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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Getting dirty working in Dairy Research

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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 clip_image002

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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

Meet Prue Capp who has a proud history in wine, a passion for beef and a career with horses

Our last three posts have highlighted the value of the partnership between young people, agricultural shows and show competition personal development opportunities like participating and/or judging events and Showgirl and Rural Achiever participation

The Rural Achiever event at a national level becomes The National Rural Ambassador Award.  It promotes young people’s contribution to rural communities, as well as rewarding individual achievement and commitment to the agriculture industry. The national winner receives an annual travel bursary

Our guest post today comes from Prue Capp who was declared the 2013 National Rural Ambassador at the national finals in Fielding in New Zealand’s North Island late last year.

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This is a very prestigious award as you can imagine and it would appear the sky’s the limit for Gresford equine dentist, student and now 2013 Trans-Tasman National Rural Ambassador Prue Capp.

Prue’s love for the country and agriculture started in the Hunter Valley on her family’s historic  beef cattle and stockhorse-breeding property “Cawarra” at Gresford.

In 2009 she graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Agribusiness and completed an equine dentistry course through the International Association of Equine Dentistry in New Zealand in 2010.

She is also an accredited Australian Stock Horse judge, a member of the Gresford Show Committee, a member of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW (ASC) Youth Group, and at the age of 15 became the co-founder of the Australian Stock Horse Youth Committee.

While still operating her equine dentistry business Essential Equine Dentistry, Ms Capp just finished her first year of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University, Wagga

This is Prue Capp’s story ……………………………………….. 

My agricultural background and passion for the land has ultimately paved the direction of my future. I am a sixth generation grazier in Gresford NSW and part of the Lindeman’s family.

Our property “Cawarra” was home to Dr Henry Lindeman and Lindeman’s wines, which began growing grapes as well as raising cattle and producing beef in 1842. While the vineyard and winemaking ventures were moved to Pokolbin in 1912 for more uniform climatic conditions (especially in relation to frosts), the property remained and continues to produce cattle to this day.

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“Cawarra” Homestead

“Cawarra” originally a holding of 5,500 acres is now 840 acres (340 hectares). Like many holdings in the area, “Cawarra” has been subdivided over generations due to high cost of land and popularity of small, rural lifestyle lots common for the area’s idyllic geographic location.

Subdividing the property has allowed us to raise capital and improve pasture and increase livestock carrying capacity.  Whilst “Cawarra” is fairly modest in size, we are very proud to optimising our productivity whilst lowering our environmental footprint.

“Cawarra” operates a primarily Hereford based herd (with some Angus cross), managing 260 cows, 80 heifers and 210 steers. We use low stress handling techniques using horses to move cattle around the property.

As well as our day-to-day operations at “Cawarra”, our family members have off farm income which is common amongst many properties in the Hunter Valley

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Cawarra” cattle

While I have a very strong love of beef cattle, horses have always been an integral component of “Cawarra” for handling and cattle moving purposes. It is no surprise that my brother, sister and myself were all on horse’s before we could walk, as dad believed “it was easier to find us that way”.

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In keeping with family tradition, I too am passionate about the agricultural show movement. From a small age, our family has been involved in various aspects of shows, something which has always been a keen interest of mine. I have been lucky enough to win major placings at agricultural, state, national and royal levels (including Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra Royal shows). Breeding and competing with my own horses is very important to me and I thrive on, and am inspired by their successes and performances.

I was fortunate to attend the New England Girl’s School where my love for agriculture, sport and friendships was nurtured. During my schooling years I was co-founder and vice-president of the Australian Stock Horse Society (ASHS ) Youth Committee. After turning 18 and moving out of the youth events, I attained my judging accreditation helping to bridge the gap between the youth committee and the society.

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Judging Australian Stock Horse’s at an agricultural show.

After finishing school and during university, I worked on thoroughbred studs preparing yearlings for the horse sales. This helped to fund my way through university and open my eyes to yet another avenue of agriculture.

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A personal highlight –  leading through the 2010 Magic Millions top selling colt.

Like most 18 year olds, I wasn’t certain which career direction I was going to take when I finished school. However it felt like a natural progression for me to combine my love for agriculture and my thirst for business knowledge and experience. I graduated from UNE with a Bachelor of Agribusiness in 2009 before travelling around the world with two friends visiting countries in South America, Europe and Africa.

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I have a particular interest in the diversification of rural entities. I am concerned for the many small communities such as Gresford, whose sustainability is under threat from challenges like lack of employment opportunities, population deployment, struggling small businesses and lack of local education opportunities.

