Target 100 announces 2013 Young Farming Champions

Target 100 – an initiative by Australian cattle and sheep farmers to deliver more sustainable cattle and sheep farming by 2020 – is delighted to announce its Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions for 2013

This year we have again been impressed by the high quality of the Young Farming Champion candidates. They have a great breadth of experience and a passionate commitment to a sustainable future for the Australian beef and lamb industry and will undoubtedly prove to be strong and effective advocates

Elise Vale Community Engagement Manager.

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The Target 100 Young Farming Champions for 2013 are:

Jasmine Nixon, 24, from Wagga Wagga in NSW.

jasmine-nixon-wabs

My passion is agriculture and I am proud to say I love my beef cows! Every day I know that I am contributing to help feed the world – and I also love what I do. Agriculture is an exciting place to be, yes there are challenges but there are also endless different opportunities within agriculture and that is something I hope to share and encourage a new generation to take on the challenge to help feed the world!

You can read Jasmine’s blog here

Hannah Barber, 22, from Parkes, NSW;

Hannah Barber

Education is the key to ensuring the Australian agricultural industry is understood and supported by our urban cousins and I look forward to a career where I can achieve this, and then come home to the farm every evening.

You can read Hannah’s blog  here

Danille Fox, 19, from St George, Queensland;

Danille Fox

I see today’s agricultural industry as exciting and challenging and I feel privileged to be a part of an industry which is so vital to Australia’s future. I look forward to contributing to the industry through my veterinary profession and AGvocacy roles

You can read Danille’s blog  here

Naomi Hobson, 23, from Georgetown, Queensland

“People will only conserve what they love, love what they understand, understand what they know and know what they are taught,”  says Naomi.

Naomi Hobson 1470

It doesn’t matter what your background may be all you need is enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and the ability to say yes to the opportunities that are presented to you and I guarantee a great adventure will be waiting!

After all, as Dorothea wrote…

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold.

Read more about Naomi here

Our four Champions will share their stories with urban Australians and help improve city consumers’ understanding of the challenges of producing beef and lamb sustainably.
Our aim is for these young women to become part of a strong network of equally passionate young rural people who are encouraging consumers to value, be proud of and support the Australian farmers who feed and clothe them.
An important aspect of their role as Young Farming Champions will be to speak with school children about how sheep and cattle are raised.
Hannah, Danille, Naomi and Jasmine will go into schools which are participating in the Art4Agriculture Archibull Prize program and spread the word on the sustainability of the beef and lamb industry.
By actively engaging in two way conversations the Young Farming Champions will help bridge the gap between city and rural communities by increasing knowledge, generating trust and understanding of modern farming practices.

We will be hosting our  Beef Young Champions at our head office and introducing them to our team members and supporting their journey every step of the way. We wish them well over the course of this year and look forward to their feedback so we can optimise the beef and sheep farmer story experiences we provide in schools and the wider community!

On behalf of Art4Agriculture and the Beef Young Farming Champions we salute the Target 100 team and thank them for investing in next gen food and fibre

Jasmine, Danille, Naomi and Hannah will join the Art4Agriculture team of 2012 Young Farming Champions and we are looking forward to working with them all. They light our fire and keep it burning. So much energy and commitment for a dynamic, innovative exciting and profitable agrifood sector

Do farmers matter?

Farmers in this country are less than 1% of the population and number 10 on Reader’s Digest most trusted professions list.

Above us are ambulance officers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and fireman. Why is this you ask?. The answer is easy. If you are an ambulance officer, a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist or a fireman there would be a time in most people’s lives when you would be reminded just how important your profession is.

With food in abundance in this country there is little opportunity to remind the community just how important our farmers are.

On behalf of all Australian farmers I would like to thank ABC24news who have created this wonderful video to tell our story

 

A key to helping maintain the momentum is farmers finding their own vehicles to tell their story. Vehicles that help us have two way conversations with the most important people and the white elephant in the room otherwise known as consumers and voters. This is not something farmers in general have the skill sets or expertise for. In the past we have let others tell our story and that has been a disaster of momentous proportions and it is one of the key reasons why agriculture is currently on its knees in this country.

So how do fix this. We can do it. I know because at Art4Agriculture we have found the successful model

Like any idea it’s not the concept but the people who make it work and for agriculture it will be our young people. They are out there. We have a whole cohort of them in Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program. Our Young Farming Champions are now working side by side with our Young Eco Champions to tell agriculture’s story to our most important audience

What does it take to have young people who can talk like this, who can inspire other young people to follow in their footsteps. What does it take for our young people to be the change that agriculture so needs to have?.

Art4Agriculture has the formula and the results speak for themselves?. Listen to the video.

Follow their journey

THE 2012 YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

BEEF

Sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia Target 100 program


Stephanie Fowler
Wagga Wagga, NSW

Steph grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a small coastal suburb, Green Point. A decision to study agriculture in high school created a passion for showing cattle and in 2012 she started a PhD in Meat and Livestock Science, with a project that is looking at the potential of Raman Spectroscopy in predicting meat quality.

“When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would end up joining an incredibly rewarding, innovative and exciting industry that would take me across the country and around the world.”

Read Steph’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Bronwyn Roberts
Emerald, QLD

Bronwyn is a Grazing Land Management Officer with the Fitzroy Basin Association. Her family has a long association with the cattle industry in Queensland and her parents currently run a 5500 acre cattle property near Capella.

“I believe consumers have lost touch of how and where their food and fibre is produced. In these current times where agriculture is competing with other industry for land use, labour, funding and services, it is important that we have a strong network of consumers who support the industry and accept our social license as the trusted and sustainable option.”

Read Bronwyn’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Kylie Stretton
Charters Towers, QLD

Kylie Stretton and her husband have a livestock business in Northern Queensland, where they also run Brahman cattle. Kylie is the co-creator of “Ask An Aussie Farmer” a social media hub for people to engage with farmers and learn about food and fibre production.

“The industry has advanced from the images of “Farmer Joe” in the dusty paddock to images of young men and women from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of professions. Images now range from a hands-on job in the dusty red centre to an office job in inner city Sydney. So many opportunities, so many choices.”

