Ask a Farmer

Today’s guest post is by Kylie Stretton one of the founders of Ask an Aussie Farmer– “An idea grown by real Aussie farmers so you can have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you”.

Kylie Stretton Photo Vicki Miller Photography

This group are

 “passionate about Australian farming, with expertise and first-hand knowledge across a broad expanse of agriculture in Australia, including access to experts and professionals. We reside all over this country and some even live far away from our shores but are still involved in the diverse industries of Australian agriculture. The reason for hosting this page is so those that live, breath, know, and are enthusiastic about Aussie Ag can answer your questions and tell their stories…”

Well done Kylie and Team

We first met Kylie when we partnered with MLA to roll out the Archibull Prize at the Ekka in 2011. The winning school as part of their prize got a visit from a Beef farmer and Kylie was that farmer

Farmer Kylie with winners of Archibull Prize at Ekka 2011

The Kylie Stretton story …….

Planting Those Seeds of Excitement

In 1820, Hertfordshire, England, my Great-Great-Great- Great Grandfather, George Hobler decided to add farming to the list of his family’s noble professions. His Grandfather was an eminent watchmaker; his Uncle a tenor who performed at Westminster Abbey; his father was the Chief Clerk to the Lord Mayor of London for 50 years and written about by Charles Dickens on more than one occasion; and his brother a Barrister and Author.

After spending five years working on various farms in England, George was lured by the prospect of growing super fine wool in Australia. So in 1825 he, his wife Ann, their two children (nine more were born in Australia), ten stud Merino sheep and one of Australia’s first purebred Devon heifers boarded a ship and set sail to Van Diemen’s Land.

Add in different lines of the family tree which contain pastoralists from Cameron’s Corner, young stockmen, soldiers, my Grandmother who ventured from Sydney to Boulia, in outback Qld to be the first female bookkeeper on that particular station (pretty rare in those days), even a Spanish Princess and the result is seven generations down the track, we’re still raising beef. Although each generation has moved a bit further north, and we now Brahmans in North Queensland.

Our latest purchases

I grew up on a cattle station near Charters Towers, battling drought (I wrote a blog about it here) for most of the time we were there.

Buzz and I at one year old.  Buzz lived until 17 and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

When I got to Grade 12 I wasn’t sure what to do; but I knew I loved station life and I loved kids so I scoured the ads in the Queensland Country Life, answering many hoping to become a governess. I was very excited when I got offered a job in the Northern Territory (until I realised I had to go on a plane for the first time).

Dad, I and Mac, smiles in times of drought 1993

Farmer Gets a Wife

I staggered off that mail plane a little worse for wear, to clap eyes on my future husband (another blog about it here). I hope future generations tell that story in years to come!

The Farmer Gets A wife Photo by Vicki Miller Photography

So fast forward twelve years and my husband and I with two young children have just started a new business; he’s a livestock agent in North Queensland, our market’s underpinned by live export.

At the Stockyards Photo by Vicki Miller Photography

 

We also have a small but growing herd of Brahman steers.

Ella-Beth and Clancy with steers

I’m floating around, not sure what I want to do with my life, happy to be a part of the business but still feeling something lacking within myself.

Shane, I, Clancy and Ella-Beth

Then along comes the Live Export uproar. Tips our world upside down, along with many others. I’ve always been passionate about rural Australia, but was never sure what to do about it. All of a sudden I knew what I could do. The world was opening up with social media, but that was not working in our favour. So I dived in head first and starting advocating for the live export industry via Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Along the way I “met” many other farmers, and realised it wasn’t just us that there was misunderstanding about. It was food and fibre production as a whole.

How social media changed my life

Once I started looking into it, there were already amazing people doing amazing things when it comes to teaching our future generations about feeding and clothing the world. In September 2011, I was given a great opportunity by MLA, to fly to Brisbane and speak to school children about growing up on a cattle station (yet another blog here) which helped bring me out of my shell and made me realise that what I had to say was interesting.

