Floods, Fire and Droughts – Why would a young person enter agriculture?

It’s been a dramatic summer. Devastating floods in the northwest Queensland, fires in Tasmania and northern New South Wales and the rest of the country seemingly desiccated by drought. So why would a young person want to enter life on the land? Continuing our drought series, today we talk to Young Farming Champions James Kanaley and Martin Murray, who are both agronomists with aspirations of one day owning their own farm.

James is a consulting agronomist working with AGnVET services in Griffith with clients across southern NSW and the Riverina in a range of cropping systems. His “part-time” job is on his family’s mixed farming operation at Junee where dryland crops grow alongside merino sheep.

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Martin is based at Armatree and James’ family farm is at Junee

Martin is an agronomist for Amps Commercial based in the tiny village of Armatree in central NSW where winter cropping, including wheat and barley, generally dominates. Since his posting here last year there has barely been a crop grown. Though there have been neither floods nor fires around Armatree the country has been in drought for several years.

“It’s testing them,” Martin says of his clients. “It’s the worst one they ever experienced, the lowest rainfall they’ve ever had. It will end one day and so it’s about trying to manage the situation to get yourself through it so you are still here when it does break.”

Watching their clients work through the current drought both James and Martin have come to appreciate the need for good management and planning.

“Management is the key and this becomes even more prevalent and important in drier years,” James says. “Maximising the amount of crop or pasture out of every drop of rain and irrigation you receive is critical. A grower’s appetite for risk and their decision making can be the difference between getting themselves out of a tough situation or into serious debt.”

So what do agronomists do when there is little to no crop to look at?

“It’s a great time for upskilling,” Martin says. “There’s no reason to be sitting in the office twiddling your thumbs or driving around the same old bare paddocks so you might as well use your time productively and gain what skills you can while you’ve got the opportunity.”

To this end Martin has been attending workshops and conferences to increase his knowledge base.

Despite the quieter times James and Martin remain buoyant about agriculture’s future. Although they see ongoing problems, such as water usage in Murray-Darling, they have also seen high stock and land prices during this drought.

“If I had the money I’d definitely be buying in,” Martin says. “I’m confident there is a strong future in agriculture and the drought has really driven home the importance of risk management and having strategies to mitigate risk for when times like this come along.”

James’ agrees and cites new technologies and changes in farming practices as ways to move forward.

“Seeing what technology has enabled us to produce even in very low rainfall years like last year, gives me comfort,” he says. “Knowing that we can produce more off little rainfall going forward will give us confidence with the variable climate and rainfall events predicted. When it comes to attitude toward the drought you know the older farmers have weathered and endured a few, but the younger farmers bring enthusiasm to the table and that aids the ongoing evolution of agriculture in Australia.”

#YouthinAgVoices #strongertogether

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James and his family are looking forward to the rains and seeing the farm look like this again soon

Young Farming Champion Meg Rice showcases the Trailblazers she met at the Heywire Gala

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Young Farming Champion Meg Rice (right) with Lauren Heritage-Brand on the red carpet at the Heywire Gala

Young Farming Champion Meg Rice recently had the opportunity to represent Art4Agriculture at the ABC Heywire Gala dinner at the Australian National Museum in Canberra. Here she met some very inspiring young rural Australians.

Each year the ABC conducts a storytelling competition, known as Heywire, for people aged 16-22 living in regional or rural Australia, and each year the organisation also selects a small group of young people, known as Trailblazers, to further share their stories and ideas with the nation as a whole. Meg mingled with both Heywire participants and alumni and 2019 Trailblazers at the gala dinner.

“There were many movers and shakers in the room who expressed their support and enthusiasm for the youth in rural and regional communities,”

Meg says. “Thank you for believing in us was the message conveyed by Heywire and TrailBlazer winners, and the enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. It was hard not to leave the event very inspired and motivated.”

Two of the Trailblazer winners, in particular, impressed Meg.

