2019 Kreative Koalas Design a Bright Future Challenge Winners announced

Medowie Christian School and Raymond Terrace Public School have been named Grand Champion Koalas in the 2019 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future Challenge. Kreative Koalas is a ground-breaking project-based learning initiative from Picture You in Agriculture, which this year delivered the sustainability message and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into fifteen primary schools from the Hunter Valley and Penrith Regions.

Young people may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. Through Kreative Koalas we are giving them a voice in designing and creating that future. This year students have investigated local issues and worked with the community to give a voice to our Koalas and threatened species, our waterways and our farmers. The students have said ‘Together we can’

Medowie Christian School was awarded the Grand Champion Community Project for Change after collaboration with Hunter Local Land Services to raise the importance of healthy waterways for clean water and sanitation. The students developed six easy-to-follow methods for protecting waterways and made these into a pamphlet, which was distributed to the school community. The students also visited their local Gramhamstown Dam to examine the health of the water through temperature, turbidity, salinity and pH testing and presented their findings at a school assembly. Learn more about the winning project here 

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Students from Medowie Christian School with Chair of Hunter Local Land Services Lindy Hyam ( right) and teacher Martha Atkins ( left)

Raymond Terrace Public School was awarded Grand Champion Koala for their vibrantly decorated, life-sized fibreglass koala named Mitjigan Guula, which means girl koala in Worimi language. In collaboration with their Aboriginal Girl’s Group they incorporated indigenous designs on their artwork to look at the effects of climate change on koala populations. And, in what has unfortunately proved to be timely, the koala portrays how inaction on climate change can lead to devastating bushfires.

Students from Raymond Terrace Public School with Costa Georgiadis

In other awards Penrith schools Ropes Crossing Public School and Colyton Public School  were recognised for their artwork and community project for change respectively.

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Four students were acknowledged as eco-warriors. These students were Zoe Bonifacio from Colyton Public School, Keeley Haywood from James Erskine Public School,Tayla Weeks from Medowie Christian School and Josie Hodges from Gresford Public School.

All schools received their awards at a ceremony held at Tocal Agricultural College on Thursday November 28, attended by sponsors and supporters and emceed by celebrity gardener Costa Georgiadis.

Photos from the awards day can be found here and a big shout out to our supporting partners empowering young people to solve tomorrows problems today

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Anika Molesworth a case study in expertise – Young women in agriculture finding innovative ways to connect from the heart.

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Continuing our Lessons Learnt series

The vision of Picture You in Agriculture is to inspire pride in Australia’s agricultural industries and to empower youth voices to do this. Through Young Farming Champions, the Youth Voices Leadership Team,  The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas this vision is being realised. The next step is to take key messages beyond traditional agricultural and educational circles and in this Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth is leading the charge.

Business newspaper the Australian Financial Review, conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund, French cosmetic producer Klorane, high fashion celebrity magazine InStyle and food-focussed event Global Table may, at first glance, have nothing in common. They are not traditional agricultural avenues, but Anika is using all of them to champion her message of climate change.

“I’ve recently had opportunities to share my story and the work happing in Australian agriculture with urban-based audiences,” Anika says. “I describe to them the incredible landscapes, the innovative people and opportunities we find by overcoming adversities. And I love it when I see their eyes light-up, their jaws-drop, and their hands-raise to ask questions. It’s not hard to get people excited about food and farming – because this sector is steaming ahead in problem-solving, creative-thinking and community spirit.”

In 2018 YFC Jo Newton was named in the AFR 100 Women of Influence list and this year it is Anika’s turn to shine, making the list for her career in science communication and for promoting rural resilience in the face of climate change. Anika’s profile has also been enhanced by being named a governor with WWF-Australia.  According to the WWF website governors  are appointed because of their commitment to WWF’s mission, their standing in the community and their ability to contribute to our success.

“World Wildlife Fund invited me to become a governor as they have a substantial interest in promoting sustainable agriculture, as well as land stewardship and climate action, amongst many other things,” Anika says.

When cosmetics company Klorane went in search of women making change in biodiversity and sustainability they, too, arrived at Anika’s door.

