Find your passion and follow it says Rozzie O’Reilly

From the family farm to commercial feedlots, today’s guest blog from Rozzie O’Reilly takes us on a journey through what it takes to put a great steak, or lamb chop, on your plate. Rozzie says, “Agriculture is my passion and my life, and this is my journey to date…”

Here is her story…

My agricultural journey began twenty two years ago when I born the daughter of a fourth generation sheep and cattle farmer in the beautiful Riverina of southern NSW. Needless to say, agriculture is in my blood. Our family farming enterprise is no stereotype though. Dad was tragically killed in an accident when I was a toddler, leaving Mum to raise four kids as well as manage her livestock. In addition to running livestock on our small block of land at Narrandera, we primarily agisted stock on surrounding properties.

Hanging out with some of our cows at home

It was Mum’s determination and courage, as well as her ability to include us kids in the farming enterprise, that lead me to instinctively develop a passion for agriculture and in particular a love for sheep and cattle. From the time I could walk I was in the yards helping Mum draft stock, in the woolshed penning up sheep and rouseabouting, and on the back of the ute helping supplement feed stock. I simply loved getting out and about to help Mum do the daily jobs of producing both food and fibre.

Helping feed out hay with my brother on the left & feeding poddy lambs on the right.

At the end of Year 12 in 2010, I followed my passion and applied to the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale to complete a Bachelor of Animal Science, majoring in Livestock Production. The following year I moved to Armidale (950km away from home) to begin study and have never looked back since. This was possibly the greatest life decision I have ever made! Throughout the four years of university, not only did I learn a great deal, ranging from livestock nutrition and genetics through to plant pathology (and everything in between), but I was also exposed to an array of amazing opportunities which strengthened my interest in the industry.

During my first year of university I also completed a Certificate IV in Wool Classing at TAFE. Not only did this provide me with a recognised qualification, but it also allowed me to gain work in shearing sheds during holidays to help pay for university fees. At this same time I began taking part in sheep fleece judging and was fortunate enough to compete for the Armidale Show Society at local, regional and state level. Let me tell you, judging fleeces at the Sydney Royal Easter Show is certainly much more stressful than the home woolshed, but nonetheless very enjoyable and a great networking and learning experience.

In 2012 I competed for UNE at the Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) competition, which is an annual conference that exposes university students to all sectors of the red meat industry. While training for the competition I learnt how to assess market suitability, meat quality and yield in beef, pork and lamb species. Though getting up early to stand in meat chillers for training does not sound like a hobby nor great fun, I certainly learnt a lot and gained an appreciation for the most important part of the red meat industry: the consumer.

Me and a fellow UNE team mate judging a beef carcase class.

I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the 2013 Australian ICMJ Team who toured the United States for four weeks. This was an incredible opportunity! Our team competed in three major US meat judging contests, travelled across ten states and gained a unique insight into the US meat and livestock industry through a number of tours. Visits included the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the USDA Meat Animal Research Centre, three major US packers, as well as feedlot, ranch and retail visits. Essentially, the tour was a complete paddock to plate insight into the US, and allowed comparisons between Australia and the US to be made.

The 2013 Aussie ICMJ Team in the US; on the left we are outside the JBS Headquarters in Colorado, while on the right is the awards we gained following one of the competitions we competed in.

I am forever grateful for what I have personally gained from my ICMJ experience and would love for as many people as possible to gain what I did. To help achieve this, I co-coached UNE ICMJ teams for two years following my participation and am now currently a committee member of the Australian ICMJ committee. My role on the committee is Careers Expo Coordinator, which is something I am very passionate about as the youth of today are inevitably our future.

2014 UNE ICMJ Team which I was lucky enough to be a part of the coaching team.

Another wonderful opportunity was the 2014 Indonesian Beef Production Tour, a three week tour coordinated by the University of Adelaide. It was certainly was an eye opener, giving a fantastic insight into each sector of the supply chain in which Australian cattle are exposed to in Indonesia. A significant highlight of the trip was visiting one of TUM’s new abattoirs (TUM is the company that was exposed on Four Corners, which lead to the closure of live export to Indonesia in 2011). The new facility clearly demonstrated that animal welfare is of utmost importance. This had a great positive impact on me, as it is quite contradictory to how live export to Indonesia is portrayed by a number of groups in Australia. Ultimately, this experience gave me the confidence to be able to promote live export upon returning to Australia.

2014 Indonesian Beef Production Tour; left is a research feedlot we visited, while on the right I am pictured with Febrina, an Indonesian Animal Science university student.

During my final year of university I undertook an Honours research trial in the field of sheep genetics. I tried to determine whether sires re-rank, in terms of their performance, in different environments. Honours certainly was not a ‘walk in the park’; I analysed tens of thousands of data recordings and spent hours in front of the computer. However, the process was rewarding and I gained a very strong appreciation for scientific research, and now understand the vital importance of research to our agricultural industry. I concluded the project with some significant results, which I found exciting and motivating… (and maybe one day I’ll be back to complete a PhD). Overall, I was awarded First Class Honours for my project.

Pictured with Mum after graduating with a B. Animal Science (1st Class Honours).

I was very fortunate for the support of a number of financial bursaries to help fund my degree including the UNE Country Scholarship and the NSW Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Scholarship. I also gained an Horizon Scholarship for the duration of my degree, which not only financially supported me but also aided in leadership, personal and professional development, supported attendance to industry conferences which broadened my agricultural knowledge, as well as organised annual industry work placements. This wonderful program enabled me to broaden my networks and certainly helped shape the person I am today.

Attending the 2014 Northern Australia Food Futures conference in Darwin as a Horizon Scholar delegate.

