Meet Alex Milner Smyth who is walking the talk in agriculture

Today our guest blog comes from Alex Milner Smyth who grew up in suburban London and has found her dream job in Australian agriculture where she is combining her love for all things rural, with her ability to communicate (talk!).

It’s a challenging and exciting time for agriculture, and a great place to work – no matter what your background is.

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This is Alex’s story ………..

It probably seems strange that even though I grew up in suburban London, I developed an interest for agriculture at a young age. I loved our country holidays and regularly begged my mum to let me go and ‘volunteer’ for the local farmers. She wasn’t so keen!

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Making friends: On a family holiday to Devon in 1991.

When I was 17 I moved to Adelaide, Australia, where my mum and her family had grown up. Initially I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and then went out into the big wide world, earning a wage and living independently in Adelaide.

When I was 21, I went to work for the rural company Elders, firstly in their banking section, and later on for the real estate division. It was here that I realized how much I loved working for a rurally focused company.

My career took me to work for Landmark, and then out of the industry where I worked for Colliers International and Hays Recruitment. In 2009, I knew I needed to make a change so I quit my job and travelled around the world for four months, visiting Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, the UK, France and America.

When I got home in 2010, I moved to the Clare Valley – a fabulous location known for it’s blend of fine wine, great food and farming. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems through Charles Sturt University in New South Wales as a distance education student.

In 2011, I accepted a role with SANTFA – the South Australian No-Till Farmer’s Association. SANTFA is a non-for-profit group that supports grain growers in South Australia by providing them with technical information, events as well as conducting trials. The role aligned perfectly with my degree as SANTFA focuses on the development of farming systems that work in harmony with ecology, whilst remaining highly productive and profitable.

My position focused on the delivery of communication strategies to members, partners and sponsors through a quarterly magazine, website, events and projects. It really was a pivotal role in my career as it provided me with a huge opportunity to create value through change and innovation and reignited my passion for working in agriculture.

Most notably, it made me realize that my specific place in agriculture was building value through communication to stakeholders including government, farmers, sponsors, agribusiness and wider communities.

In 2012, I won the South Australian Rural Youth Bursary to undertake a study tour of American farms. The specific focus of my project was to investigate the potential for the integration of cover crops into cropping rotations.

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In a cover cropped paddock, The Menoken Farm, North Dakota – 2013

Cover crops are grown to benefit the soil and farm health, and while they are not harvested as a sellable product, evidence shows that they can help reduce fertilizer and weedicide use. Many farmers in America who are successfully cover cropping, have also restored depleted soils that were eroded and degraded through ploughing and over-grazing, making for much more productive and sustainable farm businesses.

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Checking out the view: Bismark, North Dakota (2013)

My trip took me through North and South Dakota, Montana and North Carolina talking to agronomists, industry staff and grain farmers about how they’d used cover crops on their farms, writing a blog on my findings. It also gave me the opportunity to develop a better understanding of American agriculture as a whole including the social and political links.

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On a farm on the tri-state border of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana (2013)

In 2013, I decided I needed a new challenge and resigned from my position at SANTFA. I knew that I wanted to find a role where I could combine my love for all things rural, with my ability to communicate (talk!).

At the same time, I was moving to the Riverland to live with my partner, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t find a suitable local position.

They say if life doesn’t give you an opportunity, build a door, so I thought about strategies that would allow me to combine my experience, attributes and interests for rural industries.

As a partner in Rustic Evolutions, I now have my dream job! I work predominantly with non-for-profit groups in the grains sector, on a range of projects such as the delivery of strategic planning sessions, technical workshops and project management.

My work involves a significant amount of travel around South Australia and interstate, and dealing with people from all parts of the sector cross-section.

Having multiple clients and regularly developing business gives me the constant challenge I was seeking when I resigned from SANTFA. I thought I would be nervous when I started to pitch to potential clients, but it’s pretty easy to sell a service when you believe in it.

Rustic Evolutions also has a commitment to rural Australia through a strong Corporate Social Responsibility Policy. With a desire to give back to the communities that sustain us, we will be raising money for rural and agricultural causes by participating in several sporting events a year. The first one is a 12km obstacle course in April – I’d better start training!

I live with my partner, Richard, on a 100-acre vineyard at Barmera, in the South Australian Riverland. As well as managing his grape operation, Richard is a seeding and grain haulage contractor and spends almost three months a year on the road.

