Meet Sarah Saxton proving careers in agriculture are found in cities too

Meet Sarah Saxton who career in Agriculture saw her moving from the country to the city

Sarah Saxton

This is Sarah’s story ……………………

Every morning I wake up so proud of what Australian farmers are putting on our tables and so excited that I get to be a part of that process. I want every Australian to have the opportunity to feel how I feel about Australian Agriculture, because it feels great!

A one hour train commute and a desk job in the CBD might not be the first thing that jumps to mind when you think ‘career in Agriculture’ but that is how I have found myself a rewarding career in the Australian Dairy industry.

I was born in Gippsland, Victoria on the family sheep property and have moved throughout rural Victoria and NSW following my family’s mixed farming interests. After the wool crash in the early 90s my parents decided to hit the road managing farms, dad soon becoming an expert in the art of growing grass seed. This stroke of fate meant moving house 9 times and living in Omeo, Euroa, Holbrook and Khancoban to name a few!

Growing up on a mixed farming enterprise meant lending a hand to dad on a whole range of tasks, most of which (bar rock picking and cleaning the header!) I thoroughly enjoyed. When I wasn’t riding horses and travelling to rural Ag shows across the country my summers where quickly filled driving headers and handling the constant supply of agistment stock. As it happened I was not the only female driving headers in the Upper Murray region and a group of us soon became sought after for our affinity with the beastly machines. In the summer of 07/08 we were noticed by The Land and featured on the front page which we all found quite a lark!


The female header driving crew, photographed by The Land, me second from left.

Looking back I was very lucky to have two parents so vehemently passionate about farming and engaged in progressing their farming practices. I have no doubt this positive, proactive attitude has helped propel me into a career in Agriculture.

Although my feminine touch was clearly appreciated during harvest, cows were what stole my heart. When there was agistment stock on the farm that calved I was always the first out in the paddock, a sharp eye trained to any calf looking helpless without its mother. Although dad accused me of calf robbing it was the generosity of a few soft hearted beef producers which lead me to gather a small number of orphaned poddy calves each year. A lesson in responsibility and earning money quickly developed into a lifelong passion and so after completing boarding school and going on a gap year I moved to Melbourne to complete a Bachelor of Animal Science & Management at the University of Melbourne.


I quickly took to university like a duck to water and was awarded a Dean’s Honour award and a number of scholarships for academic achievement. Although I knew I wanted to work with animals finding the right direction has been a constant exercise of probing and questioning. Whilst at University I undertook work experience assisting PhD students working on sheep metabolics in an underground lab, I worked in an abattoir in Brisbane, did vintage wines at a large commercial winery in Griffith, and spent some time helping out the local vet. And at the end of all that I was still none the wiser on what my career would shape up to be! Checking out the diversity of careers is something I encourage every young person interested in a career in Ag to do, as you have no idea how many possibilities are out there!


Something that I believe is not adequately addressed in the current model of Agricultural education is that Agriculture is a highly valuable industry, not just a career. I hope to educate Australia’s next generation of consumers that Agriculture is an industry full of possibilities.

I want to raise awareness in kids and adults alike that a whole range of people, in country and city, are involved in getting food on their table and that those people are the cornerstone of our economy and society as we know it. I hope to open people’s eyes beyond the stereotypes of farming (as amazing as it is) to realise the plethora of career opportunities out there for people, in dairy, and the broader food and fibre industry.

By my final year at university I had developed a keen interest in the field of animal breeding and genetics and was fortunate to be offered a scholarship by the Dairy Futures CRC to study the emerging field of genomics. My research project, titled ‘Interrogating a high-density SNP chip for signatures of selection in Dairy and Beef breeds’ challenged me and opened my eyes to the amazing depth of science, innovation and technology which exists, largely behind the scenes, in the Agriculture industry. I was lucky enough to be supervised and mentored by one of the world leaders in genomics research Professor Mike Goddard from the University of Melbourne and it was with his help and support that I gained first class honours for my project. It was through the CRC’s first rate education and engagement program that I was introduced to the Australian Dairy Industry. Through this program I was able to travel to field days and present to farmers about the latest in genomic research. I was also able to assist with the program ‘Get into Genes’, teaching school kids about the science of genomics. It was these experiences that made me realise it was time to shed the lab coat and get out talking about all of that exciting Research and Development


AgFest Tasmania, 2012

My current role as Extension Officer with ADHIS involves delivering the latest science and technology in genetic improvement to Australian dairy farmers. This is done through one on one engagement, public speaking at industry events, and designing tools to make decision making easy.

It is this blend of travelling to rural areas talking to farmers about real issues and staying up to date on the latest in science and research which I love about working in the dairy industry.

ADHIS is a non for profit organisation which means our core focus is always on getting the best information and resources out to every dairy farmer. Having organisations like this dedicated to the betterment of the industry is an incredibly valuable resource and I am not sure farmers realise just how lucky they are!

Working in the CBD in close association with organisations like Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia has offered me a behind the scenes insight into the big issues facing the dairy and broader Ag industry. Issues such as milk price, animal welfare & the risk/benefits of free trade are issues which I am deeply passionate about.


Promoting our wine at Rootstock, Sydney


Whilst at University I was lucky enough to meet my now husband, a winemaker on the Mornington Peninsula. Being a new member of the family winery has given me a fantastic experience in a unique sector of the food and fibre industry. The wine industry’s ‘ground to glass’  production process connects the ‘food and fibre’ and ‘food and wine’ industries in a way not commonly seen in other agricultural industries. Being exposed to and engaged in this end of the food chain has allowed me an insight and perspective into a demographic deeply passionate about food yet largely ignorant of farming.

It is one of my big life goals to strengthen the relationship between the Food and Agriculture industries into what should be a symbiotic relationship.

I have recently been appointed a board member on the Mornington Peninsula Food Industry Advisory Body, a position I hope will begin me on this journey.

