Cotton enthusiast Liz Munn believes in reaping what you sow

Liz Munn brings us today’s guest blog which takes us on an 800km journey that begins and ends with cotton. The 21 year old technical officer with the DPI lives by the motto “You can only take out what you put in” and believes the more people show their confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry, the more it will become contagious!

Here’s Liz’s story…

My name is Liz Munn, I am 21 years old and I’ve just moved 800km across the state to work in the field I love – cotton!

Home for me is the rural community of Moree in the North West Slopes and Plains of NSW. It’s the centre of a large agricultural area, known for the rich black vertosol soils which allow crops such as cotton to thrive and is also renowned for its natural hot springs. In the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought, but the people always manage to come out stronger.

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At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, about to accept the Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship in 2014.

I believe that for a rural agricultural region to survive it needs a supportive, cohesive community – and I love to get involved! I work with groups such as the Moree Show Society, Leeton Show Society, NSW Farmers, ASC Youth group, ASC Group 14 Ambassador, and the Young NSW Farmers group. I love that show events bring the whole community together to experience all of the rural and agricultural aspects of the area. Getting amongst the hive of activity not only keep me up to date with what is happening in the agricultural industry at a regional basis, but also at a legislative and national basis.

My love of the land came from my grandfather. Some of my best childhood moments was the time spent following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise, so my parents and I helped with jobs such as lamb and calf marking, shearing, tractor driving and harvest. Over the years the farm changed to focus more on grain growing.

My grandfather taught me that you can only take out what you put in; which is a good motto not just for agriculture but for life in general and I have followed it throughout my life.

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Looking after a poddy lamb named Claire after it lost its mother.

At school in Moree I was the type of kid that enjoyed getting involved with everything. I was sporting house captain in year 11 and a school leader in year 12. I was active in a range of sports from horses to soccer, and was lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also loved learning to play classical violin for five years, and won a few awards along the way.

When it was time to think about university degrees my interest in agriculture lead me to a Bachelor of Environmental Science at University of New England.

I lived at St Albert’s College where made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I was highly active in the college’s netball and chugby (women’s rugby) teams and also held the position of pastoral advisor (PA) where I supported my fellow students in any way possible and helped organise events.

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On the far right of the top row, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

My Environmental Science degree has given me a deeper insight into the need for a partnership between the needs of the native landscape and productive landscape and instilled the importance of preserving the productive farmland that we are lucky enough to have in Australia.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and there is an important place for leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques to give the best protection against our unpredictable seasons while also enhancing competitiveness on the world market. The cotton industry in particular is at the forefront of innovation, and so I took my first steps to become involved.

During my first two summer breaks at university, I worked for a local agronomist as a cotton crop scout. When I first applied for the position I considered it purely a learning experience. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed myself. I found the cotton industry fascinating! Now I’m striving to become an agronomist.

In just a few years I have worked with many great people who were as enthusiastic about the industry as I now am too. Last year I toured one of the local cotton gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process. I also completed two subjects directly related to cotton and its management.

My dedication to regional communities and agriculture was last year rewarded with the 2014 Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship for my work in agriculture and my local show society, as well being appointed as an ambassador for the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) group 14.

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Checking some of the first open bolls for the 2014/2015 season.

This year my career has taken off. When I finished my degree in late 2014 there was a drought around Moree so I had to move to southern NSW, almost 800km away to a town I had never been to, to start my career.

In January 2015 I began working with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at Yanco in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area doing research into integrated pest management in cotton. Cotton is a relatively new crop for this region, so I am at the forefront of its progression and success. I am a technical officer, collecting field data, managing and organising others in the field, consulting with growers, and assisting in the creation of trials and data collection methods of those trials.

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To most people involved in agriculture it is not just an industry, but a lifestyle that travels down the generations. According to the National Farmers Federation, 99% of all Australian farms are family owned.

Agriculture influences every person in the world even if they are purely a consumer.

With a fast growing population and unpredictable climate, I believe we must protect farms for future generations, and it must be done sustainably and profitably.

I would also like to help change the stereotypical image of the average Aussie farmer. Agriculture is a great industry for young people and women. There are so many fantastic things to attract young people and as an industry we need to make sure we are looking after our youth, helping them survive and flourish so the industry can too.

Agriculture provides 1.6 million jobs to the Australian economy, but there is still miscommunication between farmers and consumers. I believe we need more communication to build support from the community and it is vital our farmers are supported in every sector.

People involved in Australian agriculture put everything into it and I want to make sure that they can always get out what they put in.

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There are so many young agriculturalists in Australia trying to make their voice heard, as I am. I want to be involved in advocacy for the cotton industry, particularly through engaging with consumers of Aussie cotton. I believe the industry can reach its goals. The more people who get involved and strive to enhance their skills, the more our confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry will become contagious. We will get out what we put in.

Katherine Mann’s mission to build the next crop of ‘Ag-vocates’

Today’s guest blog comes from Katherine Mann…

In 2013 Katherine graduated from a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) in a class of just three students. Now she’s telling her story in the hopes of inspiring other young people to get involved with agriculture. And like a lot of young ag enthusiasts, her love really started with her school’s show cattle team….

My name is Katherine and I am an agvocate.

From a very young age I remember being immersed in the country lifestyle. Without a doubt, time on my uncle’s Southern Highlands property ‘Clydesdale’ played a large role in my enthusiasm for agriculture today, but there has been 21 years of adventures between then and now.

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Sydney’s western suburbs aren’t the typical place you would go looking for a young girl interested in agriculture but that was where you would have found me. Growing up in Castle Hill, I attended Northholm Grammar School which was the first stepping stone into a somewhat whirlwind adventure. As soon as possible I immersed myself in all the agricultural possibilities the school could offer- the one with the biggest impact, still to this day, was the cattle show team.