Emma Moss is a very confident young woman brimming with excitement and enthusiasm who spoke with great conviction about bridging the urban/rural divide, particularly in the beef industry,” Meg says. Emma spent two years working on Kimberley and Pilbara cattle stations and established a strong Instagram following with her evocative photographs. Now studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Queensland at Gatton, Emma is keen to go into schools to talk about her agricultural experiences.

Emma Moss

Read more about Emma here.

Joe Collins was the second Trailblazer winner to leave a strong impression on Meg.

“Joe is passionate about the sharing the importance of reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability through community art,” Meg says, “and also using technology to improve the sustainability of agriculture.”

Joe, who is currently studying at university in Melbourne, hails from the tiny Victorian town of Woomelang (population 200). Inspired by the Grain Silo Art Trail he has painted eight large-scale murals of the environment and endangered species within his local community in an effort to encourage tourism and reinvigorate the economy of his town.

Joe Collins

Read more about Joe here.

Meg herself is also kicking some impressive goals. She has accepted a position as a clerk with a Canberra law firm, which will see her specialise in rural succession planning when she graduates as a lawyer this year.

Heywire Crew

The Heywire team and Art4Agriculture share common values with Art4Agriculture supporting both agricultural (The Archibull Prize) and environmental (Kreative Koalas) causes. Congratulations to Meg, Emma and Joe for championing these values.

#YouthinAGVoices #StrongerTogether

Lets talk about growing up gay in rural Australia

Meet Young Farming Champion Jessica Kirkpatrick. In this wonderful blog post Jess shares her story with Canadian bloggers Allie and Sam and talks about a topic that isn’t discussed as much as it should be and needs to be talked about more!

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GROWING UP GAY IN RURAL AUSTRALIA

I grew up in rural Australia in a small farming community of around 1500 people… disappointingly for this story, it was a sheep farm and not a kangaroo farm (it would be so much more stereotypically Australian). I did all the usual stuff: riding horses, playing in my local netball team and helping out on the farm. We are sixth generation farmers and have been on our farming property for over 150 years. I am very proud of my family and their ability to produce safe and sustainable food and agricultural products for Australians and for people around the globe. I would say, agriculture is in my blood and it is my passion, but that is skipping ahead. Let’s rewind to growing up.

You can read Jess’ story here 

#soproud #strongertogether #YouthinAgVoices

 

HOW THE ARCHIBULL PRIZE EMPOWERS TEACHERS AND STUDENTS

Archibull Prize EOI Open

The Archibull Prize is celebrating its tenth anniversary. A decade of working with teachers has meant we have refined and enhanced the program’s delivery of 21st century learning skills, enabling teachers to combine traditional learning with skills most valued by employers, and, in turn, create a meaningful real-world connection to Australian agriculture. That the program’s cornerstone is a painted fibreglass cow illustrates the power teachers have seen transferred to students.

“The Archibull is an outstanding example of STEAM and Project Based Learning. The creation of the blog engages students using new media and technology. It uses the Arts to excite students about very important issues that face this next generation. It provides them with an understanding of Australian agriculture and the vital role it plays both locally and globally.  The painted Archie is a wonderful reminder of the collaborative effort a school can achieve and is a tangible artwork to remind students that they are 100% the future and what are they doing about it.”  Inel Date Secondary School Teacher  

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Check out this small selection of the phenomenal stories of agriculture told by students on the Archies in the last ten years 

“The most profound impact I have seen in this project has been the collaboration, connectedness and belonging that this cow has brought to our school.

Believe me people; a giant fibreglass cow WILL bring your school community together. The cow has lived in my classroom for two terms. At times we would have 8 or more people working around the cow, engaged in conversation, growing relationships and painting, one stroke at a time, the perfect picture of community.” Secondary Teacher Amy Gill

Benefits of participation in The Archibull Prize have been identified as:

  • Opportunity for students to meet young people excited to be working in the agriculture sector
  • An application of school learning to real-world environments
  • A sense of optimism for the future
  • Increased student awareness of STEM focussed careers
  • Development of core skills valued by employers including ability to work in teams, communication, problem solving, time management and leadership
  • Enrichment opportunities for gifted and talented students
  • Flexibility for teachers with the program delivery allowing for both in-curriculum or extra-curriculum delivery
  • Incorporation of multiple subject areas, with teachers and students from all faculties and age groups working together
  • Allows schools from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds to share ideas

In evaluating the 2018 Archibull Prize, Larraine Larri from Renshaw Hitchens and Associates found the program to have positive impacts, particularly on teachers. “The Archie has demonstrated to teachers the ways in which farmers care about the environment and their animals,” Larraine said. “This cohort of teachers now has the understanding and capacity to engage their current and future students in these understandings towards greater valuing of our farmers and agricultural industries.”

Young people will be the ones most affected by an uncertain and changing future, but they are also in the prime position to define and champion that future. The Archibull Prize enable and empowers students to work together to identify and solve problems and take actions that contribute to a better future .

Expressions of interest are now open for secondary schools for 2019 Visit The Archibull Prize website here to find out how to apply

Check out The Archibull Prize Hall of Fame here 

The Archibull Prize also offers teacher professional development opportunities Check out what the teachers said about our workshop at Tocal College  

BE PART OF THE 2019 ARCHIBULL PRIZE ACTION

 

 

Young Farming Champions Muster February 2019 1st Edition

This week our Young Farming Champions (YFC) would like to take a moment to extend our thoughts and well wishes to those farmers in Queensland currently affected by devastating widespread flooding. To our North Queensland cousins, we are thinking of you! #StrongerTogether

This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country (and globe!)

In the Field

Happy International Women in Science Day!

Our Young Farming Champion network is full of legendary women using science to make the world a safer, healthier, more abundant place for humans and animals to live. Today Picture You in Agriculture is celebrating them and their vital work with this video starring YFCs Lucy Collingridge, Danila Marini, Alexandrea Galea, Anika Molesworth, Jo Newton and Dione Howard. Wonderful work from wonderful women! #WomeninScience #InternationalWomeninScienceDay #WomeninSTEM

Wool YFC Bessie Thomas made headlines in the Rural Weekly this fortnight with a joyful story following her family’s journey through the last two years of drought. Bessie, her husband and their almost three-year-old daughter farm merinos in far-western NSW. She has received much kind feedback following the story and wanted to thank everyone for their ongoing support through the drought. Read the story here.

Bessie Sparks of Joy

Out of the Field

Congrats to YFC Bron Roberts who has just launched her new business venture B R Rural Business offering tailored management solutions for productive beef enterprises. Bron says, “I’m passionate about the beef industry and helping producers to be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. If you or anyone you know need a hand keeping records and want to use them to make real decision to improve your livestock productivity then I’m your girl!’ You can support Bron in her venture on Facebook here

Bron new business

Youth Voices Leadership Team Mentor Leader and Local Lands Service vet Dione Howard spoke to NSW Country Hour late last month. Listen in here from 11min35sec to hear Dione outline the risks of livestock eating toxic weeds causing liver damage. Great job Dione!

Beef YFC Kirsty McCormack, who’s currently living and working in Canada, was spotted in this case study by Rural RDC.

Kirsty McCormack

YFC Tim Eyes and his partner Hannah, who run The Food Farm on the NSW Central Coast, recently joined Nationals candidate for Gilmore, Katrina Hodgkinson in judging the 2019 Kiama Showgirl. Well done Tim and Hannah!

KatrinaTim Eyes Showgirl judge

Tim will also be returning to the Sydney Royal Easter show this April. Tim was over the moon when he got the call from the RAS of NSW in 2017 inviting him to be the farmer the glamping participants get to share the campfire experience with over the 14 days of the show. He so looking forward to inspiring the lucky glampers to be as excited about the agriculture sector as he is again in 2019. Read all about it here.

Cotton YFC Martin Murray was profiled on NSW Young Farmers Facebook page this week for his role on the Young Farmer Council. Great read Martin!