Farmer Kylie addressing whole school

I now even have the confidence to approach tourists who come out to have a look at our weekly cattle sale; they appreciate getting a little tour of the saleyards, with explanations and interesting statistics thrown in.

I have learnt so much in the last twelve months, so many interesting, quirky and exciting facts about agriculture. I am more excited and proud than ever to be a part of such an innovative industry. Technology has changed the face of Australian Agriculture. The industry has advanced from the images of “Farmer Joe” in the dusty paddock to images of young men and women from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of professions. Images now range from a hands-on job in the dusty red centre to an office job in inner city Sydney. So many opportunities, so many choices.

Trying to beat the storms

Australia really is the lucky country with 2.15ha of arable land to each person of our population. That’s one of the highest ratios of any country in the whole world. But only 3% of our employed population work in Agriculture. That’s not many people looking after a huge landmass. Incredibly 54% of our land is used for some sort of agricultural enterprise. We produce 93% of the food used domestically while still exporting a whopping 60% of what we grow to other countries which is so important with the world population growing bigger and bigger. However mass production isn’t everything. We are doing these amazing feats on the driest inhabited continent on Earth.

Photo of me taken by Ella-Beth (8)

So Australian Farmers are world leaders when it comes to farming efficiently and sustainably. It’s vital that we continue on this track and getting better and better with advancing technology. It’s a difficult juggling act producing enough food and fibre for a rapidly expanding population while still caring for the environment in the best way possible. Without a healthy environment we can’t grow such high quality produce.

Young people are the future lets work with them

Today’s children are tomorrow’s decision makers. Kids are like sponges, if you’re excited about what you’re teaching them, it’s contagious. It’s so important to get them involved or at the very least give them an understanding about all sorts of agriculture so they are equipped to lead further generations into a future which has a secure supply of food. And that starts with us.

Warm Welcome from Grade Ones Nashville State School

We need to start planting those seeds of excitement in children from all walks of life right now. Australian agriculture has such a fascinating history and promising future. I’m proud that my family has played a part in it for nearly two hundred years, I love that I’m a part of the present and I’m excited about my children being a part of it in the future. I hope that seven generations down the track my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandchildren are still a part of agriculture, and look back on my generation and are as inspired as I am when I look back on previous generations.

I chose agriculture and I have never looked back

Through our series of guest blogs written by young people who have chosen career pathways that will help feed and clothe the world Art4agriculture is helping tell the real story of food production in the 21st century

Consumers today typically have minimal knowledge of the origin and pathway that their food supply and all agriculture travels to reach a final destination of nourishment on a physical, emotional and/or psychological plane.

Today most of affluent society is blissfully unaware of the multitude of products purchased to sustain and improve our lives are all agricultural products. We need to be informed consumers and to do this it is more important than ever to fill the educational void so non farmers not only know and understand the system that sustains them but actively support their farmers to do this profitably and ethically. In this age of technology and rapid information flow, its is important farmers can counter the misinformation or we will find ourselves farming in a future we no longer enjoy.

This is overlying message as blog after blog comes in from these incredible young people sharing their stories with you.  They want to farm. They want consumers to support responsible agriculture production and they want responsible food consumption.

They want people to understand and appreciate where their food comes from and be comfortable with how our production techniques must change to meet the world’s need for food. Thanks for taking the time to read their stories and doing your bit to work with them to make this happen

This is the Madeleine Hamilton story…….

I grew up on a sheep farm 28kms outside of Mudgee, rural New South Wales. My parents still live on the farm, while my two other siblings have both moved to Sydney to pursue higher education. Looking back, our childhood revolved around the farm. We never ran out of things to do, and the vast amount of room we had to move in meant our imaginations ran wild with building cubby houses, rafts, camping, horse-riding and adventures to ‘out-the-back’.

