The Farming Narrative will be told – its up to farmers to decide how it will be remembered

Ar4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert’s presentation to the audience at the NSW Department of Primary industry’s workshop on SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE – CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY answered the question posed by the FarmOn team in their recent blog ‘So are farmers ready to care’ found here

We at Art4agriculture are thrilled that the organisers of the event acknowledged that youth are passionate and committed to doing whatever it takes to get the narrative right and  chose to give youth a voice through Josh to tell their story

Below is an abbreviated version of Josh’s talk

Connecting with the community – the narrative

My name is Joshua Gilbert. I am, a fourth generation Braford breeder on the Mid North Coast of NSW, an area my ancestors have farmed for over 40,000 years. I commenced my law and accounting studies in 2009, with the aim of working in community practice. In the process of studying, I found myself drawn back to agriculture, and recognised that my skills could complement both my on farm operations as well as my fellow farmers.

Josh Gilbert Braford Breeder

My long-term aim is to go back to my family farm. I know that agriculture has changed, and that it now requires high level skills for farmers to be successful in the tough climate we find ourselves in. At a wider level, my background will also help me support farmers to up skill in financial literacy.

I am also completing a law degree with a view to spending some time in policy, and getting a greater understanding of what can be achieved. I also hope this training will ensure that I can add value to policy discussions, and ensure we get the best outcomes for agriculture. I am also considering a career in politics.

As a young person who is passionate about the cattle industry, watching the impact of the Live Export scrutiny on our fellow farmers in the Northern Beef Industry, I realise the greatest threat to sustainable red meat production in this country, is no longer harsh climatic conditions and volatile prices, but rather, whether or not our customers find our farming and animal welfare practices socially acceptable.

I also acknowledge that negative consumer images and perceptions about modern farming practices are seriously threatening farmers’ social licence to operate. I feel very passionate about ensuring I have the knowledge, skill sets and a team of people-around me, to help turn this around.

I identified the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions as a group of young people who felt just like me. A core focus of the program is to provide training in how to effectively engage and build relationships with consumers. Through our learning and interactioins we are finding this is an important foundation to success.

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Meat and Livestock Australia Young Farming Champions

I  have just completed my first year of training, which involved learning how to tailor my presentation to an audience in a way that resonates and how to engage with school children. What is particularly exciting about the program is we are also able to engage with their teachers and friends to build a cohort of people who become ambassadors for agriculture and are excited about careers in agriculture.

As part of the program we also get to be the young faces of farming and go into schools participating in the Archibull Prize. This gives students the chance to ask questions about farming practices and careers in the agriculture sector. As part of the Archibull Prize the students create artworks, blogs and multimedia animations, which help take agriculture’s story well beyond the classroom

The program teaches us that the aim is not to educate. The aim is to engage and provide opportunities for consumers to have open, honest and transparent conversations. In this way, we are able to convey we care just as much about the environment and animal well-being as they do.

We are in turn able to show them how challenging it is to farm in a world with declining natural resources, and that if we are going to do this successfully, we need to build strong partnerships between agriculture and the community.

We are also given media training with a strong focus on handling the difficult questions. This has been particularly rewarding for me and shown me it’s not as hard as you might think.

I was recently asked to participate in a live radio interview with the ABC about an upcoming presentation I was to give to the NSW Farmers, Wagga District Council. Having completed a few interviews before with very supportive journalists, I knew I had been lucky and that this would not always be the case.

Prior to the event, I prepared my key messages and because of my Young Farming Champions media training, I was able to stay on message no matter how hard the journalist wanted me to focus on the negatives of agriculture.

In the past, I would have fallen into the trap the journalist set for me. However, I had recently attended a Young Farming Champions workshop where, in the safety of a training environment, I was grilled in the art of staying on message and getting the outcomes I wanted from the interview. This was a very rewarding experience and gave me new confidence

Next year I will have the opportunity to hone my skills by going into schools as part of Art4Agriculture’s programs. Once I have graduated to the next level, I will be given the opportunity to attend master classes, where I will learn how to engage with a diverse range of audiences. Art4Agriculture has recently built a relationship with Rotary and Young Farming Champions who have done master classes will now have an opportunity to present to Rotary groups across Sydney.

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If we want to go further we are given training in how to create a TED talk. We are also provided insights into the art of successful marketing and how important it is to take your audience on the journey with you

But there are plenty more people out there, who are just as passionate as me. People who want to be proactive and build relationships with the community, so we can all work together.

Similarly, they need training, mentoring and ongoing support. Too often I see passionate advocates provided with half day media training and then expected to talk to the media and get it right.

We all feel a huge responsibility when we talk on behalf of our sector and the industry we are part of. It is our responsibility to ensure that the people who take this role on are provided the best training and support, that people who are the faces of the corporate world receive.

We also need to acknowledge not everyone is suitable for this, and we need to support and show how people can value-add to advocacy in many different ways at a level that they are comfortable with.

I am using the skills, knowledge and networks I have developed as an MLA Young Farming Champion to help other youth recognise the social networks and relationships that underpin the new community interest in how our food is produced. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with consumers, and have two-way conversations, that will generate a mutual understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints.

I believe that as farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, however we have not historically been good at communicating this. Our narrative is not to change people’s values, but to demonstrate that farmers share these same values. We have immense pride in what we do; we just need to share these narratives beyond our farm gates to instil trust and confidence in our practices.

