Meet Sammi Townsend inspiring young people to join her as wool rural ambassador

MeetToday we feature Samantha Townsend in our series about excting young people who are taking up careers in agriculture

When you meet Samantha Townsend from Central Western New South Wales, you get the feeling that the future of Agriculture in Australia remains in safe hands.

Sammi has made her presence felt through her passion for a future within Agriculture, and her mastery of the social media network. This is where so many have been acquainted with Sam’s dream, to win a scholarship to the CSU, through the Ultimate Experience Competition.

Despite not winning the scholarship, Sammi will be fulfilling her dream, to pursue a career in Agricultural Science, at CSU Orange.  (see Footnote)

This is her story…

My name is Samantha Townsend. I have not long turned 18 years of age and have just finished Year 12 at Blayney High School.

I live in a small village on a hobby farm, in Lyndhurst, Central West NSW. It is only a small village of approximately 300 people with a small post-office and a hotel.

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Royal Hotel at Lyndhurst

Our big claim to fame though is nearly being chosen as the site for the capital city of Australia before they picked Canberra! I for one am glad they picked the current site of Canberra… I love waking up to the view of the green rolling hills of our area!

My family lived for many years on my grandmother’s property just of Blayney.We had sheep, cattle, Boer goats and also horses, and that was enough to kick start the passion I have for agriculture! My Nan and Mother were determined I was going to love horses and I was placed on them from a very early age! I used to help show my Nan’s miniature horses at the local shows and gymkhanas.

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My grandmother was a real ‘bushie’ as she called herself. She was born in Condobolin but grew up around the Trangie area as a youth. My Pop often said she could work harder than most men he knew when it came to working around the farm and she was a renowned horsewoman in our area! My Nan passed away in 2007, but she certainly left her legacy with me as far as igniting the love of the land I have.

My Pop was also a big influence. Growing up as a young child I used to love visiting his property near Tomingly, NSW. Pop ran sheep and I used to love to go up there and help him at shearing time, when Mum would go up and do the cooking at shearing time. Unfortunately Pop suffered the fate a lot of farmers do and his back got too bad to continue the work he was doing. He retired up on the mid-north coast years ago, but inland Australia has called him back, and he’ll soon be returning to live near us permanently (albeit, not farming however).

The local area I live in is predominantly mixed farming with sheep, cattle and grazing enterprises. I have always been keen to help out around the place and when you’re a local, there is always plenty of rouseabouting, or general farm work that you get offered.I love to help out with own small flock of sheep and am often ‘mother’ to the poddy lambs that get sent our way!

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A Young Sammi with pet sheep

I am about to enter University this year, heading off to Charles Sturt University in Orange, to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management.

In our HSC year there were only three of us sitting the HSC for agriculture. I find it incredulous that in a wonderful rural area such as ours, that the course is not attracting more students. The wages of the mine in our area look very attractive to many younger people (and older ones too), but it is more than that. We need to encourage people into the agricultural industry and help them realise it is not only a viable career, it is a wonderful lifestyle as well!

I truly value our rural community. We do live in an area where we are not shut off to each other and people genuinely care! One of my best friends from school was diagnosed last year with a horrible disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The whole community has been wonderful with fundraising and helping the family. I know total strangers who have helped that have not even known my friend. This is what living in a rural community is about.

My little brother attends Lyndhurst Public School, which had about 31 children last year. My little brother who is 11 has Aspergers, ADHD, Dyspraxia and Anxiety. This little village school has given him such a sense of self-esteem and has helped him grow and learn to cope with his disabilities. He hasn’t been a number, he has been a valued school member. My family and I try to do a lot for the school through P&C fundraising etc. We know how lucky we are to have such a little school with such dedicated staff not only for my brother, but also for our community, and it’s important to do everything to ensure it continues to be here for future children! Where else but small country schools do you get to experience things such as planting vegetables and then eating your produce or playing football in the school oval and incorporating rules that involve ducking from the diving plovers! I love that pets like chickens and rabbits can be brought to school for news or the family dog ends up in the playground looking for its owners.