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My love for agriculture began here. Though I must admit choosing a career in agriculture did not appeal to me until I started to realise that agriculture was so much more than farming  So from the start  I was determined to become anything other than a farmer!

At age 15, I embarked on a Student Exchange year in the French speaking Quebec, Canada. I chose Canada because of my love for snow skiing. I am a Director of Geebung Ski Club, formed St Matthews Central School’s (Mudgee) first and only Ski Team and  nationally represented Hurlstone Agricultural High School. I love my time in Canada, it was an invaluable experience, I would recommend it to everyone.

When I returned from Canada I boarded at Hurlstone Agricultural High School (HAHS) at Glenfield, NSW for my final years of secondary schooling. Much to my dismay, I was told I would have to take Agriculture as a compulsory subject. I was not happy about that!! Everyone around me said that Agriculture didn’t ‘rank’ well in the HSC and talked the subject down. Much to my surprise in Year 12, Agriculture had become a subject I was doing extremely well in and ended up setting me up for a very welcoming UAI mark.

At that time, I don’t remember having my Careers Advisor explain to me the opportunities that could be had if I were to follow a career in Agriculture. I wish she had. Instead I filled my time thinking about how I would get the required marks to get into economics at Sydney Uni.

It was by complete luck that I put down a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics (BAgEc) at the University of Sydney as a preference for university (from memory I put it down as either 4th or 5th). Then something very exciting happened  I had a very welcoming letter from the University inviting me to put BAgEc as my first preference and provided I gained a certain UAI they would supply me with a scholarship for the duration of the degree. It was very enticing, even though I wasn’t sure I would get a high enough UAI to meet the cut, I changed BAgEc to my first preference.

I’ve never looked back.

That decision changed my life. I didn’t get the scholarship, but I did study Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney. This degree has been invaluable in setting me up for life. During my degree I applied and received an Australian Council of Agricultural Societies Coca-Cola Regional Scholarship.

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Throughout my degree I have had outstanding lecturers, friendly colleagues and priceless experiences. I was fortunate enough to travel overseas to Laos as part of a subject and learn about agriculture in developing countries.

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During my time at University, I was very honoured  to be named Miss Mudgee Showgirl 2010. This very rewarding experience allowed me to travel and meet like minded young women from rural NSW. The Showgirl movement is something I am passionate about and have been actively promoting.

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I was lucky enough to gain a graduate position with Grain Growers Limited before I graduated with honours. The opportunities I was presented with during and straight after doing an Agricultural degree were first class. Most of my friends from University are working in agricultural jobs and getting paid handsomely, both in the city and rurally. I have found that being an agricultural graduate has made me highly employable. After my work at Grain Growers Limited, I moved to Young, NSW to try my hand at Agricultural Banking. I discovered that my heart wasn’t in banking so moved back to Sydney and started working in the red meat industry for the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) as the Executive Officer of Marketing, Membership Services, Events and Industry Liaison.

I am also heavily involved in my family’s business, Farmer George. Farmer George began in 2010 and our family farm, delivers fresh, high quality, free range lamb direct to your door!

Farmer George

Great value, great lamb, and of course buying straight from the farmer, you know you’re supporting a local family business. I am excited to see the business grow and watch it help educate our consumers along the way where their meal comes from and who provides it.

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I am proud to be part of the highly innovative and invigorating red meat industry. For many urban Australians, knowledge of Australia’s meat industry is limited and I have found working for ALFA has even opened my eyes. Feedlots in particular have never truly been explained to the public, and this is why common misconceptions live on. So much technology, care, and science go into producing cattle in feedlots. One of my roles at ALFA, is to educate people on feedlot nutrition, care, animal welfare and environment. I would urge anyone opposed to cattle feedlots to visit one and see for your self first hand the first class treatment cattle are given.

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My career thus far has truly been amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings. I am positive consumer education is the key and the more young people that are exposed to the plethora of opportunities available in agriculture the more enticing agriculture will be as a career to the next generation.