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With Richard, on our block in the Riverland, February 2014

I’m truly lucky to have had the opportunities that have presented themselves, and even luckier to have forged a challenging career in the country. Running your own business allows you to custom create a position to suit your skills, experience and interests – giving you the opportunity to combine a fulfilling career while living in the bush.

It’s a challenging and exciting time for agriculture, and a great place to work – no matter what your background is.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexMilnerSmyth

Meet Daniel Fox who is looking forward to balancing the needs of his farm business with the expectations of the community

G’day, my name is Daniel Fox and I am lucky enough to be a fifth generation farmer, my family farming in the Marrar (NSW) district for over eighty years.

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Our property of 2000 hectares is located approximately 10 kilometres north of the Marrar township in the heart of “Prime Lamb Country”. Our farm is run by three generations of my family, with my grandad, my father and myself, as well as my grandma, mother, younger sister and girlfriend lending a hand when the times are busy (which seems to be more often than not these days!!!).

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All hands on deck: Lamb marking is a family affair.

I have been told that my love of agriculture began at a young age, helping Dad around the farm while still in nappies (although photos show I might have been in the road more often that I helped). As a toddler, when not outside in some sort of machine with dad, I would get out all my farm toys and make each room in the house a different paddock, coaxing mum into pushing all the toys around and around the rooms, spraying, sowing and harvesting them, all in one day! She still blames me for her “crook” knees.

From looking at photos of myself when I was young, I don’t think I stood a chance of being anything other than a farmer. From a young age, I developed an appreciation for all things agriculture, even at shearing time!!!

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Learning the ropes from a young age.

As the years passed, I progressed into my schooling career, which began at the local primary school at Marrar with a grand total of around 40 enrolments from around the district. I have some very fond memories of this great little rural school and its enormous (at the time) playground.

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View of Marrar silos from home.

When my sister began school, I moved down the road to Coolamon Central School, a K-12 school where I completed my HSC in 2009. As the years progressed, my passion and love for agriculture grew stronger, as did my passion for science and mathematics. Throughout my time at Coolamon the school took great care of my interests in science and maths and accelerated my studies, where I completed my HSC extension mathematics and physics whilst in year 10. Through these years, it was a tough choice to stay inside and pursue my schooling interests rather than help on the farm.

My hard work and tough choices paid off, gaining some great results I am very proud of. As I was going through those last few years of school, the question of “what are you going to do when you leave school” was often asked of me. My response was always the same; I was going to be a farmer. Many people, who were aware of my success in my studies, often did a double take when I told them the I was going to be a farmer. I would get responses like  ‘You should be a doctor or an engineer. You are too smart to be a farmer and you would be wasting your brain if you returned to the farm”.

I was proud to respond that that farming today is a highly complex and challenging  industry that requires the best and the brightest and its the place I want to be. In fact in my opinion it is far more exciting and rewarding than any other ‘prestigious’ occupation that was suggested to me through school.

It was through my later schooling years that I became even more involved in the farm and this fuelled my desire to farm even more. I successfully wrestled the prized “header driver” position from my Dad in my senior years at school, which I’ve always had my eye on since I could walk. When I saw my first good harvest that came after the droughts in the 2000’s that I could appreciably remember in 2010, I felt the great sense of achievement that farming can bring.

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Mum, driving the tractor and chaser bin, loves her new toys as much as we love ours!!! Harvest 2013

I began studying a Double Degree in Science and Education at Charles Sturt University. During the four years, I learnt what full time study at university was all about!!! The juggle between study and work on the farm often ended up with me up until all hours of the night in front of the fire trying to catch up with my uni work after coming home from a full day on the farm. All I can say is that I am very glad that those days are behind me!

University was a great chance for me to meet a huge number of new friends, all coming from vastly different backgrounds. My passion for farming was often a topic for conversation, and all too often I found that many of the people at uni had never experienced the joys of agriculture and were often unsure of how we as farmers do things. In actual fact, they had many misconceptions about the workings of a farm that were quite amusing.

During 2012, I also participated in a Rural Leadership Program run by FarmLink Research, a local agriculture research company. All of the participants had a background in agriculture, and whilst talking to them, this topic of common misconceptions about farming and agriculture was a constant source of humour, with some funny ones coming up like the origins of milk being the supermarket shelf .

Farming is our livelihood. We wake up on the farm, walk out the door to the farm, it dominates our conversations with friends and family, and it’s what we love doing. We also know that up to 99% of the population today may not have the generational, educational or experiential understanding of why we do what we do and they are watching every decision we make via the enormous range of multimedia avenues available to them.