I was honoured in October of last year, to be made Miss Carcoar Showgirl and am heading off to the next level at February.

Our wonderful little show attracts people far and wide for the many horse events and the shearing competition.

It is truly a traditional little country show that attracts people young and old alike. I love walking through the art and craft where items such as beautifully handmade patchwork quilts hang adorned on the walls, or seeing little children’s noses pressed against the glass of the windows at the scrumptious looking cakes from the cooking section.

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Where else but a country show would you have a draught horse pull more than the weights that were available, so people had to volunteer to come and sit on the loads (and be honest about their weight) so the competition could keep going! It is a day of laughter, chatter, and again, that wonderful rural spirit.

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People get to glimpse a snippet of this at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, but we are privy to it all the time, and I rejoice in the sense of community that it is all about.

I also am part of the Lyndhurst Rural Fire Service. We meet and have training days and it turns out to be a social outing for everyone as well. Again as part of the community, we are there if others need us.

What I am trying to explain is, although I am not from a huge farm or station, you don’t have to be to have the passion for what rural communities offer. To keep rural communities going – agriculture plays a big part in that! We need to keep young people interested and passionate about careers in agriculture and a rural lifestyle so we can keep   little communities like mine alive for future generations to experience and love.

I hope by going to University and staying in a rural area, I can learn the necessary skills and help to produce positive outcomes not only for farmers and agricultural industries, but also the rural communities like mine.

My experience isn’t vast or magnificent, but by sharing my hopes and visions, I hope that I might connect with another young person and perhaps ignite that little spark of passion that exists inside and encourage them to venture into agriculture too. They would be helping not only the future of rural communities, but Australia’s future as well, after all it is farmers that feed the world!

Personally, I am excited to know that I am going to be part of Australia’s agricultural future!

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” Joel Barker.

Sammi blogs about her Uni journey here http://experience.csu.edu.au/author/sammilee93/

Visit her Youth in Agtion Website here  http://www.youthinagtionaustralia.com/

Follow Sammi on twitter @SammileeTTT

 

Agriculture can take you anywhere you chose

Recently Victoria Taylor asked in the Flourish Files AgScience and the Shrinking Work Force  “Why can’t we retain students in Agricultural Science courses?” Victoria suggested that one of the reasons was the lack of clarity about the highly diverse careers in agriculture and if a student decides at the end of first year that they don’t want to be an agronomist or farmer anymore, how do we let them know there are a number of other career options open to Agriculture Science graduates?

Art4agriculuture have taken up this challenge and will be posting a number of blogs written by exciting young people who have completed agriculture degrees and now work in the agrifood sector or are doing exciting things whilst completing their agriculture related degree

We recently featured Melissa Henry – Life in a country town and today we hear Hollie Baillieu’s story

This blog post has been adapted from the presentation Hollie gave at the Careers Advisors Conference in Liverpool, Sydney in November 2011.

Where can an agricultural degree take you?  by Hollie Baillieu

The answer is – anywhere you chose!

I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have a strong future in agriculture.

I think that most people have the perception of agriculture as being a male dominated industry. To put it simply, the Agricultural sector wants females, they are encouraging us and they are employing us and more and more I see no hesitation when a woman enters a room looking for a job in agriculture.

This is my story.

I am currently working in Sydney for the Australian Year of the Farmer, I am the Chair person of the NSW Young Farmer Council, I am an ambassador for Agrifood Skills Australia and I am a Young Farming Champion for the Art4Agriculture school programs.

I grew up on a small property in Exeter, in the Southern Highlands only a couple of hours south of Sydney. Here we had cattle, sheep, goats and for a time – meat rabbits. I have always been surrounded by dogs, horses, ducks and geese, chickens, and more often than not I would have a lamb or kid close on my heels thinking I was its mum.

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I went on to study Agriculture at high school by correspondence as one of my subjects for the HSC which gave me just a taste for what was to come.

After school I took a year off from study so after travelling to India, the UK and parts of America I started the season in the Northern Territory on a cattle station called Newcastle Waters.