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“Our #KloraneChangemakers echo what we here at Klorane think: that the environment is something we should protect, not take away from,” the company says on its website. “Through protecting, exploring and sharing knowledge, our #KloraneChangemakers are doing their part to make sure our planet will be healthy for years to come.” Joining Anika as change-makers are Sydney apiarist Vicky Brown and owner of ethical furniture company Koskela, Sasha Titchkosky.

While the AFR, WWF and Klorane accomplishments are all recognition of Anika’s hard work, talent and determination, it was at the recent Global Table event in Melbourne where Anika truly shone. “I was moderating a panel on Disrupting Climate Change, and then got to have a one-on-one conversation with [68th US Secretary of State] John Kerry,” she says. “I told him my story – who I was and what was important to me. He sat back in his chair and said ‘Wow! You have to get your story out there. It is so important that you share this’.

Anika John Kerry

And Anika is doing just that – sharing her story beyond agriculture, getting her message out there. “There are so many exciting things happening in ag. We are using drones to monitor crop health. We are raising ruminants that produce less methane through feed improvements. We are growing crops that are more heat and drought tolerant. We are drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and into soils vegetation. We are building a native food and botanicals industry that celebrants the unique flora we find in this country. But the problem is, a lot of this is happening a long way from the majority of the population, and so many people don’t hear of these amazing goings-on,” she says. “For Australians to really celebrate the incredible work of the agricultural sector we’ve got to take our story out of ag, and to the people.”

Anika will continue to take her story beyond agriculture this year as she prepares to travel to Antarctica with Homeward Bound.

You can join us in supporting Anika to travel to the Antarctica by donating to her crowdfunding campaign here

You can join us in supporting Anika to travel to the Antarctica by donating to her crowdfunding campaign here

 

Lessons Learnt – When you put your hand up to “have a go”, roll your sleeeves up, take some risks, you’ll wake up one day and realise you’re living your dream job

“HAVING A GO” LEADS TO POSITION OF GENERAL MANAGER

In recent weeks in our Lessons Learnt series we have heard from Kate McBride and Ben Barlow who both sit on the board of the Western Division of Local Land Services. Staying in that space we now chat to their general manager Erlina Compton, who, at 38, decided to “have a go” and take on the position in an acting role. That, in turn, led to a permanent position and her trajectory, according to Ben, as one of the best leaders he has met.

Meet Erlina Compton

If a job advertisement for General Manager of the Western Division of Local Land Services was written it would probably ask for someone with a passion for the people and places of western NSW; and for someone with a strong background in landholder liaison, strategic planning and environmental commitment. It would probably ask specifically for Erlina Compton.

Erlina grew up around Narrabri in northern NSW, worked with Landcare in Victoria, completed a PhD looking at landholders and decision making, and worked with the NSW Catchment Management Authority. “One of my long-term goals was to work in western NSW and when Local Land Services formed I moved across from the CMA and took up a position as Strategic Planning Manager in Dubbo,” she says.

However, her career was soon to take a different turn. “The General Manager resigned after twelve months,” Erlina says, “and, out of the blue, I was asked to act in the role while they recruited a new one. It was supposed to be for eight weeks and I thought ‘I don’t think I can do this but I’ll have a go and do it for this short amount of time’.”

Complicating Erlina’s new appointment was the fact a major organisational re-structure had just been announced but this gave her a unique opportunity to not only help implement it but suggest changes.

“Ben and other board members have been brilliant to work with,” she says. “They are all landholders – practical people quite free from government processes – who provide real-life guidance and support, and so I started working with the staff and the board to figure out where we would go.”

Erlina found she enjoyed the work and when the permanent position was finally advertised, two years later, she had no hesitation in putting up her hand.

In her role as General Manager Erlina has faced the challenges of working with a diverse group of people, with a limited budget over an enormous area. But with the challenges comes the satisfaction of seeing Local Land Services evolve into a successful model bearing fruit for her landholders.

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Western Local Land Services Gilgunnia Cluster Fence open day.

Part of Erlina’s success comes from her relationship with the people she works with.

“Being a good leader is about supporting and growing the people around you,” she says. “It’s about bringing the people, whether it’s your staff or the board or the organisation generally, on the journey.”

Erlina is also inspired by young staff working with her and believes “having a go” is an important trait.

