It you could change one thing about the world what would you do?

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This was the challenge set for students at Bennett Road Public School as they embarked upon their 2019 Kreative Koalas project.

Through their research students came up with an enormous range of ideas including:

  • purchase of a hive to support bees,
  • purchase of tanks to conserve water,
  • expansion of the school garden to provide produce for the canteen,
  • investment in solar panels,
  • the reduction of food waste through worm farms and composting,
  • extension of the school recycling project
  • support of community initiatives such as Lids for Kids and Wands for Wildlife
  • recycling and repurposing clothes
  • planting of native trees and shrubs

After researching ways to make a difference students then made a case for change:

“Students through research, investigation and education realised the importance of the environment. They understood that the environment plays a crucial role in the healthy living of humans in the world.”

And defined a scope for action:

“We decided the best way to help the climate was to learn how to help so we could teach others and then start to make changes at the school together.”

This led to an action plan involving zero-cost changes at the school, minimal cost changes and long term goals that can be achieved through slow sustained implementation and evaluation.

“The cost of solar panels and water tanks are expensive and not always included in school budgets. There are ways around big ticket items such as applying for grants, entering competitions and getting sponsors. But educating the students about the cost and effects of using electricity has made them more aware and conscious about turning electricity off and limiting their uses of resources. Our students have become more environmentally aware and conscious”

Through their Kreative Koala journey the staff at Bennett Road Public School was proud of the knowledge and passion students displayed in their research and presentation of ideas, and their enthusiasm for change and how they can make a positive impact. This was tempered somewhat by the realisations that change can take money and time, and that not all in the community believe in climate change. However teachers were surprised at how students committed to sharing their knowledge with family and friends, and implementing change in their own households.

“Success for us is defined as students making changes themselves and educating others about changes they can make that will positively impact the future.

Success is having students passionately talking about the environment and thinking critically about the things they can do to help.

Success is creating a generation of environmental activists that are prepared to stand up and come up with imaginative plans to improve the future. Through education we can make sustainable lifelong change.”

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Awesome work Bennett Rd Public School

Thank you to our supporting partners

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Students at Bobs Farm Public School inspired by the drought to become a closed loop school

We asked the teachers and students at Bobs Farm Public School why they signed up for the Kreative Koalas experience. This is what they said

We are passionate about sustainable living and protecting our local environment. As a school, we were made aware of the hardships New South Wales farmers were currently experiencing and we wanted to help.

We were shocked to discover the extent soil erosion and land degradation is affecting farmers, their crops and livestock. Along with the proposed sand mine decision within our area, this led us to choosing SDG 15 Life on the Land as the goal we wanted to foucs on at a local level .

What was their project big idea ?

Our project idea was to build awareness and to teach Bobs Farm students how to keep local land healthy and instil positive attitudes towards land preservation. Students’ worked as a team and brain stormed thoughts and ideas to recognise the major struggles of NSW farmers. We then discussed our findings and identified two significant causes of struggling farmers:

  1. Soil Erosion due to drought
  2. Land Degradation caused by unnecessary clearing

From here we outlined several project goals to help guide our action and to ensure our big idea is successful within our community.

The following big idea goals included:

  • Raising awareness about soil erosion and land degradation and its affects towards local farmers.
  • Prevent soil erosion in school playground and garden areas
  • Improve soil quality in our school’s garden beds
  • Stop further land degradation and soil erosion in high traffic car parking area at the front of our school

What Happened?

Students used several avenues to acheive their big idea project goals. These included:

  • Inviting local farmer Callum Mercer, to an incursion at Bobs Farm Public to discuss the affects soil erosion and land degradation has towards farming.
  • Use of ground covers, mulch and laying bark in high traffic student play areas and perimeters of school garden beds to prevent topsoil loss.
  • Benefitting from students’ fruit and vegetable scraps to go towards composting to improve soil quality in garden beds.
  • Laying a gravel section at the front of the school to stop soil erosion and further land degradation.
  • The school took part in the ‘adopt the farmer’ initiative. We invited local farmers for an information session on 8th May where, 35 students raised $67 from an out of uniform event to send to Rural Aid contributing to the cost of sending hay bales to drought stricken farmers.

