Meet Eliza Star who has cotton in her veins

Our guest blog today comes from Eliza Star

My association with agriculture began growing up on our family farm in central NSW near Carrathool. My grandfather purchased the original farm as a small solider settler’s block where he and my grandmother raised 12 children! So right from the beginning, farm life was all about ensuring the enterprise could sustain such a large family.

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The nearest town- Carrathool- Population 99!

We currently grow and produce prime lambs, cotton, rice, Angus cattle and winter cereals; with numbers and area varying with commodity prices. As a child, agriculture was a lifestyle rather than a job and certainly not a career option for me. During the drought, my cousins and siblings were expected to help out a lot more and ironically that’s where I really gained a passion for agriculture. It was a very tough time to grow up as the area downsized in population and a lot of friends, family and businesses have left, never to return. Luckily, we made it through the drought despite no irrigation crops being grown and stock numbers at a minimum.

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I decided to study agriculture after I became very frustrated with the lack of information and support that was available to help me pursue a career with agriculture.

I didn’t have an Agricultural teacher in my HSC year so we were left to teach ourselves. At the time, careers advisors would steer me away from such an occupation and in hindsight it only encouraged me.

The decision to go to Wagga Wagga to begin Agricultural Science is one I haven’t regretted. It’s thanks to my father and uncles, who dragged us along to all the field days, sheep sales, farm tours and taught us to drive the tractors, headers, trucks, ride a horse and motorbike, that has equipped me with farm life skills. Since then, I actually enjoy these field days, grower meetings and farm tours!

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Saying goodbye to my weaners at the saleyard! I started with a mob of merino ewes and continue to sell the lambs to fund my university studies

Some of the highlights of my agriculture journey have included travelling to China as part of an international experience program. We saw irrigated cropping including rice and maize, camel ‘beef ‘ in the Ganzou, leading dairy producers (sourcing Friesian bloodlines from Australian studs), tea plantations and government funded sheep studs. It was an eye opening experience which highlighted how highly regarded farmers were in the community in China. This experience inspired me to be an ambassador for CSU Global to promote travel programs to students. I have plans to continue my travels and hope to go to America this year on a similar tour.

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Climbing the Great Wall of Chinaclip_image010

Standing in a rice field on our Agricultural tour-2013

In addition, another highlight has included my summer jobs and work placement opportunities. These have included; working as a bug checker for a local cotton agronomist which certainly grew my  knowledge of the cotton industry, working in a rural supplies store with a team of agronomists, a sample stand assistant for wheat harvest, a trial assistant at Rice Research Australia and pool guard at the local pool!.

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Bug doctor!Looking for bugs (beneficial and detrimental) in a cotton field

Since cotton is relatively a new industry in Southern NSW, there had been some apprehension into growing genetically modified strains of cotton. However, the industry has boomed with new cotton gins to be built in the Riverina and an increase in the number of new farmers deciding to grow cotton. It’s a very refreshing outlook for the area, with many businesses and farmers excited about the future.

One of my favourite summer jobs has been bug checking. The daily task include monitoring for pests, node counts, boll retentions, petiole collections and data entries. This information is used to assist the grower with information on when to fertilise, water and what insecticides (if any) should be used. I now have a greater understanding and enjoy getting out into dad’s cotton in my spare time to look for bugs. I do believe that cotton will continue to prosper down south with crops showing higher yields and a lower pest threshold.

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Stacking hay to feed the cows and calves at the Rice Research Station, Jerilderie

Through volunteering at the Sydney Show for the Rice Growers Australia’s I was surprised by the lack of knowledge of crops we grow in Australia. We had a lot of people through asking questions and one of the most common and surprising (since our rice producers feed between 20 and 40 million people depending on the seasons)  was ‘I didn’t know rice was grown in Australia.’ This is a statement not isolated to the rice industry.

I was excited to find as a result of this experience that people are genuinely interested in learning about agriculture and how important it is that industries and farmers provide every opportunity to facilitate this  This is an area that we in the rural sector must continue to work at overcoming so that the public has a greater understanding of where there food comes from and why they need to buy local, rather than imported, produce.

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On my break from volunteer work at the Royal Easter Show, I found a farm friend!

Simple things such as embedding agriculture into education systems, improved product labelling in supermarkets and programs such as PICSE, Horizon and RAS scholarships and Art4Agriculture all help to improve the links between producers and consumers.

You shouldn’t have to come off the land to have the  opportunity to know where your food and fibre comes from.

I have been blessed to be part of some of the above programs and this has confirmed how amazing the opportunities are for young people in agriculture. Two memories that stand out include attending breakfast at Parliament House with agriculture and local government ministers to discuss the issues surrounding agriculture.

