McLeod’s Daughters telling next gen agriculture needs you

I was recently asked by Stephanie Coombes to answer the question Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture?”

My answer was “I think less people are getting involved because industry is not exposing the next generation of potential agriculture entrants to the enthusiastic inspiring young professionals in our food and fibre industries who are living the dream and have the capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry and a great career opportunity”

Now whilst industry may not be getting out there and telling its story the media is. Sometimes the outcomes are positive and too often they are very damaging. However there have been some very successful vehicles such as McLeod’s Daughters that captured the imagination and heart strings of many young girls particularly young girls who love horses and attracted them to agriculture career pathways.

What’s exciting about these young people is they inject new ideas, promote change and generate innovation. Today we providing you with a perfect example of this, Stephanie Coombes doesn’t just want a career in agriculture she wants to start an domino effect and inspire other young people to join her. To kick start this she has developed a “Careers in Australian Agriculture” website www.ausagcareers.com

This is Stephanie Coombes story …….

Ten years ago, if anyone had told me I would be working in the agricultural industry when I was older, I probably would have answered- “You think I’m going to be a farmer?”

Born and raised in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, agriculture wasn’t something I was connected to growing up. I had always had a love of animals, especially horses, but that was as far as it went. Furthermore, I didn’t really know anything about agriculture except the anecdotal stories of farmers on tractors out in the paddock, and shearers shearing sheep

Some years later, I still have trouble explaining to people why this city girl chose an agricultural science degree. I think I thought I would end up working on a farm like “McLeod’s Daughters” (try not to roll your eyes!). I loved that television show growing up, and I would have to say it is what definitely sparked my interest in agriculture.

Stephanie McLeod… could I be another illegitimate daughter?Mum, is there something you aren’t telling me?

Going into the Agricultural Science degree, I actually had no idea what I was getting myself in to… as in NO idea! The reason as to why I chose that degree, and why I remained enrolled in it, are very different. Once I got into my degree, I discovered this whole other world, and I haven’t turned back since. I thought I was going to work on a farm as a labourer, like in McLeods Daughters, but at uni I learnt about the science, business and technology which underpins agriculture. There is just so many facets to this industry I often got overwhelmed thinking about them all, and what I wanted to do when I finished.

Initially I became really interested in soil science, and by my second year I was hooked, and odd as that sounds. I was a bit nerdy sometimes, because this was all new to me, I found it so interesting and I just wanted to learn it all. However, in the winter holidays of my second year I went out mustering to a cattle station in for their annual 6 week muster. It was then and there that I decided that beef cattle production was the area I wanted to pursue. However when I got back to university and took another class; pasture science, cropping system, grain marketing etc., I could easily imagine myself having a career in any of these industries. My interest in cattle remained strong, and that’s how I got to where I am today.

 The first yard up of the season at Wongawol Station, 2008

Fast forward a couple of years, and I have graduated with first class honours, and I’m currently editing my thesis so it can be published in a scientific journal. I completed my thesis in the field of meat science. Yes, the science behind steak! I didn’t even know it existed until my 3rd year of university! Gosh, the amount of work that goes into producing and developing each and every one of the commodities and products available at the local supermarket is astounding. Meat science was something I had only had one lecture on before I chose it as the field of my thesis. The lecture wasn’t from my university either, my lecturer had invited a guest from another university to speak, and I am so grateful that she did! Completing my own research was an awesome experience, but to also be researching something I was genuinely interested in and passionate about… I know how I lucky I was.

Taking muscle samples from beef carcasses in 2011 for my thesis

This certainly is not where I thought I would be when I was saying “when I grow up…” as a child, and needless to say my family are still somewhat confused as to how this city girl became mad about beef cattle! The things I have learnt and experienced throughout my degree, not to mention the places I have been and they people I have met, make me feel very lucky. I have been able to go to work/ university/ tafe each day and do something that I enjoy, and be a part of something that actually interests me. I love what I do, and I often joke that my some of my jobs are a “working holiday” because I enjoy them so much. Don’t worry though, there are days when I would rather stay in bed, but for the most part, I love what I do.

