by one of our major supermarkets as well as their commitment to quality.
Woolworths is also a major sponsor of the Australian Year of the Farmer, and I was invited to the launch of Australian Year of the Farmer last October as representative of the young farmers of our nation. This was an experience I will never forget. One which saw me meet and mix with a number of very influential and inspiring people including Andrew Forrest, the Governor General and Glenn and Sara McGrath to name just a few
Australian Year of the Farmer launch October 2011
In particular I found the following excerpt from Quentin Bryce’s speech compelling
The Year of the Farmer purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed – to our rich rural history. In doing so, it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes in the process.
In the world of the 21st century farmer, we find people who are environmentally-aware, innovative, tertiary-educated, global, entrepreneurial and collegiate.
Primary producers today are a different breed to their parents and grandparents.
The love of the land is still deeply ingrained, but to make money – and they must be profitable to survive – they have become masters of numerous skills, and technologically adept.
They understand land and water management, laser levelling, remote sensing, GPS management, conservation agriculture, organics, biodynamics and, overall, their role in national and global food security.
Perhaps these are new labels for traditional concepts, but today’s farmers employ cutting edge technology that would baffle office workers in the cities.
Technology is powering Australia’s farming future.
I encourage all Australians to join in the celebrations next year; to take the opportunity to leave the cities, and learn how our farmers underpin our economy.
They are leaders, and we can learn much from that leadership.
The Year of the Farmer is a wonderful opportunity for all Australians to better understand, and value, the part farmers play in our health and well-being and prosperity.
Each and every day. We simply couldn’t live without them!
Another highlight of my Horizon Scholarship has been the recent opportunity to attend the 16th Australian Cotton Conference thanks to the generosity of Cotton Australia. The conference was a great opportunity to meet a large number of people in the cotton industry and hear a number of presentations from leaders in the industry on current issues and new innovative ideas for the future of the industry.
Agriculture is an easy choice for me, as it is a lifestyle as well as a job. It’s the feeling of having an office outside, and every day working with natural elements to produce food and fibre, feeding and clothing the people all around the world.
I challenge you to have a look at a career in agriculture, as the people anywhere in the agricultural industry will give you a go if they can see you’re interested in learning. It’s dynamic industry that is constantly evolving and changing trying to continue to feed and clothe the growing hungry world.
Today I have great pleasure in introducing you to Rachel Walker who we are thrilled to have on board as one of our Young Eco Champions
With the support of the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program funding Art4Agriculture has recruited 5 exciting young women for the Young Eco Champion program for 2012/13
This program will train a team of 5 young natural resource management professionals from Southern Rivers region of NSW. This training will help them develop leadership and communication skills and become local faces of sustainable primary production and natural resource management.
The Eco Champions will work with our Young Farmer Champions to present Archibull Prize activities in 15 schools throughout the region using a range of authentic and contemporary learning tools that allow young people to explore the economic, environmental and social challenges of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation activities through the ‘Archibull Prize‘ competition.
This is Rachel’s story …….
My name is Rachel Walker, I’m 24 years old and currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Systems (Agriculture stream) at the University of Sydney.
I was born and raised in Sydney, but agriculture has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though I grew up in the city, it’s hard to deny that I’m a country girl at heart.
My first taste of farm life was through my grandparents who built an equestrian centre and also ran beef cattle south west of Sydney, where I spent a lot of time growing up. I have always enjoyed the hands-on side of farming. It doesn’t matter whether it is easy or messy and dirty work, I’ve always found days working out in the sun to be exciting! I started taking horse riding seriously when I was about 13, competing in dressage and being on the local club committee, where I stayed until I moved into the city to study when I was around 21. Going to a city school meant that studying Agriculture wasn’t an option for me, but that didn’t really stop me from spending a majority of my time out on the farm.
One thing that stands out in my mind when I think of both of my grandfathers is how hard they worked. My maternal grandfather was an apple grower in Victoria and I often walk past the weathered, broken archway in Sydney’s old fruit market where his name is still painted.
My first Pony (1992)
A life filled with opportunities
In 2006 I went to live in Ghana, West Africa for 4 months, teaching in a local school and living with a family in a village where subsistence farming is the common lifestyle and trade is the form of diversity in diet. Nothing is wasted, nothing is wrapped in plastic or refrigerated; they eat what’s seasonally available, and when it’s available and still have a great diversity in their diet – such an enormous contrast to the average Australian!!! This was a big turning point in my life, as it made me aware of natural resource use. From this point forward, I have looked at everything else with Ghana’s influence in the back of my mind. This was my self-induced introduction into natural resource management, and subsequently natural resource management has been in my mind wherever I’ve gone since.
My wonderful host family and village friends in Ghana (2006).
