Cotton Pickin – the Boggabri Blog

Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey one of our Eco Champions

But firstly a little bit from me to put it into perspective 

One of the things that still fascinates me is despite the vastness of our country just how little of it we can grow food on and how precious our natural resources are to sustain our standard of living now and in the future.

Yes we all know Australia is a pretty big place and what most of us don’t realise (including me until recently) is believe it or not over 60% of it is owned, managed and cared for by Australian farmers. To put this into perspective the white bits on the map below are the 40% of Australia that are classified as non agricultural land.Agricultural-Land-in-Australia_thumb,

What’s even harder to believe is that only 6% of our agricultural land is suitable for growing food. This means our 134,000 farmers have a huge amount of land between them that doesn’t generate an income It therefore goes without saying that Australian farmers are at the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community and they have a very big unpaid gardening/park keeping gig in any man’s language. I was as flabbergasted as most people when I found out these statistics that overall 94% of what farmers own and manage returns them no direct in your pocket benefit. As one of those farmers of which 50% of our farm is pristine rainforest it does however give great satisfaction and warms your heart to see it support diverse native vegetation and wildlife.

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Can you just imagine what its like following the cows home through this – I can tell you its doesn’t get much better

However its very clear as many of our farmers readily admit they don’t have the skillsets nor the time to do all of this gardening alone. Luckily Australia has a whole team of very special professionals called natural resource managers who partner with farmers to help them get the best outcomes for Australia’s scare natural resources.

Last year with support from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Initiative Art4Agriculture accessed funding that would allow our Young Farming Champions to train and work side by side and go into schools as part of the Archibull Prize with Young Eco Champions. The outcomes can only be described as phenomenal. Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey

The Boggabri Blog……………………………..

As part of the Young Eco Champions Program I have developed a strong interest in agriculture and learning more about our industries that feed and clothe us. Even though I grew up in a rural area, I have found my knowledge of agricultural production is quite limited – so I decided that if I wanted to follow a career in natural resource management and agriculture, I really should get some inside knowledge of what is involved on the agricultural side of things.

My first farm visit was cotton!

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I was lucky enough to have the help of Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia in tracking down a working cotton farm that had been improving both their on-farm efficiency and the health of the surrounding environment. She arranged for me to visit John and Robyn Watson who have been farming since 1979 on their farm “Kilmarnock” at Boggabri in Northern NSW.

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When John began farming here it was the first cotton to be grown south of Narrabri, along the upper Namoi River. 

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Both John and Robyn live and breathe cotton. When I first got to the farm, we jumped in the car and started driving around their property. I was amazed! To be honest, I had hardly seen any form of broad-scale cropping before. While John and Robyn have had lots of visitors to their farm, John mentioned that it was very rare to have someone like me who had almost no knowledge of the industry. So at least I didn’t feel too stupid asking the basic questions! I chatted with John about the production of cotton, right from the beginning when they sow the seeds all the way up to harvest – and even about the ginning and export process.

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Their property is 1500 hectares plus extra land that they lease from adjoining properties. It is a mixture of cotton, grain and cattle grazing, with about half of it under crop (both irrigated and dry-land). Kilmarnock was one of the first farms to take up the Best Management Practices (BMP) Program and John chaired the Australian Cotton Industry Council’s BMP Committee for three years. 

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He also played an active role in the implementation of BMP in the Boggabri area, encouraging other local growers to get on board with the program and John and Robyn have been active members of their local Landcare group. Robyn has even written a paper titled Restoring the banks of the Namoi on ‘Kilmarnock’: Success arising from persistence

In 1995, they started a program of improving the riparian areas because they were concerned about bank erosion and pesticide contamination of the river. From this time they have revegetated more than 20kms of riverbank, stretching alongside their property, along with encouraging neighbouring properties to undertake similar work. Robyn has been the driving force behind the Landcare work on their property, she would collect seeds and propagate them in a small nursery that she had set up. In talking to Robyn, she mentioned that there had recently been a few fish surveys undertaken along the Namoi River and there was a sharp increase in both the diversity of species along with the overall counts of fish along the revegetated sections. So not only has their work stopped the erosion of their property and loss of fertile soil, it has improved the environment in a number of ways.

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From a farming perspective, the Watsons have been improving the overall efficiency of their production which means they are using less water, pesticides and herbicides and getting higher overall yields. There are a number of ways that they have been doing this:

  • Having designated dry-land cropping areas, which rely only on rainfall reduces overall water consumption, along with having extensive channel and dam networks to recycle flood irrigated areas. They have also recently got an overhead pivot irrigation system which moves slowing down the crop rows to prevent extra water loss.
  • All cotton is GM so as to be resistant to round-up and cotton pests. This means that they have reduced the amount of pesticide that is used, so they very rarely have to spray at all. Being resistant to round-up results in reduced soil cultivation and lower amounts of herbicide required on cotton crops to control weeds and facilitates healthier soils through less soil disruption and reductions in residual herbicides.
  • They ensure that there is always a few ‘refuge crops’ (usually pigeon pea) sown each year, so this allows insects that would be affected by GM cotton to have the ability to persist and not alter their population structure or effect the birds that feed on them.

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Robyn is also very talented at spinning cotton, and generously taught me how to do it. I found out firstly you have to pull the bolls away from the cotton plant and pluck out the cotton seeds. This is essentially what happens at the cotton gin, though on a much larger scale. You end up with a bowl full of fluffy cotton balls and from here you can start to spin.