“There are so many young leaders who come forward with fantastic ideas and think about doing things so differently than I would,” she says. “It’s about being brave enough to speak up and share the ideas no matter how different they are.”

From Kate McBride, who joined the LLS board at 18, to Erlina Compton who was General Manager at 38, to Ben Barlow who uses his wealth of experience to nurture and guide, leadership takes many forms, but perhaps the most telling characteristic is the confidence to say yes to challenges and opportunities as they are presented.

 

 

Ben Barlow learning and growing by empowering young people

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Shoutout out to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for the awesome image

As highlighted by the Chair of our youth leadership team, Dr Jo Newton in her opionion piece in the Stock and Land, agriculture has a lot of great immersion workshop leadership training opportunities. The question Picture You in Agriculture is seeking the answer to is – Are we making the same mistake as the rest of the world and not giving young people the opportunity to practice what they are learning.

The problem is, while the science of management has advanced significantly in the past three decades, the practice of management hasn’t.  The new purpose of business — and the future of work — has to include maximizing human potential. Source

The management team at Western Local Land Services is certainly doing everything it can to empower emerging leaders through action learning  Ben and Erlina.jpg

Chair of Western Local Land Services Ben Barlow with GM Erlina Compton – source

In the last episode of our Lessons Learnt series we met 21 year-old Kate McBride and learnt of her leadership journey. As the youngest board member of Local Land Services she credited Ben Barlow, chair of the Western Division, as an important role model and mentor. Today we chat to Ben to discover his take on leadership, diversity on boards and his advice to young people looking to make an impression on the world.

With experience in agriculture, both on the ground and in corporate and financial circles, Ben Barlow was an obvious choice as an inaugural board member when Local Land Services formed in 2014. The new organisation represented an amalgamation of the Livestock Pest and Health Authority (LHPA), Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and extension sections of the NSW Department of Agriculture.

“I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to bring them all together.” Ben says of his reasons for joining the Western Division board. “Whenever you bring cultures together you can’t expect them to work well straight up; you’ve got to bring the best out of them all across the organisation and you set the tone from the top – from the chair and the board down – and through good counselling and quality discussion time with the general manager who is running it day to day.”

“When we started I think the western board had the lowest customer engagement and staff satisfaction scores of the group and now they are the highest in the state,” Ben says of the transformation that has occurred in the five and a half years since inception.

This transformation has been a product of clear direction and purpose from the beginning, with the Western Division having a strategic plan in place before one was finalised for LLS as a whole.

“Our principles are customers and stakeholders, people, productivity and natural resources of the region,” Ben says. “If a policy enhances these then good; if not we don’t do it. It’s pretty basic. This makes it one of the few agri-political boards I have been in that does not have any politics at all. It just focusses on the job at hand.”

Ben has held the position of chair for three years and believes it is not the role of the chair to have opinions or objectives, but rather to get the best out of the people sitting around the board table, and to facilitate the best questions so management can form direction. To this end he is a strong advocate of a diverse board.

“Over time we’ve moved the composition of the board from mainly older men and a couple of women to a fifty/fifty gender ratio with an average age of about 40, with the youngest being 21,” he says.

“We’ve moved to a generational change to create diversity, pass to the next generation and to maintain good corporate leadership and governance.”

But gender is not the only measure of a diverse board and the Western Division has a stated objective to encourage traditional owners to apply for a seat on the board in the next elections.

“I think that will be a significant step forward. A board is about asking the right questions and you therefore need the right people represented around the table.”

As Kate McBride can attest, joining a board when young and female can be overwhelming and although LLS offers professional development opportunities such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, it is personal guidance and mentorship that can prove most valuable.

“I said to Kate when she was appointed that this was going to be a bit daunting but I would stand behind her all the way,” Ben says, “and it hasn’t been just me but the whole board who have nurtured her and helped her grow. It’s about relationships: Kate may have valued my support and advice on lots of levels but I have also really valued that interaction. It has helped me grow.”

“I enjoy seeing people grow and develop and try, and make mistakes and reach out and try again and get over it. If you do nothing you’re going to learn nothing. If you do something and make a mistake you learn. You’ve got to do something to learn. I’ve had some wonderful leaders and I’ve had some awful ones and I’ve learnt a lot from the best and I’ve learnt a lot from the worst and I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself.”

