Young Farming Champions Dan Fox and Emma Ayliffe find farming in a drought is a steep learning curve

Young Farming Champions Dan Fox and Emma Ayliffe come from different ends of the farm ownership spectrum but both have learnt valuable lessons as they have embarked upon new enterprises during a drought.

Dan, the 2018 Australian Innovation Farmer of the Year is a fifth-generation farmer, whose family have been farming in the Marrar district of southern New South Wales for more than 80 years. Over the last decade Dan has been helping move the farm from a traditional mixed sheep and cropping property to a continuous cropping enterprise using regenerative agriculture, and in the last two years he has introduced even more changes.

Dan has planted cover crop brassica/legume/grass pasture mixes of lentils (left) oats,cereal ryegrass, filed peas, faba beans, turnips and tillage radish which not only enrich the soil they also provide highly nutritious feed for sheep  

Emma Ayliffe is a well-respected agronomist, private consultant and business owner who in 2018 bought her first farm with partner Craig Newham at Burgooney near Lake Cargelligo in the Central West of NSW, where they set about growing wheat, barley and lambs.

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Emma Ayliffe and Craig Newham bought a farm together in one of the worst drought years on record 

On first glance it may appear Dan and Emma have little in common; one is changing a generational farm, another is starting a farm from scratch. But like all farmers they share the inconsistencies of the weather, and they realise that it is not so much what happens to them, but how they react to it, that makes the difference.

“Our average rainfall is 500mm but in the last twelve months we only received 200mm, and we also had some of our most severe frosts on record, yet we were able to harvest wheat at the area average of 2.5tonnes/ha,” Dan says.

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Harvesting Wheat on the Fox Family Farm

This amazing result is due to changes Dan has implemented in the last two years to conserve soil moisture during the summer fallow period.

“We got 100mm of rain in the fallow period and looked after it with our stubble, fallow sprays and groundcover management. That’s the only reason we ended up with a crop, because of the stored soil moisture before the crop went in. Years like this, which is one of the driest we’ve seen, show this approach to be a very valuable tool and dry years are when you really learn. Anyone can grow a crop in a good year but it takes a bit of skill in a drought.”

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Harvesting lentils 

Emma follows the principles of moisture conservation but in her case even the early rains were missing.

“We didn’t get a good break to sow into and then we never really had any good in-crop rainfall.  This meant poor to no yields for most of our cropping area and not much stock feed resulting in us sourcing grain for our sheep and grazing off crops,” she says.

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No shortage of dust storms but very little rain 

It was a testing year to start farming but valuable lessons were learnt.

“Fortunately we both work other jobs to help keep some money rolling it and we learnt about diversification. Sheep were an amazing asset to us this year.”

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Drought puts a lot of pressure on farmers and their animals – with hand feeding a daily ritual 

Speaking from her own experiences in this challenging dry period Emma has this advice:

“Smile! We can’t make it rain. Do your budgets so you know what you’re up for. Don’t be scared to ask for help or advice from people who have been doing it longer. When you find yourself in the dust stand up, brush it off and go again. A new year means 365 days to kick goals.”

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And how does the prolonged dry effect confidence going forward?

“This is farming, This is the “gamble” that we take to grow food and fibre. It reiterates to us the importance of having a good drought management strategy in our business to support us in tough times. As a farmer it makes me want to work harder to learn how to do more with less, as an advisor it makes me admire the strength and resilience of the growers I work with even more so.”  Emma says. 

Dan, too, is optimistic.

“We’re only 2 years in and I’ve got a lot of confidence that the longer we stick with this system to build soil health and reduce our harmful insecticides and cut our fungicides right out, the better it is going to be. I think if we get a dry period such as this in ten years’ time our results will be better again – we’re pretty excited by the future.” he says. 

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There’s a Rural/Rural Divide and it’s not doing Agriculture any favours

Food is our common ground, it creates communities, a universal language and experience

This week’s social media sensation (see Footnote) and Wool Young Farming Champion Bessie Thomas from Wilcannia in Far Western NSW who knows all about dry river beds and what its like to farm with very little water is very unhappy about the farmer versus farmer divide she is witnessing in the media and she wants it to stop

This is Bessie’s plea ……..

The environmental crisis of the Murray Darling river systems has hit headlines this week and copping most of the flack is Australia’s cotton farmers.

While temperatures soar, rivers dry up and fish die across New South Wales, bridges are burning in my social media feed too.

Water users, including farmers, downstream are blaming irrigators upstream and right now being a cotton farmer in Australia seems dirtier than the algal waters of the Menindee Lakes.