This was a major contributing factor for me to study equine dentistry and target a specific niche market, as specialists in many industries do not travel to small communities like ours. I moved to New Zealand to study equine dentistry, before setting up my own business Essential Equine Dentistry in November 2010.

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It was around this time that I became involved in the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Youth Group. I was very involved in my local Gresford show and realised that there were other young people my age with a passion for the agricultural show movement too. I have held an executive position on the youth group for four years now and spend many of my weekends at agricultural shows judging, stewarding, announcing, coordinating and getting involved in any way.

The agricultural show movement has taken me around the world.

In 2012 I was fortunate to be selected to represent the RAS of NSW and the Next Generation at the RASC conference in Zambia. The ‘Global Food Production’ theme tours were a highlight for me given my farming and agribusiness background. It was enlightening to see how a third world country relies on agriculture as a tool for survival and how even the smallest of improvements in agricultural practices makes a difference in their quality of life. I also got to meet HRH Princess Anne.

If population predictions are correct, it is important now, more than ever, to ensure that we as farmers can continue to feed the world and I aspire to be a part of this.

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Spending a day at a Zambian Agricultural show/expo

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Visiting a feedlot in Zambia

I have been operating my own business Essential Equine Dentistry for three years now and have enjoyed the challenges and benefits involved with running a business. In 2012 I bought a house and relocated to Scone in the Hunter Valley, renown as the horse capital of Australia. At the same time, I was selected as one of eight finalists of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever at Sydney Royal Easter Show. This experience included nine amazing days ‘behind the scenes’ of the show, visiting Parliament House and functions with the Governor of NSW. The award is a state-wide leadership program, recognizing future young leaders who are working hard to make a significant contribution to their local community and to rural Australia. I was extremely fortunate to be selected the winner of the award and the NSW Rural Achiever representative.

While I am very proud of my business achievements, I wanted to go further and take it to the next level. While I could not go too much further with equine dentistry, I chose to undertake further study. In 2013, I went back to university as a mature age student (all of 25) to study veterinary science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. I enjoy the course as it specialises in large animals, helping to close the divide between the number city vets who specialise in small animals in comparison to the shortage of large animal vets. Once I have completed my degree I am looking forward to working in rural and remote areas

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With my parents Tim and Helen Capp watching the Hereford classes at the Royal New Zealand Show

As the 2012/2013 NSW Rural Achiever, I represented NSW as the finalist at the 2013 National (Trans-Tasman) Rural Ambassador Award run by the Federal Council of Agricultural Societies in December 2013. The award includes each of the state’s rural achiever/ambassador finalists as well as the New Zealand representative. I was very fortunate to win the national award – I am still pinching myself!

This award is a  tremendous opportunity and a platform for me to encourage like-minded people, especially the next generation, to become involved in their community organisations and be proud of their communities.

Becoming the National Rural Ambassador has also allowed me to reach a wider network of like-minded people, giving me a platform from which to showcase the agricultural show movement, promote the agricultural industry and encourage those who may be considering a career in agriculture.

It has also allowed me to encourage and show other young people, especially rural based women that establishing and operating their own businesses, can be highly rewarding and that if you immerse yourself whole heartedly, anything is possible.

As a young agriculturalist, I believe education is the key to the future of the agricultural industry and by further study I will be able to contribute to its future. For this reason I wish to pursue a career as a large animal veterinarian in rural communities as well as work in the live export industry.

I believe in the future of farming and the sustainability of agriculture and I thrive on the opportunity to be an ambassador for agriculture.

Meet Geoff Birchnell who is combining a career in finance with a love of the bush

Today’s guest blog post comes from Geoff Birchnell a very impressive young man I had the opportunity to meet when I was in Queensland late last year. Geoff has a Bachelor of Commerce, is a chartered accountant and a department manager at Williams Hall Chadwick in Brisbane by day but as you will see the call of the bush and the beef industry flow through his veins and consumes his weekends

This is Geoff’s story……. 

I was born & raised in a Newcastle, an industrial town 150km north of Sydney. We lived in a suburban street, with a typically small backyard, which was home to 1 dog & 2 birds. Some would say this lifestyle is as far from a farm as you can get. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a farmer, after 9 years of convincing my city raised parents I realised my dream.

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Our family sold our house, packed our belongings & moved to Quirindi (40 minutes south of Tamworth). Shortly after arriving in Quirindi we bought a small farm which we then had to stock with cattle.