One particular Horizon work placement proved to be very influential in my career progression. In my second year of university I completed work placement at a 32,000 head beef feedlot. Prior to this I had never set foot on a beef feedlot, let alone considered a career in the lot feeding industry. This placement completely changed my perspective of intensive agriculture and I became intrigued with the industry. Since then, I have completed a Feedlot Management unit at university as well as work placement at two other feedlots, and was also fortunate to gain a Meat & Livestock Australia scholarship to attend the 2013 Australian Lot Feeders biannual BeefWorks conference. Most recently though, since finishing university last year, I have begun a Beef Supply Chain trainee position with Kerwee Lot Feeders. This position allows me to combine the knowledge which I have gained at university and through the ICMJ program to help produce tasty beef of the upmost quality. I find this an exciting concept and I am even more excited to see where this role takes me in the future.

In the pens at Kerwee Feedlot

The world population is continuing to rise at a very fast rate and I believe that intensive farming, such as lot feeding, is going to play a significant role in feeding this ever increasing population. I want to actively help the lot feeding industry to continue moving forward by promoting the importance of high animal welfare and environmental standards, as well as help ensure that lot feeders are up to date with emerging best management practices. Eventually I hope to harness my passion for livestock nutrition and genetics to help maximise production in the most sustainable manner.

Ultimately I wish to be part of the Young Farming Champions program so that I can tell my agricultural story, as well as market, promote and engage consumers with the great products that the Australian agricultural industry produces. I also want to help raise awareness of the diverse range of career opportunities available in agricultural and inspire the young people to consider them.

Australian agriculture is an exciting place to be and has endless amazing opportunities available for people who have drive and passion. So find and follow your passion, seize opportunities and enjoy the ride; you never know where you might end up.

Katherine Mann’s mission to build the next crop of ‘Ag-vocates’

Today’s guest blog comes from Katherine Mann…

In 2013 Katherine graduated from a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) in a class of just three students. Now she’s telling her story in the hopes of inspiring other young people to get involved with agriculture. And like a lot of young ag enthusiasts, her love really started with her school’s show cattle team….

My name is Katherine and I am an agvocate.

From a very young age I remember being immersed in the country lifestyle. Without a doubt, time on my uncle’s Southern Highlands property ‘Clydesdale’ played a large role in my enthusiasm for agriculture today, but there has been 21 years of adventures between then and now.

Sydney’s western suburbs aren’t the typical place you would go looking for a young girl interested in agriculture but that was where you would have found me. Growing up in Castle Hill, I attended Northholm Grammar School which was the first stepping stone into a somewhat whirlwind adventure. As soon as possible I immersed myself in all the agricultural possibilities the school could offer- the one with the biggest impact, still to this day, was the cattle show team.

I loved the whole atmosphere surrounding showing cattle. There was an overwhelming sense of being involved in something bigger than just cattle showing, like knowing that we have the capability to change the future of an already strong industry and make it even better in the future.  Knowing that I was one of the young Australians growing up and becoming involved in the agriculture industry at the same time as the big push to get more youth involved was great!

I also loved seeing the entire paddock to plate process behind beef cattle. Along the way I would sometimes meet people who didn’t understand why I would raise a steer to ultimately slaughter and eat it, but for me knowing this was the cycle of life and was keen to respect the process and be well informed.  Being involved in each stage of the process really allowed my passion for the industry to grow in many different directions.

After my first year with the show teams I made it my mission to involve as many people as possible in the school’s agricultural program and received an Agricultural scholarship for my efforts. It wasn’t long before I was known as ‘That Ag Girl.’

Showing with the school cattle team took me to various agricultural shows throughout NSW and provided me with the opportunity to network and represent other studs across a wide variety of breeds. Along the way I meet so many amazing, inspirational and wonderful people who shared my passion and enthusiasm for the industry.  I am still in contact with many of the people I met through showing cattle today!

I was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Angus Australia Norman Lethbridge Award which is named in memory of the NSW State Committee past Secretary (1983-1994) and well-known stock and station agent and open to 16-25 year olds throughout NSW. I was awarded runner-up within an amazing group; even though I didn’t win, the opportunity opened my eyes to how much I loved encouraging youth involvement within our school and the industry.

In year 12 I undertook a prefect roll in Northholm’s leadership team with a particular focus on the agricultural portfolio and was awarded the Duncan Prize for Agriculture.

After school I enrolled in a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) at the University of Western Sydney while also working as a farm hand. Farm working during my first year at university kept me very busy but I wouldn’t have changed a thing because I was able to connect with enthusiastic young people and coordinate the show team.

However after 18 months I decided to move on to my next calling, working at the local CRT store whilst completing my second year at university. For two years I worked and studied simultaneously, gaining not only an enormous amount of knowledge and experience but also a massive sense of pride in seeing farmers and producers striving to create the best produce possible.

In the final year of my degree I took on a sub-major in Animal Science at the same time as accepting the marketing position at that same CRT store. This meant that I was completing a year-long field project with Seed Distributors Ltd testing palatability of pasture species, completing another six full time subjects, working in agricultural sales at CRT as well as coordinating and creating all the store’s marketing material and field day attendances (including Agquip 2013). To say I was busy was an understatement but I still made sure I always had time to show cattle at local shows as well as the Sydney Royal Easter Show!

I finished my degree at the end of 2013, as the only female in a ‘class’ of three people. It was then that I knew it was imperative for the youth of Australian agriculture to speak out, get active in the community, engage with other young people and get involved in the decision making processes in agriculture.

At the CRT store my background and knowledge in show cattle allowed us to build up the product range on the shelf. As one of the youngest people on staff I became the ‘go to person’ in the shop for new young customers and anyone who came in asking anything about showing cattle. I was also able to connect our clients selling cattle with students I had met through school cattle shows who had expressed to me that they would like to start up their own cattle studs. It was great to see them developing and growing their studs! I still try and stay in contact with them as much as possible and this year I even visited one of the girls at Sydney Royal with her speckle parks!

We also sponsored many local cattle shows including the Hawkesbury Small Breeds Show at the Farming Small Areas Expo, allowing that show event to go ahead for two years when it couldn’t have without sponsorship.