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Using an ordinary spinning wheel, it is possible to end up with a range of different thicknesses of hand-spun cotton which can be dyed and then knitted or woven just like wool. I was very impressed and even got to take a few bolls so I could give it a go at home. Robyn is one of the few people who spins with cotton and I think she may be going to go to the Royal Easter Show to do some demonstrations – she is one talented lady!

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While I was up north, I was also able to visit the Namoi Catchment Management Authority (CMA) at Narrabri and go out in the field with Lauren Wilson and Megan Davies to conduct some vegetation surveys. One of the target areas that the Namoi CMA is working on is the protection of riparian areas that are not in poor condition, though need some assistance (eg. through fencing out livestock) to ensure that their condition does not worsen. I found this a great experience to have a look at regions that are so climatically different from down on the South Coast of NSW, and find out about the challenges that these regions are facing from an environmental perspective.

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‘I really did have a great time visiting Boggabri and Narrabri, even though it was only short, I learnt so much and had such wonderful experiences. Coming into this program, I had the opinion that most people hold about the cotton industry – that it used huge amounts of water and sprayed chemicals all over the place.

From learning from the other Young Farming Champions and this visit to Kilmarnock, I really have changed my perspective of the industry. It is a vital industry to Australian agriculture and is one that is innovative and always changing to promote efficiency and ensure overall productivity.’

 

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I now know the story of cotton – it is how this little plant turns into the pair of socks on your feet.’

*Heather has just finished an International Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) (Hons) and gone to Canberra to join the DAFF Graduate program

You can share stories with Heather on Twitter here  @HeatherGowCarey

Agriculture…is like an onion…it has lots of layers!

Today’s guest blog comes from Liz Lobsey, a very exciting young lady introduced to the exciting and diverse world of careers in agriculture whilst at school

Hi, my name is Liz Lobsey and I am 26 years old.

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I’m an agronomist by day, and a closet agriculture advocate, also commonly referred to as an agvocate the rest of the time. I am a firm believer in the agriculture industry and it is not only my occupation, but it is also my passion.

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On top of this I am lucky enough to I live in Toowoomba in sunny Queensland

Now, I’d like you to think about this.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about agriculture?

  • Livestock?
  • Crops?
  • Food?
  • Clothing?

Fair enough but these are stereotype images. To me agriculture is so much more than the food you put in your mouth or the clothes you wear on your back clip_image004

When I think about agriculture I think about people

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I think about innovation

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I think about passion and commitment

Committment.

It wasn’t always this way When I first started high school and found out I had to do agriculture in year 7 the first thing I wanted to do was run away and hide. This was because my perception of what agriculture actually is was completely wrong. I thought of agriculture as dirty and, to be honest, boring; not something I was really looking forward to having to do. However, when I actually started learning about what it involved, my passion for agriculture surfaced and I have never looked back.

I’m not from your typical farming family, in fact, you could probably refer to me as a townie. My family connection to the land is minimal. But my passion for the industry is enormous! I have pottered about, I have studied a different degree, I even sat in an office for a good 3 years, and it was then that I realised that agriculture was where I wanted to be. So, I went back to uni and started studying agronomy. Some might think that I am a glutton for punishment after completing 6 years of university going on to my 7th, which tends to be a running joke with my friends. But when asked why I wanted to study agronomy, by one of my friends, my response was thus.

How many jobs are there, where you can sit on the front veranda of your clients’ home, have a beer and talk about the day while watching the sunset?

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Do you get the chance to watch a storm roll in over the flat black soil plains at your job?

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Do you have laugh while you’re helping a grower pull out that silly agronomist who got the tractor bogged? (Yes, I am talking about myself).

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Does your job give you the opportunity to actually have relationships with your clients where they become surrogate families?

How many jobs do you know of where you have the chance to be constantly learning new things?

How many jobs do you know of that are involved with an industry that is one of the most sustainable, innovative and productive in the world?

A lot of people will associate agriculture with long hours, hot dusty days, and a lot of hard work. And I will openly admit, it is a lot of hard work, and it can be dirty and dusty, on the other spectrum even muddy at times.

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But it is all part and parcel of the experience and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.

I am involved in the cotton and grains industries and the growers I work with are some of the most innovative and passionate people I have ever met and most likely ever will know. Both of these industries are constantly looking for new ways to be sustainable while remaining productive. It is inspiring to me to be involved in industries where the industries themselves are making the active effort to be better at what they do and making a conscious effort to implement change and be on the front foot to avoid outside influences impacting on what they do and can achieve.

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Earlier I mentioned when I think of agriculture, I think of passion and I strongly believe no matter what you are doing with you, life has little meaning unless you have passion for what you do.

Sadly I also believe that agriculture is a misunderstood industry; it is so much more than what you see on the surface. I was recently at a committee meeting where our vice-chairperson was describing her role as a farmer’s wife: she did the books, looked after the kids, fed the workers, drove the tractors and the list goes on. There is so much more involved with working on a farm or within the industry than what appears on the surface.

While agronomy is my primary job I also do business analysis and management; sometimes I am even a farmhand.  My boss constantly says to me that while we are agronomists and think we are mainly working with soils and plants, its the people who make change so we also have to be psychologists and know what drives change.

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Within agriculture you are so much more then what your title defines you .As an agronomist on a daily basis I assist growers make decisions about how to nurture their crops and produce the best yields possible while keeping production costs low, keeping the levels of chemicals used to a minimum and being friendly to the environment.

On a daily basis I learn something new, I change the way I thought about a process and I help implement these new processes into the production systems that I work within. The interesting part of this is that one idea, is never implemented in the same way, that one idea can result in 6 or 7 different production processes dependent on how that grower runs their farm. While all farming may look the same from the outside, their a subtle differences on each farm that make it operate in the productive way that it does.