After researching an extensively as a 9 year could I convinced Dad that we should go to the Dalmar Poll Herefords dispersal on the old historic Warrah Station. At this sale we bought our first cow and from this day on we have been ‘farmers’. I remember this day so vividly, it was a dream come true.

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As I researched more I became aware of cattle shows, one in particular had a special aura and the prestige of winning the title of Grand Champion of Sydney Royal Easter Show. I set my sights on achieving this. We continued to increase our herd but I soon realised a Sydney Champion doesn’t just happen; you have to plan, search for the best stock and even then hope for some luck.

For 18 years many calves were born, the best of these were taken to Sydney Show but none of these won. Then in 2009 a very special calf was born, he was different to the rest, he grew faster and weighed more, his name was Avignon Absolute. In 2011 my dream came true when Absolute was the Sydney Grand Champion bull. Winning Sydney Grand Champion was every bit as good as I had dreamt. In my mind when you win Sydney Royal Champion you have made it, you belong. The history of past champions is full of the bulls that I had looked at over & over again growing up. I knew them all, people spoke about these bulls as ‘Champions’.

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I know all stud cattle breeders aim to win Sydney Royal, many great breeders have not been fortunate enough to achieve this feat. The feeling of achieving this dream is unbelievably good. For this reason I am now trying to win a 2nd Sydney Royal Grand Champion.

In April this year once again I will take cattle to Sydney Show with the hope of exhibiting the Grand Champion of 2014. The list of breeders who have won multiple Grand Champions is fewer, I hope to join this list in April.

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Geoff ( holding trophy) and 2011 Grand Champion Bull SRES Avignon Absolute.

I know that every Easter I will be trying to win the Sydney Grand Champion again. If I can achieve this I am confident the thrill will be every bit as special as it was the first time.

To see the initiatives Geoff is delivering on farm to help achieve a sustainable cattle and sheep farming in Australian by 2020 check out Geoff’s Target 100 profile here

Meet Anika Molesworth the new Lamb Generation

We need ambitious and innovative people who see past the status quo to embrace sustainable farming now and into the future.

I gives me great pleasure to inform you they are out there. Let me introduce you to our guest blogger Anika Molesworth a young lady with not only a great story to share and the way she tells it you feel like you are walking in her shoes

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Intense heat, flies and hours from the closest beach may not be everyone’s idea of a great holiday; however each school break my parents packed the car along with the three children, two dogs and suitcases for all, and headed to Broken Hill. From Melbourne, the drive takes a good 10 hours, factor in some city traffic and breaks for the kids and dogs to stretch their legs, and you’re looking at closer to 13 hours. Believe it or not it takes roughly the same time to travel to Broken Hill from Sydney

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However, the destination is well worth the drive. Broken Hill is centred in a region rich in Aboriginal, mining and pastoral history. The area is closely linked to past explorers such as Captain Charles Sturt, Burke and Wills and William Giles as well as countless Afghan camel trains who opened up Australia’s interior for the benefit of the coming generations.

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In far western New South Wales, the conditions are harsh. The average annual rainfall is a mere 259mm, and during summer the temperature can stay above 40oC for days on end. However, it is the rich desert colours which have inspired artists from around the globe, the endless horizons that call to be explored, and the welcoming community living within an iconic outback setting which makes visitors feel at home.

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Driving north east from Broken Hill, one will come across Rupee and Clevedale Stations, owned and operated by my family. Incorporating hills of the Barrier Ranges, the properties have a combined size of 10,000 acres.

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The red sand country is vegetated with native grasses, wattles and chenopod scrub, crisscrossed with ephemeral creeks and rocky outcrops. Hand excavated mine shafts tell a story of a bygone era when courageous men went beneath the earth to retrieve silver, lead and zinc.

Grazing our property are our 700 head of Dorper sheep from which we breed our lambs for market.

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They are a hardy and quick growing sheep that originated from South Africa. The breed is well adapted to survive the semi-arid environment of far western NSW. They have high fertility rates and strong maternal instincts. Along with their high growth rates and potential for domestic and international meat markets, it is no wonder this breed is one of the fastest growing sheep breeds in Australia. Dorpers have a reputation of quality carcass conformation, good fat distribution and great meat flavour. We run our property with sustainability in mind, and operate using organic principles which reflect our commitment to animal welfare and good land governance. We handle our stock using low-stress techniques and use conservative stocking rates to lower their impact on the natural environment.