In addition, another lasting memory was participating in the draft policy for the Blueprint for Agriculture in 2013 (Department for Primary Industries). These programs helped me to voice the challenges facing females in agriculture and also the importance of encouraging youth back into agricultural industries. Opportunities have arisen from these meetings and I have since spoken at rural succession talks and in the public media.

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This is me with my parents after receiving the RAS foundation Scholarship

Another great experience has been participating in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition in 2012. This competition involves several weekly training sessions throughout various abattoirs and butchers. Meat judging then consisted of a week of lectures, intense training, judging and competing of pork, lamb and beef carcasses and commercial cuts. I learned a lot about the meat industry and met some inspiring industry representative leaders.

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Some of the beef carcasses we judged

I am also passionate about promoting and supporting social networks in agriculture. Since attending uni, I have been the 26th Annual Agricultural Race Day president, Ag Club treasurer and vice-president. This involved organising events, dinners, agricultural careers fairs and representing the student body. It is very rewarding to know that you have helped someone in their university experience, while at the same time forming lasting friendships with students. clip_image022

Ag Races committee members, (I’m on the right) before the gates opened! Nearly 4000 people walked through the gates. A huge day but worth the effort.

Although I am still very young and new to the industry, people have been extremely encouraging and have given me many opportunities which have aided my studies. At the end of this year I will have completed my studies. From here I am hoping to stay in the cotton and irrigated cropping industry as an advisor.

I still have a lot to learn about agriculture and I am sure that after I hang up my graduation gown that I will continue learning more about the industry.

No matter what I am about to endeavour at the end of my studies, my experiences in agriculture has enabled me to appreciate what the food and fibre industries have to offer. It has given me skills that will ground me for life and hopefully one day I will be able to pass on these skills to future generations.

Meet Elizabeth Munn who believes a future in the cotton industry is on the horizon

Today’s guest blog post has been written by Liz Munn a young lady who believes you get out of life what you put into it and agriculture deserves a life- long commitment

 

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My name is Liz Munn and I am 20 years old in my 3rd and final year of my degree studying at the University of New England in Armidale.

I come from the small rural community of Moree in the North West slopes and plains of NSW. Moree has a population of just over 9,000. It is situated in the centre of a large agricultural sector due to the areas rich black vertosol soils, allowing enterprises such as cotton thrive. It is also renowned for its natural hot springs. During the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought.

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My grandfather inspired me to have a love of the land. From an early age, I spent time following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise. As well as lamb and calf marking, there was shearing, tractor driving and harvest which both my parents and I helped with.

Over the years, the farm changed to focus more on grain growing. He taught me that you can only take out, what you put in – which is a good motto; not just for agriculture, but for life in general. He was at the forefront of soil conservation, ensuring that the farm would be around for future generations.

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I completed my schooling in Moree at 3 separate schools- Moree Public School (K-6), then St Philomena’s (7-10) and finally Moree Secondary College (11-12).

As a kid I had lots of opportunities to grow as a person and I took them with both hands.  I firmly believe life is what you make it and I put a lot of effort into everything I did

At school I was sporting house captain for Freeman House in year 11, and a school leader in year 12. I was heavily involved in a range of sports from horse sports, soccer and athletics.  I was even lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also attended classical violin lessons for 5 years winning many trophies and ribbons for both sport and music.

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I am in the navy and red competing in 100m hurdles at state level in Sydney.

Nearing the end of year 12 it was time for me to choose a degree for my university studies. I was very interested in visual arts as well as biology, but had to choose one or the other, so I followed the science path.

I was accepted into a Bachelor of Environmental Science. Several people mentioned that I was going to be a “Greenie” now but I know from the wise words of my grandfather

that it is the marriage of the environment and agriculture that will ensure the survival of both.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and it needs leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques. Leaders who promote adaptation and adoption of environmentally sound farming methods , to ensure Australia can be competitive on the world market, and give the best protection for our farmers and our farmers against our unpredictable seasons.

At University I live at St Albert’s College, which has a family ethos and I now consider it my second home as we are all a family. Here I made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I am highly active in the college’s netball team as well as the chugby team (women’s rugby). I currently hold a position in the college known as a pastoral advisor (PA) where I support my fellow students in any way possible and help organise events.

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On the right hand side at the end, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

In Moree I am also involved in rural community programs. I have been a member of the Moree Show society for 4 years. Show societies run events that bring the whole community together to celebrate agricultural excellence and raise awareness of the value of farming to rural and regional economies 

I have been a steward for the car show and this year I am the assistant secretary. I also competed in the local show society showgirl competition and received runner up.

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That’s me third from the left before the winner of the showgirl was announced at the Moree Show.

For the last two university summer breaks I have worked for a local agronomist as a crop scout. I first applied for the position as a learning experience. Then I found the more I learnt, the more I enjoyed myself and finally realised this was the profession I wanted for me. I find the cotton industry fascinating and have been inspired to join their ranks by the enthusiastic people I have been lucky enough to work with to date

Last year I also went on a tour of one of the local gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process, which allowed me to see the industry from field to fibre.