In 2010 I took a semester off uni and moved to Katherine, NT, to complete a Certificate II in Agriculture. I had spent 3 years building a solid foundation of knowledge based upon theory, and had done two mustering seasons, but I wanted to develop my practical skills and have them recognised with the certificate. Going to college was one of the best things I have ever done. It was not only an incredible experience to live away from home, and learn about beef production in a new environment, but I met my best friends through the course. It was also a really safe learning environment, as in we could all have a go at learning and not feel silly or embarrassed if we didn’t get it right. I was lucky to do the course with a really good group of kids, and as there was only about 12 of us, we were a tight knit bunch.

Some of the KRC class of 2010 having a happy snap in the workshop during out mechanics class.

We learnt a range of skills at college, from welding, mechanics and tractor operation, to branding, castrating and mustering cattle. The best experience for me though, was being able to work with show cattle, and take them to a rural show on display. I had only ever worked with commercial cattle before, and they aren’t the type that liked to be patted! Show cattle, are completely different, because you can lead them around like a horse. We not only led the show cattle, we brushed and bathed them, and played with them. I really got the chance to learn about the cows up close and personal, and fell in love with the Brahman breed, even though I was showing a bull who was not too fond of me!

Rambo and I having a stand off. I had Chris as my protection, but maybe he would have been better placed between Rambo and I!!

Luckily Star was much more of the cuddly type!

In the second half of 2010 I then moved to Gatton, Qld to do a semester of classes through the University of Queensland. UQ had really different classes to my uni at home, and they were way better too! I took specialised classes in animal biosecurity, animal health and diseases, and animal biometeorology, which is about how animals interact with the weather. I also took a grain marketing class, as I mentioned above, I still had interests in other areas of ag. Animal biometeorology was by far my favourite class. Again, I suspect my inner nerd is to blame, but I loved all of the practical classes, and doing research for my assignments. Living on campus was a great experience too, it’s how I met the rest of my best friends! The people were great, and no one cared that I was from the city!

Dressing up as a cowgirl for a “Cowboys and Indians” themed party on campus. Even several years later, I was still trying to play the role of a cowgirl!

Everywhere I have been I have learnt something different about the industry, and learnt how interconnected it is with the way our society functions on a day to day basis. I am continuously surprised by how innovative and technological the industry is, and what role Australia plays in feeding the world.

Now that I have finished university, I have two career goals. 1) To work in the live export industry, in animal welfare, training, education and supply chain management and 2) To be an active advocate for agriculture, to do my part to reduce the urban/ rural divide, and run a campaign to expose people with no agricultural background to the industry and the opportunities it offer. The latter is what led me to create my website Careers In Australian Agriculture

My advice to anyone thinking about getting into agriculture is… do it! We need you! The world needs to feed 50% more people by 2050, and as Australia is one of the most efficient food and fibre producers in the world, we will play a fundamental role in that. People need to eat, and Australia has the ability to feed the world in a clean, green and ethical way. No matter what experience you have, or what your strengths are, there is a role for you in the industry. The agricultural industry offers careers from the boardroom to the bush, so no matter whether you are more comfortable behind a motorbike or a microscope, there is a role for you!

Wow Stephanie cant wait to see where you be and what you have achieved in ten years time. I am highly confident you wont be standing still

Stephanie now has her own blog you can follow her journey here

Meet Sammi Townsend inspiring young people to join her as wool rural ambassador

MeetToday we feature Samantha Townsend in our series about excting young people who are taking up careers in agriculture

When you meet Samantha Townsend from Central Western New South Wales, you get the feeling that the future of Agriculture in Australia remains in safe hands.

Sammi has made her presence felt through her passion for a future within Agriculture, and her mastery of the social media network. This is where so many have been acquainted with Sam’s dream, to win a scholarship to the CSU, through the Ultimate Experience Competition.

Despite not winning the scholarship, Sammi will be fulfilling her dream, to pursue a career in Agricultural Science, at CSU Orange.  (see Footnote)

This is her story…

My name is Samantha Townsend. I have not long turned 18 years of age and have just finished Year 12 at Blayney High School.

I live in a small village on a hobby farm, in Lyndhurst, Central West NSW. It is only a small village of approximately 300 people with a small post-office and a hotel.

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Royal Hotel at Lyndhurst

Our big claim to fame though is nearly being chosen as the site for the capital city of Australia before they picked Canberra! I for one am glad they picked the current site of Canberra… I love waking up to the view of the green rolling hills of our area!