So the misconceptions about how food is produced is a topic of concern.   Farmers rely on the support of people disconnected from the origins of their food who work outside our industry to buy what we produce and ensure the decisions that they make with respect to legislation and policy continue to enable farmers to feed and clothe people ethically and profitably.

I am now enjoying a career that allows me to  not only begin to take a greater role in the management of the family farm as well as taking every opportunity to raise awareness about how we farm and why we do it and why we love it.

Meet Diana George who is proud to be part of the next generation of female farmers

Farming has a reputation as been traditionalist.  According to long held traditions farming is a man’s world and the men inherit the earth and the women become farmer’s wives. Well not everybody is doing what their grandfather did.

Here is a great guest post from Dee George whose family is bucking the stereotype

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My name is Diana George, I am a Bachelor of Agriculture Student at UNE. I am a fourth generation farmer and my sister and I will be the first girls to inherit our property. I come from a mixed farming enterprise two hours West of Dubbo near the small town of Nevertire NSW.

On our family farm where I have lived all my life, we run Beef Cattle, Meat Sheep and dry land cropping enterprises. We have also previously been Cotton Irrigators. Agriculture is in my blood, my mother is a farmer, my father is a farmer, my older sister is a female shearer and my younger sister shows cattle and loves machinery as much as I do!

Our first cotton crop was picked in April 92, and I was born in March 92. So it’s safe to say that the obsession I now have with cotton and agriculture started from there, in dad’s arms when I was one month old. .

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Dad and me in one of our cotton crops.

I basically went everywhere with dad, in a little carrier he had strapped on his chest. And when I was old enough to walk there was no way I was missing out on any syphon changes even the ones at 2am in the morning! Much to my mother’s protest. With cotton in its prime articles were being written of bumper crops all over the state. The Land Newspaper approached mum and dad about doing an article on our seasons and crops. I featured in  The Land Newspaper with dad in one of our cotton crops at picking time. And still to this date I have the picture on my desk.

Diana and Trevor George in the cotton

Did I always want to be in agriculture? No. when I was a little girl in primary school, I was going to live in the city, drive a convertible and be a dance teacher.

Agriculture was just where I came from and I didn’t realise how dearly I treasured it and needed it. But when I had to quit dancing as it was becoming too far to drive for lessons three times a week, I discovered my love for cattle and tractors. The rest just fell into place. Unlike most farm children you see I didn’t own a horse and couldn’t (and still can’t) really ride one!

When I was in year five in 2002, we picked our last cotton crops. After 8 years of drought and no water allocations we turned to dry land cropping, even sowing wheat and barley into our irrigation blocks. Often our crops wouldn’t get to harvest due to the lack of water, and we were hand feeding our sheep and cattle day in and day out. Only one year in the middle of the drought was there enough water in the irrigation scheme to allocate water to famers, we choose to plant and irrigate forage sorghum to bale into hay to sell and feed for our stock..

My love of Agriculture extended throughout high school where I studied as much Ag related subjects as possible. I attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange. Here I was a part of the Cattle team, and after much encouragement from our neighbour and stud owner Steve Chase I learnt to show cattle and joined the KWS Cattle team. My love for cattle grew even more. Showing cattle opens up so many opportunities that linked into everyday life, which may surprise you. By showing cattle with the school I was exposed to the stud industry at all levels. We showed at all our local shows and also at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This also helped me achieve numerous awards for Judging Cattle and Handlers Classes, including winning RAS NSW Reserve Champion Junior Judge. All of these experiences gave me a new sense of confidence in myself. Showing cattle enabled me to make friends and contacts for life, helped develop many life skills the main one being public speaking and also allowed me to apply for scholarships to do things I’d only dreamed of doing. I don’t show cattle as much anymore, but I am still involved by helping out with junior heifer shows as well as I am a part of the Dubbo Show Society.

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Showing cattle at Blayney Show.

Even with the drought and lack of funds my parents did everything they could to ensure I had the education I needed and ensured I stayed at Kinross. It is at times like these you can see boys and girls that have grown up before their time, accepting responsibilities and helping their parents as much as possible. My little sister and I were like this, as much as mum and dad didn’t want us to worry about how tough things were at home we always did, it was always on our mind. And due to this every holidays we would come home and set to work on the farm to help dad out as much as possible. The main gesture I remember offering dad was I opted out of going to schoolies after finishing my HSC to come home and sit on a header for dad over harvest. In 2009 my HSC year, dad purchased a header of our own to ease the costs of sourcing contactors. At that time I never even thought I’d get to drive it but at the first chance dad jumped at teaching my sister and I all the bits and pieces. This didn’t just include driving it, we also learnt how to service it, because as dad says if you drive it you must know how to fix it (this included cars to!).