Coming from the country to study and now work in an urban environment has highlighted to me the importance of maintaining and strengthening the connect between food producers and food consumers.

With declining populations in rural Australia as farms and farming communities ‘get big or get out’ there is less and less opportunity for people to engage and connect through the traditional channels of a family members or friend’s farm. With these relationships less likely to happen organically I believe it is essential that we look to new models of communication and strengthen our voice to foster passionate, informed consumers and future generations of food and fibre producers. If Australians want to remain in control of our food supply chain it is essential that we build strong and long lasting relationships with each other and every member of our community.

April Browne climbing the food chain ladder of success

Today I would like to introduce you to April Browne. I have known April since we became part of the team that bought the Dairy Youth Challenge back to the Sydney Royal Easter Show way back in 2005.  

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April is now the Science Education Officer at the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) located at University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury Campus. I asked April to write us this blog to share with you her journey to what I am highly confident is her dream job. Art4Agriculture is looking forward to working closely with April and her team going forward

This is April’s story

  “The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity” Ayn Rand

Opportunity surrounds us all in everything that we do. It has the potential to lead us on the path that we envisage, but more often, opportunity opens the door to unknown and exciting new experiences. If I had been asked to paint a picture of my future career when I was younger, I certainly wouldn’t have foreseen what a wonderful career I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.

In fact, growing up on the Central Coast and visiting my grandparents’ dairy farm near Alstonville, I was the girl who couldn’t peddle her bike fast enough away from the cows in the paddock; they seemed pretty scary at the time.

Yes I was quite happy staying within the confines of the backyard with its white picket fence. That was until opportunity knocked, opportunity in the form of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I was in Year 8 and my agriculture teacher was asking for students to help a dairy farmer show his cattle at the show. I thought I was in for a week of show bags and rides with an endless supply of fairy floss. I thought wrong. In fact I spent my week sitting in a very unstable camping chair catching manure in a bucket while the visiting public ogled at what was perhaps the most disgusting thing they had seen that day. For some reason though, and I am sure my industry colleagues will back me up here, the show and agriculture grew on me. Perhaps it was the rush of winning a blue ribbon or joining the big happy family that is the dairy industry.


Whatever it was, twelve years on I still find myself sitting in the camping chair catching manure in a bucket. This time though, they are my cows and I couldn’t be happier.

After I got home from that first show, I joined the schools cattle club and became heavily involved in showing both beef and dairy cattle.


I travelled throughout much of NSW and Victoria attending different shows and meeting industry people. I realised towards the end of high school that I had a particular interest in the food industry and conveniently happened to be good at the subject.


I enjoyed learning about the science behind food, what it is made up of and how it interacts with producers and consumers. We often see the production side of agriculture and the end product on a plate, but much of the time the chain is not seen as a whole. We are lucky to live in a country where for a majority of the population, the food miles are relatively small and we enjoy fresh produce year round and I think this is something that should be highlighted more within the Australian community.

Having grown up with relatively little ‘farming’ experience, I wanted to see food production at the coalface before I went to study the science behind it. And so I deferred a university offer to study food science and enrolled at Tocal Agricultural College where I completed a Certificate III Agriculture.


I have studied a lot (maybe I am a sucker for punishment) and Tocal was definitely one of the most worthwhile learning experiences I have had. I loved the variety of experiences and the chance to learn new skills and knowledge but perhaps more enjoyable were the opportunities I encountered in the broader agricultural context whilst at Tocal. I have always believed that those who dare to take advantage of opportunities no matter how unfamiliar they may be, are those who set themselves up for discovery and a journey which often in my experience leads to greater success. Tocal was not just about marking lambs and mustering cattle, I was also given the opportunity to judge shows, join committees and travel the country learning about agriculture. In addition, the networks I established whilst there within the industry and with fellow like-minded people have allowed me to broaden my knowledge of the industry and have served me well in my subsequent career in agriculture

Following Tocal, I accepted my university offer and completed a Bachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Aside from understanding the physics of what really makes bread rise and how many fat cells are required to successfully clog an artery, I relished the opportunity to apply what I had learnt at Tocal to a scientific realm. I also took the opportunity to use my electives in this degree to study some units of education. As something that had always interested me, the education electives allowed me to travel around a number of local schools and experience food, agriculture and science in a collective medium.


I decided from these experiences to follow my undergraduate degree with a Masters of Teaching in 2010 and furthered my education expertise which has led me into my career as an educator. At this time I also became President of the Royal Agricultural Society Dairy Youth Committee and became heavily involved with dairy youth events whilst also starting up my own Brown Swiss stud with the help of breeders Max and Robyn Wake.

During my time teaching at Camden High School, I decided to enter the local Showgirl competition.


I had seen the showgirls at the show and the multifaceted nature of the competition strongly appealed to my desire to learn more about the agricultural industry. And so the city girl gave the showgirl competition a go and surprisingly I was fortunate enough to be sashed as the 2012 Camden Showgirl. People often describe experiences as a ‘whirlwind’. To say this about the showgirl competition would be an understatement. If ever there was a forum to provide opportunity, learning and experiences then this was it and I relished every second. After being successful at the zone competition and with the support of my over enthusiastic Year 8 class I headed to the Sydney Royal Easter Show to represent Camden Show. clip_image010Although not feeling overly confident about my prospects of success given our showgirl had won the year before, I immersed myself in the experience, meeting new people and having those surreal moments you never think you will have the opportunity to encounter. I shook more hands and ate more canapés than I had ever before and before I knew it the whirlwind was over.

As the dust settled and I faced life without the sash I reflected on the experience and most of all the people I had met, because it was the people that I remember most and should be the inspiration for the next generation of agricultural youth. I didn’t just meet farmers, I met business people , journalists, marketers, scientists, teachers and politicians, all who have a hand in the agricultural pie and all who represent Australian agriculture.


