The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
My name is Richie Quigley and farming is in my blood and I couldn’t be happier about that
Growing up on our family farm in Trangie, the Macquarie valley, Central Western NSW I have been involved in agriculture as long as I remember.
Our farm “Muntham”, has been in our family for 125 years and my brothers Tom and George and I will be fifth generation farmers
We are lucky enough to have both an irrigation and dryland farming business and grow 500 Ha of cotton as well as about 2200ha of winter crops which include wheat, canola, and chickpeas. We also have 1500 breeding ewes and 150 breeding cows.
Most of our childhood photos are of my two brothers and me outside playing in the dirt and the mud pushing around toy tractors (more often than not with no clothes on), maintaining our miniature interpretation of our family farm in our veggie patch. The fence still bears the scars from when we cut it as we ‘bought’ more land (much to mums delight). As we grew older, our passion for farming grew when we were able to move from our “Tonka” farm to outside the fence with dad.
A typical busy week on the farm can include spraying to keep fallow paddocks weed free, sowing crops, spraying for weeds in the crop with selective herbicides, spreading fertiliser, harvesting, ground preparation for cotton, irrigating cotton, planning crop rotations, animal husbandry, and general farm maintenance and mechanics.
All of us had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. This opened the doors to so many opportunities and experiences (considering the local school had about 6 students in each year), but was often seen as an inconvenience as holidays and harvest never seemed to line up completely!
A highlight of my school life happened in my final year when I was lucky enough to be selected and represent Australia in the “Australia A” Schools Rugby Union. This was an amazing opportunity that I am confident may not happened if I didn’t have the chance to attend boarding school.
After finishing school, I had a gap year working at home before heading to university.
I made this choice to gain strong foundation hands on experience that would allow me to relate my future studies back to practices and principles that are currently used or could possibly be used on our own farm. My gap year reinforced that my future lay with farming and how much agriculture has to offer and working outside is so much better than a class room or an office.
There are so many career options available, and so many job opportunities. I am currently studying Science in agriculture and will major in agronomy – which the link between scientific research and primary producers, and am very much interested in the production side of agriculture. I want to grow it.
To assist with my university studies and access a diverse array of opportunities I applied for and was lucky enough to win a Horizon Scholarship.
My sponsor is Woolworths, and as part of the program the students spend two weeks of industry placement with their sponsor. My placement saw me spending two weeks in Woolworths head office, working with the fresh food department. It was an eye opening experience to see what happens to our produce after it leaves the farmgate and the sheer volume of food that is distributed by one of our major supermarkets as well as their commitment to quality.
Woolworths is also a major sponsor of the Australian Year of the Farmer, and I was invited to the launch of Australian Year of the Farmer last October as representative of the young farmers of our nation. This was an experience I will never forget. One which saw me meet and mix with a number of very influential and inspiring people including Andrew Forrest, the Governor General and Glenn and Sara McGrath to name just a few
Australian Year of the Farmer launch October 2011
In particular I found the following excerpt from Quentin Bryce’s speech compelling
The Year of the Farmer purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed – to our rich rural history. In doing so, it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes in the process.
In the world of the 21st century farmer, we find people who are environmentally-aware, innovative, tertiary-educated, global, entrepreneurial and collegiate.
Primary producers today are a different breed to their parents and grandparents.
The love of the land is still deeply ingrained, but to make money – and they must be profitable to survive – they have become masters of numerous skills, and technologically adept.
They understand land and water management, laser levelling, remote sensing, GPS management, conservation agriculture, organics, biodynamics and, overall, their role in national and global food security.
Perhaps these are new labels for traditional concepts, but today’s farmers employ cutting edge technology that would baffle office workers in the cities.
Technology is powering Australia’s farming future.
I encourage all Australians to join in the celebrations next year; to take the opportunity to leave the cities, and learn how our farmers underpin our economy.
They are leaders, and we can learn much from that leadership.
The Year of the Farmer is a wonderful opportunity for all Australians to better understand, and value, the part farmers play in our health and well-being and prosperity.
Each and every day. We simply couldn’t live without them!
Another highlight of my Horizon Scholarship has been the recent opportunity to attend the 16th Australian Cotton Conference thanks to the generosity of Cotton Australia. The conference was a great opportunity to meet a large number of people in the cotton industry and hear a number of presentations from leaders in the industry on current issues and new innovative ideas for the future of the industry.
Agriculture is an easy choice for me, as it is a lifestyle as well as a job. It’s the feeling of having an office outside, and every day working with natural elements to produce food and fibre, feeding and clothing the people all around the world.
I challenge you to have a look at a career in agriculture, as the people anywhere in the agricultural industry will give you a go if they can see you’re interested in learning. It’s dynamic industry that is constantly evolving and changing trying to continue to feed and clothe the growing hungry world.
Today I have great pleasure in introducing you to Rachel Walker who we are thrilled to have on board as one of our Young Eco Champions
With the support of the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program funding Art4Agriculture has recruited 5 exciting young women for the Young Eco Champion program for 2012/13
This program will train a team of 5 young natural resource management professionals from Southern Rivers region of NSW. This training will help them develop leadership and communication skills and become local faces of sustainable primary production and natural resource management.
The Eco Champions will work with our Young Farmer Champions to present Archibull Prize activities in 15 schools throughout the region using a range of authentic and contemporary learning tools that allow young people to explore the economic, environmental and social challenges of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation activities through the ‘Archibull Prize‘ competition.
This is Rachel’s story …….
My name is Rachel Walker, I’m 24 years old and currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Systems (Agriculture stream) at the University of Sydney.
I was born and raised in Sydney, but agriculture has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though I grew up in the city, it’s hard to deny that I’m a country girl at heart.
My first taste of farm life was through my grandparents who built an equestrian centre and also ran beef cattle south west of Sydney, where I spent a lot of time growing up. I have always enjoyed the hands-on side of farming. It doesn’t matter whether it is easy or messy and dirty work, I’ve always found days working out in the sun to be exciting! I started taking horse riding seriously when I was about 13, competing in dressage and being on the local club committee, where I stayed until I moved into the city to study when I was around 21. Going to a city school meant that studying Agriculture wasn’t an option for me, but that didn’t really stop me from spending a majority of my time out on the farm.
One thing that stands out in my mind when I think of both of my grandfathers is how hard they worked. My maternal grandfather was an apple grower in Victoria and I often walk past the weathered, broken archway in Sydney’s old fruit market where his name is still painted.
My first Pony (1992)
A life filled with opportunities
In 2006 I went to live in Ghana, West Africa for 4 months, teaching in a local school and living with a family in a village where subsistence farming is the common lifestyle and trade is the form of diversity in diet. Nothing is wasted, nothing is wrapped in plastic or refrigerated; they eat what’s seasonally available, and when it’s available and still have a great diversity in their diet – such an enormous contrast to the average Australian!!! This was a big turning point in my life, as it made me aware of natural resource use. From this point forward, I have looked at everything else with Ghana’s influence in the back of my mind. This was my self-induced introduction into natural resource management, and subsequently natural resource management has been in my mind wherever I’ve gone since.
My wonderful host family and village friends in Ghana (2006).
Paga, Ghana: where the crocs and the humans live side by side.
I am generally the kind of person to take advantage of an opportunity that arises, and I have really enjoyed the diversity that I’ve been able to experience. Some of my fondest summers have been spent out in the searing heat of the Araluen valley in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, which had a population of 215, picking peaches and nectarines. I love the Australian countryside and the southern coast of NSW would have to be my favourite area (so far!). Not only did I make some if my best friends in the ‘Happy Valley’, I learnt a lot about horticulture that I had never really experienced before. After that, I returned for the picking season 3 times! This was my introduction to the processes and numbers of food production, and this gave me insight into the food chain from growth to consumption.