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Agriculture is not just an industry to most people. Its a lifestyle, a passion that is passed down through generations. But you don’t have to come from generations of farmers to be part of this wonderful industry

Agriculture currently influences every person in the world as we are all consumers 

Agriculture in Australia faces pressure from competition for farmland from mining and housing and vagaries of climate. It suffers from poor image problem and a misconception it is not a good career choice for a young person

As a person who knows you get out of life what you put into it I am looking forward to taking an active hands on role and helping provide solutions to the challenges our farmers face and building partnership with the community to take on this shared responsibility    

You can watch this video from the US that shows all the opportunities for careers in agriculture

Meet Laura Bennett third generation banana and beef farmer who now has cotton in her veins

Today’s guest blog comes from Laura Bennett.  Laura is a young girl who has experienced a great many exciting things in her short life 

This is Laura’s story  

Laura Bennett Cotton Flower

Agriculture has been flowing in my veins since birth. I am a third generation banana and beef farmer from a small seaside property on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales.

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The banana hills I call my home near the town of Woolgoolga, bordered by the Pacific Ocean

My love of agriculture was fostered by a childhood spent feeding and caring for animals, whether they be poddy calves, chickens, rogue piglets or dogs, along with harvesting produce we grew.

Growing up as a farm kid was a wonderful opportunity and whilst many little girls wanted to be princesses, I wanted to be a farmer. I was happiest sitting amongst the banana stools playing in the dirt and “helping” my Dad to fertilise, bag, spray or cut bananas.

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Our small piece of land with kikuyu pastures, 1600 mm of annual rainfall a year and views of the Pacific Ocean was a world away from the wide open plains of black soil where I travelled on holidays as a child. We regularly made our family friends giggle when we arrived at their remote properties out in the western agricultural regions of New South Wales because they always claimed that “people GO to the coast for holidays – not leave”. But once or twice a year we looked forward to packing up and travelling west over the Great Dividing Range to camp on muddy river banks, go shearing, mustering, motorbike riding and get involved in wheat harvest or cotton picking. It was here my love of  scarcely populated plains, dry, cracked billabongs, night skies completely filled with bright stars and the country way of life grew.

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Myself along with my siblings and a family friend admiring modules of cotton on a friends farm

Throughout my school years I was still fascinated by agriculture. As a ‘coastie’ this was a rare thing. Agriculture wasn’t offered as an elective in my senior years so I went down the  science path, choosing subjects that would allow me to study an agricultural science degree. My love for agriculture grew and grew and I picked up an extra job for my last few years of high school as a farmhand on another beef property where I mustered every weekend on horseback, drove old tractors and re-fenced paddocks after regular flood events. My coastal town friends never understood what I did at work and I was always  amazed by how little they knew about where their food came from, despite living in regional Australia.

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Gary (a poddy calf who only posed if he could suckle my finger) and I

During year 11 in 2010 I was fortunate enough to be selected to represent NSW in Perth in a geography competition, and went on from there to be selected as part of the Australian team to compete at the Asia-Pacific Regional Geography Olympiad in Mexico in 2011. I was the only member of the team of four selected from a public school and the only one who didn’t live in a capital city. It was here in Mexico that I met many other students from countries as widespread as Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico.

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The Australian Team on a trip to a tequila plantation in Mexico

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Making friends with students from all different backgrounds was a highlight of my trip

When these students discovered that I had grown up on a property they were amazed and thought I was the richest person they had ever met. It was then that I realised just how little our urban cousins, especially in other countries that rely on so much Australian produce, know about our agricultural industry. I learnt so much in the two weeks spent overseas with these students, and it fuelled my passion to become an advocate for my way of life as a farmer and primary producer even more.

Upon return to Australia our trial HSC marks had been released and I had achieved better than I had expected. My careers advisor along with others convinced me that I could be anything I wanted, and that I should apply for medicine or veterinary science rather than agriculture. This advice resulted in an application being sent to Charles Sturt University in Wagga for a highly competitive place in their prestigious veterinary science degree. Much to my disbelief I was offered a place in the 60 person course from 470 applicants, and so I packed my bags and moved 1000 kilometres from home to begin study. I loved vet for many reasons; the wealth of knowledge learned, the feeling of helping an animal and making another person smile, along with discovering what it is like to work hard and realise just how much you are truly capable of achieving.

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My short lived vet career will always be a fond memory and gave me lifelong friends

However I also realised just how physically, emotionally and mentally demanding a career as a vet is. I had many friends studying ag science and hearing about their studies made m,e rethink whether  I had made the right choice. With this in mind I set off on my autumn mid-semester break spending a day at the Ag-Quip Field Days held in Gunnedah. A conversation with a friend in the cotton industry led to a summer job as a bug checker. So after university finished for the year I headed off to Narrabri on the north of the Liverpool Plains in NSW. Little did I know that soon my life would change forever, and that this was going to be a crucial yet unforgettable summer.