How Did they define Success?

Bobs Farm Public defined success through the following achievements:

  • Students have increased their knowledge and extended awareness of #SDG 15 LIfe on the Land and understanding of the effects of soil erosion and land degradation has on food and fibre production. This was made possible by a visit to the school by Kookaburra Farm Stay business owner, Callum Mercer, who is also a parent of our school. Along with his farm manager Kate King, they presented for our students and community a discussion on the importance of sustainable farming, as well as koala preservation.

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  • Bobs Farm Green Team worked in conjunction with our local Bunnings store to cover the perimeters of the garden beds with mulch to help prevent land degradation and soil loss around the existing school garden and play equipment area. We then established a regular maintenance procedure to maintain mulch depth, preventing any further topsoil loss.

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  • Our Green Team established a composting bin system within our classrooms. Students were educated in what types of fruit and vegetable scraps are suitable for composting and which are not. Students emptied compost bins daily into our large compost bin, located within our kitchen garden area. This was then turned into soil, ready for our garden beds and improving soil condition throughout the year. In partnership with Bunnings, we have recently upgraded two of our raised garden beds and filling them with rich compost that the students have contributed to and we are now growing seasonal fruit and vegetables, which supply our school canteen with organic produce.

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  • It was brought forward in the schools P&C agenda to improve and help prevent further land degradation at the front of our school where parent parking and pick up occurs. Members of the P&C worked alongside with school staff to contact and organise local Port Stephens council, to inspect and suggest how to best revive the eroded and damaged land area at the front of the school. From there, the P&C liaised with local council and arranged a day to repair the damaged land area by filling it in with gravel and sand. The repair of the eroded land area has now prevented further loss of top soil and ground erosion caused by the high traffic area.

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 We asked the students what was Excellent, Unfortunate, or Surprising?

 Unfortunate: Understanding and becoming aware of the hardships and struggles of farmers in NSW. We were shocked to learn how drought and land degradation has a ripple effect on the land and livestock of farmers.

 Fortunate: Meeting a local farmer and providing the students with an authentic presentation on land management and how to maintain sustainable farming practice. For instance, to keep animal numbers down to a sustainable level to avoid over grazing in our paddocks and prevent damage to top soil.

 Surprising: That students wanted to do more for sustainable living within our school. Our Green Team have improved upon our recycling and are now looking at improving our school’s sustainability circle. This will include the use of food scraps to feed our school chickens, who then give us eggs. We then sell these eggs to our school community, providing funds to buy seasonal seeds for our school garden and help produce food for our school canteen.

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Congratulations Bobs Farm Public School tackling global challenges at a local level

Thank you to Heather Collins from New Zealand for this comment

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Bellbird Public School empowering young people to embed the tools and desires to make positive choices for themselves and our planet.

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We asked the teachers at Bellbird Public School why they wanted to participate in Kreative Koalas

They answered

As a staff our main motivation to participate in this opportunity was to provide authentic opportunities for students so they could recognise problems, design solutions and be part of making a positive impact upon their own and everyone else’s future.

We know that children are our future and it is our role as educators to

Each of the initiatives we have undertaken through this project have continued, we are still working on and improving applications to embed them in all our practices and more importantly into the lives of our community members.

 

What was their big idea

Bellbird Public School designed their Term 2 K-6 learning programs around a whole school theme of War on Waste. This underpinned and supported all of the initiatives we undertook as part of our participation in the Kreative Koalas Create a Brighter Future Program.