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Me Driving our Case 2388 Header.

Many times over the years my father has been asked if he would rather boys to help instead of girls, my father’s response is simple, I wouldn’t trade my girls for the world!

As dad has always ensured that both my sister and I are capable in handling stock and driving machinery, proving to many that we can do just as much as any boys ( and as Ginger Rogers once said ‘even backwards and in high heels’)

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Me sowing our Wheat.

In my year off in 2010, between school and Uni I had planned to travel or head north to work on a cattle station, but instead headed home for most of the year. Helping dad plant, spray and harvest our crops. One of my greatest achievements was being accepted to University of New England (UNE). This was also the year that the drought eased for us, giving us a year average of 704ml! ( Our rainfall yearly averages had gone from 665ml in 1998 to 346ml in 2002, and hit a low of 201ml in 2006)

I am currently at UNE in my last year of study for my Bachelor of Agriculture. During this time I have participated in many subjects which have given me a better understanding of Agriculture, how to improve aspects of our farm and have been given hundreds of opportunities to do things which I didn’t even know where available. In my 2nd year at Uni I applied for an Angus Youth Scholarship and won a trip up to the Rockhampton Beef week, to learn about northern producers and to meet with some great people. I also became involved in the annual Farming Futures Dinner and Careers Fair that UNE run, I was the dinner coordinator for two years, gaining so many contacts through this experience, which have allowed me to line up summer jobs as well as give me an insight to where I would like to go with my degree.

In my 3rd year, I applied for a MLA and Live Corp Scholarship to travel over to Freemantle to undertake a Stockman’s Accreditation Course, which enables me to work on a Live Export boat as a Stockman. To be fully accredited I have to do two practice voyages where I am assessed and then am given the ok to be fully accredited. I am hoping to get on two voyages this year. I also gained my certifications for Pregnancy Testing and Artificially Inseminating cattle. Now in my 4th and final year of study I was lucky enough to be the 2013 recipient of the Rob Seekamp Memorial Scholarship, and have also just been informed I have received an RAS Scholarship.

In my 1st year of Uni in 2011, the government’s water buy back scheme finally went through, at this point we sold our water licence as along with many other properties we were in an area which wasn’t viable to move water to. Our irrigation channels and dams were decommissioned and we can no longer grow cotton, which saddened me as it was such a big part of my childhood,

There is an upside to the decommissioning as we  now have more area to put to dry land cropping than before. We are now solely dry land cropping with our sheep and beef enterprises. I enjoy just as much as I ever did heading home and helping dad with our commercial herd of Angus cattle, our small mob of Dorper sheep and the preparation, sowing, spraying of our crops, but most of all you can’t beat getting on the header during harvest especially when you have a great season.

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My summer jobs have always been agriculture related and I have just come back from working on a cotton property in South West QLD. Taking me back to my love of cotton and irrigating. As well as this harvest just gone I gave the header driving a rest and worked for our local Grain Corp receiving and unloading grain trucks.

Agriculture is a part of who I am, I wouldn’t be the same without it. I don’t have a favourite industry within Agriculture I love them all, after all I am a farmer’s daughter and very proud to be part of  the next generation of female farmers!

Meet Rebecca Freeman doing it backwards and in high heels

Todays guest blog comes from Rebecca Freeman another young agribusiness professional who has made the most of all the opportunities a career in agriculture has opened for her.

“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation”

As you will seen Rebecca is also a great story teller

This is Rebecca’s story ……

I’m Bec Freeman and my agricultural background reads like a farmer driving her header blindfolded backwards without autosteer through the hilly block.

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I was born into a mixed broadacre cropping and livestock family that through the years became more broadacre than livestock, moved from being a four son operation, to a husband and wife team, to a two generational partnership.

I learned to ride a motorbike at 5, drive a car at 10 and a tractor not long after. I grew up knowing in summer you itched of barley dust and rain was the best smell and sound in the world. Winter was a time of gumboots and raincoats and the sting of cold air on your cheeks as you checked the ewes or monitored the crops.

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I knew everyone in town and had 24 friends at school – the whole school. Saturdays were for sport and dinner at the local pub and holidays were yearly trips to the beach. Dogs were your first work tool you owned and the last mate you had left when things got tough.