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“I’m an agronomist working for a group called AMPS, we’re an independent agchem reseller with a very strong focus on on-farm research to improve grower outcomes. I work with our research team in the running of our trials and our growers to transfer our research findings into on farm results to further strengthen their businesses. “I joined NSW Farmers in 2015 as they are able to effectively represent the farmers of NSW, taking their thoughts and concerns to parliament. I also joined the Young Farmer Council so I could be proactive in representing the interests and concerns of young people in or entering agriculture. “There are two major ways we can give young farmers a hand up going into the 2019 state election. First, stamp duty relief will remove the significant disadvantage in relation to other first home buyers, because we can’t currently access the exemptions offered to young city residents purchasing homes zoned as residential. Second, we can help lift the productivity of our farm businesses through investing in our farmers’ digital, financial and risk management skills.”

Prime Cuts

Our Youth Voices Leadership Vice-Chair Emma Ayliffe is an invited speaker at the 2019 Australian Summer Grains Conference. Em’s been invited to talk on ‘Careers in Grain’  in the student forum. You can find our more detail about the program and register to attend here.

Emma is also jetting off to Israel shortly as part of her prize for winning Runner Up in the ADAMA Agronimist of the Year awards. Safe and happy travels Emma! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it.

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Sticking with the conference theme, Youth Voices Leadership Team Chair Jo Newton, will be heading to Edinburgh in April where she’s had a paper accepted at the British Society of Animal Science Conference. The paper highlights the value of using data from commercial Australian dairy farms to demonstrate the benefits of herd improvement practices.

Jo Newton

Jo’s not the only YFC venturing to the Northern hemisphere. One of our newest YFC Alana Black will be heading to Scotland. While there she will be working for the Rural Youth Project. The Rural Youth Project aims to “develop feasible strategies to develop leadership and enterprise skills amongst young people in agricultural and rural communities based on understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.”

alana black

Given the massive contribution Alana’s to the YVLT Communication Sub-Committee we know she’s going to make a really valuable contribution in Scotland and we’re looking forward to the sharing of ideas and experiences between the Rural Youth Project and PYiA. Read more about Alana’s journey here.

Congratulations to YFC and Climate Action advocate Anika Molesworth who has been appointed to the Crawford Fund’s NSW Committee.  The Crawford Fund is a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries of Australia’s engagement in international agricultural research and development.

The 2018 Narromine Showgirl and Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien will represent Narromine at the Zone 6 Final of The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition on February 16 in Young. Keiley will be up against 39 other Showgirls, from which three finalists will be chosen. Read more in the Narromine News here. Good luck to Keiley, and also to YFC Jasmine Whitten who will head to Narrabri to compete in her Showgirl Zone Final on February 26th! #goodluck

Keiley O'Brien
Photo: GEORGIE NEWTON PHOTOGRAPHY

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices19 #ThisisAusAg #StrongerTogether

Can you imagine hand feeding 20,000 mouths in a drought?

Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought series with Young Farming Champions Peta Bradley and Bessie Thomas

Firstly some background for this story.  In Australia, a large land holding used for livestock production is known as a ‘station’. Most stations are livestock specific – classed as either sheep stations or cattle stations depending upon the type of stock raised – which is, in turn, dependent upon the suitability of the country and the rainfall. The owner of a station is known as a grazier, or pastoralist and, in many cases, Australian stations are operated on a pastoral lease. Australian sheep and cattle stations can be thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour hundreds of kilometres away. Some stations have over 20,000 sheep in their care.

All stock workers need to be interested in animals and handle them with patience and confidence. They need the skills to make accurate observations about livestock like judging an animal’s age by examining its teeth, and experience in treating injuries and illnesses as well as routine care requirements such as feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccination and dealing with predators.

Those caring for sheep must also deal with flystrike treatments, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock need special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with difficult births.