Murray-Darling debacle aside – read this great perspective from Mike Logan for more on that – this week’s online cross industry interaction has illuminated an ingrained problem that affects us all: there’s a rural/rural divide and it’s not doing agriculture any favours.

I have livestock farming friends downstream who’ve de-stocked and are showering with a single bucket of rainwater because the river water they would usually use is too putrid. And I’ve got irrigation farming friends upstream who’re being blamed for taking water they also don’t have. Verbally their stones are aimed at each other, though I’m sure they’d be friends if they met at a BBQ.

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I have a friend who lives in marginal livestock country, farming meat-sheep, working in agribusiness and completing PhD research with an end game of helping feed the world’s hungry. Her farm just happens to be smaller than average for the region.

Her research gives her access to a global audience, with invitations to speak at agricultural events world over. And while some locals throw verbal stones about “hobby farming,” everyone who hears her speak is enchanted by her passion for the industry and love of the outback landscape. Even if her external audiences only take away one positive message from her talks, that is an inspiring thing.  It could simply be, “I’ve always wanted to visit the outback and now I’m actually going to do it!” and that would would be invaluable to her region.

I have another friend who works in the city but farms in the country on weekends and during holidays. “Part-time farmers” get a bad rap from us “full-timers,” yet who’s to judge if part-time job is a full-time passion?

When her colleagues ask what she’s up to for the weekend and she tells them about her farm, she is building connections with consumers of our produce. Next time those work colleagues order dinner at a restaurant they’ll think of her and maybe they’ll choose the dish with locally grown ingredients over an imported product. That is an enormous benefit to all of us.

Every step of the agriculture cycle is vital to a healthy and wealthy nation. Every day, Australian farmers produce nutritious, safe and affordable food for 60 million people and are entrusted as stewards of 60 percent of the Australian landscape.

‘If we can’t respect each other as experts in what we do,

then we can’t expect consumers to.’

Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion founder and mentor Lynne Strong recently told me,

“When our fellow farming industries are under the hammer it’s hard to know how to support them without making comment on the controversy. Yet, the best way for agriculture to build social licence, maintain it and be credible, is cross-commodity support.”

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We don’t have to agree with each other, but let’s ask questions, listen to the answers and respect each other enough to broaden our minds. It’s time to build cross-industry relationships and be each others advocates.

Let’s bridge our rural/rural divide and embrace the power of collaboration to build lasting connections with consumers.

#StrongerTogether  #YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #BreaktheDrought

Footnote:

Bessie volunteers ( in the little spare time she has ) as our social media manager and she created this fabulous video of life on her farm in 2018 Check it out it, its gone viral this week and will melt your heart. We cant wait to share with you the Random Acts of Kindness it has generated

 

 

 

Agriculturalist Anika Molesworth – joining a 1000 women in STEMM to invest in tomorrows leaders today

Agriculture needs its leaders. But leaders don’t just happen. To be effective a leader must have a vision that extends beyond their own backyard, have the skills to communicate that vision, a network of collaborative cohorts, the courage to engage in difficult conversations and the perseverance to see the vision transformed into action. So how do we support tomorrow’s leaders today?

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Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth is well regarded for her passion to see agriculture flourish in a changing climate. She has attended COP21 in Paris, conducted seminars at Broken Hill, presented at numerous conferences, spoken at TedX and is currently studying a PhD comparing Australian agriculture with that in South East Asia.

I am absolutely fascinated, intrigued and inspired by the natural world. Its systems are so incredibly complex and with such extraordinary interplay. But I also realise how extremely fragile it is. How precarious it is to mismanagement. People living and working in rural and regional Australia, particularly people in agriculture, play such an overwhelmingly important role in the management and protection of these systems, and in many instances give these landscapes and ecosystems a voice. They share the story of the land, of how it can be harnessed to feed and clothe people and nurtured to sustain vibrant biodiversity. I am driven to amplify that voice.

Anika is ready for the next leadership step: Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound is a ground-breaking leadership initiative, set against the backdrop of Antarctica, which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet.

The course will cover leadership training, environmental and research policy, career strategy, visibility, networking, fund raising, and presentation and communication skills, and will culminate in a journey to Antarctica over the 2019/2020 summer.


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Picture – Oli Sansom.

“Programs like Homeward Bound and the Young Farming Champions help to upskill and empower individuals,” Anika says. “Yet in doing so, the outcomes and impacts from these programs are so much further reaching. What they do is help individuals seeking greater clarity in their own personal skillsets, purpose and values, become clearer on their sense of self, what they believe and what’s important to them. It helps them focus their two most precious resources, time and energy, more effectively.”