Upon finishing secondary school I set my sights on the big open skies of outback Queensland. I jillarooed on two prominent Queensland beef properties, both close to 3 million acres, and quickly learnt that farming on such a large scale was no walk in the park. Here you had to work as a team, yet be accountable for your individual actions. There were countless physical and mental challenges that had to be overcome, yet I’d feel a great sense of achievement at the end of a long day of hard work.

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Education means a lot to me. I strongly believe that one should never stop learning because life never stops teaching. It was this attitude that propelled me through my Bachelor of Science course, specialising in Agribusiness, which I undertook at Charles Sturt University.

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It also encouraged me to re-open the text books and don my thinking cap once again as I embarked on my Masters of Sustainable Agriculture. This tertiary education has been priceless in helping me to understand agriculture as a living and connected system, one that constantly changes and evolves. My particular area of interest is the role which weather plays in influencing farming operations now and into the future. Farmers have always worked around Australia’s dynamic weather patterns, and have learnt to be both adaptive and resilient. However, as the climate becomes increasingly variable, business as usual may no longer be an option, and the sustainability of farming enterprises requires a better understanding of future weather patterns and embracing adaptation and mitigation strategies. At a specific level, I have focused on sheep grazing practices and natural resource management in a climate-constrained world.

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Working with Suncorp Bank as an agribusiness banker has provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn about a wide range of farming industries. I have greatly benefited from their Agribusiness Graduate program, in which I completed three six-month rotations, which saw me working in Tamworth, Orange and Griffith where I am now based. Suncorp has provided me with a supportive environment that actively encourages young professional women to advance within the agribusiness industry.

As you can tell I have a great passion for and strong personal investment in Australia’s sheep meat industry, and hope to inspire others to embrace the diverse and rewarding opportunities that this industry has to offer. We need ambitious and innovative people who see past the status quo to embrace sustainable farming now and into the future.

Lamb Generation

And in the spirit of Australia Day and sharing knowledge, here’s a great lamb recipe that I can’t live without!

Step 1. Preheat a grill pan or barbecue hotplate to medium–high. Rub lamb-leg steaks with olive oil and caramelized onion and season with cracked black pepper.

Step 2. Grill lamb, turning once, for 3–4 minutes either side (for medium), or until lightly charred. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Step 3. Meanwhile prepare your favourite salad; mine would be couscous topped with cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, fetta, a sprinkling of mint and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Enjoy the mouth watering goodness of this Aussie farmer’s favourite meat!

Delish!

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Meet Josh Gilbert who believes the beginning has the seeds of everything else to come

Today’s guest blog post comes from Josh Gilbert who is combining a degree in law with a role on the NSW Young Farmers Council to advocate for young farmers. Josh is a great believer in the ethos of Eric Thomas.

‘You are the executive director and screenwriter of your life…. Never underestimate the importance of the beginning. The beginning has the seeds of everything else to come.”

This is Josh’s story ………

Hi, my name is Josh Gilbert. I’ve just completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Newcastle and now in my final year of my Law degree. I currently have a Finance Cadetship at the ABC, but my dream is to provide high quality legal advice to those living in the country, while building a large scale agricultural corporation.

My blog today shares with you my agricultural journey thus far and gives insights into my hopes for the future.

My love of agriculture started on my Great Grandparent’s farms in the Mid North Coast of NSW. My family have always been farming, with my Dad’s side producing beef cattle and my Mum’s all being dairy farmers.

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Me with my dad on my grandfather’s tractor

I grew up in the wheat and sheep belt of the Northern Canberra Tablelands- in a small town called Boorowa. The town boasts a rich pastoral and Irish heritage, primarily emphasised by the Running of the Sheep every year. It is in this community that I learnt of the importance of local farms and the impact that farming families had on a small community.

My family moved back up to the coast in 2000 and a few years later purchased a part of my Grandfather’s dairy farm and started a Braford cattle stud which we called Riverside Park Brafords.

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My first Brahman cattle purchase

We are now third and fourth generation Braford breeders, originally chosen by my Great Grandfather due to their natural resistance to ticks and their tolerance to droughts.

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One of our newest calves- Riverside Park Marvelous

Whilst I originally chose a career in law since we established our cattle stud and working on the farm, my enthusiasm for the agriculture industry has been re-ignited. This passion has prompted me to join the NSW Farmers- Young Farmers Council and seen me attend the 2013 Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship in Sydney.

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Touring the meat aisle at the 2013 Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship program

Inspired by cattle pioneers James Tyson and Sir Sidney Kidman and my interest in business and commerce, I have big aspirations to create one of Australia’s largest, privatively owned, mixed enterprise, farming companies. I have since started working towards this dream, attending cattle courses, writing farm profitability formulas and conducting further research into the field.