Rather than bombard consumers with more science, research or information, I believe it is integral that we demonstrate that we share our consumers’ values on topics that they are most concerned about—safe food, global warming, quality nutrition and animal welfare.

As part of the Young Farming Champion team I now have access to mentors and training, to help develop the skills sets, knowledge and confidence to be part of the solution. These mentors have hands-on, coal face experience, and share this openly and passionately- to help all those involved in the program. This experience is critical to our success- a crucial knowledge bank and practical resources that ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes that we may have made in the past.

We need to be talking about our farms and our values to become just another role  of the farmer. However it is important to note that this process does not involve educating people, but rather being open and transparent when they want to engage with us.

Just like farmers learn how to use  new farming equipment and technologies, we need to build up our farming community to be confident and have skills  to talk about what they do and why they do it.

My Young Farming Champion story has shown what is possible, it has shown what the backbone of the farming narrative needs to be, and that we can build a confident and skilled group of likeminded people, prepared to talk positively about farming.

It is important agriculture comes together, up skill its people and start telling its story to the world. While everyone has a different story, there are common messages and ways to tell our story that will start people talking positively about farming.

The farming narrative will be told

ht to Greg Mills and Ann Burbrook

#YouthinAg Leadership Hub

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia wide network of Young Farming Champions with diverse roles in the our  food and fibre industries that are passionate and skilled in sharing their values and experiences with the non farming community.

The program equips young farmers, in a safe and nurturing environment, to be the next leaders of agriculture on a national and world scale.

To be a leader you have to have many qualities including the desire, drive and courage to get the best outcomes for the common good.

Meat and Livestock Australia supported Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert is definitely a young man with a great deal of desire ,drive and courage. He recently penned this blog for the NSW Farmers initiative AgInnovators 

Uniting a fragmented industry

17th Nov 2014By Josh Gilbert, NSW Young Farmers

When R.M. Williams first opened his first store in Adelaide, Sir Sidney Kidman celebrated his birthday in the heart of the city with a rodeo and Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup, 14 percent of the Australian population was employed in Australian agricultural sector. Both rural and urban communities celebrated the industry and a career in agriculture was highly valued.

Today less than three percent of the Australian population is employed in agriculture. Our farmers’ commitment to producing high quality produce has never been stronger but a majority of urban consumers have little concept of what we do and appear relatively indifferent to the origin and quality of the food they select from supermarket shelves.

The bright light in what otherwise could be a depressing picture is the small but growing group of people in society who are interested in how their food and fibre is produced and who are willing to pay for quality.

It is these people who give us the best opportunity to create partnerships with our consumers and help ensure that the wonderful story of Australia’s agriculture gets spread further and wider into the future.

However, in order to have successful and lasting partnerships with consumers who really care about food quality and sustainable farm practice, we, as the Australian agricultural sector, need to come together as a connected, cohesive and collaborative industry. We need to start behind the farmgate, forming partnerships between farmers and the diverse subcategories we personally represent. Without well-founded industry collaboration, agriculture in Australia will not be able to provide a unified, coherent and respected voice that resonates with the community and government.

To emphasise the challenge we face in achieving unity, I want you to think of the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the words ‘agriculture’ or ”farming?

Are you thinking of a subsector such as beef, grain or dairy?

Or perhaps even a commodity like goat meat, cheese, seafood or apples?

Or what about something more specific like Braford Cattle or super fine Merino wool?

Or a farming region such Darling Downs or the Mallee?

Or state farming organisations like NSW Farmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Perhaps you are thinking of one of the plethora of commercial and government bodies in the agricultural sector providing advice, policy and services.

Currently, there are thousands of voices speaking for agriculture with different opinions and agendas and this is limiting our ability to form better relationships with each other, let alone our consumers. Is it any wonder that urban Australia and our politicians are confused about what agriculture stands for and what agriculture wants?

Of course every subsector of agriculture has different specific production methods and policy issues. But we have far more in common than we have differences.  In order for Australian agriculture to prosper we must agree on the main narrative –  which in my view is about sustaining the quality and integrity of our farming operations and products –  and deliver this narrative effectively with a unified voice. As part of this, we need to create better relationships within the industry, support our colleagues in their pursuits and actively show respect and encouragement for our fellow farmers.

One opportunity I am involved with that is achieving success is the Art4Agriculture program. The platform encourages Young Farming Champions from a variety of sectors to collaborate and discuss their ideas about the industry and how we can best move forward together. My involvement in this program has helped me to see other perspectives and has convinced me of the importance of achieving unity on the really important issues.

In order for our industry to receive the respect and admiration that we previously enjoyed, we must work together. We must formulate, collaborate and be innovative with our ideas as an entire industry rather than continuing to focus on what is happening within our respective boundary fences.

Well said Josh. We look forward to the day when silo farming is a thing of the past

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A spoonful of medicine makes Mary a very happy little lamb

Today’s guest blog is the second in a series the Young Farming Champions are penning for Ausagventures #YouthinAg series

Our first blog featured Dr (in waiting) Steph Fowler who is one of our  three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

Today we bring you update from Dr (in waiting) Danila Marini’s research looking at drugs and sheep and whether it is possible to get sheep to take their own spoonful of medicine

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Danila Marini Photo ABC Rural

Danila thinks sheep are smart enough to self-medicate.

