Creative Cowboys

 

Today we feature the outstanding and multi-talented Queensland farmer and artist Annabel Tully

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Annabel Tully painting with her “easel” on her homeland “Bunginderry” in Qld’s Channel Country

Firstly a little background

Art4Agriculture is an independent, non-political, partnership focused, not for profit grass roots organisation. We deliver programs designed by farmers for farmers that focus on youth, careers, the community, the environment and the arts and link all of these back to agriculture

We only work with organisations who partner for the common good of agriculture.

In 2011 RIRDC provided seed funding to get our Young Farming Champions program off the ground. What a watershed moment that has proved to be for the future of food security in this country.   

RIRDC have a number of initiatives that nurture rural and regional talent and one of these is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

To me this award identifies outstanding rural women in each state of Australia who day-in and day-out perform with flare, dedication and success resulting in creating growth and well-being for their own businesses, their communities and organisations they belong to.

Each winner has identified an exceptional community or industry good program they wish to undertake and the award provides them with funding and a support network to bring their vision to fruition.

Just by being nominated for an award is a tremendous boost for any individual or team program. Its says “We think you are equal to or better than the very best in the country”

Having participated in a number of award processes I know there are many positive flow on effects.  Art4agriculture have been awarded grants and contracts and our Young Farming Champions have received opportunities of a lifetime as a result of the attention focused on successful award entries.

Art4agriculutre has now formed a partnership with Annabel Tully who shares our commitment to deliver the best outcomes for agriculture at every turn

You can see why Annabel lights our fire by reading her story here

I’ve just been on the most incredible journey…….

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No it’s not Nepal, Cambodia or the Greek Isles, I’ve just spent the last 12 months being a part of the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Awards process in Queensland. (It does go national) I am thrilled to say I am a finalist headed for a big interview process in Brisbane next month. This journey of self-reflection has really nailed down for me exactly why I have a fire in my belly about anything rural and remote and what am I going to do with it?

So a little on my background… I’m a woman (for starters), a wife, a mother, a farmer, a teacher , an artist and an advocate for our bush way of life. For many years I have put my hand up for anything that had a farming or arts touch to it. But what really keeps that fire burning, is the people, without us, there is no agriculture. Sounds pretty simple, if not, stupid, I know, but when we are confronted with all the pressures of contemporary agriculture…..environment, global food security, financial pressures of feeding and educating another generation… blah blah blah…. the people part of agriculture is something I am not willing to forget. Let me share this journey with you if I may be so bold as to ask for a moment or 2 of your precious time???

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So my pitch for the Awards is a project I call “Creative Cowboys.” Come one, come all!

I’m offering an opportunity for fun and laughter and a reason to connect with the person standing next to you. I plan to offer all-inclusive arts based activities for people living in farming communities – yes even those who can’t even draw a stick figure! The aim is to offer some respite for farmers, a no man’s land where we you may chat to the stranger next to you about not very much at all, and that’s the whole point.

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Annabel Tully 2011 Tongalderry Channels (wet) Oil, pigment and found ochre on linen

Bushies are a resilient mob, a humble mob, a sometimes quiet and unassuming mob. We are faced with many challenges, and this is what brings the enormous rewards and our determination to stay. We problem solve, more often than not, without the assistance of others. But without the people, there is no agriculture. So I aim to offer a little respite, a shady tent at a field day or rodeo, if you like, where friends, neighbours and strangers can come together and have some fun, a little calm before the next storm. Because if you are a bushie, you know what I’m talking about…. there will be a next time, not so far in the future, when we will need to band together for survival.

Whether I am successful in my bid for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award bursary for this project is not the end of this journey. I’ve already reached my destination. The process of simply applying for the awards has enabled me to realise what my skills are and how I can make a difference. I am clear about my role in this glorious life I lead in the bush. Are you?

You can read more about and/or contact Annabel here

web: www.annabeltully.com

email:  info@annabeltully.com

“Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass”.

Today’s guest blogger is Jack Piggott

Jack is currently at Bond University studying degrees in Law (LLB) and Biomedial Science (BBioMedSci).