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I am proud to say I work in an industry that

  • produces enough food to feed 60 million people.
  • produces 93% of the food we consume.
  • produces enough cotton to clothe 500 million people.

Did you know?

  • one 227kg of bale of cotton is enough to produce 215 pairs of jeans and 1,200 shirts.
  • Australian agriculture produces some of the highest quality food and fibre on the world market, and does so with a decreasing amount of land and water.

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Agriculture is an essential part of the economy, but I also think agriculture is an important part of our society’s way of life. We are blessed to have the agriculture industry with all it offers and it is time for a revival of sorts. It is time for everyone who has the potential to get involved with agriculture in some way to peel back the layers of what agriculture is and take a serious look. It is not just a career choice; it is a lifestyle choice as it offers a wonderful way of life.

The passion of the people in this industry is infectious and the resilience of the people in this industry its own life lesson. I’ve only been in the industry for a couple years now and the way I look at life has changed dramatically.

So, when you think about the word agriculture, have a real think about it and tell me what comes into your mind?

Meeting of the bright young minds in agriculture

Art4Agriculture Dairy Young Farming Champions Jess Monteith and Tom Pearce are heading off to the seat of power and the Bush Capital to attend the Future Farmers Network  ‘Youth Agricultural Central’ 2013 Roundtable this week and wow are they excited

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I feel a blog post coming on Jess and Tom

Youth Agricultural Central (YAC) will see bright young minds representing Youth in Ag across Australia come together to create a collaborative and cohesive cross industry strategic plan for the next generation in agriculture to ensure young people are engaged and contributing to the industry issues now and prepared to meet the needs as we progress forward.

Well done FFN the Art4Ag team salute you

You can read about Jess and Tom who were recently featured in Australian Dairy Farmer Magazine here

Jess Front Cover

Tom Pearce Young Farming Champion

Jess Monteith inside story ADFM

Meet Naomi Hobson A small town girl having a big adventure!

Today we are thrilled to introduce you to guest blogger Naomi Hobson.

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Naomi grew up in Gunnedah NSW where her family runs a 6500 acre mixed beef and cropping enterprise. Naomi is very passionate about the role of women in agriculture and encouraging and supporting young people to enter agricultural industries. She was recently selected to travel to the National Rural Women’s Coalition Conference as a QLD youth representative. Naomi firmly believes that a career in agriculture is the best place to be

“There is one thing I will guarantee about agriculture, the opportunities are endless! It doesn’t matter what your background may be all you need is enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and the ability to say yes to the opportunities that are presented to you and I guarantee a great adventure will be waiting!”

We asked Naomi to tell us why she believes it is important for the agriculture sector to build relationships with the community. We are confident you will be as impressed by what she had to say as we are

I like the saying that ‘people will only conserve what they love, love what they understand, understand what they know and know what they are taught’.

If we are going to conserve agriculture and the rural way of life then we must bridge the divide between producer and consumer, be the ears that listens to their concerns and the voice that answers their questions and show young people the vast array of career and lifestyle opportunities which agriculture can offer them.

Drawing inspiration from Dorothea Mackellar this is Naomi’s story ……… Enjoy

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

I tend to believe that Dorothea Mackellar drew inspiration for ‘My Country’ from years exploring her family’s property in the Gunnedah district as a child. What makes me think this? Because my own passion and love of the land has been inspired by a childhood of adventure and history in Gunnedah, NSW.

Hailing from the koala capital of the world I have marvelled at many sunsets, watching the sun peek above the trees on the horizon casting an assortment of colours across the landscape. clip_image004

‘A resident koala keeping an eye on the farm’

There are rich red and black soils lying in wait for the next crop, sweeping plains which transform to green pastures with the onset of summer storms.

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 ‘Harvest’

As you look out from the hill tops you can see the backsides of grazing cattle, dutiful mothers nursing their calves and in the distance golden fields of wheat dancing in the sunlight. Growing up in such a landscape you cannot help but fall in love with the land!

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Life as a child in Gunnedah was filled with weekend sports, picnics by the gully with friends and cousins, Tuesday morning cattle sales, standing up on the rails of the cattle yards ‘helping’ pick the best cattle in the mob and you could be sure that a poddy calf was never too far away. As the third generation to work our family land I have watched my father and grandfather in awe as they work cattle, plough, sow and harvest crops, fix machinery and tinker in the shed. Growing up I had always wanted to work with animals and my parents have always encouraged us to do what makes us happy. With that in the back of my mind at the age of 17 I left home and headed to uni with my big dreams and big plans in tow. Little did I know that despite all those big plans, the reality would be so much better!!

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‘Helping Dad’

My greatest adventure so far came in 2010 when I first became involved with Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ). Little did I know this would open a world of opportunity and introduce me to people who would have resounding impacts on my life. Through the program I have had a rare insight into the beef, lamb and pork industries and was fortunate enough to be selected on the Australian National Meat Judging Team. Our team travelled to the USA for a month long industry tour in 2012. While in the US we competed in 2 meat judging competitions, toured and trained in plants owned by the three biggest meat processors in the states Tyson, JBS and Cargill, visited ranches, universities and research facilities across 10 states travelling a total of 5600 miles – sleep certainly became a luxury!

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‘Our route across the USA’

From the first day of training with our university team meat judging has developed my understanding of aspects of meat production from paddock-to-plate, and has provided the opportunity to learn about agriculture and how Australia fits in a global market. It has also provided me with a deep appreciation for the millions of people who work tirelessly to supply growing global populations with a safe, high quality form of protein. Through ICMJ I was afforded one of the greatest experiences of my life which has continued to have positive impacts on my career and personal life to date…and all because I saw a flyer on a pin-board!!