“It’s just like humans. As an individual they can have varying levels of intelligence.”

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Getting ready for the first day of my experiment

My PhD project is about developing a self-medication method for pain relief in sheep, which means I’m trying to teach sheep to take their own medicine. As part of common husbandry practices sheep undergo some painful procedures such as tail-docking and castration and just like us their post operative pain can last several days. Farmers currently have anaesthetics and analgesics that can relieve the pain during the time of the procedure but have yet to overcome the logistics issues to relieve the sheep’s pain  post operatively.

This is where my project comes in! If I can add a pain relief drug to feed and teach sheep to take it when they experience pain, it’ll make the farmer’s job a little easier and keep the sheep happy and healthy

So far I have completed my first experiment. This experiment involved using a lameness model for sheep and administering 3 different drugs as an oral solution. The aim of this experiment was to see if the drugs were effective at reliving the pain associated with the lameness when administered as an oral dose. Sure enough we were able to identify the drug that was most effective and we plan to continue using it throughout the rest of my PhD.

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Introducing my sheep to pellets

This year marks the start of my second year and a big year its turning out to be! So far I have two experiments planned. The first which I have actually just started is in two parts, one is looking at the palatability of feed containing our pain relief drug, that’s testing whether it may have a flavour that sheep don’t like. The second part is a pharmacokinetic study, this involves measuring the concentration of the drug in the sheep’s plasma and will tell us what the body does to the drug and if feed intake affects that. The second experiment, planned for later in the year will test how effective the feed contain the drug is at relieving the pain of castration and tail-docking.

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My new cohort of sheep for my palatability and pharmacokinetic study

A PhD is full of ups and downs and when you work with animals there is always the potential for something to go wrong (what’s that saying “never work with children or animals”). You can also often experience a lot of down and isolating periods (statistics and writing is great for this). During these times you just have to make sure you seek support, ask your supervisors, university and friends for help and of course always make time for yourself!

But doing a PhD isn’t all doom and gloom and constant experiments and writing. Last year I was accepted to attend a PhD course about animal pain in Denmark. It was quite the experience and I got to meet a lot of students with the same passion to improve animal welfare as me as well as see some of the beautiful country. This year I will be going to the ISAE conference in Spain to present the results of my last experiment, I can’t wait for that.

I always find if you ever feel lost about your work, then talk about it. Every time I have to explain my research, what I’m doing and why, it always makes me as excited as the first day I decided to do the project.

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to talk about my project with Lisa Herbert of ABC Rural radio on Bush Telegraph. This came about thanks to Lynne Strong from Art4Agriculture who was interested in my story and asked me if I could write a small piece about myself for the blog. This leads me on to my final point.

Make sure you take every opportunity; you never know who you will meet, where it will take you or what you will learn.

Doing a PhD gives you the potential to do so much and meet a lot of people with the same interests as you. A PhD can be a tough commitment but is worth it and so far for me it’s been an amazing experience!

Read the blog post that caught the eye of Radio National and Bush Telegraph here

Hear Danila on Bush Telegraph here

Dr Steph says the path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

Art4Agriculture has partnered with the dynamic Steph Coombes to contribute content to her phenomenal resource Ausagventures for all things YouthInAg and those thinking about venturing into the exciting world of a career in Agriculture.

Each month along with 10 agricultural youth groups and organisations we will be writing a blog exclusively for Ausagventures. You can find their profiles below and scroll down to read their blogs and to see what #ausagventures they have been getting up to around the country and how you can join in here.

In our first three blog we are going to feature our three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

‘Whoever said a career in agriculture was all mud and flies obviously had no idea what they were talking about’ 

Steph Fowler and fellow Young Farming Champions

Our guest blogger today is Steph Fowler in the middle with fellow young farming champions

First up we have Dr Steph ( in waiting) Fowler who is currently sitting in one the troughs in the roller coaster ride that is the journey to a PhD and a scientific legacy in the world of agriculture R&D 

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Dr Steph with her beloved carcasses

The path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

My current research project is looking at objectively measuring meat quality. I am working towards being able to identify which lamb carcases will eat well and those that won’t. I am using a laser technology called the Raman spectroscopic hand held probe because it’s rapid, quantitative and non-destructive. Developing this technology for use commercially is a huge benefit to industry because you can measure the actual piece of meat that people are going to eat without destroying it and lamb producers can be paid for the quality of meat they are producing not just the weight.

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The fantastic team at DPI at Cowra (Matt Kerr, Tracy Lamb, David (my supervisor) and Heinar (the probe’s inventor).

Over the last month I have been working on trials that take the prototype probe into lamb processing plants to figure out whether we can use it to determine how tender the meat will be early on in processing. While the work is exciting and new because there’s only two of these probes in the world (one here with me for a few months and another in Germany at the institute in Bayreuth where they are made), the work can be frustrating and deflating because every so often we come across a challenge we can’t see how to solve when we need to so we can continue working. Sometimes it’s something small like an electricity supply adapter that shorts out and then causes a bigger issue or an electric plug that’s lost a wire and sometimes it’s something a bit bigger like the equipment we need not liking the cold chillers. Because I work in smaller rural towns often these problems end in me driving somewhere to get a part or find someone who can help me. Makes for some long days when you start at 5am to be ready for the first carcases to come down to pack up, drive 2 hours, find the people or the part, and get in the car and drive back to be ready to start at 5am the next day. Add onto that some tough working conditions and you have yourself a somewhat difficult working week.