With his experience and life-learning Ben has this advice for people looking to make an impression on the world:

  • Listen carefully and watch; take the best of things you see and ditch the worst of things you see, and be very distinctive about that choice,
  • Don’t put on social media what you don’t want to see on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald; where there is mystique there is margin – it gives you some latitude and leverage in life,
  • Find someone who might be able to help you and ask them to help; and they will usually say yes

By legislation, Ben’s term as chair and board member of the LLS Western Division will come to an end in 2020, but Ben believes in the power of positive transition and will step down from these roles this year, but don’t call it succession.

“I think succession implies the end of something whereas I think it is about progression where the work you’ve done has got you to a point and the next part of the journey for the enterprise is a new leader who takes that culture further and does something with it. We’re here for many generations and if we do it well handing over the reins will be a progressive thing.”

#YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices

Kate McBride – a young woman disrupting the status quo

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Special thanks to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for this fabulous photo 

Young people have the most to gain and the most to lose from deccisions made by older generations. Too often their voices are not heard

Amplifying the voices of youth is something very close to the heart of the Picture You in Agriculture team. The Chair of our youth leaderrship team Dr Jo Newton has made it her mission to seek out and showcase young people views on leadership models and you can read her regular opinion pieices in the Stock and Land here  and here

As part of our lessons learnt series we will be showcasing organisations who are giving young people a place at the decision making table and support them on their jounrey

The first in the series will showcase Western Local Land Services 21 year old board member Kate McBride, the Chair of the Board Ben Barlow and Erlina Compton the General Manager Kate McBride.jpg

Picture source  The Australian. Photographer David Geraghty

This is Kate’s story penned by our journalist Mandy McKeesick  

Sometimes we all get caught with our blinkers on, looking inward rather than outward. We could write all our Lessons Learnt series on our Young Farming Champions but Lynne Strong is driven by a desire to acknowledge, celebrate and learn from young agricultural leaders, no matter their background or affiliation. Such was the case when Lynne tuned into a recent episode of the ABC’s Australian Story and was impressed with the communication skills and the presence of a 21-year-old from Tolarno Station on the Darling River.

Kate McBride grew up on the banks of the Darling River. It is close to her heart and the current dire straits it is now in has spurred her to advocate for the river. As she said in the program: “We need to fix this and I’m going to do that in any way I possibly can.”

But as a young person in regional New South Wales Kate initially found herself lacking the skills to communicate her message. Then she found the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“ACF were running the River Fellowship Program and bringing together people from across the Murray Darling Basin to do workshops and training,” Kate says. “My step-mum was involved and when she couldn’t attend one of the programs I stepped in and then Beth Koch suggested I do the entire eight month course.”

The ACF training initially involved gaining knowledge about the Murray Darling Basin and then extended into people and communication skills. The training took Kate from someone who could not string two sentences together in front of a camera to the eloquent young woman on Australian story.

“ACF gave me the confidence to stand up and get my message across, especially to politicians. It taught me politicians are just normal people; they are accessible and you can go and speak to them and get your point across.”

With this new confidence Kate put her hand up for the board of the Western Local Land Services and was duly elected. Like the ACF Local Land Services has given Kate a broad appreciation of agriculture beyond her front paddock; and also training to assist her leadership journey with a three-day Australian Institute of Company Directors course.

As Beth Koch became her mentor with ACF Kate credits Ben Barlow, Chair of Western Local Land Services, as being another great teacher.

“I was pretty nervous when I joined the board but from Day One Ben was incredibly supportive. He is interested in making sure people are growing and have the ability to go out and serve the community. He is an incredible mentor.”

At 21 Kate has a long and potentially influential career in front of her so what advice does she have for other young people interested in the advocacy and political space?

“The most important thing I have ever done is when opportunities have arisen I’ve put my name forward. You’ve got nothing to lose. I’m also constantly learning and working out how to better do things. Rome wasn’t built overnight and I know I’ve got a long way to go.”

 

 

 

Oxley Park Public School using their kitchen garden to help students take control of their nutritional needs

This week, as part of our series shining a spotlight on our amazing school partners, we celebrate Oxley Park Public School who participated in the inaugural Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre  Kitchen Gardens program and hosted its celebration event.

