Its harvest time and our Young Farming Champions are reaping the rewards. We mean this both literally and figuratively.
Across eastern Australia the headers are rolling, the chaser bins are chasing and trucks are moving along regional roads, brimming with the best grain in the world. Widespread rain has added challenges to the harvest (see this video from Marlee Langfield’s sister-in-law) but in return the country is receiving a long Christmas drink. And if you thought harvest was only commercial crops, we’ve got news for you – find out more below In The Field.
It is also harvest figuratively. 2021 has been another year of challenges and opportunities for the YFC and they have applied themselves to polishing skills such as negotiation, presentation and strategising. This hard work and dedication to their crafts will harvest rewards throughout their long careers. Over the festive period we, too, will sit down with a long Christmas drink and reflect on these learnings. We look forward to sharing them with you in our January Muster.
In the meantime, enjoy the harvest, enjoy the rain and sit down with a cuppa to see how the YFC are finishing their year.
In The Field
In a drier year wheat and canola harvests are usually wrapped up by Christmas but as the video above shows the extended rain period this year is causing plenty of interruptions, some downgrades in grain and plenty of bogged machinery. On the upside there are record crops coming off the paddocks. This is how three of our grain growers are coping:
Marlee Langfield (Cowra):
“an empty 15t header on top of sodden soils and double digit bog holes in a day have become the norm, but we now have recovery down to a fine art! We are currently harvesting canola and finding a mix of quality and an abundance of yield.”
Check out Marlee’s final AEGIC (Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre) report here for a more detailed harvest wrap.
James Kanaley (Griffith):
“Canola harvest has been exceptional at home. Yields have been twice the long term average and easily a record for our farm. We broke our canola record in 2020 also. Quality hasn’t been too bad but marketing canola has been more difficult as there is only one export quality grade of canola. Client’s harvests out west have been very strong, above average yields, but poor wheat qualities.”
Emma Ayliffe (Griffith):
“We are finally getting a roll on out here after a lot of stop/start with rain and we’re still managing to bog the odd truck or chaser bin. The rain has caused downgrades but the upside is that the yields have been amazing, well above average. At this stage we have all of the canola done, we hope to be finished all our wheat by Christmas and then will have oats and lupins to do after Christmas. To put in perspective we usually harvest mid-October to the 3rd or 4th week in November (typically about 5 weeks). We are going into week 8…with probably still 3 weeks to go at the current rate.”
It’s not only traditional grains being harvested at this time of year. December/January is the harvest time for kangaroo grass. “It’s a busy time in the field with lots of research and seed collection taking place across Dja Dja Wurrung country in Victoria,” says Dylan Male who is completing the first year of his PhD studies investigating the development of kangaroo grass into a modern day crop. We look forward to learning more Dylan.
Also harvesting is our fishing YFC Bryan van Wyk, providing us with exceptional Australian prawns for the Christmas table:
“We have recently finished the 2021 tiger prawn season. Our fleet of 11 prawn trawlers worked their way between western Northern Territory all the way to northern QLD. All crew have returned home safely and the vessels are now tied up in Cairns ready for routine summer maintenance. Tiger prawns are considered a premium, high quality seafood and like most Australian premium seafoods, our tiger prawns are on their way to Asian markets (Japan). We also have a magnificent supply of MSC certified golden banana prawns on display in Coles and Woolworths ready for Australia to indulge in this Christmas.”
Harvest may be grabbing the headlines at the moment but our graziers are not to be out done. On December 8 Melissa Henry appeared on ABC news talking about the rise of black and coloured sheep. Look for Melissa from the 25 minute mark in this video.
And Adele Smith is being called the Wool Wizard after promoting her work with wool for the Chicks Who Ag blog.
Out of the Field
Once they’ve got out of their respective bogs and other harvest commitments our YFC are busy doing what they do best – sharing the good stories of Australian agriculture and leading by example. This was brightly illustrated during Ag Week from November 15. Three of our YFC – Danila Marini, Jo Newton and Emily May – presented at the Centre of Excellence Virtual Ag Week conference. Danila spoke to school students about research and technology for animal welfare, Jo spoke about the future of dairy farming and Emily gave insights into peri-urban agriculture. Friend of the YFC, Kate McBride, also presented about farming in the Murray-Darling river system.
Still on Ag Week and Tim Eyes did things his way when he zoomed into classrooms around the country. Joining Tim on his zoom was one of his cows, peering in the window as he spoke.
Jo had been selected for the Australian Rural Leadership Program earlier this year but Covid restrictions meant the Kimberley adventure was postponed. The program continued online with the development of four hybrid hubs in Canberra, Bendigo, Hobart and Toowoomba and recently Jo got to meet some of her fellow cohort in real life in Bendigo.
“To continue discussions started in workshops over breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee breaks added additional value to sessions that left you with much to think about. I found these chats amongst the Vic Hub insightful for illuminating how we could apply the frameworks that we learnt into our day-to-day lives.”
Continuing on their leadership journey are Katherine Bain and Dione Howard who have been selected for the AWI Breeding Leadership course. They will join 25 participants from across Australia in a week long course at Clare in South Australia in 2022 where they will develop skills and knowledge in personal leadership as well as strategic planning and team leadership.
As well as working on his PhD Dylan has been busy cementing his leadership skills. In November he gathered virtually with 99 delegates from 44 countries for the 2021 Bayer #YouthAgSummit.
“This summit was incredible, with two days spent exploring how youth-driven innovation and collaboration will be key to driving the transformational change needed to end the fight against global hunger. But the biggest personal highlight of the summit for me was realising just how passionate, committed and innovative other young people involved in agriculture around the world truly are.”
Dylan also appears on the Bayer website promoting STEM careers where he is billed as the Food System Builder.
In December he was off to Sydney to attend a Dale Carnegie ‘How to win friends and influence people’ course. The course will help Dylan to become an influential communicator, problem solver and focused leader.
A highlight of 2021 for many YFC has been the opportunity to imagine and then develop ideas and initiatives under the tutelage of Josh Farr as part of the YVLT Innovation Hub. Dylan is one of these. He has been working on an idea to increase Muster content (you have been warned!). Also taking advantage of Josh’s insightful workshops has been Emily May (learning to take her school presentations to a new level), Franny Earp (working on a school outreach program focusing on gender diversity) and a partnership between Steph Tabone and Tayla Field (who will develop a platform for people with experience in agriculture to share their key learnings with young people).
Being part of The Innovation Hub allows YFC to take the next step in their leadership journeys.
“The iHub identifies that YFC have a desire to go above and beyond, to share everything they are learning and to create projects that are sustainable beyond themselves. One of the things I’ve noticed about everyone who has got involved is that they’ve consulted lots of people – they’ve got their boss on board, they’ve had employers offer funding – they’re really good at bringing people together. I don’t see a single project here that is an individual glory project. These are things that the YFC are using their leadership skills to set up knowing there is going to be future generations of YFC eager to apply these skills. There is a beautiful synergy between their ideas and their insights, what agriculture needs right now, and setting up future YFCs for success,” Josh says.
Are you kidding? The harvest is on