Agriculture is everywhere, it is the umbrella that covers many industry sectors and for this reason is something to be promoted, celebrated and supported in the future. I currently work in agricultural education, I see kids just like myself everyday who have little link to production agriculture but feel the same draw because it is an industry with something for everyone. To be in a role as the provider of opportunities just as I have had is incredible.

I look forward to the future of agriculture both in Australia and on a global scale. It is an industry that has always had to be revolutionary to remain efficient and profitable and I look forward to seeing how the students I work with today will overcome the social, ethical and economic challenges of 21st century agriculture.

What a great story April and from my perspective after working with young people in Agriculture for the past 10 years I can definitely see a pattern happening – shows, leading cattle and sheep and alpacas, chooks et al and/or being part of the Showgirl/RAS Rural Achiever experience is a great pathway to being a Young Farming Champion and leadership and being in positions of influence for our #youthinag  

There are two types of eaters at the table: The quick, and the hungry!

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to our guest blogger Andrew Dallimore

In the words of Marian MacDonald ( read Marian’s blog post on Andrew here) who suggested  Andrew to me as a candidate for the Young Farming Champions program

There are plenty of dreamers out there. I can’t tell you how many of our city friends say how lucky we are to be living on the land but never take the plunge. Andrew Dallimore is not one of them.

This young man is a dreamer, thinker and doer rolled into one. In the name of encouraging students to be ambitious, achieve their goals, and overcome challenges, he set up a charity and cycled from Adelaide to Melbourne (see more at Now, in the name of his future family and community, Andrew’s applying those very same principles to his own life.

After meeting Andrew on his “pilgrimage”, I couldn’t resist recommending him to Lynne for Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions. After all, his journey exemplified everything the YFC program stands for: the living story of how passion can create pathways towards a truly enviable life in agriculture.

This is Andrew’s story (and as you will see he has a great sense of humour) ……

“There are two types of eaters at the table: The quick, and the hungry!” – Anonymous.

My name is Andrew Dallimore, and I had a great childhood growing up on the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA. It was an area that was rich with farms, almond groves, beaches, and golden bales of hay. I went Myponga Primary School, which was surrounded by low rolling hills and dairy farms.

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Andrew Dallimore hungry for a career in agriculture

It was the kind of school where you had a decent chance of having to chase the cows off the footy oval, or of landing face first in a cowpat (which I did)! I spent a quite a bit of time just watching the cows over the fence, and collecting bugs with friends. Cow poo attracts some awesome bugs…

Placement 1

Later I was able to take up agriculture studies in high school and rear my own animals after hours. This included a steer by the name of Whiskey. Whiskey was muscular, sturdy, and spectacular. At least he was, right up until the point I led him around the arena at the Royal Adelaide Show, and he mounted the poor kid’s steer in front of me. I was about 400kg too light to hold Whiskey back! With my cheeks glowing from embarrassment, and my mouth streaming apologies, we all had a good laugh about it, along with the crowd.

Despite the Whiskey incident, I have always felt the pull of the land, and more so now that I’m studying the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Melbourne. As a vet student I am able to engage with agricultural communities in a way I never thought was possible.

Through our farm placements, I have met some incredible farming families. There were kids with thousands of dollars saved up from selling cow poo; or from rearing sick animals for busy farmers; or driving at the age of eight to the farm gate.

This summer I’ve been tracking down dairy farmers to discover their pathways to farming (i.e.: what opportunity had they been shown to become a part of the industry?). I feel drawn to dairy, both as a future vet and as a future farmer. This is because of the people (and cows of course).

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Dairy farmers are tough, dedicated, and generous beyond measure. Without knowing me from a bar of soap, these people have welcomed me into their homes and helped me find my own way into the dairy industry by telling me their stories.

Thanks to them, I now have a weekend milking job in Warragul (Cows! Woohoo!) while I study my butt off to learn all I can to be a good vet. Thanks to them, and some wonderful friends and family, I have found what I truly value and want from life.

Recently, a dairy farmer named Marian Macdonald asked me what my dream is.


Giving my dreams some serious thought

Essentially I hope to own and run my own rural veterinary practice; help run a dairy farm; heavily invest in the community I live with; and most importantly, raise a strong, healthy, intelligent, and generous family on the land.

Hearing and reading about people’s pathways to dairy farming has made me realise something incredible. Dairy farming isn’t just a way of life; it is life itself. It is survival by learning, adapting, producing, recycling, cooperating, and teaching on a day-to-day basis.

It is working with spectacular animals to feed the world sustainably, and support Australia. It is about raising a strong, healthy, intelligent, and generous family with humane ethics and values. There are few causes in our country that are greater than these.

To put it more simply, my dream is agriculture, and I’d like to share the opportunities I am being shown.

The saying at the beginning of my post has been with me since childhood.

As a kid I thought that it meant I had to wield a fork to save my plate of Mum’s roast from Scott my older brother. In my late teens, I thought it meant I should go for opportunities, lest I miss out. Yet, as a man(-child), it took on a whole new meaning.

There are many reasons why people grasp opportunities when they are in reach, but there are far far faaaaaar more reasons why people don’t. One of the biggest and often the easiest to address is when people simply don’t know that an opportunity exists. There may be a table full of delicious food in front of them, but all they can see is their empty plate and they go hungry.


Australia – a cornucopia full of opportunities

In a country as rich in agriculture as ours, we are failing generations of young Australians by not showing them the opportunities that exist. We are failing to show how wonderful and adventurous a life in ag can be. We are failing to educate, explain, and enthuse kids about this industry (see 2013 YFC Andrew D’Arcy’s blog post about jobs in ag). Yet all they need are some clear pathways, support, and a little inspiration.

This is why I want to be a Young Farming Champion. As I said, there are two types of eaters at the table, but I don’t think that anyone should go hungry. There are banquets of opportunity in agriculture, but kids just don’t know about them or how amazing these are.

