Young Farming Champions Muster February 2019 1st Edition

This week our Young Farming Champions (YFC) would like to take a moment to extend our thoughts and well wishes to those farmers in Queensland currently affected by devastating widespread flooding. To our North Queensland cousins, we are thinking of you! #StrongerTogether

This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country (and globe!)

In the Field

Happy International Women in Science Day!

Our Young Farming Champion network is full of legendary women using science to make the world a safer, healthier, more abundant place for humans and animals to live. Today Picture You in Agriculture is celebrating them and their vital work with this video starring YFCs Lucy Collingridge, Danila Marini, Alexandrea Galea, Anika Molesworth, Jo Newton and Dione Howard. Wonderful work from wonderful women! #WomeninScience #InternationalWomeninScienceDay #WomeninSTEM

Wool YFC Bessie Thomas made headlines in the Rural Weekly this fortnight with a joyful story following her family’s journey through the last two years of drought. Bessie, her husband and their almost three-year-old daughter farm merinos in far-western NSW. She has received much kind feedback following the story and wanted to thank everyone for their ongoing support through the drought. Read the story here.

Bessie Sparks of Joy

Out of the Field

Congrats to YFC Bron Roberts who has just launched her new business venture B R Rural Business offering tailored management solutions for productive beef enterprises. Bron says, “I’m passionate about the beef industry and helping producers to be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. If you or anyone you know need a hand keeping records and want to use them to make real decision to improve your livestock productivity then I’m your girl!’ You can support Bron in her venture on Facebook here

Bron new business

Youth Voices Leadership Team Mentor Leader and Local Lands Service vet Dione Howard spoke to NSW Country Hour late last month. Listen in here from 11min35sec to hear Dione outline the risks of livestock eating toxic weeds causing liver damage. Great job Dione!

Beef YFC Kirsty McCormack, who’s currently living and working in Canada, was spotted in this case study by Rural RDC.

Kirsty McCormack

YFC Tim Eyes and his partner Hannah, who run The Food Farm on the NSW Central Coast, recently joined Nationals candidate for Gilmore, Katrina Hodgkinson in judging the 2019 Kiama Showgirl. Well done Tim and Hannah!

KatrinaTim Eyes Showgirl judge

Tim will also be returning to the Sydney Royal Easter show this April. Tim was over the moon when he got the call from the RAS of NSW in 2017 inviting him to be the farmer the glamping participants get to share the campfire experience with over the 14 days of the show. He so looking forward to inspiring the lucky glampers to be as excited about the agriculture sector as he is again in 2019. Read all about it here.

Cotton YFC Martin Murray was profiled on NSW Young Farmers Facebook page this week for his role on the Young Farmer Council. Great read Martin!

“I’m an agronomist working for a group called AMPS, we’re an independent agchem reseller with a very strong focus on on-farm research to improve grower outcomes. I work with our research team in the running of our trials and our growers to transfer our research findings into on farm results to further strengthen their businesses. “I joined NSW Farmers in 2015 as they are able to effectively represent the farmers of NSW, taking their thoughts and concerns to parliament. I also joined the Young Farmer Council so I could be proactive in representing the interests and concerns of young people in or entering agriculture. “There are two major ways we can give young farmers a hand up going into the 2019 state election. First, stamp duty relief will remove the significant disadvantage in relation to other first home buyers, because we can’t currently access the exemptions offered to young city residents purchasing homes zoned as residential. Second, we can help lift the productivity of our farm businesses through investing in our farmers’ digital, financial and risk management skills.”

Prime Cuts

Our Youth Voices Leadership Vice-Chair Emma Ayliffe is an invited speaker at the 2019 Australian Summer Grains Conference. Em’s been invited to talk on ‘Careers in Grain’  in the student forum. You can find our more detail about the program and register to attend here.

Emma is also jetting off to Israel shortly as part of her prize for winning Runner Up in the ADAMA Agronimist of the Year awards. Safe and happy travels Emma! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it.


Sticking with the conference theme, Youth Voices Leadership Team Chair Jo Newton, will be heading to Edinburgh in April where she’s had a paper accepted at the British Society of Animal Science Conference. The paper highlights the value of using data from commercial Australian dairy farms to demonstrate the benefits of herd improvement practices.

