Meet Emily May an agronomist in training advocating for urban agriculture

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Our guest post today comes from agronomist in training and peri -urban agriculturalist Emily May

Emily shares with us

  • Peri-urban environments are the agricultural frontier
  • Young farmers can help others adjust to changes and new technology
  • Engaging the consumer is a critical part of modern agriculture

I grew up in a non-farming family in the Hawkesbury district on the outskirts of Western Sydney, an area which has historically thrived as Sydney’s Food Bowl . In more recent years however, the extensive farmland dedicated to the production of fruit, vegetables, turf, flowers and a few smaller livestock holdings has progressively transitioned into urban develop. As the value of land continues to rise, along with the expenses of running a farming business many farmers have found it more profitable to sell to developers. This rapid change in the peri-urban agricultural scene  is something that has challenged me particularly as a young person who credits the community of peri urban agriculture for kickstarting my career.

My first introduction to a career in ag came from a weekend job I had during high school on my neighbour’s citrus orchard where I picked, packed and helped with the daily operations of the farm. This weekend job soon turned into an ongoing career working for numerous local growers in the Hawkesbury region including wineries, market gardens, hydroponic propagation and cut flower enterprises.

Whilst I enjoyed agriculture at school I didn’t initially see a long term future in the industry. It wasn’t until I left the industry when I finished school that I realised working in agriculture was something I was good at, I really enjoyed and wanted to be part of on my life journey.

This desire to be part of something bigger was also driven by witnessing the ever-changing dynamic of the agricultural scene in and around the Hawkesbury. I saw opportunities for farmer to embrace new technology and farming approaches and this inspired me to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE. Supporting farmers and growers adjust and uptake best  management practices, reducing reliance on chemicals, increasing their resilience and confidence to navigate the complex world around them, including participating in informed and influential conversations about land uses has become a key driver in my involvement in agriculture.

Today I now take a proactive role in being a voice for the industry and bringing the community on the journey with me to advocate for peri-urban agriculture. I volunteer with the Hawkesbury Harvest and their support has opened a door for me to have a regular spot on ABC Sydney radio sharing the good news stories and opportunities for people can get involved with their local producers in and around Sydney

I am grateful to the Hawkesbury Harvest for mentoring me and opening doors to use the voices of youth through the media to influence policy

I firmly believe our city plans can add value and better protect agriculture from urban sprawl. I believe planners can  make decisions based on evidence to balance competing land uses, taking into account the full suite of values and benefits we gain from Sydney farmers, not just the economic gains we stand to achieve by converting the land to houses.

Farmers in the basin deserve a fair price for what they produce, land security and support from other residents.

Sydneysiders also need access to affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure.

Equally we need access to nutritious and affordable food, reversing the high rate of obesity and diabetes, and “food deserts” without access to groceries particularly prevalent in Western Sydney.

Through increased awareness and accessibility, food shoppers can also support local food producers, increasing the resilience of Sydney’s food system and simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint of food.

I am proud to be part of a passionate team adapting to a changing world. I am  excited to be part of the movement to ensure that agriculture is valued and prioritised as an important land use and economic activity within our communities, that is ensuring buying local food is a choice that consumers can make in future.

I also work in rural sales with Ace Ohlsson, which allows me to meet  a wide range of customers who come through our retail shop along with providing agronomic and management advice to producers in the region who I work alongside.

I am very committed to learning how to effectively amplify the voices of youth, advocate for the industry I love and inspire the next generation to follow in my footsteps

 

Author: Picture You in Agriculture

The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.

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