Read Kylie’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


COTTON

Sponsored by Cotton Australia


Tamsin Quirk
Moree, NSW

Tamsin grew up in Moree but is not from a farm. An enthusiastic teacher at high school who encouraged the students to better understand the natural world sparked Tamsin’s interest in agriculture. She is now studying agricultural science at the University of New England.

“Growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.”

Read Tamsin’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Richard Quigley
Trangie, NSW

Richie is a fifth-generation farmer at Trangie in central-western NSW. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Sydney and in the long term, intends to return to the family farm, a 6000-hectare mixed-cropping, cotton and livestock operation.

“It’s fantastic to help people understand how their food and fibre is produced and to represent the agricultural industry. Most of the students I talked to are from the city so they haven’t been exposed to agriculture on the kind of scale we work on.”

Read Richie’s Blog post HERE

View his video HERE


DAIRY

Sponsored by Pauls


Jessica Monteith
Berry, NSW

Jess was introduced to the dairy industry by a childhood friend whose parents owned a dairy farm. She is currently undertaking a Traineeship in Financial services through Horizon Credit Union while completing full time study for a double degree in Agricultural Science and Agribusiness Finance through Charles Sturt University.

“I am hoping to follow a career path in finance related to and working one-on-one with our farmers to develop their industries and operations to work to full capacity as well as continuing to work with the next generation. The fact that I don’t come from a farming background helps show that exciting agriculture related careers and opportunities are available to everyone.”

Read Jess’ blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Tom Pearce
Bega, NSW

Tom is a fourth generation dairy farmer from Bega and is actively involved in a range of industry activities including Holstein Australia Youth Committee and the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp.

“The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate. If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.”

Read Tom’s blog post HERE

View his video HERE


WOOL

Sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation


Lauren Crothers
Dirranbandi, QLD

Lauren is passionate about the wool industry and spent her gap year on a remote sheep station in Western NSW increasing her hands-on knowledge. Lauren is now studying a Bachelor of Agribusiness at the University of Queensland.

“Every family needs a farmer. No matter who you are, your gender, your background or where you live you can become involved in this amazing industry.”

Read Lauren’s blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Stephanie Grills
Armidale, NSW

Steph Grills’ family has been farming in the New England Tablelands since 1881 and the original family farm remains in the family to this day. Steph is combining a career on the farm with her four sisters with a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England.

“I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level. I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world-class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career.”

Read Steph’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE


Samantha Townsend
Lyndhurst, NSW

Sammi is passionate about encouraging young people to explore careers in agriculture and has a website and blogwww.youthinagtionaustralia.com where she showcases the diversity of opportunities. In 2012 Sammi commenced studying Agricultural Business Management at Charles Sturt University in Orange.

“I have found that being an Art4Ag YFC has helped my University this year. This was my first year at University and my first time out there and finding my feet. Taking on this role helped give me a lot of confidence and it has also broadened my own knowledge about my own industry. It is amazing how many things you take for granted until you have to tell someone about them! I was elected President of the Ag Club at Uni in the middle of the year and it is a role I thought I never would have had the confidence to take on. With the opportunities I have been given this year through Art4Ag, I have a new-found confidence to have a go at tackling anything.”

Read Sammi’s Blog post HERE

View her video HERE

Listen to their videos on YouTube

YFC ON YOUTUBE
(Click headings to watch on YouTube)

2012 COTTON YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Richie Quigley

The Richie Quigley Story

Richie Quigley Interview students from De La Salle College

James Ruse Agricultural High School talks Richie Quigley at MCLEMOI Gallery

Laura Bunting Winmalee High School Student talks about Richie Quigley

Tamsin Quirk

The Tamsin Quirk story

YFC Tamsin Quirk and Lady Moo Moo telling the story of jeans


2012 WOOL YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Sammi Townsend

The Sammi Townsend Story

YFC Sammi Townsend talks Wool at the Ekka

Teacher Steve Shilling talks about Sammi Townsend Visit to Camden Haven High School

Lauren Crothers

The Lauren Crothers story

Lauren talks to professional shearer Hayden at the Ekka

Stephanie Grills

The Steph Grills story

YFC Steph Grills talks Herefords at the Ekka

YFC Stephanie Grills talks to students from Macarthur Anglican College

YFC Stephanie Grills talks to discovery ranger Kathy Thomas about Potoroos

YFC Steph Grills talks to discovery ranger Kathy Thomas about monitoring Potoroos


2012 BEEF YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Bronwyn Roberts

The Bronwyn Roberts Story

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks beef at the Ekka

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to teacher Simone Neville at Archibull Prize Awards

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to the students at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College at the Archibull Prize Awards ceremony

YFC Bronwyn Roberts talks to Bush Revegetator Chris Post

Stephanie Fowler

The Stephanie Fowler Story

Stephanie Fowler talks meat and muscle at the Ekka

YFC Steph Fowler talks to students from Shoalhaven High School at the Archibull Prize Awards

Stephanie Fowler talks to Dean Turner from The Crossing

YFC Steph Fowler interviews students from Muirfield High School about the Paddock to Plate story

Steph Fowler finds out why the Girl Guides Exhibit at the Ekka

Kylie Stretton

The Kylie Stretton story

YFC Kylie Stretton talks Brahman Beef at The EKKA

Kylie Stretton talks to students from Hills Adventist College

Teacher Trisha Lee talks about Kylie Stretton visiting St Michaels Catholic School


DAIRY YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

Tom Pearce

The Tom Pearce Story

Tom Pearce talking Breeds of Dairy Cattle at the Ekka

Tom Pearce at the Ekka – Cattle Show Clipping

Tom Pearce at the Ekka – Cattle Showing

Jess Monteith

The Jessica Monteith Story

YFC Jess Monteith reporting from Clover Hill Dairies

Jess Monteith at the Ekka

Tara Sciberras talks about Jess Monteith

Art4Agriculuture has thousands of examples like these and write blogs that share their story viewed by over 100,000 people in 24 countries.