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Me in the lab

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ken Jr. Keyes said “to be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what do you do have”. With a little love, help, and support from those I work with at the plant, at DPI, at uni and in my own team, the industry as a whole, and the towns and communities I work in as well as my friends and fellow PhD-ers near and far I have been able to salvage my trial and continue. Sometimes it’s been the technical help, sometimes it’s having the part in stock or knowing who does, sometimes it’s helping me make a decision or cooking a home cooked meal or offering me a bed but mostly it’s just being there, and listening and trying to understand.

Research is a rollercoaster ride the ups and downs can come minutes apart and sometimes 20 seconds can change everything. Because each project is unique it can be isolating. We each face issues and challenges that are also unique and that can feel isolating. Relationships with friends, family and significant others don’t always get off the PhD rollercoaster in the same condition that they got on either and that can feel isolating too. Combine that with the stresses of just getting ourselves through the ups and downs and that’s why I value and truly appreciate the phenomenal backing I have received over the last 2 years. I wouldn’t be still standing without it and without being reminded that it is always there.

The backing of the industry and the communities I work in, the people I work with and those who believe in me and my work inspire my passion. They keep me striving at what I do to help move the industry forward. For that I am truly grateful.

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Me and my Italian friends Gianluca and Marco. Gianluca has become one of my biggest cheerleaders ever both professionally and personally.

But no mistaking there have been plenty of highlights in my journey including last year being  awarded a travel grant to attend the graduate program at the 59th International Conference of Meat Science and Technology in Turkey, where I presented two papers; I  was selected as a Crawford Scholar, and elected to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Youth Group. I also have lifelong memories from my opportunity as a Young Farming Champion  to share my journey in agriculture with four NSW schools as part of their journey to win the 2013 Archibull Prize.  Recently I my manuscript was selected for the Journal of Meat Science

For those who love the science here are all the details you need to read my paper

Predicting tenderness of fresh ovine semimembranosus using Raman spectroscopy
Stephanie M. Fowler, Heinar Schmidt, Remy van de Ven, Peter Wynn,
David L. Hopkins
PII: S0309-1740(14)00064-3
DOI: doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.02.018
Reference: MESC 6378
To appear in: Meat Science
URL Link http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000643

You can read Steph’s blog she wrote for her YFC application process here

Follow Steph on twitter @steph_bourke

How does one become a butterfly

Meet Peta Bradley whose world of agriculture is taking her to the cutting edge of technology

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Today’s guest blog comes from Peta Bradley whose journey into the world of agriculture began at a very young age, perched in the front of a work ute with her “Wiggles” tape on repeat checking lambing ewes with her mum on a frosty winters morning.

Now she is now studying Animal Science at the University of New England, Armidale

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This is Peta’s story………………….

I was born into the world of farming, along with my younger brother Jack. My parents are second generation farmers owning and managing a mixed enterprise farming business near the small village of Armatree, approximately 45 km north of Gilgandra, in the Central West of NSW. clip_image004

Our farm business consists of two enterprises: sheep and cereal cropping on 3,500 acres. Both my mum and dad studied agriculture at what is now known as Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. Dad was an agronomist so naturally he is the manager of the cropping side of the farm, while mum is a passionate stockwomen. This is where my passion also lies. However both the enterprises and the farm planning is truly, a family run unit.

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Our Family with the 2012 drop flock rams (and Penny the dog)

Growing up I’d spend countless hours checking lambing ewes in winter with mum or learning to drive before my feet could touch the peddles drought feeding sheep or scooting around the woolshed during shearing. From a young age I’d always loved sheep work, or anything to do with stock in general. With this thirst for knowledge and a million questions just bubbling from my lips mum and dad would do their best to answer the thousands of questions that were asked on a daily basis.

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Merino Ewes in for Drenching – December 2013

The sheep enterprise consists of a registered, performance tested Border Leicester Stud that sells stud and flock rams with a breeding base of 350 ewes. All sheep have a full pedigree and are registered with Sheep Genetics Australia. Along with the Border Leicester Stud we also run 1500 commercial Merino ewes that are joined annually to Border Leicester Rams. The ewe portion of the 1st cross progeny are sold to repeat buyers while the wether portion are sold over the hook through the Tooraweenah Prime Lamb Marketing Co-operative.

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Flap, the champion dog, with young flock rams

For my primary education I attended Gulargambone Central, a small school 10km away. Along with my passion for sheep, I relished any opportunity given to play sport whether it is cricket, football or netball. It was swimming however where my greatest sporting passion lay and in 2005 I was given the opportunity to swim at state level and since then I have swum at state level every year since. The desire to improve and work hard at something was an ideal that sport installed in me that has since given me the same drive in all other aspects of my life.

However it wasn’t until high school did my life really turn into a direction where I could see that my future lay in agriculture. My high schooling began and was completed at Gilgandra High School. An hour each way on the bus made for a long day, but I loved being able to come home every day and being involved in farming business. In Year 9 I selected agriculture as an elective subject. This is where I saw my career path begin to lay itself down in front of me. I was involved in every opportunity that I was given from Junior Judging, Sheep Showing, Development Days and Steer Shows.

