Today I would like to introduce you to April Browne. I have known April since we became part of the team that bought the Dairy Youth Challenge back to the Sydney Royal Easter Show way back in 2005.
April is now the Science Education Officer at the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) located at University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury Campus. I asked April to write us this blog to share with you her journey to what I am highly confident is her dream job. Art4Agriculture is looking forward to working closely with April and her team going forward
This is April’s story
“The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity” Ayn Rand
Opportunity surrounds us all in everything that we do. It has the potential to lead us on the path that we envisage, but more often, opportunity opens the door to unknown and exciting new experiences. If I had been asked to paint a picture of my future career when I was younger, I certainly wouldn’t have foreseen what a wonderful career I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.
In fact, growing up on the Central Coast and visiting my grandparents’ dairy farm near Alstonville, I was the girl who couldn’t peddle her bike fast enough away from the cows in the paddock; they seemed pretty scary at the time.
Yes I was quite happy staying within the confines of the backyard with its white picket fence. That was until opportunity knocked, opportunity in the form of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I was in Year 8 and my agriculture teacher was asking for students to help a dairy farmer show his cattle at the show. I thought I was in for a week of show bags and rides with an endless supply of fairy floss. I thought wrong. In fact I spent my week sitting in a very unstable camping chair catching manure in a bucket while the visiting public ogled at what was perhaps the most disgusting thing they had seen that day. For some reason though, and I am sure my industry colleagues will back me up here, the show and agriculture grew on me. Perhaps it was the rush of winning a blue ribbon or joining the big happy family that is the dairy industry.
Whatever it was, twelve years on I still find myself sitting in the camping chair catching manure in a bucket. This time though, they are my cows and I couldn’t be happier.
After I got home from that first show, I joined the schools cattle club and became heavily involved in showing both beef and dairy cattle.
I travelled throughout much of NSW and Victoria attending different shows and meeting industry people. I realised towards the end of high school that I had a particular interest in the food industry and conveniently happened to be good at the subject.
I enjoyed learning about the science behind food, what it is made up of and how it interacts with producers and consumers. We often see the production side of agriculture and the end product on a plate, but much of the time the chain is not seen as a whole. We are lucky to live in a country where for a majority of the population, the food miles are relatively small and we enjoy fresh produce year round and I think this is something that should be highlighted more within the Australian community.
Having grown up with relatively little ‘farming’ experience, I wanted to see food production at the coalface before I went to study the science behind it. And so I deferred a university offer to study food science and enrolled at Tocal Agricultural College where I completed a Certificate III Agriculture.
I have studied a lot (maybe I am a sucker for punishment) and Tocal was definitely one of the most worthwhile learning experiences I have had. I loved the variety of experiences and the chance to learn new skills and knowledge but perhaps more enjoyable were the opportunities I encountered in the broader agricultural context whilst at Tocal. I have always believed that those who dare to take advantage of opportunities no matter how unfamiliar they may be, are those who set themselves up for discovery and a journey which often in my experience leads to greater success. Tocal was not just about marking lambs and mustering cattle, I was also given the opportunity to judge shows, join committees and travel the country learning about agriculture. In addition, the networks I established whilst there within the industry and with fellow like-minded people have allowed me to broaden my knowledge of the industry and have served me well in my subsequent career in agriculture
Following Tocal, I accepted my university offer and completed a Bachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Aside from understanding the physics of what really makes bread rise and how many fat cells are required to successfully clog an artery, I relished the opportunity to apply what I had learnt at Tocal to a scientific realm. I also took the opportunity to use my electives in this degree to study some units of education. As something that had always interested me, the education electives allowed me to travel around a number of local schools and experience food, agriculture and science in a collective medium.
I decided from these experiences to follow my undergraduate degree with a Masters of Teaching in 2010 and furthered my education expertise which has led me into my career as an educator. At this time I also became President of the Royal Agricultural Society Dairy Youth Committee and became heavily involved with dairy youth events whilst also starting up my own Brown Swiss stud with the help of breeders Max and Robyn Wake.
During my time teaching at Camden High School, I decided to enter the local Showgirl competition.
I had seen the showgirls at the show and the multifaceted nature of the competition strongly appealed to my desire to learn more about the agricultural industry. And so the city girl gave the showgirl competition a go and surprisingly I was fortunate enough to be sashed as the 2012 Camden Showgirl. People often describe experiences as a ‘whirlwind’. To say this about the showgirl competition would be an understatement. If ever there was a forum to provide opportunity, learning and experiences then this was it and I relished every second. After being successful at the zone competition and with the support of my over enthusiastic Year 8 class I headed to the Sydney Royal Easter Show to represent Camden Show. Although not feeling overly confident about my prospects of success given our showgirl had won the year before, I immersed myself in the experience, meeting new people and having those surreal moments you never think you will have the opportunity to encounter. I shook more hands and ate more canapés than I had ever before and before I knew it the whirlwind was over.
As the dust settled and I faced life without the sash I reflected on the experience and most of all the people I had met, because it was the people that I remember most and should be the inspiration for the next generation of agricultural youth. I didn’t just meet farmers, I met business people , journalists, marketers, scientists, teachers and politicians, all who have a hand in the agricultural pie and all who represent Australian agriculture.
Agriculture is everywhere, it is the umbrella that covers many industry sectors and for this reason is something to be promoted, celebrated and supported in the future. I currently work in agricultural education, I see kids just like myself everyday who have little link to production agriculture but feel the same draw because it is an industry with something for everyone. To be in a role as the provider of opportunities just as I have had is incredible.
I look forward to the future of agriculture both in Australia and on a global scale. It is an industry that has always had to be revolutionary to remain efficient and profitable and I look forward to seeing how the students I work with today will overcome the social, ethical and economic challenges of 21st century agriculture.
What a great story April and from my perspective after working with young people in Agriculture for the past 10 years I can definitely see a pattern happening – shows, leading cattle and sheep and alpacas, chooks et al and/or being part of the Showgirl/RAS Rural Achiever experience is a great pathway to being a Young Farming Champion and leadership and being in positions of influence for our #youthinag