The program aims to develop student educational and life skills. Eleven schools are participating and students spend one hour a week in the garden and one hour a week in the kitchen. Branimir Lazendic is principal of The Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre.

“I’m always looking out for inquiry-based, real-world projects for kids to do and with Kitchen Gardens the students are involved with growing their own produce, harvesting it, preparing it and sharing it. Kitchen Gardens allows students to work collaboratively as part of a group, to think critically and creatively, to contribute effectively to society and to look after their own well-being. Without well-being you can’t have learning in the first place.” Branimir Lazendic principal of The Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre.

Cassandra Lindsay is a teacher at Oxley Public School and has developed the fully functional garden, which provides a range of fresh organic produce to students and local families.

Teacher Cassandra Lindsay talks about the Kitchen Garden Program at Oxely Public School

Cassandra also runs the Garden Club five days per week at lunchtime where all students who are interested can learn the skills of growing and caring of fruits and vegetables.

“My passion for school gardens began long before I actually became a teacher.  As a child I would spend time with my grandparents helping them tend to their backyard vegetable garden and in high school I took agriculture as an elective and spent all of my lunchtimes in the ag plot.  When I started teaching at Oxley Park Public School it was evident many of our students had not had the opportunity to grow food, or even had any understanding of the process it takes to actually have vegetables on the dinner table. Enabling students to produce food in an organic low cost manner is empowering as a teacher.  Every day I can give a child an opportunity to experience growing of food, gives every child another chance to a healthier future.”

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Wow, with that passion we can’t wait to see what Oxley Park Public School will bring to their Kreative Koalas project, especially with Cassandra at the helm. She has already instigated environmental changes in the school with initiatives such as nude food days, improving paper recycling and recycling plastic bottles, and believes Kreative Koalas will further fuel the school and community’s war on waste.

“Our vision is to create a plastic free canteen and school environment. I want to empower our students to have a voice to make a change, be the voice of their community and spread awareness amongst the school community.  This project is also an opportunity for our students to make real changes and share their story through a mix of artwork and digital media.”

Oxley Park Public School will definitely be a school to keep an eye on in this year’s Kreative Koalas.

Mega shoutout to our Kreative Koalas supporting partners Hunter Local Land Services and Holcim Australia – we couldn’t do it without you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shining the spotlight on – Raymond Terrace Public School

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Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future launch at Tocal College in the Hunter

At Picture You in Agriculture we are big fans of the Charles Darwin quote

“In the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

We believe the key to success is collaboration, building communities of practice of organisations and people who share our vision, where we can engage with others, learn from others, share others success and amplify their voices. Collaboration TXT

In 2019 we will be Shining the Spotlight on our collaborating partners in education.

Leading the charge is Raymond Terrace Public School

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After joining the Picture You in Agriculture family in 2018 through their participation in The Archibull Prize, Raymond Terrace Public School is back.

In 2019 they will be part of the Kreative Koalas experience as they delve into culture and koalas around Port Stephens.

Teacher Bernadette van de Wijgaart will be leading 30 students from the Aboriginal Girls Group (Stages 2 and 3) in the program and is looking forward to once again diving deep into project-based learning.

“As a creative teacher with a visual arts background, I seek opportunities to involve our students in projects which I know will allow them to grow academically but also provide them with skill sets which will assist them in future years and employment. Working collaboratively and investigating issues before developing creative platforms to deliver outcomes is hugely important for our students. The Kreative Koalas project offers the ideal project-based learning platform for our students to develop these strengths.”  Bernadette says.

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Students from Raymond Terrace Public School at Hunter Launch of Kreative Koalas

Raymond Terrace Public School has 400 students, many who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the school has developed cultural groups and programs to meet the needs of these students and their families.

“Port Stephens is the traditional home of the Worimi People. We have strong connections with local elders and the external learning facility known as Murrook Cultural Centre and we were seeking to develop a creative project whose direction/development can be specifically governed by our Aboriginal Girls Group, under the guidance of ‘Aunty Frankie’ and our Aboriginal team.” Bernadette says.