By age 14 I wanted out. Surprised? My folks weren’t. Some spirits are meant to roam free and they saw that in me and trusted that the love they had given me of farming, rural Australia and the land would guide me in the right direction, wherever that was to be.

Boarding school and three years doing a degree in Sport Science landed me still not knowing where I wanted to head and keen to swap the city for the country again. After eight years away I found myself back at home working in the local vet clinic as a vet nurse and helping out on the family farm with my Dad and brother. I had good communication skills and so helped out on the farm mostly with brokering discussions and facilitating brainstorming (or just storming) sessions. Off farm I continued to work in customer service over the years, as a barmaid, in administration and in sales.

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Fast forward a decade and I’m still here in the Mid North, but wow my career in agriculture has been anything but traditional. Back then I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer long term, I am too restless and people orientated to be committed to the routine and dedication to seasons required of a grain grower. However, I loved farmers and I understood their passion. My passion wasn’t farming; it was the farmers themselves – the people behind the business. I admired all the qualities of these amazing people and I had skills that I knew, if I could just find some way to apply those skills to farmers lives whole communities would benefit.

I had an incredible opportunity to work nationally as the Executive Officer for the Future Farmers Network. This was perfect for three very simple reasons – I got to meet hundreds of young people in ag, I got to travel all over regional Australia and I could raise my three children from tiny, little Koolunga because I could work from home in the industry I loved (and still drive the odd tractor or drench the odd sheep).

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It was during this time I had three encounters that shaped where I am today. The first was meeting some key people in the network. They opened my eyes to the variety in careers in agriculture. Until that point my exposure had been very traditional – farmers or service providers from banks, dealerships, chemical companies and the like. Then I discovered capacity building careers, like consultants and facilitators, job titles are a lot less defined but to me so appealing! I found out that people without agricultural backgrounds are some of the most successful people in the industry, because they think creatively about how to help the passionate people on the ground.

The second encounter was attending a grains conference and meeting people developing mobile technology for farmers. This was when I realized my true potential wasn’t in a job that was already out there waiting for me to find it. My future lay in taking my ideas for improvement, mixing them with varied experience in the industry I loved, adding the right knowledge from different sources and applying it back to my passion – farmers. I created my own job in agribusiness and haven’t looked back.

The third encounter was my experience with the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award and discovering what a difference good leadership could make in rural Australia. This award caused me to embark on a journey to develop my own natural ability, in work or as a member of a rural community, to lead others to achieve their own success. I realized that by developing myself constantly, there would always be a place for my career to develop too.

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I currently live in Clare, South Australia with my three children. I am the Yorke and Mid North Regional Manager with the Department for Primary Industries and Regions, and have the goal here of developing my knowledge of all aspects of the rural sector and the relevant industries, to better lead and guide farmers in the future. I am also a Director in an agribusiness that is passionate about capacity building for the ag sector and a partner in my family farm. I know what I don’t want from my career too, which is as important as knowing what you do want.

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Best of all I am still only a short drive away from my family farm and enjoy watching the sixth generation look in awe at their Grandpa as they occupy the little seat next to him in the header, like I did, and realize they are a part of feeding the world. I call them holistic farm kids because I’m teaching them about agriculture from the tractor right through to my office in a government department and every step I’ve taken on the way…so far.

“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation’

My key message to young people looking at agriculture as a career path is don’t pigeonhole yourself or the industry. If I can go from being a fifth generation farmer, to a first generation agribusiness partner, having developed an iPad app, experienced the national not-for-profit ag sector and increased my knowledge of government agency operations in the space of ten years, where could I be in another ten?

For me, the common thread in all I’ve done has been the passion I have for the people who produce food and fibre.”

Follow Rebecca on twitter @rusticbecca

Meet Jessica Kirkpatrick who enjoys both the challenges and opportunities a career in agriculture offers

Hi I’m Jessica Kirkpatrick, a 19 year old student, grain analyst and sheep breeder.

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I’m from a mixed farming operation in south western Victoria. I loved growing up on our 3000 acre property with sheep, horses, dogs and an array of farm animals. The best part was having all the wide open spaces to explore! Beaufort is our closest town only 10 minutes away and the next rural centre is Ballarat about a 45 minute drive.

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Galloping to knock over the tent peg (2011)

The Kirkpatrick’s have been on our home property, “Glenayr” for 150 years. My father took over the farm when my grandfather died and has been a farmer for 41 years. There aren’t many people can say they have stayed in a job for that long! My brother and I are the sixth generation to be apart of the business.
We have always been encouraged to be involved in the farm including animal husbandry activities including shearing, drenching, pregnancy testing, fleece testing and general mustering.