My family lived for many years on my grandmother’s property just of Blayney.We had sheep, cattle, Boer goats and also horses, and that was enough to kick start the passion I have for agriculture! My Nan and Mother were determined I was going to love horses and I was placed on them from a very early age! I used to help show my Nan’s miniature horses at the local shows and gymkhanas.

Samantha Townsend

My grandmother was a real ‘bushie’ as she called herself. She was born in Condobolin but grew up around the Trangie area as a youth. My Pop often said she could work harder than most men he knew when it came to working around the farm and she was a renowned horsewoman in our area! My Nan passed away in 2007, but she certainly left her legacy with me as far as igniting the love of the land I have.

My Pop was also a big influence. Growing up as a young child I used to love visiting his property near Tomingly, NSW. Pop ran sheep and I used to love to go up there and help him at shearing time, when Mum would go up and do the cooking at shearing time. Unfortunately Pop suffered the fate a lot of farmers do and his back got too bad to continue the work he was doing. He retired up on the mid-north coast years ago, but inland Australia has called him back, and he’ll soon be returning to live near us permanently (albeit, not farming however).

The local area I live in is predominantly mixed farming with sheep, cattle and grazing enterprises. I have always been keen to help out around the place and when you’re a local, there is always plenty of rouseabouting, or general farm work that you get offered.I love to help out with own small flock of sheep and am often ‘mother’ to the poddy lambs that get sent our way!

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A Young Sammi with pet sheep

I am about to enter University this year, heading off to Charles Sturt University in Orange, to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management.

In our HSC year there were only three of us sitting the HSC for agriculture. I find it incredulous that in a wonderful rural area such as ours, that the course is not attracting more students. The wages of the mine in our area look very attractive to many younger people (and older ones too), but it is more than that. We need to encourage people into the agricultural industry and help them realise it is not only a viable career, it is a wonderful lifestyle as well!

I truly value our rural community. We do live in an area where we are not shut off to each other and people genuinely care! One of my best friends from school was diagnosed last year with a horrible disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The whole community has been wonderful with fundraising and helping the family. I know total strangers who have helped that have not even known my friend. This is what living in a rural community is about.

My little brother attends Lyndhurst Public School, which had about 31 children last year. My little brother who is 11 has Aspergers, ADHD, Dyspraxia and Anxiety. This little village school has given him such a sense of self-esteem and has helped him grow and learn to cope with his disabilities. He hasn’t been a number, he has been a valued school member. My family and I try to do a lot for the school through P&C fundraising etc. We know how lucky we are to have such a little school with such dedicated staff not only for my brother, but also for our community, and it’s important to do everything to ensure it continues to be here for future children! Where else but small country schools do you get to experience things such as planting vegetables and then eating your produce or playing football in the school oval and incorporating rules that involve ducking from the diving plovers! I love that pets like chickens and rabbits can be brought to school for news or the family dog ends up in the playground looking for its owners.

I was honoured in October of last year, to be made Miss Carcoar Showgirl and am heading off to the next level at February.

Our wonderful little show attracts people far and wide for the many horse events and the shearing competition.

It is truly a traditional little country show that attracts people young and old alike. I love walking through the art and craft where items such as beautifully handmade patchwork quilts hang adorned on the walls, or seeing little children’s noses pressed against the glass of the windows at the scrumptious looking cakes from the cooking section.

Quilt

Where else but a country show would you have a draught horse pull more than the weights that were available, so people had to volunteer to come and sit on the loads (and be honest about their weight) so the competition could keep going! It is a day of laughter, chatter, and again, that wonderful rural spirit.

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People get to glimpse a snippet of this at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, but we are privy to it all the time, and I rejoice in the sense of community that it is all about.

I also am part of the Lyndhurst Rural Fire Service. We meet and have training days and it turns out to be a social outing for everyone as well. Again as part of the community, we are there if others need us.

What I am trying to explain is, although I am not from a huge farm or station, you don’t have to be to have the passion for what rural communities offer. To keep rural communities going – agriculture plays a big part in that! We need to keep young people interested and passionate about careers in agriculture and a rural lifestyle so we can keep   little communities like mine alive for future generations to experience and love.

I hope by going to University and staying in a rural area, I can learn the necessary skills and help to produce positive outcomes not only for farmers and agricultural industries, but also the rural communities like mine.