Jo Newton

Jo’s not the only YFC venturing to the Northern hemisphere. One of our newest YFC Alana Black will be heading to Scotland. While there she will be working for the Rural Youth Project. The Rural Youth Project aims to “develop feasible strategies to develop leadership and enterprise skills amongst young people in agricultural and rural communities based on understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.”

alana black

Given the massive contribution Alana’s to the YVLT Communication Sub-Committee we know she’s going to make a really valuable contribution in Scotland and we’re looking forward to the sharing of ideas and experiences between the Rural Youth Project and PYiA. Read more about Alana’s journey here.

Congratulations to YFC and Climate Action advocate Anika Molesworth who has been appointed to the Crawford Fund’s NSW Committee.  The Crawford Fund is a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries of Australia’s engagement in international agricultural research and development.

The 2018 Narromine Showgirl and Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien will represent Narromine at the Zone 6 Final of The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition on February 16 in Young. Keiley will be up against 39 other Showgirls, from which three finalists will be chosen. Read more in the Narromine News here. Good luck to Keiley, and also to YFC Jasmine Whitten who will head to Narrabri to compete in her Showgirl Zone Final on February 26th! #goodluck

Keiley O'Brien

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices19 #ThisisAusAg #StrongerTogether

Can you imagine hand feeding 20,000 mouths in a drought?

Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought series with Young Farming Champions Peta Bradley and Bessie Thomas

Firstly some background for this story.  In Australia, a large land holding used for livestock production is known as a ‘station’. Most stations are livestock specific – classed as either sheep stations or cattle stations depending upon the type of stock raised – which is, in turn, dependent upon the suitability of the country and the rainfall. The owner of a station is known as a grazier, or pastoralist and, in many cases, Australian stations are operated on a pastoral lease. Australian sheep and cattle stations can be thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour hundreds of kilometres away. Some stations have over 20,000 sheep in their care.

All stock workers need to be interested in animals and handle them with patience and confidence. They need the skills to make accurate observations about livestock like judging an animal’s age by examining its teeth, and experience in treating injuries and illnesses as well as routine care requirements such as feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccination and dealing with predators.

Those caring for sheep must also deal with flystrike treatments, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock need special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with difficult births.

Apart from livestock duties, a stock person will also to inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards damaged by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife. Source

In the first two instalments of our drought series we talked to Young Farming Champions predominantly involved in cropping operations. Today we speak to Bessie Thomas and Peta Bradley who represent sheep and wool, and discover the strategies they have employed to survive, the changes drought has enabled and the importance of mental health and family.  Bessie and Peta’s family farms are both in NSW but very different in terms of topography , sheep carrying capacity (10:1)  and acreage  (20:1)

Wilcannia to Armatree.JPG

The last two years have reminded both urban and rural Australia that drought is an inevitable part of the Australian landscape and its impacts are wide reaching.  Both Bessie and Peta’s families know their first priority is their families and the animals in their care and its imperative to access drought response resources promptly and maintain wellbeing.

Team Thomas

Bessie and husband Shannan from Burragan Station, 100km east of Wilcannia* in western New South Wales, run a merino operation in partnership with Shannan’s parents.

Team Bradley .jpeg

Team Bradley 

Peta comes from Armatree, 100km northwest of Dubbo where her parents, Jenny and Craig, run a Border Leciester Stud and commercial merinos (with cereal and pulse cropping).

For both properties 2017 and 2018 were years of below average rainfall. “In 2018 we had 83mm for the year which is less than 30% of the annual average, and the year before was also only about 60% of the annual average,” Bessie says. “It has turned the countryside to dust and dried up dams, and the heat waves have cancelled any moisture from showers we have had.”

Dust storms

Feeding sheep at Burragan Station 

Similarly Armatree has been reduced to a 300mm annual rainfall (down from the average of 520mm). “This equates to our farm being relocated to Broken Hill,” Peta says. “2019 has commenced with January being the hottest on record and zero rainfall recorded on the chart.”

Strategies common to both operations are reducing sheep numbers and feeding stock they have identified as drought resilient. At Burragan they have de-stocked by 50% and sold all of their 500 cattle, while at Armatree stock have been reduced by over a third.

“We’ve been feeding for more than 18 months which affects finances, creates time pressures and puts pressure on vehicles and trailers. It becomes mentally and physically exhausting,” Bessie says. “Feeding out hay in heat, wind and dust is some kind of torture.”