At the age of 12, in partnership with my brother we established the “Jessie James” Border Leicester stud.

Initially, it was a huge shock for an 11 and 12 year old to succumb to the reality of debt! However this project has given me so much. It is the book keeping skills, the understanding of fluctuating markets, the responsibility of checking the lambing ewes before school and selecting desirable traits we wish to breed in our flock.

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Droving sheep on horseback was always a common occurrence (2009)

My passion for agriculture has also stemmed from my education. I went to a rural primary school and then high school involved a bus trip every day to go to Ballarat Grammar. At Grammar, I studied agriculture and horticulture in years 10, 11 and 12. I was involved in the school sheep and cattle show teams. These experiences broadened my horizons to see a variety of industries and the potential career pathways.

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Lamb marking at the school farm for agricultural studies (2010)

I decided at the end of year 12, I wanted to continue my education in agriculture and now I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. At completion I want to become an agronomist. I have a particular interest in soil science and want to assist farmers in increasing yields whilst being economically and environmentally sustainable.

The four months of the year I’m not at university I spend at Lakaput Bulk Storage. This is a facility where grain growers can store their wheat, barley, oats and canola throughout the year and can arrange the selling of the grain to marketers. For the 2011/12 and 2012/13 I was a grain sampler. This role involves collecting a grain sample and then testing it for quality by following a standards chart. In the recent 2013/14 season I was manager of the classification and sampling arm at the site. This has been an excellent experience as it has allowed me to see the importance of an agronomist in grain production, to ensure the grower can make the highest grade and receive the best price. I have also learnt about the grain marketing aspect and how the markets work and how prices are determined. I feel it is my time at Lakaput which has helped me decide that agronomy is the right career choice for me.

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Sampling a Broadbent Grain truck and is tested for quality. (2013)

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Bunkers and Silos are where the grain is stored on site (2014)

The local agricultural show is a large part of my family and personal community involvement. I have competed at horse shows since the age of five and as I have grown older I have taken on more roles within the event. I feel agricultural shows are a place for the community to meet and a way for people to display their best crafts, art, cookery, and livestock, whilst in a healthy competitive environment.

I was awarded the 2013 Victorian Agricultural Shows Junior Ambassador Runner Up at state final. This is a competition that recognises youth involvement at Victoria Agricultural Shows, with criteria including agricultural show involvement, community service, general presentation, general knowledge, ambitions and public speaking ability. At the event I was interviewed by a panel of judges, participated in an on-stage interview and had time to interact with like-minded people. It is at events like this that I can see the sector has a bright future ahead with more younger people coming through the ranks.

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Through the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship I have been able to experience the cotton industry. Being Victorian, cotton is a very foreign crop to me. I enjoyed a work placement on a property near Moree in Northern NSW. I was shown the basics of cotton farming and was even lucky enough to spend a day with an agronomist. It truly cemented my career pathway in agronomy and I’m looking forward to many more experiences in this field.

Starting siphons for irrigation (2014)

I’m excited to see the agricultural sector changing and developing in my life time. I’m looking forward to having a career which can take me anywhere around the country or even overseas. The grains industry is of particular interest to me and I’m keen to be able to provide agronomic services to cereal and oilseed producers.

It is important for me to give back to the sector through promotion. One way to do this is through education and showing young people of both urban and rural communities the numerous opportunities our industry has to offer.

We know how good our industry is so we must show it off to others!

“When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”

I feel this quote simply sums up my perception on agriculture. It’s not just a job. It is a lifestyle, passion and a place where family and friends meet. This passion is held by many people in agriculture and will ensure we can move forward as a united front and tackle issues such as feeding a global population, because after all who doesn’t like meeting a challenge head on and being part of a success story

Meet Rebecca Thistlewaite who says Young people join me we are the exciting future of Agriculture!

Todays guest blog comes from Rebecca Thistlethwaite a girl from The Shire who found here way into agriculture when her parents bought a small farm. Rebecca is now a PhD student and an agronomist with a particular interest in plant breeding and genetics

This is Rebecca’s story ……………………….

My name is Rebecca Thistlethwaite and I grew up in the Sutherland Shire south of Sydney and completed my schooling at Kirrawee High School. Growing up I was a typical ‘Shire’ girl with a love of the surf, sun and sand

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North Cronulla Beach

When I was 13 years old my parents bought a small property in the Southern Highlands of NSW. This was the beginning of a whole new world of exciting experiences for me!