Fast forward six months and I now live in Terramungamine, NSW, about 30km out of Dubbo. I always knew I wanted to experience working in agriculture in areas a bit more west than Sydney’s western suburbs, so when my partner – who I met working at CRT – was offered a managerial position at another rural supplies store in Dubbo, I jumped at the opportunity to go with him. At the moment I’m working in retail while still striving towards my dream career goals.

It has been great to get to know the community in Terramungamine. It was difficult moving without really knowing anyone however I love it now and wouldn’t have it any other way! Waking up and looking out the bedroom window to paddocks as far as the eye can see and hearing the cows bellowing- there’s nothing like it! Even just living out here is a dream come true. It has cemented in my mind this is where I want to be and we now have many dreams for the future.

One thing that I would absolutely LOVE to do is to organise a steer show for the schools surrounding Dubbo, similar to the UniSchool Steer Show for the schools around the Hawkesbury. The UniSchool Steer Show was what really got me interested in agriculture and what made me fall in love with showing cattle. In my experience my entire school liked hearing about the steer show, so I believe it’s a great chance for kids from all backgrounds to get hands on experience with cattle and agriculture.

This year I’ve put my hand up for the Showgirl event at the local show with an aim to open up the possibilities for young aspiring agricultural professionals to get involved and have their voices heard! I hope to take ideas from my local hometown show in Castle Hill, which has a large focus on schools from the area, and tailor them to the Dubbo region.

It’s important to me that youth get involved with agriculture because they are the future of the industry. When I was at school there were a select few people who took the chance to show a 14 year old city girl the ropes and I intend to pass that encouragement on as much as I can. All it takes is one positive remark, congratulations or even a ‘better luck next time’ to someone who is starting out in the industry and it can make all the difference between them pursuing their goal or giving up! I always try my hardest to encourage and help people with their dreams and aspirations.

Ultimately, I would love to start my own cattle stud in the future when I have some of my own land! But until then I have been living my dreams through my friends who have set up their own studs. I try and get involved with the shows as much as possible- if I’m not there helping out with the cattle then I love watching the judging.

I encourage all young people with a story and a passion to speak up and share their experiences in the hope of inspiring a whole new generation of agvocates, because with them the future will be bright.

Heidi Eldridge says if you want a career in agriculture get cracking, it’s worth every minute

Today’s guest blog comes from 23 year old Heidi Eldridge, who has spent a decade immersing herself in all aspects of the beef industry. From cattle showing and judging, meat judging, research, assisting at a stud, working in an abattoir and jillarooing, to her current role with the Cattle Council of Australia – she’s done it all!

I was not born and raised on a property but I was fortunate to be surrounded by extended family on dairy properties and studs. I grew up in Albury/Wodonga. This area was known for its rural surroundings and large agricultural community.

I started pursing the beef industry within my younger years showing cattle and assisting on family properties. My love for livestock in particular provided the drive to succeed within this industry. From a young age I realised that I would have to work twice as hard as my farm born friends to be noticed and taken seriously as someone who wanted to pursue a career in beef cattle. This is what drives me

I attended St. Pauls College in Walla Walla, attending numerous horse and cattle events throughout Australia. Junior judging, cattle showing camps and youth Angus programs fired my initiative to learn about beef outside of the show ring. Throughout high school I worked for Elders, Wodonga Saleyards and Landmark. I studied a Diploma of Agriculture and Diploma of Equine Studies, leading me to assist the ‘Lawsons Angus’ stud in Victoria. They provided me with three years of guidance within their inseminations, sales, calving and bull unit operations. Throughout my HSC I also worked at the local abattoir in the yards, kill floor and packaging area, providing me with the opportunity to gain knowledge across another sector.

Throughout my teenage years I continued my junior judging. I moved to Canada for 5 months, living and working between two families and taking part in cattle showing competitions and preparation, cropping, rodeoing, cattle camps and school.

After school I packed my ute and drove to Julia Creek, QLD, where I worked for Acton Super Beef as a Jillaroo. This broadened my experience to station run beef operations.

I started university studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management. I worked closely with Rennylea Angus within their calving, insemination and sales units. After becoming more involved in grain and nutrition I worked with Agrisearch Services taking part in grain trials for both cropping and feed based products.

I challenged myself by taking part in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging in Armidale as well as entering Wagga Wagga showgirl and also involved myself in different youth events at university.

 

After making the choice to study via distance I was soon employed full time by Ladysmith Feedlot outside Wagga Wagga, operating in all sections from feed, pen riding, health and welfare and supply. This was an excellent opportunity which took me from pasture fed perspectives into concentrated grain operations.

I moved to Canberra to pursue my greatest achievement within the beef industry yet, to be employed by The Cattle Council of Australia as the Stakeholder Relations Officer. The role is an excellent opportunity to operate within the industry working first hand with producers and industry representatives. I believe that my experience throughout the beef industry supply chain has assisted in understanding issues relating to my position. Although I was not born into a farming operation I do believe that I have worked hard to immerse myself in the industry and all that is has to offer.

Over the next 10 years I see myself networking throughout the industry and involving myself in many meetings, events, discussions and boards to ensure that Australian beef producers are being heard. I also wish to increase the awareness of youth working within the industry and showcase how the next generation can step up and influence change if given the right support. I hope to travel around Australian and internationally, learning from and engaging with beef industry professionals. I am interested in furthering my education via university as well as taking part in youth agricultural programs.

The Young Farming Champions program is beneficial in raising awareness of the opportunities for young people within agriculture and boosting the career success, support and mentorship of young farming professionals within their chosen industry. Without support our youth will not be given the push to stay in the industry.

Being able to take advantage of programs such as Young Farming Champions means young people will not only gain the drive for a successful career in agriculture but they will also have heart for the industry.

From Dagwood Dogs and Prize Dahlias, Sheep Shearing and cattle judging the local show movement is still at fever pitch in Crookwell

I have spent most of my time at local shows either showing cows or horses.