Jack Piggott

I know it is an unusual combination, but it is more complementary that people think and I enjoy it.
I am a passionate voice of youth, and have been involved in many projects and initiatives to that effect.

For the last week the Art4agricultureChat has been showcasing the amazing youth initiative that is Heywire

I invited Jack to write a blog because not only is he a previous Heywire winner You can read his winning story here excitingly his team managed to get their “pitch” idea up and running – see footnote

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Jack shares his Heywire experience ……….

Wow. A year passes so quickly these days. Back in the good ‘ole days, I used to get a full twelve months, now I’m flat out getting 6 with no change! You see it was this time last year I was hopping on a plane Canberra bound, full of anticipation (and trepidation I must admit) for Heywire. If you’re not familiar with Heywire, go and have a look at their website now. I’m serious, go now!

You’re back! Did you spend the better part of an hour reading, watching and listening to the winner’s stories? I know I did. Why? It’s because Heywire attracts some of the most engaging young storytellers from across the country. And because they are from regional and rural areas, they’re telling stories that we don’t seem to hear a lot of these days. Stories about emergency landings while flying with your father, or about homesickness that you get at boarding school 1000km away from your family and culture, and the quirks of donating blood, real stories by real young people living “outside of capital cities” who don’t often get heard.

But the brilliant thing about Heywire is that it doesn’t just stop there. It gives you the skills and contacts to put ideas into action, and to take that action to the people. And that is something rural youth need; because often we have good ideas, only for them to disappear because we’re too far away from where all the action is.

And it’s that, a disconnect, that lies at the heart of the city – country divide, and alleviating it goes a long way to solving the ‘people’ problems that we face in the sticks. I say ‘people’ problems; what I mean is problems with industry perception, recruitment and political issues.

And why do I think that young people are the best to solve these problems? It’s not merely the fact that the average age of famers (of all breeds) has risen from 44 in 1981 to 53 years in 2011 (and to 60 if you’re a Qld. beef producer!). It’s because youth have the most creative approaches to solving some of the big issues in farming and then they ask the question “why not?” I’m not suggesting that we have all the answers, and we have much to learn from the generations who have done a lot of the hard work.

But we need to be involved in the big decisions that are made in the industry. After all we’re the ones who are going to have to live with it. That’s why we need Heywire and programs like it. To shake things up and take a fresh look! It’s as Noble prize winning poet Maya Angelou observed: I love to see the young go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

Footnote

Ideas developed at the 2011 Heywire Youth Issues Forum including Jack’s team were presented to the then Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon as part of the recommendations of a major health conference.
Jack and his team’s Heywire proposal called on the federal government to fund a telephone psychology clinic that would allow people in remote areas to have regular appointments with a qualified mental health provider over the telephone; and access the same provider each time.
“It’s great to see that this conference believes that our idea has merit and that young people can a driving force in health service innovation,” says Jack
The idea was chosen as one of 13 priority recommendations out of nearly 250 submitted to the conference, where mental health was a prominent issue.
“This recommendation presumably stood out because it deals with an issue of undoubted current importance and is detailed and practical,” says Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance, which ran the event. “It would provide better continuity of care and confidentiality to people suffering from mental illness in remote areas.”
The conference recommendation reads:
“To increase access to mental health services in rural areas the government should fund a telephone psychology clinic through Medicare. Clients would be referred through pathways that enable them to access existing Medicare rebates (mental health packages). To ensure continuity of care, the patient would be treated by the same qualified mental health professional each time, who would know the particulars of their client, and offer ongoing treatment (as opposed to current telephone services which focus on intervention).”

More details about the Heywirer’s telephone psychology clinic proposal can be found here. And the group’s ‘How to Change a Life’ website can be found here.

Like Jack you too can make a real difference it just requires “two hands, two eyes and a heart.”

Heywire is open for your entries right now – upload them directly to the site. The Heywire competition calls for stories about you and the community where you live.
To enter, visit abc.net.au/heywire

Follow Jack on Twitter  @jackpiggott

Visit his website here http://www.jackpiggott.com/

Farmers call to arms

Each year the Readers Digest does a poll to determine Australia’s most trusted professions. Last year as you can see farmers came in at number 7.