Apart from livestock duties, a stock person will also to inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards damaged by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife. Source

In the first two instalments of our drought series we talked to Young Farming Champions predominantly involved in cropping operations. Today we speak to Bessie Thomas and Peta Bradley who represent sheep and wool, and discover the strategies they have employed to survive, the changes drought has enabled and the importance of mental health and family.  Bessie and Peta’s family farms are both in NSW but very different in terms of topography , sheep carrying capacity (10:1)  and acreage  (20:1)

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The last two years have reminded both urban and rural Australia that drought is an inevitable part of the Australian landscape and its impacts are wide reaching.  Both Bessie and Peta’s families know their first priority is their families and the animals in their care and its imperative to access drought response resources promptly and maintain wellbeing.

Team Thomas

Bessie and husband Shannan from Burragan Station, 100km east of Wilcannia* in western New South Wales, run a merino operation in partnership with Shannan’s parents.

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Team Bradley 

Peta comes from Armatree, 100km northwest of Dubbo where her parents, Jenny and Craig, run a Border Leciester Stud and commercial merinos (with cereal and pulse cropping).

For both properties 2017 and 2018 were years of below average rainfall. “In 2018 we had 83mm for the year which is less than 30% of the annual average, and the year before was also only about 60% of the annual average,” Bessie says. “It has turned the countryside to dust and dried up dams, and the heat waves have cancelled any moisture from showers we have had.”

Dust storms

Feeding sheep at Burragan Station 

Similarly Armatree has been reduced to a 300mm annual rainfall (down from the average of 520mm). “This equates to our farm being relocated to Broken Hill,” Peta says. “2019 has commenced with January being the hottest on record and zero rainfall recorded on the chart.”

Strategies common to both operations are reducing sheep numbers and feeding stock they have identified as drought resilient. At Burragan they have de-stocked by 50% and sold all of their 500 cattle, while at Armatree stock have been reduced by over a third.

“We’ve been feeding for more than 18 months which affects finances, creates time pressures and puts pressure on vehicles and trailers. It becomes mentally and physically exhausting,” Bessie says. “Feeding out hay in heat, wind and dust is some kind of torture.”

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The Bradleys ( Jenny and Craig pictured here in 2014 ) are looking forward to seeing barley crops like this one when the rains return Source

“Our farm stores enough fodder to feed all stock including finishing lambs for a full twelve month period, well beyond a normal drought,” Peta says, “but we used all stored fodder in 2017 and have had to purchase fodder for 2018. To accommodate this cost we have maintained selected breeding stock only. We have also sold lambs as early as possible after weaning, undertaken measurements on stud stock lambs as early as permissible and selected the stock we want to keep  well ahead of normal time frames.

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Some lambs getting ready to be weighed through the automatic drafter/scales at the Bradley’s farm.

The measurements the Bradley’s take before they decide which animals they will keep include:

  • Body weights (weaning – 12 weeks of age, 5 months and 7 months)
  • Ultrasound fat and muscle measurements
  • Scrotal circumference on rams

In total an animal that is retained as a breeding ewe on the Bradley farm has in excess of 50 measurements recorded in her lifetime. These measurements are taken to be put into the genetic evaluation for sheep – allowing them to choose the animals that are genetically the best to breed from.

Weaning early, utilising confinement feeding and drought lots and always remaining flexible in our management decisions have been ways of dealing with this drought.

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The Bradley’s select their sheep for productivity. Every now and then you come across a special sheep. This ewe is having triplets again – for the fourth year in a row! She has reared 9 lambs in three years. 

Weaning early in drought is important as lambs are competing with their mothers for grain. This allows the ewes an opportunity to get back into condition faster and also removes the competition for grain and fodder from the breeding ewes on the lambs.

Even the wool clip has been negatively impacted. Heavy, dust-laden wool sells for fewer dollars per bale.

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But surprisingly the drought has had upsides. For years the Thomas’ had been discussing keeping Burragan purely as a merino property and transitioning Shannan’s parent’s property into dorpers, and that is a vision the drought has enabled/forced them to do. The drought has also highlighted the need for planning and flexibility in plans, and the critical need to put people first.

“Ensuring that we make time for ourselves and the family whether it is maintaining exercise routines, weekends away or taking family holidays are as important, if not more so, as practical farming,” Peta says, “as is the importance of networking to ensure we are operating at best practice.”