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‘2012 Australian Meat Judging Team at Texas Tech University’

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‘Training at the University of Wyoming’

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‘Enjoying some sunshine – Cattle are housed in barns through winter in Illinois’

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‘Our Van – It was quite a cold trip!’

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‘Visiting the National Cattleman’s Beef Association’

After such a great adventure it was time to head off on the next one and I am currently living out a life-long dream to head ‘up North’. I am working as a Grazing Lands Officer in Far North Queensland with a region of 196,000km2. My partner and I are starting our own beef herd and after meeting so many inspirational women at the National Rural Women’s Conference in Canberra recently I cannot wait to see what other adventures are waiting!

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As you read through the posts on this blog and speak to people in agriculture you will see that everyone has their own adventure and story to share. There is one thing I will guarantee about agriculture, the opportunities are endless! It doesn’t matter what your background may be all you need is enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and the ability to say yes to the opportunities that are presented to you and I guarantee a great adventure will be waiting!

After all, as Dorothea wrote…

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold.

Meet Bessie Blore loving the man, the land and her career in wool

Todays guest blog by journalist turned farmer Bessie Blore comes to us with these words of wisdom

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… there is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today…

Bessie story is a fascinating and very entertaining tale.indeed. I don’t know about you but when I read this I thought to myself this must be one handsome man and one special girl.

Now we’re the only two human inhabitants of “Burragan,” 70,000 acres of grazing land, more than 100 kilometres from the closest town of Wilcannia. And over the past 24 months I have developed a passion for life on the land, and wool growing in particular, that borders on crazed and psychotic at times, I’m sure most of my city friends think I’m far too enthusiastic about dirt, sheep, and isolation.

Seriously 100 km from the closest town!!!!. You would want to pay close attention to detail writing the grocery list.

Bessie is part of the dedicated Ask an Aussie Farmer team and just fell in love with a man she met on a bus who you guessed it just happened to be a farmer.

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Hi! I’m Bess,……………….

Two years ago I knew nothing about farming. I don’t come from a farming background; in fact I’m actually a journalist. But five years ago I fell in love with a handsome traveller, who turned out to be a farmer’s son. And two years ago he convinced me to move from the tropics of North Queensland to the deserts of far-western New South Wales to join his family running Merino sheep and Angus cattle on their little slice of outback paradise.
In the last two years I’ve gone from wearing heels and skirts to work writing the television news, to wearing boots and jeans to work, helping my partner and his family run up to 20,000 head of Merinos across three properties – and I’m loving it!

My partner’s family has run Merinos on the same property for many generations. He grew up like a typical station kid – riding motorbikes from the day dot, completing primary school through School of the Air, and then moving hundreds of kilometres away from home to attend boarding school. I, on the other hand, have always lived in town, attended a high school with 3,000 students, and started my university education living in the city suburbs of Brisbane – catching trains and buses alongside its 2 million other inhabitants on a daily basis.

Now we’re the only two human inhabitants of “Burragan,” 70,000 acres of grazing land, more than 100 kilometres from the closest town of Wilcannia. And over the past 24 months I have developed a passion for life on the land, and wool growing in particular, that borders on crazed and psychotic at times, I’m sure most of my city friends think I’m far too enthusiastic about dirt, sheep, and isolation.

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With livestock across the three properties, about 90 kilometres apart from each other, “busy” is an extremely understated description of our day to day life. To break things up among the properties, we shear and crutch twice a year – all up it can go for up to 12 weeks! In between those times we are lamb marking (my favourite job), fencing, fixing broken troughs, tanks and dams, improving the properties’ timeworn infrastructure, joining rams, preg scanning, undertaking months of natural resource management such as spraying weeds and chipping burrs, as well as the day to day checking of water points and stock. On top of the wool side of things, we run Dorper rams to cross over the ewes and sell the first cross meat lambs (…listen to this farming jargon flow like I know what I’m talking about!). We also have a couple of hundred head of Angus beef cattle. And, just to keep things totally hectic, when we do get a chance, we also muster and sell feral rangeland goats.

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Most days I don’t have a clue what I’m doing out here! But I quickly learnt that there’s no better way to pick things up than to just jump in and have a go. This is also the best way to earn respect from those who’ve been in the industry since birth.

I’ve managed to ask every conceivable stupid question under the sun… from, “Do sheep eat meat?” to “WHAT is WRONG with that THING!? THAT! Over THERE! The one with the Mohawk!” (The answer to that one was that nothing was wrong with it, it was just a Dorper Ram rather than a Merino Ram). And, “Why are there so many goats on the driveway?” (Wrong again! They were the neighbour’s Damaras… *hangs head in shame*)

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And I’ve done almost every stupid thing possible in the playbook… from jumping in the work ute and driving away with a flat tyre (a big no-no when the tyres are worth $400 each!), to riding the quad bike 20 kilometres in the wrong direction to muster the sheep in the wrong paddock on the wrong side of the property.

And the number one lesson I’ve learnt from all this is that there’s really no such thing as a stupid question or action. That’s the only way you can learn about something you know nothing about. Ask, ask, ask. And give a big cheeky grin when you make a mistake, say sorry, and move on!

I’m by no means an expert on wool growing, but I have been blessed with the tenacity to ask questions without worrying about whether people are going roll their eyes at me. I’ve learnt about microns and vegetable matter percentages, shearing and baling and loading, mustering and drafting and marking, stocking rates and rainfall rates and spray rates and every kind of rate. Most importantly of all, I’ve not just learnt about how things are done, but also why they’re done.