I loved the whole atmosphere surrounding showing cattle. There was an overwhelming sense of being involved in something bigger than just cattle showing, like knowing that we have the capability to change the future of an already strong industry and make it even better in the future.  Knowing that I was one of the young Australians growing up and becoming involved in the agriculture industry at the same time as the big push to get more youth involved was great!

I also loved seeing the entire paddock to plate process behind beef cattle. Along the way I would sometimes meet people who didn’t understand why I would raise a steer to ultimately slaughter and eat it, but for me knowing this was the cycle of life and was keen to respect the process and be well informed.  Being involved in each stage of the process really allowed my passion for the industry to grow in many different directions.

After my first year with the show teams I made it my mission to involve as many people as possible in the school’s agricultural program and received an Agricultural scholarship for my efforts. It wasn’t long before I was known as ‘That Ag Girl.’

Showing with the school cattle team took me to various agricultural shows throughout NSW and provided me with the opportunity to network and represent other studs across a wide variety of breeds. Along the way I meet so many amazing, inspirational and wonderful people who shared my passion and enthusiasm for the industry.  I am still in contact with many of the people I met through showing cattle today!

I was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Angus Australia Norman Lethbridge Award which is named in memory of the NSW State Committee past Secretary (1983-1994) and well-known stock and station agent and open to 16-25 year olds throughout NSW. I was awarded runner-up within an amazing group; even though I didn’t win, the opportunity opened my eyes to how much I loved encouraging youth involvement within our school and the industry.

In year 12 I undertook a prefect roll in Northholm’s leadership team with a particular focus on the agricultural portfolio and was awarded the Duncan Prize for Agriculture.

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After school I enrolled in a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) at the University of Western Sydney while also working as a farm hand. Farm working during my first year at university kept me very busy but I wouldn’t have changed a thing because I was able to connect with enthusiastic young people and coordinate the show team.

However after 18 months I decided to move on to my next calling, working at the local CRT store whilst completing my second year at university. For two years I worked and studied simultaneously, gaining not only an enormous amount of knowledge and experience but also a massive sense of pride in seeing farmers and producers striving to create the best produce possible.

In the final year of my degree I took on a sub-major in Animal Science at the same time as accepting the marketing position at that same CRT store. This meant that I was completing a year-long field project with Seed Distributors Ltd testing palatability of pasture species, completing another six full time subjects, working in agricultural sales at CRT as well as coordinating and creating all the store’s marketing material and field day attendances (including Agquip 2013). To say I was busy was an understatement but I still made sure I always had time to show cattle at local shows as well as the Sydney Royal Easter Show!

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I finished my degree at the end of 2013, as the only female in a ‘class’ of three people. It was then that I knew it was imperative for the youth of Australian agriculture to speak out, get active in the community, engage with other young people and get involved in the decision making processes in agriculture.

At the CRT store my background and knowledge in show cattle allowed us to build up the product range on the shelf. As one of the youngest people on staff I became the ‘go to person’ in the shop for new young customers and anyone who came in asking anything about showing cattle. I was also able to connect our clients selling cattle with students I had met through school cattle shows who had expressed to me that they would like to start up their own cattle studs. It was great to see them developing and growing their studs! I still try and stay in contact with them as much as possible and this year I even visited one of the girls at Sydney Royal with her speckle parks!

We also sponsored many local cattle shows including the Hawkesbury Small Breeds Show at the Farming Small Areas Expo, allowing that show event to go ahead for two years when it couldn’t have without sponsorship.

Fast forward six months and I now live in Terramungamine, NSW, about 30km out of Dubbo. I always knew I wanted to experience working in agriculture in areas a bit more west than Sydney’s western suburbs, so when my partner – who I met working at CRT – was offered a managerial position at another rural supplies store in Dubbo, I jumped at the opportunity to go with him. At the moment I’m working in retail while still striving towards my dream career goals.

It has been great to get to know the community in Terramungamine. It was difficult moving without really knowing anyone however I love it now and wouldn’t have it any other way! Waking up and looking out the bedroom window to paddocks as far as the eye can see and hearing the cows bellowing- there’s nothing like it! Even just living out here is a dream come true. It has cemented in my mind this is where I want to be and we now have many dreams for the future.

One thing that I would absolutely LOVE to do is to organise a steer show for the schools surrounding Dubbo, similar to the UniSchool Steer Show for the schools around the Hawkesbury. The UniSchool Steer Show was what really got me interested in agriculture and what made me fall in love with showing cattle. In my experience my entire school liked hearing about the steer show, so I believe it’s a great chance for kids from all backgrounds to get hands on experience with cattle and agriculture.

This year I’ve put my hand up for the Showgirl event at the local show with an aim to open up the possibilities for young aspiring agricultural professionals to get involved and have their voices heard! I hope to take ideas from my local hometown show in Castle Hill, which has a large focus on schools from the area, and tailor them to the Dubbo region.

It’s important to me that youth get involved with agriculture because they are the future of the industry. When I was at school there were a select few people who took the chance to show a 14 year old city girl the ropes and I intend to pass that encouragement on as much as I can. All it takes is one positive remark, congratulations or even a ‘better luck next time’ to someone who is starting out in the industry and it can make all the difference between them pursuing their goal or giving up! I always try my hardest to encourage and help people with their dreams and aspirations.

Ultimately, I would love to start my own cattle stud in the future when I have some of my own land! But until then I have been living my dreams through my friends who have set up their own studs. I try and get involved with the shows as much as possible- if I’m not there helping out with the cattle then I love watching the judging.

I encourage all young people with a story and a passion to speak up and share their experiences in the hope of inspiring a whole new generation of agvocates, because with them the future will be bright.

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Take the plunge into Agriculture says Kate McDonald, it’s worth it!