The Kreative Koala project fulfils the needs of this group by allowing them to respond to the sustainable management of the Worimi lands (particularly the expansive coastal stretch of Buribi Beach – Port Stephens, which is under the ownership/management of the Worimi People). Our Aboriginal students are developing their understanding of the relationship, history and custodianship they inherit of their lands and the responsibility to protect and manage the environment.”

As well as connecting to their cultural background students are looking forward to investigating the decline of the koala population in what was once known as the New South Wales koala capital.

 

“Through this program our students will increase their knowledge of the effects that urban changes have had on the natural environment and investigate sustainable outcomes, and they will also make a statement piece to communicate the situation they are inheriting.” Bernadette says.

Raymond Terrace Public School understands the benefits of participating in high-calibre programs such as The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas – external partnerships, life-long learnings, skill sets for the future – and as Bernadette says:

“Knowing that it is supported by Lynne Strong and her team…we simply MUST be a part of this initiative!”

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Mega shoutout to our Kreative Koalas supporting partners Hunter Local Land Services and Holcim Australia – we couldn’t do it without you

Lessons Learnt Number Seven – We all rise when we lift each other up

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There’s a psychological anomaly called the Pygmalion Effect by which higher expectations actually result in an increase in performance. That is to say that if people, yourself included, believe in your abilities to accomplish something, you are more likely to succeed.

The reverse effect, by which low expectations lead to poorer performance, is dubbed the Golem Effect.

‘We can speak at 125 words per minute, but we can think at 900 words per minute. The likelihood that the first thing you say is actually the thing you mean is about 1 in 9 or 11 percent. ‘Oscar Trimbole

Today’s lesson learnt is inspired by a journal entry by Wool Young Farming Champion  and volunteer extraordinaire Lucy Collingridge. Lucy has some words of wisdom for young people starting their career and a reminder to us all we can all be leaders.

“Are you off a farm?” – This is a question that I hear more days than not as I work and live in Australian agriculture. When I reply with “No, I had no connection to agriculture until I was 15”, I receive a vast array of reactions. From the intrigue as to how I ended up with my life revolving around the Australian agricultural industry to the judgement that I have no place providing advice to our farmers, and everything in between. At the early stages of my career, as a new graduate with limited agricultural experience but a great passion to make a difference, I let these reactions affect my mood and approach to the industry. I let the doubt creep in and started to second guess myself.

That changed five years ago when I identified mentors to support my career and life journey .  We can all benefit from the advice and guidance of someone who has been there and done that.  My mentors have shown me that it is possible to become the person I want to be in spite of the inner and outer obstacles I face.

During my time at university, through my involvement at agricultural shows and as a result of the opportunities I have accessed, I have met countless people who were like me and had no connection to agriculture at a young age. So many of the successful, passionate and dedicated agriculturalists working in our industry today were not from a farm, yet they have just as much and if not more to give to the sustainability and longevity of our industry as those who were born on the land.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to welcome newcomers with full support and no judgement.  Outside-in thinking means having the courage to fling the window open to people who can offer new insights.  We may find these new agriculturalists could hold the secret to so many of our long running issues

To those who are only starting out in our industry, I encourage you to jump at every opportunity you are offered and take on board all positive and negative feedback and assess it through the lens of “Is the person giving me this advice or making this judgement the type of person I aspire to be?”.

People say a lot

I encourage you to not feel diminished by other people’s judgments. Instead use your passion, your actions and successes to speak for themselves.

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Looking for mentors. Here’s how to assemble your personal dream team

 

 

 

Lessons Learnt Number 6 – time to throw out your perceptions of Millennials and open your eyes to the world of opportunity in rural and regional Australia

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Not so long ago the stereotypical image of a person in agriculture was of an older, struggling, white male and the image of a Millennial was of a young person sitting around a café eating smashed avocado and complaining about the unattainable property market. In this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we talk to The Regional Investor and bust those stereotypes wide open.

The Regional Investor could be you. She is a 26-year-old agronomist working in regional NSW. Her job in agriculture is well paid. She lives in a rural town with a strong community of young professionals. And that busts the second myth that a career in this industry is no more than a low-paying job in the sticks. “To me, a career in agriculture means getting well paid to do something you love,” she says.

In fact, The Regional Investor’s career as an agronomist pays well enough to allow her to follow her financial dreams of building a property portfolio, with her partner, in rural Australia. “Property investment provides a tangible asset regardless of your location or starting point,” she says, “and investing in regional areas offers opportunities to get into property at lower price points with better cash flow to help you get started.”