The upper Lachlan Catchment Landcare group was a great supporter of the 2014 Archibull Prize and Crookwell being part of this region their local show was a great opportunity to celebrate their local Archibull Prize 2014 entries, tell the great stories of our sheep, cattle, wool and dairy farmers and meet the locals

So I jumped in the car last Saturday to join the wonderful Mary Bonet and the Upper Landcare Group in their tent at the Show

 The delightful Mary Bonet

Seeing these wonderful books at our stand created for the Cattle and Sheep industry by the Kondinin Group was blast from the past by showgoer Scott Boyle who help collate them whilst working at Kondinin in WA 

Having had quite a walk to get in the gate I was thrilled to meet Dr Rod Hoare who is the Chief Ground Steward and has access to this great little golf cart- the perfect vehicle to tour the show sites for this little black duck

 Chief Ground Steward Rod Hoare enjoyed the traditional dagwood dog whilst touring the showground in this wonderful little buggy

First up was the local sheep shearing competition an iconic part of livestock agriculture in Australia. Competitors are judged by the quality of their shearing as well as the speed of the shear. Visit True Blue Australia to find out more

I took this little time lapse video of the intermediate class won by the shearer at Stand 2

Next up was the pavilion. The photos share the kaleidoscope of colour of the arts and crafts and vegies, produce, flowers, cakes and everything that says the finest of rural Australian local show culture

I caught up with some ladies working and supporting rural mental health through the Rural Adversity Mental Health program and we had our picture taken for the local paper.

Then Mary introduced me to local member for Goulburn the Hon. Pru Goward who was very impressed with the Archibull artworks of the local schools

Pru was keen to see the 2014 Champion Archibull Prize Winner “Ni-Cow’ and I was only too happy to show here but we seemed to be in a Tony Abbott black spot

Then we had a little tour of the cattle sheds and the cattle judging

Where we met Ernie Stevenson an early and influential member of the Murray Grey society.

Back at the tent I met local cattle farmer Ken Wheelwright who is part of the KLR Mastermind Group.

More about Rod, Ernie and Ken in my next post on Clover Hill Dairies Diary

Then it was time to catch up with local Young Farming Champions and former Crookwell Show girls Jasmine Nixon and Adele Offley

Ah the local show so much to see so little time but thanks to Rob and all the wonderful locals I think managed to fit most of it in

Then the two hour drive home in the fog and the rain but it was all worth it

Young Farming Champions go behind the scenes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

Three of our Young Farming Champions are bursting at the seams with anticipation and the Sydney Royal Easter Show can’t come round fast enough for them this year after being announced as recipients of Rural Achiever Scholarships.

YFC Tim Eyes, Dee George and Kylie Schuller on Day 1 of their Sydney Royal Easter Show 2015  journey  

 The Rural Achievers will participate in a 12-month program that provides a range of networking and professional development opportunities, including an 11 day behind-the-scenes experience at the 2015 Sydney Royal Show, official functions with RAS councillors and Agricultural Societies Council representatives, cocktail reception at Government House, tour of NSW Parliament House and of program sponsor The Land’s head office at North Richmond.

The achievers will also have the opportunity to represent the RAS at Royal shows and events across the country.

One Rural Achiever will also be selected to represent NSW at the 2016 National Rural Ambassador Awards in 2016. You can read all about it in The Land here

 GRDC Grains Young Farming Champion Dee George said

The thing I am most excited about being a Rural Achiever is the networks and people I will get to meet and talking to like-minded people. I’m also looking forward to the Sydney Royal Show experience, which will be unlike any other year I have been to the Show as we will get to do a lot of behind the scenes work.

MLA Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion Tim Eyes said

I’m so excited to be able to share my passion for agriculture with like-minded people in the 2015 RAS Rural Achiever program because it’s a great opportunity for us to shine a light on one of Australia’s most prized industries.

I’ve shown cattle at the Sydney Show for eight years, so I am most excited about seeing behind the scenes and talking to the organisers about the logistics of it all and how they pull it off every year. When you show cattle there that’s just two weeks of your life, but for them, they live and breathe the show all year.

And NSW Farmers Young Farming Champion Kylie Schuller is equally excited saying

 I believe the Rural Achiever program is a great opportunity to equip myself with the skills, knowledge and networking opportunities to enhance my ability to engage with the community, in order to promote our rural industries, our produce and people.

I am particularly excited to get an insight into the organisation and co-ordination of the Food Farm as well as the various Gourmet Food experiences that showcase exceptional regional produce.

Special thanks to our YFC ( Dwayne, Jo, Josh and Georgia) who have been through the Rural Achievers experience in the past and  mentored Kylie, Tim and Dee for the interview process.

Lets hope one of them does as well as MLA Young Farming Champion Prue Capp and wins the national title. I am sure they will be well and truly in the running

The Farming Narrative will be told – its up to farmers to decide how it will be remembered

Ar4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert’s presentation to the audience at the NSW Department of Primary industry’s workshop on SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE – CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY answered the question posed by the FarmOn team in their recent blog ‘So are farmers ready to care’ found here

We at Art4agriculture are thrilled that the organisers of the event acknowledged that youth are passionate and committed to doing whatever it takes to get the narrative right and  chose to give youth a voice through Josh to tell their story

Below is an abbreviated version of Josh’s talk

Connecting with the community – the narrative

My name is Joshua Gilbert. I am, a fourth generation Braford breeder on the Mid North Coast of NSW, an area my ancestors have farmed for over 40,000 years. I commenced my law and accounting studies in 2009, with the aim of working in community practice. In the process of studying, I found myself drawn back to agriculture, and recognised that my skills could complement both my on farm operations as well as my fellow farmers.

My long-term aim is to go back to my family farm. I know that agriculture has changed, and that it now requires high level skills for farmers to be successful in the tough climate we find ourselves in. At a wider level, my background will also help me support farmers to up skill in financial literacy.

I am also completing a law degree with a view to spending some time in policy, and getting a greater understanding of what can be achieved. I also hope this training will ensure that I can add value to policy discussions, and ensure we get the best outcomes for agriculture. I am also considering a career in politics.