Kate McDonald has been a farmer in England, a teacher in Australia, a governess in outback Queensland and now works in the world of stud cattle. She loves the community of agriculture, the spirit of the people and believes in the value of coming together for a common goal. She now hopes to inspire people to take the plunge and follow their dreams.

This is Kate’s story….

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Some of my earliest memories are from visiting my grandparent’s farm in England, digging potatoes, bottle feeding lambs and bucket feeding calves. Up to our elbows in dirt, my brother and I were eager to help our Grandad with the planting and harvesting of all sorts of vegetables in his garden. Because of the distance we cherished all the time spent with our grandparents and during the few visits when I was a child, any chance we got we were out in the fields with Grandad in his van, checking stock or in the shed helping feed silage to the cattle.

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Growing up in a rural community on the Mid North Coast of NSW community events such as Beef Week and the local show were always a great experience. Whether I was watching or taking part, I always enjoyed attending these events. At school agriculture classes, whilst a chore to some, was a lesson I thoroughly enjoyed. Visiting friends’ dairy farms and helping with milking is something I remember fondly.

While many of my friends made the trip from high school to university, I flew half way around the world to England to live with my grandparents on their sheep and cattle farm in Somerset. I worked for a local company that prides itself on the paddock to plate experience and spent eight months packing cheese for supermarkets.

Within my first two weeks in England I was taken to a local Young Farmers meeting. My grandparents were founding members of the local society and my mum, aunty and cousins had all been involved. It was like a rite of passage. With an age range of 10-26 this group of people became my life and I still remain friends with them 12 years later. Young Farmers Club allowed me to develop leadership skills, as I was appointed Chairman of the Club in the summer, despite having only been there for four months.

My grandfather and great-uncle taught us vital stock judging skills that we used to compete against other Young Farmer clubs at the local County Rally. Every week brought new adventures of progressive dinners, tug-of-war competitions, car rallies and horse riding, just to name a few. Sport meets on the weekend saw some of the older members of the group arrive in their tractors, play the game of hockey/soccer/rounders, get back in their tractors and go back to work. The motto of Young Farmers is “you don’t have to be one to be one” and this rang so true. There were farm kids, town kids, city kids and we all just mucked in together and had a good time.

Upon returning to Australia I completed a teaching degree at UNE, Armidale and then taught history and geography for four years. But something was missing. I really wanted to work in the agriculture industry and so decided to make the plunge and take leave from teaching.

After spending a Christmas in the UK and being snowed in at the farm for two weeks I decided that I was more suited to Outback Queensland and took a job as a governess on a cattle station in the Channel Country. Being a large station, there were lots of people to interact with so the isolation was not an issue. When I wasn’t in the school room I was outside tending to my small herd of dorper sheep, helping in the yards or around the compound. I learnt many new skills, not limited to but including horse riding and tailing weaners, cattle yard work, how to fix windmills, generators and busted pipes.

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Wherever I went I had my camera with me, documenting this great experience and even blogging about my time so my friends and family could try to see and understand what I was experiencing. Twelve months turned into three years and it was during my second year up north, with the support of my employers and family, that I decided to go return to university and completed a Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness via correspondence.

I truly loved living in the outback. The wide open spaces, the big skies, the changing colours and the sense of community. Whenever there was a local event such as a gymkhana or rodeo, everyone made the effort to attend, even if that meant completing a 1200km round trip. The work is often hard and the days long and the conditions are tough, but having these events to look forward to kept everyone going.

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One great initiative that I became involved with is Channel Country Ladies Day, a mental health initiative to bring women together, giving them a break from their daily routine and have a weekend of fine dining and pampering. For some women this was the first time away from their families in years, the first time they had done something for themselves. Many commented on how nice it was to talk to other women face to face and just sit and relax and be looked after.

To help me with my agricultural studies, it was suggested that I apply for the Rural Ambassador Program. Not really sure what I was getting myself in for I applied through the Longreach Show Society and ended up at the Ekka competing at the Queensland State Finals. Being ‘just a govie’ it was a daunting experience meeting industry and state leaders but one that was very rewarding.

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I spent a week with nine other like-minded people, people who were as passionate about agriculture as I was and saw a future in the industry. I came away with the Community Spirit Award and a whole group of new friends and contacts around the state. One of the greatest ‘compliments’ I received was from the 8-year-old I taught who said, “Wow that’s a big trophy but I don’t know why you got a saddle bag, you don’t even ride a horse!” Station kids are taught resilience from a young age, but they are also taught respect for the land and animals. They are often old before their time but, like their parents, are some of the most genuine people I’ve met.

Leaving the station behind and driving off into the sunset was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it was time; time to spread my wings and reunite myself with civilisation. 2015 has brought new adventures, new challenges and new experiences. Graduating with my new qualifications and gaining a job in the agriculture industry is one of the best feelings. Working for a cattle breed society has opened my eyes to the world of stud cattle and a different side of the show movement (apart from just fairy floss and handicrafts).

I thoroughly enjoy meeting people that are as passionate about agriculture as I am. It brings me hope that the future of agriculture in Australia is in safe hands. I hope I can inspire people to take a plunge and strive for what they believe in, strive to make a change in their communities and help people along the way.

I also want to be successful and achieve as a female in a traditionally male dominated industry. My Gran said to me once, “We’ve got all these Grandsons but it’s our Granddaughter that wants to be a farmer.” I also hope I can honour the life of my Grandfather who has recently passed away and enjoy a long life in the agriculture industry, engaging and inspiring people along the way.

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Emma Ayliffe says agriculture in the outback is the journey of a lifetime

Today’s guest blog from Emma Ayliffe starts on a sheep station in outback South Australia and takes us to the lush lakebed cropping fields of one of New South Wales’s most unique cotton operations. She’s a girl from the bush who’s found her way back again as on-farm agronomist, an enthusiastic photographer and a lover of all things crops and cotton.