Picking peaches in Araluen (2007/8).
My love for animals led me to pursue a career in veterinary nursing, which I absolutely loved and still do on a part-time basis today. I left vet nursing because I realised that I wanted to be more involved in Agriculture. I wanted to challenge myself a little more and further my knowledge, so I enrolled at Sydney Uni. There were two options for me – B Agricultural Science, or a new degree called B Environmental Systems, which aimed to be the first degree of its kind to focus on the balance between food, energy and water – and they offered an agricultural pathway within the degree. Perfect for me!!! It combined my love for agriculture with the increasing needs for resource use efficiency and natural resource management that I had come to realise was so important to the future, to achieve a sustainable food and fibre production with sustainable environmental management!
My degree has given me the opportunity to look at the mutual relationship between agriculture as a business and a science, and the environmental side of things. I have had the opportunity to see many different parts of the east of Australia, as well as overseas, in both an agricultural and an environmental light.
More opportunities and inspiration
I am very interested in Agriculture in developing countries. In December 2011 to Feb 2012 I travelled to Uganda, in Eastern Africa to stay in a village where an Australian couple from country Victoria helped a Ugandan man (David) to start up a community development project in a small rural village. The rural people in Uganda aren’t very well catered for: and all produce is through subsistence farming, and is traded. It was an amazing experience. I was so inspired by David’s passion, enthusiasm and modesty about what the programme was achieving in a sustainable way! It has empowered the local people through programmes to develop the agricultural potential of the land and the people so as to increase production and create an economy, which allows the locals to have money if required for medical treatment or children’s education.
They have taught people to grow mushrooms and mulch; to use goat and cow manure as fertilizers; and also started a piggery project, which works on a pay-it-forward scheme so the community can benefit from easily cared for pigs. From the success and international support, they have added a medical centre that has visitors who walk 8km to visit, and computer classes with visiting children from 25km away, so that children form rural areas are able to gain some skills that bridge the gap between rural and city kids going to uni.
We talked so much about agriculture over there, and it is amazing to see how much we take for granted in what we are able to achieve in this country!
Local Football game, Uganda (2012)
From this, my friend Hannah, who I travelled with, and I are currently organising a fundraising event in order to raise enough money to begin a goat rearing business, which will enable the community project to be completely self sustainable, and provide an income that will be able to support new ideas and projects in the future.
My classmates and I in New Zealand looking at Agriculture and the Environment
Over the course of my studies, I have learnt so much about the science behind the various streams that Agriculture may be broken up into – and it is huge! This has opened my eyes to the areas I want to learn more about! I know that my interests lie in cattle, though that in itself is a broad statement. I have also realised that I love learning and studying, in particular about the science behind soil and the relationships between soil, plants and water which are the essentials to sustainable production.
What concerns me
Living in the inner city has shown me there are so many aspects to Agriculture that aren’t recognised by the majority of the population. I believe that education about where food comes from and its journey to the consumer needs to be addressed, particularly in city areas where children may never get the opportunity to collect their own food. This is so important – to have future decision makers and scientists understand the processes behind their consumption – and a bottom-up approach in teaching young children through our primary education systems, which will filter through to their parents would be a great start. This is important for the lead up to more sustainable practices, such as the adaptation to eating food that has a ‘mark’ on it etc.
I believe that each country in the near future is going to reach a pinnacle point where the balance between Agricultural food and resource production is not going to meet the needs of the environment, nor a growing population.
There are so many different options for our future, and they are dependent upon us. Whether it involves an increase in production, a reduction of waste, or improving adaptation to variation in living conditions, changes toward sustainability should be a primary focus of the future. The collaboration of the various scientific fields to ensure a sustainable future that involves the least environmental impact possible is achievable and invaluable. I hope to see this throughout the world before the end of my life, and I hope that Australia leads the way, as we are doing with the increased protection and education of our Marine parks.
I am passionate about Agriculture: its potential, its ways of life and its diversity in opportunity are all something I strive to be a part of, and encourage others to do the same! Agriculture and the land will always be a part of my life even if I continue living within an urban environment…
Excitingly the recent State of the Environment report has show Australian farmers have made some major inroads in their farm environmental stewardship outcomes through a strong commitment to Landcare principals
Most of Australia’s land environment is managed by one of three groups: state and territory agencies responsible for public land of various tenures, family and corporate agricultural and pastoral businesses, and Indigenous Australians.
The effectiveness of management has improved for most land uses, particularly those that are most intensive. While land–management practices have improved during the past few decades, in agricultural systems the loss of soil carbon, and soil acidification and erosion, are problematic and may have major impacts on production.
However, there is a serious gap in both the professional and the technical capacity necessary for effective land management. This gap will increase and its consequences become more acute as we face the challenges that climate change will bring to land environmental values and production systems.
Obviously if our farmers are going to achieve the best environmental outcomes they must have access to the best advice and have the opportunity to work side by side with natural resource management professionals With this in my mind Art4Agriculture have accessed Caring for our Country funding to role out the Young Eco Champion program for 2012/13 This program will train a team of 5 young natural resource management professionals from Southern Rivers region of NSW. They will be trained to develop leadership and communication skills and become local faces of sustainable primary production and natural resource management. See Erin Lake our 2011 Young Eco Champion in action here
Eco Champions will work with Young Farmer Champions to present Archibull Prize activities in 15 schools throughout the region using a range of authentic and contemporary learning tools that allow young people to explore the economic, environmental and social challenges of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation activities through the ‘Archibull Prize‘ competition.
Today our guest blogger is Heather Gow-Carey one of our exciting Young Eco Champions
Here is Heather’s story ………………….
My name is Heather Gow-Carey. I am 22 years old and am currently undertaking honours in my fourth and final year of an International Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) at the University of Wollongong.
I grew up in the rural community at Dignams Creek on the Far South Coast of NSW. Environmental and natural resource management has always played a huge part of my life. The influence of my parents’ professions in the direction of my educational career has subconsciously shaped my decisions and their support has been unwavering at every stage of my development.
Helping out tree planting on the Hawkesbury River when I was just learning to walk.
I was born in Western Sydney but moved to the South Coast with my parents when I was two years old. They were looking to get away from the city and pursue their goals in setting up South Coast Flora, a native bushfood nursery. It is this specialised plant propagation that first introduced me to the theories behind environmental management. As long as I can remember I have been helping out in the nursery, going to markets and assisting mum out in her botanical pursuits collecting seeds and cuttings to be used in the nursery.
Out collecting seeds with Mum.
My father was involved in the National Parks and Wildlife Service for a number of years and now works as the Landcare Community Support Officer throughout the Eurobodalla Shire. Hence my weekends as a youngster were filled with farm visits, tree plantings, weed control and numerous conferences and meetings. Luckily I had my younger brother to have tree planting competitions and someone to hang out with when dad had to attend to business matters. From both of my parents I have developed a love and a respect for the environment that I value immensely. It has shaped my love for the outdoors and even though I have had to move away to attend uni, I love going back home whenever I can.
Playing in Dignams Creek when I was little.
About 15 minutes away is the closest town, Cobargo. It is a small town that has earnt the name of the ‘working village’. There are around 500 residents if you include the many farms around the area and there is a very strong sense of community, with all of the locals willing to pitch in to help each other out. I was part of the swimming club, soccer club, rugby club and scout group, as well as always exhibited and volunteered for the annual Cobargo Show. The show was and still is, one of the highlights of the Cobargo calendar. Even though it is such a small town, the show always draws large crowds in competitors, exhibitors and visitors and is well known as a quality agricultural show. There were several years where I made it my goal to enter every youth section in the pavilion, and even many of the open sections. When I was about 12, a prize was introduced for the junior exhibitor with the highest overall point-score, so I busied myself making arts, crafts, jams, baking, growing fruit and veggies, even entered some prime compost to take out the top prize!