Bessie copes with the drought by downloading her thoughts and images through social media and this compilation of her 2018  year has led to the family being offered a week’s holiday at Port Stephens, courtesy of the huge generosity of Alloggio.com.au owners Will and Karen Creedon, the Port Stephens Council and Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC

And although the constant raised dust is destructive to the land – filling grids and yards, blocking gateways and covering fences – Bessie can still find joy.

Dust

“The dust storms are ominous and interesting, I quite enjoy the dramatic skies that come with them – as long as I am safely in the house!” Bessie says

*Think it’s hot at your place? A property near Wilcannia broke the record for Australia’s highest overnight temperature in mid-January, reaching a minimum of 35.9C.

Thanks Bessie and Peta we know that by you sharing your stories you will give hope to others facing similar challenges

#StrongerTogether #YouthVoices19 #ThisisAusAg #YouthinAg

See Andrea Davy’s wonderful story on Bessie in the Rural Weekly here 

Read Peta’s story in The Land here

Visit the NSW DPI Drought Hub here for more information

Young Farming Champion Alana Black sharing her expertise and creating global connections

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Alana Black making the most of the opportunities available to young people living and working in rural Australia

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion program envisions a world where the brightest young agricultural minds from across Australian agriculture come together to build a better future.

Similarly the Rural Youth Project, based in Scotland, aims to “develop feasible strategies to develop leadership and enterprise skills amongst young people in agricultural and rural communities based on understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.”

In 2019 the two programs will share ideas and experiences as YFC Alana Black takes up a role with the Rural Youth Project in Scotland.

Alana grew up in the small town of Rydal in central NSW with extended family on a nearby farm. Once, when driving with her mother, she questioned why relatives were on the farm and not her own family. Thus began a tumble down the rabbit hole of succession. Alana had completed a degree in communications from Charles Sturt University and used the topic of succession in her masters in organisational communication. “Finding out about what happened with my grandfather and his brothers and how succession played out there, and then looking how succession plays out for a lot of families in regional Australia I realised there is a big communications deficit,” Alana says. “People don’t know how to talk to each other about difficult subjects like succession.”

“Being a typical millennial I thought I’d start a website and put all of my findings on there,” she says. Fledgling Farmers was born. Alana was then accepted into the ABC’s Trailblazer program, which gave her new project wide exposure and gave Alana further insight into media and communications. These are skills she has honed with her participation in the 2018 Young Farming Champions program and which, in 2019, she will further employ as a member of the Youth Voices Leadership Team communication committee.

A big part of communication in the modern world is the use of social media and this has led Alana to Scotland. “Again, as a good millennial, I am very active on social media and I came across a Facebook page called the Rural Youth Project,” she says. “They were researching the challenges young people face when they don’t live in a major centre and were doing a survey wanting data from across the world.”

Rural Youth Ideas Festival, Kinross, Scotland, 2nd & 3rd August 2018.

Alana (left) is looking forward to reconnecting with the bright minds she met in Scotland in 2018

Alana completed their survey, followed up with an email asking about succession in their part of the world and was invited to be a video blogger. “Then they said they had an Ideas Festival they were going to run and would I like to come over and speak,” she continues. “How could I say no? I’m actually half Scottish – any excuse to go back is certainly something I’d love.”

Alana went to Scotland for two weeks, did work experience with Jane Craigie Marketing (who initiated and manages the Rural Youth Project) and attended a field day where the ambulance was called for a person suffering heat exhaustion – in 190C.

Alana’s first trip to Scotland was in a volunteer capacity, but this has led to further career opportunities and on 4th June she will fly into a Scottish summer. “I will be working with Jane Craigie Marketing on the Rural Youth Project, which is running over 4 years,” she says.

We look forward to hearing of Alana’s adventures in Scotland with the Rural Youth Project … and to how she copes with the heat of a northern hemisphere summer.

You can read more about Alana here

#YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #ThisisAusAG