Top ten most trusted professions in 2011

1. Paramedics

2. Firefighters

3. Pilots

4. Rescue volunteers

5. Nurses

6. Pharmacists

7. Farmers

8. Medical specialists

9. GPs

10. Veterinarians

Four years ago when farmers were at number 9 I showed the list to a group of farmers and posed the question “ why aren’t farmers at the top of the list”. The farmers around the table replied “ the majority of the professions in the top 10 save lives”. My reply was without farmers supplying people with food, their most basic of needs, there would be no life and we need to find away to remind people just how important farmers are.

At that time I received mostly blank looks to my suggestion from the farmers around the table. I thought this was very sad and recognised we also needed to find a way to make farmers realise just how important they are. After all if you don’t believe in yourself how can you expect anyone else too.

So I began a crusade to fix this lack of appreciation of farmer self worth and initiated the Art4Agriculture programs to provide opportunities for farmers to share their stories with the community and in turn get a greater understanding of the community’s expectations of the people who supply them with food and fibre. The aim was to create a two way appreciation between rural and urban communities and an understanding of how much we rely on each other other.

This year is Australian Year of the Farmer. A once in a life time opportunity to remind people (farmers and the community alike) just how important our farmers are.

Australian Year of the Farmer is an opportunity for every primary industry, every rural community and every farmer to invite their urban cousins to join them in a 365 day celebration.

Beyond Art4agriculture’s activities I am having a dinner party once a month for my urban friends. They will receive a copy of an Australian rural showcase like Fiona Lake’s books which my first guests were lucky enough to get.

AYOF dinner

We will celebrate local produce, drink local wine and I will be encouraging them to wake up each morning and say “I thank a farmer today”

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There is no shortage of great food on the South Coast.  And just to prove it we recently won the 100 mile challenge

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What do you have planned?

Well known Australian author Fleur McDonald– the voice of outback has pledged to get hold of 52 Farmers and post a blog a week from a farmer. From every part of Agriculture; grain, stock, mixed, fishing, dairy, viticulture, communications and so on and so forth!

This week I am very honoured to say I am farmer no 4. You will find my blog on Fleur’s site as well as at the bottom of this post.

CALL TO ARMS

This is my challenge to Australian farmers. Farmers are currently number 7 on Australia’s most trusted professions list. How can we work together to make 2012 the year Australia votes to put their farmers at number 1?

I look forward to working with each and everyone of you to make this happen

Fleur McDonald – Australian Year of the Farmer – a farmers story No 4 by Lynne Strong Clover Hill Dairies

Firstly I would like thank Fleur McDonald for giving me this opportunity to share my story and congratulate her for taking the lead in Australian Year of the Farmer by sharing 52 farmers’ stories. For too long food has been about cooking and eating and recipes and restaurants with little attention paid to the origin of the key ingredients. It’s time for everyone in the food value chain to follow Fleur’s lead and put faces to the product and give our customers real farmers they can relate to

1. Summary of your family and farming enterprise

My name is Lynne Strong and I farm at Clover Hill Dairies in partnership with my husband Michael and son Nick in what I refer to as paradise – the beautiful Jamberoo valley on the South Coast of NSW.

Clover Hill Dairies

Jamberoo is the birth place of the Australian dairy industry and the cooperative movement and my family has been farming here for 180 years.

I am actively involved in the day to day running of our two dairy farms where we milk 500 cows that produce milk to supply over 50,000 Australians daily. Lynne and Michael Strong

The highlight of my farming journey to date has been winning the National Landcare Primary Producer Award. This award recognises farmers who have a holistic view of farming and are committed to achieving the delicate balance between sustainable and profitable food production, and the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the planet

Nick Strong

2. Why I farm

· I farm because the people I care about most in the world farm and they are in it for the long haul

· I farm because I believe feeding, clothing and housing the world is the noblest profession

· I farm because I like the mental intensity, the constant review process, the drive to get up each day and do it better. The fulfilling challenge of balancing productivity, people, animals and the planet

· I farm because inspirational people farm. Feeding, clothing and housing the world now and in the next 50 years is going to require an extraordinary effort. This means we need extraordinary people to take up the challenge. When I work with inspirational people, they light my fire, feed my soul and challenge me to continue to strive to make a unique contribution to agriculture and the community.