However, my interest in agriculture stems beyond my personal endeavours- with further concerns around farmer mental health issues, the need for assistance to encourage young farmers and the vital role of education for viable farming futures. I believe Government policy and funding is strongly needed in these areas, with agricultural industry support and guidance to help implement suitable measures.

Australian agriculture, especially the beef industry, is supported by strong historic foundations. I believe the long term viability of beef cattle production now relies on farmers getting a fair return for their efforts, community support, adaptation and adoption of environmentally sound farming methods, while ensuring animal care standards are delivered at the highest level.


“You got an opportunity to make a dream become a reality – and when you do, you just got to take advantage of it.” – Eric Thomas

I believe the future of the agriculture sector rests in our hands and it is up to us to ensure we build capacity to continually improve the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of Australian agriculture.

There are many difficulties facing farmer’s everyday, namely; ageing and fewer farmers, difficulties in the retention of younger generations, mental health issues, problems ensuring profitability, concerns obtaining finance and reduced consumer knowledge of where their food comes from combined with increased consumer expectations about how their food is produced. While there are many challenges facing the agriculture sector at large, I believe there are many opportunities.

To take advantage of these opportunities, it is pivotal that the agriculture sector has a unified voice and a cohesive, united brand that we are all proud of. That farmers share their enthusiasm and passion for what they do and why they do it with not only the rest of Australia, but also the World.  It is equally important that farmers have the opportunity to improve their business skills and have access to mental health services, while also drawing upon the ability to develop quality relationships along the food chain with our urban communities.

Young people have the opportunity to gain a broad education that allows us to work off farm to increase our knowledge of successful business practices and gain an appreciation for urban life. This also provides us with a chance to discover the ways urban and rural can work together to ensure the agriculture sector prospers.

Our government will also have a strong role to play. Together, farmers and government must develop policies that will assist young people to access the capital that’s required to get into farming and provide additional financial education to ensure realistic business accounting. Currently, the costs of farmland and infrastructure are a huge barrier to many younger farmers, with government intervention the most applicable way to help change this situation.

Further policy is also needed to help encourage young people to become involved in agriculture and help the sector realise its potential. Additionally, we also need to continue to develop higher-level skills and training for the sector, while promoting agriculture as a positive, diverse and rewarding career path.

Greater skills and knowledge in areas such as finance, marketing and legal, is the key to helping farmers think actively and ask questions to ensure our personal businesses and the wider industry grows. I believe our entire future livelihoods rest primarily on the engagement, recruitment and retention of these people.

We have a real chance to make these dreams a reality. We have the opportunity to make the agricultural profession as reputable and important to others as it once was. It won’t be easy, but the rewards will be great.

I look forward to taking an active role and working with farmers and our communities to realise this.

Well said Josh and I am sure you will agree with me that Josh is a young man prepared to do the hard yards to achieve his big dreams.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams, just know that all roads that lead to success have to pass through Hardwork Boulevard at some point. Eric Thomas                                             

You can read Josh’s Target 100 profile here 

Dr Harry comes calling

My name is Danille Fox, I am 19 years old and this is my story ……..

Danille Fox

I grew up on our family beef cattle property Bona Vista, 75km north of St George, where we run 500 breeders and 1000 composite steers.

St George

My parents have been the biggest role models in my life and have inspired my strong interest and determination to work in the beef industry. Working for our family business Bona Vista Grazing Company has taught me many valuable practical farm and business skills as well as inspired my love for the rural lifestyle and agriculture.

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Standing with my Mum in our forage sorghum crop which we made silage from to store and feed to our cattle in droughts.

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Mustering the steers off the crop to weigh in the cattle yards with my Dad, brother and the loyal team (the working dogs)

I completed my primary schooling at Begonia State School where most the time I was the only one in my class and the total number of students was no more than 12. Attending such a small school taught me how to make friends with everyone despite our age differences which is a trait I’ve continued to use.

As I am the youngest of 6 in my family, and our property is near a few of my cousins, we were never bored as kids. Building stick cubbies, playing in the cottonseed, swimming and fishing in the dam and ‘cattle yard tiggy’ were just a few of the little adventures we shared.

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 Playing in the cotton seed with my sister and cousins. We feed cotton seed to our cattle during the droughts to our cattle.