The station is 3.5 million acres, holding 50,000 commercial cattle and 5000 stud cattle. Newcastle Waters was special to me because my grandfather had once owned it. The fact that I was there, where my grandfather had been meant a lot to me, however it didn’t really help me adjust to the work ahead.

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Dare I say it but most of the men had more ego than brain. This gave me a challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing, I wasn’t rough and blokey, I was tentative, shy, and most of the time I was just nervous I was going to mess it up.

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During the day we were on horse back mustering the cattle from their paddocks to the yards. This was a full days ride and at the start of the season we were up at 3.30am, in the saddle by daylight and walking the cattle in until 10 or 11pm at night.

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It was blistering hot, my lips doubled in size and my hands peeled from sunburn. We were tired, thirsty and so too were the cattle. The next day would be a day in the yards, sorting, culling, weaning and pregnancy testing. Another long dusty dry day and then we would turn around and do it all again the next day.

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I don’t think words could explain exactly what it was like. As I said it was a challenge. I had one thing on my side in that I could ride. There were some jackaroos who had never ridden a horse and I’ll tell you they learnt pretty quickly.

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In this environment particularly, a purely physical environment, as a girl you have to prove yourself. A couple of months in I was gradually doing that. At one point I was the only girl in a camp of 10 guys; once again it was a challenge. But I persisted, there was no way I was quitting and by the end of the year, I had gained lifelong friends and I didn’t want to leave.

However it was time to move on and I started a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Sydney University and later transferred to the same course in Wagga. Hollie 4 Blog 0007

When I started uni I gave myself choices. I also signed up for the Army Reserve. I knew I loved agriculture but I didn’t know where I could really go with it and I had always been interested in the Army so I thought if I do this and if one doesn’t work out, I have options.

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I loved being involved in the reserves and I always felt proud when I put my uniform on, but in the end Agriculture has taken me on and it’s consumed my life really. I think that there are a lot of links between the sort of people that are in the army and those in agriculture. In fact during the interview process they loved that I had a rural background. They mentioned it couple of times that country people can often do very well in the army. Apparently it’s the practical nature and easy going personality that really works in the army.

My involvement in the wider agriculture industry really began when I signed up to the NSW Young Farmers Council late in 2009.

It started with just a phone call to see how I could be more involved in the NSW Farmers Association and from that I went along to the leadership forum. It was fantastic and in 3 months I became the vice chair and in March this year I was voted in as the Chair of the Young Farmer Council. It all happened very quickly and I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am and I would not have had the opportunities that I have had if it wasn’t for the NSW Farmers Association and our Young Farmer Council.

Which university?

You have those people who are perhaps more practically minded and hands on and those that are more management focused and perhaps corporate based. The great thing is that the agriculture industry can incorporate all of these people

We need practical people who want to be hands and the vocational educational training (VET) courses through TAFE are a fantastic system and can work very well. A few of my friends at university did VET courses while still at school and universities are recognising these qualifications and giving credit points towards a degree.

And the second group of students are those that are more corporate and management focused or just more suited to a university degree.

My experience tells me it is imperative that the correct educational institution is matched to the student. I fell into the trap of choosing a degree at a university that all my friends were going to. I didn’t look into what suited me and hence why I didn’t stay there very long.

When I started my agriculture degree off at Sydney University I did this for a number of reasons. It had the highest UAI acceptance, it had the best name, it was exciting and all my friends were there. I didn’t even look into other uni’s because I had made up my mind Sydney was the uni for me.

Sadly it didn’t work out for me. What I found was that Sydney unis course focused heavily on research. If I was into laboratory work and research I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It had an extremely high level of expectation and achievement and produces phenomenal graduates. What it lacks is the practical component that I love so much. The first year and some of the second I believe – we are put in classes with the med students and vet students. Us aggies didn’t get UAI’s of 99 so the standard was incredible and for me I wasn’t dedicated enough to really push myself and go through with it. And sadly there many who felt the same.

So I transferred to Charles Sturt Uni (CSU) in Wagga and I haven’t looked back since. At Sydney we wouldn’t have done the practical stuff until 4th year but in Wagga we were living within a working property so we were constantly surrounded by it, we lived and breathed it and loved it.