The Cobargo main street.
One of my other interests is art. When I was little I wanted to grow up to be an artist, but soon learnt that most artists don’t get rich and famous until they are dead! So I had to rethink my career ideas. I was lucky enough to be involved in the Jindabyne Sculpture by the Lake exhibition – a competition for local artists held each Easter Long Weekend and with from my art teacher I first entered at the age of 14.
I had always felt very strongly about using water responsibly and hence, I made a giant plug that floated out in the middle of the lake to inform people of my water-saving message. This was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the scarcity of water and the fact that we all rely on it so much, and yet we have so little that is actually able to be consumed.
My community involvement continued throughout high school, being involved in several sporting groups, community groups, the Rural Volunteer Bushfire Service and more Landcare activities. There was hardly a weekend or week night spare in my schedule! I was recognised for my efforts on Australia Day 2009, being awarded the Narooma Young Citizen of the Year.
After being awarded Young Citizen of the Year.
My HSC helped to shape what I chose to study and the last three and a half years of university really have taught me so much about the different areas of physical geography, human geography and the ways in which people interact with their environments. I have all of the theory behind me; I just need to put my ideas into practice.
Even though I am not from a farm in the traditional sense, I feel as though my upbringing really has shaped the person that I am, and what I would like to achieve out of life. Through this program I hope that I can encourage and support young Australians, and especially those in rural areas, to become involved in natural resource management and sustainable agriculture.
Wow we looking forward to working with young lady as you can imagine
The Young Farming Champions program is funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program. Art4agriculture thanks you for believing in us
We love to skite about all the exciting young people we know and we are shouting Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt’s exceptional talents from the rooftops. Megan is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Sydney on 4th September, 2012. She has been nominated for a National Landcare Award for her outstanding achievements in recruiting young people to the Landcare movement by founding the Illawarra Youth Landcare group.
Join us in voting for her in the People’s Choice Award here
You don’t have to take our word for it you can see for yourself what a superstar she is here
This is the blurb from here profile for the National Landcare Awards ……….
In 2009 Megan saw there was a need to engage more youth into Landcare activities in the area. With many Landcare and Bushcare groups having a much older membership and few recruitment efforts, she worked towards establishing a Landcare group exclusively for young people.
Much of Megan’s success comes from her constant efforts to attract attention to the group and keep volunteers engaged and learning about local Landcare issues. Many of the volunteers come into the group with no prior knowledge about natural area restoration, and Megan works alongside these volunteers to teach them the techniques and skills they need. If certain skills are beyond her knowledge or expertise, she engages other local experts in the community to teach the young volunteers about the issues of interest and sources projects which would provide a valuable opportunity for young inexperienced volunteers to increase their skills in Landcare activities.
Megan has also achieved great success in communicating and promoting the group through media and at events. Not only has she organised the group’s website and social media pages, but she has engaged a range of local and high-profile media to write stories about the group, and has worked with the young volunteers to create training DVDs which allow others who are interested in bush regeneration to develop some basic knowledge in weed removal techniques.
In order to retain existing volunteers and attract new ones, Megan has a number of exciting projects planned. Connections with adventure conservation groups such as Willow Warriors allow for weekend camping expeditions outside the region and a number of paddling projects have been planned for the warmer months. She is currently in the planning stages of a City Meets Country Landcare Expedition, which will see a team of city volunteers stay on an active farm and learn about how the farm works and the environmental issues the landholder has to deal with. She is also planning on creating a documentary with some volunteers from the group, which will delve into why young people are involved in Landcare in the Illawarra region and what some of the environmental issues facing the region are.
Megan is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Sydney on 4th September, 2012. Commencing in 1991, the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and groups that make a valuable contribution to the land and coast where they live and work.
The Archibull Prize for 2012 is up and away. If your school would like to participate Expression of Interest forms can be found here
This year the students will investigate the theme “What does it take to sustainably feed and clothe my community for a day” and the industries they will study are Cattle and Sheep, Wool, Dairy and Cotton
We have been lucky enough to enlist the expertise of Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia Education Coordinator to help us tweak the 2012 curriculum and what a little treasure she is.
Here is a bit of background on the gorgeous Sophie ……..
Combining a love of teaching with her love of the land, Sophie says ramping up the education activities of the cotton industry – an industry which is overwhelmingly innovative, technologically advanced and driven from within to be sustainable is an opportunity to combine her skills and interests to achieve something genuinely worthwhile and important.
Sophie with Cotton Young Farming Champions Tamsin Quirk and Katie Broughton
Sophie says after working in the Media and Communications a field which is all about taking charge of how an organisation or industry is represented, she moved into primary school teaching from there following her dream to do something more altruistic.
She says coming from a family farming background, has given her an awareness of sustainable farming practices.
“I guess I have always been in agriculture without classifying it as such. My family have farmed for over four generations and it is a bit of a pilgrimage going back to the ancestral property in Scotland.”
“Growing up we had a small sheep property on the Lachlan River which we farmed with my extended family. We would also occasionally head up to my Grandfather’s property in Narrabri. When he bought it, it was partly grazing country but he gradually set it up for cropping, moving more into irrigated cotton as time went by.”
“My parents now own a grazing property near Woodstock and are keen on natural sequence farming.”
Sophie says since joining Cotton Australia her favourite experience has been the willingness of people to share their knowledge, experience and ideas and work collaboratively to get results.
“Broadly my role is to engage teachers, students and learning institutions in cotton and agriculture and promote a positive the positive story about agriculture to the next generation.”
“I’m looking forward to helping create more school-industry partnerships that improve teacher and student perceptions of the industry and encourage more students into agribusiness. I also excited about developing curriculum resources that are credible, objective and well used by teachers that raise students awareness of sustainable cotton production.”
Yes and ditto to that and we are very much enjoying working with Sophie
This blog post is an excerpt from a COTTON AUSTRALIA STAFF PROFILE on SOPHIE DAVIDSON Wednesday, 25th July 2012
Today’s guest post is by Angela Bradburn. Angela is a Policy Officer at Cotton Australiaand recently visited Art4agriculture headquarters at Jamberoo where she go up close and personal with some of the cows.
The colourful ones
and the more traditional variety
and the Archies at Sydney Show
Cotton Australia is the peak industry body for Australia’s cotton growing industry and a proud supporting partner of two of Art4agriculture’s signature programs The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions program
Angela is one of a growing cohort of young people from non farming backgrounds going places fast in agriculture
In her role at Cotton Australia, Angela contributes to policy formulation and advocacy as well as acting as a reference point for industry organisations, government and other stakeholder groups on key policy and research issues. Key policy issues she is working on include climate change and carbon faming policies, education, labour and workforce issues. She also works with representative grower panels to provide research and development direction to cotton industry.
Here is Angela’s story ………
I didn’t grow up on a farm, and have mostly lived in metropolitan areas all my life, but I am very proud to be working in agriculture, and currently for the cotton industry which is providing me with so many opportunities to grow and achieve.
I hope by sharing my story and my career path and experiences I can help to convey that there are exciting careers in agriculture aplenty.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at University of Sydney in 2004, and have worked for the last seven years in agriculture and natural resource management policy and programs, across government, in private consulting and now industry. I have had many great opportunities, colleagues and mentors and challenging and interesting work environments along the way.
I’ve been based on Sydney and Canberra for most of my career, but thankfully with very strong grass roots ties. I’ve spent lots of time in contrasting environments – on the farm and in rural and regional Australia as well as in the board room and corridors of Parliament House.