From the Saddle

Hayley Piggott is another one of those young things who live and breathe the farm. So young and so many important things to say

Confident you will enjoy the Hayley Piggott story……

Hello, my name is Hayley Piggott and I was raised on a cattle property in the Central Highlands of Queensland. I am the 3rd generation to be on the property after my grandfather drew it in a land ballot in 1964. Growing up I always enjoyed being on the property and helping my father with whatever he was doing which varied from cattle work on horseback to general property maintenance. It was not until my GAP year, following five years of boarding school, that I really developed a passion and love for what we do as beef producers. You can see for yourself what happens at our place here: www.aldingadroughtmasters.com  – just look for the ‘From the Saddle’ tab.

Who am I

A Typical Day on the Property.

A typical day varies depending on what part of the year it is. It’s not often that any one week of the year is the same as another, so I will give you a brief overview of our typical working year.

We are up with the sun (5am during summer and 6.30am in winter) to start our day’s work. Summer is branding season, so we rise at 5am to saddle our horses and go mustering.

Who am I (2)

Typically, down on the flat country, we bring in one paddock (sometimes two) of cows and calves a day. Drafting is done in the late afternoon so the cattle are not worked in the heat of the day. The next morning we brand and mother up the calves before breakfast. We take the cows and calves back to their paddock on the way to get the next mob.

Up the back, in the mountainous country, we camp in a shed for a week, three times a year, on stretchers in our swags! A generator runs the fridge and lights in the morning and at night. Our meals (breakfast and dinner) are cooked over a fire. Breakfast consists of steak, eggs, baked beans, toast and nice warm mugs of black billy tea. Nevertheless, there are jobs to do…no sitting around enjoying the morning sun. Lunch and smoko (morning tea) must be packed (wrapped in newspaper to go in saddlebags), the dishes washed and the night horse caught to run the workhorses in. For dinner we have steak and rib-bones cooked over a smoky fire with the vegies (tinned peas, potatoes and pumpkin) boiled in Billies over the fire. After dinner the dishes must be washed (with hot billy water and detergent) before you can sit and relax by the fire.

Cooking Dinner

Water is heated, for bathing, in big paint 44 gallon drums sitting here next to the fire.

The warm water is then poured into the pull bucket in the shower- a 3-walled corrugated iron construction. It’s a “shower with a view”.

Camp

At night when we go to bed, there are lots of bush noises and smells. No city traffic roaring down the freeway or exhaust fumes out here. The sound of crackling fire, dingoes howling, curlews crying, cicadas and crickets vibrating, cattle bellowing, mozzies buzzing and an owl hooting merge into a nice harmony to put you to sleep. Wafts of campfire smoke and the smell of dew dampening grass and dried gum leaves create a perfume you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It is almost time to get up when the kookaburras laugh and other birds join. It’s nice to lie listening to the bush bird song while waiting for the sun to peak up over the mountains. During the day, when we are mustering, if we are lucky we get to see a brumby or two, perhaps a dingo and plenty of kangaroos!

Cows

Fat bullocks must be mustered too, and because they are full of feed and energy, they like to play. They like to gallop, buck and challenge each other, meaning we have to ride fast to bring the lead of the mob under control so they don’t lead the others astray. There is always that one bullock that wants to clear out, so, we have to wheel him in too! Luckily, we have dogs that watch for the bullocks that want to clear out and nip them back in if necessary! At the yards the best bullocks are drafted off to be trucked to market and sold – that’s how farmers make their money. They don’t get wages because they are self-employed and it is how you get the meat on your plate!

In dry weather, and always in winter, lick (mineral supplement) runs must be done weekly, from one end of the property to the other. This provides the cows with much needed minerals that they might not be getting from the grass. A 4WD Ute is loaded with a tonne of lick and taken to the various troughs. At the troughs, the bags must be split with a knife and poured into the troughs. The cows can hear our Ute and come running because they know we have lick for them.

