The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
Here at Art4Agriculture HQ our family farm produces the milk that sustains 50,000 people in Sydney everyday. It is what we do. Like all Australian farmers its our job to keep families healthy – bringing them fresh, safe & nutritious, affordable, ethically produced food and fibre every day.
In some ways our team, and every other Australian food and fibre producer, is responsible for the health, and wealth and happiness of Australians, and many other people around the world.
It’s a big job – and going to get a lot bigger over the next 20 – 50 years and we couldn’t do it without the support of the wonderful natural resource management professionals we tap into for knowledge and skills to help us keep our landscapes healthy and our waterways clean.
LIFE is about people across Australia, just like you, getting involved in Landcare in their everyday lives.
Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions at The Crossing at Bermagui
We all know planet earth is struggling to maintain the balance of LIFE for all of the species that call it home. Here in Australia our fragile landscape is under constant pressure from an ever-growing and consuming, modern way of life. Landcarers everywhere are working together to maintain the health of their local environments, but the time has come for everyone to help maintain the balance of LIFE by becoming involved and thinking about their actions each and every day and what impact they have.
Whether you live in a city or a one pub town, on the beach or on a station, in the Top End or the Island State, this website is designed to give you ideas on what you can do or how you can join others in caring for the land and our environment, because after all, the land is the reason we exist and the reason we continue to survive. Getting involved in Landcare and getting involved with LIFE means many different things to different people, but one thing for sure is that no matter who you are or where you live, there’s a way that you can make a difference. There’s a way that you can help.
Check out your local council website and see what environmental or sustainability events and workshops you can attend. You can even be involved in Landcare in your own backyard!
Is there a Landcare, Bushcare, Coastcare or other environmental community group in your local area? Why not get in touch with them and see if you can lend a hand?
It’s not all about weeding and planting you know. Volunteer groups need all types of help – can you write, publish and distribute a newsletter? Maybe you can update a website or help with accounts? Whatever you can do, there’s a way you can help.
Maybe you love surfing and swimming but hate seeing your beach covered in other people’s litter? Get together with some likeminded people and set up a Coastcare group today. Together, we can make a difference.
These are just a few of the many, many ways that people can get involved with LIFE. For every local environmental problem, you can bet there’s a group of people who want to take action to help fix it, and you can be part of this action. LIFE is about the land, and the land is what gives us LIFE, so why not get involved in maintaining the circle of LIFE?
See how Art4agriculture HQ is playing their part here
Today I have great pleasure in introducing you to Rachel Walker who we are thrilled to have on board as one of our Young Eco Champions
With the support of the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program funding Art4Agriculture has recruited 5 exciting young women for the Young Eco Champion program for 2012/13
This program will train a team of 5 young natural resource management professionals from Southern Rivers region of NSW. This training will help them develop leadership and communication skills and become local faces of sustainable primary production and natural resource management.
The Eco Champions will work with our Young Farmer Champions to present Archibull Prize activities in 15 schools throughout the region using a range of authentic and contemporary learning tools that allow young people to explore the economic, environmental and social challenges of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation activities through the ‘Archibull Prize‘ competition.
This is Rachel’s story …….
My name is Rachel Walker, I’m 24 years old and currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Systems (Agriculture stream) at the University of Sydney.
I was born and raised in Sydney, but agriculture has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though I grew up in the city, it’s hard to deny that I’m a country girl at heart.
My first taste of farm life was through my grandparents who built an equestrian centre and also ran beef cattle south west of Sydney, where I spent a lot of time growing up. I have always enjoyed the hands-on side of farming. It doesn’t matter whether it is easy or messy and dirty work, I’ve always found days working out in the sun to be exciting! I started taking horse riding seriously when I was about 13, competing in dressage and being on the local club committee, where I stayed until I moved into the city to study when I was around 21. Going to a city school meant that studying Agriculture wasn’t an option for me, but that didn’t really stop me from spending a majority of my time out on the farm.