3. What do you foresee as the biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?

Sadly Australia is complacent about the challenges to food security. There is a lack of appreciation by society in general of the interdependence of environment, agriculture, food and health.

However if we are to progress and fuel the mushrooming food needs of the cities while meeting the community’s expectations for environmental sustainability and animal well-being, then both rural and urban communities must have greater mutual empathy and respect.

This I believe is the real challenge facing farmers in the immediate future -How do we fix it?

As I see it we can do one of two things. We (farmers) can sit back and lament that we are victims or we can actively acknowledge that farmers are business people selling a product and successful businesses recognise marketing is a strategic part of doing business.

Marketing doesn’t mean every farmer needs to have a logo, spend money on advertising, write a marketing plan, write a blog, join Twitter or Facebook – it simply means being customer focused. This means you have to understand your customer and their values and your business has to BE the image you want your customer to see.Then whenever you get a chance, put that image out there. It may be at the farmgate, at a local farmers market, a community meeting, a media interview or whenever you are in contact with consumers.

Every sector of the food system whether they be farmers, manufacturers, branded food companies, supermarkets or restaurants is under ever increasing pressure to demonstrate they are operating in a way that is consistent with stakeholder values and expectations. Farmers cannot expect to be exempted from this scrutiny just because we grow the food.

Businesses are built on relationships. This means we (farmers) have to get out there in our communities and start having two way conversations with our customers

Excitingly I know that once farmers embrace the concept they will discover like me that it can be very rewarding talking to your customers. They are interested and they do care.

There are so many ways farmers can share their stories. To help achieve this I initiated the innovative ‘Art4Agriculture’ programs which started with Picasso Cows and is now the Archibull Prize. The Archibull Prize uses art and multimedia to engage thousands of students in learning about the valuable role farmers play in Australia’s future.

With the Art4Agriculture team I am working on establishing an Australia wide network of ‘young agricultural champions’ who are trained to tell the great story of Australian agriculture to the next generation of consumers – students.

This program connects young people from different food and fibre industries. They get to see their similarities, they find common ground, they realise each has issues that are just as challenging, and they learn how they can help each other.

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program for 2012 will train a team of 24 young farmers from regional Australia to actively engage with students in schools around Australia. The students will focus on a particular food or fibre industry, receive a unique insight from their Young Farming Champion and then enter their project work (their Archie) to vie for the ‘Archibull Prize’.

Our Young Farming Champions will also have the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive and diverse array of initiatives offered by our supporting partners. These events will provide a platform from which to develop, build and strengthen the capacity of the Young Farming Champions and allow primary industries to develop key farmer-to-stakeholder and farmer-to-consumer relationships.

Through their involvement in Art4Agriculture school programs our Young Farming Champions will be able to directly market their food or fibre industry and its diverse career pathways to a captive and relevant audience. The legacy of the Young Farming Champions program is to create an Australia wide network of enthusiastic young professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry.

We believe this program will not only help build the capability of young rural people to farm with resilience and confidence it will provide a great platform to spark the next generations’ interest in an agricultural career.

4. What is my vision for the future?

My vision for the future isn’t too difficult; it just requires a different way of thinking. I believe a profitable and sustainable healthy future for the farming sector is achievable – the health and welfare of all Australians and many people around the world depends on it.

To drive the process of change requires champions and leaders. But to change grass roots perceptions, we need grass roots action. Farmers care about the country, their livestock and the people they provide with food and fibre. Beyond best farming practices, farmers have to be out in communities, walking the talk – from paddock to plate, from cow to consumer – and building trust between rural and urban communities. I want farming men and women to go out and sell the message that feeding and clothing the world is an awesome responsibility and a noble profession, and that it offers great careers. Just imagine if we could achieve my vision of an Australia-wide network of trained, passionate farmers talking directly with the communities they supply!