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This is Emma’s story…

I have always had a love of the bush and that is where my journey began, on a station in the North-West Pastoral District of South Australia. I spent my childhood riding my horse behind mobs of wild merinos on stations west of Port Augusta and grew up a typical station kid. In between School of the Air lessons my days were spent outside on water runs, mustering and ‘helping’ dad and the station hands out in the shed.

So how exactly does a station girl from half way between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy end up growing cotton on the bottom of the Menindee Lakes…?

My father has always been passionate about agriculture and I guess that rubbed off on my mum and me too. When I was 12 my parents moved me and my two younger sisters closer to a town so we didn’t have to go to boarding school and this opened up a whole new world to us. Along with the introduction of ‘normal’ school we were introduced to world of cropping. And although we had moved from a world of station dust to tractors and green paddocks my father was as keen as always to get us involved where ever possible.

Me with my sisters and ponies

At the end of school I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and began studying a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) at the University of Adelaide. I went into the degree thinking I would end up doing something livestock related but, like most kids, changed my mind. I enjoyed agronomy much more and changed the direction I was heading.

As part of Uni my year helped set up an “Ag Experience” trip overseas. It was a lot of hard work but we successfully got sponsorship for our trip to India and it was amazing. We toured research facilities and met with farmers. We viewed community farming groups and toured rural villages. It was amazing to see the variation in this country from the richest farmers who owned tractors and employed workers, to the poorest of farmers who were still planting their crops by hand. I had a go at cutting rice straw, which is a lot harder than it looks, as well as visiting some of the tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal.

Cutting rice straw

After completing Uni I began working in broad acre agronomy in the mid-north of South Australia and spent a lot of my time in fields of canola and wheat. I had a great boss and mentor who really helped me to get even more excited about the career path that I had chosen. After a little over a year I decided that it was time for a change of scenery and a new challenge, so I began hunting for my next big thing.

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I stumbled across an advertisement for an on farm cotton agronomist working in the bush, and I though what a perfect combination of the career I have chosen and my love for the outback so I applied. Tandou is an amazing place to see for the first time. I still remember driving out for my interview, 140 kilometres south of Broken Hill, in western NSW, rounding a bend and over a sand hill to see the fields of green…

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I had only seen cotton once in my life, so I had no clue about how to grow it, but I got the job, packed up my stuff and moved in to my one bedroom Jayco unit (in the middle of 24 other units!) and had my first experience with irrigation and cotton. Nearly two and a half years later, it is the best decision I have ever made!

I am an on-farm agronomist working at Lake Tandou, 50 kilometres out of Menindee at the bottom of the Menindee Lakes. My job includes everything from rotation and fertiliser programs, irrigation scheduling, insect and weed management and picking through to driving tractors, loading seed trucks, taking people on farm tours and fixing things. It is an amazing job that has helped grow my skills as an agronomist, but also my general life skills. It has also given me the opportunity to meet and work with a range of amazing people!

As part of my job now I have found a love for photography. I spend some time every week taking pictures of the crops and the operations around the farm to document the growing of the crop, as well as the unique operation that we run here at Tandou.

One of my photos of the crop

Cotton is an amazing crop and an an amazing industry to be part of. Coming from SA – and downstream of the Murray-Darling river system – I grew up hearing many misinformed negatives about it. But it’s not until you immerse yourself into this world that you truly appreciate how the industry is so open and excited about sharing its story. There is great comradeliness and flow of information between growers and everyone is willing to help everyone else out and share their success stories.

It is hard not to have love, enthusiasm and motivation for a job that is so diverse in an industry that is at the forefront of many aspects of agriculture and provides so many opportunities to learn, network and get involved. I find myself talking to anyone who will listen about the good stuff and the challenges and the opportunities; I am sure that people must get sick of me talking cotton!

While working here I have also become the secretary of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association, one of the most unique as we only have one grower, which is us! Through this I have been able to start sharing my love and passion for the job with the future agriculturalists of Australia as we often support events at the local school in Menindee as well as facilitating farm visits for other schools from cities like Mildura. This gives kids an opportunity to see what agriculture is actually about and helps dispel many myths that people still have about the cotton industry.

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 I love my job, I love the outback, I love sharing what I know and enjoying this journey!

Felicity Taylor: ahead of the pack and ready to work for a strong future for agriculture

Meet Felicity Taylor
I aspire to lead a generation of educated rural women who can spend the day on the tractor or out fencing, then come home to cook a mean roast dinner. I want to be ahead of the pack, owning my own cropping property, experimenting with varieties and innovative techniques. I want to share information with my neighbours and market my own produce. Alongside this, I dream of a rural journalism career, ensuring farmers can stand united in fair, positive and accurate media to appeal to consumers and policy makers. I want my children to be as fortunate as I was in experiencing the strength of character a rural community provides.

Today’s guest blog comes from Felicity Taylor who says she loves to chat about agriculture to everyone. Born into a farming family and growing up on a broadacre cropping property near Moree, it has taken stepping out of her comfort zone for Felicity’s aspirations to take direction. And her sights are set firmly on bringing the best knowledge and skills back to farming in rural New South Wales.

This is Felicity’s story…

My name is Felicity Taylor and I’m a 2nd year Agricultural Economics student at the University of Sydney, a long way from my home in Moree, Northern NSW.

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Until age 16, I lived on a 10,000 acre broadacre cropping property between Moree and Goondiwindi. I ate my fair share of dirt growing up; I had my first day of cattle work at four weeks old, constantly quizzed Dad on all the buttons in the tractors and compensated the isolation with a profusion of poddy calves. I was raised on my grandfather’s ‘back in my day’ stories, but despite the challenges farming brings my family had great pride in our high grade grains and Hereford cross cattle.