The thing is my career could have gone many different ways, and there was no lack of choice – once I got into the right networks.
Angela with husband Scott enjoy the view at Art4agriculture HQ
People are often curious about why I chose to do agriculture. At school I liked science, plants and animals and was also interested in human health. Looking back, agriculture is perfect for this as it touches on all of these things. The interconnectedness of environment, agriculture, food and health is what farming systems are all about!
I spent some time living on a hobby farm in Kangaroo Valley – this definitely sparked an interest. I also ended up doing agriculture as an elective at school and our school had a farm, which was a lot of fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed studying agriculture at the University of Sydney, and was very glad I fell into it. The degree had a strong theoretical science base but involved practical experience on-farm and in agricultural businesses across many industries – an important mix from my perspective. We were a tight knit group that went through, and many of us are still friends and keep in touch. Even just looking at my class of 2004 paints a fascinating and impressive picture of the array of career opportunities in agriculture.
During my time at university I had great opportunities provided to me by the cotton industry. I managed to secure an undergraduate scholarship provided by the Cotton CRC, to support me through my last two years, and in addition I undertook a Summer Scholarship– also an initiative run by the Cotton CRC where you work on a small research project with industry researchers.
I had a great time working on this based in Narrabri at the Australian Cotton Research Institute. This time in a rural community and working in the industry and its research community definitely built my appreciation and an affinity for the industry. The Summer Scholarship program is a highly successful model and I think it’s very important to provide these sorts of pathways for young people to help them in making career choices (it’s great to see other initiatives out there such as the Horizon Scholarship ). It’s wonderful be back in the industry that gave me so many opportunities during my studies and to be interacting with a lot of the same people that I did during my uni years.
After graduating I was lucky enough to secure a position within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Graduate Program. Looking back, this was a really big foot in the door and a good place to start a career. This is a structured program where we rotated through areas of government and received training, leadership and capacity building opportunities. I worked in policy and technical roles across Biosecurity Australia (BA), Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and the Rural Policy and Innovation Division.
From here I worked for four years as a consultant, for a company called Hassall & Associates (now GHD). Our team provided advice to government and industry to help improve the management of natural resources; effectiveness of industry and government programs; and sustainability and competitiveness of rural and regional Australia.
Now, working at Cotton Australia I continue to be excited by agriculture’s bright future, and the passionate, bright and resilient people that make up the industry.
Angela with Sophie Davidson ( Education Officer for Cotton Australia)
One of the things I enjoy about my current role is that working for an industry body, you have a unique opportunity to work with the other representative groups to present a unified voice for agriculture more broadly. Cotton Australia is a member of other larger groups (such as the National Farmer Federation), and its rewarding working side by side with our colleagues, sharing our experiences and striving for positive change.
The cotton industry itself is comprised of very inspiring people – lots of young industry leaders, women and generally innovative and passionate business people.
“Did you know that the average of farmer in the cotton industry is 39 and it is estimated that in Australia 40% of the farms have women as partners in family farms?. If you didn’t know that I bet you know Australia produces the best cotton in the world and we clothe 500 million people.”
One of the highlights of my role this year was undertaking a PIARN Master Class*.
The Inaugural PIARN Master Class with Professor Snow Barlow
The ‘Master Class’ program has been developed and is funded by the Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network (PIARN), out of the University of Melbourne. Run as a short, intensive program, the initiative aims to connect future research, policy makers and industry leaders with on-farm activity so that primary industries research and development can be more relevant and effective, particularly in managing key climate challenges.
I joined a group of 20 from across different agricultural industries, to take part in three modules held in different locations across rural and regional Australia over late 2011/early 2012. The program involved farm and site visits, interactive workshops and open forums with producers, leading researchers, policy makers and key industry figures.
The Master Class program provided an opportunity to enhance and build valuable knowledge and networks with policy makers, other industries and researchers.
As well as providing a chance to observe in the field how different farming groups are successfully applying knowledge, the interactive nature of the program means that I will also get to contribute a ‘cotton industry perspective’.
I enjoy remaining connected to both my industry and across agriculture at all levels – policy makers, industry and farmers. Social media is excellent for that and I invite you to follow me on twitter @angelajbradburn
I also value being active in professional associations. In Sydney there is actually a very vibrant network of people who work in agriculture and agribusiness. A lot of us come together as part of the group Farm Writers,which holds events, brings us key speakers and provide a collective forum. Agribuzz for example is a smart-casual event that facilitates professional networking and provides professional development opportunities. Over drinks and canapés, our members and friends exchange business intelligence and views, enjoy brief presentations from key note speakers and take the chance to meet agribusiness’s leaders and leaders-in–the-making.
A career in agriculture – give it serious thought. I did and I have never look back
Today’s guest blog comes from Jo Roberston who you guessed it grazes buffalo on her farm. I have been looking forward to hearing Jo’s story because I know nothing about buffalo. So thank you very much Jo for sharing your story
A bit about me
Hi, my name is Joanna Robertson. I have completed my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England in Armidale at the end of 2011. Since finishing uni I have been working in Armidale for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries as a Graduate Officer, currently in extension (beef cattle, sheep and agronomy).
I grew up on a mixed enterprise property at Tooraweenah in Central West New South Wales with numerous different crops and livestock.
Me and Gucci
The livestock included sheep, cattle and water buffalo, definitely not your every day farm animal. My parents had both been in the Northern Territory where they had worked with water buffalo, of the Swamp variety, on improving meat quality and domestication practices. Our foundation herd of buffalo came from the Townsville research station in QLD. Other animals were bought from various locations around the eastern states, some in SA, including Dubbo Western Plains Zoo. At our peak we had around 100 breeding cows plus their offspring (steers and heifers).
Mum, Dad and myself (in the middle) with some of the original ‘girls’ that were brought down from the Townsville research station.
When they returned to “Tara” they brought what they knew with them as well as maintaining also sheep, cattle and crop enterprises. So as a kid I was lucky enough to work with all these animals and take care of the inevitable poddys 1 that came with having livestock. We also looked after some of the local wildlife which led to numerous pet kangaroos, birds (including an owl), reptiles and even the occasional echidna.
Picture of me and a joey
I attended the local primary school in Tooraweenah, a small school with a very big heart. Tooraweenah Primary School has been dubbed the ‘school with a view’ because it has the Warrumbungle mountains as its backdrop.
After finishing at Tooraweenah I then attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange as a boarder. While at high school I took up showing cattle with an Australian Lowline breeder, Tammy Breuer. Tammy took me under her wing after I had a couple of bad experiences with bigger breeds of cattle and taught me everything I know today. Tammy took me to all the regional shows that my school commitments would allow me to attend. I also accompanied Tammy to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne royal shows. In 2004 my parents encouraged me to break in a steer and prepare it for the Dubbo national steer show. Murray, or as he was more affectionately known, Muzza, was a Murray Grey x Limousin steer. While I still had a lot to learn about the nutrition side of preparing and animal to show I had learnt a lot about grooming and breaking in animals. Tammy was there to help me every step of the way and provided support and guidance where needed. Muzza lead me to Grand Champion parade that year which was an amazing achievement.
Muzza and Jo at the Dubbo Steer Show 2004
After regaining my confidence with cattle I went on to work for numerous other studs with countless different breeds including Herefords, Angus, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Brahman, Limousin, and Charolais just to name a few. Tammy has been an huge inspiration and influence in my life. She passed away early last year and I miss her immensely.
Tammy and “the girls” at Sydney Royal Show 2005 with the senior champion bull and grand champion Lowline.