These are currently our government, industry and community partners who have faith in them and invest in them.  On behalf of farmers everywhere we would like to thank them

Sponsors Archibull Prize

The question engage or educate and why it matters?

If we want our children to know where their food comes from; if we want them to be motivated to care about the lives and livelihoods of farmers; if we want them to take seriously the environmental impacts of their food choices; and if we want them to know more about how their health is affected by the way food is made, perhaps we need to rethink the place of food production

This knowledge has been lost since we all became so reliant on the industrial agriculture system; we should talk to the experts – the farmers – so we can get it back. We don’t just need more urban agricultural initiatives, including food-producing back, front and median-strip gardens, school kitchen gardens, community gardens and city farms. We also need a transfer of knowledge from rural farmers. We need Australia’s farmers to be intimately involved in the development of innovative and efficient urban agricultural practices to assure our future food security.

The Conversation https://theconversation.edu.au/urban-food-knowledge-does-yoghurt-grow-on-trees-in-cities-5777

Art4Agriculture has taken up this challenge through the Archibull Prize. The program uptake this year has been phenomenal with 40 plus schools participating in this fun and engaging initiative that uses art and multimedia to tap into a whole new generation of young people

Art4Agricultre Archibull Prize

Original landscape image by Peter Dalder

Our ability to reach more schools particularly in NSW where the program has been running for 3 years has only been limited by funding.

Queensland has been a little more challenging, but experience tells us word of mouth amongst schools, teachers friends and parents will mean Queensland schools will be queuing up in 2014 at the same rate NSW schools are.

The Archibull Prize is not about ‘educating’ people per se about agriculture. We believe it is the only program in the world allowing young people in the agrifood sector to go into schools and engage with the next generation of consumers and decisions makers to build an understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints

I have created this program for two reasons

1. We ALL have to eat so farmers are important and as farmer I know it’s challenging to produce food and fibre in the current climate

2. Young people are our future and its important we invest in them

Personally I am not particularly worried that 27% of kids think yogurt grows on trees or that cotton grows on sheep.

  • What is important to me is that young people think farmers are committed, professional and caring
  • That the next generation of consumers, decision and policy makers think responsible agriculture is a legitimate user of Australia’s land and water
  • That young people don’t hear agricultural intensification and automatically think “factory farming”
  • That young people have the knowledge to make informed decisions about genetic modification
  • That young people think that farmers like everybody else are entitled to use technology
  • That young people want to work not only on my farm but see the agrifood sector as the place they want to be

And it’s working. We know this because the programs outcomes are measurable. Visibly through the artwork the students generate and the blogs, videos and PowerPoints they create. Quantitatively though program entry and exit surveys

What is exciting is our students are very receptive to putting their thinking hats on not only through the progression of their big ideas for their artwork design and also when we pose blog questions like:

  1. Why is food production so important for us nationally and globally?
  2. Choose one of the challenges faced by farmers and discuss the possible solutions.
  3. Why are regional towns and centres so important to the farming community? How will they be affected if changes to farming practices occur?
  4. Why is it so important for Australia to produce food for people outside of the country? What do you think would happen if we only worried about ourselves?
  5. Why do you think so much food wastage occurs? What actions will you take to help this problem?
  6. What does sustainability mean and how can you contribute to the cause? What different choices may you take as a consumer?
  7. What is natural resource management? Why do you think it is so important to get right? Think about some of the consequences if we don’t manage these resources properly.

For all those people who are concerned about students’ lack of paddock to plate knowledge our beef, wool, cotton and dairy industry resources our industry bodies send them do an amazing job of sharing this story

Just to prove we have got our strategy right the Victorian Depart of Environment and Primary Industries released the results the Victorian Attitudes to Farming survey in 2012

In summary they found

It is clear that among the Victorian public there is widespread support for farmers and sympathy towards them for the difficulties they face, but also a level of unease about some aspects of the industrialisation and corporate control of agriculture, especially among particular segments of the population.

There is substantial public concern about:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Environmental sustainability
  3. Farmers’ ability to make a living from farming.
  4. Food safety (along with healthy, nutritious and good-tasting food) was viewed by the public as being more important than all other factors.

The research literature shows that concerns about environmental and animal welfare, and about certain other ‘credence attributes’ of foods, have grown among consumers in industrialised countries. In part, this trend stems from the success of industrial agriculture—and of modern distribution systems—in fulfilling western consumers’ basic food needs, by making affordable food abundantly available to most consumers in industrialised nations (though not to the consumers of all countries). Yet the dramatic increases in agricultural productivity achieved during the 20th century have not come without some costs to environmental sustainability, to animal welfare, and to other ‘ethical’ dimensions of food production (even though the severity of these consequences is contested). It appears that, as consumers become more food-secure, wealthier and better educated, many become concerned with addressing these negative consequences.

Our survey indicated that 31% of survey respondents had taken some action—such as protesting or, more often, altering their shopping habits—that could be interpreted as being critical of conventional agriculture (‘critical activism’).

The survey also indicated that 32% of Victorians valued environmental sustainability or animal welfare (or both) highly, and had a relatively low level of trust that farmers would address these issues without coercion.

Most of the individuals surveyed made expressions of unease about some aspects of contemporary agriculture, and such latent concern creates the potential for agriculture to experience periodic controversies or even crises of ‘social authorisation’, as has occurred previously with GM foods, mulesing and (in Europe) Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and in Australia Live Export

The paper then asks and answers the questions

  1. How should government interpret and respond to those segments of the population that are critical of current farming practices?
  2. Are these individuals’ uninformed and forcing unnecessary and costly restraints on farming practices, or are they well-informed drivers of much-needed progress?

Where do Art4agriculture and the Archibull Prize come in? It would appear that these researchers strong agree with our philosophy

A number of agricultural stakeholders have aspired over the years to resolve controversies over farming issues by educating and engaging the public. The research in this project indicates that while this can make a contribution to resolving such controversies, it will not be sufficient.