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Sheep showing with the School (I’m far left in the back row)

The school had a relationship with our Border Leicester stud where we would prepare the sheep at school and show them on behalf of my family’s stud, New Armatree Border Leicesters. This relationship allows the school to house sheep during the early half of the year at the Ag Plot. Working with sheep gives students the confidence to work with stock prior to preparing steers in the latter half of the year. I began the captaincy of the show team in 2010 and continued this role until I completed my HSC last year. It involved organising 3 meetings a week and working with the younger students to develop their animal husbandry practices.

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The 2013 Show Team Ewes

I began Junior Judging at the age of 11, mainly competing at a couple of local shows. When I was 15 however I was old enough to qualify for the state finals held at Sydney Royal Easter Show. My first year I successfully qualified for the meat sheep judging, this was my first major judging competition and I initially found it quiet a daunting task, competing against people 10 years my senior. However I finished in 5th place- but more importantly gained a wealth of experience. In this same year I competed in the sheep handler’s competition, sponsored by a fellow Border Leicester Stud. I finished 1st in this competition.

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1st in the Junior Handlers – Sydney Royal 2011

Following my success in the handler’s competition, I began work for another Border Leicester based in Temora. In this role I was given the opportunity to travel to some of the biggest sheep shows in the country to prepare and show sheep on behalf of the stud including the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney Royal Shows.

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I’m pictured here with the Supreme Prime Lamb Sire at the 2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show with Wattle Farm Border Leicesters Stud Principle Jeff Sutton

With this continued exposure to sheep and the industry I once again competed in the NSW State Junior Judging Finals at Sydney Royal in 2012 in fleece, meat sheep, merino and cattle judging. I walked away as the NSW Reserve Champion Junior Judge in the Merino and Meat Sheep Judging as well as finishing 3rd place in the Fleece Judging. This success continued with me to Bendigo where I was announced as the 16 years and under Australasian Corriedale Judging Champion. I continued to compete in Junior Judging Competitions in the following years with my most recent success being at the 2013 Rabobank National Merino Show where I achieved the following results: 1st in the Merino Sheep, 1st Merino Fleece, Best Oral Presentation and Overall Champion Junior Judge.

In 2013 I was appointed as the youngest member onto the Australian Stud Sheep Breeder’s Association (ASSBA) NSW State Longwool and Short Wool Judging Panels. Since then I have had the opportunity to judge the meat sheep at a number of local shows. This year I also was the Over-judge in the Junior Judging Competition at Armidale Show that drew more than 80 entries. I also had the privilege of helping steward in the Merino section of the show.

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The Merino Section at Armidale Show

Last year I completed my HSC at Gilgandra High School. My passion for agricultural was apparent in my results finishing within the top 99.96% of NSW students in agriculture. I have now entered my first year studying a Bachelor of Animal Science (Livestock Production Major) at the University of New England, Armidale.

When I complete my degree I hope to continue onto further research within the Sheep Industry. My ultimate aim is to research, develop and implement new technology as well as maintain traditional breeding values and techniques to boost the production of Australia’s sheep and wool industries.

The area of arable land worldwide is decreasing, however the population is continuing to expand – the food and fibre needs of this growing population have to be met, Australian agriculture and the next generation of producers and researchers hold the key to boosting production.

To increase my knowledge of sheep and wool production in Australia I have also worked for 2 merino studs preparing and maintaining Housed Show Sheep for one and recording fleece weights at shearing for another. Along with my understanding of ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values) from our own Border Leicester Stud this has allowed me to generate a plethora of background knowledge that I wish to apply into my future career. Our stud is involved in some cutting edge technology in the sheep industry that include DNA blood carding young sires at 6 weeks of age to correlate DNA markers to their ASBVs, sires being used in semen projects at research bases around the country, as well as a number of PhD and masters projects being carried out on our ewe base.

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Arena Testing Border Leicester Ewes – To observe the correlation between behaviour in the arena and there mothering ability

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The lamb on the right is a ram used in the blood carding project and since has been used as a sire at 7 months of age to shorten the generational gap. He is one of the progeny from an Artificial Insemination program carried out last year.

Farming, as we know it is changing, shifting, evolving. Producers and all other partners of the agribusiness sector are required to be flexible and adapt to the ever changing global climate. The passion that the land imprints upon you will leave you longing for the rolling hills or the flat, open, golden plains. We must harness this passion and combine it with the new technologies to prepare ourselves for the promising, productive future of Australian agriculture. I am proud to be part of these young producers and researchers that must look into the future, educate others and implement cutting edge scientific methods in combination with the traditional values upon which the Australian agricultural industry is built to ensure the continued success of Australian agriculture..

Meet Emma Turner who knows every day three times a day you need a farmer

Our guest blog today comes from young wool farmer Emma Turner

‘for many farmers their career is a calling,
simultaneously more than a business and more than a lifestyle’  R L Wilkinson

My name is Emma Turner, I am 18 years old and this is my story………..

Emma Turner

 

I grew up on Stanbridge station, our 100,000 acre Merino sheep station, 100km south of the tiny town of Ivanhoe, in western NSW.

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I feel strongly connected and passionate towards agriculture underpinned by my family connection.

I am a sixth generation wool grower – the fifth in the Ivanhoe area – with my family roots to farming going as far back as 1844 when my English relatives moved to Adelaide and took up farming as a profession.

Agriculture has always been part of my life, with many life lessons being learnt from it.