In modern Australia there is no excuse for starving people of opportunity, and that includes one of an incredible life in agriculture.

Some reflections from me

I must admit I shed a few tears reading this and isn’t it extra sad the dairy industry’s governing body is yet to join wool, cotton, red meat and grains in supporting the Young Farming Champions program. Surely Dairy Australia young people like Andrew are exactly the talent you should be investing in 

Meet Emma Polson a young dairy farmer with a passion for cows and education

I love educating the youth in the dairy industry and the youth about the dairy industry.

Let me introduce myself, I’m a dairy farmer with a passion for education.

Yes, that’s right, I milk cows on my family farm, 10 minutes from the beach on the mid-north coast of NSW, and I’m about to commence my career as a teacher.

My name is Emma Polson, I’m 24 years-old and I love being a farmer.


Every day I get to milk beautiful cows, in a beautiful area, spend most of my time outside and work alongside my family. Add to this a rewarding career supplying quality milk and I’ve got plenty to smile about.

Growing up on my family farm has given me the best opportunities anyone could ask for.


Me and my family

Some of my fondest memories include my brother Mathew and I getting-up to mischief on the farm. We would make our own “play farm”, basically all our farm toys with pasture grown for the cows from grain collected at the dairy.clip_image006

But life as a farm kid had its responsibilities and helping my father and grandfather in the business provided me with vital skills I still use today.

At home, the cows are my passion.

My family has two herds of registered Holsteins, the “small” herd of 180 head and up the road we lease another farm and milk 300 head.

Our family stud is Blue Silo Holsteins, but there are still cows in the herd that can be traced back to my grandfather’s stud Thistleglen.


My dad John manages both farms and my grandfather has retired.

His idea of retirement is still getting the cows in each day at 2pm, but we love him for that.

My whole family lives on the farm, including my 2.5 year old niece Miley.


She is the fifth generation to farm at Oxley Island.

I cherish working with my family and my drive comes from wanting to make a difference in the family business.

I’m proud of our farm and I used to love nothing more than showing my city cousins around when they came to stay. We jumped on the silage bales and camped-out under the stars, eating far too many marshmallows.


After high school, and during my gap year, I completed an agricultural traineeship through Tocal Agricultural College. During this time I was lucky to visit and learn about a variety of commercial farms, including the college property. We studied topics such as calf rearing, cattle health and breeding. Studying at Tocal was one of my best learning experiences. I met many great people I am still friends with today.

Showing cows has always been a passion of mine. I can remember sitting at my Grandma’s house admiring all the trophies my Dad had won showing cattle in his youth. I knew this was what I wanted to do and started working towards that goal straight away.


I was always tying-up calves to prepare them for shows. As I got older I attended industry youth camps and major shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was there, in Sydney, that I had a crash-course in showing. I was helping my friend’s family and can remember thinking ‘I didn’t know anything’ but they didn’t care. They taught me so much about showing and welcomed me into their family. Showing at Sydney was nerve-racking but one of my best experiences of my life.

Today my role in showing is a little different. Showing has been a great vehicle for teaching the next generation. I still show our stud cattle, but my primary focus is on up-skilling the local youth.

I am secretary of the Manning Dairy Youth. It’s an association supported by the Manning Holstein sub-branch and includes members from the age of 2 to 25. Part of my involvement includes organizing youth events within the region, including the annual calf day. The group has also been involved in a photo-shoot at my farm to help with promoting its activities. Taking countless photos was loads of fun.

Here’s a link to the photographs which were later used for a group promotional video.

Supporting the Manning Valley is important to me. I was supported locally and welcomed into the show circuit, so I want to ensure other young people have the same positive experience.

Improving my cattle judging is a personal goal of mine. Last year I was reserve champion in the junior judging competition the Sydney Royal Easter Show, representing the Manning Valley-of course.

I have just finished a primary teaching degree at the University of New England. Throughout my university studies I have embraced the fact that I am a dairy farmer. During my last year of study I helped the Taree Christian Community School with their Cows Create Careers Program. I also produced an educational video about where milk comes from for one of my assignments. It has been an invaluable classroom resource. I love educating the youth in the dairy industry and the youth about the dairy industry.

Recently I spoke as part of a careers day at a school. The most important point I stressed was that anyone can be involved in the dairy industry, you just need to have the passion. I told them to find someone who is prepared to invest their time in them and help develop their dairy farming skills. I grew up on a farm, but I have found you can never stop learning.

If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact me

Dairy good for my bones good for my soul

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the second on our Young Dairy Farming Champions for 2013. We previously profiled Cassie McDonald here

This is the Andrew D’Arcy story …….clip_image002

My name is Andrew D’Arcy and I am a 5th generation dairy farmer from the Bega Valley.

I am passionate about the future of agriculture and believe that there are endless opportunities in this industry.I was born in Bega, a beautiful coastal region located on the far south coast of New South Wales.

Bega Valley

Bega is a great place to live as it is in close proximity to untouched, pristine beaches, situated a few mere hours away from the capital city and the snow fields, and is surrounded by a vast valley of hills to occupy my leisure time with motorbike riding, surfing, snowboarding, fishing, and wake boarding.


Cow painted by Bega Primary School students in 2007

I was educated at the local primary and secondary schools before I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue further education in agriculture at the University of Melbourne (Dookie campus). Over a period of four years I obtained a Bachelor of Rural Business. During this time I worked in different fields of agriculture such as beef cattle, sheep, horticulture, and dry and irrigated cropping. I believe that this experience allowed me to gain an understanding of how other agricultural enterprises work as well as obtain valuable knowledge that I have bought back to my own property. In 2007, I came back to Bega to work alongside my father, who also was born, raised and worked on the property for over 35 years.