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Christina Kirsch of ClearSky Solar with Anika Molesworth at the 2018 Green Globe Awards

Christina Kirsch of ClearSky Solar met with Anika at the 2018 Green Globe Awards. Christina participated in the initial Homeward Bound course in 2016 and still feels the reverberations.

” The goals are to create connectedness and networking among women where the collective is more important than the individual,” she says. “It is about women taking responsibility and ownership of ideals and to collaboratively develop programs going forward.”

Anika holds similar views:

“When you enable teams of highly energized, values-focused people, the enthusiasm and energy released can be formidable.”

One of the challenges Anika will face as a participant in Homeward Bound is to raise the funds required to travel to Antarctica. This on its own can be a daunting task. Although Homeward Bound will provide training and assistance on how to go about this, ultimately it is up to the individual to align with investors who want to be part of that shared collective.

Anika believes she has genuine reasons for asking people to invest.

“I have been through the YFC program and collected a treasure-trove of public speaking skills, industry knowledge, article writing experience and media training, and connected with the most inspiring group of young Australians and mentors. The Homeward Bound program builds on this and amplifies this with its global alumni network, teachers and mentors. It expands my networks to women across the globe working in STEMM.”

These are skills Anika will develop, to the benefit of all Australian agriculture.

As details are finalised we will share Anika’s fundraising initiatives including her Crowdfunding page . In the meantime if you would like a spectacular guest speaker for your event or would like to discuss other opportunities for collaboration please email Anika at anika.molesworth@gmail.com

This is what others are saying about Anika as a keynote speaker


“Anika shared her passion for a sustainable agriculture at the Ag to 2030 Brave New World Conference in 2018. She challenged thought leaders in mainstream Australian agriculture and gained their respect as a credible voice in how a changing climate is impacting Australian primary production systems.”
Ag Institute Australia

“It was a pleasure to engage Anika Molesworth as a presenter during the National Farmers’ Federation Towards 2030 Leadership Program in Canberra in 2018. Anika is a most engaging speaker; honest and reflective, open to feedback, happy to share her challenges and successes and very generous with her learning and advice.”
Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

“[We were] transfixed by Anika Molesworth and her passionate presentation. This wasn’t like any conference presentation, this was truly passionate and heatfelt. It was a privilege to listen. Walking away inspired.”
​Kelpie Ap

Visit her website to learn more here

If you would like to make a personal donation you will find Anika’s Crowdfunding page here 

Will you invest in tomorrow’s agricultural leader today?

#YouthinAg

#YouthVoices19

#mothernatureneedsherdaughters

#HumanSynergistics

#Antarctica

#womeninSTEM

#womeninscience

#leadership

#womeninleadership

#HomewardBound

 

 

 

Wool Young Farming Champion Samantha Wan going beyond the awards

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Mega-congratulations go to Sam Wan, Wool Young Farming Champion  and Elders’ Wool Technical Coordinator at the National  Selling Centre in Melbourne, who was announced as the Elders Employee of the Year in 2018.

The ‘Thomas Elder’ Employee of the Year recognises and rewards an individual who is consistently a high performer, who demonstrates a commitment to safety, and who lives the One Elders values – integrity, accountability, team work, customer focus and innovation.

Sam was nominated by her managers for her work initiating the accessibility of auction footage as it takes place online, improving Elders’ end to end service to growers, training of next generation wool staff and representing Elders and agriculture at industry events and through programs such as Art4Agriculture.

As part of the award Sam now has $10,000 to put towards a study tour, and yes, she will be reinvesting in wool. Firstly she will attend EvokeAg in Melbourne in February and then she will be winging across the waters to Italy.

“I have chosen to go to Italy to further enrich my understanding of the wool supply chain in Europe,” Sam says. “I will visit mills dating back to the 16th century and have direct contact with iconic historical brands. I will see fabric being spun and weaved and get a feel for their passion when working with Australian merino wool; and I’ll be able to communicate that back in Australia to growers …. and to anyone else who will listen!”

Supported by Australian Wool Innovation, Sam often credits the Young Farming Champions Program as being of great benefit in her career and as part of paying it forward has joined the Picture You in Agriculture Sponsor Seeking Sub Committee.

“I would like to ensure that no school or student, who is genuinely interested in agriculture, is turned away,” she says, “and that future Young Farming Champions are fully resourced to develop the skills needed for tell their story and establish themselves in their chosen industry.”

Congratulations Sam and we look forward to hearing of your Italian adventures.

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices19 #WearWool #LoveWool

 

Young Farming Champions Muster January 2019 Edition 1

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Happy New Year from team YFC!