In the past two years we had an abundance of rain, making the roads wet and boggy and the creeks flooded so we couldn’t do lick runs! The creeks raged full of water knocking trees down, washing over fences and even washing some cattle away, but we got most of them back!

After the floods, we get our “favourite” job of fencing (NOT!). To fix the fences we have to pull all of the debris (grass, logs and weeds) off the wire, before putting the posts back in the ground and re-attaching the wire to the posts! Sometimes, it is just the creek crossings, other times we have to fix the fences on the creek flats. It is hard work pulling the fences up, but it is such a great feeling, even with endless scratches and sore muscles, to see what you have achieved for the day.

Fence

In February, we plant oats for winter-feed. To do this we have to drive a tractor following a GPS to keep the rows nice and straight!

Bogged Tractor

Bogged tractor and plough – Sometimes the ground is wetter than initially thought.

In March, we draft and start preparing our stud bulls for our sale in September. They have to be kept in good condition during winter so they are ready for the sale in spring. This is my favourite part of the year – there is nothing quite so special as making friends with bulls that nearly weigh as much as a small car!! Some of them end up like real pets and follow me around like my dog does for a pat!

Me with Bull and hay

In May, calves are weaned from their mothers because the cows need a break before their next calf is born. We take the bulls out at weaning time too. This is called controlled mating because the bulls are only with the cows for a short period each year. So, during calving time, the calves are all born around the same time, meaning, when they are weaned they are all about the same age. We separate the calves from their mothers and take them back to the yards at the house so we can look after and educate them. Yes, they need educating too. They need to learn to fend for themselves. They also have to learn to walk together in a mob and learn that when the gate is opened they are expected to walk through it without rushing and stop when we want them to. Through this process, they learn to trust us and it makes working with them easier. I have heard of people singing to their weaners to calm them down in the yards.

In October, the bulls are put back with the cows, so that after the cows calve, the cycle can start again. While all of that is fun and exciting, there are other jobs to do as well. A fence or two might need fixing because a bull has decided to visit some cows in a different paddock. Our bores (our main water supply) might have problems and must be fixed very quickly because the cattle will run out of water and we will have no water at the house as living in the bush we don’t have access to town water.

Social Life in the Bush

Living in a “remote” area can have you thinking of the lifestyle as a lonesome experience. But, with social media like Facebook and Twitter it is easy to have a social life every day. Living in the bush is what you make of it. You have to take hold of any opportunities that offer networking opportunities and the chance to build friendships. We often have get togethers with neighbours. On top of this in our area there are numerous community groups; like footy, tennis and cricket clubs, clay pigeon and sporting shooters, dirt bikes and motocross as well as events like camp drafts, rodeos and bush races and dances and of course the annual agricultural show. As a child, I was a part of the swimming club and pony club, which allowed me to mix with people of a similar age in my district.

In the past couple of years, I have attended the Young Beef Producers Forum(YBPF) with other beef producers and young people involved in the industry from the ages of 18 -35. This was a great opportunity to broaden my mind on various topics whilst networking at the same time!

Networking at YBPF

Checking out some leuceana on a property tour during YBPF

Every year, YBPF is held two days before the Roma Races where many young people go to catch up with people that they haven’t seen in a while. Travelling to the Brisbane Ekka and Beef Week in Rockhampton are real social highlights. I can assure you life is not lonely in the bush, it is what you make of it, and there is plenty of fun to be had! We can also have fun without having to spend money with wide-open spaces and bushland to explore, and depending where you live an abundance of creeks to swim in!

On the topic of Sustainability

As caretakers of the land we are committed to leaving it in better shape than when we found it – and we know we can improve efficiency and reduce the resources we use on our property. For example we monitor our stocking rates so that paddocks are not “chewed out”, leaving them bare and exposed to erosion and woody weed growth. To control weeds in our pastures a cool burn is done in different areas every year. This encourages pasture growth, and prevents wild fires when it’s really hot in the summer.