What Happened

All classes discussed what they felt were the main issues impacting upon the people and environment surrounding Bellbird and three major directions emerged;

  1. the need to reduce the amount of rubbish we as consumers were contributing to the environment
  2. the need to be proactive in improving and sustaining the quality of our immediate environment (Black Creek)
  3. our responsibility as a group to aid people less fortunate than ourselves by utilising existing resources

Once these three challenges were posed, classes and stages began planning ways they could contribute to solving them.

 Initiative 1 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (SDG 12 .5 – Responsible Consumption and Production)

We conducted a whole school rubbish audit. We sorted and weighed the rubbish collected from all bins in our school. We were amazed at many things; how much paper ended up in the rubbish, the amount of packaging and the amount of food being wasted.

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Classes and our school parliament had many discussions about a plan of action. We bought individual coloured bins to sort rubbish, paper recycling and plastic recycling. These were implemented in both eating areas and the teacher’s staffroom. We access the Return and Earn program with our appropriate containers.

Classrooms had recycling bins and small rubbish bins added. Recycling bins are emptied regularly by our Environment Ministers.

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Stage 2 set up worm farms and collect food scraps daily from classrooms and eating areas. These worm farms fertilise our gardens.

Each Wednesday is Waste Free Wednesday. Through this we encourage all families to making both cost effective choices and environmentally sustainable choices about the foods that are purchased and provided for daily consumption at school. It was highly evident from our rubbish audit the high percentage of pre-packaged food that was filling lunchboxes. Our community were offered alternate ideas and suggestions such as buying in bulk and dividing into portion sizes in reusable containers and cooking more nutritious options.

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Outcomes

Awareness amongst students and staff has increased greatly about the amount of unnecessary waste we as consumers perpetuate. As our theme exposed us to information and facts about the Great Southern Garbage Patch, landfill required for extraordinary amounts of discarded clothing, coffee cups, water bottles and a wide range of reusable items, we have made changes to reduce our impact as a school and community. We have reduced the amount of rubbish being brought to school in lunch boxes, better reused resources such as paper that was going into landfill, utilised snippets from our community’s home gardens to create new potted plants to decorate our school but most importantly we have all started making conscious decisions about how our consumer choices impact upon the environment.

Initiative 2 – Improve and sustain health of our local creek and surrounding environment (SDG 15.1 Life on Land)

With the support of Cessnock City Council, Hunter Water and Bug Blitz, Stage 2 have participated in ongoing water testing, bug detecting, plant and animal species identification, weed identification and rubbish removal. Through these educational and awareness building opportunities, students have learnt about how local mines impact upon our waterways and the responsibility they have as residents to maintain their local environment.

 

Outcomes:

Students have claimed responsibility for this part of their environment. Small groups of volunteers spend their lunch play time over at the creek with a teacher ensuring that it is clean, clear of rubbish, and conducting testing that is recorded directly onto an app. and uploaded onto the net. Classes visit as whole groups to undertake more thorough data collection. Our General Assistant keeps the area directly adjacent to our school mown for easy access. It is an enjoyable place to be and a lunch time opportunity students line up to participate in. Pride in and group responsibility for the area have increased.

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Initiative 3: To provide assistance to those in need through utilising existing resources

(SDG 12.3 Responsible Production & Consumption)

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Kindergarten sort a local charity that they could support and found Hunter Hands of Hope. This service provides daily meals and other services to the homeless in our local area. Blanchies Café in Cessnock kindly donated their left over food items that our Kinder classes cooked up into hearty nutritious meals that were delivered to the drop in centre each week by Kinder students with their parents and teachers.

As a school we have participated in terracycling of dental hygiene items, plastic lids to be made into prosthetics and reading glasses to be distributed in third world countries.

Outcomes:

This initiative was very well received by both the charity and the people who gratefully received these meals.  Both the Kinder students and their parents benefitted from this opportunity to support those in our community who are in need of a helping hand. It too provided a waste reduction of valuable food from the business. Instilling the mindset that we can all help others has been a wonderful trait to nurture.

The collection of the other items was well supported and continues.

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What Did they Notice Along the Way?

*All students K-6 have had the opportunity to be involved.