The rationale for solving farm controversies by educating the public is premised on the assumption that farm controversies are waged between an ignorant public which needs to be educated and knowledgeable experts who can do the educating. The findings presented in this report show that individuals’ professed levels of knowledge about farming issues are relatively independent of their viewpoint about the issues.

The published literature indicates that differences in individuals’ views on ‘technical’ issues such as environmental sustainability and animal welfare derive not only from their level of attentiveness to scientific or expert knowledge, but also from partially subjective and social judgements about which sources of expert knowledge to trust, in the face of contested expertise

It also shows that cultural perspectives influence experts as well as the lay public, and that such perspectives can become institutionalised.

This suggests that divisions in public opinion cannot be reconciled without some engagement and conciliation between different experts and stakeholder groups. As well as educating the public, agricultural groups in government and industry will also need to listen and respond to concerns raised by the public and by other stakeholders groups (including lobby groups and other branches of government).

Testimonials from the students and our Young Farming Champions for the Archibull Prize

THE IMPACT ON OUR YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS

“At the [school] environmental club, the students were really interested in the environmental impacts and challenges the beef industry faced and their questions reflected this rather well. I found myself answering a lot of questions about the need for feedlots, waste management from processors and feedlots and how we can manage beef systems to ensure they are sustainable. The students were very switched on.”

Steph Fowler, Beef Young Farming Champion, 2012

The students had quite a few questions regarding different areas of cotton production – some science questions, some general farming, and others from the teachers that just wanted to know more. I loved the questions I was asked and they weren’t afraid to fire them at me!”

Tamsin Quirk, Cotton Young Farming Champion, 2012

“The school visits were great! I really enjoyed talking to the students and the teachers. Everyone was so excited about their Archibulls and I loved having the chance to look at what they were doing and listen to things they had discovered about agriculture. I also enjoyed being able to talk about my university course and I hope I was able to encourage some of them to think about a career in agriculture.”

Sammi Townsend, Wool Young Farming Champion, 2012

THE IMPACT OF THE ARCHIBULL PRIZE ON STUDENTS

“I had this idea in my head that genetic modification is this horrible idea and agriculture should just go back to the way it was in the ‘50s and after talking about it with our Young Farming Champion and learning about it I cannot love it more, I think science and technology have a definite future in the industry.”

Laura Bunting Student feedback, 2012

You can see Laura talking her school’s experience here

Enter video caption here

We rest our case

Taking the message to the skies

Art4Agriculuture is feeling very honoured to be featured in Rex Airline OUTthere magazine this month. Special thank you to Mitch Brook the author and the wonderful graphic artist who have both done an amazing job of capturing what we stand for

OT105_Forefront_Page_1

Look at this imagery- superb

 

Extra pleased some of our Young Farming Champions are in the spotlight as well. Well done team –

 

You can read it here http://art4agriculture.com.au/forefront.pdf and if you are flying Rex please show it to your fellow passengers

Cotton Pickin – the Boggabri Blog

Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey one of our Eco Champions

But firstly a little bit from me to put it into perspective 

One of the things that still fascinates me is despite the vastness of our country just how little of it we can grow food on and how precious our natural resources are to sustain our standard of living now and in the future.

Yes we all know Australia is a pretty big place and what most of us don’t realise (including me until recently) is believe it or not over 60% of it is owned, managed and cared for by Australian farmers. To put this into perspective the white bits on the map below are the 40% of Australia that are classified as non agricultural land.Agricultural-Land-in-Australia_thumb,

What’s even harder to believe is that only 6% of our agricultural land is suitable for growing food. This means our 134,000 farmers have a huge amount of land between them that doesn’t generate an income It therefore goes without saying that Australian farmers are at the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community and they have a very big unpaid gardening/park keeping gig in any man’s language. I was as flabbergasted as most people when I found out these statistics that overall 94% of what farmers own and manage returns them no direct in your pocket benefit. As one of those farmers of which 50% of our farm is pristine rainforest it does however give great satisfaction and warms your heart to see it support diverse native vegetation and wildlife.

Cows on Picasso Laneway Marie Pier  0001_thumb[1]

Can you just imagine what its like following the cows home through this – I can tell you its doesn’t get much better

However its very clear as many of our farmers readily admit they don’t have the skillsets nor the time to do all of this gardening alone. Luckily Australia has a whole team of very special professionals called natural resource managers who partner with farmers to help them get the best outcomes for Australia’s scare natural resources.

Last year with support from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Initiative Art4Agriculture accessed funding that would allow our Young Farming Champions to train and work side by side and go into schools as part of the Archibull Prize with Young Eco Champions. The outcomes can only be described as phenomenal. Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey

The Boggabri Blog……………………………..

As part of the Young Eco Champions Program I have developed a strong interest in agriculture and learning more about our industries that feed and clothe us. Even though I grew up in a rural area, I have found my knowledge of agricultural production is quite limited – so I decided that if I wanted to follow a career in natural resource management and agriculture, I really should get some inside knowledge of what is involved on the agricultural side of things.

My first farm visit was cotton!

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I was lucky enough to have the help of Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia in tracking down a working cotton farm that had been improving both their on-farm efficiency and the health of the surrounding environment. She arranged for me to visit John and Robyn Watson who have been farming since 1979 on their farm “Kilmarnock” at Boggabri in Northern NSW.

boggabri-

When John began farming here it was the first cotton to be grown south of Narrabri, along the upper Namoi River. 

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Both John and Robyn live and breathe cotton. When I first got to the farm, we jumped in the car and started driving around their property. I was amazed! To be honest, I had hardly seen any form of broad-scale cropping before. While John and Robyn have had lots of visitors to their farm, John mentioned that it was very rare to have someone like me who had almost no knowledge of the industry. So at least I didn’t feel too stupid asking the basic questions! I chatted with John about the production of cotton, right from the beginning when they sow the seeds all the way up to harvest – and even about the ginning and export process.

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Their property is 1500 hectares plus extra land that they lease from adjoining properties. It is a mixture of cotton, grain and cattle grazing, with about half of it under crop (both irrigated and dry-land). Kilmarnock was one of the first farms to take up the Best Management Practices (BMP) Program and John chaired the Australian Cotton Industry Council’s BMP Committee for three years. 