Burning

The things that concern me

I am worried about the future of our best farming land in this country. It is under pressure from unsustainable mining and coal seam gas production. I am worried about our precious underground water supply being poisoned by fracking and what will happen when our minerals run out.

I am also worried about the growth in foreign ownership of Australian farms. Think about this figure: the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 11% of Australia’s agricultural land (in real terms twice the size of the state of Victoria) is partially or fully owned by foreign interests (Nason, 2011) (www.beefcentral.com/p/news/article/600).

I believe the very future of our modern society is dependent on communities valuing what farmers do, and providing them with the resources to get on and do it in a way that not only meets the values and expectations of the communities which they serve but also provides a reliable income so our farmers can give back to the land and the livestock they love

My Future Aspirations

One day I hope to start my own Droughtmaster Stud and beef production enterprise, not only to carry on my family’s work, but because I believe the beef industry is a great industry to be involved in. I think the future of our industry is very exciting.

It can be all too easy to question why we do what we do in times of flood, drought, and situations like the Live Export Ban. These times make what we do challenging but more often than not lead to innovations and a renewed passion for what we do!

I have found the successes and opportunities far outweigh the negatives and help make the industry what it is.

My current goal is to finish my Agribusiness degree at the University of Queensland, Gatton.

One Last Thing…

Remember when you go shopping to look at the labelling to check where your food comes from. Will your purchase be helping an Australian farmer or sending money overseas?

In addition, when you are thinking about what you are going to when you leave school don’t forget about agriculture. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from! You just have to get amongst it and have a go; There are endless opportunities in agriculture for young people like you and me to get involved! Wouldn’t you like a backyard like mine?

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Follow Hayley on twitter @HayleyPiggott1

Meet Lauren Crothers proud to help produce your woolly jumpers

Another inspiring young Australian chooses to produce food and fibre for the world.

My name is Lauren Crothers and I am crazy about sheep. I even know how to shear them

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I bet if you knew just how impressive our wool industry is you would be just as proud of Australia’s sheep as I am

Australia supplies almost 90% of the wool used in the global apparel market and produces more than a quarter of the world’s wool. Approximately 24% of wool produced belongs to cross-bred sheep with the other 76% belonging to merinos. Australian merino wool is especially suited to apparel end-use due to it fine texture and clean, white appearance. Check out what our clever Australian designers do with our magnificent wool here

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“It’s an important initiative to remind us of the wonders of wool. The natural fibre that looks beautiful, feels beautiful, that breathes and cools, that flexes with our bodies, heats and insulates and is environmentally sound.” – Governor General, Quentin Bryce

There are around 55,000 woolgrowers spread right across Australia, who pay wool levies and as you can see I’m very proud to be one of them!

Me & Dad

Lauren and her dad in the shearing shed

I grew up on the family property at Dirranbandi located in South West Queensland. “Booligar” is a mixed farming and grazing property, however in recent years the business has been leaning more towards the farming side. The property is 24 000 acres and when I was younger consisted of commercial self-replacing merinos, breeding cattle, irrigated cotton and wheat. When Dad and my Uncle decided that it was more economical to grow irrigated cotton, the sheep side of the business was let go, much to my disappointment.

Farm Photo

This however didn’t stop me; I was constantly visiting my Uncle and Aunt’s property at Tara where I could always be found following a mob of sheep or helping in the yards. Shearing time was my favourite, where the smell of lanolin drifted around the shed and embedded into my clothes. This is where I believe my love for the sheep and wool industry started.

At the age of twelve I was trucked off to boarding school on the Gold Coast, whereby I learnt numerous skills, however it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I would much rather be doing physical work than sitting at a table with pad and pen. It was much like the old saying, ‘You can take the girl out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the girl’. Agriculture wasn’t taught as a subject which I expected and consequently I undertook a Certificate II in Agriculture in Years 11 and 12. Although I didn’t enjoy school I made the most of my opportunities and consequently I was awarded the position of School Sports Captain in my final year.