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Mustering a mob of ewes and lambs at shearing time, enjoying the fresh grass after drought years.

Wool growing has taught me patience and being involved with our family business, Abbotsford Pastoral Co, has helped me learn many practical farm and life skills and lessons.

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Enjoying the mud on the four wheeler after 100mm of rain

It has also inspired my love for the industry and my passion to make a difference in agriculture – all while having fun and enjoying rural life.

I completed my primary years at Clare Public School where I was the only person in my class and the only girl at my school for three years. We never had any more than six students! Going to such a small and remote school taught me to make friends with everyone as sometimes you can’t afford to be choosey! It also taught me to participate in everything and be a team player on sports days and swimming carnivals, as most of the schools we competed against had at least 20 students!

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Our school photos had the best background

Having two younger brothers I was never bored or alone and over the years we invented our own forms of entertainment, from riding dad’s sale wethers around the yards and seeing who could stay on the longest before getting yelled at, to practising tricks on our motorbikes. We learnt from a young age how to ‘doctor’ ourselves, covering our cuts in Band-Aids before mum came at us with the dreaded iodine bottle!

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My brother and I enjoying a ride on our home made ‘speed boat’

Loving animals is really a given when it comes to agriculture, with my best mate being my dog, as well as a pet lamb to look after. Animals have always played a role in my life, and after watching the suffering they can experience in a drought, they have inspired me to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science after my gap year. My dream is to study genetics and the role it could play in breeding a hardier, more drought resistant Merino.

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Enjoying rides in the ute with my best mate,

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and taking my poddy lamb for a walk after the rain

People farm for many different reasons, some for pleasure, some for return on capital, some for social approval, some for financial security, some because of the challenge and some because they can see no other alternative. I believe it is important for the agriculture sector to build relationships with the community to expand knowledge and understanding of the modern day farmer and what motivates him or her. It is important the wider community is able to understand the sacrifices and hardships that Australian farmers make everyday. Farming in Australia is a job and a lifestyle and so much more. It’s also lifestyle that can throw the biggest and hardest challenges, with more often than not no short term solutions. There is no quick fix for a flood or a drought. Farmers need support and targeted and relevant research and development so they can be resilient through these tough times.

My favourite quotation about agricultural is simple,

Every day three times a day you need a farmer

I believe this simple fact is overlooked in today’s modern society. I believe the long term future of the Australian agriculture sector relies on farmers and the community working together. Fresh ideas and innovative solutions are needed to start building these partnerships and I am doing what I have always done and that is putting my hand up to be on the team

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Meet David Brunton who believes the future of agriculture demands professionalism, thoroughness and tenacity

Today’s guest post comes from budding young plant doctor David Brunton

“I like to think that things that start as a dream usually turns into reality, if you are willing to work hard with diligence, motivation and passion towards it. These dreams usually seem unachievable at the start however the pathway on which we choose to chase these dreams ultimately determines the outcome”.

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My name is David Brunton and my story begins as a young child on the farm, getting my hands dirty, driving the machinery and ultimately paving a pathway towards my future ambitions. Not only did I grow up in the best location for a child, the wide open spaces of the country, but I also never had to put up with any siblings. We (my parents and I) farm two hours west of Melbourne, at Vite Vite North in Victoria’s western district running a mixed farming enterprise of super fine merinos, prime lambs and winter cereals.

 

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Since a young child my passion has revolved around growing crops, regardless of type so long as I had a patch of land on which I could grow my trial plots and this passion has grown to a point where my future career will see me spending my life focusing on the welfare of crops and the soils that support them.

My years at school were rewarding and enjoyable with the occasional challenge thrown in, mainly due to the fact that I really do not like sitting inside all day. At school friends and teachers remember me as the kid who planted every square meter of land to crop trials with the contents of my pencil box not being pencils or a calculator rather seed and fertilizer, as the time went on my passion grew stronger.

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Before I knew it the final year was upon me which was ultimately the make or break for getting into university. I worked hard and prestigiously topped the state in agriculture and horticultural studies which opened a floodgate of opportunities.

Initially in my final year of school I had a position guaranteed, studying rural science at the University of New England however this all changed rather swiftly once I received an offer of a four year agricultural science scholarship from the University of Tasmania. Obviously at this time I was unsure of what sounded better, but I took the risk and grabbed the scholarship whilst it lasted. Many have asked me do I regret not going to UNE and the answer simply is no.

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My time at the University of Tasmania has been one of the most life changing experiences. Not only does university teach you to think more broadly it helps to shape you as the person you will ultimately become by instilling important life requirements such as patience, tolerance and understanding to name a few. Now entering my final year, the big one honours I strongly believe that this year will be not only challenging and frustrating, but also extremely rewarding, another important step to preparing me for the life on the beyond the walls of the university.

My ambition once graduating is to pursue a career in the grains industry as an advisory or consultant agronomist, specialising in broad acre cropping focused towards herbicide resistance and resistance management. Resistance within pest populations globally is following a fairly consistent pathway and this challenge has potential to significantly undermine the advances science is making for agricultural production systems and our ability to feed an ever rapidly growing global population.

Over the past 12 months I have spent time on a weekly basis working side by side with an agronomist. This has not only given me the opportunity to both put theories taught at university into practice and enabled me to interact with clients. This has enable me to have a deeper understanding of what the job actually requires and to think laterally about crop recommendations and experience the challenge that comes with being a “plant doctor”.