At CSU, they know every individual – you are not a number, you are a person. The courses are so relevant and the lecturers are so in tune with what the students want from the course

CSU have just started a really interesting element to the agriculture degree. It is now a four year course but in that 4thyear – half the year you are actually employed by an agribusiness. So you are out in the work force experiencing what its like. Which I think is really good especially if you don’t know what area you want to go into – its not so good for those people who do know where they want to be but it will be interesting to hear from the group for 2012 how it is and what they got out of it.

The other uni’s on the east coast are UNE in Armidale, Gatton in QLD and Marcus Oldham in Victoria. I have had friends at each of these with both UNE and Gatton and they say similar things to what it is like at CSU. The courses are called slightly different things but basically very similar and hands on. Marcus Oldham is a little different because it is a private university. It’s quite expensive but the courses tend to be shorter and they are jam packed rather than being so spread out like the other uni’s often do.

One thing that I have learnt over the past few years is the importance of being involved in the industry before you enter it. So at university get holiday work and jobs that fit your industry. Over the years I have worked in many areas of agriculture including an alpaca stud, a vineyard, cattle stud, a dairy and the cotton industry

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You must have an interest and want to get involved in it or when you start your first job – you are behind the eight ball.

I have found that my involvement with NSW Young Farmers Council has helped with my knowledge of the industry, I am more knowledgeable about the issues that are important to farmers in all primary industries and I have a broader understanding of agriculture and its politics in general. I used to get so frustrated at people in my own course who had no solid opinion about the live export ordeal or what was happening with grains, international trade, the price wars, competing against countries that have large subsidies – I could go on. It frustrated me because they had no interest and this was the industry they were entering into. It is so important to know your industry, to soak up all the info out there and grasp a really strong handle on what is happening and get involved.

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The way I see it we need to get a broader understanding of agriculture and how it’s related to our every day lives. I love hearing of people who combined degrees. Engineering with agriculture. Architecture with Agriculture. Agriculture with economics. All those people to feed and clothe and house. Innovation and technology – nano, GPS, VRT, GM. I could go on all day saying how I love this industry and how passionate I am – its not just some crazy whim – there is such huge potential, it is incredible and I love it.

BUDDING YOUNG ARTISTS LEARN ABOUT LIFE ON THE LAND

Our special guest at the 2011 Archibull Prize was the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Katrina Hodgkinson who recognised the efforts of budding young artists as part of the agricultural art award, the 2011 Archibull Prize.

The Minister spoke extensively with students from a number of schools as she viewed the finalist artworks which will be on display for six weeks at Woolworths Head Office at Bella Vista.

“The Archibulls provide a unique opportunity for our city kids to learn all about farming, agriculture, and where our food comes from,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“Using videos, artwork, blogs and multimedia, school kids from Western Sydney this year tackled the theme, what it takes to sustainably feed and clothe Sydney for a day. The students had the opportunity to express their thoughts on agriculture and rural Australia by designing and decorating an iconic life-sized fibreglass cow. As part of the Art4Agriculture awards, each school researched and showcased a key agricultural commodity, including dairy, beef, sheep, wool, cotton, grains and poultry. It was my pleasure to announce the winner of the 2011 Archibull Prize as Caroline Chisholm College of Glenmore Park who turned their blank cow into a Rubik’s Cube to tell the story of beef,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

Ms Hodgkinson said the Art4Agriculture initiative is a great way for students growing up in the city to get a real insight into life on the land.

“Each school was mentored by a Young Farming Champion who worked with the students through the project and shared their experiences of life on the land. By rolling up their sleeves and getting involved, the program is an innovative way of bridging the rural-urban divide and helping tomorrow’s leaders understand the challenges of feeding the world.”

More than 20 urban Sydney schools took part in the Archibull Prize this year.
The Art4Agriculture Archibull Prize was developed with the support of the NSW Department of Primary Industries LandLearn initiative, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry and Woolworths and RIRDC.

More photos can be found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/art4agriculture/

See the winning Powerpoints here

Secondary Schools

Model Farms

Colo High School

Primary Schools

St Michael’s Catholic School