I began work at Auscott and here I counted bugs, looked at the cotton growth stages and took note of changes, sought out flowers and freshly cracked bolls, sampled plant leaves and petioles (stems) for nutrition tests and regularly doused myself in water while attempting to start siphons that would irrigate the fields. I spent the summer knee deep in mud, battling the outside air temperature of over 40 degrees and the 110% humidity of a freshly watered cotton crop. I became accustomed to the feeling of hundreds of flies on me, along with regularly having spiders, grass hoppers and ants trying to make my body their territory. I worked long days and lived by myself on a farm 60 km from a small rural town. And I absolutely loved it!

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The gateway to where it all began… Togo Station, Auscott Narrabri, Namoi Valley

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This is why I get up in the mornings!

I was captivated by everything cotton and it was the only thing in my life, all day every day, for the whole summer. And while this job was tough and seen as the lowest job on the ladder, I still drove home through those crops with a smile on my face every day, bigger than I ever had when I was studying and performing vet.

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Oink! It’s not just all cotton while bug checking!

It was through this summer that I reconsidered my career aspirations. I loved living in a remote community, a friendly town where the summer dress code included Canterbury short-shorts no matter your gender, half-button work shirts, John Deere caps and a Landcruiser or Hilux ute for transport. I loved that people would stop me in the street and admire the black mud on my feet or my tan lines rather than make me feel embarrassed about them. I wanted to be a part of this community and help it in any way I could because it is a small country town that faces challenges such as a decline of skilled workers, a lack of local education opportunities and population decline.

I love living in agricultural areas and small towns, I love nurturing the cotton crops through every stage in order to grow a fibre to clothe the world, and I love finally being truly happy as I rediscovered that my passion for agriculture had not faded.

So despite successfully completing my first year of vet I changed courses and enrolled in a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Wagga and have never looked back. I have just finished my second season as a bug checker, this time in Moree, and still my passion and love for the fibre is endless.

The cotton industry is fast paced, highly productive and extremely intensive and I cant  imagine doing anything else.

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My first cotton crop ready for harvest. Never been prouder!

This time 12 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to give a clear answer on what I was going to be doing in 10 years. As for now I can happily and confidently say that I plan on graduating university, becoming a well-respected cotton agronomist and then studying part-time in order to complete a Bachelor of Education. The next step in my plan is to become an agriculture teacher and believe that through education I can inspire students to study and enjoy an industry that is so important. I want to share my stories in hope that others can see all the options available to them.

I want to be part of the young generation of agriculturalists that are responsible for changing the face of agriculture in the community and reconnecting farmers and the people who eat their produce and wear the fibres they grow.

By building relationship and trust within the community and raising awareness of why we farm the way we do we can create a new appreciation of modern farming practices   . This will also help remove the stereotypes, generate interest in the industry for future skilled ag graduates and ensure we can sustain the livelihoods of rural communities and farmers.

I also hope to one day to be a farmer and surrounded by the things I love.

But there is plenty of time for that and for now I will head back to university for another year of study and hopefully a year of successfully being an ‘agvocate’ for my favourite industry.

Laura Bennett and horse

Meet Dwayne Schubert a kid from the coast who is sowing the seeds of success and growing his job into a career

Today our guest post comes from Dwayne Schubert who believes that life is too short to not have a career you don’t enjoy. So he has followed his heart, packed his car and undertook a degree in agricultural science that has led to a career in agronomy and focus on helping Australian cotton farmers continue to lead the world in high quality ethically produced cotton.

Rural achiever Like many young people who were lucky enough to be selected as an RAS Rural Achiever Dwayne Schubert is forging a successful and very enjoyable career in the agriculture sector he loves    

Here is Dwayne’s story  ……..

Growing up on the on the mid north coast just outside the small town of Mount George could not be any further from Gunnedah and the Liverpool plains. From a small farm that was kikuyu and rye grass pastures, 1200 mm annual rainfall and where the Pacific Ocean was only 40 minutes away, to arguably the best cropping dirt in Australia, as one of my colleagues here says “you can grow babies out on the plain”.

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The Liverpool Plains a see of yellow with a canola crop in full flower

I didn’t think that I was going to be an agronomist from an early age; I was more interested in livestock production, a passion that I grew up with from my father and a dear friend Ted Young. But in getting animals to grow they have to eat and a understanding of crop and pasture production could go a long way to making the whole system a lot easier.

The realisation came to me whilst studying environmental science at the University of Newcastle that agriculture was where I wanted to be and that

life is too short to not have a crack at something you are passionate about.

so it was pack the car up and move to Wagga Wagga and Charles Sturt university to undertake a bachelor of Agricultural Science. This course and environment was a life changing experience, I meet people form all over Australia that all had a similar passion and came from a diversity of backgrounds.