BMP Cotton

He also played an active role in the implementation of BMP in the Boggabri area, encouraging other local growers to get on board with the program and John and Robyn have been active members of their local Landcare group. Robyn has even written a paper titled Restoring the banks of the Namoi on ‘Kilmarnock’: Success arising from persistence

In 1995, they started a program of improving the riparian areas because they were concerned about bank erosion and pesticide contamination of the river. From this time they have revegetated more than 20kms of riverbank, stretching alongside their property, along with encouraging neighbouring properties to undertake similar work. Robyn has been the driving force behind the Landcare work on their property, she would collect seeds and propagate them in a small nursery that she had set up. In talking to Robyn, she mentioned that there had recently been a few fish surveys undertaken along the Namoi River and there was a sharp increase in both the diversity of species along with the overall counts of fish along the revegetated sections. So not only has their work stopped the erosion of their property and loss of fertile soil, it has improved the environment in a number of ways.

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From a farming perspective, the Watsons have been improving the overall efficiency of their production which means they are using less water, pesticides and herbicides and getting higher overall yields. There are a number of ways that they have been doing this:

  • Having designated dry-land cropping areas, which rely only on rainfall reduces overall water consumption, along with having extensive channel and dam networks to recycle flood irrigated areas. They have also recently got an overhead pivot irrigation system which moves slowing down the crop rows to prevent extra water loss.
  • All cotton is GM so as to be resistant to round-up and cotton pests. This means that they have reduced the amount of pesticide that is used, so they very rarely have to spray at all. Being resistant to round-up results in reduced soil cultivation and lower amounts of herbicide required on cotton crops to control weeds and facilitates healthier soils through less soil disruption and reductions in residual herbicides.
  • They ensure that there is always a few ‘refuge crops’ (usually pigeon pea) sown each year, so this allows insects that would be affected by GM cotton to have the ability to persist and not alter their population structure or effect the birds that feed on them.

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Robyn is also very talented at spinning cotton, and generously taught me how to do it. I found out firstly you have to pull the bolls away from the cotton plant and pluck out the cotton seeds. This is essentially what happens at the cotton gin, though on a much larger scale. You end up with a bowl full of fluffy cotton balls and from here you can start to spin.

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Using an ordinary spinning wheel, it is possible to end up with a range of different thicknesses of hand-spun cotton which can be dyed and then knitted or woven just like wool. I was very impressed and even got to take a few bolls so I could give it a go at home. Robyn is one of the few people who spins with cotton and I think she may be going to go to the Royal Easter Show to do some demonstrations – she is one talented lady!

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While I was up north, I was also able to visit the Namoi Catchment Management Authority (CMA) at Narrabri and go out in the field with Lauren Wilson and Megan Davies to conduct some vegetation surveys. One of the target areas that the Namoi CMA is working on is the protection of riparian areas that are not in poor condition, though need some assistance (eg. through fencing out livestock) to ensure that their condition does not worsen. I found this a great experience to have a look at regions that are so climatically different from down on the South Coast of NSW, and find out about the challenges that these regions are facing from an environmental perspective.

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‘I really did have a great time visiting Boggabri and Narrabri, even though it was only short, I learnt so much and had such wonderful experiences. Coming into this program, I had the opinion that most people hold about the cotton industry – that it used huge amounts of water and sprayed chemicals all over the place.

From learning from the other Young Farming Champions and this visit to Kilmarnock, I really have changed my perspective of the industry. It is a vital industry to Australian agriculture and is one that is innovative and always changing to promote efficiency and ensure overall productivity.’

 

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I now know the story of cotton – it is how this little plant turns into the pair of socks on your feet.’

*Heather has just finished an International Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) (Hons) and gone to Canberra to join the DAFF Graduate program

You can share stories with Heather on Twitter here  @HeatherGowCarey

Face to Camera

This week all our Young Eco Champions and some of our Young Farming Champions came to the farm for another workshop

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The superstar attendees

Once again we hired the stunning Glenn Murcutt  house on the farm and when the 43 degree heat hit we were certainly able to test out how well he had designed the ventilation. We were pretty impressed Glenn

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Wow you don’t see houses like this on your average dairy farm

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The workshop was once again facilitated by the divine Annie Burbrook ably assisted by one of may favourite people the gorgeous Victoria Taylor.

Victoria kicked off the weekend with a session for the team on writing scholarship applications and CV’s and job interview techniques. Our YEC’s and YFC all want to be in positions of influence sooner rather than later and we are determined to help them get there.

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Heather for example has her eye on Tony Burke’s job and she is off to DAFF to help fast track this. Whilst I don’t think Tony Burke has anything to worry about just yet but a few years down the track I would be surprised if Heather makes her move

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Heather (right) being interviewed by Tara

One of the highlights of the weekend was a number of sessions on working in front of the camera

– Camera techniques, skills and spills

– presenter techniques

– interviewee techniques

– unprepared speeches / responses

– writing your own script

– stuff you know – prepared speeches without sounding prepared

We were lucky enough to have our professional videographer Lance on hand to work with NIDA trained director Annie too provide practical applications in front of the camera

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Lance and Annie check the lighting

As you know one of the highlights of the Archibull Prize is visiting the schools and meeting the teachers and students. Over the past couple of years we have identified a number of superstar students and we invited two of them to the workshop to interview each of the YFC’s and YEC’s on camera.

 

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Sophia’s parents couldn’t believe she got up and close and personal with the baby calves

Just to you show the talent of the students and one of our team. Tara hams it up with a South Carolina drawl in this interview with Heather who amazingly managed not to crack up. Check it out and remember Tara is only 16 and what’s to be a burns specialist. I don’t know I can see her just maybe taking over from Carrie Bickmore one day

Such talent I so enjoyed my three days with these wonderful young people

The art of gentle persuasion

Thanks to Caring for Our Country funding we will be rolling out the Young Eco Champions program in 2013. As part of their roll the Young Eco Champions will go into schools with Young Farming Champions as part of the Archibull Prize in Southern NSW.