Another year, another 365 days of opportunity for this amazing bunch. While everyone has been enjoying their summer breaks the team keeps on achieving. Here are snippets from the last 2 weeks.

In the field

Over the last few weeks we have seen a huge number of dust storms blow through parts of Australia. While dust storm are not uncommon, the drought that continues to linger is making them more prevalent and more spectacular. A number of YFC have been caught in the middle of the dusty events with some great pictures captured here from right across New South Wales

This great video footage from Cotton YFC Ben Egan at Warren

and this from Wool YFC Bessie Thomas as Wilcannia

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and this from  grains YFC Keiley O’Brien at Narromine

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Out of the Field

The New Year is a time of change for many, with several of our YFC stepping into new positions around the country!

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Wool YFC Katherine Bain has got a promotion at Paraway Pastoral becoming a Business Analyst for Central West NSW Region. This role will see Katherine working closely with station managers analysing farm financial and production information. Congrats Katherine.

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It’s a long way from Ivanhoe, NSW to Launceston, TAS. Wool YFC Emma Turner made the move just before Christmas to join the Australian Wool Network as a Wool Admin and Buyer.

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In contrast, Eggs YFC Jasmine Whitten is heading out west to Cobar, NSW to take up a position as a Local Landcare Coordinator in January.

Jasmine also jumped on Picture You in Agriculture socials this week capturing her experiences at the Santa Gertrudis Junior Show in Warwick, QLD. It was her third year as a group leader at the show. The event aims to provide an opportunity for students aged 7-18 years to learn about all things beef from meat science, how to parade an animal, to be a junior judge!

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Wool YFC Lucy Collingridge has also been supporting the next generation. Lucy helped her home show society host 36 kids aged from 5-25 years for the Cootamundra Hereford Heifer Show.

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The two day show allowed kids to learn about breeding, growing and showing cattle, with detailed workshops on public speaking, halter making, assessing animals, artificial insemination, animal husbandry, grooming, parading and marketing.

Lucy said, ‘We had kids travel from all over NSW and even as far as SA! Due to the hot weather, a number of local studs provided cattle for the kids to use to reduce the risk of heat stress to transporting the livestock.’  

Summer heat is quite a contrast from Lucy’s worldly adventures in Canada. Lucy’s written a guest blog capturing her experiences here  

Huge accolades for YFC Tegan Nock pictured here celebrating with partner Frank Oly. Their collaboration Grassroots: A Documentary, recently won ‘Best Climate Change Documentary’ at the Life Science Film Festival in Prague.

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Grassroots was written & produced by Tegan and directed by Frank.  You can watch the doco (for free) over on the Australian Science Channel. Grab yourself a cuppa & settle in when you’ve got 20 min up your sleeves to be inspired by what a passionate group of people is able to achieve.

Watch it here

Congrats are also due to YFC Prue McCormack has had a busy few months ticking off 3 major milestones. Prue finished her Vet Science degree at CSU while 37 weeks pregnant! Prue & Shannon welcomed son Jock into the world on August 1st. Coincidentally Jock shares his birthday with horses, which is fitting given both his parents love of horses! Prue has recently commenced part time work at New England Veterinary Services while still operating her equine dentistry business

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Prue & Jock at Jock’s Christening

Last year Wool YFC Danila Marini won the Professional’s category at the LambEx Young Guns Competition. At LambEx Danila shared some of her work as a post-doc at the University of New England. She’s part of a larger team of researchers exploring how virtual fencing may help better manage livestock. Danila’s research focuses on sheep. If you missed LambEx, you now have the opportunity to watch her presentation online here. This is one you don’t want to miss

Danila impressed LambEx audiences with her presentation

Keeping with the YouTube theme, Lucy Collingridge  recently spoke to the University of New England about her time experiences at UNE. Congrats Danila and Lucy, great to see your communications skills being put to good use.

#YouthVoices19 #YouthinAG

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Young Public School takes home a swag of awards at Kreative Koalas

Regional newspaper The Young Witness has featured Young Public School and their swag of awards at the Kreative Koalas- Design a Bright Future Challenge Awards Day.

We have reprinted the story below

Young Public School, aided by a range of partnerships, took out a raft of awards at the 2018 Kreative Koalas- Design a Bright Future ceremony held in Goulburn on November 27, 2018.

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National program director Lynne Strong congratulated Young Public School for forging partnerships with farmers and environmentalists, with sponsors and corporate businesses and with not-for-profit organisations and communities.

“Research has time and time again shown that kids who go to schools that have strong relationships with business and the community have a much greater opportunity to thrive. 

