Our guest blog today comes from keen communicator and ag advocate Jamie Thornberry. A trials agronomist with a focus on farmer extension, it’s Jamie’s knack for explaining agronomic concepts and online communication which has allowed his skills to blossom in that difficult line of communication between researcher, farmer and consumer.
This is Jamie’s story….
I remember way back when I was a little tacker in year 3 and we first moved out to the farm in Central West of New South Wales. It was quite different from the small town life that I was used to. For one, my back yard got a hell of a lot bigger. Thinking back I didn’t seem to notice the isolation from my friends as I always had my little fox terrier Muttley by my side. Our farm of 700 acres was relatively small at the time, although at that age I didn’t mind; it was big enough for Muttley and I to go hunting for mice and rabbits.
Presenting our research at Tottenham Ag expo
Around the same time that we purchased the property between Canowindra and Cudal my Nan and Pop bought a small farm at Cargo. I soon found myself split between the two properties which were two very different farming systems. My Dad had a main focus on wheat production and he spent the majority of his time carting wheat throughout Northern NSW, whereas my Pop decided cattle was the way to go. At that age of course the cows appeared to be more interesting to me, and my pop would always take us to see the new calves.
Burning research trial plots with a drip torch
As time pressed on we started to work more and more on the farm at Cargo as well as our own. My Dad quickly grew frustrated with the cows walking over pop’s fences so sheep quickly became an alternative. Around that time I was in my final years of high school, with my favourite subject being Agriculture – of course – as well as a touch of biology and a dose of primary industries to get me out of the class room. These subjects built a strong foundation for a university degree in Agriculture.
In 2009 I commenced my Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. I remember making the decision on which university I would attend; I could study agribusiness in Orange just down the road, or completely throw myself out of my comfort zone and travel to Wagga Wagga. In hindsight it was the best decision I have ever made. The degree at CSU was quite diverse, split between agronomy, agribusiness, soil and animal health. This played a large role in shaping me for the industry as well as starving off boredom when tasked with 2000 word assignments. I graduated in 2013 and, like a typical graduate, began the tiring search for my ideal job in the industry.
With the job market a little harsher than I expected, I started part time work as a freelance web designer and online marketer. So there I was with my Ag degree in one hand and a passion for communications in the other. It wasn’t long until I began to bring the two together, noticing there was huge communication breakdown between farmers and the consumers of their products. This led me to Twitter in search of online discussion around agriculture and there built an online network with local agribusinesses.
Stubble conference in Melbourne
With my ideal media job in mind I applied for a job with Central West Farming Systems (CWFS) as a trials agronomist with a focus on farmer extension. CWFS is an independent, non-for-profit farmer driven organisation delivering agricultural research by farmers, for farmers. Working there I found my career rapidly changed as my role in the team was to play to my strengths in online communications and explaining agronomic concepts.
Looking back at the time when I was deciding on a career path, I think the best advice I could give myself would be a quote from Richard Branson: “If you are presented with a good opportunity and you’re not sure that you have the right skills for it. Say yes and learn the skills later.”
We are in the information age and that gifts us all the tools to learn the skills we need at our fingertips. Looking at the Young Farming Champions program my goal would be to learn the skills I need to build confidence in young agriculturists. While farming in the paddock will always require practical skills, the younger technology driven generation has more to offer the industry than they think. Building communication avenues between farmers and consumers is just one vital step.
To follow what I’m doing, follow my regular updates on Twitter @cwfsystems