In 2007 I took a year off between finishing high school and starting university. I spent a few months up in the Northern Territory on a small by territory standards) family owned station, Sunday Creek. Sunday Creek station, located 3 hours south of Katherine, is owned and operated by Tom and Bev Stockwell along with their 3 kids Peta, Brian and Claire. While I was there they also had a French exchange student and a Canadian whom both came out to experience outback Australia. This made for some very interesting days in the saddle and in the yards. All mustering was done on horse back, which for me was both a challenge and great fun. Growing up I had always wanted a horse but hadn’t been able to have one and had only ridden friend’s horses. Working with horses everyday was like a dream come true for me. The first horse I was put on was a bombproof17 hand ( 5 feet 8 inches tall at the withers ) horse named Hercules. While he was a wonderful, quiet horse though I constantly found myself looking for termite mounds to stand on just to mount him! I rode a couple of different horses while I was there which was great and I learnt a lot about the different personalities of horses.
Me and one of the many station horses on Sunday Creek
For our weekends off we occasionally went to the local pub which was only half an hour away. The Daly Waters pub was always an extremely busy place and popular tourist destination, especially during the dry season as it was a popular tourist destination. I also attended the Daly Waters camp draft which was a great day out for the whole family.
Me on Maddie, one of the kids ponies, at the Daly Waters Camp draft
One of my main responsibilities while at Sunday Creek was to look after the ever growing number of poddy calves. This included both the bottle fed poddys and pellet fed poddys The pellets are high in both energy and protein and this gives the poddy calves the necessary boost to keep them healthy and growing well
Friday, my first poddy calf of the season He was a Brahman x Droughtmaster. I managed to teach him to shake hands for his milk every day. I was sad to leave him behind.
Working in the Northern Territory opened my eyes up to just how different extensive cattle production is compared to what is almost considered intensive cattle production in the south eastern states. On Sunday Creek we did lick runs every week which involved putting out a loose lick supplement, similar to lick blocks more commonly used in the southern states. These supplements are used all year round. There are 2 main supplement types; One for the wet season and one for the dry season. These two licks are also formulated for weaners, as they can’t go straight onto a full grown cattle lick. The licks are formulated to suit the age and needs of the animals being fed as well as the different times of the year.
Cows tucking into loose lick at Sunday Creek (the black thing hanging down is a scratching bar that is treated with chemical for the animals to rub on to help protect them from buffalo fly, a prevalent pest in the NT)
Me and my water buffalo!
Growing up with water buffalo enabled me to see a side of livestock production that most people don’t get to see. It also enabled me to see the joys and challenges of working in a new and emerging industry. Many of my earliest memories are of watching my dad work the buffalo through the yards: marking, weaning, pregnancy testing and sending them off for sale. Many people believe that buffalo are hard to handle but if they are handled often this is not the case. Like most livestock, the more you handle them, the quieter they are.
I would also accompany my parents to the abattoirs so I was exposed to the paddock to plate concept from an early age and it has given me a greater appreciation of the critical control points that exist between the yards at home and the knocking box of the abattoir. Meat quality has undergone a lot of research in most meat products. The buffalo industry came up with TenderBuff branding in the 1980s to ensure meat that was to be sold was of the highest quality. Its similar to the MSA grading system used for beef.
Once I started university in 2008 I took more of an interest in the buffalo industry from a research and promotion perspective looking at increasing awareness of buffalo and their products in Australia. In December 2008 I accompanied my Dad and Barry Lemcke (principle buffalo research scientist) to Cairns in northern Queensland to have a look at a prospective buffalo project to be funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). While we were up there we visited the Millaa Millaa buffalo dairy owned by Mitch Humphries up on the Atherton Tablelands.
Riverine buffalo cows in the holding yard waiting patiently to be milked.
In 2009 I travelled up to Darwin to spend 4 weeks during semester break working with Barry Lemcke, buffalo and cattle research officer NT Department of Resources. While I was up there I was lucky enough to work on both cattle and buffalo projects.
7/8 Riverine x 1/8 swamp buffalo cows with calves at foot. Beatrice Hill research station NT.
During my time on the Beatrice Hill Research Station, west of Humpty Doo, one of the OUTBACK magazines free lance journalists turned up to do a story on the buffalo industry. I was lucky enough to not only be quoted in the article but to also get my photo in there. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! It is an excellent article and I encourage any who can find a copy to have a read as it gives a great history of buffalo in Australia and where the industry is now heading.
OUTBack magazine cover of the Buffalo Industry feature story. Issue 67 Oct/Nov 2009
Also in 2009 I attended the inaugural New Rural Industries Australia (NRIA) conference held on the Gold Coast, QLD as a representative for the NSW buffalo Industry. It was a very interesting conference with many varied industries being represented. Industries included: crocodiles, olives, truffles, camels and native flowers just to name a few. It was an excellent opportunity for some of these smaller industries to get together, network and learn from each others opportunities and mistakes.
NRIA conference 2010, Jo holding a crocodile from Karoona Crocodile farm QLD.
I was supported by other buffalo producers from QLD, Margret Thompson and Mitch Humphries, at the conference who supplied some of the cheese products that are made from buffalo milk (mozzarella and feta). Buffalo cheese was also on the menu of the conference as the chef tried to use every product that was being promoted at the conference in the menu over the 2 days. It made for some very interesting meals!
Since 2009 I have been looking at increasing my own herd with the addition of a bull. Unfortunately he was not as fertile as we had hope and has only produced one calf over the past 3 years. However, I must take into account the differences in gestation between buffalo and cattle. The gestation period of a buffalo is actually 10.5 months where as cattle are only 9. Buffalo calves also stay with their mothers for a lot longer than cattle. Buffalo calves are weaned when they are 12 months or older where as beef cattle calves can be weaned much earlier. For now my herd remains small and is just for my own enjoyment but hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, I will be able to produce enough buffalo meat to supply a market and I have done some extensive market research. Hopefully a saltbush fed buffalo product will be on the menu at the farmers markets near you soon!
Kyle, my first swamp buffalo bull
Kyle’s first calf, a little heifer calf, called Kylie (she is about 6 months old here)
Unfortunately, due to old age, Kyle passed away about a month ago and we now have a new bull calf (around 2 years old), yet to be named. He came from a buffalo producer in SA. He was delivered on ANZAC day so we thought a name relating to ANZAC day would be a good one. Any ideas?
My new little swamp buffalo bull
A little bit about buffalos
There are currently two main types of buffalo in Australia the Swamp buffalo and Riverine buffalo. Swamp buffalo are the buffalo commonly found in the Northern Territory. They have much bigger, sweeping horns, lighter grey colour and less hair. Where as Riverine buffalo have short, tightly curled horns, a lot more hair and are also a lot fatter than the Swamp buffalo.
Buffalo have the same names as cattle; females are cows or heifers (if they haven’t had a calf yet), steers (castrated males) and bulls (intact males).
Swamp Buffalo- at home, New South Wales
Riverine Buffalo- at Beatrice Hill research station, Northern Territory
Next year (2013) I will be attending the World Buffalo Congress, which is to be held in Phuket, Thailand, as a representative for Australia. This will be an amazing experience which will allow me to network with like minded people across the globe as well as hear about some of the latest advances in buffalo research.
I could write about buffalo all day, however for now I will leave it at that and if anyone would like to know more the Australian Buffalo Industry Council website is http://buffaloaustralia.org/ it has links to all of the state bodies and information about the products produced by buffalo producers.
