Picture You in Agriculture is thrilled to announce that Alana Black has been awarded a one year scholarship to our flagship program the Young Farming Champions
Alana has been chosen from a stellar list of nominations to participate in a series of Sydney based workshops, under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts.
The program’s focus is developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.
The program equips and prepares the participants for that often very daunting experience: of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The YFC leadership development model is providing the rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.
Through these workshops and the program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the YFC are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends.
Read about our Alumni here
This is Alana’s story
Rydal is a village of rolling hills, daffodil dotted fields and freezing winters; but for me it will always be home.
I’m the fifth generation of my family to live atop the Great Dividing Range. The Applebees, my ancestors, migrated to Australia from Yorkshire in the 1860’s and settled on a farm in Mt Lambie and we never left.
My childhood was spent on horseback with my next-door neighbour, Julie, exploring all that hidden delights that Rydal had to offer. And although I’ve always had an affinity for living in a regional community, a traditional career in agriculture was something I never considered when leaving high school.
In 2014 I graduated from Charles Sturt University in Bathurst with a Bachelor of Communication – Public Relations and frankly, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
I started studying my post-graduate degree in organisational communication in 2016. Examining the communication structures in organisations made me consider how family owned businesses, such as family farms, communicate when all major stakeholders are related – it can make for some very messy situations! This led me to begin researching succession in multi-generational farming families.
But trying to bring up succession in my family brought nothing but silence and a quick comment on the weather to change the topic. But after a bit of prodding, my mother told me a story regarding succession in my family that kicked-started my involvement in agriculture.
My grandfather Jack wore oil stained trousers with suspenders, a button down shirt and the same hat every day. A shearer, farmer and family man – Jack has always been a large part of my life. Jack was one of 9 children – 6 girls and 3 boys – and when his father died suddenly, the farm and assets were only left to two of the boys. Jack was devastated and I think many farmers can relate to the fact that my grandfather lost an important part of his identity that day.
We’re really lucky that we had a strong family unit that could get past this. All brothers remained close until their deaths, and cousin sold some of the farm back to my brother as he wanted to write a past wrong.
But there are still repercussions from this that are affecting me and my family generations later.
When you’re a farmer you’re beholden to so many different external influences – market prices, government, trade, and the environment – and because of this farmers have developed a stoicism that is helping feed a communication crisis in Australia.
I started Fledgling Farmers as an online platform to help take back the conversation on succession. I’ve travel all across regional New South Wales, and recently to the UK, to talk to young farmers about the importance of communications competence, and educate them on how to start open and transparent conversations in their family.
In 2017, I was announced as an ABC Heywire Trailblazer and it completely changed the trajectory of my life and Fledgling Farmers. Trailblazers is a branch of the ABC Heywire competition that provides young regional change makers, who are working on projects to make regional Australia a better place, the opportunity to tell their story on the ABC. Since being announced as a winner, I’ve been a guest on Triple J’s Hack program during their Bush Week Segment (you can listen here), featured on the Life Matters Podcast and presented at conferences such as Grain Growers Innovation Generation Conference to talk about regional youth and succession.
Being a Trailblazer means I had the opportunity to go to Canberra for a week for the Heywire Summit. Between the Segway rides and speed-networking events, we were involved in professional development and storytelling workshops. We were afforded the opportunity and environment to truly examine our projects; the failures and successes that have shaped what they are today, and discussed how we move forward to future goals.
From pitching our projects in Parliament House to appearing on ABC News Breakfast with fellow Trailblazer Prudence; Heywire has been a truly life-changing experience. I came back from the Summit with a head full of ideas and a heart full of appreciation for Heywire and all that they do.
Like every good millennial, I love social media and I started following the Rural Youth Project on Facebook and Instagram in February. I reached out to the team behind the project to see what data they had – if any – on succession. After a few emails back-and-forth RYP invited me to come over to Scotland and attend the Ideas Festival to present on growing up in regional Australia and Fledgling Farmers. Rural Youth Project follows the lives of 15 youth across the globe through vlogs. My videos don’t have the usual witty repartee you would usually find on YouTube; and as apprehensive as I was to start filming myself rattling off into a camera, I’ve realised that it’s an important platform to educate people on the barriers rural youth face across the globe. You can view my vlogs here.
From these experiences, I’ve realised the value of mentors in my career and I would recommend any young farmer or young agribusiness professional to seek out people – inside and outside their industry – to mentor them. I have three mentors, each who provide valuable advice and a different perspective when it comes to Fledgling Farmers and I can’t thank Michael Inwood, Laura Phelps and Jillian Kilby enough for all their help and guidence.
Working in communications is not your typical career in Ag – but I believe it is an important, and often overlooked, aspect of the agricultural industry. My teachers always said that if talking was a subject, I’d get a Band 6!
Through Fledgling Farmers, I’m finally putting the skill of “chewing the fat” to use and get to see the best parts of New South Wales (and the world) while doing it.
Congratulations Alana It is clear you are going to bring new connections and insights to the team and we are looking forward to meeting you in person.