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I spent two hours on the school bus every day, before being shipped off to New England Girls’ School, Armidale, for my secondary education at age 11. As we headed down the driveway after each school holidays back home, there’d be tears in my eyes knowing I wouldn’t be back for the next ten weeks. Luckily, my attitude towards boarding school improved once I could study agriculture in Year 9, and by my final year in 2012 I finished as Sports House Captain, Tennis Captain, President of the Charity Committee and the HSC Dux.

However, by 2012, corporatisation had totally changed the social atmosphere of Moree, and like most of our neighbours’, our family farm was sold. With the machinery gone and the cattle loaded up, we relocated 15 kilometres east of Moree to a smaller grazing property. It was a massive blow, and while I’d received a place at the University of Sydney and Wesley College, I put study on hold to spend a year at home.

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I used this time to master power tools as a labourer on the building site of our new house. I cooked pizzas, sold dresses, worked bars and cared for kids when the opportunities arose. I bought and sold steers. I spent a month exploring the European summer. I entered the Showgirl Competition, hoping they’d overlook my shocking sock tan, and came away with a tidy second place. I took on the oldies in the local tennis competition. I travelled the state harvesting seed trials with a research agronomy company. I said no to nothing.

I learnt very quickly that I’m a Moree enthusiast. I’d thrown myself into my hometown headfirst and loved every second of it. But at the same time I saw the community decline, noticeably so even within just a year. Shops shut and jobs were lost, families moved away. So I made the shift to Sydney in 2014 knowing that I had to bring my Agricultural Economics degree back home, and that the valuable resources of my country town needed protecting. How to do this though, I did not know.

I approached university with the same enthusiasm I lived by in my gap year. I networked my little heart out and opportunities kept presenting themselves, I often found myself in positions or at events without any real clue how I got there. I toured central and southern New South Wales with the agriculture faculty and was an ambassador at Youth in Ag Day at the Royal Easter Show. I attended the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Club and UNE Farming Futures industry dinners and University of Sydney Agricultural Ball. I went home as much as possible, continuing to work in research agronomy including harvest in Victoria and South Australia. Oh, I did a bit of study too.

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I was extremely fortunate to be selected for the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship for agricultural leadership, sponsored by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. This led to more adventures, notably a week in Canberra for a development workshop, another at the Gold Coast for the Australian Cotton Conference and soon a stint of work experience at the Cotton Australia Head Office. The more people I meet, the more I learn about progressive agriculture and the more excited I am to graduate and put my knowledge into action.

2015 so far has been yet another whirlwind. I purchased a mob of heifers to be the foundation of my future breeding stock and am keeping a close eye on the market for more. I have been appointed Residential Advisor, the head of my wing, at my college and was invited into the Economics Honours stream due to my strong university results last year. I am constantly on the lookout for networking events or work opportunities.

Just a year ago, I had no idea how to procreate change for the future of Moree, but now my studies have made my strengths clearer. I understand business and economics well and my technical knowledge of farming is growing by the lecture. I know I can chat to anyone about agriculture, and the value of this skill is reflected in the Young Farming Champions program.

Young Farming Champions and the Archibull Prize foster a successful future for agriculture through building the positivity and confidence of young people. These initiatives generate appeal and interest in rural industries by showcasing the rewarding careers the sector provides. Harnessing the opportunity to engage with consumers will ensure Australia’s fresh, nutritious food and durable, versatile fibres are not undervalued. Also, it gives up-and-coming rural enthusiasts such as myself a platform to promote their passions and develop their own futures.

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And what does my future hold?

I aspire to lead a generation of educated rural women who can spend the day on the tractor or out fencing, then come home to cook a mean roast dinner. I want to be ahead of the pack, owning my own cropping property, experimenting with varieties and innovative techniques. I want to share information with my neighbours and market my own produce. Alongside this, I dream of a rural journalism career, ensuring farmers can stand united in fair, positive and accurate media to appeal to consumers and policy makers. I want my children to be as fortunate as I was in experiencing the strength of character a rural community provides.

Chris Kochanski from Southern Ag Grain stood up at the Wagga Ag Ball last year to say, “Agriculture can take you anywhere, but it will always bring you home.” That’s the perfect encapsulation of my life to date. I’m meeting people daily, dipping my toes into a number of rural industries, giving it all a go. There’s farming in my blood and work to be done and I’ll happily step up to the plate, whatever it may be, to ensure a strong future for Australian agriculture.

Follow Felicity on twitter @flisstaylor95

“Agriculture is full of talented and passionate people” and Dione Howard is one of them

Sixth generation farmer and third year veterinary student Dione Howard brings us today’s guest blog, where she explains beautifully why today’s best and brightest minds are “addicted to agriculture.”

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This is Dione’s story……

Whether it’s the smell of freshly turned earth or the hum of handpieces in the shearing shed, there’s something irresistible about agriculture.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural community in the heart of Australia’s beautiful Riverina region. We rode on the back of the ute when Dad fed sheep, sat on the sidekick seat in the header and played hide and seek as the canola flowers towered above us.

I think I realised how important this ‘farming’ business was when I was sinking my teeth into agriculture during high school at St. Paul’s College, Walla Walla. I travelled far and wide with the sheep and cattle show team, agricultural tours and participating in competitions such as the Dubbo Speech Spectacular. In doing so, I met other young people like me. These people loved everything that the land was about – whether it was what they ran on it, grew from it or put back into it.

I’m the sixth generation on our family farm which operates sheep and winter cropping enterprises. Illawarra Merino Stud was started by my great grandfather Ernie Howard 80 years ago and today is run by my grandfather Ken and father Graeme. I’ve inherited their enthusiasm for sheep and wool and I am completing my woolclassing certificate so that I can better understand the intricacies of Merino breeding and trait selection.