I have also grown a love for cattle as since I was old enough to carry a milking a bucket I would wake up early in the morning to go down to the yards with Dad to milk the cows. Even today I still go down and milk the cows with my nieces and I’m sure they will agree that you can’t beat the taste of fresh farm milk.

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I have always loved animals and have multiple home videos of my cousin and myself playing ‘Dr Harry’ on the farm where we would ‘make up cases, such as the dairy cow swallowing a golf ball, and the cat getting its claws stuck in the tree, that we were called out to ‘urgently’ treat.

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Preparing for a muster at a neighbours. Working in the agricultural industry is a team effort and is extremely rewarding.

I began studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science in 2011 and decided I wanted to combine my passion for Australian agriculture and farming with my love for animals, in particular cattle and am currently in my second year studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland, Gatton.

My dream is to return to a rural area to contribute my skills as a rural veterinarian while contributing to Australia’s beef industry.

Over the years I have taken every opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills in agriculture from working beside my Mum and Dad on the farm, to participating in programs such as TASTE (The Agricultural Skills and Tertiary Experience) at the Dalby Agricultural College and FEAST (Future Experiences in Agriculture, Science and Technology) which were valuable experiences to meet young people from rural areas with similar interests as myself. I have also taken part in various workshops and forums including the Young Beef Producers Forum held annually in Roma as well as being an active member in the Young Angus Youth Society, the Future Farmers Network and the Bovine Appreciation Group and Cattleman’s Club at our University.

In 2011 I became a recipient of the Horizon Scholarship supported by RIRDC. The scholarship enabled me to gain experience at the Katherine Research Station, Katherine and Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory, Darwin in the NT where I worked with veterinarians conducting station tick checks, taking blood tests from cattle and chooks, crocodile catching and much more.

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Work experience in the Northern Territory was a great opportunity to learn and make valuable networks.

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Learning to jugular bleed cattle.

In 2012 I participated in a Beef Cattle Study Tour to the USA and Canada with my parents and other beef cattle producers from Australia and New Zealand. The trip was extremely informative and included a visit to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) headquarters, a trip to the JBS ‘Kunar’ Feedlot and visits to multiple cattle ranches and studs throughout the states.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQfoo46bFaM

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Two of the many highlights of our US Beef Study Tour was visiting Padlock Ranch and the NCBA.

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Dad, me, my friend Emily and my Mum.

I personally have experienced some of the issues challenging our agricultural industry such as variable climates including extreme droughts and flooding, unstable markets and isolation. I also understand the impact that food security and the growing population (estimated to reach 35.5 million by year 2056) will have on Australia’s agriculture and the demand for increased and sustainable production to feed and clothe the increasing population.

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I am standing on the swings at my primary school Begonia in the record floodwaters in 2012. The generosity of people assisting our community during and after the floods was outstanding.

I believe building relationships with consumers is important in ensuring the stability of Australia’s agriculture. Regarding beef, it is vital for the longevity of the industry, that consumers are comfortable with farm production systems and supply chains.

Communicating quality products, sustainable practices and latest technologies are integral to this relationship. User driven social media is a recent innovation allowing producers to tell their stories and build relationships with consumers. Social media is a 2-way education tool and helps connect farmers with consumers allowing producers to find out what their customers expectations and concerns.

Facebook sites like “Ask An Aussie Farmer” is a great example of stepping forward and connecting with consumers.

I see today’s agricultural industry as exciting and challenging and I feel privileged to be a part of an industry which is so vital to Australia’s future. I look forward to contributing to the industry through my veterinary profession and AGvocacy roles

You can watch Danille’s video here

Read Danille’s Target 100 profile here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A resident koala keeping an eye on the farm’

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

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 ‘Harvest’

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

Cows Calves

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

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‘Helping Dad’

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

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‘Our route across the USA’

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

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‘2012 Australian Meat Judging Team at Texas Tech University’

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‘Training at the University of Wyoming’

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

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‘Our Van – It was quite a cold trip!’

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‘Visiting the National Cattleman’s Beef Association’

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

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

After all, as Dorothea wrote…

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

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

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

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

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

This is Hannah’s story……

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

Parkes

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

Calf at home

This little cutey is one of our new angus calves

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

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Dad harvesting the wheat

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

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Our family home at Pinegrove Parkes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference at India

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

With local women in India

Me with local women in India

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

In Zambia with head of zambian delegates Matambula (4)

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

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Visiting a feedlot in Zambia with other Australian and Zambain Delegates

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

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

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

Read Hannah’s Target 100 profile here

Follow Hannah on twitter @Miss_Barber