Whilst at CSU I was given the opportunity to travel with 20 of my class mates to the Mekong delta in Vietnam, this experience highlighted just how important the role of agriculture plays in being able to sustain not only small regional communities but an entire country. Without agriculture they would not survive.

In 2010 as a member of the winning CSU team we took part in the Grain Growers Australian University Crops Competition.

Dwayne Schubert

I was lucky enough to finish in the top 5 which led to 10 day study tour of the Canterbury Plains area in New Zealand. See story here.

This trip was the icing on the cake and the realisation that agronomy was definitely the career for me.

Studying Agriculture at university opened up seemingly endless doors, opportunities and experiences that I have no doubt would not have happened if not for the generosity and passion of the people in our industry.

I got my first role as an agronomist through the Landmark graduate program which is exactly as they claim a great opportunity “to turn a job into a career” and a great introduction to an industry that I was very excited to be a part of. I was placed at into the Gunnedah branch under the watchful eye of senior agronomists Aaron Goddard, Mark Goddard and Jim Hunt and it is from these gentlemen that I have learnt so many invaluable lessons and also where I was introduced to the cotton industry.

The past 3 summers have been spent planning, preparing and managing cotton crops for growers in our region of the upper Namoi, I couldn’t think of a better way to learn the ropes then to be put out in the paddock every day “caring “ for our growers cottons crops. our clients are some of the most intuitive, tech savvy, environmentally sustainable and productive growers in the country. I’ve learnt more off my growers then I could ever teach them. Every day is something new, every season is as exciting as it is challenging and the Australian farmers are more resilient than they ever take credit for.

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Good soil and climate are just the foundations optimising cotton crop potential requires careful planning and attention to detail,

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Cotton is sown in October

A.Mac dryland cotton 2012 pick (11)

There is not much more exciting than to see the fields of white at the end of the season knowing that you as the consultant have done your job and the growers are happy.

Glencoe cotton 2012 pick Lateral

Cotton Picker 

Cotton is picked from April to May

I am also passionate about sharing how rewarding my career is with the wider community. It concerns me that in a world where information sharing is often only the touch of a button away, sharing the stories of the people behind the clothes we wear and the food we eat is becoming a lost art.

I feel it is very important as part of our career journey to take every opportunity to develop the skills to effectively communicate to wider population and people outside of our industry that like cotton growers we can all strive to to be as productive and sustainable as we can be

You feed me and I thank you.

There is that old saying that says ‘Nobody on their death bed wished they had made more money’ and everyone would be very happy for somewhere on their gravestone to say ‘Made a Difference’

Each day I find there are more and more young people in agriculture who want to scream from the highest hill that they are proud of being part of the team and that feeds and clothes us

I recently received this email from a very committed young lady who wanted to enrol her city school in the Archibull Prize so they could use their art to share the story about the important role our farmers play

My name is Emma Williams, and I am in my final year at Loreto Kirrbilli.

Emma taking in the sun and scenery at every opportunity

Emma Williams a city girl who values the country and wants to tell its story

As a student living in the city during the term and country during the holidays I see both ‘values’ of my generation.

Essentially, before I leave Loreto (very soon) I would like to set the foundations, or even start a program that allowed girls from the city, who have little opportunity to experience firsthand and understand the value of our farmers that can only come from providing a direct connection between producers and consumers.

Mr Kleeman

Emma received 3rd place in the state wide Brock Rowe Senior Geography Competition for her project ‘To investigate the effects of mining and coal seam gas extraction on Strategic Agricultural Land essential for food production and injurious effects on rural towns and communities in the Liverpool Plains’

This is something I am very passionate about. I am a huge fan of your ‘Archibull’ program – but acknowledge that this year is well and truly underway – however, I feel I must act now if I want to start the journey and build this connection and understanding at Loreto, as I am only one of a few girls with a passion for the agriculture industry.

So basically, I am asking if you had an option, to partake in a ‘mini’ or ‘condensed’ or ‘revised’ Archibull program specifically for Loreto – I completely acknowledge that your resources and time are taken up with the current program that advises numerous schools and I would be willing to find a mentor/industry role model to participate –

I believe the idea of combining the ‘art’ and ‘agriculture’ and the idea of the ‘bull’ is a perfect fit for our extremely creative school.

Again, I completely appreciate your current program is underway and would appreciate if nothing else, your opinion or idea on how to create greater knowledge and mutual understanding and instil more respect in the consumer/ producer relationship.  Emma Williams

As coincidence would have it Emma was introduced to Art4Agriculture and the Archibull Prize after having been sent the link to Young Farming Champion Richie Quigley’s video ‘I grow cotton and you wear it’. Emma being the proactive young lady that she is contacted Richie via the Quigley Farms Facebook page to get his advice on university pathways into agriculture

In her words

‘It is absolutely beyond my wildest dreams to communicate with young farmers (of their nature) and have been so fortunate to be in brief contact with Richie Quigley – not having met him, but being mentored towards the most appropriate university degree for me next year – his input has been invaluable.’