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The family farm then became my second home. I couldn’t wait to spend all of my holidays and weekends in a place that made me feel so free. It became the place I felt most comfortable and as time went on I was able to introduce the land to my friends.

My parents ran a small cattle herd as we weren’t able to live there full time so on weekends there was a lot of work to be done. Working in the cattle yards teaching a group of teenage city girls like me was always very rewarding for mum and dad. They they knew like me that every young person has the potential to make change and are only limited by knowledge that they attain. So we would go about explaining every aspect of what was involved in the running a commercial cattle farm.

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Grazing Angus cattle on family farm

As well as farm work I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to learn how to exhibit cattle with the help of some very generous local Angus breeders.

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Angus Youth Round-Up, Glenn Innes 2010

From here it was clear which direction my career path would take me. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney. Unlike a lot of my school friends my path through uni was slightly different but extremely exciting. The decision to develop a career in the Agricultural Industry was discussed my decision at length with my parents and every conversation would lead back to my future in the agricultural industry. I believe young person should have a career that is rewarding and fun gives back to society in the best way possible.

At university I became an agriculture ambassador travelling around to schools all over Sydney carrying out workshops related to agriculture and that gave me a unique insight into how primary school kids saw where their food and fibre comes from. I was so inspired by the program and how much it did for these kids that I started to go to the schools around my home doing a similar thing.

I wholeheartedly believe that the future of agriculture depends on attracting young talented people and helping them realise what a modern, exciting and challenging career it is and this is what drives me in both my working and home life to do as much as I can to promote positive images of the industry.

I graduated in 2011 with honours and although Uni was hard at times it was well worth it in the end.

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Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Hons) from the University of Sydney, 2011

My first job as a graduate was for a pasture seed company as a Research Agronomist

A research agronomist may work with companies or government agencies on plant hybridization and soil conservation as well as the areas mentioned above. Agronomists who specialize in research might work to figure out which plants can be used as fuel, such as the discovery that corn can be used to fuel vehicles, or which plants might make effective pharmaceuticals For more information click here

My new job meant relocating to Armidale in Northern NSW and I loved it . The people are so friendly and not only this I was able to experience different ways of farming across a broad range of fields.

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Sheep farming

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Alpaca farming

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Tomato farming in glasshouse

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Pasture cropping for silage (winter feed)

My job kept me incredibly busy. I travelled 75,000kms by car in my first year across NSW and QLD, flew interstate countless times and I was lucky enough to travel to 2 different countries as well.

One of the best parts about the Agricultural Industry is that new opportunities arise every day, especially for young people! I have a passion for research in the areas of climate change and heat tolerance in plants.

Did you know that wheat is the staple food of almost half the world’s population and approximately 30,000 farmers grow wheat in Australia? Its no wonder I saw this as a  fast-moving field I wanted to get involved in as soon as I could.

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Wheat production, Narrabri

In 2013, I was lucky enough to receive a Grains Research and Development Postgraduate Scholarship to study plant breeding and genetics at the University of Sydney. I jumped at the opportunity to study something I love and haven’t looked back! I now live in Narrabri in Northern NSW and all my field work is based at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre there.

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I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre, Narrabri

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The team at the I. A. Watson Grains Research Centre outside their newly built facility

As a city kid  who now loves the bush I strongly encourage all young people, who haven’t done so already, to go and experience what it is like to spend a day on a farm.

If you have already had the pleasure then you know exactly what I mean when I say that it is one of the most rewarding experiences that you could have.

Now all you have to do is take next step and follow me into an agricultural career and share your story

Meet Kate Molloy who is part of Next Gen applying science to fuel and feed the globe

Meet today’s guest blogger Kate Molloy the next generation of plant doctors applying science to fuel and feed the globe

One thing that amazes me is the amount of young people who are inspired to take up a career in agriculture after spending time ‘bug checking’.  Just in case you are as fascinated as me as to what this entails I found this on Dr Google

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This is Kate Molloy’s story………………….

Throughout my life I have always been surrounded by agriculture. Sheep, cattle, cropping you name it; I have even experienced a taste of fish farming.

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Me and my dad

From when I could walk, farm animals and plants have always been a part of my daily life and I would never have it any other way. So I guess you could say that it was inevitable that my chosen career path became the red-dirt road to agriculture.clip_image004

My adventure started in the small country town of Goolgowi where we only ran a small hobby farm.