I have also for the last three years been providing agronomic advice within our own cropping operation and this has once again exposed me to the next challenge which is making an independent decision which untimely has consequences. The following traits are something that I stick too on a daily basis no matter what the task. These words might not mean much on a page however when put into practice are more than able to shape a pathway towards success,

  • Professionalism
  • Thoroughness
  • Tenacity

In my quest for success my mentors have inspired me to

  1. Remain positive and having the right attitude
  2. Take calculated risks
  3. Stick to achievable goals
  4. Reward myself and those around me for a job well done

Finally I would like to thank my parents for providing me with the opportunities…to never let anything get in my way. Their support, continuous encouragement and care have allowed me to become the person I am today. I look forward to the years ahead and look forward to contributing positively to Australian and global agriculture.

Please feel free to contact me dbrunton@utas.edu.au

Meet Casey Dahl who lives breathes and talks agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes Queensland beef farmer and university student Casey Dahl

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

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Agriculture is my everything!

My story begins with my arrival on a beef cattle property near Baralaba in Central Queensland around 22 years ago. My parents Des and Karen Dahl both came from agricultural backgrounds. Dad is the third generation of Dahl’s to run beef cattle on our land, and my mother, is the daughter of a cereal grain farmer on the Darling Downs in South-Eastern Queensland. I was my parents’ second child, and I grew up wanting to do everything that my older brother Mick could do. Growing up on the land was great. Looking back, I see the freedom and the opportunities I was allowed. From learning to ride horses to having pet poddy calves, every day was a chance to learn life lessons, even if I didn’t realise that at the time.

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Me with one of our many poddy calves growing up, and my brother and I helping out with the fencing.

I was home-schooled through the school of the air until year 3 when I started attending the local school, the Baralaba State School. I joined my cousins each day for the few hours round bus trip to school. This was fantastic because it meant there were opportunities to build cubbies and play other games when we were dropped off at the end of the school bus line; it was always girls verse boys of course!

At the age of 14 I went off to boarding school in Rockhampton. It was at boarding school that I first started to feel the tug of home. I missed my family, my animals and my freedom. However, now in high school I just assumed I would leave school and pursue another career, not one in Agriculture. There were numerous options. Would I be an occupational therapist, or maybe a physiotherapist or even an architect? It was always in the back of my mind that one day I would return to the land, but that would be after a career somewhere else.

The end of school came around, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I decided a gap year in England would give me a chance to think about career options a little longer. Working in a country boarding school in Suffolk I soon started to realise a few things:

  1. Snow is fun for about three days. Three months of working in the snow teaching netball on the other hand, really makes you miss the Australian climate.
  2. That there is very little your mum can do for you when you get sick on the other side of the world. All of a sudden I was very responsible for looking after myself.
  3. If I thought I missed home when I was at boarding school, it was nothing compared to how I felt now. I missed my family, friends, space, sunshine…and the list goes on.

But I soon started to settle-in and I started to notice other things. I met a group of English young farmers, and judging by the RM Williams jeans and belts they wore I gathered that they must be good people. I started to realise how much I had to talk to them about in regards to agriculture. We compared our industries, and how differently they operated in our respective countries. It was great! In my time off from work I travelled up to the Scottish border to stay with family relatives. It just so happened that they were largely involved in agriculture. I was given tours of peoples farms, and taken to cattle sales, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of farming. It was during my year away that I became aware of how much I enjoyed being around people involved in agriculture. These people wanted to learn about how we operated in Australia, and wanted to show me how they ran successful agricultural businesses in the UK. It was all about sharing knowledge, and learning more. I also realised how tough Aussie farmers have it. Subsidies were big throughout Europe for farmers, and they generally didn’t have to struggle with difficulties such as drought and fire.

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Adventures in England:  A Belgian Blue bull at the cattle sales and some very cold sheep.

I finally returned home on Christmas day in 2010. It was flooding everywhere, and once I got back to our property the floodwaters made sure I stayed there for over a month with no access to the outside world. After being in England, the isolation was a shock to the system! It was so good to be home and doing what I loved though.

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At home with some of my Brahman cattle

In March of 2011 I started a Veterinary Technologist Degree at the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I now knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture and work with the people in it. At uni I met people from all over Australia and the world, some with a passion for agriculture, some having no idea about it at all. I was surprised by how many of, what I knew to be ‘city kids’, were interested in Ag. It was one of those ‘city kids’ that started to talk to me about the degree he was doing, The Bachelor of Agricultural Science. The degree meant an extra year of study but I soon made the switch. This degree covered all aspects of Agriculture, from cropping, to environmental impacts, and business management. I loved getting the broad overview of agriculture in our country.

I’m still at uni, currently in my final year. Whilst being here I’ve had many huge learning experiences. I had a part time job with DAFF working in Dairy Research, which opened my eyes to an incredibly complex industry that I knew very little about. I also have undertaken a 13-week internship with a bovine reproduction centre near Rockhampton, Rocky Repro, where I learnt so much about the importance of utilising breeding technologies to develop our industries. It was on my internship that I started to recognise an area in agriculture that I’d like to focus more on. I am now about to conduct an honours project looking at an alternative method to cryopreservation of bovine semen, from which we will hopefully gain some useful results to share with the reproduction industry.