One thing that stands out in my mind when I think of both of my grandfathers is how hard they worked. My maternal grandfather was an apple grower in Victoria and I often walk past the weathered, broken archway in Sydney’s old fruit market where his name is still painted.
My first Pony (1992)
A life filled with opportunities
In 2006 I went to live in Ghana, West Africa for 4 months, teaching in a local school and living with a family in a village where subsistence farming is the common lifestyle and trade is the form of diversity in diet. Nothing is wasted, nothing is wrapped in plastic or refrigerated; they eat what’s seasonally available, and when it’s available and still have a great diversity in their diet – such an enormous contrast to the average Australian!!! This was a big turning point in my life, as it made me aware of natural resource use. From this point forward, I have looked at everything else with Ghana’s influence in the back of my mind. This was my self-induced introduction into natural resource management, and subsequently natural resource management has been in my mind wherever I’ve gone since.
My wonderful host family and village friends in Ghana (2006).
Paga, Ghana: where the crocs and the humans live side by side.
I am generally the kind of person to take advantage of an opportunity that arises, and I have really enjoyed the diversity that I’ve been able to experience. Some of my fondest summers have been spent out in the searing heat of the Araluen valley in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, which had a population of 215, picking peaches and nectarines. I love the Australian countryside and the southern coast of NSW would have to be my favourite area (so far!). Not only did I make some if my best friends in the ‘Happy Valley’, I learnt a lot about horticulture that I had never really experienced before. After that, I returned for the picking season 3 times! This was my introduction to the processes and numbers of food production, and this gave me insight into the food chain from growth to consumption.
Picking peaches in Araluen (2007/8).
My love for animals led me to pursue a career in veterinary nursing, which I absolutely loved and still do on a part-time basis today. I left vet nursing because I realised that I wanted to be more involved in Agriculture. I wanted to challenge myself a little more and further my knowledge, so I enrolled at Sydney Uni. There were two options for me – B Agricultural Science, or a new degree called B Environmental Systems, which aimed to be the first degree of its kind to focus on the balance between food, energy and water – and they offered an agricultural pathway within the degree. Perfect for me!!! It combined my love for agriculture with the increasing needs for resource use efficiency and natural resource management that I had come to realise was so important to the future, to achieve a sustainable food and fibre production with sustainable environmental management!
My degree has given me the opportunity to look at the mutual relationship between agriculture as a business and a science, and the environmental side of things. I have had the opportunity to see many different parts of the east of Australia, as well as overseas, in both an agricultural and an environmental light.
More opportunities and inspiration
I am very interested in Agriculture in developing countries. In December 2011 to Feb 2012 I travelled to Uganda, in Eastern Africa to stay in a village where an Australian couple from country Victoria helped a Ugandan man (David) to start up a community development project in a small rural village. The rural people in Uganda aren’t very well catered for: and all produce is through subsistence farming, and is traded. It was an amazing experience. I was so inspired by David’s passion, enthusiasm and modesty about what the programme was achieving in a sustainable way! It has empowered the local people through programmes to develop the agricultural potential of the land and the people so as to increase production and create an economy, which allows the locals to have money if required for medical treatment or children’s education.
They have taught people to grow mushrooms and mulch; to use goat and cow manure as fertilizers; and also started a piggery project, which works on a pay-it-forward scheme so the community can benefit from easily cared for pigs. From the success and international support, they have added a medical centre that has visitors who walk 8km to visit, and computer classes with visiting children from 25km away, so that children form rural areas are able to gain some skills that bridge the gap between rural and city kids going to uni.
We talked so much about agriculture over there, and it is amazing to see how much we take for granted in what we are able to achieve in this country!
Local Football game, Uganda (2012)
From this, my friend Hannah, who I travelled with, and I are currently organising a fundraising event in order to raise enough money to begin a goat rearing business, which will enable the community project to be completely self sustainable, and provide an income that will be able to support new ideas and projects in the future.
My classmates and I in New Zealand looking at Agriculture and the Environment
Over the course of my studies, I have learnt so much about the science behind the various streams that Agriculture may be broken up into – and it is huge! This has opened my eyes to the areas I want to learn more about! I know that my interests lie in cattle, though that in itself is a broad statement. I have also realised that I love learning and studying, in particular about the science behind soil and the relationships between soil, plants and water which are the essentials to sustainable production.