Jenny and Craig Bradley.jpg

The Bradleys ( Jenny and Craig pictured here in 2014 ) are looking forward to seeing barley crops like this one when the rains return Source

“Our farm stores enough fodder to feed all stock including finishing lambs for a full twelve month period, well beyond a normal drought,” Peta says, “but we used all stored fodder in 2017 and have had to purchase fodder for 2018. To accommodate this cost we have maintained selected breeding stock only. We have also sold lambs as early as possible after weaning, undertaken measurements on stud stock lambs as early as permissible and selected the stock we want to keep  well ahead of normal time frames.


Some lambs getting ready to be weighed through the automatic drafter/scales at the Bradley’s farm.

The measurements the Bradley’s take before they decide which animals they will keep include:

  • Body weights (weaning – 12 weeks of age, 5 months and 7 months)
  • Ultrasound fat and muscle measurements
  • Scrotal circumference on rams

In total an animal that is retained as a breeding ewe on the Bradley farm has in excess of 50 measurements recorded in her lifetime. These measurements are taken to be put into the genetic evaluation for sheep – allowing them to choose the animals that are genetically the best to breed from.

Weaning early, utilising confinement feeding and drought lots and always remaining flexible in our management decisions have been ways of dealing with this drought.

Ewe with Triplets.jpg

The Bradley’s select their sheep for productivity. Every now and then you come across a special sheep. This ewe is having triplets again – for the fourth year in a row! She has reared 9 lambs in three years. 

Weaning early in drought is important as lambs are competing with their mothers for grain. This allows the ewes an opportunity to get back into condition faster and also removes the competition for grain and fodder from the breeding ewes on the lambs.

Even the wool clip has been negatively impacted. Heavy, dust-laden wool sells for fewer dollars per bale.


But surprisingly the drought has had upsides. For years the Thomas’ had been discussing keeping Burragan purely as a merino property and transitioning Shannan’s parent’s property into dorpers, and that is a vision the drought has enabled/forced them to do. The drought has also highlighted the need for planning and flexibility in plans, and the critical need to put people first.

“Ensuring that we make time for ourselves and the family whether it is maintaining exercise routines, weekends away or taking family holidays are as important, if not more so, as practical farming,” Peta says, “as is the importance of networking to ensure we are operating at best practice.”

Bessie copes with the drought by downloading her thoughts and images through social media and this compilation of her 2018  year has led to the family being offered a week’s holiday at Port Stephens, courtesy of the huge generosity of owners Will and Karen Creedon, the Port Stephens Council and Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC

And although the constant raised dust is destructive to the land – filling grids and yards, blocking gateways and covering fences – Bessie can still find joy.


“The dust storms are ominous and interesting, I quite enjoy the dramatic skies that come with them – as long as I am safely in the house!” Bessie says

*Think it’s hot at your place? A property near Wilcannia broke the record for Australia’s highest overnight temperature in mid-January, reaching a minimum of 35.9C.

Thanks Bessie and Peta we know that by you sharing your stories you will give hope to others facing similar challenges

#StrongerTogether #YouthVoices19 #ThisisAusAg #YouthinAg

See Andrea Davy’s wonderful story on Bessie in the Rural Weekly here 

Read Peta’s story in The Land here

Visit the NSW DPI Drought Hub here for more information

Young Farming Champion Alana Black sharing her expertise and creating global connections

alana black heywire

Alana Black making the most of the opportunities available to young people living and working in rural Australia

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion program envisions a world where the brightest young agricultural minds from across Australian agriculture come together to build a better future.

Similarly the Rural Youth Project, based in Scotland, aims to “develop feasible strategies to develop leadership and enterprise skills amongst young people in agricultural and rural communities based on understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.”

In 2019 the two programs will share ideas and experiences as YFC Alana Black takes up a role with the Rural Youth Project in Scotland.

Alana grew up in the small town of Rydal in central NSW with extended family on a nearby farm. Once, when driving with her mother, she questioned why relatives were on the farm and not her own family. Thus began a tumble down the rabbit hole of succession. Alana had completed a degree in communications from Charles Sturt University and used the topic of succession in her masters in organisational communication. “Finding out about what happened with my grandfather and his brothers and how succession played out there, and then looking how succession plays out for a lot of families in regional Australia I realised there is a big communications deficit,” Alana says. “People don’t know how to talk to each other about difficult subjects like succession.”