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Getting dirty working in Dairy Research

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Analysing semen whilst on my internship.

And that brings us to the present day, so what have I taken from my journey so far?

Most importantly, it is that agriculture is a diverse industry which entails so many smaller sectors within it. Each one of these sectors is full of passionate people with unique skills and knowledge. Which is lucky, because agriculture is a fundamental part of human existence as we know it, so every one of those people is important.To use an analogy my academic supervisor told me just this week (Warning: I may have put my own spin on this).

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

I am so privileged to have been born into an agricultural lifestyle, and have loved it from the start, even though along the journey It look like I might move in a different direction. I hope that in the future I can play a part in helping people on the land cope with the adversities we are sure to face. I also hope I can help people from a non-agricultural background become part of this industry, allowing them too to have a piece of the pie.

I love the land and think it is absolutely beautiful! In my spare time, I try to capture this whether it be through photography, painting or drawing.

Meet Danila Marini who believe it or not thinks sheep are smart and she is determined to prove it

Today’s guest post comes from Danila Marini one of the new breed of scientists with a talent for sharing her research in a language we all understand and appreciate

Many think I’m mad having gone on to do a PhD, some days I think I am too but thanks to the support from family, friends and my supervisors at CSIRO and UNE, I am so glad I have started this journey. So here’s to a future of research, helping the agricultural sector and helping animals!

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Originally I’m a city kid; I hadn’t gone near anything remotely like a farm until I was 9 when my Dad bought a small property and started a little hobby farm where he had chickens, cattle, sheep and goats. I had always loved animals but being on this little farm increased my love for livestock animals and sparked my interest in agriculture.

Me getting my sheep ready for measurements for the first experiment of my PhD

I decided working in agriculture was my calling, so I applied for Urrbrae Agricultural High school, even if it meant travelling 2 + hours a day just to study. I made use of the school’s farm and applied to study in as many agricultural subjects as I could and as a result I received the Urrbrae Agricultural high school “Majorie Bowes Prize”, which is awarded to the highest achieving female in agriculture, as well receiving the Animal Science certificate for participating in animal related subjects. Throughout the years I had a million ideas of what I could be when I finished high school, a livestock veterinarian, a jillaroo, a stud breeder, a farmer, the list was endless, everything sounded exciting.

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My year 12 Ag class that attended the South East Tour, where we learnt about different agricultural practices in the South East of South Australia

In year ten I went on an excursion to Adelaide University’s Agricultural campus, Roseworthy and to CSIROs Waite campus. I saw some amazing projects on animal nutrition, animal/plant production and animal/plant health. I was completely fascinated and from that point I decided I could do some interesting work in the agricultural field if I became a scientist. It was a hard choice between animal and agricultural science but in the end animals won and I went on to do a Bachelor of Animal Science at Adelaide University.

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My Dad, my Mum and I at my graduation day in 2012 for my first degree a Bachelor of Science (Animal Science)

Like most undergrads I still had no definite idea what I wanted to do when I finished my degree. When it was time to graduate, I thought “why not give research a go?” I mean research was one of the main reasons I decided to go to uni. So with that I went and did honours, for which I was awarded first class. During my honours year I learnt a lot about research, I had a lot of fun and I grew to love sheep.

I had always liked sheep, back on my dad’s hobby farm he would have the occasional lamb that we would have to hand raise, they were always so cute. Then during high school and Uni I had the opportunity to work with sheep more practically learning how to weigh, drench, tag and vaccinate them. We also had a miniature feedlot project in one of the subjects where we learnt the importance of nutrition, I really enjoyed that work. However during my honours year I got to work with sheep as a flock and as an individual, it was during this time that I learnt a lot about sheep behaviour and that in fact sheep can be pretty smart!

As my honours year began to wrap up I knew I wanted work with sheep. Sheep are very important to Australian agriculture, so I wanted to work with sheep but also help the industry. I thought that one way I could achieve my goal is by helping improve animal welfare.

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How can you not love those faces!

I thought that one of the best ways I could help improve animal welfare was through research so I went looking for PhD projects that had an animal welfare focus. Luckily enough I found a project with CSIRO and the University of New England on self-medication in sheep, which was a double whammy for me! There was a catch though, I had to move from little ol’ Adelaide to an even littler Armidale.

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Like farming research sometimes means early starts, late finishes and very long days but I’m not complaining!

The aim of my PhD project is to incorporate pain relief in food, so that sheep and cattle that undergo husbandry procedures that can be painful, such as castration and tail-docking, can eat this food and be relieved of pain. I will also try to train sheep to self-administer the drugs (non-addictive of course) in order to provide pain-relief, this will give us some interesting insight into pain states in animals. I think it will be the most interesting part of my research! In my first year I identified a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (this is what our panadol is) that works at relieving pain in sheep.

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My sheepie minions! Together we shall take over the world*!

(*With great animal welfare practices)

I have just started my second year and I am really enjoying my work, I currently have some interesting experiments planned for this year. They include adding the drugs to food and seeing if it helps to relieve pain in lambs that have been castrated and tail-docked and training sheep to self-medicate. As you can imagine I’m getting pretty excited about my work.

Many think I’m mad having gone on to do a PhD, some days I think I am too but thanks to the support from family, friends and my supervisors at CSIRO and UNE, I am so glad I have started this journey. So here’s to a future of research, helping the agricultural sector and helping animals!

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