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During my first 12 months at Burragan I was still working full time from home as an online rural journalist. I was interviewing expert wool brokers about the highest wool prices in 30 years, and contractors about the shortage of trained shearers, and growers about changes to drought and flood disaster funding and financial planning services… and all the while I was looking out my office window and living these exact same stories in my everyday life. Once 5pm hit I’d be out in the paddock, enjoying the world I’d just spent all day reporting about.

Throughout this time, I became heavily involved in social media and kind of “fell in” with a crowd of farmers who were extremely active in the online world of promoting agriculture. I become friends with the team behind the Ask An Aussie Farmer (AAAF) page before it was launched, and later on I joined them as an admin. AAAF started as a Facebook group and twitter service where Australian consumers could have their food and fibre questions answered by real Aussie farmers, who know what they’re talking about because they’re living and working in the industry every day. With almost 4,000 followers the page plays a powerful role in connecting communities and building relationships between agriculture and consumers.

AAAF has also morphed into an online community for farmers to make contact with other farmers, sharing ideas and practices, and learning more about not only their own farming sectors, but all farming sectors within Australia. The thing that impresses and inspires me the most about AAAF is that it encourages people to take control of their own education and knowledge, with just one simple step: Ask A Question. Instead of just accepting what you’ve heard, read, or seen somewhere else, why not go direct to the source and ask? As a journalist that’s something that resonates with me greatly.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve moved into full time farm work and part time journalism – loving the opportunity to spend more time outdoors getting my hands dirty. There’s an incredible satisfaction to be found from a hard day in the sheep yards where I’m achieving things that two years ago I had no clue I could do. But I still hold a great passion for telling the stories of rural people, and I continue to do this through freelance work for various magazines and newspapers.

There are countless amazing stories of farming families who have been on the land for many hundreds of years. I love those stories and those types of families…I’m neighbours and friends with these types of families, I’m about to marry into one of these families! But although those stories are impressive and inspiring, they can also be just a teeeeny bit intimidating for anyone on the other side of the fence.

I am proof that you don’t have to be born on the land to love it, and you don’t have to be born into a farming family to try your best to make a positive difference to the industry. You don’t need have grown up riding horses or motorbikes, or know how to drive a tractor, or know the difference between lamb, hogget and mutton; all these things you can learn.

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(That’s me! Attempting to shear a sheep! I wasn’t that crash hot, so I like to leave it to the professionals 😉

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I love the stories of our pioneers who walked out into the deserts of our country to start modern agriculture from scratch in Australia. These men, women and children had to build every fence post, yard railing, horse stable, dam, and their own homes from nothing. These were true explorers and adventurers. These are the families that have built our farming history.

But there is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today…

Of all my lessons over the last two years, one of the things I have come to appreciate the most is that, despite the preconception that farmers are very ‘black and white’ people – there’s actually very little black and white in the agriculture sector. Australia covers such vast physical distances that farming techniques are different the country over, to suit climate, geographical location, and the availability of natural resources. When it comes to agricultural issues, I think the most important thing we can learn is that the exact same practices that work for a woolgrower in New South Wales’ southern highlands aren’t necessarily going to work for a woolgrower in Western Australia’s arid drylands. We need to educate consumers about the diversity of agriculuture in Australia and reasons behind why we do what we do.

Communities and the agri-sector have a symbiotic relationship, one cannot thrive without the other, and I believe there could be a lot more understanding and appreciation for both. Building bonds between the two will ensure the continued survival and success of our agricultural industries. This is most easily achieved through sharing our everyday, human stories of life on the land. I personally am seeing this life with the same eyes as those we are trying to educate and believe I can help tell our ag stories in a way that’s relative to those who have also never experienced farm life before.

The first, and perhaps simplest, step is teaching people in urban communities to ask questions.

Follow Bessie on twitter @BloreBess

You can read more of Bessie’s journey in this feature on Leading Agriculture 

Talking Beef morning noon and night

Today we are delighted to introduce you another fabulous young beef farmer with a great story to tell.

Kylie Schuller grew up in rural NSW, where her family managed a beef feedlot. Her interest in the industry she says

“surely developed from the 1000’s of water troughs I’ve cleaned and the bunks of wet feed I’ve shovelled out. However my LOVE of the beef industry began when my family established a Shorthorn Stud and I became involved with the Shorthorn Youth Club, and became more aware of the opportunities that agriculture had to offer”.

Here is the Kylie Schuller story …..

I won’t lie to you, when I was younger living on the farm wasn’t something I was proud of or even enjoyed. There was lots of hard work to be done and it seemed to always need to be done when it was 40°C or bucketing down raining. I wish that I could tell you that there was a moment that changed my life, that made me realise how important beef production and agriculture is to our society, but there wasn’t! Somewhere between being obsessed with “Home and Away” in year 7 and travelling across America looking at cows on my “gap” year I found a passion for beef production, second to none!

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My dad, brother and me with some of our Shorthorn Heifers.

In 2001 my family started our shorthorn herd, “Outback Shorthorns”. I say that we run our stud as a family, but my Dad and my brother (see above) are the ones that do all the long hours. Unfortunately we don’t have generations of history, and we don’t even own any land. But like any other primary producer we love what we do and work hard to produce cattle that results in the healthiest and tastiest beef possible sitting on the consumer’s plate. We take pride in providing beef to our local butcher and enjoy being able to connect directly with our consumers in this way.