Last year a friend of mine, Jo Newton, and myself came up with an idea of hosting a networking/socialising function to get University of New England agriculture degree related students together with agricultural industry employers. This was the start of the Farming Futures Industry Dinner. It was organised by the Rural Science Undergraduate Society (RSUS) in conjunction with Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE). We had 2 speakers, both former agriculture degree related graduates from UNE, to talk about where your degree can take you and opportunities that exist in the Agriculture sector in Australia. Our fist speaker was Dr Geoff Fox, former employee of the World Bank. He inspired everyone with the number of diverse careers he had had since he finished at UNE. Our second speaker was Troy Setter who is the current Chief Operating Officer for the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). He highlighted the opportunities you can have in a very short period of time if you are willing to work for it. Chris Russel our master of ceremonies for the night, was a hit with everyone.
Farming Futures Industry Dinner organising committee with VIP guests Dr Geoff Fox, Jo Newton, Chris Russell, Troy Setter, Jo Robertson, Sarah Foster and UNE Vice Chancellor Prof Jim Barber
Overall, it was a great night with a good number of Agriculture industry employers/leaders and university students. This year the dinner will be hosted again but this time a careers fair will be held beforehand during the day. This allows the students to have a look around at what is available in a more formal setting then discuss with the employers at the dinner, in a more informal setting, the opportunities available to them. As I am no longer a student at the uni I hope to attend the dinner as a representative of the NSW DPI graduate program.
Jo on Merry, a poddy Riverine buffalo calf at Beatrice Hill Research Station NT.
Agriculture is a very diverse industry in which a large variety of jobs can be found. Anyone wanting to be involved in agriculture can be! There is a place for everyone, you don’t have to have grown up on a property to be involved or to get involved.
Today’s guest post is by Steph Grills another young Australian food and fibre producer who is very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries in her family and she is very keen to carry on that tradition
The Steph Grills story …………
In the late 1600’s, John Grills and his wife Urah, moved to St. Mellion, Cornwell England, where John practiced the trade of a worsted-comber 1. Four generations later, John (IV) and his wife Rebecca, decided to emigrate to Australia, settling in Maitland, NSW where John was a soldier, stonecutter and farmer. Their son Thomas, moved to Saumarez, Armidale where he married Ellen O’Connor and selected land on the eastern fall country of the New England Tablelands in 1881. Thomas and Ellen had 11 children, who went on to have 73 grandchildren, many of whom remained on the land. This property, along with later purchases, remains in the family to this day.
Agriculture was also very prominent in my mothers’ side of the family. In 1833, in Langport, Somersetshire England, John Turner married his wife Sophia. Four children later, they decided to make the journey to Australia in 1849. Initially settling in Adelaide they followed the Gold Rush to Victoria where they settled in Adelong in 1860. Here, John invented the first known steam crushing mill for gold. They also erected a school and were well respected in the area. The family continued the Agricultural tradition and bred cattle and sheep, as well as operating a dairy, wine and chaff making industries. One of their sons, Octavius (Doc), moved to the New England area which is where my mums’ family have remained.
After selecting the original country in 1881, a further two blocks of land were purchased over the next 40 years by Thomas and Ellen. Ellen went on to leave this land to the women of her family, until her three grandsons took it over as a partnership in 1960. The partnership was dissolved towards the end of the decade, and country was split into three separate properties. My father has gone to great lengths over his lifetime, to get back all of this country to once again make it one, and this is where I had the privilege of growing up as a seventh generation Aussie farmer. You would be quite right to say ‘it’s in my blood’.
The start of a family farm …
My grandfather took on the mammoth task of changing his block into a productive property. The 2200 ha were split into just 5 paddocks at the time, the soil had never seen superphosphate, bare ground was prominent under the heavily timbered country and rabbits were a constant problem. He set about developing the land by ringbarking trees, aerial seeding the country and also spreading super phosphate by plane.
My Grandfather standing amongst the ringbarked trees
The country was first improved on the ground with two TE 20 Ferguson tractors, pulling 7ft gear to put down introduced grasses to improve the productivity of the country in 1954. In 1959, the country benefited from the first aerial fly out of super phosphate in bagged form, which was hand lifted into the plane in 50kg bags. The ground application of super was also put out with the improved pasture seed. In 1972, the first woolshed was built on the northern end of the property. Prior to this, sheep would need to be walked anywhere up to 15 km to the other end of the original property, which my uncle then owned following the partnership being dissolved in 1967.
Current Woolshed (extended in late 90’s)
The original livestock were Herefords and Merinos. Market demands and trends have meant a third of the herd remains as a Hereford base, a third is aimed at the Angus premium market and the remaining third aimed at the crossbred market, where high growth rates can be obtained through hybrid vigour. Australian beef is part of the worlds’ highest quality meat, known for its consistency and being safe and disease-free.
In 1964, while already having a Merino flock, the first ewes were purchased from the Fulloons, which are now the sort after ‘Cressbrook’ bloodlines. Fine merino wool and mutton production is still an important part of the production on the property. In the mid – late ‘70s, fat lamb production was introduced, however, their feed requirements were found to be too high for return and they were phased out in the early 1990’s. Wool continues to play an important role and is somewhat iconic on the New England tablelands.
Over the years, improved pasture management has led to a much higher yields and efficiency per hectare. Originally we grew permanent pastures of cocksfoot, fescues, ryegrass and clovers. These days, a high-performance short-term pasture is sown down which includes high performance ryegrasses and herb species such as plantain, chicory and clover to provide finishing feed for fattening cattle, before establishing a high performance permanent pasture.
Fertiliser usage on the property has also come a long way over the last century. In the early days, single super was a major investment, with large returns. Currently however, although still important, fertilising the country has moved along with the advancements of soil and pasture testing. The addition of lime and natural products/by-products of other industries, such as chook manure have proven to be worthwhile both in a sustainable, environmental sense and also in regard to return in improved growth of pasture. We have now adapted and are developing the country through means of biological farming; introducing ‘good-bugs’ back into the country.
Surviving three droughts over this time stands testament to those who were looking after it at the time. Future dry times are sure to return cyclically but with the use of sustainable agriculture, increased knowledge and better management practices we are confident we will be resilient.
Like many Australian farmers our family are dedicated to undertaking weed control, pest and disease management and habitat and biodiversity enhancement.
We are testing both our soils and our pastures and creating nutrient maps so we can pinpoint exactly what the soil needs in order to remain ‘fuelled-up’ to continue being sustainably productive.
We have fenced of our waterways and have dedicated areas put aside to increase biodiversity and provide safe habitats for native flora and fauna.
Growing up a Grills…
With such a large extended family and great community spirit, growing up here was something I’ll cherish forever. I have four sisters, three of which are married with 7 kids between them. Horses were a massive part of my childhood and provided many a great time, which still continues today.
Starting early – 12 months old with my Dad
I grew up with them, not ever remembering even how I learnt to ride. My father was a keen and talented campdrafter, whilst us kids competed in ribbon days, and attended pony camp and travelled to shows all around.
Pony Club in 1995
We moved back into the Polocrosse scene when I was about 10, and haven’t looked back since.
Steph says catch me if you can
Cattle and sheep work was simply just a way of life. Very rarely were there ‘days off’, as there was always something that needed to be done or checked. There are many great memories growing up mustering cattle or being lucky and being ‘let into’ the big shearing shed when we were just tiny. From heading out at dusk with Dad, probably when I was meant to be having a bath and getting ready for dinner and bed, to check on a heifer calving, or to go down to give a poddy one last pat goodnight.
It’s a passion instilled as a youngster that I wouldn’t change for quids. I went off to boarding school at 11 years old and counted the hours when I would get to go home of a weekend. The school cattle team brought me some reprieve and ‘filled the gap’ a little. It was here that I had the opportunity to go on and win the National title for Beef Cattle Parader at the Hobart Show in 2002.