Tom D'arcy

My dad Tom D’Arcy

Currently, together we are both able to work and manage the family owned dairy farm, ‘Daisy Bank’ which consists of a milking herd of 420 cows. We are proud supplier to the iconic Australian brand Bega Cheese.

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Recently in mid-2012, after many years of research our family decided to install a Lely robotic milking system. See the robotic dairy working at the Dornuaf farm in Tasmanian here

Currently we are operating a six unit system which operates on a pasture based voluntary milking system. This means the herd are able to move around the farm in a relaxed manner and come into the milking shed based off the desire to be milked, stimulation (cow brush) and feed incentives. The benefits of this innovative system include improved cow well-being, udder health, quicker mastitis and sick cow/illness detection, increased milk production and the opportunity to feed the cattle according to production thus an increased feed efficiency. Additionally, they provide the opportunity for a more flexible daily routine to allow more time to be spent on pasture development, environmental care, and calf and heifer rearing and training. Most importantly, the robotic milking system has allowed for an improved lifestyle, reducing the usual 7 day a week, 365 days of the year, early morning starts required for milking in a conventional herringbone or rotary dairy.


Over the years the dairy industry has created many great opportunities for me. I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout Australia & New Zealand on several different educational tours and conferences which has allowed me to gain a broader perspective on all different aspects involved in the dairy industry. These experiences have allowed me to view how far the Australian dairy industry has come over the past 100 years as well as highlighted the potential for the future of dairy and Australian agriculture.

With an ever increasing world population, the importance and need for agriculture is going to strengthen. This necessary demand will generate more career opportunities with boundless positions within the industry, not limited to farming alone but incorporating other fields such as agronomy, nutrition, marketing, engineering, research, science, accounting, veterinary, mechanical – the list is endless. Currently only 3% of Australians are working within agriculture which has decreased by 20% in the past decade. Additionally, at present Australian agriculture requires at least 6000 tertiary qualified graduates per year however there are only 800 students graduating annually in agriculturally associated degrees. These statistics alone highlight the importance of encouraging new people to get involved in agriculture.

We, the next generation need to be the driving force behind this positive change for the future of Australian agriculture.


Guess whose in the moos

Today’s guest blog post comes from 2013 Dairy Young Farming Champion Cassie MacDonald. This young girl from the burbs has turned her talents into a winning formula to fight the good fight on behalf of dairy farmers everywhere

I wanted to show people everyone can make a difference by sharing their story

I wanted the message to reach as many people as it can.

I wanted to show that if you have an important story to tell people will listen

I hope consumers will stop and think about what exactly is happening.

I hope they think about the choices they make

I grew up in suburbia on the South Coast of NSW, born to a chef and a TAFE teacher/mechanic. We lived a typical ‘city’ life, small house, small backyard; no real exposure to agriculture.


My older brother and I in front of our family home in Albion Park Rail, early 1990s

Except for the odd trip to a family friend’s farm where I was too mesmerised by the Clydesdale horses to notice if anything else was going on. We rode our pushbikes until the street lights came on, and we were warned about stranger danger. We had one tree on our block. The closest thing I came to agriculture was gawking out the window on our many trips to see family in Bungendore. And still, the cattle were too far away to really see anything!

I developed a fascination with animals at a young age, especially livestock, however this was completely unlived. I was lucky enough to be given a pony at this stage- which was the closest chance I had of getting up close with a large four-legged animal. Except at ANZAC day parades where mum would threaten to leave me homeless (jokingly of course) if I didn’t leave the Lighthorsemen alone, after standing staring at them all day, when it was time to go home.

In 1999, a massive family move to the Snowy Mountains when I was ten saw the start of the the change in my life, most significantly moving closer to the opportunity to be exposed to agriculture. I still couldn’t quite get my hands on it, but we were a step closer, living on a 15 acre block, astride my trusty little Welsh Mountain Pony, staring at the neighbours Herefords over the fence. The galahs and cockatoos would entertain us at breakfast time, and I loved for the first time in my life not having next door neighbours breathing down your neck. I was hooked on that ‘country’ thing! The fresh air, the space, the freedom. Walking down the driveway took no more than 2 seconds to catch the school bus, and mum would let us play in the paddocks all afternoon after school. My longing to return to the place where we grew up was quickly forgotten and replaced with the knowledge that the country was where I wanted to call home. Although, changing from a school of 800 students to one of 300 certainly came as a shock!!

The final push came when I went off to boarding school at age eleven. After hearing about an agricultural high school when in year six, I decided I wanted to go there to learn about farming so I could become a vet. On my first day there I was eager to sign up to the Rural Youth Club and enrol in the calf rearing program. I got to look after my first show heifer, an Ayrshire named ‘Agapantha’. I spent months teaching her how to lead and tie up, spending all my spare hours on the school farm. From memory, some of the teachers were concerned that this behaviour was abnormal and antisocial. How wrong they were! If only they can see where this has got me to now.

Cassie MacDonald Hurlstone The Land

Showing cattle at Sydney Royal ( me on the left) with Hurlstone Agricultural High School

At the end of that year I attended my first show, a calf show at the school- I was hooked! I didn’t miss a show from then on. I broke in a heifer, or two, every year and after learning the ropes, in my senior years I ran the group, organising young students, heifers and even the show teams.

Cassie Macdonald Semex Challenge

Winning the Semex Youth Challenge at Sydney Show in 2011

Those six years of living on a farm alongside a great agricultural education and involvement in the Rural Youth club and the stud Ayrshire cattle team built the foundations for my love and commitment for rural Australian and our agricultural industries. I  desperately wanted to become a veterinarian to continue my work with cattle, and ultimately agriculture.