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Gaining financial skills alongside her agricultural degree has been a mixture of education and experience for The Regional Investor. “When I finished uni and got a well-paying job the first thing I did was get a dirty car loan and a big V8 ute,” she says. “I learnt very quickly that I didn’t like bad debt. I had that car for less than nine months and it would have cost me about eight grand. It was a valuable lesson about debt.”

The ute taught her that her surplus income from agriculture should go towards something that would appreciate rather than depreciate and so began a financial journey into property investment. She met with a mortgage broker who “opened our eyes to the different ways you can structure finance”, she used the internet to research for nearly four years and she then committed two years to a Master of Business Administration (MBA). “The MBA gave me more of that financial background but it also gave me business skills I now use day to day as an agronomist.”

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The Regional Investor invests in rural towns with a diversified workforce – “we tend to stay away from mining towns that may go bust overnight” and in properties with positive cash flow. “We only buy properties that pay for themselves so we only have to fund that initial deposit,” she says “and from there they pay themselves off and grow a little bit in equity that we can pull out and put into the next one.” Ultimately it is her aim to own a range of properties – from residential to commercial – across Australia.

The Regional Investor sees many advantages to a career in agriculture in rural regions. There is the well-paid job, the opportunity to get into the property market and the network of young professionals like her. To give back she volunteers as co-chair of the local Young Aggies group and shares her property experiences on Instagram as @the_regional_investors where her tag line is: “Borderless investors from regional Australia. Building a property portfolio from scratch. No Lotto, No Inheritance. Just two PAYG 20-something’s.”

Recent surveys such as the SEED report (Developing student interest in the agriculture sector) and the Gallup Findings on the Changing Nature of Work, with Jim Harter have found that in young people’s minds a career in agriculture isn’t just a career but a lifestyle, and that the separation of work and life is less and less defined. Results also identify the lower cost of living and greater sense of freedom as the most positive aspects of regional living. These may become the stereotypes to which a new generation, and The Regional Investor, belong.

And to the avocado myth: Do Millennials sit around all day in cafes eating smashed avocado? “I think that’s an interesting point,” The Regional Investor says. “People may think a career in agriculture and investment in property means you have to save and have no life. That’s not the case. I’ve still been overseas every single year and will continue to do so. We are not going to sacrifice our lifestyle to build something when we could die tomorrow.”  It seems you can have your avocado and eat it too.

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When I first started telling people that we were looking at property investing I was given ALOT of advice. Some good and some bad depending on the experiences that particular person had with property themselves. People giving you advice 100% have the best intentions, but sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself why the good and bad stuff happened. 
Did they self manage a property and have a bad tenant? 
Did they rent out the family home and not make money because it wasn’t investment worthy in the first place? 
Did the bank of mum and dad help them out?
Most importantly were they proactive in educating themselves before they started or did the wing it and then wonder why it didn’t work?
I’ve learnt to take something out of every piece of advice especially horror stories. I work out what they did wrong, how it can be avoided and try to avoid making the same mistake myself. 
Some of the best advice I’ve receive to date;
– Work out how someone is getting paid, often off the plan with the flash brochures and rental guarantees comes at a cost…. to you. Buy in an established market, not a new development with no resale history. – Create a win-win situation for yourself and the seller. Be negotiable, realistic & timely.
– Don’t get emotional, if the numbers don’t make sense walk away. If you can’t take emotion out of it outsource to someone that can; buyers agents, accountants and your broker. – Don’t be afraid to ask a silly question, a silly mistake is far worse and can be costly when it comes to property. – Employ services based on quality not price, it’s better to loose a little money for the right job than to pay for it twice. – Never cross collateralise. Ever. Pay your lenders mortgage insurance, if you can’t buy it without a guarantor then you simply can’t buy it.
– There’s no afterpay in property, if you can’t manage the money then property is not for you. Get rid of the Foxtel, the gym membership and everything else you don’t use. Monthly subscriptions hurt your serviceability hugely. – Don’t take advice of anyone who isn’t where you want to be.
– Don’t miss out on the things you want, work harder, save more, do both

 

Lesson Learnt Five – The world of volunteering

National Volunteer Week runs from 20-26 May. Many of our Young Farming Champions donate their time as volunteers and the plethora of volunteering opportunities can be overwhelming. In this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we talk with Lucy Collingridge to find out how to choose the volunteering role that is best-fit and how to amplify this role for maximum results.