As a young person who is passionate about the cattle industry, watching the impact of the Live Export scrutiny on our fellow farmers in the Northern Beef Industry, I realise the greatest threat to sustainable red meat production in this country, is no longer harsh climatic conditions and volatile prices, but rather, whether or not our customers find our farming and animal welfare practices socially acceptable.

I also acknowledge that negative consumer images and perceptions about modern farming practices are seriously threatening farmers’ social licence to operate. I feel very passionate about ensuring I have the knowledge, skill sets and a team of people-around me, to help turn this around.

I identified the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions as a group of young people who felt just like me. A core focus of the program is to provide training in how to effectively engage and build relationships with consumers. Through our learning and interactioins we are finding this is an important foundation to success.

Meat and Livestock Australia Young Farming Champions

I  have just completed my first year of training, which involved learning how to tailor my presentation to an audience in a way that resonates and how to engage with school children. What is particularly exciting about the program is we are also able to engage with their teachers and friends to build a cohort of people who become ambassadors for agriculture and are excited about careers in agriculture.

As part of the program we also get to be the young faces of farming and go into schools participating in the Archibull Prize. This gives students the chance to ask questions about farming practices and careers in the agriculture sector. As part of the Archibull Prize the students create artworks, blogs and multimedia animations, which help take agriculture’s story well beyond the classroom

The program teaches us that the aim is not to educate. The aim is to engage and provide opportunities for consumers to have open, honest and transparent conversations. In this way, we are able to convey we care just as much about the environment and animal well-being as they do.

We are in turn able to show them how challenging it is to farm in a world with declining natural resources, and that if we are going to do this successfully, we need to build strong partnerships between agriculture and the community.

We are also given media training with a strong focus on handling the difficult questions. This has been particularly rewarding for me and shown me it’s not as hard as you might think.

I was recently asked to participate in a live radio interview with the ABC about an upcoming presentation I was to give to the NSW Farmers, Wagga District Council. Having completed a few interviews before with very supportive journalists, I knew I had been lucky and that this would not always be the case.

Prior to the event, I prepared my key messages and because of my Young Farming Champions media training, I was able to stay on message no matter how hard the journalist wanted me to focus on the negatives of agriculture.

In the past, I would have fallen into the trap the journalist set for me. However, I had recently attended a Young Farming Champions workshop where, in the safety of a training environment, I was grilled in the art of staying on message and getting the outcomes I wanted from the interview. This was a very rewarding experience and gave me new confidence

Next year I will have the opportunity to hone my skills by going into schools as part of Art4Agriculture’s programs. Once I have graduated to the next level, I will be given the opportunity to attend master classes, where I will learn how to engage with a diverse range of audiences. Art4Agriculture has recently built a relationship with Rotary and Young Farming Champions who have done master classes will now have an opportunity to present to Rotary groups across Sydney.

If we want to go further we are given training in how to create a TED talk. We are also provided insights into the art of successful marketing and how important it is to take your audience on the journey with you

But there are plenty more people out there, who are just as passionate as me. People who want to be proactive and build relationships with the community, so we can all work together.

Similarly, they need training, mentoring and ongoing support. Too often I see passionate advocates provided with half day media training and then expected to talk to the media and get it right.

We all feel a huge responsibility when we talk on behalf of our sector and the industry we are part of. It is our responsibility to ensure that the people who take this role on are provided the best training and support, that people who are the faces of the corporate world receive.

We also need to acknowledge not everyone is suitable for this, and we need to support and show how people can value-add to advocacy in many different ways at a level that they are comfortable with.

I am using the skills, knowledge and networks I have developed as an MLA Young Farming Champion to help other youth recognise the social networks and relationships that underpin the new community interest in how our food is produced. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with consumers, and have two-way conversations, that will generate a mutual understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints.

I believe that as farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, however we have not historically been good at communicating this. Our narrative is not to change people’s values, but to demonstrate that farmers share these same values. We have immense pride in what we do; we just need to share these narratives beyond our farm gates to instil trust and confidence in our practices.

Rather than bombard consumers with more science, research or information, I believe it is integral that we demonstrate that we share our consumers’ values on topics that they are most concerned about—safe food, global warming, quality nutrition and animal welfare.

As part of the Young Farming Champion team I now have access to mentors and training, to help develop the skills sets, knowledge and confidence to be part of the solution. These mentors have hands-on, coal face experience, and share this openly and passionately- to help all those involved in the program. This experience is critical to our success- a crucial knowledge bank and practical resources that ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes that we may have made in the past.

We need to be talking about our farms and our values to become just another role  of the farmer. However it is important to note that this process does not involve educating people, but rather being open and transparent when they want to engage with us.

Just like farmers learn how to use  new farming equipment and technologies, we need to build up our farming community to be confident and have skills  to talk about what they do and why they do it.

My Young Farming Champion story has shown what is possible, it has shown what the backbone of the farming narrative needs to be, and that we can build a confident and skilled group of likeminded people, prepared to talk positively about farming.

It is important agriculture comes together, up skill its people and start telling its story to the world. While everyone has a different story, there are common messages and ways to tell our story that will start people talking positively about farming.

ht to Greg Mills and Ann Burbrook

#YouthinAg Leadership Hub

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia wide network of Young Farming Champions with diverse roles in the our  food and fibre industries that are passionate and skilled in sharing their values and experiences with the non farming community.

The program equips young farmers, in a safe and nurturing environment, to be the next leaders of agriculture on a national and world scale.

To be a leader you have to have many qualities including the desire, drive and courage to get the best outcomes for the common good.

Meat and Livestock Australia supported Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert is definitely a young man with a great deal of desire ,drive and courage. He recently penned this blog for the NSW Farmers initiative AgInnovators 

Uniting a fragmented industry

17th Nov 2014By Josh Gilbert, NSW Young Farmers

When R.M. Williams first opened his first store in Adelaide, Sir Sidney Kidman celebrated his birthday in the heart of the city with a rodeo and Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup, 14 percent of the Australian population was employed in Australian agricultural sector. Both rural and urban communities celebrated the industry and a career in agriculture was highly valued.

