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 guest blogger Kristy Stewart is one of nine passionate tertiary students committed to the future of agriculture who were this week awarded scholarships from Rural Finance to assist them with their studies. Rural Finance Scholarships are open to vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate students who demonstrate a career commitment to agriculture including farming, consultancy, research, technological and other related services. The scholarship offers offer agri-students funding of up to $6,000 per year while studying.
We previously profiled Kristy Stewart in March this year through her inspiring blog Lets Get Back to our roots. Kristy is currently studying Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences, La Trobe University and she and her family farm in the foothills of the beautiful Otway Ranges in Victoria. Kristy is a 5th generation farmer on their 580 acre property.
Passionate about the environment and farming, Kristy is keen to learn how agriculture can be developed as a sustainable industry. Her parents provide her with inspiration and strength and encourage her in her passion to promotion sustainable conservation to the next generation. “It’s time to get back to our roots & realise the importance of agriculture to the people of Australia and by extension, the world”. Kristy says
For over 21 years, the Rural Finance Scholarship Program has committed over $2.3M to students who strive to be of value to Victorian agriculture, and is recognised as a leading scholarship program supporting the development of Victorian youth.
At the conclusion of their studies, students become members of the Rural Finance Scholarship Alumni, offering ongoing opportunities for mentoring and networking.
Art4Agriculture and Cotton Australia sponsored Young Farming Champion Richie Quigley has had a huge year capping it of by winning the first overall and the individual prize in the 2013 Australian Universities Crop Competition (AUCC) which includes an international ten-day study tour to compete in the Collegiate Crops Contest held in November 2013 in Kansas, USA. Richie’s award will include airfares, accommodation, meals, enterprise visits, and registration to compete in the Collegiate Crops Contest.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, especially seeing the level of knowledge among the other competitors. I come from a farming background and the trip to USA is a good opportunity to visit some farms” said Richie.
The winning team: Richard Quigley, Eleanor Percival, Sarah Waldron-Jones, Emily Lamberton, Eleanor Readford, Constance Mort and Haruna Suenaga with Dr Adriana Hoxha
This is extra exciting for our team as 2011 Young Farming Champion Heidi Cheney designed and instigated the inaugural Australian Universities Crop Competition
The University of Sydney team from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment also won the 2013 Australian Universities Crop Competition (AUCC) based on the three highest scoring individuals from each university.The competition was held in Temora, NSW from 18-20 September 2013, organised by Grain Growers and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, GRDC and Farmoz. Charles Sturt University came in second and Curtin University came in third.
During the competition the students had the opportunity to take their knowledge from the lecture theatre to the field. The competition included components like farm management, grain grading, live crop yield potential, live crop weed and foliar diseases identification and soil analyses.
“I was surprised from their commitment in training as a team during our stay in Temora”, said the team lead coach, Dr Adriana Hoxha. Senior Lecturer from the Department of Plant and Food Sciences, Dr Daniel Tan said, “Our agronomy and soil science programs provide our students with a solid foundation to apply their practical skills in the field.”
The University of Sydney entered seven students into the competition this year, with the group led by Dr Adriana Hoxha, along with support from student coach, Johanna Couchman who won third place in the 2012 Australian Universities crops Competition and a ten-day International Study Tour to the USA. The students in the Sydney team are Richard Quigley, Eleanor Percival, Sarah Waldron-Jones, Emily Lamberton, Eleanor Readford, Constance Mort and Haruna Suenaga
This has been particularly rewarding for me as I know just how much our farm has benefited from working with natural resource management professionals and it has given me great joy to be able to partner our Young Farming Champions and the next generation of consumers and decision and policy makers (school students) with these bright young minds.
Clover Hill paired with Next Gen to look after the farm’s scarce natural resources
Whereas our Young Farming Champions have their individual food and fibre industries behind them our Young Eco Champions don’t have an umbrella organisation that supports them financially and/or provides them with the type of personal and professional development Art4Agriculture offers and it’s been mind-blowing for me to see how they have flourished under the Young Eco Champions program.
Going into schools the Young Eco Champions have discovered that the knowledge base of students about natural resource management varies widely from school to school from almost nothing to exceptional and seems dependent on the culture within the school with some primary schools in the Archibull Prize 2013 leading the way.
They have found in the main that urban schools have their heads around sustainability in the context of reducing personal carbon footprint through recycling, reduced waste etc. because that’s what is driven through a lot of local council initiatives and some of the students with a rural background understood weed management issues and why it is important to manage weeds however knowledge of what it takes to farm sustainably and wider catchment management issues where almost non-existent.
Last week I joined Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt who returned to one of her schools to conduct a bush regeneration workshop with the students.
Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt and students attacking the evil asparagus fern
I was recently reminded just how important it is for us all to have a wider knowledge of what is happening to our scarce natural resources beyond our front fences when I came across this article Where the world’s running out of water, in one map by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post
Brad asks the question
And with the global population soaring past 7 billion, this is one of the biggest questions the world is now facing. Can better conservation practices and new technology enable farmers to keep feeding the planet without depleting its most important water resources?
Its pretty scary to know that approximately 1.7 billion people rely on aquifers that are rapidly being depleted and would take thousands of years to refill, according to the study in the journal Nature.