As it turned out the teachers and the students at Loreto where very open to the idea of a ‘late start’ to the Archibull Prize program but in the end felt they could not do it justice in such a short space of time but they have put their names down for next year.

Emma has also built up a huge network of Agvocates on social media and sent congratulatory emails and tweets to many of the people she is seeing who are making a difference to the way people see farmers in Australia and inspiring her to do the same. So I asked Emma to share with me why as a ‘city’ girl she felt this way

Not surprisingly just like another Young Farming Champion Bronwyn Roberts, who is also inspiring next gen, Emma was inspired by her grandfather

This is Emma’s story ………………….

I have an awesome relationship with my grandparents who live on the family property in Tamworth, and I hope to be the 5th generation to farm there. My grandfather is my biggest influence.

Emma Williams and Eric Crowe

Emma with her grandfather Eric Rowe

Every holiday, with my mum and sister we travel to Tamworth, to immerse ourselves for a few weeks in the way of life I like to call ‘home’.

Emma checking the cattle at Sunset

Emma checking the cattle at sunset

To cut a long story short, my grandfather’s prominence in the cattle and stock and station industry, contacts I have made and lifestyle I have for so long desired but only observed have led me to the Agriculture career path I am hoping to embark on next year.

Never being allowed to do hard labour because I am the 'girl'

Never being allowed to do hard labour because I am the ‘girl’

This admittedly hasn’t been easy, and I still choose it ironically with so much desire yet so much doubt.

Most significantly the deterioration of my grandfather’s mental health is underpinning my decision . Still so so so alert, and with a work ethic like no other, his potential in the industry is still exponential, yet there seem so many barriers and red and green tape for him to surmount it has finally beaten him to the ground.

I now see a man, who has no faith in the potential of Agriculture in Australia, and compares the good ‘old days’ to the declining ‘current years’. This no doubt, is incidental, and with my ability to travel up more often next year, and put some youthful input into the business I hope I will be able to breathe some life back into this once proud man.

Perhaps the reality of the past few years in the industry Australia wide has created my biggest doubt. Living in the city where so few value their farmers and would have no idea where the clothes on their back came from and think that life lessons come in the form of wealth makes it difficult to stay passionate.

The demise of the Live Export industry, effects of the drought, and Government notion ‘out of sight out of mind’ have really affected me, not to mention my school work, no time for it. The more I read the more I cannot understand the lack of empathy and massive disconnect between the people who produce the food and the people who enjoy it

I have tried to educate myself on the issues, so that I can share the realities of what I have learnt with others, but to be honest they have no concept that anything beyond the city surrounds impacts on them, and if $1 milk means less expensive, then stuff the farmers.

It really is hard to comprehend the misinformation, and scare tactics that are being fed to cities like Sydney. I am in constant despair at the comments I hear every day and even more concerning is the complete lack of communication on the nightly news about the issues that really impact of on this great country.

Excitingly I am finding through social media networks people are starting to listen, and although people may think their influence is minor, it is those rural advocates’ Facebook pages, blogs, tweets, emails and comments that have opened my eyes to the great opportunity a life in agriculture can offer me. My desire is stronger than ever, to right these wrongs and become involved in an industry that deserves acknowledgment.

I am more than ready to start laying the foundations to the rest of my life, and can’t wait to be an influence on the younger generations, and follow in the footsteps of those forging a new and bright future for young people in agriculture …………

One can never overestimate the power of feedback like this from Emma.  Our Young Farming Champions have a closed Facebook page on which they share the highlights of their YFC journey and they all receive similar feedback to that Emma gave Richie.

Being a part of a successful project team is a very powerful way of encouraging young people and I have watched them all develop invaluable confidence and leadership skills and take other roles of responsibility within their own and the wider community.

On behalf of of the Young Farming Champions and rural agvocates everywhere I thank you Emma for sharing your story

Ben Egan says this is my future. Come be a part of it!

Its over 170 years since my ancestor Bryan Egan came to the Macquarie valley in search of good grazing country to lay claim to land so he could start and grow his own small cattle herd. In 1839, he came to Mount Harris and it was here he stayed.

My name is Ben Egan and I am lucky enough to be a 6th generation farmer. Needless to say, farming is in my blood. It’s my passion, my job, It’s my life!

Located in the Macquarie Valley, north of Warren in the central west of NSW is our family farm, “Kiameron”. A lot has changed since 1839, but the history, values and commitment to the land is still strong. Even today we still live in the same house our ancestors built in the late 1870’s.