Today less than three percent of the Australian population is employed in agriculture. Our farmers’ commitment to producing high quality produce has never been stronger but a majority of urban consumers have little concept of what we do and appear relatively indifferent to the origin and quality of the food they select from supermarket shelves.

The bright light in what otherwise could be a depressing picture is the small but growing group of people in society who are interested in how their food and fibre is produced and who are willing to pay for quality.

It is these people who give us the best opportunity to create partnerships with our consumers and help ensure that the wonderful story of Australia’s agriculture gets spread further and wider into the future.

However, in order to have successful and lasting partnerships with consumers who really care about food quality and sustainable farm practice, we, as the Australian agricultural sector, need to come together as a connected, cohesive and collaborative industry. We need to start behind the farmgate, forming partnerships between farmers and the diverse subcategories we personally represent. Without well-founded industry collaboration, agriculture in Australia will not be able to provide a unified, coherent and respected voice that resonates with the community and government.

To emphasise the challenge we face in achieving unity, I want you to think of the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the words ‘agriculture’ or ”farming?

Are you thinking of a subsector such as beef, grain or dairy?

Or perhaps even a commodity like goat meat, cheese, seafood or apples?

Or what about something more specific like Braford Cattle or super fine Merino wool?

Or a farming region such Darling Downs or the Mallee?

Or state farming organisations like NSW Farmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Perhaps you are thinking of one of the plethora of commercial and government bodies in the agricultural sector providing advice, policy and services.

Currently, there are thousands of voices speaking for agriculture with different opinions and agendas and this is limiting our ability to form better relationships with each other, let alone our consumers. Is it any wonder that urban Australia and our politicians are confused about what agriculture stands for and what agriculture wants?

Of course every subsector of agriculture has different specific production methods and policy issues. But we have far more in common than we have differences.  In order for Australian agriculture to prosper we must agree on the main narrative –  which in my view is about sustaining the quality and integrity of our farming operations and products –  and deliver this narrative effectively with a unified voice. As part of this, we need to create better relationships within the industry, support our colleagues in their pursuits and actively show respect and encouragement for our fellow farmers.

One opportunity I am involved with that is achieving success is the Art4Agriculture program. The platform encourages Young Farming Champions from a variety of sectors to collaborate and discuss their ideas about the industry and how we can best move forward together. My involvement in this program has helped me to see other perspectives and has convinced me of the importance of achieving unity on the really important issues.

In order for our industry to receive the respect and admiration that we previously enjoyed, we must work together. We must formulate, collaborate and be innovative with our ideas as an entire industry rather than continuing to focus on what is happening within our respective boundary fences.

Well said Josh. We look forward to the day when silo farming is a thing of the past

Dr Steph says the path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

Art4Agriculture has partnered with the dynamic Steph Coombes to contribute content to her phenomenal resource Ausagventures for all things YouthInAg and those thinking about venturing into the exciting world of a career in Agriculture.

Each month along with 10 agricultural youth groups and organisations we will be writing a blog exclusively for Ausagventures. You can find their profiles below and scroll down to read their blogs and to see what #ausagventures they have been getting up to around the country and how you can join in here.

In our first three blog we are going to feature our three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

‘Whoever said a career in agriculture was all mud and flies obviously had no idea what they were talking about’ 

Our guest blogger today is Steph Fowler in the middle with fellow young farming champions

First up we have Dr Steph ( in waiting) Fowler who is currently sitting in one the troughs in the roller coaster ride that is the journey to a PhD and a scientific legacy in the world of agriculture R&D 

Dr Steph with her beloved carcasses

The path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

My current research project is looking at objectively measuring meat quality. I am working towards being able to identify which lamb carcases will eat well and those that won’t. I am using a laser technology called the Raman spectroscopic hand held probe because it’s rapid, quantitative and non-destructive. Developing this technology for use commercially is a huge benefit to industry because you can measure the actual piece of meat that people are going to eat without destroying it and lamb producers can be paid for the quality of meat they are producing not just the weight.

The fantastic team at DPI at Cowra (Matt Kerr, Tracy Lamb, David (my supervisor) and Heinar (the probe’s inventor).

Over the last month I have been working on trials that take the prototype probe into lamb processing plants to figure out whether we can use it to determine how tender the meat will be early on in processing. While the work is exciting and new because there’s only two of these probes in the world (one here with me for a few months and another in Germany at the institute in Bayreuth where they are made), the work can be frustrating and deflating because every so often we come across a challenge we can’t see how to solve when we need to so we can continue working. Sometimes it’s something small like an electricity supply adapter that shorts out and then causes a bigger issue or an electric plug that’s lost a wire and sometimes it’s something a bit bigger like the equipment we need not liking the cold chillers. Because I work in smaller rural towns often these problems end in me driving somewhere to get a part or find someone who can help me. Makes for some long days when you start at 5am to be ready for the first carcases to come down to pack up, drive 2 hours, find the people or the part, and get in the car and drive back to be ready to start at 5am the next day. Add onto that some tough working conditions and you have yourself a somewhat difficult working week.

Me in the lab

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ken Jr. Keyes said “to be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what do you do have”. With a little love, help, and support from those I work with at the plant, at DPI, at uni and in my own team, the industry as a whole, and the towns and communities I work in as well as my friends and fellow PhD-ers near and far I have been able to salvage my trial and continue. Sometimes it’s been the technical help, sometimes it’s having the part in stock or knowing who does, sometimes it’s helping me make a decision or cooking a home cooked meal or offering me a bed but mostly it’s just being there, and listening and trying to understand.

