For seven years from 2006 the Farm Day program initiative of Deb Bain introduced urban people to the delights and challenges of farm life, and although the program ended in 2013 its effects are still being felt and appreciated. Those effects have rippled all the way through to Deb’s daughter Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain and teachers in the 2019 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future Challenge.
Cassandra Lindsay is a teacher at Oxley Park Public School and driver of their successful Kitchen Garden project. She is also helping steer the school through Kreative Koalas and she recently met Katherine at the Picture You in Agriculture Teacher Tocal Professional Development Day. The two shared conversations that led to their shared connection with Farm Day. Cassandra took part in the program in 2012 and Katherine’s mother was the person who instigated it.
“My husband read about this program where you could meet a farmer so we put our names forward and were invited to visit a family in Quambone,” Cassandra says. “We thought participating would open not only our own eyes but those of our children.”
Cassandra, her husband and two sons stayed with the O’Brien family at their property ‘Yahgunyah’, where they helped with fencing, rode in large farm machinery, locked their car (which they still laugh about) and experienced genuine hospitality from people they had never met before.
“We realised there was a stark contrast to our lives, such as buying groceries in bulk, storing food and reliance on water – things we take for granted on a day-to-day basis,” Cassandra says, “but we were welcomed with open arms and treated like family, and we gained an understanding of how they managed their farming practices including crops and cattle.”
Katherine’s mother Deb Bain believes it was not only an opportunity to start new conversations with city cousins, but it provided farming families with a much-needed energy boost.
“From the farmers’ point of view so much was learned as well,” Deb says. “Farmers realised people were interested in them and that was really inspiring and positive for them to see. It refreshed their vision of what a farm can look like from the outside.”
The Bain family: David (left), Alexander, Deb, Katherine and Georgia at their Stockyard Hill farm. The only son, Alexander, 21 is studying architecture. Photo credit: Joe Armo Source
For Katherine, the advent of Farm Day came at a pivotal moment in her life. “I was heading into high school where there seemed to be a much larger disconnect to where food comes from compared to primary school,” she says. “I think a lot of that was to do with the shift towards more academic study instead of ‘hands-on’ learning. So I was seeing what mum was trying to achieve by bringing city and farming families together in a positive situation, but then at school there was just no talk of a career in agriculture unless you were going down a biology research path.”
Although Cassandra’s Farm Day visit was brief it heralded a life-long friendship with the O’Briens staying with her own family on several occasions. The two families remain in contact seven years later via phone and Facebook. “Remaining in contact has allowed me to understand the highs and lows of farming life and the sacrifices they make as a family at times when farming is tough. We have seen our farm family experience severe drought with not enough feed for the cattle and failed crops due to lack of rain and it is devastating for us to sit on the outside and look in and have no real way of helping.”
Deb is encouraged by this engagement between city and country. “It is wonderful to hear Farm Day has created long-term conversations about agriculture in urban lives,” she says.
Katherine finds a similar engagement as a Young Farming Champion.
“Meeting Cassandra at the workshop was like two worlds colliding,” she says. “ Here was a teacher who had done Farm Day and is now educating kids on food and fibre. It was so lovely to hear that even all these years later there are still lots of fond memories of Farm Day. In a way, I think the YFC has picked up from Farm Day in creating a bridge and a platform for people with no connections to Australian agriculture to talk to people on farms and hear their stories. I’m very proud to be keeping the Farm Day spirit alive and carrying it on into the YFC.”
Cassandra now takes her understandings from Farm Day and Young Farming Champions to the classroom at Oxley Park Public School. Though her students may not experience life as a farm child does, Cassandra is able to instil in them an appreciation and an insight into the world of farming as it produces the food they eat and the fibre they wear.
“I am truly grateful for Farm Day,” she says. “It gave us memories and experiences that shaped our family’s ideas and respect for our farmers.”