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The qualities of being a great volunteer

Volunteering is time and expertise given willingly, without financial gain, for the common good. It is not enough to have a desire to volunteer, volunteering is about believing a real difference can be made and it is about turning that desire and belief into action.

Young Farming Champion Lucy Collingridge is a Biosecurity Officer with NSW Local Land Services and a lover of all things agriculture. Lucy was not born into the industry. and made her connection to agriculture through the show movement as part of her high school’s show team – presenting beef cattle and competing in Young Judges competitions. Agricultural shows have become Lucy’s best-fit volunteering role.

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Lucy as part of  RAS Youth Group run events at the Sydney Royal Easter Show like Agrichats ( with host Costa in 2018) 

“Each year we are alive we get to enjoy 8760 hours, and we can choose exactly how we spend those hours. There is work – 2080 hours. There is sleeping – 2912 hours. So what do we do with the remaining 3500?” says Lucy 

For Lucy a lot of those hours are spent volunteering. Today you might find her as the social media and website manager for the Cootamundra Show, convening the Young Judges Competition at the Narrabri Show, co-ordinating showgirls at the Wee Waa Show or free-ranging as a steward at the Condobolin Show.  In addition she works tirelessly in her role as a member of the RAS Youth Group at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

For Lucy there are six main contributors to a successful volunteer experience: desire, belief, focus, teamwork, commitment and action.

Desire: “If you find something you love and something that drives you to do better, you will find that is it less work and more fun. As they say, if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life.”

Belief: “Think about the difference you can make and what aligns with your values and lifestyle; think about what is going to give you the most enjoyment and make the most impact.”

Focus: “It is better to do a fantastic job at one task, meet your deadlines and have fun rather than trying to do too much and ending up not finishing tasks, having people waiting on you or picking up the pieces.”

Teamwork: “At the end of the day volunteers are all part of the same community working to benefit the same thing, so showing respect and working together as a team is important.”

Commitment: “Finding something you have a deep passion for will help you give 110% to everything you do in that area. If you find something challenging, you have that extra spark to push you through. If you are unsure of what to do next, you have the eagerness to find a way to a solution. If you can see there are gaps in that area, you have extra drive to go over and above.”

Action: “Be the person you want to work with. Call when you say you will, email the documents someone is relying on you to send, meet deadlines and be the best you can be.”

Volunteering is Lucy’s way of ‘paying it forward’ and inspiring others.

“The rewards I get from my involvement with the show movement and Picture You in Agriculture far outweigh any financial benefit I could receive. I get to network with some of the industry’s best, I get the opportunity for personal and professional development, I get to see so much of our amazing country and visit overseas destinations, I get to educate the general population on the amazing things happening in our agricultural industry. I enjoy being involved with the show movement as it still provides me with these, but I love that through my involvement I am able to give other young people the same opportunities that led me to falling in love with agriculture.”

Volunteering can be enormously rewarding. Energy and passion such as Lucy’s is infectious.

“It is a pleasure to serve alongside Lucy on the RAS Youth Group. She is someone you can rely onto to do what they say, respond to communications in a timely manner, and when required, get in, roll her sleeves up and do the hard yards”.  

“Lucy’s dedication to the agricultural industry and country show movement is second to none. She is committed, incredibly passionate, and a great ambassador for our industry. Lucy’s exemplifies what it means to volunteer, and to give your absolute best to the roles that you put your hand up for” says Aimee Snowden Vice Chair of RAS of NSW Youth Group 

Picture You in Agriculture is also run by volunteers and we are very grateful for the ‘doers” the organisation attracts. Our leadership team know that it is important young people do not over commit. If think you maybe unable to deliver  then saying no to a volunteering request can be the best course of action,

With this in mind PYiA has developed a volunteering checklist. You can find it here

It helps our Young Farming Champions, like Lucy, be the best volunteers they can in order to amplify their voices and turn actions into performance and results.