“Being a typical millennial I thought I’d start a website and put all of my findings on there,” she says. Fledgling Farmers was born. Alana was then accepted into the ABC’s Trailblazer program, which gave her new project wide exposure and gave Alana further insight into media and communications. These are skills she has honed with her participation in the 2018 Young Farming Champions program and which, in 2019, she will further employ as a member of the Youth Voices Leadership Team communication committee.

A big part of communication in the modern world is the use of social media and this has led Alana to Scotland. “Again, as a good millennial, I am very active on social media and I came across a Facebook page called the Rural Youth Project,” she says. “They were researching the challenges young people face when they don’t live in a major centre and were doing a survey wanting data from across the world.”

Rural Youth Ideas Festival, Kinross, Scotland, 2nd & 3rd August 2018.

Alana (left) is looking forward to reconnecting with the bright minds she met in Scotland in 2018

Alana completed their survey, followed up with an email asking about succession in their part of the world and was invited to be a video blogger. “Then they said they had an Ideas Festival they were going to run and would I like to come over and speak,” she continues. “How could I say no? I’m actually half Scottish – any excuse to go back is certainly something I’d love.”

Alana went to Scotland for two weeks, did work experience with Jane Craigie Marketing (who initiated and manages the Rural Youth Project) and attended a field day where the ambulance was called for a person suffering heat exhaustion – in 190C.

Alana’s first trip to Scotland was in a volunteer capacity, but this has led to further career opportunities and on 4th June she will fly into a Scottish summer. “I will be working with Jane Craigie Marketing on the Rural Youth Project, which is running over 4 years,” she says.

We look forward to hearing of Alana’s adventures in Scotland with the Rural Youth Project … and to how she copes with the heat of a northern hemisphere summer.

You can read more about Alana here

#YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #ThisisAusAG

Our farmers are destined for The Good Place

For fans of The Good Place ( see footnote) a recent survey has shown that Australian  farmers are more likely than their community peers to get a free pass

A 2017 Regional Wellbeing Survey conducted by the University of Canberra found rural communities have a higher percentage of volunteers (up to 70.7%) compared to their urban counterparts (24.5%), reflecting the strong connection rural people have to their communities.

The survey found farmers, in particular, had high rates of volunteering with over half the respondents giving up time for unpaid work.

Benefits of volunteering include a better understanding of community, new skills, knowledge and contacts, new perspectives, expanded networks, increased influence, growth in confidence and personal satisfaction.

At Picture You in Agriculture many of our young people give generously of their time in volunteer roles ranging from positions on the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) to engaging with agricultural shows, taking on industry roles and setting up projects and organisations. They do these things to add to the diversity of thought, creativity, perspectives, opportunities, and problem-solving approaches that can deliver successful outcomes for  agriculture and rural and regional communities.

In 2018 19 Young Farming Champions travelled over 24,000 kilometres to visit schools participating in The Archibull Prize. That’s the equivalent of travelling ½ way around the equator. They volunteered over 2650 hours to share their love of agriculture and inspire other young people to follow their career journey .

Here we catch up with six young women to discuss one of their multiple volunteering roles, and to find out their three wishes for agriculture.

BESSIE THOMAS – sheep grazier, Cobar NSW

Bessie volunteers as communication manager for Youth Voices Leadership Team

My motivation is for consumers to have a better understanding of Australian agriculture and food cycles. I can’t change billions of consumers but I can help people in agriculture better their communication with consumers.

Volunteering fills my need for human connection. It fuels my intellectual need to keep my brain working and learning; it fulfils my need for a creative outlet beyond my home; it aligns with my morals and professional skills.

I love being part of a tribe of fierce women with a vision for the best future for young people.  Hopefully volunteering in this capacity will lay foundations to make my daughter’s path in life more enjoyable.

Bessie’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • More understanding of, and patience towards, consumer views
  • Agriculture being proactive rather than reactive
  • Broader minds of those in decision making positions

JO NEWTON – research geneticist, currently based in Ireland

Jo volunteers as chair of Youth Voices Leadership Team

In agriculture we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to professional development opportunities for young people. The training, opportunities and support I’ve received through my involvement with the Young Farming Champions (YFC) program easily surpasses the other programs on offer.