Each Young Eco Champion will also pair with a farmer and work on a Natural Resource Management (NRM) Project together.

Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt has already sunk her teeth into hers   

Megan starts her journey for you here …….

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Not only is Megan a YEC she is also the National Young Landcarer of the Year

 

Educating landholders about the importance of our native vegetation is one thing, getting them to adopt sustainable management practices and applying this knowledge to the way they use the land is another.

Most landholders and farmers care for the land and the environment. They want the best outcomes for the natural environment as well as the best productivity outcomes for their land. Achieving both can sometimes be a challenge and often the environmental outcomes are secondary to productivity outcomes.

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At present, the landholder has attempted to control Lantana and Wild tobacco through slashing and then piling debris within the vegetation, hoping for it to mulch down.

Being involved in the Young Eco Champions (YEC) program, I am able to connect with landholders and other NRM professionals to work towards establishing the best management practices for landholders and their needs on their properties.

By developing practical and realistic plans in consultation with a range of stakeholders, we aim to work towards achieving the best outcomes for the environment as well as the landholder.

Here in the Illawarra, much of our vegetation has become fragmented and is isolated. Clearing activities over time from the early years of the Red Cedar loggers throughout the 1800’s and then for the agricultural industry,  high conservation value vegetation such as our Rainforest and Woodland, is now in many areas of our region, restricted to the escarpments and steep foothill areas which were in the past deemed unproductive due to their inaccessibility to farmers, or exists in small isolated patches across the landscape locked up on private property.

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Cedar loggers cleared many of the trees in the Illawarra in the early 1800’s

Much of the remnants have become weed infested due to the disturbance and also due to bird drop and wind-blown seed from surrounding weed infested areas.

Our region boasts some of the best prime agricultural real estate in the country and I am really passionate about seeing this industry supported into the future and working together to get the best outcomes for the landscape and these landcarers – because really our farmers are the carers of the largest areas of land, and are the producers of our food for the future.  

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The dairy industry is now the main agricultural industry and trees are very important for shelter

Fortunately many landholders in our region realise the value in preserving and attempting to rehabilitate natural areas. Benefits to water quality, and shelter for cattle are important issues to farmers, and eliminating threats of noxious, Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) and other environmental weeds from the landscape are also a concern. Sometimes they just sometimes need a little bit of assistance and guidance.

I recently visited my first property I will be working on as a YEC with an experienced Bush Regenerator in prime coastal Dairy country – Jamberoo NSW. Here the rainfall is high, soil fertility is good and the climate is great almost year round. This means perfect conditions for weeds to thrive!

Our project will be looking to rehabilitate two island remnants of rainforest vegetation which sits in open grazing paddock. Although the vegetation is isolated, it is important shelter for cattle, and will also provide refuge for native wildlife travelling through nearby intact rainforest corridors.

At present, the landholder has attempted to control Lantana and Wild tobacco through slashing and then piling debris within the vegetation, hoping for it to mulch down.

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Megan and Bush Regenerator Marcus review the site for Megan’s project

Unfortunately this is suppressing any natural regeneration from occurring and opening up the vegetation edges to further weed infestations due to the high level of disturbance. Secondary weeds such as Cape Ivy, Bidens and Mist Flower are also now present and add to the difficulty in managing the vegetation. Although there is a high level of degradation, there is some good stuff in there too!

Our bush regenerator has developed a strategy for rehabilitating the remnants and we will be working in partnership with Landcare Illawarra to source appropriate tubestock for planting projects once the weeds are removed and we can establish where any natural regeneration is occurring. I am excited to be able to have discussions with the landholder and negotiate some control techniques and behavioural changes that will still allow for productive use of the landscape, but not impact on the vegetation and bush regeneration that will be occurring on this site.

Watch this space for updates on our progress!  

Remembering our Soldiers

Today’s blog post come from Young Eco Champion Renae Riviere. In her day job Renae is also Regional Manager for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Conservation Volunteers Australia network

I am confident you will enjoy this very moving account from Renae……..

I’ve never been a “list writer”, but in 2005 I decided to write a list of all of the things I wanted to achieve in my life; the only thing I ever wrote in it was “Be at Gallipoli for ANZAC Day”, then I either got bored with list writing, or totally forgot about the list altogether.

Then on my birthday in 2011, a work colleague called to ask me to be an assistant group leader on the 2012 Conservation Volunteers Gallipoli Volunteer team on ANZAC Day. Best Birthday present ever!!

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Both of my grandfathers served in the Second World War and paying respect to our soldiers has always been important to my family. I don’t remember talking much to my Pa and Pop about the war as a kid; maybe I didn’t ask, or maybe they didn’t want to talk about it with us; I don’t really know. I do remember that I loved looking at their medals though.

In 2006 before I went to Japan I sat down with my Pop and looked through his photo albums from when he went to Japan after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. He looked so young in the pictures and even though the place looked so sad and demolished, he and his mates still managed to have a laugh, and they looked like they were making the locals laugh too. He said that he would be keen to hear what Hiroshima looked like now, so I told him that I’d bring home some pictures.

I was in Hiroshima on August 6th 2006 for the 61st anniversary of the bomb, but my Pop died 3 days later, so I never got to tell him about it.

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A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima – one of the few buildings left standing after the bomb.

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The Children’s Memorial in Hiroshima. Below this is a huge glass room full of paper cranes.

I’ve always had an interest in the First Wold War too. I studied it in year 12 and have always made sure I have been at a dawn service for ANZAC Day and somehow after my 2 grandfathers died, I feel it is even more poignant. Hearing the Last Post gives most people goose bumps; for me it also reminds me of Pop and Pa as it was played at both of their funerals.

For 7 years the organisation I work for; Conservation Volunteers had worked in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to take a team of volunteers from Australia and New Zealand to Gallipoli to work at the ANZAC Commemorative Service. The main role of the team is to facilitate a safe and memorable experience for the 6000 or so visitors to the site for the Dawn, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair services. The Gallipoli Volunteer Team meet and greet people at the gates, hand out info packs and provide a valuable service to the visitors with “special needs” – those who are elderly, ill and/or with mobility issues. This was by far the most rewarding job on the roster; the pace is much slower and you can take the time to have a chat with the visitors as you are assisting them to their special seating area.