Research is a rollercoaster ride the ups and downs can come minutes apart and sometimes 20 seconds can change everything. Because each project is unique it can be isolating. We each face issues and challenges that are also unique and that can feel isolating. Relationships with friends, family and significant others don’t always get off the PhD rollercoaster in the same condition that they got on either and that can feel isolating too. Combine that with the stresses of just getting ourselves through the ups and downs and that’s why I value and truly appreciate the phenomenal backing I have received over the last 2 years. I wouldn’t be still standing without it and without being reminded that it is always there.

The backing of the industry and the communities I work in, the people I work with and those who believe in me and my work inspire my passion. They keep me striving at what I do to help move the industry forward. For that I am truly grateful.

Me and my Italian friends Gianluca and Marco. Gianluca has become one of my biggest cheerleaders ever both professionally and personally.

But no mistaking there have been plenty of highlights in my journey including last year being  awarded a travel grant to attend the graduate program at the 59th International Conference of Meat Science and Technology in Turkey, where I presented two papers; I  was selected as a Crawford Scholar, and elected to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Youth Group. I also have lifelong memories from my opportunity as a Young Farming Champion  to share my journey in agriculture with four NSW schools as part of their journey to win the 2013 Archibull Prize.  Recently I my manuscript was selected for the Journal of Meat Science

For those who love the science here are all the details you need to read my paper

Predicting tenderness of fresh ovine semimembranosus using Raman spectroscopy
Stephanie M. Fowler, Heinar Schmidt, Remy van de Ven, Peter Wynn,
David L. Hopkins
PII: S0309-1740(14)00064-3
DOI: doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.02.018
Reference: MESC 6378
To appear in: Meat Science
URL Link http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000643

You can read Steph’s blog she wrote for her YFC application process here

Follow Steph on twitter @steph_bourke

Meet Casey Dahl who lives breathes and talks agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes Queensland beef farmer and university student Casey Dahl

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

Agriculture is my everything!

My story begins with my arrival on a beef cattle property near Baralaba in Central Queensland around 22 years ago. My parents Des and Karen Dahl both came from agricultural backgrounds. Dad is the third generation of Dahl’s to run beef cattle on our land, and my mother, is the daughter of a cereal grain farmer on the Darling Downs in South-Eastern Queensland. I was my parents’ second child, and I grew up wanting to do everything that my older brother Mick could do. Growing up on the land was great. Looking back, I see the freedom and the opportunities I was allowed. From learning to ride horses to having pet poddy calves, every day was a chance to learn life lessons, even if I didn’t realise that at the time.

Me with one of our many poddy calves growing up, and my brother and I helping out with the fencing.

I was home-schooled through the school of the air until year 3 when I started attending the local school, the Baralaba State School. I joined my cousins each day for the few hours round bus trip to school. This was fantastic because it meant there were opportunities to build cubbies and play other games when we were dropped off at the end of the school bus line; it was always girls verse boys of course!

At the age of 14 I went off to boarding school in Rockhampton. It was at boarding school that I first started to feel the tug of home. I missed my family, my animals and my freedom. However, now in high school I just assumed I would leave school and pursue another career, not one in Agriculture. There were numerous options. Would I be an occupational therapist, or maybe a physiotherapist or even an architect? It was always in the back of my mind that one day I would return to the land, but that would be after a career somewhere else.

The end of school came around, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I decided a gap year in England would give me a chance to think about career options a little longer. Working in a country boarding school in Suffolk I soon started to realise a few things:

  1. Snow is fun for about three days. Three months of working in the snow teaching netball on the other hand, really makes you miss the Australian climate.
  2. That there is very little your mum can do for you when you get sick on the other side of the world. All of a sudden I was very responsible for looking after myself.
  3. If I thought I missed home when I was at boarding school, it was nothing compared to how I felt now. I missed my family, friends, space, sunshine…and the list goes on.

But I soon started to settle-in and I started to notice other things. I met a group of English young farmers, and judging by the RM Williams jeans and belts they wore I gathered that they must be good people. I started to realise how much I had to talk to them about in regards to agriculture. We compared our industries, and how differently they operated in our respective countries. It was great! In my time off from work I travelled up to the Scottish border to stay with family relatives. It just so happened that they were largely involved in agriculture. I was given tours of peoples farms, and taken to cattle sales, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of farming. It was during my year away that I became aware of how much I enjoyed being around people involved in agriculture. These people wanted to learn about how we operated in Australia, and wanted to show me how they ran successful agricultural businesses in the UK. It was all about sharing knowledge, and learning more. I also realised how tough Aussie farmers have it. Subsidies were big throughout Europe for farmers, and they generally didn’t have to struggle with difficulties such as drought and fire.

Adventures in England:  A Belgian Blue bull at the cattle sales and some very cold sheep.

I finally returned home on Christmas day in 2010. It was flooding everywhere, and once I got back to our property the floodwaters made sure I stayed there for over a month with no access to the outside world. After being in England, the isolation was a shock to the system! It was so good to be home and doing what I loved though.

At home with some of my Brahman cattle

In March of 2011 I started a Veterinary Technologist Degree at the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I now knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture and work with the people in it. At uni I met people from all over Australia and the world, some with a passion for agriculture, some having no idea about it at all. I was surprised by how many of, what I knew to be ‘city kids’, were interested in Ag. It was one of those ‘city kids’ that started to talk to me about the degree he was doing, The Bachelor of Agricultural Science. The degree meant an extra year of study but I soon made the switch. This degree covered all aspects of Agriculture, from cropping, to environmental impacts, and business management. I loved getting the broad overview of agriculture in our country.

I’m still at uni, currently in my final year. Whilst being here I’ve had many huge learning experiences. I had a part time job with DAFF working in Dairy Research, which opened my eyes to an incredibly complex industry that I knew very little about. I also have undertaken a 13-week internship with a bovine reproduction centre near Rockhampton, Rocky Repro, where I learnt so much about the importance of utilising breeding technologies to develop our industries. It was on my internship that I started to recognise an area in agriculture that I’d like to focus more on. I am now about to conduct an honours project looking at an alternative method to cryopreservation of bovine semen, from which we will hopefully gain some useful results to share with the reproduction industry.