Ayrshire calf day as an older teenager

After finishing high school I began studying Animal Science after being knocked back from entry into Veterinary Science. I started showing cattle for an Ayrshire stud (Mayfield Farms), and was mentored by my great ‘second family’, Paul and Vicki Timbs. They saw something in me and subsequently helped me every step of the way to gaining experience in the show scene, on the farm and in animal husbandry. These foundations have allowed me to come such a long way. In this time I also started working at the Working Dairy at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. After learning the ropes I graduated to Assistant Manager in 2008 and love every moment of educating the public about where our milk comes from, from looking after the health and wellbeing of the cattle to the harvesting, processing and marketing of milk and its products. Education is something I am extremely passionate about, as I believe we need to form partnerships with consumers so can work together to ensure agriculture has a bright and sustainable future.


Milking on the Timbs’ farm


Learning about calf husbandry at the Timbs’


 Working hard at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Working Dairy

After a second knock back in 2007, I finally gained entry into Veterinary Science in 2008. I am now in my 5th year of my degree, and graduation just around the corner. I am a proud member of Ayrshire Australia, the ASC Youth Group, Wagga Wagga Show Society and the RAS of NSW. Representing Wagga in the Sydney Royal Showgirl competition finals in 2011 was a particularly proud moment. I am very happy to tell my friends that I earn my money milking cows (and I am happy to persuade them to have a go at it too!).

I am also very happy to stand up for the industry that I have become so passionate about. When I saw the Coles’ video “Our Coles Brand Milk Story”, I was infuriated with the way they had spun the truth and misrepresented the facts. I suppose any dairy farmer or dairy industry employee could tell you this too. I wanted to reply but knew that words, especially to Coles, would get me nowhere and would get to no one. I thought about it for a second- how can I reach the consumers and have an effect?

I decided to put a skill, that usually only made my school teachers angry for ruining my books, and my mother for using all the paper up in the house, to go use. So I put pen to paper, sitting on the living room floor, underneath my iPad balancing carefully on the edge of a chair. Fifty-two clips later I had completed all the drawings. Five hours worth of work over two afternoons. Two weeks later my video has attracted almost 16,000 hits on YouTube

“The response has been unbelievable, but it’s exactly what I wanted

I wanted to show people everyone can make a difference by sharing their story

I wanted the message to reach as many people as it can.

I wanted to show that if you have an important story to tell people will listen

I hope consumers will stop and think about what exactly is happening.

I hope they think about the choices they make if they buy supermarket brand milk, and how it affects others.

Ultimately it would be great if more people boycotted generic brands and bought branded milk products instead so we can really combat the problem.

I also want shoppers to think about the information they are being fed, especially by such big powerful companies.

As you can see I am extremely passionate about the dairy industry, its future and the opportunities it can give you. I am a walking talking example of the joy you can get from working in and the doors that it can open for you. I will continue to advocate for this wonderful industry that has made me who I am, so that other people can see the exciting  opportunities out there. The dairy industry is full of amazing, talented and supportive people and I want to help make a difference to someone else’s life like the people I have met in the dairy industry have made to mine.


Giving the thumbs up to a career in dairy

We are all born superstars

Art4Agriculuture Young Farming Champion Jess Monteith is a walking talking testament to phrase “life is what you make it”.

She was recently awarded the prestigious Shoalhaven Young Citizen of the Year Australia Day honour for her inspiring AGvocay for Agriculture and her work with the Hands Across NSW Charity

Jess Monteith Shoalhaven Young Citizen of the Year 2013

In today’s guest blog post Jess shares her work with the Hands Across NSW Charity

For 7 years I have been an ambassador for Hands Across NSW. Hands Across NSW began as a charity organisation during the severe droughts to assist farming families and their communities.

Our vision and missions statements are to

“assist the rural communities in NSW affected by the drought and any other issues by providing help with dignity and to be a dynamic organization dedicated to assist those in need as well as providing a hand of friendship in times of distress, thereby ensuring our prominence as one of the leading, friendliest, and effective charitable organizations in this field originated in the Shoalhaven”.

Over the years we received donations of financial help to support our farmers to be resilient through grants of up to $5000 per individual. We also took donations of fodder and other feed products to provide for livestock in areas severely affected.

In 2009 we received a massive donation from the Bonds factory which supplied 30 different families with new underwear. Something we may take for granted, yet something so important as some of the women in remote communities could not afford new underwear  and were too embarrassed to even visit a Dr because of the state of their underwear.

Between 2007 and 2012 we used donations from local communities to provide children with Christmas presents. It was so rewarding to see the looks on their faces

Hands Across continues to provide financial support to those in need through monitoring progress. This is essential as it indicates the degree of help that needs be provided in the future as well as monitoring the changes in the type of help required. This means our charity is under constant review so it can deliver what farmers need on the ground as soon as thye need it

I am very excited by the next phase that ongoing donations and support has allowed us to develop a program that provides scholarships for students in my local community who face financial hardship in transferring from primary school through to high school. The scholarship program is run in conjunction with the Berry-Gerringong Rotary club who have also raised funds

Check out Jess’ latest video which shares her amazing journey to date




Cows Create Careers

Wow what exciting group our 2012 Young Farming Champions are. Tom Pearce is the latest addition to #teamdairy. We cant wait for our next workshop to meet the team. Just talking to them on the phone inspires me

This is the Tom Pearce story ………..

I live in Bega on the far south coast of NSW, and whilst some may say we are a little isolated I have a different perspective. I am 25 minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the snow, 2.5 hours from Canberra, 5 hours from Sydney and 7 hours from Melbourne and 5 minutes from the nearest fishing spot. There are not too many places that can boast that combination! Top that off with the international reputation of Bega Cheese, I’m proud to say I live in Bega and that I am one of the farmers whose cows supply the milk that goes into cheese!