In 2012, we took a team of 4 staff and 25 volunteers over to Turkey for ANZAC Day. Our volunteers ranged in age from mid-20’s to mid-60’s and came from a range of different backgrounds; nurses, teachers, retirees and Vietnam Vets, but despite the different backgrounds, everyone bonded really quickly and by the time ANZAC Day came around we were a well-oiled machine.

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The veterans in our group stand up and be recognised at the Lone Pine Service and the 2012 leadership team…I’m the short one.

We worked from about 9am on the 24th until the Dawn Service began on the 25th; when we got to stop and actually take in the experience – here we were at ANZAC Cove, watching the sun rise on April 25th! Then it was back to action stations as we assisted the special needs folk up to the Lone Pine Service, which is still very solemn, but somehow a bit more relaxed than the Dawn Service. Then it was back to our hotel for some much needed R and R.

Prior to ANZAC Day we had a week or so to really get to know the Gallipoli Peninsula; we visited cemeteries and battlegrounds, walked the ridgelines our Diggers would have walked and cruised the Agean Sea, allowing us to see the coastline as it would have been seen by the soldiers. All of these experiences were enriched by having both an Australian and a Turkish guide with us, to share both sides of the story.

Having this time to explore the land really blew my mind; I had read about how harsh the conditions were there and about how steep and unforgiving the terrain was, but not until I saw it, and walked it did I truly appreciate it.

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The Sphix and Shrapnel Valley ANZAC Cove from the Agean Sea

We’ve all heard the story of the battle at The Nek and how close the ANZAC and Turkish trenches were, but it really hits home when you stand there on the battle field and realise that it’s about the same size as a basketball court.

Before we left Australia, we were all given the name and some details of a soldier from our home town who died in battle at Gallipoli. Mine was Charles Frederick Roy Fell from Balgownie; just a suburb away from mine. He enlisted on May 15th 1915 and died on August 6th 1915. He was just 23 years old. I visited his headstone at Lone Pine and told the rest of the team about him and about the battle he died in. It made me wonder if any of his family had ever had the opportunity to do the same thing. Yesterday for Remembrance Day I went to my local War Memorial and paid my respects to him again.

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Charles Fell’s Head Stone and a volunteer placing a poppy at her soldiers plaque

Whilst staying on the peninsula we also had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Troy; another thing I would probably write on my list…if I were a list writer. It was really amazing to see an ancient history so different from our own. Then we headed into the hustle and bustle of Istanbul for a few days of mosques, shopping, spices, shoe shines, baklava, traffic and more shopping!!

This was by far the most rewarding travel experience that I have ever had and I would recommend to anyone that does get the opportunity to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day, don’t just go for the day. Stop for a few days and take it in; make a connection with the place that it all happened in.

Thanks Renae for sharing this moving experience with us and the Art4agriculture team  are looking forward immensely to working side by side with you in 2013 

Start some Good and Jump on board The Crossing’s Big Yellow Taxi project

I recently wrote a post about our Young Farming and Eco Champions workshop at The Crossing in September. This post shares with you more of the wonderful work they are doing and they need your help to make it happen

Jump on board The Crossing’s Big Yellow Taxi project  will help to create a song writing camp for young people! The campaign just went live on StartSomeGood! Check it out, share with your friends and contribute if you can so Dean and the team can start some good. BTW they only receive your funds if they meet their goal:

Inspired by songs like Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, The Crossing needs your help to deliver a song writing camp for disadvantaged young Australians. The Big Yellow Taxi Project will inspire remote and isolated youth of the far south coast of NSW, to share and express ideas through music and song, about sustainable and healthy living

Young people from this area often have difficulty engaging in recreational activities and feeling part of the community due to:

  • a lack of activity options,
  • a lack of public and private transport
  • the cost and long distances they have to travel to access extracurricular activities such as professional music training.

Promotional in school sessions are planned to encourage students from local Secondary Schools to participate in a song writing camp with local professional musicians at The Crossing venue in late December 2012.

To raise funds to pay for musicians and to subsidise camp costs for young people, The Crossing is seeking funds through startsomegood.com
Pledge your support by following this link to help them to deliver a song writing camp about ‘what’s good, what’s right and what needs fixing’ and help them build youthful passion and energy in the Australian folk scene

The Crossing

The Young Eco Champions and some of our Young Farming Champions recently travelled to Bega for two days of workshops and one day of in the field experiences.

At each of our workshops we aim to provide insights into the workplace of a farmer from the food or fibre industry the champions represent or a taste of the world of natural resource management

Our Bega workshop in the field experiences led us to The Crossing Land Education Trustwhich is the brainchild of two magnificent human beings Dean and Annette Turner. Dean and Annette gathered an amazing array of local expertise together for us to learn from and work with during our time at The Crossing

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Dean and Annette Turner

We are lucky to have our A Team of Ann Burbrook and videographer Tay Plain with us to record the experience for us which we will share with you

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Tay Plain sets up for the interviews

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Hanging out at The Crossing at Bermagui

Our time at The Crossing which saw the team sleeping in converted railway carriages meant the the YFC’s and YEC’s had the opportunity to follow in Young Eco Champion Heather Gow-Carey’s footsteps as well as see the work National Young Landcarer of the Year Megan Rowlatt is doing to engage young people in Landcare.

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Converted railway carriages provide a unique sleeping experience at The Crossing

Megan, Heather and Steph share some weekend highlights with you

Starting with Megan ………………………….

Heading to the far south coast is always a win for me. I absolutely love the landscape and the fact that the coastal communities have been relatively untouched by development. But this trip was even more special. Being amongst such incredibly passionate young farmers and eco champions always leaves me walking away with my head swimming with ideas and feeling inspired to put more energy into what I do for my industry.

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Megan leads the team on a  tree guild planting exercise

Learning more about the agricultural industry from other young people who are actually actively involved in the industry is fast becoming one of my favourite components of being involved in this program.