What concerns me
Living in the inner city has shown me there are so many aspects to Agriculture that aren’t recognised by the majority of the population. I believe that education about where food comes from and its journey to the consumer needs to be addressed, particularly in city areas where children may never get the opportunity to collect their own food. This is so important – to have future decision makers and scientists understand the processes behind their consumption – and a bottom-up approach in teaching young children through our primary education systems, which will filter through to their parents would be a great start. This is important for the lead up to more sustainable practices, such as the adaptation to eating food that has a ‘mark’ on it etc.
I believe that each country in the near future is going to reach a pinnacle point where the balance between Agricultural food and resource production is not going to meet the needs of the environment, nor a growing population.
There are so many different options for our future, and they are dependent upon us. Whether it involves an increase in production, a reduction of waste, or improving adaptation to variation in living conditions, changes toward sustainability should be a primary focus of the future. The collaboration of the various scientific fields to ensure a sustainable future that involves the least environmental impact possible is achievable and invaluable. I hope to see this throughout the world before the end of my life, and I hope that Australia leads the way, as we are doing with the increased protection and education of our Marine parks.
I am passionate about Agriculture: its potential, its ways of life and its diversity in opportunity are all something I strive to be a part of, and encourage others to do the same! Agriculture and the land will always be a part of my life even if I continue living within an urban environment…
In key parts of Australia, koalas are dying in big numbers. In Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory the attrition rate has been so high the Federal Government responded by placing koalas on the Threatened Species “at risk” list.
As part of the workshop the team will be contributing to the Far South Coast Koala survey – vitally important survey work which is contributing to protecting a highly endangered koala population – the last on the Far South Coast. This will be done in partnership with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Champions we will also be helping out with the establishment of a major koala corridor, linking areas of critical habitat and protecting sensitive estuarine environments. On top of all of this, they will get a chance to explore the Bermagui River by canoe on a guided adventure.
This is the most wonderful partnership on some many levels with one of our Young Eco Champions Heather Gow – Carey doing her honours thesis on Koala habitats and working with farmers to help connect the wildlife corridors that will give them a chance to survive and reproduce safely.
We will be taking our film production crew extraordinaire of Tay Plain and Ann Burbrook with us so we can get some great footage to share with you.
Check out this cute video on how they feed the baby Koalas at the Great Ocean Ecolodge in Victoria
My name is Renae. I’ve only got little feet, but I’ve walked a lot of miles in the Australian bush and I’ve paddled a lot of rivers. My favourite river to paddle is the Franklin River in Tasmania. It is a pristine and genuine wilderness area and one of my dreams is for it to be like that forever.
You can spend ten days travelling down it and not see another soul except your paddling mates. Then you merge with the Gordon River to the place where the Blockade took place and you imagine what it was like to be there – and you quietly thank the people who cared enough to stand up, fight and win, so that those of us who are adventurous enough can see and enjoy it for ourselves and those that aren’t can just rest happily knowing that it is there.
Me on the Franklin River
I grew up in the Victorian town of Bannockburn; back then it was a town where everyone knew everyone and in the holidays and on weekends the kids would all head out to play after breaky and not come home until sunset. Our parents didn’t worry because they knew if we were being naughty or hurt ourselves they would find out from someone else in the community before we got home anyway.
Most Saturdays our family would pack the kids up and we would meet our friends and their families out in “the bush”. First thing the kids would do is get the bikes out and take off and make jumps and race around the dirt tracks; we’d only come back when the BBQ was cooked. Then we’d take off again.