Narelle Norm and Tom Pearce photo by Simone Smith Weekly Times

Narelle, Norm and Tom Pearce on the family farm – photo Simone Smith The Weekly Times

Growing up on the farm I soon realised this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Everywhere the farm beckoned me, the green pastures, the sound of a calf bellowing, the love of the clean crisp morning air, riding “shotgun” in the tractor with dad. I was born and bred a dairy farmer and being the 4thgeneration to farm here I had dairy farming in my blood.

Whist being tagged a farm boy at school may have been a little disheartening at the time I now realise it wasn’t all that bad. While others finished school without a clue in the world where they were headed, I knew what I wanted to do! While school definitely wasn’t my favourite place to be, I stuck it out realising the importance of bringing as much knowledge as I could back to the farm

Every afternoon I raced home, had a quick snack and then headed straight to the dairy to see where I could help! No spending hours indoors playing video games for me, I was always on the motorbike moving cows, helping dad in the dairy or in the calf shed!

july10 012

I finished school in January 2005 and how pleased was I to see the end of those language textbooks and the beginning of the real world! No assignments, no exams just plenty of time to spend on the farm and not to mention the countless hours of free time to spend fishing! University wasn’t for me. My father had generations of knowledge and expertise to share with me and I had a 940 acre textbook to study. I was happy with that and I reckon I’ve done alright since!

My interest in cows really got a kick along when Michael Boyd invited me to attend International Dairy Week (IDW). “Boydy” has always been quick to spot a keen kid and give them a helping hand on their journey to build up a high genetic meritherd of show cattle. So in 2005 this very keen kid attended his first IDW, a week of hands on experience; working with the best of the best in the stud cattle arena to help prepare elite Holstein cows for the show ring. IDW is the largest exhibition of dairy cattle in the southern hemisphere with 3500 people attending in 2012 and all talking cows in the one location. I became addicted after my first show and haven’t missed a year since!


The Mecca for all dairy cattle enthusiasts is on the other side of the world. World Dairy Expois held in Madison, Wisconsin, USA for one week every year and features some of the best dairy cows in the world. I attended my first Expo in 2007. That was 5 years ago and I have been back every year since! The 24 hours’ worth of travel time all seems irrelevant when you’re hanging around these awesome creatures and spending time with like-minded people. Over the years I have made so many great friends and industry contacts both locally and abroad all through a mutual love and respect for dairy cows!


I was keen to get involved myself and join all these young people out in the ring showing their cows. You quickly learn success doesn’t come overnight and getting to the top of the class and staying there is easier said than done! It’s very rewarding to see your own show successes improve and start to be competitive at the highest level.


Over the last few years in local competitions we have achieved a number of supreme champion awards. The last 2 years our family has achieved 2 first place ribbons at the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show, and that was pretty exciting and recognition that you are breeding good cows and continuing to lift your standard. Working our way from the bottom of the class to be now mixing it with the “old hands” of the show ring is quite rewarding!

Have a good eye for cattle is essential and being able to pick out a “good one” is the key to winning in the show ring. To hone my skills I have been to numerous judging schools and participated in many judging competitions.

A highlight was winning the National Junior Dairy Cattle Judging Competition in 2008. I have been invited to judge at numerous shows around the country and most recently at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It was quite the honour to come back and judge the dairy youth competitions that I once competed in myself!


In 2009 I was named as one of the seven RAS Rural Achievers, or as we called ourselves “the Top 7 in the state” This competition identifies highly motivated young people all with keen interest in promoting agriculture. It was a jam packed week of fun and learning at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which gave me new friends and great memories for life.


In July 2009 I was hit with the travel bug and after pooling my resources and contacts I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This 6 month sojourn featured time in both North America and Europe. I did the tourist thing and saw the sights, but the majority of the time was spent working voluntarily on dairy farms, attending dairy shows and honing my craft. I learnt so much from the people I worked with, they appreciated my willingness to work hard and they noticed my eagerness and were only too happy to share their knowledge. Its one thing you’ll discover about the dairy industry and I guess it applies to all forms of agriculture; farmers love to promote and teach young people. If you show you are interested and motivated and prepared to listen farmers are only too happy to give advice and point you in the right direction .

On returning home I have put my new found knowledge and enthusiasm into practice on the farm, and shared my knowledge with anyone willing to listen. I have taken our breeding program to the next level, incorporating imported embryos from North America and using the best dairy sires available to mate over our herd. I have actively marketed our cattle in breed magazines, exhibited at major shows and sold heifers at elite dairy sales. My family’s stud Warwick Farm Holsteins and my own Progressive Holsteinsare I hope on their way to becoming household names within the Australian dairy industry.

Something else I am also ardent about is my involvement with the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp. This event is designed to nurture the future of the Australian dairy industry. I am one of a handful of camp leaders who eagerly share their knowledge with the young participants. My passion for the dairy industry has also landed me in a number of positions including Cows Create Careers presentations, the Holstein Australia Youth Committeeand the RAS Dairy Youth Committee all involve fostering and encouraging the next generation of farmers.


My interest in exhibiting dairy cows has taken me to various dairy events and royal shows around the country where I am often bewildered by the lack of basic agricultural knowledge shown by our city counterparts. I have been asked all types of questions and in most cases I’m only too happy to answer but there a couple of times and I think it’s out of frustration I may have been guilty of leading a few city folk astray answering particular questions they ask!, Yes it was good for a laugh but it sheds light on a bigger issue. The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate.

It also saddens me in this age of technology and innovation in agriculture that farming is too often brushed aside as too much hard work and long hours with little financial return.Yes it is hard work and more often than not it’s not a 9-5 job but there is an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you watch something grow and produce something that provides society with its most important needs!

If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.

I believe a great start to communities valuing what farmers do and giving them access to the tools to do it would be to make Agriculture a compulsory subject at school. Today’s youth are the next generation and they have many decisions to make about how best to feed an ever growing population with many third world countries still struggling to feed themselves. If we are going to tackle these complex issues we not only need these young people to support our farmers we also need these young people to see the great career opportunities in agriculture that lie outside the big cities! I can assure them all there is no more rewarding career

From the udder side of the fence

I would like you all to meet our latest Young Farming Champion – Jessica Monteith

How lucky is the dairy industry to welcome this young lady into our midst

Jessica’s story ………..