In 2005 I attended my first Shorthorn Heifer Show, a 3 day event completely organised by a youth (5-25 year olds) committee. This was my introduction to the Shorthorn Youth Club, an organisation that taught me what can be achieved when you get youth excited about cattle and agriculture! The great thing about events like this is they provide kids with an “Ag education” in an environment that is both relaxed and fun!

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What’s not to love about beautiful roan Shorthorn Heifers??

Fast forward a few years and I was the secretary of the Shorthorn Youth Club and realising just how much work it takes to keep events like the Shorthorn Heifer Show afloat. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Organising the Shorthorn Heifer Show, by no means came close to killing me but it was an experience that made me stronger: stronger in my love of the Shorthorn breed and stronger in my belief in the future of agriculture. There is just something about 100+ kids willing to parade their heifers in the pouring rain that sets my heart on fire!

I look forward to helping out with cattle work at home but my desire to learn about agriculture has always been much stronger!! I studied a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England, which I both loved and hated depending on the day. Whilst at Uni I was lucky enough to get involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition, which was hands down the best opportunity presented to me in my university degree. This competition presents students with a mixture of incredibly talented and passionate speakers, along with amazing career opportunities and very quickly I was hooked. This competition is what really started to get me thinking about the most fundamental part of the beef industry…the consumers!

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UNE Meat Judging team 2011 ready to head into the chillers

When I finished uni I was at a bit of a crossroads, waiting for the perfect job to come along. The fate came along and I was offered a scholarship from the Australian Shorthorn Association to travel to the United States of America and look at cows! Of course I said yes and off I embarked on my “Gap” year spending 6 months in the USA, travelling to 17 different states and touring more than 30 herds of cattle! I learnt a lot while I was in America, about the best way to deep fry Oreo’s, to how to keep cattle alive in -30°C weather, and everything in between. I came home with a renewed appreciation for the country we live in and all that is good about it, as well as a yearning for good quality Australian beef!

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The perfect guy for me… a Beef superhero!!

Now I’m lucky enough to have an amazing job working within the meat industry, in the city! I love working in the meat industry as it’s the culmination of at least 2 years’ worth of hard work in terms of genetics, raising, feeding and processing livestock. My job is giving me a unique perspective of what the beef industry looks like from the other side of the table.

My biggest concern for the future of food production is firstly the misconceptions about modern agriculture. I believe telling our story, raising awareness and engaging with the community to help people be more aware that Australian beef is a safe and healthy product that is good for the environment has never been more important.

Secondly is our aging farming population and the importance  of attracting and retaining new entrants into agriculture .

Both of these are key reasons why I have joined the NSW Farmers Young Farmers Council. NSW Young Farmers is a group within the NSW Farmers Association which aims to advocate for young farmers in collaboration with other industry groups to achieve positive progression for the wider industry.

Beef has now become an all-encompassing thing for me. It’s what I talk about all day at work, it’s the friends I have made through shows and competitions, it’s the weekends spent working with cattle and it’s the flavourful and juicy steaks cooking on my BBQ.

Kylie sums up her philosophy beautifully here ………

Food is essential to life, we all eat it every day (sometimes a little too much). We all (even people in rural and farming areas) at times take food for granted, without due consideration to all the people that work hard every day to ensure our food is safe, healthy and of the highest quality and convenience. I think the only way to ensure the future of agriculture is to create a network of knowledge and understanding, where as a nation we acknowledge the importance of food production and what community members can do to support agriculture.

Follow Kylie on Twitter @kschuller89

Meet Hannah Barber who has farming in her blood and farming in her heart

Expressions of interest are now open for our 2013 Young Farming Champions and already we can see the selection panel is not going to have an easy time

Just to show you the level of talent meet Hannah Barber who says

Education is the key to ensuring the Australian agricultural industry is understood and supported by our urban cousins and I look forward to a career where I can achieve this, and then come home to the farm every evening.

This is Hannah’s story……

I was born and raised in Parkes, in central west NSW and have been lucky enough to call two farms in the region home for most of my life.

Parkes

My mother & Stepfather own ‘Keilor’, 1400 acres 30km west of Parkes, where we have broad acre cereal cropping, first cross ewes and home to our beloved black Angus stud, Keilor Angus. Our stud is relatively young, only being registered in 2005 but successfully produces top quality cattle with great temperaments and sought after bulls, and this is where my love for the angus breed and the beef cattle industry began.

Calf at home

This little cutey is one of our new angus calves

My father is the third generation to farm ‘Pinegrove’ north of Parkes in the Goobang Valley where although we also have Angus cattle and first cross lambs, cropping is the main activity on the property, with about 1700 of the 2000 acres being sown.

Dad during harvest

Dad harvesting the wheat

In 2013 we will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of when my great grandfather Stewart Barber cut through the pine trees and settled his family on his new property. The main house still has the original foundations, and many heritage aspects of the home he built.

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Our family home at Pinegrove Parkes

Apart from acting as a service centre to the surrounding mixed farming areas, Parkes has developed a connection with the mining community due to Rio Tinto’s Northparkes copper & gold mine that has encouraged growth in our area over the last decade. We also have the famous CSIRO radio telescope, or ‘the dish’ as it is affectionately known, that assisted NASA in tracking the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing – our little town brought the world the images of the first time a man walked on the moon.