Winning at Hobart Royal 2002
It wasn’t until my final two years of school where I was able to study Agriculture and Biology, that I really found school somewhat enjoyable. So I threw myself into my studies, especially for these two units, and came out the other end of my HSC, with the award for Agriculture, Hospitality and a merit award for Biology. I was accepted early into University through the School/College Recommendation Admission Scheme. However, university wasn’t at the top of my list. I went home to work for twelve months on the farm and decided that I needed some qualifications to back me up. I completed my Certificate IV in Agriculture through a traineeship program at home. But from here I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to follow on with Agriculture and I loved the livestock industry, so I enrolled at UNE, to study my Bachelor of Livestock Science.
Although different paths have taken me away from completing this until now, I have learnt a lot in the past few years and have made some wonderful friends across the country.
I even moved to Mungindi, NSW for 2 ½ years to become the offsider in a broadacre spraying operation. Although my family had had cattle on agistment around Moree and I had grown up with a few friends out that way, I knew very little about the cropping industry and its a time which I will cherish both for the knowledge learnt and the great friendships gained.
The future of Australian Agriculture…
I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. So many people are now voicing their support for Australia’s food and fibre producers, from all different walks of lifes and as a farmer this is so rewarding to see. No longer are farmers and all those working in the industry, just sitting on the fence, just like me they are starting to share their stories with the community. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level. I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career
“Life on The Land – Don’t ever give up!”
1. WOOLCOMBER ( Taken from Family Tree magazine November 1996 Vol 13 no 1)
Woolcombing was part of the process of worsted manufacture. In the manufacture of woollen textiles the raw wool was carded to lay the tangled fibres into roughly parallel strands so that they could be more easily drawn out for spinning. Wool used for worsted cloth required more thorough treatment for not only had the fibres to be laid parallel to each other but unwanted short staple wool also had to be removed. This process was called combing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid 18th century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.
The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches – originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool the comber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way. When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound. The noils or noyles ( short fibres left after combing) were unsuitable for the worsted trade so were sold to manufacturers of baize or coarse cloth.
Art4agriculuture takes great pleasure in introducing you to one of our Young Farming Ambassadors. Our ambassadors are young people in the agrifood sector who have dedicated large chunk’s of their lives to promoting agriculture beyond the farm gate selflessly on behalf of their industry and I am highly confident you will see why Kathleen Allan fits the bill perfectly
The Kathleen Allan story for your pleasure ……………….
Hi my name is Kathleen Allan and I am excited about the future of Australian agriculture. I would love to share some of my story – the yarn so far…..
Kathleen and Yoda
I’m a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a farmer, an AGvocate, an AG-educator, a bit of a foodie and a public servant. I am not sure that I do these “jobs” in the correct order or as well as I would like. I am a typical country mum – a jack of all trades and master of none! Like so many others, I try to do everything and seem to have time for nothing.
My family, lives on a property on the Boorowa River near Yass in southern NSW, where we run a self-replacing, superfine merino flock and operate our award-winning small business Farm Animal Resource Management (farm) – an agricultural education business that was established in 1994 to promote the importance of agriculture in an increasingly urbanised community. Putting my foodie hat on, we also raise very edible breeds of waterfowl and poultry, fatten pigs, and run a range of “house” cows that are used in our educational displays that also provide the raw ingredients for some great home-made cheeses and ice-cream. That’s value-adding at its best – from the paddock to the plate! Oh yes, then there is our Shetland pony, much loved by all of us, especially my young daughters, Bella and Molly.
As a fifth generation farmer, agriculture is in my blood, and from a very early age I developed a love of farming and animals. I was obsessed with James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” and like so many teenage girls, I wanted to be a vet. A highlight of my high school years was time spent with my godfather during holidays on King Island in Tasmania. He was the only private vet on the Island, as well as filling additional roles for the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments.
With schooling behind me and a “not quite Vet Science score”, I commenced a Bachelor of Rural Science at the University of New England in Armidale. University was great – a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. My first 12 months at Uni was spent at St Albert’s College (Albies), and at the end of first year, I took up a position as a Riding School Instructor at the New England Girls School. This position allowed me to have my horse from home as well as gave me suitable “digs” to concentrate on study and assignments. The 4 years of study at Uni flew by and I majored in animal health and sheep and wool production, with an honours thesis on Ovine Johnes Disease. Becoming a vet didn’t seem quite as important as I completed my studies and further developed my interest in the sheep and wool Industry. A highlight in my final year was coming third in the Australian National Merino Breeding Skills Competition and receiving the School of Rural Science Deans Prize. But it wasn’t all sheep and study at uni – I met my future husband David while at UNE, and we both graduated with a Bachelor of Rural Science – my degree with Honours in 2008.
I love my wool
Just weeks before I finished my degree, my younger sister Lisa-Jane died suddenly at the age of 16. It was a very tough time for all of us and it was so difficult to return to Armidale to finish those last weeks, cope with exams and submit my thesis. So when I did return to Yass, I threw myself into farm life, helping with our, now struggling, display business and got involved with all sorts of community activities before having a stint in the USA as a Riding Instructor at a Summer Holiday Camp in Maine. The added responsibility that entailed, plus the distance from home, turned out to be a great tonic for me.
Back home after a wonderful adventure, I became actively involved in the local Yass Show and the Royal Canberra Show as an exhibitor, steward, judge and committee member. My mother was elected the first female president of the Yass Show Society, and the great part of having your mum as president of the local show is you are guaranteed to be taken along for the ride, whether you want to be or not.. I managed the farmyard nursery for several years and was a steward and committee member in the merino sheep section, while also taking on the duties of Publicity Officer. Wearing this hat, one of the highlights of my time with our local show was when we managed to get city TV cameras out to the event for some excellent coverage! I was a Showgirl and an inaugural member of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Youth Group. These experiences were very important for me and I encourage any young people interested in being part of agriculture and regional areas to get involved in their local show. This is a great way to contribute to your community and an excellent way to meet other passionate and enthusiastic people.
Probably one of my greatest achievements when I returned home to Yass after finishing university was my involvement in developing the Johnes Disease management plans for shows – for sheep, cattle, goats and alpacas. This gave me first hand experience developing and applying practical risk management strategies to ensure continuation of sheep showing in NSW. I got to work with Commonwealth and State and Territory animal health regulators and policy developers as well as vets, sheep industry representatives and Royal and State Show Society associations. A satisfying and significant application of my thesis and uni studies!
In 2001 I won the NSW Young Australian of the Year Award for Regional Initiatives for my work contributing to the management of Ovine Johnes Disease and the promotion of agriculture. I was thrilled to be later invited to be an Australia Day Ambassador for Gunning during the Year of the Outback. In 2002 I was awarded the UNE Young Distinguished Alumni Prize for my contribution to agriculture. A very proud moment, but one of the most humbling experiences for me, was being asked to present the Occasional Address at the UNE Graduation Ceremony that year – amidst many excited graduands and in front of those awe inspiring academics and community leaders that make up the fabric of this prestigious university..
Agriculture is not just farming
For the last 12 years I have worked for the Australian government in Canberra. I am what is known as a public servant. During this time, I have held several roles that are all very relevant to the future sustainability of Australian agriculture. Initially working in technical and scientific roles, for the last 8 years, after finding a real love for communication and stakeholder engagement, I have worked in a number of professional communication roles in the areas of agvet chemical regulation, animal welfare, food policy and water management. I am currently working on chemicals and plastics regulation reform – an important issue given all the challenges facing the Australian manufacturing industry. Access to well regulated chemicals is crucial throughout the agriculture supply chain. I really enjoy working for the Australian government and being part of the Australian Public Service as it offers diversity, great career development opportunities, excellent pay and conditions as well as job satisfaction and the flexibility to pursue other passions.