Me on my bike at Teesdale
The Dog Rocks – This is the landscape I grew up in
Me and my bro building a cubby
My friend Lisa and I hanging out with a koala that called our front yard home for a few months one summer
Fishing at Rocklands on a camping trip
In high school my friends and I thought we were going to save the world – we formed a group and called ourselves Students Against World Destruction (SAWD); we screen printed our own t-shirts, we washed cars to raise money for Greenpeace to Save the Whales, we held screenings of documentaries on the whale slaughter, we went and planted shelter belts on local farms and we went out weeding in the You Yangs. The teacher who inspired us and helped us organise our trips was unwavering in his support and that is something I really appreciate to this day. I think empowering young people to feel like they can and are making a difference is worth more than gold. ( we are with you on that one Renae)
I left school and went onto study a Diploma in Outdoor Leadership (Recreation) at TAFE in the small town of Eildon in Victoria. Eildon is a pretty tiny town right at the base of a huge dam – everyone knew everyone and there was never a shortage of people to go on an adventure with. It was here that my already adventurous spirit and passion for the environment was really nurtured. “Study” for us mostly involved going white water rafting, bush walking, canoeing and rock climbing. After the first year we were qualified enough to take groups of school students out on their High School Outdoor Education trips; anything from 3 to 10 days of walking, paddling, climbing and camping. This is where I learned the power of our natural environment as a teaching and learning tool.
I spent 6 years in this role educating kids in the bush; which pretty much equates to 6 years living in a tent. I learnt a lot about myself and about people in general during this time. Kids usually reject the bush at first, but after a day or so they start to get into its rhythm and really start to make a connection with it; they usually leave a little bit quieter than when they came.
My buddy Chris and I taking a bunch of kids on off the beaten track on a 9 day expedition out past the Larapinta Trail in NT. (Ridiculous hats were a must!)
Henry and I took a group of uni students from the states on a trip out to Fraser Island in QLD.
Somewhere in the middle here I moved to the Blue Mountains and then to Wollongong’s northern suburbs and upon arriving in Wollongong I decided that this was my home from now on. I absolutely love it here and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Did I mention that I love to snowboard?? Well I do! So after living in a tent for 6 years I went to live in Japan for 1 year. I spent 6 months snowboarding in Hokkaido and the rest of the time teaching English on the island of Shikoku. I absolutely love the culture of Japan and how incredibly different it is to ours. I guess when I went there I thought (like most people do) that Japan is all cities, but it’s not; there are some really amazing wild areas there and I loved exploring them.
Iya Valley, Japan
Oh, and the snow was AWESOME!
My first day snowboarding in Japan
Early morning chair lift to the summit for fresh powder!
After Japan, I came back to work in Outdoor and Environmental Education on the South Coast for a few years and whilst I loved it still, I felt like I needed to unpack my bags and put the tent away for a while. I tried various things; working at TAFE, driving a community bus, working in Out of School Care, having extended holidays and then I landed a job at Conservation Volunteers Australia.
CVA is Australasia’s largest practical conservation organisation; with 21 offices in Australia and 4 in NZ and after holding almost every role that the office has to offer, 4 years later I am now the Regional Manager of the Illawarra/Shoalhaven Office.
What I love about my job is that I feel like I get to roll all of my work experiences into one here; I get to work in my local community with people from all ages and walks of life, I get to educate people on the importance of conserving our natural assets and I get to empower them to act.
My role has a bit of everything in it; I manage staff, projects, budgets and the day to day operation of our office. I apply for funding, and I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to get people involved in our projects. I work with a variety of land managers; helping them to achieve their environmental goals. I also have the opportunity to dream up my own projects and seek out funding to make them happen. I get out in to the field leading the team of volunteers at our Tom Thumb Lagoon project and our student volunteer program once a week too.
There’s other perks to my job too! Working with CVA gave me the amazing opportunity to take a group of volunteers to Turkey to work at and be part of the ANZAC commemorative services at Gallipoli this year, which was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Me at Walkers Ridge above ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli
I made friends with some local war heroes.
Ate LOADS of my favourite sweets
And learnt a bit about ancient history. This is an old school athletics track!
The other thing I really enjoy is a good road trip and big vast landscapes; I love heading to places where after an hour or so, you have red dust through everything; it’s coming out the air vents in the car, it’s up your nose, your clothes are dirty…it really reminds me of where I come from and what an incredible country we have.