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The Dish makes a great backdrop for this paddock full of wheat

There is a lot to be proud of my home town, which was why, in 2010 I was incredibly honoured and humbled to be named Parkes Showgirl. My involvement in the rural show movement has been a central part of my year, between junior judging, entering art & sewing and competing my horses all over NSW I have been involved in agricultural shows my entire life. Being awarded 2010 Parkes Showgirl, then being selected to represent Zone 6 as a 2011 State finalist for The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition was the first introduction I had to the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of not only my local show but the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

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Me centre with Young Farming Champion and runner up in RAS NSW Showgirl 2011 Stephanie Tarlinton aka @proudlydairy and @duofreefriday

I met so many sensational young farmers and industry professionals and maintained my connection to the show after the competition by joining the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Youth Group, of which I have been a committee member for the last two years. In 2012, having grown within the industry and still having such a huge passion and pride for both my home town and the competition, I entered my local competition again and made history be achieving what others before me have tried, but not succeeded, by winning the Parkes Showgirl competition for the second time.

At the end of 2011 I was selected to attend Australian Women in Agriculture’s Next Generations Leadership and Decision Making in Agriculture course in Canberra, where I was able to develop my professional skills and meet many inspirational women and politicians, which sparked my existing interest in politics into a potential career aspiration. Attendees at these last few courses were invited to apply to accompany the AWiA as Next Generation Delegates to the Inaugural Global Conference on Women in Agriculture in March 2012 in New Delhi, India. I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the two positions on offer and had an incredible, eye opening experience which really drove home the importance of education and equality in respect to efficient production and food security particularly in our developing countries.

Conference at India

So many exciting things have happened for me in such a short time frame

With local women in India

Me with local women in India

Later in 2012 the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW opened up applications for Next Generation Delegates to attend the Royal Agricultural Societies Council of the Commonwealth Conference in Zambia, Africa. Once again I was shocked and exhilarated to be awarded a position and packed my bags to head to the most magical continent on earth, to mix with incredibly inspirational, passionate young professional from across the commonwealth, and many CEOs and experts of agricultural show movements, including HRH Princess Anne.

In Zambia with head of zambian delegates Matambula (4)

Being given the opportunity to visit these developing countries, talk to their producers and see their production processes was a great way to see firsthand how fortunate, but also unique we are in Australia, however more importantly that the global community is not suffering a lack of arable land and producers, but a lack of education, financial and infrastructural assistance and protective laws to ensure countries such as Zambia, sleeping powerhouses of production, are awakened to feed our growing population.

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Visiting a feedlot in Zambia with other Australian and Zambain Delegates

When I am not travelling the world, or home on the farm, I am in Wagga Wagga finishing my degree at Charles Sturt University. I chose to attend CSU in Wagga as it was the closest uni to home that offered my degree and is still based in a primarily rural area so could still feel like home. Having neighbours less than a few kilometres away was something I struggled to get used to; I always thought someone was coming to my house if a car drove past! In December 2013 I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching (secondary) and have already signed a contract with the DET to be placed in a remote rural area where they require more teachers, so am looking forward to heading west for my next adventure.

 I firmly believe education is the key to ensuring the Australian agricultural industry is understood and supported by our urban cousins and I look forward to a career where I can achieve this, and then come home to the farm every evening.

Hannah has a wonderful dream lets hope Art4Agriculture and our sponsors can help her make it come true

Read Hannah’s Target 100 profile here

Follow Hannah on twitter @Miss_Barber

Face to Camera

This week all our Young Eco Champions and some of our Young Farming Champions came to the farm for another workshop

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The superstar attendees

Once again we hired the stunning Glenn Murcutt  house on the farm and when the 43 degree heat hit we were certainly able to test out how well he had designed the ventilation. We were pretty impressed Glenn

Murcutt House Jamberoo

Wow you don’t see houses like this on your average dairy farm

Murcutt House

Victoria Taylor kicked off the weekend with a session for the team on writing scholarship applications and CV’s and job interview techniques. Our YEC’s and YFC all want to be in positions of influence sooner rather than later and we are determined to help them get there.

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Heather for example has her eye on Tony Burke’s job and she is off to DAFF to help fast track this. Whilst I don’t think Tony Burke has anything to worry about just yet but a few years down the track I would be surprised if Heather makes her move

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Heather (right) being interviewed by Tara

One of the highlights of the weekend was a number of sessions on working in front of the camera

– Camera techniques, skills and spills

– presenter techniques

– interviewee techniques

– unprepared speeches / responses

– writing your own script

– stuff you know – prepared speeches without sounding prepared

We were lucky enough to have our professional videographer Lance on hand to work with NIDA trained director Annie too provide practical applications in front of the camera

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Lance checks the lighting

As you know one of the highlights of the Archibull Prize is visiting the schools and meeting the teachers and students. Over the past couple of years we have identified a number of superstar students and we invited two of them to the workshop to interview each of the YFC’s and YEC’s on camera.

 

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Getting up close and personal with the baby calves

Just to you show the talent of the students and one of our team. Tara hams it up with a South Carolina drawl in this interview with Heather who amazingly managed not to crack up. Check it out and remember Tara is only 16 and what’s to be a burns specialist. I don’t know I can see her just maybe taking over from Carrie Bickmore one day

Such talent I so enjoyed my three days with these wonderful young people

Starting and keeping the agricultural conversation going

 

Today’s post comes from Wool Young Farming Champion Steph Grills who was recently sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation to attend the Young Professionals in Agriculture forum at Sydney University.

Steph Grills on her farm

Steph farms at Armidale in NSW

The aim of the forum was to bring young professionals in agriculture together to connect the dots on issues of our time, including:
– effectively communicating the science of agriculture
– the role of social media in agriculture
– promoting agriculture as a career path
– networking to influence national agendas

The forum acknowledged

The modern face of agriculture will confront many challenges over the coming years. With fewer resources, our young agri-professionals will be faced with the task of leading this sector through a tough period of global food insecurity. In order to reduce the threat of the world slipping into an unprecedented global food crisis, today’s young agri-professionals will need to utilise their skills in an exceptional manner.