5. What do you wish non-farmers / city people & the Australian Government understood about farming?

Australian farmers proudly feed and clothe 60 million people. If they were doctors or nurses or pharmacists or ambulance officers or firemen there would be a moment in most people’s lives when they would be reminded just how important those professions are.
But farmers, at less than 1 per cent of the Australian population, are almost invisible and with food in abundance in this country, there is little opportunity to remind Australians just how important our farmers are.
I am hoping Australian Year of the Farmer starts a very long conversation and a new appreciation for the land that produces our food and the hands that grow it

6. What would I like to see on a billboard?

Billboard – across Sydney Harbour Bridge

“If you want safe, affordable, nutritious food forever love the land that produces it and the hands that grow it.”

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You can visit us at the following websites:

Clover Hill Dairies www.cloverhilldairies.com.au

Art4agriculture www.art4agriculture.com.au

Read our blogs at:

Clover Hill Dairies Diary http://chdairiesdiary.wordpress.com/

Art4agriculturechat https://art4agriculturechat.wordpress.com

Follow us on twitter:

@chdairies and @art4ag

Follow us on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clover-Hill-Dairies/211850082224503

http://www.facebook.com/art4agriculture/

You can find links to our Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube accounts on our websites as well as my email address. Looking forward to hearing from you

Life in a country town – Young farming champion Melissa Henry shares her story

Today’s guest blog is by Ar4agriculture Young Farming Champion Melissa Henry who lives and works at Boorowa in Central NSW

As a Young Farming Champion going into Sydney schools for the Archibull Prizeand talking with others in the city community, a common question I am asked is “what is it like to like in a country town?” There are a lot of negative misconceptions about what life in a rural community is like. In this post, I will share with you my perspectives and what I love most about country living.

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Melissa with the students from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Baulkham Hills.

I grew up in the western Sydney suburbs of the Hawkesbury District. My first introduction to rural Australia was through my agricultural education – having the opportunity to show livestock and do project-based work in rural enterprises. I fell in love!

I moved to the Boorowa/ Harden area in November 2010. Boorowa is approx. 1.5hrs west of Canberra and 3.5hrs south west of Sydney.

I love the open spaces, the quiet, the birds, seeing wildlife almost daily, recognising people when you walk down the street, watching the weather fronts as they move across the landscape.

I admire the values of country people: genuine, friendly, open, family focussed, dedicated, innovative, passionate about what they do and their communities.

I am inspired by the community spirit, particularly in times of extreme weather events such as floods and fire. Individuals pull together at the drop of a hat to help others in need, from moving stock to making sure that there is food in the fridge.

I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a location where I can fulfil my passion – owning a small sheep stud. I am also grateful for the lifestyle that I am now living.

Lambs

Flopsey and her twin lambs

So what is in the town of Boorowa with a shire population of 2500 people? Bakery, cafes, butcher, gift shop, a fibre & textile studio, newsagency, post office, IGA, chemist, small hospital, emergency services, rural supply stores, Ex-Services Club, pubs with great meals and accommodation, Chinese restaurant, real estate agents, banks, mechanic, hairdressers, hardware stores, library, schools, recreation park, sports fields, race course, golf course, swimming pool, showground, caravan park, Council, Tourism Information, and the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority office (where I work). I find that it is everything that I need on a week to week basis.

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Boorowa’s main street – proud of its wool products

One of my favourite events in the year is Boorowa’s Irish Woolfest – a celebration of the town’s Irish heritage and the fine merino wool that is produced in the region. The event is made famous by the “running of the sheep” down the main street – Boorowa’s response to the Spanish running of the bulls!

Running of the Sheep

The town is a buzz for this October long weekend each year. In 2011 there was an estimated 18,000 people who came to see everything that Boorowa has to offer. Will I see you there this year?