When the opportunity arose to be a part of the YVLT I jumped at the opportunity to give back to a program that’s given me so much. Not only have I gained invaluable skills, confidence and knowledge I feel like I’ve found my tribe in the YFC. It really is a privilege to chair such a proactive, responsive and inspiring group of people.

Jo’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • A united agriculture voice to the community
  • A tribe of young change-makers with the skills and confidence to take a seat at today’s decision making tables
  • To share and promote our stories about Australian agriculture

DIONE HOWARD – district veterinarian, Wagga Wagga NSW

Dione volunteers as the WoolProducers’ Youth Ambassador and Young Farming Champions Mentor Leader

I had very little experience with policy prior to the Youth Ambassador role. It has opened up a whole new world in the agricultural space and I feel that I now have a much clearer idea of how decisions are made that affect farmers and people like myself as a veterinarian.

The Animal Health and Welfare focus of WoolProducers is also a natural alignment with my skill set and I hope to establish some strong career-long connections as well as governance skills through my involvement with the organisation.

Dione’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • Greater connectivity through internet, landline and mobile phones
  • Genuine cross-industry collaboration
  • The corporate sector sees regional and rural Australia as an ideal base for their businesses

LUCY COLLINGRIDGE – biosecurity officer, Narrabri NSW

Lucy volunteers with RAS Youth Group

I was a state finalist in The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition in 2016 and I was eager to continue my involvement and be a part of the team that contributes to the wonderful public education and entertainment aspect of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I applied for the RAS Youth Group, and was accepted, in late 2016.

The Youth Group is a committee of young agriculturalists with similar passions however we are all from different backgrounds and are involved in many different aspects of the Australian agricultural industry.

The monthly meetings we hold are a great introduction to formal committees, strengthening our communication and time management skills. The networks I have developed have been phenomenal and it has provided me with the opportunity to steward for the merino sheep classes as well as the Young Judges Competitions for fleece and merinos.

I enjoy working with those from an agricultural background as well as engaging with those who may not have had any exposure to agricultural beforehand.

Lucy’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • Increased brand awareness of our unique agricultural products
  • Australians are proud of their farmers and the products they produce
  • All farmers have access financial literacy upskilling

 AIMEE SNOWDEN– the LEGO® Farmer, Southern Riverina, NSW

Aimee founder of Little Brick Pastoral volunteers to encourage young people to consider careers in agriculture 

I started the LEGO® Farmer, now under the brand Little BRICK Pastoral, as a bit of fun. As it grew I realised the potential it had to be a celebration of Australian agriculture. I want my images be a positive reflection of Australian food and fibre production and to illustrate the everyday of farming in a unique way.

Starting Little BRICK Pastoral has led to agricultural education, classroom resources and now careers education. Using LEGO® I can literally create any person I want and I hope to showcase the diversity of our industry. A career in agriculture is not just a farmer driving a tractor all day.

Aimee’s three wishes for agriculture is an industry that:

  • Is viewed in a positive light
  • Showcases the diversity of careers in agriculture
  • Speaks with a united voice

Alana Black – policy and communications officer, Griffith NSW

Alana founded Fledgling Farmers and volunteers her time to encourage farmers to have succession plan conversations 

My Mum has always said to us if you’ve got a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your stomach then you’ve got something to give back to your community.

Growing up in Rydal (popn. 50), I was raised as much by the community as by my fantastic parents. I think volunteering from a small age – I’ve probably been volunteering at the local show society since I was five years old – it’s just been bred into me. The feeling you get from volunteering is unlike any other.

When I moved to Sydney after university I had to get into volunteering because I thought how else was I going to meet people and build a community around me like I have back at Rydal.

Life doesn’t have much meaning if you’re not trying to do something to help someone.

Alana’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • For farming families to adopt business management and positive communication practices to aid generational transitions
  • For the Australian Government to adopt schemes like the UK’s Young Farmer Entry Scheme and Canada’s Agricultural Financial Service Corporation to help get more young people into agriculture with the opportunity to become an owner/operator
  • That we embrace the digital and technological agriculture revolution

FootNote – The Good Place is a fantasy TV show depicting a heaven-like utopia designed, in reward for people leading a righteous life.

Young Farming Champions Muster January 2019 2nd Edition

This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions across the country and the globe.   In the Field The power of collaboration is a defining feature of our Young Farming Champions (YFC) team, and this week it was well and truly evident! Wool YFC Bessie Thomas is based on Burragan Station near Wilcannia in Far … Continue reading “Young Farming Champions Muster January 2019 2nd Edition”

This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions across the country and the globe.  