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There’s something about agriculture that I find a challenge. I love that we don’t know all the answers but we can work hard to find them out. That’s why I decided to study to become a veterinarian. I’m in my third year of university now and as the process unfolds we’re learning how to solve the problem, rather than just be given the answers. That’s what I want to be able to help producers to do in my professional career – provide tools to work towards the best possible methods of animal production. These may be economically, sustainably or socially beneficial, or hopefully all of these combined.

Studying at Charles Sturt University (CSU) is great preparation for life as a rural vet. We’ve gained experience with many species, from intensive pig and poultry production to sheep, beef and dairy cattle. I’ve been lucky enough to work with companies such as Rivalea, Baiada and Rennylea Angus, where I’ve gained animal husbandry expertise from the best in the business.

Extra-curricular activities I’ve participated in while at university have given me some of my most memorable experiences. In 2013 I got involved in the CSU Intercollegiate Meat Judging team and I’ve been recommending it to other students ever since! At first I questioned getting up at 5am on a freezing winter morning to visit the abattoirs, however soon realised that in this short time I would gain invaluable experience about Australia’s meat industry from paddock to plate.

I’ve also been involved in the National Merino Challenge (NMC) since its inception in 2013. I’m excited for the future of this event as it’s been able to establish itself as a key date on the calendar for youth in the Merino industry. The NMC enables youth with varying levels of experience to engage with almost all aspects of Merino production and develops skills that can be applied to wider lamb and cattle production. I travelled to Dubbo in 2013 and Melbourne in 2014 to compete in the Challenge and this year will head to Adelaide in May.

During the university holidays I work for grain brokers Agfarm. Lots of people give me funny looks when I tell them I’m studying to be a vet and work in the grain industry. What many people seem to forget is that all of agriculture is integrated. Animals have to eat and likewise plants can use animal waste products to grow. Even as vets, my peers and I have to know about plants and grains because nutrition is so important to animal production. At Agfarm I’ve learnt about the supply chain of grain from farmers’ paddocks to its many possible destinations across Australia and globally.

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What I’ve realised about agriculture is that everyone is connected. If you eat food, you make decisions every day that affect Australia’s farmers. That’s why I believe agricultural engagement is so important. It’s vital that every person has the chance to access information and make an informed decision about what they’re buying. And what better place to start than at school level? This is the age where students are taught basic experimental skills in a laboratory, research processes on the internet and communication abilities in the classroom. This is the age where they can best learn to apply all of these fundamentals to agriculture and its endless career possibilities.

Ever since I’ve been involved in agriculture we’ve been told that the world’s population is growing at a rapid rate and it will be a challenge to feed everyone in the future. I believe that our youth are ready to take on the challenge. I’m incredibly lucky to be involved in agriculture at a time when the sector is full of passionate and talented people.

These people are addicted to agriculture, from the emergence of the first leaf of their crop to the scales as they get a final weight for their finished stock. The future is bright for agriculture – we’ve got a lot to be passionate about. We have a lot to celebrate. Lets do it together

Follow Dione on twitter @dione_howard

Heidi Eldridge says if you want a career in agriculture get cracking, it’s worth every minute

Today’s guest blog comes from 23 year old Heidi Eldridge, who has spent a decade immersing herself in all aspects of the beef industry. From cattle showing and judging, meat judging, research, assisting at a stud, working in an abattoir and jillarooing, to her current role with the Cattle Council of Australia – she’s done it all!

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I was not born and raised on a property but I was fortunate to be surrounded by extended family on dairy properties and studs. I grew up in Albury/Wodonga. This area was known for its rural surroundings and large agricultural community.

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I started pursing the beef industry within my younger years showing cattle and assisting on family properties. My love for livestock in particular provided the drive to succeed within this industry. From a young age I realised that I would have to work twice as hard as my farm born friends to be noticed and taken seriously as someone who wanted to pursue a career in beef cattle. This is what drives me

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I attended St. Pauls College in Walla Walla, attending numerous horse and cattle events throughout Australia. Junior judging, cattle showing camps and youth Angus programs fired my initiative to learn about beef outside of the show ring. Throughout high school I worked for Elders, Wodonga Saleyards and Landmark. I studied a Diploma of Agriculture and Diploma of Equine Studies, leading me to assist the ‘Lawsons Angus’ stud in Victoria. They provided me with three years of guidance within their inseminations, sales, calving and bull unit operations. Throughout my HSC I also worked at the local abattoir in the yards, kill floor and packaging area, providing me with the opportunity to gain knowledge across another sector.

Throughout my teenage years I continued my junior judging. I moved to Canada for 5 months, living and working between two families and taking part in cattle showing competitions and preparation, cropping, rodeoing, cattle camps and school.

After school I packed my ute and drove to Julia Creek, QLD, where I worked for Acton Super Beef as a Jillaroo. This broadened my experience to station run beef operations.

I started university studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management. I worked closely with Rennylea Angus within their calving, insemination and sales units. After becoming more involved in grain and nutrition I worked with Agrisearch Services taking part in grain trials for both cropping and feed based products.

I challenged myself by taking part in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging in Armidale as well as entering Wagga Wagga showgirl and also involved myself in different youth events at university.

 

After making the choice to study via distance I was soon employed full time by Ladysmith Feedlot outside Wagga Wagga, operating in all sections from feed, pen riding, health and welfare and supply. This was an excellent opportunity which took me from pasture fed perspectives into concentrated grain operations.

I moved to Canberra to pursue my greatest achievement within the beef industry yet, to be employed by The Cattle Council of Australia as the Stakeholder Relations Officer. The role is an excellent opportunity to operate within the industry working first hand with producers and industry representatives. I believe that my experience throughout the beef industry supply chain has assisted in understanding issues relating to my position. Although I was not born into a farming operation I do believe that I have worked hard to immerse myself in the industry and all that is has to offer.