Businesses and communities who engage with schools can enrich and enhance the delivery of education and students can see their learnings have real-world significance. When schools, parents, business and communities partner together great things can happen in the lives of children and young adults.”  she said. 

Kreative Koalas, a program designed to create awareness of Australia’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), asks schools to design a community project and call to action, and to display their interpretive artwork on a giant fibreglass koala.  Class 2/3 studied SDG 12: Responsible Production and Consumption, while Class 4D studied SDG 14: Life Below the Water.

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Class 2/3 created Koko Kompost Koala, which won the Australian Wind Services Award for Best Kreative Koala Artwork, and instigated a partnership with Cleanway to reduce and recycle waste at the school. As part of their studies they were also visited by Wool Young Farming Champion and Sustainability Ambassador Adele Smith. Adele spoke to the students about how farmers have an important role to play in responsible production and wool as a sustainable fibre.

Class 4D created Chewy the Choking Koala to illustrate the impact of irresponsible  consumption and the damaging effects on life below the water. Under guidance from Finn Martin from Local Land Services students went on an excursion to a local creek. “We have been shocked and saddened by the amount of rubbish going into our waterways and eventually into the ocean,” the school said. The students also participated in the Take 3 movement, which encourages everyone to remove three pieces of rubbish from the environment every time they are out. 4D’s dedicated participation was rewarded when they were named the Holcim Reserve Grand Champion Kreative Koala.

#SDG #ZeroWaste

A NEW WAY TO EMPOWER  RURAL AND REGIONAL WOMEN

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Chair of our Youth Voices Leadership Team Jo Newton recently penned a piece for Stock and Land on why agriculture doesn’t need another leadership program. And why not? Because we already have a tried, tested and proven one in the Young Farming Champions program that offers participants leadership pathways beyond the traditional intensive workshop model.

Jo has received plenty of positive feedback from the article and it has prompted us to reflect on the mentorships and partnerships that support our Young Farming Champions as they transition to leadership roles. Jo personally values being mentored by David Mailler

‘David is someone I look up to. He challenges my thinking, encouraging me to look at a problem from new angles’. says Jo 

Dione Howard, who works as a district veterinarian, has recently formed a professional alliance with chair of Hunter Local Land Services Lindy Hyam.

As some-one starting my career journey its very valuable to have a mentor who has had successful careers in multiple sectors beyond agriculture. Lindy can help guide me through both my career and leadership journey challenges, help me make difficult decisions and offer advice when I am not sure which direction to take.” says Dione.  Watch Lindy talk about her career journey here

It was also our own Lynne Strong who introduced Anika Molesworth to Farmers for Climate Action, where she now sits on the board of directors.

“The best way to harness the energy of our emerging leaders is to connect them to one-another and greatly improve our collective capacity to shape a bright agricultural future. Farmers for Climate Action, like the Young Farming Champions program, is a network of individuals from all walks of life, from all different regions and farming industries – who all share a common vision. We are taking the journey together – and the shared values, support and respect we have for one another is the reason we are successful.” says Anika 

In 2019 PYiA, in conjunction with Young Farming Champions, will launch an extension to their leadership development with the introduction of a unique inter-generational mentorship model to empower rural and regional young women. The program,  Cultivate- Empowering  Young Leaders will support experienced leaders, coaches and champions to support young rural leaders to support emerging leaders and aspiring leaders to transform agriculturists into advocates and changemakers by:

  1. Creating confident, independent thinkers and skilled communicators,
  2. Building capacity to be adaptable and resilient in complex and challenging times,
  3. Developing enthusiastic, knowledgeable and capable young people taking an active role in the decision-making processes.

The model recognises successful people surround themselves with a framework of empowerment including the five principles of connect, coach, inspire, champion and mentor.

Young people need to identify others who can assist them with these principles. The initiative will see experienced leaders, mentor intermediate leaders such as Jo, who will in turn work with new Young Farming Champions and potentially with students who show potential though The Archibull Prize.

Training of both mentors and mentees is critical to success and the program will begin with an intensive two-day program bringing together mentors and mentees.

“This is a Pay-it-forward model of mentoring. Experience is leveraged in a hand up model, across three generations of leaders. Seasoned leaders mentor leadership program graduates into the hands-on aspects of business leadership, while YFC program graduates work with new participants, smoothing the way to more visible roles. This way experience is shared and expanded upon.” says Zoe Routh from Inner Compass Leadership Development.

For more information on how your organisation can partner with us please contact Lynne Strong Partnerships Manager E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

#YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg

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