I like to sit and look out and see land and oceans that go forever and I want to make sure that they are healthy and here for everyone to enjoy. Forever.
The road to Ilfracombe – outback QLD
On my way to check out the Barcaldine Nature trail – outback QLD
Checking out the view from the dinosaur dig near Winton – Outback QLD
On the way to the summit of Mount Fuji, Japan.
We at Art4Agriculture are thrilled to be able to offer Renae many more opportunities to realise her dreams
Excitingly the recent State of the Environment report has show Australian farmers have made some major inroads in their farm environmental stewardship outcomes through a strong commitment to Landcare principals
Most of Australia’s land environment is managed by one of three groups: state and territory agencies responsible for public land of various tenures, family and corporate agricultural and pastoral businesses, and Indigenous Australians.
The effectiveness of management has improved for most land uses, particularly those that are most intensive. While land–management practices have improved during the past few decades, in agricultural systems the loss of soil carbon, and soil acidification and erosion, are problematic and may have major impacts on production.
However, there is a serious gap in both the professional and the technical capacity necessary for effective land management. This gap will increase and its consequences become more acute as we face the challenges that climate change will bring to land environmental values and production systems.
Obviously if our farmers are going to achieve the best environmental outcomes they must have access to the best advice and have the opportunity to work side by side with natural resource management professionals With this in my mind Art4Agriculture have accessed Caring for our Country funding to role out the Young Eco Champion program for 2012/13 This program will train a team of 5 young natural resource management professionals from Southern Rivers region of NSW. They will be trained to develop leadership and communication skills and become local faces of sustainable primary production and natural resource management. See Erin Lake our 2011 Young Eco Champion in action here
Eco Champions will work with Young Farmer Champions to present Archibull Prize activities in 15 schools throughout the region using a range of authentic and contemporary learning tools that allow young people to explore the economic, environmental and social challenges of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation activities through the ‘Archibull Prize‘ competition.
Today our guest blogger is Heather Gow-Carey one of our exciting Young Eco Champions
Here is Heather’s story ………………….
My name is Heather Gow-Carey. I am 22 years old and am currently undertaking honours in my fourth and final year of an International Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) at the University of Wollongong.
I grew up in the rural community at Dignams Creek on the Far South Coast of NSW. Environmental and natural resource management has always played a huge part of my life. The influence of my parents’ professions in the direction of my educational career has subconsciously shaped my decisions and their support has been unwavering at every stage of my development.
Helping out tree planting on the Hawkesbury River when I was just learning to walk.
I was born in Western Sydney but moved to the South Coast with my parents when I was two years old. They were looking to get away from the city and pursue their goals in setting up South Coast Flora, a native bushfood nursery. It is this specialised plant propagation that first introduced me to the theories behind environmental management. As long as I can remember I have been helping out in the nursery, going to markets and assisting mum out in her botanical pursuits collecting seeds and cuttings to be used in the nursery.
Out collecting seeds with Mum.
My father was involved in the National Parks and Wildlife Service for a number of years and now works as the Landcare Community Support Officer throughout the Eurobodalla Shire. Hence my weekends as a youngster were filled with farm visits, tree plantings, weed control and numerous conferences and meetings. Luckily I had my younger brother to have tree planting competitions and someone to hang out with when dad had to attend to business matters. From both of my parents I have developed a love and a respect for the environment that I value immensely. It has shaped my love for the outdoors and even though I have had to move away to attend uni, I love going back home whenever I can.
Playing in Dignams Creek when I was little.
About 15 minutes away is the closest town, Cobargo. It is a small town that has earnt the name of the ‘working village’. There are around 500 residents if you include the many farms around the area and there is a very strong sense of community, with all of the locals willing to pitch in to help each other out. I was part of the swimming club, soccer club, rugby club and scout group, as well as always exhibited and volunteered for the annual Cobargo Show. The show was and still is, one of the highlights of the Cobargo calendar. Even though it is such a small town, the show always draws large crowds in competitors, exhibitors and visitors and is well known as a quality agricultural show. There were several years where I made it my goal to enter every youth section in the pavilion, and even many of the open sections. When I was about 12, a prize was introduced for the junior exhibitor with the highest overall point-score, so I busied myself making arts, crafts, jams, baking, growing fruit and veggies, even entered some prime compost to take out the top prize!