See Megan’s interview with Dean Turner here

Heather shares with you some background on quest to save the Koala population on the South Coast……………………….

This year, I have been lucky enough to be able to undertake an Honours project that is both very close to my heart and that will have very real and practical outcomes. Koalas have long been found in the Bega Valley, they were so common that by 1865, the Bega District News reported that it was possible to ‘catch a Koala or Native Bear in the main street of Bega’.

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Heather with Chris Allen

The population continued to remain at a high level for the remainder of the nineteenth century, able to support extensive fur trade beginning in the 1890’s, with several million skins being exported from NSW over a 20 year period. The fur trade soon collapsed and it was estimated that koala numbers in the late 1930’s were “only hundreds” throughout NSW. Though the koala populations may have recovered somewhat in the past 80 years, the distribution of koalas on the South Coast has been severely limited due to their vulnerability and inability to adapt to changing habitat conditions.

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Learning about koala poo before going out to search a survey point for any evidence of koalas

Going down to The Crossing was a great opportunity to show the other YEC’s and YFC’s the importance of the koala survey work that has been conducted by hundreds of volunteers over the past 4 years. The purpose of the surveys is to try to gauge the current population levels as well as the main areas where they inhabit. From the survey work to date, it is estimated that in the forests to the north-east of Bega, no more than 42 individual koalas remain… and so many people do not realise this!

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Chris Allen teaching everyone how to search the base of trees for koala scat

Not only are the surveys quantifying the population, they are educating so many people about the South Coast koalas and the importance of this population. There is the possibility that these koalas are the last remaining truly ‘wild’ koalas, being completely endemic to the region. With such an important and iconic species on the brink of localised extinction, it is great to work alongside people like Chris Allen (OEH) and Dean and Annette Turner (The Crossing) who are so dedicated to the surveys and are always very interested to hear about the progress of my thesis.

It is so rewarding to know that my university work will be able to be used in the field, with the preferred tree species that I have identified, along with the areas of prime habitat that I have mapped being used to assist the survey work along with the revegetation of wildlife corridors. My overall objective is to assess the habitat quality of the region, and my research has raised many interesting questions. It was originally thought that the habitat was marginal or low-quality due to the lack of ‘primary’ feed species and the poor soils and rugged terrain where the population is now limited to, but this might not be the case. It has been thought that these koalas may have a unique ability to forage an existence in this ‘marginal’ country by having unique genes and an inherited knowledge of country and place. Also, other recent research into the nutrient levels of the most utilised trees on the South Coast revealed that they are hardly different to the nutrient levels of many of the primary tree species that koalas are eating in other regions. So the habitat may now not be as poor as originally thought!

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Learning about the work The Crossing is doing to create koala friendly wildlife corridors.

I really enjoyed this workshop because it was a chance to share my research with the other young people involved in the YEC and YFC, all the while learning about their industries and lines of work. It really is a two-way learning street and I think that is what I like most about the entire program. It has really made me realise that there is more to agriculture than what I originally thought and it has opened my eyes about how much more there is to learn. The interactions between the farming and natural environments cannot be separate and in order to manage either, it is important to have a knowledge of both. So that is now my goal, to learn as much as I can about whole farm management and best management practices… so I can go off and save the world!

and more thoughts from Megan…….

I think we all took away much more from this workshop than we usually do from each other, and this was all thanks to our wonderful hosts Dean and Annette from The Crossing. Not only did we hear about sustainable design and how we can use resources we already have access to live comfortably, we were able to hear their stories of how they got to where they are today.

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Sharing ideas, trials, errors and successes, that’s the key really, in anything we do. Sharing what we learn and then allowing the next generation to come in and build on this, is how we progress and improve. Sharing our stories is the most powerful tool we have in improving our future. It’s just that simple. And spending time with such inspiring people such as Dean and Annette who open their doors to the world to learn from them, just made this resonate with me even more.

Connecting with staff from National Parks and Wildlife Services,  environmental educators Dean and Annette from The Crossing, landholders involved in biodiversity projects, and Aboriginal cultural officers all at once really cemented the fact that we are all connected to the land in one way shape or form and we all have a roll and responsibility, but we also have the ability to make a positive change by working together. The South Coast Koala Habitat project is so vital to the survival of this last remaining population of an iconic Australian species on the far south coast of NSW.

So the highlight for me, was taking part in the biodiversity planting and survey work.

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Knowing that as volunteers our small efforts were contributing to such a valuable project was rewarding. I always like getting my hands dirty and physically contributing to something worthwhile. And to see so many partners and community members working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the future of this Koala population is fantastic. And we are now a part of this too.

Some thoughts from meat scientist  Dr Steph ………

The best thing about the workshop was that it was hands on. After a short demo on how best to plant the trees for survival and talking about why it was important to do it that particular way, off we went to plant some.

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And getting there was lots of fun. Dr Steph in the middle with Heather and Ann ( at the back)

After a chat about the koalas what they face as an impact of habitat fragmentation and how they look for them, off we went to look. Had anyone told me that as a Young Farming Champion I would be looking for koala scats, I am not sure that I would have believed them but the enthusiasm of the group was infectious and we were more than willing to participate.

The infectious enthusiasm of the group drove me to want to participate and learn about everything and Tay’s work behind the camera was no exception.

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When Tay needed a hand behind the camera to adjust the lighting, I found myself on the other side of the light and eventually managed to graduate to using the switches on the back. It’s mastering these skills you never think you would ever possibly get a chance at doing that I often find the most rewarding.

From behind the camera, it wasn’t long until I was back in front of the camera interviewing Dean from ‘The Crossing’.

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Dean and Annette have a real connection with the land and the environmental education programs, such as the Sea to Snow and the koala surveys, they run there. It was inspiring to have a chance to interview Dean and hear so eloquently, how the landscape around him has altered the journey that he has taken and how that now inspires others.

The significance of ‘The Crossing’ certainly has not been lost and we thrilled to have been part of this experience and to have the opportunity to share it with you .