In the Field

The power of collaboration is a defining feature of our Young Farming Champions (YFC) team, and this week it was well and truly evident! Wool YFC Bessie Thomas is based on Burragan Station near Wilcannia in Far Western NSW and last week Bessie’s family’s wool went up for auction. Enter Wool YFC Samantha Wan. Sam is a Wool Technical Coordinator  and Auctioneer with Elders at the National Selling Centre in Melbourne. Sam sent through photos and videos so that Bessie and her family could experience the next step of the process chain.

Wilcannia to Melbourne.JPG

A 1000 km and 11 hour journey by road for a true example of #Farm2Fabric #StrongerTogether


The Journey of Wool  in pictures from YFC Bessie Thomas’ property in Far Western NSW to YFC Sam Wan’s place of work at Elders, Melbourne.

Back on Burragan Station, Bessie compiled a visual memory of 2018:

“It was the driest year we’ve had since I moved here in February 2011. We received 83mm of rain for the year – better than some – when our yearly average is between 250-300mm. We’ve now been hand feeding a mixture of grains and hay for almost two years and we’ve sold about 50 percent of our usual herd. I’m proud we made it through and still have happy sheep growing wool to show for the hard work put in this year (especially by my husband who only had 14 days off all year), but geewhiz, it’s time for some rain (and a family holiday!) please! Bring it on 2019! We can do this!”

With no sign of relief for many drought-affected regions of Australia, YFC and Moree-based agronomist Casey Onus shared a photo of the harsh reality of cotton farm dams in the current climate. These dams are either bone dry or being utilised as a paddock to try and grow a crop.


YFC Casey Onus shares the harsh reality of drought affected cotton farms.

The drought has brought about key learnings for many members of the YFC network – these formed the first instalments of our blog series “Lessons Learned from the Drought.” In Part One of the series Cropping YFCs Emma Ayliffe and Dan Fox teamed up to share what farming in one of the worst droughts in NSW had taught them 


Emma Ayliffe and her partner Craig bought a farm in the middle of drought, but positivity ,diversity and preparedness are paying off.

“Smile! We can’t make it rain… When you find yourself in the dust stand up, brush it off and go again. A new year means 365 days to kick goals.”  says Emma 

In Part Two of the series, Grains YFC’s Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien share their insights into making hay (and growing crops) while the sun shines … and shines, and shines!

If we can grow a remarkable crop in one of the most challenging seasons then I can’t wait to see what we can do when it DOES rain,” – Marlee Langfield.


227 days from start to finish – harvesting canola windrows in December on YFC Marlee Langfield’s property near Cowra, NSW.

Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe took cotton, community and educational interaction to a new level in 2018 as she worked with Parramatta Public School in The Archibull Prize.

emma ayliffe parammatta public school case studyParramatta Public School won the Professor Jim Pratley Award at The 2018 Archibull Prize Awards

This amazing level of all round engagement first started at the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show and Emma followed up with school visits and skyped in to show the students a moisture probe in action in the middle of a paddock. You can read more about Emma’s work with Parramatta Public School here.

Out of the Field

We have already heard about the wonderful work of Wool YFC Samantha Wan and her championing the #farm2fabric journey of Bessie’s wool. Samantha has taken the next step in sharing all things wool by creating a blog for all things wool titled I Wool, Wool You? You can jump on and follow Sam’s blog here.

Sam Wan Blog.png


While we’re on the subject of wool, YFC Melissa Henry had a successful weekend at Bungendore Show with her stud Quebon Coloured Sheep, bringing home Grand Champion Ram. Melissa and her family operate their stud at Young, in the beautiful Hilltops region of NSW.

Young Farming Champion Melissa Henry

YFC Melissa Henry operates Quebon Coloured Sheep, who had a successful weekend at Bungendore Show.

And wait there is more on the subject of wool!!! Sheep Producers Australia is providing a fantastic opportunity through their Sheep Industry Ambassadors program 

sheep industry ambassador award

There was also plenty of opportunities for young beef producers with the 2019 Angus Youth National Roundup held in Armidale in January . This event draws over 170 competitors from Australia, NSW Zealand and Germany and some familiar YFC faces! YFC Jasmine Green judged the parader’s competition and YFC Dee George helped organise the event, both women encouraging other young people to develop their skills and instil a love of Angus cattle.