The Cobargo main street.
One of my other interests is art. When I was little I wanted to grow up to be an artist, but soon learnt that most artists don’t get rich and famous until they are dead! So I had to rethink my career ideas. I was lucky enough to be involved in the Jindabyne Sculpture by the Lake exhibition – a competition for local artists held each Easter Long Weekend and with from my art teacher I first entered at the age of 14.
I had always felt very strongly about using water responsibly and hence, I made a giant plug that floated out in the middle of the lake to inform people of my water-saving message. This was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the scarcity of water and the fact that we all rely on it so much, and yet we have so little that is actually able to be consumed.
My community involvement continued throughout high school, being involved in several sporting groups, community groups, the Rural Volunteer Bushfire Service and more Landcare activities. There was hardly a weekend or week night spare in my schedule! I was recognised for my efforts on Australia Day 2009, being awarded the Narooma Young Citizen of the Year.
After being awarded Young Citizen of the Year.
My HSC helped to shape what I chose to study and the last three and a half years of university really have taught me so much about the different areas of physical geography, human geography and the ways in which people interact with their environments. I have all of the theory behind me; I just need to put my ideas into practice.
Even though I am not from a farm in the traditional sense, I feel as though my upbringing really has shaped the person that I am, and what I would like to achieve out of life. Through this program I hope that I can encourage and support young Australians, and especially those in rural areas, to become involved in natural resource management and sustainable agriculture.
Wow we looking forward to working with young lady as you can imagine
The Young Farming Champions program is funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program. Art4agriculture thanks you for believing in us
We love to skite about all the exciting young people we know and we are shouting Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt’s exceptional talents from the rooftops. Megan is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Sydney on 4th September, 2012. She has been nominated for a National Landcare Award for her outstanding achievements in recruiting young people to the Landcare movement by founding the Illawarra Youth Landcare group.
Join us in voting for her in the People’s Choice Award here
You don’t have to take our word for it you can see for yourself what a superstar she is here
This is the blurb from here profile for the National Landcare Awards ……….
In 2009 Megan saw there was a need to engage more youth into Landcare activities in the area. With many Landcare and Bushcare groups having a much older membership and few recruitment efforts, she worked towards establishing a Landcare group exclusively for young people.
Much of Megan’s success comes from her constant efforts to attract attention to the group and keep volunteers engaged and learning about local Landcare issues. Many of the volunteers come into the group with no prior knowledge about natural area restoration, and Megan works alongside these volunteers to teach them the techniques and skills they need. If certain skills are beyond her knowledge or expertise, she engages other local experts in the community to teach the young volunteers about the issues of interest and sources projects which would provide a valuable opportunity for young inexperienced volunteers to increase their skills in Landcare activities.
Megan has also achieved great success in communicating and promoting the group through media and at events. Not only has she organised the group’s website and social media pages, but she has engaged a range of local and high-profile media to write stories about the group, and has worked with the young volunteers to create training DVDs which allow others who are interested in bush regeneration to develop some basic knowledge in weed removal techniques.
In order to retain existing volunteers and attract new ones, Megan has a number of exciting projects planned. Connections with adventure conservation groups such as Willow Warriors allow for weekend camping expeditions outside the region and a number of paddling projects have been planned for the warmer months. She is currently in the planning stages of a City Meets Country Landcare Expedition, which will see a team of city volunteers stay on an active farm and learn about how the farm works and the environmental issues the landholder has to deal with. She is also planning on creating a documentary with some volunteers from the group, which will delve into why young people are involved in Landcare in the Illawarra region and what some of the environmental issues facing the region are.
Megan is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Sydney on 4th September, 2012. Commencing in 1991, the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and groups that make a valuable contribution to the land and coast where they live and work.