 

Lauren Crothers Photo

At the end of Year 12 I decided to take a working gap year as a jillaroo. I managed to get a position on a commercial sheep station 150kms North West of Warren. Working alongside the manager and another jillaroo on a 35,000 acre property running 7000 merino breeding ewes was certainly an experience. After around five weeks the other jillaroo left, leaving an enormous amount of responsibility on the shoulders of my then 17 year old body, but I loved every minute of it.

Throughout the 13 months that I was there, I worked alongside a second jillaroo for approximately 9 weeks. The rest of the time it was just me and the boss! It became apparent that it was increasingly difficult to find young people interested in the sheep and wool industry. One particular day I was working beside my boss in the workshop when I posed the question, ‘Why don’t young people want to get involved with wool or sheep anymore? Why would they rather cattle or cropping?’ He didn’t have any answer to it, probably because he is so passionate about the industry!

At times it was lonely, tiresome and very physical, but I absolutely loved it! It taught me a number of key things including responsibility, independence and an enormous amount about sheep and wool. I entered sheep judging competitions and I was constantly asking questions so that I could gain more knowledge. At school I was never a morning person, however when my alarm sounded (usually while it was still dark) I was eager to get up knowing that I would learn something new every day and do something that I am passionate about.

Throughout my time working on “Womboin Station” I decided that I would go to Uni and study a Bachelor of Agribusiness at the University of Queensland. Although I was hesitant I knew that it would be best to acquire business knowledge if I wanted to run my own business. It was also at this stage that I decided to go into partnership with my twin sister and another good mate. We purchased a mob of sheep and they are currently lambing. I learnt how to shear (I managed to shear 50 for the 2 days – but couldn’t walk properly for 2 weeks after!) And we are aiming to increase our mob and produce high quality merino wool as well as breeding with merino rams.

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Lauren and click go the shears

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The fruits of the labour

Although I’m studying full-time, managing sheep and have a weekend job I still maintain involvement in the Agriculture Industry. I applied for a Horizon Scholarship,which I was honoured to receive. With this I aim to attend as many field days and conferences as possible along with gaining a wealth of knowledge from industry leaders. I also hope that my story is able to inspire the younger generation to become involved in the agriculture industry and in particular the sheep and wool industry.

Every family needs a farmer. No matter who you are, your gender, your background or where you live you can become involved in this amazing industry. There are a number of corporations that are committed to fostering opportunities for helping people into this industry. The key to getting people involved is in education.  One  program which I aim to be involved in is the Jackie Howe Festival of the Golden Shearsbeing held at Jondaryan Woolshed. The festival will let people experience the lives of pioneers and a chance to live and breathe life as an Aussie and understand what it is that made our culture and grew our spirit as a nation.

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I know that without a doubt my future lies within the agricultural industry and I hope that by sharing my journey with you I can inspire others to travel in my footsteps.

Woolly Jumpers

Thanks Lauren Art4agriculture is indeed looking forward to you joining us as an Australian Wool Innovation Young Farming Champion

I have been everywhere man

Continuing our feature on Inspiring Young People in the Agrifood Sector. This is a guest post by Steph Fowler who has just started a PhD in Meat and Livestock Science,

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There are everywhere man!!! All these inspiring young Australians choosing agriculture as a career of first choice and why wouldn’t they ? Hassad are investing in OZ agriculture for all these reason We should be proud of our Aussie Farmers they have a great reputation world wide

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The Steph Fowler story………..

Farming isn’t in my blood; it’s barely even in my family. I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a small coastal suburb, Green Point, as far away from the country as you could get. Believe it or not I have just started my PhD in Meat and Livestock Science, with a project that is looking at the potential of Raman Spectroscopy in predicting meat quality (translation – I measure meat with lasers). I eat and breathe meat and livestock but it hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would end up joining an incredibly rewarding, innovative and exciting industry that would take me across the country and around the world.