My experience isn’t vast or magnificent, but by sharing my hopes and visions, I hope that I might connect with another young person and perhaps ignite that little spark of passion that exists inside and encourage them to venture into agriculture too. They would be helping not only the future of rural communities, but Australia’s future as well, after all it is farmers that feed the world!

Personally, I am excited to know that I am going to be part of Australia’s agricultural future!

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” Joel Barker.

Sammi blogs about her Uni journey here http://experience.csu.edu.au/author/sammilee93/

Visit her Youth in Agtion Website here  http://www.youthinagtionaustralia.com/

Follow Sammi on twitter @SammileeTTT

 

Agriculture can take you anywhere you chose

Recently Victoria Taylor asked in the Flourish Files AgScience and the Shrinking Work Force  “Why can’t we retain students in Agricultural Science courses?” Victoria suggested that one of the reasons was the lack of clarity about the highly diverse careers in agriculture and if a student decides at the end of first year that they don’t want to be an agronomist or farmer anymore, how do we let them know there are a number of other career options open to Agriculture Science graduates?

Art4agriculuture have taken up this challenge and will be posting a number of blogs written by exciting young people who have completed agriculture degrees and now work in the agrifood sector or are doing exciting things whilst completing their agriculture related degree

We recently featured Melissa Henry – Life in a country town and today we hear Hollie Baillieu’s story

This blog post has been adapted from the presentation Hollie gave at the Careers Advisors Conference in Liverpool, Sydney in November 2011.

Where can an agricultural degree take you?  by Hollie Baillieu

The answer is – anywhere you chose!

I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have a strong future in agriculture.

I think that most people have the perception of agriculture as being a male dominated industry. To put it simply, the Agricultural sector wants females, they are encouraging us and they are employing us and more and more I see no hesitation when a woman enters a room looking for a job in agriculture.

This is my story.

I am currently working in Sydney for the Australian Year of the Farmer, I am the Chair person of the NSW Young Farmer Council, I am an ambassador for Agrifood Skills Australia and I am a Young Farming Champion for the Art4Agriculture school programs.

I grew up on a small property in Exeter, in the Southern Highlands only a couple of hours south of Sydney. Here we had cattle, sheep, goats and for a time – meat rabbits. I have always been surrounded by dogs, horses, ducks and geese, chickens, and more often than not I would have a lamb or kid close on my heels thinking I was its mum.

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I went on to study Agriculture at high school by correspondence as one of my subjects for the HSC which gave me just a taste for what was to come.

After school I took a year off from study so after travelling to India, the UK and parts of America I started the season in the Northern Territory on a cattle station called Newcastle Waters.

The station is 3.5 million acres, holding 50,000 commercial cattle and 5000 stud cattle. Newcastle Waters was special to me because my grandfather had once owned it. The fact that I was there, where my grandfather had been meant a lot to me, however it didn’t really help me adjust to the work ahead.

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Dare I say it but most of the men had more ego than brain. This gave me a challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing, I wasn’t rough and blokey, I was tentative, shy, and most of the time I was just nervous I was going to mess it up.

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During the day we were on horse back mustering the cattle from their paddocks to the yards. This was a full days ride and at the start of the season we were up at 3.30am, in the saddle by daylight and walking the cattle in until 10 or 11pm at night.

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It was blistering hot, my lips doubled in size and my hands peeled from sunburn. We were tired, thirsty and so too were the cattle. The next day would be a day in the yards, sorting, culling, weaning and pregnancy testing. Another long dusty dry day and then we would turn around and do it all again the next day.

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I don’t think words could explain exactly what it was like. As I said it was a challenge. I had one thing on my side in that I could ride. There were some jackaroos who had never ridden a horse and I’ll tell you they learnt pretty quickly.

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In this environment particularly, a purely physical environment, as a girl you have to prove yourself. A couple of months in I was gradually doing that. At one point I was the only girl in a camp of 10 guys; once again it was a challenge. But I persisted, there was no way I was quitting and by the end of the year, I had gained lifelong friends and I didn’t want to leave.

However it was time to move on and I started a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Sydney University and later transferred to the same course in Wagga. Hollie 4 Blog 0007

When I started uni I gave myself choices. I also signed up for the Army Reserve. I knew I loved agriculture but I didn’t know where I could really go with it and I had always been interested in the Army so I thought if I do this and if one doesn’t work out, I have options.