Paga, Ghana: where the crocs and the humans live side by side.
I am generally the kind of person to take advantage of an opportunity that arises, and I have really enjoyed the diversity that I’ve been able to experience. Some of my fondest summers have been spent out in the searing heat of the Araluen valley in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, which had a population of 215, picking peaches and nectarines. I love the Australian countryside and the southern coast of NSW would have to be my favourite area (so far!). Not only did I make some if my best friends in the ‘Happy Valley’, I learnt a lot about horticulture that I had never really experienced before. After that, I returned for the picking season 3 times! This was my introduction to the processes and numbers of food production, and this gave me insight into the food chain from growth to consumption.
Picking peaches in Araluen (2007/8).
My love for animals led me to pursue a career in veterinary nursing, which I absolutely loved and still do on a part-time basis today. I left vet nursing because I realised that I wanted to be more involved in Agriculture. I wanted to challenge myself a little more and further my knowledge, so I enrolled at Sydney Uni. There were two options for me – B Agricultural Science, or a new degree called B Environmental Systems, which aimed to be the first degree of its kind to focus on the balance between food, energy and water – and they offered an agricultural pathway within the degree. Perfect for me!!! It combined my love for agriculture with the increasing needs for resource use efficiency and natural resource management that I had come to realise was so important to the future, to achieve a sustainable food and fibre production with sustainable environmental management!
My degree has given me the opportunity to look at the mutual relationship between agriculture as a business and a science, and the environmental side of things. I have had the opportunity to see many different parts of the east of Australia, as well as overseas, in both an agricultural and an environmental light.
More opportunities and inspiration
I am very interested in Agriculture in developing countries. In December 2011 to Feb 2012 I travelled to Uganda, in Eastern Africa to stay in a village where an Australian couple from country Victoria helped a Ugandan man (David) to start up a community development project in a small rural village. The rural people in Uganda aren’t very well catered for: and all produce is through subsistence farming, and is traded. It was an amazing experience. I was so inspired by David’s passion, enthusiasm and modesty about what the programme was achieving in a sustainable way! It has empowered the local people through programmes to develop the agricultural potential of the land and the people so as to increase production and create an economy, which allows the locals to have money if required for medical treatment or children’s education.
They have taught people to grow mushrooms and mulch; to use goat and cow manure as fertilizers; and also started a piggery project, which works on a pay-it-forward scheme so the community can benefit from easily cared for pigs. From the success and international support, they have added a medical centre that has visitors who walk 8km to visit, and computer classes with visiting children from 25km away, so that children form rural areas are able to gain some skills that bridge the gap between rural and city kids going to uni.
We talked so much about agriculture over there, and it is amazing to see how much we take for granted in what we are able to achieve in this country!
Local Football game, Uganda (2012)
From this, my friend Hannah, who I travelled with, and I are currently organising a fundraising event in order to raise enough money to begin a goat rearing business, which will enable the community project to be completely self sustainable, and provide an income that will be able to support new ideas and projects in the future.
My classmates and I in New Zealand looking at Agriculture and the Environment
Over the course of my studies, I have learnt so much about the science behind the various streams that Agriculture may be broken up into – and it is huge! This has opened my eyes to the areas I want to learn more about! I know that my interests lie in cattle, though that in itself is a broad statement. I have also realised that I love learning and studying, in particular about the science behind soil and the relationships between soil, plants and water which are the essentials to sustainable production.
What concerns me
Living in the inner city has shown me there are so many aspects to Agriculture that aren’t recognised by the majority of the population. I believe that education about where food comes from and its journey to the consumer needs to be addressed, particularly in city areas where children may never get the opportunity to collect their own food. This is so important – to have future decision makers and scientists understand the processes behind their consumption – and a bottom-up approach in teaching young children through our primary education systems, which will filter through to their parents would be a great start. This is important for the lead up to more sustainable practices, such as the adaptation to eating food that has a ‘mark’ on it etc.
I believe that each country in the near future is going to reach a pinnacle point where the balance between Agricultural food and resource production is not going to meet the needs of the environment, nor a growing population.
There are so many different options for our future, and they are dependent upon us. Whether it involves an increase in production, a reduction of waste, or improving adaptation to variation in living conditions, changes toward sustainability should be a primary focus of the future. The collaboration of the various scientific fields to ensure a sustainable future that involves the least environmental impact possible is achievable and invaluable. I hope to see this throughout the world before the end of my life, and I hope that Australia leads the way, as we are doing with the increased protection and education of our Marine parks.
I am passionate about Agriculture: its potential, its ways of life and its diversity in opportunity are all something I strive to be a part of, and encourage others to do the same! Agriculture and the land will always be a part of my life even if I continue living within an urban environment…