A much more efficient and productive group of young agri-professionals requires; coordination, dedication and education. The upcoming “Young Professionals in Agriculture Forum” aims to offer recent agricultural graduates the opportunity to further their professional development through a range of interactive educational workshops. Targeting the areas of communication, education and coordination, it is hoped that this one day conference will leave young graduates feeling invigorated about the challenges that lie ahead and eager to “keep the conversation going”.

Key speakers included our very own Annie Burbrook, Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia, Social Media expert and Eureka Prize Winner Tony Peacock, Brendan Fox from Farm Plus and Bruce Howie from C-Qual Agritelligence

What follows is Steph’s highlights in her own words …….

It’s exciting to see and even more humbling and rewarding to sit a room full of Young Professionals in Agriculture all from different backgrounds and yet all having a common and united goal, “To start and keep the Agricultural conversation going”.

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Costa Georgiadis opened the forum, instilling enthusiasm and such a positive message into the room. Costa has been able to use ABC’s Gardening Australia as a platform to reach those in urban Australia. ‘Agriculture is the kitchen sink of the city’. The work that is being carried out in Bondi by planting herb and vegetable gardens on the curbs of streets to involve communities has demonstrated that its possible in urban areas. He believes in looking at cultural barriers and going around them with vocabulary. Information is just facts which leave a chasm of opportunity. It is the understanding and passion of this information, that is knowledge. You need to use vocabulary in order to engage with people. A perfect example of this is where instead of creating a herb garden, a ‘herb maze’ was created. This engaged people as we are inquisitive by nature, and encouraged people to find out what a ‘herb maze’ entailed as opposed to a simple old garden. Well nothing really. Simply some bark chips for a footpath through the garden in a snail formation. It was the same garden but it attracted and engaged the community.

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I have worked extensively with Ann Burbrook through the Young Farming Champions program, and she didn’t fail to impress at the forum. Ann has a way of encouraging those that weren’t apart of the five people in the room of around ninety, that put their hand up because they enjoyed public speaking. Most of us are terrified by the very thought. To speak in public, firstly you need the courage to get up there and then secondly, the confidence to deliver your presentation with passion. It isn’t in fact, about you. It’s about the audience and what you want them to be thinking, feeling and doing. There are many factors in getting your audience to do what you want. This includes your voice, your stance and of course your content. What’s your message?

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Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of CRC, introduced the room to the world of Twitter and the merits it provides. We learnt that as followers on twitter, we want posts to be informative, funny and exciting. Not boring and arrogant. No real surprises there however we also learnt that followers like to be challenged and questioned and don’t mind the odd random thought.

We’re also doing a pretty good job of communicating as scientists to other scientists, but we need to think about how to communicate to producers so that it’s valuable to them and then in turn to the community.

Brendan Fox spoke about Building the Knowledge base and how to get value from the internet. There is around 620 million spaces for information, so sorting through the valuable information can sometimes be a challenge.

The Q & A Panel, was the session I found most interesting. Most topics focussed on education, inspiration and engagement for the Agricultural Industry as whole. Some topics covered were that there are many jobs out there, but where are they and how do you find them? Sustainability of agriculture and also branding of the industry and individuals in agriculture was discussed. One major concern was how to involve kids to get a better understanding of the industry at a young age to encourage curiosity as they grow up and leave school. The Young Farming Champions program was a perfect example of how this is beginning to happen. The agricultural sector needs to have more of a voice and to do that we need three key points to market our ideas.

Overall the whole day was incredibly inspirational and informative. I would like to thank the Sydney University and Young Professionals in Agriculture team for getting the whole day up and running and to those guest speakers who donated their time for the day.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) for giving me the opportunity to attend as part of my personal development through the Young Farming Champions Program. I believe these are the types of platforms are such important opportunities for everyone in agriculture and I congratulate AWI for recognising this and supporting their Young Farming Champions to such a high level 

Young Farming Champions visit their Archibull Prize schools

The NSW Archibull Prize 2012 is coming to the pointy end of the competition with entries due in just under 3 weeks.

We have Young Farming Champions from QLD and NSW in full swing going into schools from Camden Vale to Nowra and out to Gunnedah (thanks to the generosity of Upper Namoi Cotton Growers Association)

Today Beef Young Farming Champion Bronwyn Roberts is heading from Emerald to  Berkeley Vale. Bron has just started up her Farmer Bron Facebook page to share with the community her farming journey. Check it out here

Bronwyn Roberts

Bronwyn Roberts

Bron will be joined by equally excited artwork judge Wendy Taylor who has also been invited by the Berkeley Vale team. Check out this awesome animation Meet today’s Australian farmer by Wendy’s husband Craig of Red Blue Design which Craig created especially for the schools participating in the Archibull Prize

 

Wool Young Farming Champion Lauren Crothers from Dirranbandi in South West Queensland to visit Homebush Boys High School

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Lauren Crothers and Ekka exhibition shearer Hayden Eley

Meat Scientist and Beef Young Farming Champion Dr (in waiting) Steph Fowler is motoring up the highway from Wagga Wagga to visit Abbotsleigh College and Muirfield High School.

Steph Fowler in the Carcass Fridge at the Ekka

Steph was so excited to check out the Hoof and Hook competition carcases at the Ekka and check out this great video featuring Dr Steph at Art4Agriculuture’s recent visit to the Ekka