From the paddock to the playground
Breast Cancer Prevention Promotion Day
For the last 18 years I have been part of our highly successful, award-winning family business,farm animal resource management(f.a.r.m).Under the f.a.r.m. banner, we provide farm animal and agricultural education displays at schools, festivals, and agricultural and royal shows throughout Australia. These displays are a way of improving the understanding of where our food and fibre comes from. I am very proud to have worked closely with my mum as she passionately endeavours to help city families understand and value the importance of agriculture.
We have done some pretty amazing displays and events over that time including managing the first live birthing centre in the ACT, successfully staging the biggest farmyard nursery for the last Royal Easter Show at the old grounds at Moore Park and hosting the longest running farmyard nursery display at a major festival – our Patting Paddock was at Floriade in Canberra for 30 days! Our well known cow milking demonstrations have been featured at the National Science Festival, Floriade and other major exhibitions. We have had a cow in the Channel 9 studio in Sydney for Mornings with Kerri-Anne, featured with the cows in several children’s TV shows, as well as managing live TV broadcasts with some rather high profile news and weather presenters. We had our farm/B&S ute and poll dorset wether in a huge chesty bonds shearers singlet as part of the Patting Paddock display at the Deniliquin Ute Muster. And yes, there was that “Farmer wants a Wife” episode too! Last year we did a full cow milking and dairy products display on the lawns outside the ABC studio in Canberra, in full view of all passing traffic, and the program was broadcast live for 2 hours. We have managed media launches for major industry associations at venues such as the Exhibition Park in Canberra, the National Convention Centre and Old Parliament House. To extend the diversity of our work, we have also been known to don period costume at some major heritage events throughout the ACT region.
Our “Farm to You” education programs, Wonderful Wool, Exciting Eggs, Fabulous Fibres and Marvellous Milk have been developed over the last 10 years with the culmination being the creation and staging of a series of Milking Barns at major shows including the Canberra Royal Show, Sydney Royal Easter Show, Royal Adelaide Show, Ekka in Brisbane and the Royal Melbourne Show. The statistics are scary! At last count, our team of wonderful cows have probably done more than 1200 Milking Barn sessions, allowing nearly ½ million people to learn “where milk comes from”.
Royal Melbourne Show Team
The work of farm is all about ‘bridging the city country divide’, teaching city children and families where our food and fibre comes from and promoting the importance of agriculture. As practicing farmers we are passionate about our job and are committed to providing hands-on opportunities for city families to enjoy and learn about our livestock industries, understand modern agriculture, and hopefully pursue a career in this industry of the future. That is why I am so excited about 2012 being the Australian Year of the Farmer. This year-long celebration of the vital role farmers play in feeding, clothing and housing us all, is long overdue and the Governor General’s words in launching the Year ring very true – “its purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed –to our rich rural history”. In doing so it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes along the way. Recently mum and I were thrilled to accept an invitation to act as Champions for the Australian Year of the Farmer.
To celebrate the role that farming and agriculture plays in Australian life and share some of our experiences we were really pleased to be part of FarmDay in May. On a very wet and windy day – the southern tablelands at its best – we hosted six families at ‘Bindaree’ for a day of fun and friendship. We did sheep shearing, cow milking, cream separating and butter making, as well as a farm walk to see some of the revegetation and rehabilitation work we have undertaken with Greening Australia over the last 12 years.
I think the highlight for the younger children visiting the farm was going for a pony ride in pouring rain! We finished the day in front of the warm fire with some hot soup, crusty bread and home-made haloumi for the adults while the children managed some very sheepish craft activities and demolished ‘those sheep cupcakes’……
The Legendary Farm Day Sheep Cup Cakes ( more on these in another post)
I love superfine merinos and the wool they produce. Inspired by the legacy of a grandfather I never met – a very talented sheep breeder and woolclasser with an eye for a good-framed animal carrying a clean, white, soft-handling fleece, I have developed a real passion for sheep and wool. Motivated by my mothers drive to pursue this same dream to produce high quality wool on a relatively small scale, I have been able to maintain this involvement with the fibre I love. Wool is an amazing product – it’s natural and versatile, has a timeless history and an exciting and sustainable future.
Nan Jane and Bella
For a long time I have had this romantic idea that it would be great to wear something made from our wool, and given the size of the Australian wool industry you might be surprised to know that this is not that easy to achieve.
Molly in the wool
The Bindareelan Wool concept was conceived in 2008 when it became very obvious that there was a real demand for premium quality Australian merino wool products suitable for use in an increasingly popular handicraft market. This demand coupled with an aim to diversify and value-add the family’s high quality but relatively small annual wool clip and low-value coloured wool into a boutique product led to the launch of Bindareelan Wool.
Our location in the Capital region, an area renowned for an interest in paddock to plate and therefore, grass to garment, with consumers enjoying a higher than average disposable income, means we are ideally placed to position our product. Based on high quality raw wool from white commercial superfine merinos and a small flock of coloured merinos, used in our educational displays, Bindareelan supplies a range of superfine merino wool products. This range includes individual raw fleeces, scoured wool, wool tops, felting batts and 8ply yarn in skeins or balls in a range of white and natural colours, available direct to buyers or through local specialty yarn and handicraft stores and markets. We think Bindareelan Wool is an exciting initiative tailored to meet the 21st century resurgence in interest in using natural, clean, sustainable fibres.
Recently I attended a forum hosted as part of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Blueprint for Australian Agriculture consultation process. At the end of the forum, we were asked to comment on our vision for Australian agriculture. My vision for Australian agriculture is:
Australian agriculture – a diverse, inclusive and coordinated industry that is economically and environmentally sustainable and valued by the whole community.
I saddens and disappoints me immensely that Australian agriculture is so fragmented. We need to be coordinated and to be coordinated we need to be inclusive. As an industry, its is pivotal we acknowledge the contribution of everyone in our industry regardless of their size, the role they play or the product they produce. On the other hand, in order to be valued by the community, we must tell our story, we need to be innovative in our farming practices, we need to be committed to best-practice farming techniques and strive for continuous improvement. Most importantly though, we need to know who our customers are, engage with them so that we can understand their needs and provide a range of products that meet those needs.
The reality of a diverse and competitive job market means that at the moment our industry in the main attracts those with a passion based on their upbringing and background or a connection with some awesome childhood experience that has aroused their curiosity about career opportunities in agriculture. Whilst it will certainly help this dilemma won’t disappear if agriculture or primary industries are included in the primary school curriculum or as elective units in the high school curriculum. This is part of the answer, it is not the solution. We should also focus on providing information and resources for teachers to use and promote agriculture and farming as a context for learning across all curriculum areas. But in order for the whole community to value Australian agriculture, everyone, not just students or children, need to have ongoing access to a range of opportunities to engage in and learn about agriculture. As farmers and producers we need to tell our story.
The big idea
My years of experience in this area tells me the best way to engage the Australian community with agriculture and farming is through food. And there is no doubt that modern consumers want to know as much as possible about what they eat. In particular, where it comes from, how it is produced, what standards apply, the transport methods used and the costs associated with producing the food. Let’s expand the ‘paddock to plate’ concept and include the farming story by being part of the cooking show revolution or partner with some of our leading chefs and restaurants. Most importantly though, we shouldn’t rely on small organisations or well-meaning individuals to Champion the cause – let’s all get behind it together. After all, if you want to eat, you need farmers, and when the whole community understands and values where their food comes from, we will be able to encourage a wider range of participation in agriculture as a career.
I want to be part of the future for Australian agriculture and, as a mother I want my daughters to value their rural heritage and participate in taking this vital industry forward. We live in exciting and challenging times. The global population is increasing rapidly and Australia can continue to contribute to feeding that population in sustainable and innovative ways through the efforts of passionate and enthusiastic young people in agriculture.