“My first roundup was in 2005. Throughout my years competing and now helping organise an event like this, I have made lifelong friends and contacts within the industry. I learnt so much and will continue to learn more through my involvement with AYRU.” Dee says.

Young Farming Champion  Jasmine Green

YFC Jasmine Green judged the parader’s competition at the 2019 Angus Youth National Roundup.

Superstar Jasmine Whitten has just started her new job with Landcare NSW. Jasmine has made the move west to Cobar to start the position as Local Landcare Coordinator for the Bourke and Far West Region. We are sure that she will be a wonderful addition to the Landcare Team! You can see Western Landcare post here.

Young Farming Champion and Landcare coordinator Jasmine Whitten

Narromine based Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien has certainly had a busy 12 months. She has been rewarded for her hard work with 2 big pieces of news coming in over the last week. Firstly she has begun a new job at RuralBiz Training and to cap it all off she had the honour of speaking at her local Australia Day Ceremony. This is an honour for anyone to be asked to speak at such an event – so a massive congratulations to you Keiley.

Now a shout out to Aimee Snowden, close friend of the Young Farming Champions program. Aimee is the founder of Little Brick Pastoral, who teamed up with the Archibull Prize in 2018 for the National Ag Day Careers Competition. We love following the adventures of Aimee and her Lego Farmer who this month attended BrickVention in Melbourne. Check out the Little Brick Pastoral blog to catch the highlights from BrickVention and what’s ahead for Aimee in 2019!

This one’s straight off the plane! YFC Sam Coggins has just arrived at Rothamsted Research in England – he will be there for three months contributing to a project (funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) aiming to enable better agronomy tools and services for small-scale farmers in Africa. We look forward to sharing more updates from Sam’s trip!

Horticulture YFC Tayla Field is profiled in this month’s edition of Vegetables Australia, speaking about what drives her passion for agriculture.

Tayla has been extremely busy since graduating from university, after participating in two leading professional development courses for the horticulture industry, as well as participating in The Archibull Prize and working full time.

Tayla Field Young Farming Champion

YFC Tayla Field is profiled in the January-February edition of Vegetables Australia. You can read the full article and catch up on all of the horticulture happenings here!

Meat Scientist and Young Farming Champion Dr Steph Fowler is in her mobile office on the road for the next two weeks with her master’s student Bridgette travelling from Cowra NSW to Qld to collect data from northern cattle. Ever wondered what a meat scientist does? Well now is your chance.. follow Steph and Bridgette’s journey on our Facebook page here

steph fowler meat scientist

Prime Cuts

YFC Calum Watt is off to a cracking start for 2019 – Calum successfully applied for an industry grant to undertake a barley breeding program on top of his PhD from early 2019. Calum was featured in Farm Weekly towards the end of 2018 when the Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd funding was announced. Has also published his first scientific article. Congratulations all round Calum!

Calum Watt .jpg

YFC Calum Watt was featured in Farm Weekly following his successful grant application to undertake a barley breeding program in 2019.

Mega congratulations to one of our inaugural YFC Hollie Baillieu who has recently taken up a new role as Manager of Public Policy at Woolworths


Hollie Baillieu

As part of the Government Relations and Industry Relations team, Hollie will use her  passion for agriculture and experience in the sector to work with industry and government throughout Australia. She sees relationship building  as key to this role. Hollie will also take on a mentor role for our Young Farming Champions in 2019. Thank you Hollie. Your career journey life experiences will bring a wealth of knowledge and valuables insights to our new Mentor-Mentee program  Cultivate – Empowering Influencers 

We are also super excited to see long term Young Farming Champions and The Archibull Prize programs champion supporter Emeritus Professor James Pratley awarded an OAM for significant service to agricultural science through roles as an educator, researcher and adviser.

Wrapping Up

Whilst Australia Day brings many mixed emotions our Young Farming Champions took the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful produce our Australian farmers feed and clothe us with in this video and these words

“Today we look backwards, forwards and most importantly see where we are right now and decide what it is we must do to make the best decisions into the future. The future isn’t a place we just get to go – it is a place we get to create. Together.”