My life motto has always been “To live with Passion” and I have always focused on the words of Nelson Mandela – “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.

Nelson Mandela Quote

In other words I throw my self 100% whole heartedly into everything I set out to achieve. A life without goals is a life without passion.

Growing up my best friend lived on a dairy farm only a short push bike ride from my house. Right from the start I was always fascinated by the dairy and the cattle and we would follow her dad and grandfather around the farm pestering them with questions and always wanting to help, or more likely hinder their efforts when it came time to feed the calves. I never realised it at the time but these are the cherished memories that inspired me and determined my life goals

I have been lucky enough to meet many people over the years who have helped me achieve many accomplishments that I never would have thought possible, these people I see as mentors whom have shaped my understanding and fuelled my passion for Rural Industries in particular the dairy industry to which I am now devoted.

This passion began when Graham and Jane McPhee of Hillview Park Holsteins in Finley  asked me to join them to help prepare their cattle for International Dairy Week. This annual event  draws around 2000 head of cattle from across Australia. Not only are Jane and Graham the roots of my passion they have helped kickstart my own dairy herd by giving me the best gift ever – the pick of a calf from their calf pen. This calf Hillview Park AJK Eve was my first Holstein and foundation dam of my own Curramore Park Holstein stud.

AJK Eve First calf

I have found the dairy industry is full of people who are very keen to open doors and nurture new entrants and introduce you to others who share your passion.

One of these is Natalie Cochrane of Eagle Park who owns a dairy farm with her husband Tim at Terara just north of Nowra. After I began showing cattle with Natalie I began to fall in love with her signature breed – Illawarra cattle.

Sydney Royal 2012

Sydney Show 2012 and a gorgeous Illawarra Cow

Whilst I had not grown up on the land I found there are plenty of farming people like Natalie who will work with you and show you the ropes and support you to live your dream. My little herd of registered Holsteins and Illawarra’s which now live at Terara on Tim and Natalie’s property continues to grow slowly between breeding and purchasing new genetics from local breeders.

As part of my involvement in the dairy industry I have been lucky enough to compete and succeed in youth events and attend shows across 5 states of Australia meeting many wonderful people along the way who have become friends for life.

My first trip to Sydney show saw me come home with a blue ribbon from competing in the Youth Challenge. This team orientated event involves a group of young people working together in a range of activities that show how well the team can prepare a team of cattle for judging at the show. I came home with a renewed sense of accomplishment and next year went one further winning the  paraders class against others in my age group who had many more years  experience.

One of my biggest achievements was mentoring the South Coast and Tablelands Youth Challenge team to our first ever representation at International Dairy Week and coming away with success. The smiles and excitement of the team after beating some of the best dairy youth in the country will stay with me forever.

Youth Challenge Team

The IDW Youth Challenge Team

Whilst breeding and showing dairy cattle first spiked my interest in the dairy industry, it is the diverse range of opportunities that agriculture provides which keeps me actively involved now.

Sydney Royal 2009

Sydney Show 2009

My role in working with youth in agriculture is helping young people understand the important and pivotal role that farmers and agriculture play in our past, present and future. I also hope it is influencing them to realise the opportunities that agriculture and agricultural related fields can hold for them.

I am now completing a Traineeship in Financial services through Horizon Credit Union whilst also completing full time study for a double degree in Agricultural Science as well as Agribusiness Finance through Charles Sturt University. I am hoping to follow a career path in finance related to and working one-on-one with our farmers to develop their industries and operations to work to full capacity as well as continuing to work with the next generation. The fact that I don’t come from a farming background helps show that exciting agriculture related careers and opportunities are available to everyone.

Once I have all my qualifications I aim to specialise in Succession Planning and Share Farming in the hope of not only keeping the next generation of farmers on the land but also keep generations of farming history, skills and knowledge maintained by giving young people the opportunity to work on land without the need to buy the land they farm on.

The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of achievements and success for me. After winning the Berry showgirl competition, I then made the top 15 in the state out of 650 young women from across NSW. From there it was off to the Sydney Royal Easter Show where I was awarded First Runner up in The Land Sydney Showgirl Competition. This is a feat that still amazes me and when people ask me if I have come down yet I reply that I have no yet had the chance to go up!

Showgirl with Jane Mcphee

1st runner up Sydney Royal Easter Showgirl 2012 with Jane McPhee

From humble beginnings I honestly did not even expect to do well in the local competition and when I see the Runner Up sash stretched across my bed I have to pinch myself to make sure its real. Showgirl was always something I wanted to have a go at after seeing many inspiring young women from our area do well in the competition and witnessing how it helped them get to where they are today. I did not quite understand though just how many opportunities being involved in the competition held for me. The people I have met and networked with along the way will undoubtedly be further influencers in helping me reach my full potential and allow me to give back to the community that has supported me .

The Showgirl competition has inspired me to get even more involved by recruiting and inspiring other young women to step outside their comfort zone and have a go. I will also use my award as a vehicle to share the great story of Australian farmers and agriculture with the community.

Year of the farmer ambassador

But most of all I want to be a real life example of the doors that agriculture can offer to exciting career pathways and inspire other young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Sadly when I was at school the consensus was and it still seems to be that many students are deterred away from considering tertiary education options by careers advisers due a perceived lack of opportunities and lack of money in the industry.

I want to debunk these misconceptions and promote the many facets of agriculture and career options not just on farm but the many people and businesses who support agriculture in rural communities.

Not coming off a farm makes me even more driven to prove that you do not have to be born on a farm in order to pursue and succeed in an agricultural field.

Follow Jess on Twitter @jm458