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Kiameron Homestead Late 1870’s

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Kiameron Homestead Today

Today ‘Kiameron’ covers 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres), including 1100ha of irrigation, 1100ha of dry land and 3800ha of grazing country.

Our main enterprise is cotton but we also grow other crops such as sorghum, wheat, canola, chick peas and as tradition would have it we still graze around 700 head of cattle.

From an early age I loved to explore the outdoors, running around making bow n arrows, riding motorbikes and driving around the farm with dad. Right from the word go, the love of farm was there and I wasn’t afraid to show it.

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Standing next to dad when I was about 10, at a local swimming carnival, I looked around and said; “you know, I think I’ve got my life pretty well sorted, I think I’ll leave school, do a bit of swimming, then come back and kick you out!”. And a succession plan was born.

I was lucky enough to go to boarding school in Sydney. I was astonished at how little some of the city boys knew about life on a farm and living in the country. I was confronted one lunch time by a day student who asked me “so, do you have TV out in the bush?”, “TV? What’s that?” I replied laughing. I began to explain to him about life on the farm and what really happens beyond the farm gate. This then led to many of my city friends wanting to come out to the farm in the holidays to chase feral animals, ride motorbikes and go to the ever popular Marthaguy picinic races.

During my lifetime I have had some life changing experiences and reminders of how lucky we are in this country.  In year 11 I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia to help build houses for rural communities. This was a wonderful experience and a huge eye opener to the culture and way of life in a country which had been torn apart by communism and war.

After completing my HSC, I was awarded a GAP placement at a school in England. This was a chance for me to travel and explore what the world had to offer.  My 12 months abroad working at Stonyhurst College saw me interact with students with all different backgrounds. However it was becoming a bit of an on-going recurrence to find students (even in a different country) had little knowledge of farming or where their food and fibre comes from. They were astonished when I told them that I was a farmer and after talking to them for a while they began to realise how important farmers are and started being a little more appreciative of the people who put food on our plates and clothes on our back.

After a year of being away from agriculture, I desperately needed to get my hands dirty. Going to the Territory had always been on the ‘to do’ list and it was now time to don the akubra, dust off the boots and get in the saddle.

Working at Eva Downs and Camfield station in the NT was an unbelievable experience. It was here that I learnt the value of a dollar, meaning of an honest days work, and the beauty this country can produce.

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I have now spent the last four years furthering my education at university and have now gained a Bachelor of Business majoring in Farm Management at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong.

Farm tours were a usual part of the curriculum at Marcus. A chance for us to visit farms, analyse their business and learn about their management strategies and tactics. A tour to the Riverina saw us visit a few cotton farms, much to my delight as it has always been a passion of mine and an enterprise I could relate to. In the third year of my degree, our class travelled to China to explore the agribusiness sector on an international scale, leaning about the customs and relations with one of Australia’s biggest trading partners.

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Today, I am working full time on the family farm, applying my knowledge learnt in the classroom into the real world and it is very exciting. We have recently finished picking the 600ha of cotton as well as 300ha of sorghum with good yields. Although harvest is only just finished, I am already getting excited about next years crop and the influence I will have. I am currently implementing a transition from flood furrow irrigation methods to lateral move and bank-less channel irrigation to help improve water use efficiencies.

I feel that there is a great need for the young farmers out there to get out and have a voice, to communicate with people and let them know about the good things our farmers do and how vital they are to the community and the economy.

Communicating and raising awareness and the challenges and constraints of farming with young people and the many different career paths it offers is a vital part helping to drive change for the agriculture sector in the way we do business with everyone along the supply change. Its with great pride and excitement to see the number of these programs like the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions that are available to grow skills and knowledge for young people in agriculture .

I It concerns me that the average age of farmers today is 52 years old.  It scares me that the only options we seem to have is that farms are lucky enough to be handed down to the next generation or sold to large corporate entities and overseas investors who have the capital and borrowing capacity to purchase large parcels of prime agricultural land.

Where are all the young farmers? We’re here, we just need to be heard and be given a chance. I personally would like to see more programs that support and help young farmers buy into farming and enable them to pursue their passion.

But agriculture doesn’t just entail farms. There are endless career opportunities within the agricultural sector with great programs to help people get involved and support our industry. I challenge the young people of today to put their hand up and be heard, ask questions, challenge the status quo, support our farmers and just have a go!

 

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This is our future. Come be a part of it!

The Farming Game

It is often said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow but like our guest blogger today and so many of our Young Farming Champions have shown young people are also the leaders of today. If you give them half a chance they will astound you with their energy and idealism. More importantly, they will impress you with their maturity and willingness to engage constructively in the process of improving our local communities and the future for agriculture.

Our guest blogger today in Martin Murray who also pens his own very impressive blog the The Farming Game.