*Knowledge of environmental facts has increased.

*Desire to devise plans to take action for change have developed.

*Students have included their parents and family members in their learning journey.

*Everybody has made some impact upon positive choices for a sustainable environment both at school and home.

*All of the initiatives we have implemented continue to develop and enhance our students’ lives and those of our community.

Wow – awesome Bellbird Public School

#SDG2 SDG4 #SDG12 #SDG13 #SDG15

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Lochinvar Public School share what was exciting, unfortunate and surprising about participating in Kreative Koalas

We asked Lochinvar Public School what was was

EXCELLENT

UNFORTUNATE

SURPRISING about participating in Kreative Koalas

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This is what they had to say

The whole process has been incredibly rewarding, eye opening and life changing! We feel that it has completely changed the culture of the school. The conversations and research at the beginning of the year really led our environmental team to make changes. We were concerned that the changes might not last very long, but letting the students lead the change has been the key to its success. It’s excellent to see the conversations around the playground everyday. The students (and staff!) love checking with a Nature Ninja to confirm they are putting their rubbish in the correct place.

We were surprised how easy it was to get other schools and community businesses involved. With TV shows like “War on Waste” from ABC the community is aware of the effect humans are having on the environment, therefore they are keen to make changes.

On our recent year 3/4 excursion to Sydney it was lovely to see students pick up rubbish without being asked while we were at Taronga Zoo, then they even made an effort to put it in the correct bin. Many students found bread tags, lids and ring pulls on the ground which they took to a teacher to take back to our Recycling Zone…every little bit counts! A Nature Ninja also asked the zoo staff if we could take the lids from breakfast back to school. It was lovely to see our recycling efforts don’t just happen on school grounds, which confirms this whole process has been worth the effort!

The fact that Maitland’s landfill area, known as Mt Vincent Road Waste Management Centre, sits on Wonnarua country only about 30 kilometres from our school is very disturbing to us. It has built a desire to respect, reduce, reuse and recycle.

We are delighted how many conversations we are having with staff and parents about how they are changing their buying, recycling and reusing practices at home too.

Where to next?

With the end of the year drawing near, our Nature Ninjas are planning ahead for next year. We have the following ideas in the pipeline.

• Introduce nude food/zero waste days

• Plan lessons around wants and needs to reduce general consumption

• Build a yarning circle to complement our existing gardens and show respect to our Aboriginal community, as it would be a community space for all people to use.

Our most exciting news is that we are working with Lower Hunter Landcare at the moment and they are seeking grants on our behalf to run a community project for Lochinvar Creek. Lochinvar Creek runs under the New England Highway not far from the front of our school, then bends around and flows along our back fence. The project aims to clear the area of introduced species and weeds. Our students, plus invited community members, will then plant natives to encourage the local wildlife to return to our area. This project is expected to start in February.

Staff and students have really enjoyed the Kreative Koala journey this year as it has given us the kick start we needed to make necessary changes to improve our environment for the future. Without this project we would still be guessing which bin to put or rubbish in and disrespecting the environment by sending unnecessary items to landfill.

Meet Lochinvar Public School’s Kreative Koala

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Australian Farmer of the Year and Picture You in Agriculture celebrate a decade of amplifying our farmers voices

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Celebrating Women in Agriculture at 2019 Australian Farmer of the Year Awards. LtoR Meg Rice, Aimee Snowden, Lynne Strong, Sally Downie, Jackie Jarvis, Sarah Parker, Charlie Aves and Sally Murfett

Ten years ago an organisation called Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) launched with the vision of creating a network of empowered young farmers to represent the positive and progressive face of Australian agriculture. At the same time Kondinin Group and ABC Rural joined forces to create the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.