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I loved being involved in the reserves and I always felt proud when I put my uniform on, but in the end Agriculture has taken me on and it’s consumed my life really. I think that there are a lot of links between the sort of people that are in the army and those in agriculture. In fact during the interview process they loved that I had a rural background. They mentioned it couple of times that country people can often do very well in the army. Apparently it’s the practical nature and easy going personality that really works in the army.

My involvement in the wider agriculture industry really began when I signed up to the NSW Young Farmers Council late in 2009.

It started with just a phone call to see how I could be more involved in the NSW Farmers Association and from that I went along to the leadership forum. It was fantastic and in 3 months I became the vice chair and in March this year I was voted in as the Chair of the Young Farmer Council. It all happened very quickly and I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am and I would not have had the opportunities that I have had if it wasn’t for the NSW Farmers Association and our Young Farmer Council.

Which university?

You have those people who are perhaps more practically minded and hands on and those that are more management focused and perhaps corporate based. The great thing is that the agriculture industry can incorporate all of these people

We need practical people who want to be hands and the vocational educational training (VET) courses through TAFE are a fantastic system and can work very well. A few of my friends at university did VET courses while still at school and universities are recognising these qualifications and giving credit points towards a degree.

And the second group of students are those that are more corporate and management focused or just more suited to a university degree.

My experience tells me it is imperative that the correct educational institution is matched to the student. I fell into the trap of choosing a degree at a university that all my friends were going to. I didn’t look into what suited me and hence why I didn’t stay there very long.

When I started my agriculture degree off at Sydney University I did this for a number of reasons. It had the highest UAI acceptance, it had the best name, it was exciting and all my friends were there. I didn’t even look into other uni’s because I had made up my mind Sydney was the uni for me.

Sadly it didn’t work out for me. What I found was that Sydney unis course focused heavily on research. If I was into laboratory work and research I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It had an extremely high level of expectation and achievement and produces phenomenal graduates. What it lacks is the practical component that I love so much. The first year and some of the second I believe – we are put in classes with the med students and vet students. Us aggies didn’t get UAI’s of 99 so the standard was incredible and for me I wasn’t dedicated enough to really push myself and go through with it. And sadly there many who felt the same.

So I transferred to Charles Sturt Uni (CSU) in Wagga and I haven’t looked back since. At Sydney we wouldn’t have done the practical stuff until 4th year but in Wagga we were living within a working property so we were constantly surrounded by it, we lived and breathed it and loved it.

At CSU, they know every individual – you are not a number, you are a person. The courses are so relevant and the lecturers are so in tune with what the students want from the course

CSU have just started a really interesting element to the agriculture degree. It is now a four year course but in that 4thyear – half the year you are actually employed by an agribusiness. So you are out in the work force experiencing what its like. Which I think is really good especially if you don’t know what area you want to go into – its not so good for those people who do know where they want to be but it will be interesting to hear from the group for 2012 how it is and what they got out of it.

The other uni’s on the east coast are UNE in Armidale, Gatton in QLD and Marcus Oldham in Victoria. I have had friends at each of these with both UNE and Gatton and they say similar things to what it is like at CSU. The courses are called slightly different things but basically very similar and hands on. Marcus Oldham is a little different because it is a private university. It’s quite expensive but the courses tend to be shorter and they are jam packed rather than being so spread out like the other uni’s often do.

One thing that I have learnt over the past few years is the importance of being involved in the industry before you enter it. So at university get holiday work and jobs that fit your industry. Over the years I have worked in many areas of agriculture including an alpaca stud, a vineyard, cattle stud, a dairy and the cotton industry

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You must have an interest and want to get involved in it or when you start your first job – you are behind the eight ball.

I have found that my involvement with NSW Young Farmers Council has helped with my knowledge of the industry, I am more knowledgeable about the issues that are important to farmers in all primary industries and I have a broader understanding of agriculture and its politics in general. I used to get so frustrated at people in my own course who had no solid opinion about the live export ordeal or what was happening with grains, international trade, the price wars, competing against countries that have large subsidies – I could go on. It frustrated me because they had no interest and this was the industry they were entering into. It is so important to know your industry, to soak up all the info out there and grasp a really strong handle on what is happening and get involved.