New Zealand Drafting

It wasn’t until high school when I decided to study agriculture because I liked animals that I got involved. After a very successful first cattle show, I was hooked and became a fully-fledged member of the school cattle team and spent the remainder of my high school years breeding, preparing and showing stud Limousins.

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Once I left high school I headed up to Tocal Ag College, in search of more practical skills and completed a Cert III in Horse Husbandry and a Cert IV in Ag. Part of these courses included work experience on properties. You can just imagine I readily jumped at the opportunity to go to New Zealand and work as a general shepherd before heading up to work for Northern Australian Pastoral Company on Connemara Station in Queensland. I loved the life of a jillaroo so much that after finishing at Tocal, I readily agreed to stay on with NAPCO heading out to the Barkley Tablelands in the Northern Territory to be a jillaroo, on Soudan Station.

Drafting at Soudan

After my jillaroo career finally ended after I smashed my left foot in a motorbike accident in September 2007, I began the next step in my journey by undertaking a Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Western Sydney in 2008.

Moving Sheep NZ

When I started my undergraduate degree, I became involved with the Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) Competition as a competitor and then as the UWS Coach. ICMJ introduced me to meat science and provided me an opportunity to do work experience across the supply chain with Australian Country Choice (ACC) Teys Australia and Cargill Beef Australia. I worked throughout the beef supply chain, in manufacturing, processing, at feedlots and on stations but still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I completed an enterprise study for uni, at a 17 000hd feedlot that realised I wanted to become a scientist in research and development as I got a real kick out of bringing new ideas to the table and having a say in how things could be done.

ICMJ

My involvement in showing also took a new turn when I started uni as I joined the local agriculture society and got heavily involved in the running of the Hawkesbury Show and helped organise junior judging and a junior judging training day for youth of the area. It was this involvement that lead me to be the Hawkesbury Showgirl for 2011. No small feat for a girl now more comfortable in boots then heels!

Hawkesbury Show 2011

After completing my honours in assessing the impact of Hormonal Growth Promotant defects on the productivity of beef feedlot steers, I was torn between doing more research for the feedlots and taking on a new project within meat science. I ended up deciding on meat science, it’s my kind of career because it’s unique. No two days are ever the same.  I spend days out in the paddocks, in the yards, at the feedlots, in the processors, and in the lab. It’s that vital step where paddock meets the plate, where we can make or break the hard work of the farmers. It’s also important (and usually overlooked) to make sure that the meat industries can increase productivity to ensure supply of meat without compromising animal welfare, the environment and all essential meat quality.

There are increasing challenges associated with meat production with cost-price squeezes, environmental challenges, changing policies and labour skills shortages, to name a few, but there are also increasing opportunities as Australia and the world attempt to meet increasing demand for food. Consequently, the direction of agriculture and meat production for the future is changing and I want to be part of it’s new direction.

Food Self Suffiency

Only 5.7% of Australia is suitable for food production yet our farmers feed 60 million plus people. We  are a very lucky country indeed with food in abundance. Well done Aussie Farmers

Cows Create Careers

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

This is the Tom Pearce story ………..

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

Narelle Norm and Tom Pearce photo by Simone Smith Weekly Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the udder side of the fence

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

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

Jessica’s story ………..

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

Nelson Mandela Quote

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

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

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

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

AJK Eve First calf

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

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

Sydney Royal 2012

Sydney Show 2012 and a gorgeous Illawarra Cow

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

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

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

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

Youth Challenge Team

The IDW Youth Challenge Team

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

Sydney Royal 2009

Sydney Show 2009

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

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

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

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

Showgirl with Jane Mcphee

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

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

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

Year of the farmer ambassador

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

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

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

Follow Jess on Twitter @jm458