In the decade since PYiA team members have featured six times in the Awards. In 2011 PYiA founder and director Lynne Strong was runner up in the Farm Industry Leader of the Year category. In 2015 Anika Molesworth was recognised as the Young Australian Farmer. In 2017 Greg Mills won the Rural Consultant category. Dan Fox was runner up for the Young Australian Farmer in 2017 and in 2018 he won the award for Excellence in Innovation. This year Young Farming Champion Sally Downie has received the inaugural Agricultural Student of the Year Award.

“From the hottest, driest continent with some of the poorest soils on the planet, Australian farmers supply food for 60,000 people across the globe and to do this Australian agriculture requires talented people,” Lynne says. “PYIA works with our supporting partners to identify agriculture’s emerging talent and develop their problem-solving, creative, communication and teamwork skills. The legacy of our Young Farming Champion program is a network of young agricultural leaders creating efficient, profitable and climate resilient farming systems and the perception, in the general community, that agriculture is an exciting industry. We foster an environment where innovation, disruption and creativity are encouraged, where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and where partnerships across sectors are created and nurtured.”

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Sally Downie wins Agricultural Student of the Year 

Congratulations to Sally on being recognised for her commitment to Australian agriculture. Congratulations also to all of our Young Farming Champions who work with young people in the community to strive for a better world each and every day.

You can read all the winners stories here

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Shed Happens – outsourcing agriculture’s story to the experts

Its harder to hurt some-one if you know their story

Picture You in Agriculture has a vision for an empowered national network of 1000 diverse youth voices working together to inspire pride in Australian agriculture. But as Lynne Strong says:

“We know can’t do this alone and so we get a huge buzz when we meet organisations and people doing fabulous stuff we can amplify.”

Such was the case when Lynne attended the Heywire/FRRR Grant Winners  announcements and met Andrew Viney from arts and social change organisation BIG hART. BIG hART began in Burnie, Tasmania 27 years ago and tells the stories of regional areas across Australia.

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“The majority of our work happens in regional and remote communities so we have a natural affinity with communities with strong agricultural connections. Our focus is on increasing the visibility of communities and of the issues which affect them and our model involves long term (3-10 years) projects. Consequently we only have a few projects happening at any given time, such as during the Millennium Drought when we had a project running in the Murray-Darling Basin called Gold.” Andrew says.

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Andrew Vinney (left) at the Heywire/FRRR Grant Winners  announcements 

Another innovative and successful project was the Acoustic Life of Sheds, a music and arts exhibition with a difference – held in five sheds across regional Tasmania and winning the 2018 APRA/AMCOSS AMC Art Music Award for Excellence in a Regional Area.

BIG hART’s latest project is Shed Happens, winner of a Heywire FRRR 2019 Youth Innovation Grant. Shed Happens aims to help people understand what life is really like on Australian farms by engaging directly with farmers on an everyday basis through an online video series. The $9,800 grant will develop digital media and literacy skills through workshops and creation of five films featuring stories of rural youth.
Kassidy Fuller from Bullfinch, WA is part of the Shed Happens Team, along with Alexander Rajagopalan from Bruce Rock, WA, Kurt Richards from Dowerin, WA and Hayden Di Bella from Ingham, QLD.

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“Last year was tough for my family, The wheat crop struggled through drought, but I was grateful the sheep were happy, healthy and worth a lot of money. Talk of a ban on live sheep exports changed that. My family rely on exports for our main source of income. I believe Shed Happens could have given my family a voice in that difficult time.” Kassidy Fuller

By building strong relationships on the ground with farmers Shed Happens envisages giving these farmers a voice to the public and, in turn, the opportunity for the public to ask questions directly to those farmers. It is an engagement that sits well with the visions of Picture You in Agriculture.

“If you want to build enduring relationships you have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul, because respectful, trusting and open relationships take time and committment. That’s why we are so successful with The Archibull Prize . Our Young Farming Champions are on the ground working with students in schools for six months at a time. We’re building interpersonal trust and this is what BIG hART does. They are working side by side with the people on the ground and the people on the ground trust them to tell their stories. They’re doing beautiful things for farmers in innovative ways. That’s why I love Shed Happens.” says Lynne .