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The way I see it we need to get a broader understanding of agriculture and how it’s related to our every day lives. I love hearing of people who combined degrees. Engineering with agriculture. Architecture with Agriculture. Agriculture with economics. All those people to feed and clothe and house. Innovation and technology – nano, GPS, VRT, GM. I could go on all day saying how I love this industry and how passionate I am – its not just some crazy whim – there is such huge potential, it is incredible and I love it.

Farmers call to arms

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

Top ten most trusted professions in 2011

1. Paramedics

2. Firefighters

3. Pilots

4. Rescue volunteers

5. Nurses

6. Pharmacists

7. Farmers

8. Medical specialists

9. GPs

10. Veterinarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

AYOF dinner

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

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

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What do you have planned?

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

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

CALL TO ARMS

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

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

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

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

1. Summary of your family and farming enterprise

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

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

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

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

Nick Strong

2. Why I farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. What is my vision for the future?

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

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

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

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

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

Billboard – across Sydney Harbour Bridge

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

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You can visit us at the following websites:

Clover Hill Dairies www.cloverhilldairies.com.au

Art4agriculture www.art4agriculture.com.au

Read our blogs at:

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

Art4agriculturechat https://art4agriculturechat.wordpress.com

Follow us on twitter:

@chdairies and @art4ag

Follow us on Facebook:

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

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

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

Australian Year of the Farmer Roadshow puts the pedal to the metal

Exciting times:

Nine Roadshow units including a custom built Pantech for the Royal Shows and 8 4WD and a purpose built trailer are travelling to the majority of Royal Shows and local agricultural shows, agricultural field days, major cultural festivals and sporting event around Australia, throughout 2012 as part of the Australian Year of the Farmer showcase

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The AYOF National Roadshow will be a celebration of Australian farmers and produce. It will entertain and educate all Australians – metropolitan, rural and regional; delivering key messages supporting the Year’s objectives and tagline, “Our Farmers. Our Future.”

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The Roadshow exhibits will be attended by some of the AYOF Ambassadors, industry leaders, celebrities and local identities who will “meet and greet”, interacting with the general public about the Year of the Farmer.

These Roadshow units will be exhibited at 250 plus events including the V8 Supercars, travelling a combined distance of over 56,000 kilometres, within twelve months.

Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion Stephanie Tarlinton featured here

has signed on for the Roadshow team and is having the time of her life

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A feature of the Roadshow is the opportunity for kids to paint cow shaped money boxes Here is Stephanie overseeing some young Picassos

This is the Roadshow itinerary for February. Shout it from the rooftops if it is coming to a town near year. Introduce yourself to Stephanie and the team and maybe even paint a cow moneybox

Victoria:

9-10 February 2012 Hamilton Beef Expo
11 February 2012 Tyrendarra Show
15 -17/02/2012 Sungold Field Days, Allansford
24-25 February 2012 Rochester Show
25-26 February 2012 Berwick & District Show

South Australia

11th February 2012 Taste the Limestone Coast
18th February 2012 Uraidla and Summertown Show
25-26 February 2012 Angaston Show

NEW SOUTH WALES

10-11 February 2012 Nowra Show
11-12 February 2012 Crookwell Show
17-19 February 2012 Maitland & Hunter River Show
17-18 February 2012 Guyra Show
23-25 February 2012 Inverell Show
25 February 2012 Rylstone-Kandos Show

QUEENSLAND

3-4 February 2012 Stanthorpe Show
10-11 February 2012 Allora Show
10-12 February 2012 Glen Innes Show
17-19 February 2012 Clifton Show
24-25 February 2012 Killarney Show
25th February 2012 Cooyar Show

ROYAL UNIT

17-19 February 2012 Seymour Alternative Farming Expo
24-26 February 2012 Canberra Royal Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lambs

Flopsey and her twin lambs

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

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Boorowa’s main street – proud of its wool products

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

Running of the Sheep

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

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

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

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

and access her PowerPoint Presentation Baa Baa Black Sheep here

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

and their excellent  video entry for Archibull Prize

Wool Can do amazing things

and their prize winning PowerPoint presentation

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

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

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

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

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

10 January 2012

AgSci and the Shrinking Workforce – by Victoria Taylor

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are some Agricultural Science degrees still four years long?

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

Why are so many Agricultural Science degrees inflexible?

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

What is the link between AgSci and Farming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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