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Over the next 10 years I see myself networking throughout the industry and involving myself in many meetings, events, discussions and boards to ensure that Australian beef producers are being heard. I also wish to increase the awareness of youth working within the industry and showcase how the next generation can step up and influence change if given the right support. I hope to travel around Australian and internationally, learning from and engaging with beef industry professionals. I am interested in furthering my education via university as well as taking part in youth agricultural programs.

The Young Farming Champions program is beneficial in raising awareness of the opportunities for young people within agriculture and boosting the career success, support and mentorship of young farming professionals within their chosen industry. Without support our youth will not be given the push to stay in the industry.

Being able to take advantage of programs such as Young Farming Champions means young people will not only gain the drive for a successful career in agriculture but they will also have heart for the industry.

Meet Casey Onus who says choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

It is that exciting time of year for the team at Art4Agriculture where over the next eight weeks we will introduced you to a diverse and exciting cohort of young people who love agriculture and want to shout it from the rooftops by sharing their story

These young people are lucky enough to either be studying for a career in the sector or have started an exciting journey in their chosen field

Today it gives us great pleasure to introduce you to Casey Onus ………….

Hi my name is Casey Onus and I am 22 year old Agronomist from Tamworth in NSW. Despite being a “Townie” my whole life I was born for a career in agriculture.

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I attended my first agronomy meeting chaired by the infamous Dallas Parsons at Seed & Grain Sales at Croppa Creek on the morning of the 8th of January 1993 at 0 days old and was born later that afternoon at Goondiwindi base hospital.

Despite living in town my whole life I spent a fair chunk of my childhood with my father bouncing around paddocks being paid with lollies to identify weeds and weaving my way through what seemed like forests of cereals and sorghum, trying not to lose myself down Moree’s heavily cracked black soil plains in the process.

Throughout school I never really focused on what I wanted to do as a career. I assumed at age 12 that I was going to be member of the Saddle Club and that would be my job, but I quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen.

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Gave up my childhood dream of being a member of “The Saddle Club” to chase a career in Ag

In years 9 & 10 at St Philomena’s we had the option to pick our elective subjects and being the outdoors kid that I was I picked Ag because I didn’t want to be stuck in a class room for any longer then I had to be. I was fortunate enough to have a very passionate Ag teacher who really made me see how important agriculture was not just to me but everyone, if you had to eat or wear clothes then you needed something from agriculture.

I was lucky enough to not only enjoy Ag as a subject but also turn that enjoyment onto results which saw me win the Dallas Parsons Memorial Agricultural Award in year 10 as well as taking out the CMA property planning competition on “Nullamanna station” in 2008.

During year 10 I also attended a Rotary Youth in Ag Cotton camp which really opened my eyes to how big the cotton industry is and the endless opportunities that were available to someone like me. I got so much out of the camp that I volunteered to help in the running of the camp in subsequent years and ended up presenting the marketing and moisture management sections of the camp. It was great to see so many young people, especially from costal backgrounds coming along to see what the local cotton industry was about and if they took away half of what I did from the camp then it was well worth the time and effort.

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Students from the Rotary Youth in Cotton Camp (RYAG)

During years 11 & 12 at Moree Secondary College I unfortunately didn’t have the option to study agriculture as a subject as there were simply not enough students at my school for it to run. This didn’t concern me overly until it came down to crunch time. All of a sudden I was headed for the HSC with no idea of what I was going to do at the end of it.

As luck would have it I was offered a job as a bug checker by the branch manager at Landmark in Moree over the holidays. I spent endless hours out in the cotton fields getting muddy, bitten, sunburnt and couldn’t have loved it more.

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My first cotton crop

Although my father is an agronomist I wasn’t convinced that all agro’s loved their job as much as he did but this cotton season showed me exactly how rewarding it was. I got to see the tiny plants that I’d checked for months on end finally produce these white fluff balls of gold and that was a feeling of satisfaction that I couldn’t find elsewhere.

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White fluff balls of gold!

I applied to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE in Armidale and decided I was going to chase my dream of becoming an agronomist. Uni is hard and I certainly lost count of the amount of times I wanted to throw in the towel, but heading home for cotton season kept me going and rekindled my motivation to get me through another year. I completed the UNE/CRDC Cotton Production Course as part of my degree and even managed to get an article “finding cottons next generation” published in the 2013 Cotton Grower magazine yearbook.

Despite only having one unit left to complete as part of my degree I applied for the Landmark Graduate Agronomy Program and was accepted for a position in Tamworth, under the watchful eye of their agronomist Cameron Barton.

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Despite already working for Landmark for 3 years, my graduate year taught me a hell of a lot at an incredible pace. I managed to squeeze in a trip to the 2014 Cotton Conference thanks to a scholarship funded by Cotton Australia.

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There is no denying Agriculture is full of characters and I was lucky enough to meet Sam Kekovich at the 2014 Australian Cotton Conference

I also flew to Albury with Heritage Seeds to learn about pasture systems and varieties and learnt a lot from countless field days and industry updates. As well as joining the local Duri Ag Bureau and taking on my own clients with a range of new crops, not just the cotton and broadacre crops I was used too. All of a sudden I was trying to grow ryegrass not kill it!

I was lucky enough to stay on at Landmark Tamworth and am now a fully-fledged agronomist working with a great group of farmers from all backgrounds as well as providing precision agriculture services such as NDVI imagery, variable rate maps, capacitance probes and everything in between.

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Growers attending our pasture demonstration trial walk at Woolomin.

Confucius says “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and I firmly believe he was talking about jobs in Australian Agriculture. Because I certainly haven’t “worked” a day in my life yet.