For more information about Boorowa and the Irish Woolfest, visit http://www.irishwoolfest.boorowa.net/

For more information about the NSW Regional Relocation Grant, visit http://www.osr.nsw.gov.au/benefits/rrg/

You can see the video (and her gorgeous sheep) Melissa created for her in school visits here

and access her PowerPoint Presentation Baa Baa Black Sheep here

Don’t miss this one St Michael’s Primary School share their appreciation of Australian farmers

and their excellent  video entry for Archibull Prize

Wool Can do amazing things

and their prize winning PowerPoint presentation

http://www.slideshare.net/art4agriculture/st-michaels-catholic-school-archibull-prize-2011-entry-wool

Attracting and retaining the best and the brightest to agriculture higher education

Art4agriculture Young Farming Champions are promoting agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry and sparking the next generations’ interest in an agricultural career.

Yet the retention rate in university agriculture based courses is far from ideal. Where are we going wrong? How do we fix this?  

Today’s post by guest blogger Art4agriculture’s communication manager Victoria Taylor who blogs at http://flourishfiles.typepad.com/flourishfiles/ reflects on this serious problem for future food security and our investment in young people

10 January 2012

AgSci and the Shrinking Workforce – by Victoria Taylor

 

This morning, @OzPIEF tweeted a statistic from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations stating that employment in Agriculture declined by 94,400 (24.9%) over the 10 years to November 2011.

This caused me to reflect on two other Twitter posts that caught my attention recently.

The first was an article from the Central Western Daily, posted by @SammileeTTT where Charles Sturt University’s new head of agriculture, Professor John Mawson said:

“The proportion of university-trained employees in the industry is not as high as it should be. We desperately need to attract more students into agricultural careers.”

That’s nothing new to those of us who work in or with agricultural industries and the statistics back him up. In 2005 the Productivity Commission in their research paper “Trends in Australian Agriculture” found that the proportion of people working in agriculture with a degree was around 7% whereas 22% of the community as a whole had a degree.

The other tweet was by @KondininGroup which referred to Victorian Farmers Federation concerns that the higher education base funding review has recommended raising the fees for agricultural courses at university by up to 25%.

It seems incongruous that these two pronouncements can co-exist. How can the answer to low enrolments in Agricultural Science (AgSci) be to increase fees?

But it made me think about what may be contributing to a low take up of AgSci degrees. I don’t think fees tell the whole story.

Why are some Agricultural Science degrees still four years long?

Agricultural Science is a complex and technical subject area but computer science, accounting, journalism and even many straight Science degrees are only three years. I don’t think it could be said that those students spending an extra year in Agricultural Science are rewarded financially for their efforts on graduation.

Why are so many Agricultural Science degrees inflexible?

I accept that AgSci provides graduates with a comprehensive understanding across a range of disciplines. I am continually reminded that a solid grounding in basic science is transferable across a number industries, which serves graduates and agriculture well. I wonder though, if a student is ultimately interested in animal nutrition, why do some degrees insist they study agronomy for three years before they can specialise?

What is the link between AgSci and Farming?

An AgSci degree doesn’t teach you how to farm, it teaches the science that underpins agricultural production.  So an industry leader told me recently when discussing this issue.  Some students are therefore disillusioned when they get to university and find the degree is focussed on science, not farming.  

Why can’t we retain students in Agricultural Science courses?

I guess some of the above points may contribute to low retention rates.  One farmer told me of the 100+ students in their first year only 4 graduated. Where did all those young people go? Well, some transferred to straight Science where they had more freedom to pursue their interests, some went home to the farm questioning the degree’s relevance to their family’s operations and some had just changed their minds about what they wanted to do…which is the right of all young people of course!

I’d like to add a lack of clarity about career paths to the list.

Many of you can think of at least a dozen people in highly diverse careers in agriculture – agronomists, bankers, PR people, scientists, advisers, lobbyists, farmers, machinery dealers, policy makers…etc

If a student decides at the end of first year that they don’t want to be an agronomist or farmer anymore, how do we let them know there are a number of other career options open to AgSci graduates?

Apart from encounters with family and friends, how often do we take the time to engage with young people to demonstrate how rewarding and diverse a career in agriculture can be? 

We owe it to ourselves, to protect the investment we’ve made in our businesses and industries and to secure the future of food and fibre production, to support and invest in our young people. 

A new group of school-leavers are about to start their AgSci degrees…what will YOU do to keep them there?