The report, “Water balance of global aquifers revealed by groundwater footprint,” identifies aquifers in the U.S., Mexico, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and China as crisis zones where groundwater resources and/or groundwater-dependent ecosystems are under threat because the use of water vastly exceeds the rate at which aquifers are being refilled by rain.
The underground reservoir in north-western India, for instance, would need 54 times more rainfall to replenish the water that’s currently being used by farmers and the local population.
In the map below, the blue areas mark where rain can replenish the amount of water being used by humans. Orange or red areas indicate places where people draw out more for irrigation and drinking water than rain can refill.
The grey areas show the extent of the “groundwater footprint” by representing how much water people are drawing from the aquifers compared with how much water each holds.
When we know Australia
is the driest inhabited continent on earth, with the least amount of water in rivers, the lowest run-off and the smallest area of permanent wetlands of all the continents.
and one third of the continent produces almost no run-off at all and Australia’s rainfall and stream-flow are the most variable in the world.
And then you see the big picture problem the world is facing due to an ever increasing scarcity of our precious natural resources its very rewarding to be able to work with and share our Young Farming Champions and our Young Eco Champions and their knowledge diversity and expertise with our school students
Its also very rewarding to be able to provide the schools they visit with the amazing resources our food and fibre industries are creating to show how farmers are doing their bit and striving to do it better and inspiring the next generation to look beyond their front door and get actively involved as well
Examples of some great industry resources can be found on our web page here
Today we would like to introduce you to Tegan Nock our latest addition to the Young Farming Champions program. Tegan is a beef farmer and is sponsored by NSW Farmers.
Tegan heads up the NSW Farmers Young Farmers’ Council and we recently shared her inspirational speech at the NSW Farmers conference with you here. Tegan is just one of a group of young people who are galvanising Youth In Ag and debunking the myth that young people don’t want to farm
This is Tegan’s story ………..
Can you guess what all of these people have in common? Yup, you got it. They’re all farmers. Farmers who are working towards improving their farming methods in the name of sustainability.
Be it an Indian farmer in the Punjab using alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation techniques to decrease the amount of water they have to pump out of the water table, an Indonesian farmer in Malang aiming to use less pesticides to avoid plant resistance and chemical run-off, or a Vietnamese farmer in the Mekong delta region using permaculture to minimise waste, you will be hard-pressed to find a farmer who is not working to improve the way they farm.
There are a host of different reasons farmers across the world are doing this; for the good of the environment, for the health of their plants and animals, for economic advantage, for the good of their community or to make practices easier for the next generation of farmers on their land, but if you ask any one of them the reason why they are putting in all this effort to review the way they farm, it is because sustainability is the lifeblood of any good farming business.
My family and I are farmers in the central west of NSW. We farm 7000 acres, where we grow mostly wheat and barley, occasionally canola, and run a commercial herd of angus cattle.
I was born with farming in my blood. My Grandmother bought her first cow when she was 15 and my father has been a full-time farmer since he was 14. In keeping with this tradition, I established a cattle business at the age of 17, while still in high school.
On my farm, we are constantly questioning how we can do things better. We have a strong focus on conservation farming, using zero tillage cropping for over a decade. My father’s philosophy on farming is that there are many factors contributing to the success of a farming business, but the most important is that the land be left in a better condition than when you found it. Thanks to this philosophy, we have changed our farming practices to ensure the longevity of our land.
Currently on our farm:
We use Control Traffic Farming, meaning we only drive over set tracks on our paddocks to stop compaction
We cell graze, which is where paddocks are divided up into smaller paddocks to manage grazing better
We power all our infrastructure (houses, sheds, workshops, electric fences) using solar energy
We select cattle for their feed conversion efficiency, which is their ability to convert the what they eat into steak potential as efficiently as they can
We keep areas of the farm free of stock or crops to encourage native flora and fauna populations
After I finished high school, I went to uni to study an Ag Science degree to learn how to keep improving the way we run our farm.
Doing an Ag degree at uni opened so many doors for me. There are a huge number of programs available to Ag students that let you get an insight into how the whole industry works.
In no time I found myself standing in a giant cool room learning about meat cuts and quality, or in a canola paddock learning about crop pests and diseases. I even ended up in rice paddies in Punjab, the major rice growing region in India, discussing water conservation with the local farmers!
I quickly became involved in NSW Young Farmers, a group within the NSW Farmers Association which acts to advocate for the interest of young people in the Agricultural industry, both on a political platform, and in the wider community. NSW Young Farmers also holds events across the state, to allow members to learn about on-farm production, new technology or how political lobbying works.
I believe that it is so important for agriculture to have a voice when it comes to political decisions, especially from the young people involved in the industry. It is our opportunity to shape the future of our businesses, landscapes and communities in rural and regional Australia.
I now act as the chair of the NSW Young Farmers Council, and get to spend time traveling around the state meeting other young people in Ag, talking to politicians, adding to policy documents, planning events and promoting careers in Agriculture. And this just what I do in my spare time!
I love the flexibility that agriculture offers me, and the diversity of what I do from week to week and day to day. On the farm I am able to take on so many roles from the management and planning of enterprises, to the marketing of produce, to planting of crops and doing stock work.
I get to combine my love of the land with science, technology and business, and have so much fun in the process!
By the way Tegan also is quite a talented country music singer and has performed at various university events whilst studying Ag Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. You can to her sing on this video