Exploring Precision Agriculture 

The team behind Art4Agriculture are mainly from a livestock background and don’t know much about Precision Agriculture so we jumped at the chance for an expert to give us a Precision Ag 101 Lesson

This is what Casey shared with us

Precision what?
Precision Ag (PA) is no longer the complex and expensive exercise that it used to be. There are many products and even in-built features in today’s farm machinery that are sitting there on-farm just waiting to be used.

Did you know most tractors and headers these days already store data automatically? Most people don’t. A lot of farmers are aware their machines are collecting all this data but they don’t know how to access and use it. That’s where I come in, one of the more technical sides of my job involves spending a bit of time in the office to utilise technology to help growers and myself make better on farm decisions.

Data

How?

As farmers are driving their GPS guided farm machinery through the paddocks a lot of them are already (or can easily be set up for) collecting various information. Such as grain yields and changes in elevation across the paddock. As the machine is going along its packaging this data and tagging a gps point with it. This means we can tell exactly how much grain has been grown in certain parts of the paddock and even look at how high or low that exact same spot is compared to the rest of the field.

 Why?

There is only one thing farmers love more than rain, and that’s making money so they can keep on doing what they love. By collecting all this information we can help farmers manage parts of their farm and even parts of their paddocks separately. This means money in the form of seed and fertiliser can be spent on the parts of the paddock that are more likely to grow more grain and make more money.

 So what’s involved?

The very first step is mapping the growers farm so we know exactly how big each paddock is, and this provides us with a base map on which to overlay all that data and information. There are several ways of using PA and this will vary greatly depending on what the farmer wants to achieve. The two main ways I currently use Precision Ag as an agronomist is by processing on farm-yield data and satellite imagery. To make this as easy as possible for the farmers I need two things from them. 1 – their time, half an hour, to map their place so I know what im working with. 2 – The data from their machines, usually a usb or equivalent simply removed from their machine post harvest and dropped into the office.

For the yield data

Growers bring in the data information card from their header/picker/tractor etc. This provides me with the data I need to unravel and turn into something useful. I start by removing any faults in the data, areas where headers have; changed speed dramatically, turned around, etc. as these influence the end result and can throw out the data. I then adjust the data to represent what has actually happened, this involves adjusting the total tonnes of grain recognised by the header to then represent the total that was physically removed from the field. Once that has been done we can then delve further into the data by creating elevation maps, multi year yield and temporal stability maps which can all be turned into management zones and variable rate application maps.

 For the imagery

Growers and agronomists select the pre-mapped paddocks that they require imagery for. Then I get to work placing an order utilising  LandSat8 as well as a variety of other satellites or even planes to gather images depending on the type of imagery we need. I then receive an image (first one below) which is georeferenced for me to ground truth in the paddock. Once I have determined what is causing the variation in the paddock I can then divide the image into management zones. These management zones can also be converted into variable rate application maps. NDVI data is most useful in-season when a quick reaction is needed such as a variable rate application of growth regulators or nutritional products in cotton.

Maps

Maps like these help growers to quantify gains and losses across variable paddocks as well as focus their inputs to areas that are more likely to provide a higher economic return. It can help us better manage; nutrition, irrigation, weed populations and even plant growth. The more data a grower has, the more reliable the management zones become which equates to increased productivity and profitability in the long-term.

Thank you Casey we think its just as well there are people like you around who can help farmers make the most of the modern farming technology and the data it provides

Expressions of Interest now open for Young Farming Champions from NSW

NSW Farmers are calling for Expressions of interest from young people in agriculture in NSW to apply to for places in the 2015 Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program.

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Art4Agriculture and NSW Farmers are recruiting Young Farming Champions who:

  • Are passionate about the agriculture industry;
  • Want to share stories with urban Australians to improve their understanding of sustainable food and fibre production, and in turn improve your understanding of urban consumers;
  • Are interested in being trained to speak confidently and charismatically to school students, the general public and your fellow industry leaders;
  • Want to become part of a network of vibrant, young rural people who are encouraging consumers to value, be proud of and support the Australian farmers who feed and clothe them.
  • Are aged between 18 and 35 years

If you believe you have the potential to be an industry rising star, NSW Farmers would like to invite you to submit your Expression of Interest to be a 2015 Young Farming Champion

Contact Lynne Strong for EOI requirements.

E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

M: 0407 740 446

The Experience

The Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia-wide network of young farming professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry.  The program trains young farmers from rural Australia to represent their food or fibre industry and actively engage with students in schools using Art4Agriculture programs as a platform.

The program consists of three workshops which will prepare you to engage with schools as part of the Archibull Prize. These workshops will have the following key areas of content:

Workshop One:

Will focus on industry knowledge, understanding and communicating with consumers, presentation skills, and introduction to multimedia tools and how to use this technology for your school presentations, as part of the Archibull Prize. You must be able to attend this first weekend long workshop in July (TBC). All Accommodation, flights and meals will be paid for.

Workshop Two:

Will provide personalised feedback and development by a professional voice coach on your proposed school presentations, and support to build and enhance your feature video. Media training on how to package a TV news story, preparing the ‘grab’, discussion of what major metro newspapers require for a story and how to shape your story, controlling the agenda with radio and dealing with controversial/difficult interviews, as well as what to do when the media comes to you unexpectedly.

Workshop Three:

Will be evaluation and feedback based, providing you the opportunity to assist with the development of the program in the following year.

 The Outcome

By the conclusion of the workshops, you will be ready to enter schools to tell your story in an engaging and informative way. You will have created a short video that showcases your role in Australian agriculture and can be used to promote your industry to a wide audience via social media. You will become a respected youth spokesperson for your industry and Australian agriculture. Click here to see 2013 Young Farming Champion Ben Egan’s showcase video.

Please note

To qualify for the program applicants must be young farmer members of NSW Farmers.

See here for more information on membership or contact NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council Chair Josh Gilbert

Email: Joshua.gilbert@uon.edu.au

Mobile: 0432 260 024