Martin is another superb example of the new generation of talented young people from across our agricultural industries working together to help address the negative image and perceptions about agriculture in the wider community.  clip_image014

This is Martin’s story……………………

G’day my name is Martin Murray and I know that agriculture is essential to Australia and its future. I’m a blogger.  I’ve worked on a cattle station in the Northern Territory and currently work on a cotton farm outside of Moree. This year I am about to start a Rural Science course at the University Of New England. clip_image002

I was born in Griffith in the Riverina; our family had rice and sheep property called Kulki on the Sturt highway between Darlington Point and Hay, it was here where I developed my passion for agriculture and farming.

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Kulki from the air

My two younger brothers and I used to have be up a six and ride down the 1km driveway to the bus stop for the two hour bus trip to school in Coleambally.

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The Murray brothers

Other great memories include taking the late lunch down to my dad who was driving the tractor at 5pm in the afternoon, the crop dusters flying low across the water seeding the rice paddies and swimming in the channels.

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My bothers and I singing in the rain

Martin on the quad bike

Unfortunately there were big gaps between the wet and the dry seasons and drought eventually forced us to sell up and move to Moree in northern NSW.

For a while after that I wasn’t that heavily involved in agriculture but I still always thought that it would be in my future. My dad started working in town and we had a small a hobby farm of just 27 acres with about six head of cattle from time to time. I went to boarding school in Sydney were I soon learned the many misconceptions and lack of understanding about agriculture outside of rural areas, but I’ll get to that later. While at school I studied agriculture and started working on a cotton farm outside of Moree during the school holidays mainly irrigating the cotton and also driving tractors.

After finishing school I got a job working on Humbert River Station, a cattle station with plenty of history in the Northern Territory.

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Humbert River is located 5 hours from the nearest town of Katherine. It is a relatively small station of only about 1500 square kilometres running 13000 head of Brahman cattle and turning off around 3000 head of cattle a year. Humbert River Station

Working on Humbert was a very unique experience not just because of size, location and isolation but because of the size of its crew. Unlike previous years where they had a crew of six stockmen in 2012 they were trialling the use of contractors for stock work so there was only the manager and his family, me and a cook/jillaroo that left half way through the year. This made my time on Humbert River different to the majority of other people’s experiences working on stations as instead of primarily doing stock work I mainly did other tasks such as fencing, bore runs, loader work and putting out cattle lick blocks

Due to the unique nature of Humbert River Station I also had a lot of spare time on my hands so I started writing my blog, The Farming Game. The aim of my blog is to show my daily life and what we do and why we do it. Around the time I started writing Four Corners aired “Another Bloody Business” about the slaughter of Australian sheep in Pakistan. Like the the forerunner program “A Bloody Business” this program used highly emotive images to portray Australian agriculture in a negative light.

These images are only increasing consumer wariness of modern farming practices and it concerns me greatly that agriculture is constantly being portrayed in the media as having  bad environmental practices as well as the negativity around genetically modified crops and excessive water use.  I have since found issues like these have been around for a long time and the day before writing this article I heard a song by Slim Dusty “To Whom It May Concern”  which was released in 1978 that highlights that the rural urban divide was an issue even back then. I hope my blog The Farming Game will help people rethink and see agriculture more positively.

Whilst I was at school I heard some pretty amusing things from my fellow students who have never crossed the Great Dividing Range and had the opportunity to discover all the exciting things rural and regional Australian has to offer. The most amusing one I came across was from a city class mate who believed that Dubbo was just a one street town with a population of no more than 100. Although I found this hilarious at the time it really highlights the problem of the divide and the need to change perceptions of, and promote rural Australia and it’s importance to the national economy and society as well as all the opportunities in rural cities.

Underpinning my strategy to bridge the divide is to make our country shows more interactive and to bring more farmers to events in the cities where people can hear the farming stories and see the faces behind the produce they buy.

Social media such as twitter and the many blogs written by farmers are also having a great effect on bridging the divide. Bringing the farm to schools and introducing students to young farmers like the Art4Agriculture programs is a great way to get the message across to children. Programs like this not only help build awareness of, and interest in agriculture, they help create a new generation of agricultural-savvy Australians. Some may even choose agricultural careers whilst many others will know more about where their food comes from and appreciate the care and commitment that goes into growing the shirt on their back or putting the steak on their dinner plate. Hopefully Art4Agriculture will be able to spread their programs to all states in Australian and reach more Australian children.

As for my future my biggest challenge starts this year studying Rural Science at the University of New England while hopefully being able to continue writing my blog as well as working on my other two websites Farming Photo’s and Cotton Careers. My major goal in life is to own and run my own mixed cattle and cropping property, while continuing to promote agriculture and bridging the rural urban divide.

 

Congratulations Martin, Art4Agriculture look forward to following your journey. Maybe you might even find the time to join the team for 2013