Katherine and Deb Bain – farming AgVocay in the genes

For seven years from 2006 the Farm Day program initiative of Deb Bain introduced urban people to the delights and challenges of farm life, and although the program ended in 2013 its effects are still being felt and appreciated. Those effects have rippled all the way through to Deb’s daughter Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain and teachers in the 2019 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future Challenge.

Cassandra Lindsay is a teacher at Oxley Park Public School and driver of their successful Kitchen Garden project. She is also helping steer the school through Kreative Koalas and she recently met Katherine at the Picture You in Agriculture Teacher Tocal Professional Development Day. The two shared conversations that led to their shared connection with Farm Day. Cassandra took part in the program in 2012 and Katherine’s mother was the person who instigated it.

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“My husband read about this program where you could meet a farmer so we put our names forward and were invited to visit a family in Quambone,” Cassandra says. “We thought participating would open not only our own eyes but those of our children.”

Cassandra, her husband and two sons stayed with the O’Brien family at their property ‘Yahgunyah’, where they helped with fencing, rode in large farm machinery, locked their car (which they still laugh about) and experienced genuine hospitality from people they had never met before.

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“We realised there was a stark contrast to our lives, such as buying groceries in bulk, storing food and reliance on water – things we take for granted on a day-to-day basis,” Cassandra says, “but we were welcomed with open arms and treated like family, and we gained an understanding of how they managed their farming practices including crops and cattle.”

Katherine’s mother Deb Bain believes it was not only an opportunity to start new conversations with city cousins, but it provided farming families with a much-needed energy boost.

“From the farmers’ point of view so much was learned as well,” Deb says. “Farmers realised people were interested in them and that was really inspiring and positive for them to see. It refreshed their vision of what a farm can look like from the outside.”

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The Bain family: David (left), Alexander, Deb, Katherine and Georgia at their Stockyard Hill farm. The only son, Alexander, 21 is studying architecture. Photo creditJoe Armo Source 

For Katherine, the advent of Farm Day came at a pivotal moment in her life. “I was heading into high school where there seemed to be a much larger disconnect to where food comes from compared to primary school,” she says. “I think a lot of that was to do with the shift towards more academic study instead of ‘hands-on’ learning. So I was seeing what mum was trying to achieve by bringing city and farming families together in a positive situation, but then at school there was just no talk of a career in agriculture unless you were going down a biology research path.”

Although Cassandra’s Farm Day visit was brief it heralded a life-long friendship with the O’Briens staying with her own family on several occasions. The two families remain in contact seven years later via phone and Facebook. “Remaining in contact has allowed me to understand the highs and lows of farming life and the sacrifices they make as a family at times when farming is tough. We have seen our farm family experience severe drought with not enough feed for the cattle and failed crops due to lack of rain and it is devastating for us to sit on the outside and look in and have no real way of helping.”

Deb is encouraged by this engagement between city and country. “It is wonderful to hear Farm Day has created long-term conversations about agriculture in urban lives,” she says.

Katherine finds a similar engagement as a Young Farming Champion.

“Meeting Cassandra at the workshop was like two worlds colliding,” she says. “ Here was a teacher who had done Farm Day and is now educating kids on food and fibre. It was so lovely to hear that even all these years later there are still lots of fond memories of Farm Day. In a way, I think the YFC has picked up from Farm Day in creating a bridge and a platform for people with no connections to Australian agriculture to talk to people on farms and hear their stories. I’m very proud to be keeping the Farm Day spirit alive and carrying it on into the YFC.”

Cassandra now takes her understandings from Farm Day and Young Farming Champions to the classroom at Oxley Park Public School. Though her students may not experience life as a farm child does, Cassandra is able to instil in them an appreciation and an insight into the world of farming as it produces the food they eat and the fibre they wear.

“I am truly grateful for Farm Day,” she says. “It gave us memories and experiences that shaped our family’s ideas and respect for our farmers.”