Getting dirty working in Dairy Research

Analysing semen whilst on my internship.

And that brings us to the present day, so what have I taken from my journey so far?

Most importantly, it is that agriculture is a diverse industry which entails so many smaller sectors within it. Each one of these sectors is full of passionate people with unique skills and knowledge. Which is lucky, because agriculture is a fundamental part of human existence as we know it, so every one of those people is important.To use an analogy my academic supervisor told me just this week (Warning: I may have put my own spin on this).

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

I am so privileged to have been born into an agricultural lifestyle, and have loved it from the start, even though along the journey It look like I might move in a different direction. I hope that in the future I can play a part in helping people on the land cope with the adversities we are sure to face. I also hope I can help people from a non-agricultural background become part of this industry, allowing them too to have a piece of the pie.

I love the land and think it is absolutely beautiful! In my spare time, I try to capture this whether it be through photography, painting or drawing.

Meet Tim Eyes who is mixing beef with surf and turf

Our guest blogger today is young farmer Tim Eyes a great example of how you don’t have to own the farm to farm the farm

This is Tim’s story……  

I live on my parent’s turf farm; whilst I run five cows of my own on the family farm and help out when I can I don’t farm turf for a living.

My story is an example of how young people can successfully farm without have to own the land

My name is Tim Eyes and I run Eyes Farm Contracting; a property management and consulting business based on the NSW Central Coast and Hunter Valley. I am lucky enough to be living my farming dream, which has always been to manage and work on beef cattle properties in the Australian Beef Industry.

The New South Wales Central Coast is known for its beaches and is an easy 1 hour drive north of Sydney. The equine industry is booming in the area, but there are still some pockets of prime land that are producing quality beef cattle. This is where Eyes Farm Contracting comes in.

As a young boy I always dreamed of being a farmer, but always envisioned that it would not be possible in my home town on the Central Coast. I attended primary school in an urban area, and was always ‘the country boy stuck on concrete’. Because of this, my parents gave me the opportunity to attend boarding school in year eight at Scots School in Bathurst. The school had an extensive farm and I was given the opportunity to oversee lambing and calving. This led to my heavy involvement into the school’s show teams in sheep and cattle taking me around the state to regional shows and Sydney Royal.

I truly fell in love with farming given the opportunity to immerse myself in agriculture whilst at school. After year 10, I left to attend Tocal Agricultural College, receiving dux of the college. Tocal was a very important to help me reach my career goal of working in agriculture. Tocal taught me the practical and theoretical skills to enter the agricultural industry with confidence.

While attending Tocal, I was well on the way to starting my own beef cattle herd, spending weekends establishing the infrastructure on my parents farm. I spent my work experience from Tocal in New Zealand on a property that farmed sheep, cattle, deer and a variety of crops. Another experience was at a large cropping farm at Burren Junction, NSW.

The view from my Tractor Cab in New Zealand

After completing my studies at Tocal, I received the inaugural Big Brother Movement Scholarship to spend two months in the UK studying. This really opened my eyes to a completely different industry; where cattle are kept in sheds for the majority of the year and lack of rain is far from a problem. I spent time at Genus in Wales, one of the most prestigious Bull genetic and semen collection facilities in the world. During this time, I helped collect seamen from the world’s most popular dairy bull, and other highly sought after beef bulls. My trip also led me to Scotland, where I got to show cattle, work with thousands of sheep, met HRH Princess Anne and have two of the most amazing months of my life, that not only taught me about agriculture but also about myself.

After coming home from the UK, I felt I was well equipped with a wealth of knowledge to start my career in Agriculture. I didn’t really know what the next step would be. Should I follow the majority of my friend’s and go out West to find work on a large scale farm?

Fortunately the answer was decided for me when I was asked to run a beef cattle farm only 5 minutes from home producing high quality Limousin cattle. This was not was well established farm and only required me to work 2 days a week. This led me to start Eyes Farm Contracting, a property management and consulting business.

The next opportunity for my business was to run a show team for Douglasdale Charolais Stud. This has since blossomed into a 3 days a week permanent role, where I am heavily involved with the raising of their stud cattle and quality commercial cattle herd. Their farming operation is currently spread over three farms, one on the Central Coast, the other two based around Dungog in the NSW Hunter Valley, all totalling 4000 hectares. Our cattle supply high quality grass fed beef to local butchers and one day a week involves taking cattle to the abattoir.

Other days are spent mustering, fencing, breaking in cattle, and attending to the show team and other stud cattle on the property. The Show Team has been highly successful, winning over 6 Supreme exhibits and countless first and champion prizes at local shows right along the East Coast.

I also manage a commercial Angus cattle farm, as well as conduct freelance property consultations and advising.

Winning Grand Champion Senior Bull, Maitland Show 2014

Being part of the local community is important to me and I am a member of my local fire brigade. This gives me a great opportunity to communicate and discuss with local farmers issues in their industry that are important to both them, their industry and the wider community.

Educating Farmers about bull selection at Tocal Field Day 2013

I am definitely a rural entrepreneur, finding many ways to diversify my family farm. I also run a small poultry business with my partner, Hannah, called ‘Eggs on Legs’, selling up to 50 laying hens a week. We are hoping to expand our business into providing free range eggs.

 After fixing the pump

Despite being the direst continent Australian cattle farmers play a major role in feeding the world.

Australia produces only 4% of the world’s beef yet is the world’s third largest exporter exporting to over 100 countries

Many developing countries do not have the land or resources to produce enough protein to feed their populations and these countries rely on Australia for the import of beef and sheep meat products to meet their protein needs. Did you know that Australian beef and lamb is the major protein source used to make around six billion meals each year around the world?

I am very proud to be part of this important industry and my role in helping farmers adapt their farming practices to suit the soil and climate of their farms and the changing climate conditions.

 

See Tim’s Target 100 profile here