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We dabbled in a bit of everything and my grandfather even had his own small piggery there. Goolgowi was a small, thriving, agricultural community with no end of support from its members. When the drought hit NSW was when I realised how much agriculture supports rural communities such as this. Pretty quickly farming families that had made Goolgowi home for generations had to move on in search of greener pastures and the community diminished significantly. My family and I even had to move but not too far away. We began running a farm called Ballandry Station at Yenda, NSW.

At Ballandry we became sheep and cropping farmers. Times were tough so everyone was expected to pull his or her weight. This meant getting up at four in the morning to beat the heat when the sheep needed moving to a new paddock, or paddocks needed to be worked up. My sisters and I had to learn how to drive from extremely young ages so that we could tow the hay trailer around while dad through hay out to the starving sheep. At the end of every year we had to jump on tractors and the header to help harvest our wheat crops. This was one of the most important events of the year for us and it was a lot of fun as well.

Dad taught my sisters and I to drive from extremely young ages so that he could throw hay out to the starving sheep whilst we drove the ute slowly through the paddock. This wasn’t uncommon though as majority of farmers had to rely on the family pitching in because they couldn’t afford help. Every year my sisters and I help harvest our crops usually driving tractors and headers. It is an extremely fun and action packed time and one of the most important events for us as cropping farmers. clip_image008

Me (on the right) driving the chaser bin whilst my dad harvests the wheat

Living on a farm has many more positives than negatives. We have an abundance of space, which means room for heaps of pets. Horses, dogs, cats and one massive pet steer were just some of the animal friends we accumulated. After school we would ride the horses or the motorbikes, or we would take the dogs to the dam for a swim. There was always something to do

I began to love the cropping side of farming. It amazed me how quickly the seeds we planted grew into golden wheat plants that provided a shed-full of grain after harvest. I enjoyed going out and checking for different weeds and diseases with dad during the winter when the plants were still young.

As I said I have had a taste of many different agricultural industries. I loved our family holidays to the isolated community of Tibooburra where my uncle ran a large cattle station. We helped with cattle work and daily station chores when we were there and attended the odd gymkhana or rodeo. These visits only fuelled my love of agricultural and my desire to build a life around it.

Sadly when I began high school this passion was put aside for a while when I began listening to the people who believed there was no real future in agriculture. Our school had amazing facilities for an agricultural program but never actually got one going so slowly my interest began to dwindle and the career I had envisioned in my head changed to becoming a teacher.

However in Year twelve I went out on a limb and decided to spend a day with our local agronomist. My love and passion for agriculture resurfaced and I was asked to become a bug checker during the summer holidays. This meant checking many different types of crops from rice to sunflowers and wheat to pumpkins for bugs that would cause damage.

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Thankfully my passion for agriculture was reignited before university admissions closed and I have now finished two years of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. Every summer since I have continued my work with our agronomist and will eventually be a full fledged one myself when I graduate. Slowly I have been handed more and more responsibility in my position and it has definitely expanded my skills in grain production.

Through the university I was able to travel to China in 2013 to experience and learn about agriculture in a different country.

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Me on the Great Wall of China

My eyes were definitely opened and not only did I gain a load of information on agriculture but I also got to experience another culture and learn about the Chinese society. This is one experience I will never forget and in the future I hope to travel to other countries to also learn about different agricultural methods.

This year I was honoured enough to be selected as one of the eight Royal Agricultural Society Rural Achievers for 2014. This is something I am so excited about because it is yet another opportunity to showcase agriculture and expand my rural leadership skills. It is an awesome program that showcases young leaders in the rural community at the Sydney Royal Show.

So for now my path is heading straight for agronomy, or as some like to call them a ‘crop or plant doctor’,  If you eat, wear clothes, live in a house or even drive a car, your life has been influenced by an agronomist. Agronomists play an important role in the agricultural, food and clothing industries. Agronomists are plant scientists. They are experts in agriculture. They work with plants such as cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat, rice, peanuts and more. Many agronomists work in research. Some develop new breeds of cotton, creating plants that are stronger and more resistant. Some agronomists work with wheat, developing hybrids that produce more yields per acre. Often times their work is done right there in the middle of the field. Currently, some agronomists are working with peanuts, trying to create peanuts that people are not allergic to.

I am excited that my passion for agriculture has led me to pursuing a career in advisory services to farmers. I want to be able to help them grow the best grain possible so that our bread, flour and other grain products are the best in Australia and the world. All of these events in my life are leading me to an awesome career in agriculture, which I hope to educate people about and invite them into this industry.

You can follow Kate on twitter here @katemolloy93