We look forward to working with young people in rural and regional Australia and urban communities in 2019 to co-create the bright future we all deserve

 #YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #ThisisAusAg #StrongerTogether


Young Farming Champions Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien share what the drought has taught them

Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought Series. Today Grain Young Farming Champions Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien share what the 2018 Drought has taught them.


 Marlee Langfield ( photo Cowra Guardian) and Keiley O’Brien ( photo Western Magazine) 

Young Farming Champions Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien are two young women taking drought by the horns as they embark upon new agricultural roles with their partners in central New South Wales.

At 23 Marlee is CEO and manager of her family farm “Wallaringa” near Cowra, where she and her partner Andrew Gallagher produce grains and oilseeds. Just up the road at the Rawsonville Crossroads between Narromine and Dubbo Keiley, 23, and her partner Ross Noble run a diversified contracting business.

Drought has affected both businesses in the last two years and shows little signs of easing in 2019 so how has the season affected Marlee and Keiley and what lessons have they learnt?

“We began our 2018 sowing program planting dry into marginal moisture with our fingers crossed for follow up rain,” Marlee says. “Then we received a break half way through the program which restored our faith. The crops thrived off 5 to 13mm rain fall events throughout the majority of the growing season which is significantly less than the ‘norm’.”

However with droughts often come severe frosts, which affected the low lying areas of Marlee’s canola. “The main stem of a canola plant acts like a timeline displaying a visual of plant health by the appearance of the pods: shrivelled up and discoloured pods means it has been frosted, plump and elongated means it has enjoyed ideal conditions,” Marlee explains. Frost damaged canola has extremely low yield potential thus the decision was made to cut 12% of the Wallaringa canola crop for silage –which went as good feed to dairy cows.


Sowing canola seed with an air seeder


The canola plant pocks through 12 days after sowing 


227 days from start to finish – harvesting canola windrows in December 

2018 highlighted for Marlee the difference small management decisions could make to the farming operation and also brought unexpected bonuses – with little rainfall there was low disease pressure and therefore reduced monetary inputs. “All things considered we really did grow a remarkable crop,” she says with optimism often missing in drought-related conversations.


Hay making comprises the bulk of Keiley and Ross’ contracting business but they learnt early on to diversify to spread their risk. In 2018 this decision proved invaluable. “In a good year such as 2016 we bale around 15,000 large square and round bales,” Keiley says, “but in poor years, like 2017 and 2018 we averaged around 5,000 large square and round bales.” To support the business they grow irrigated lucerne for the horse market and offer sowing, spraying and harvesting services to clients.

Drought exacerbates financial pressures and Keiley used the dry time to upskill. In December she graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing and this year is undertaking a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping and Accounting.

Keiley Une Graduation.jpg

Keiley graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Agriculture and a Bachelor of Business Majoring in Marketing. 

She and Ross also attended a Young Farmers Business Program in Dubbo.

“We were in the middle of re-structuring our business from a partnership to a company so the YFBP really helped us get our head around what we were doing and broke those big and complicated notions into easily understood blocks,”

“Another highlight was goal setting. We have goals of what we want to do and where we want to go but going through the SMART approach and physically writing them down on paper really re-enforced to us our aspirations and future direction. Mingling with other young people who had a passion for agriculture was also great because we made some good mates and industry connections.” she says.

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Keiley and her partner Ross and daughter Ruby 

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Andrew (left) and Marlee with agronomist Baden Dickson ( centre) Source The Land

Both Marlee and Keiley recognise the support and guidance they have received as they transition into business owners and operators in their own right. From a young age Marlee worked alongside her parents on Wallaringa and absorbed the world of grains, and then later gained off-farm experience to enable her to take the reins of the family property. Keiley credits Ross’ father with giving him deep foundations in the working of land and machinery, as well as providing equity to get their joint business off the ground.

Support has also come from a range of industry advisers and local businesses and Marlee credits her agronomist, Baden Dickson, in particular for supplying much needed expertise.

Going forward Marlee and Keiley will put lessons learnt into practice and continue their educational journeys, learning from those who have gone before them.

“As young people with a relatively young business we have learnt to be open with the way we do things,” Keiley says. “You don’t always have to take on board everything everyone says, but you should always thank them for taking the time to share their knowledge and ideas with you.”

And when the drought finally relinquishes its hold, what then?

“If we can grow a remarkable crop in one of the most challenging seasons then I can’t wait to see what we can do when it DOES rain,” Marlee says.

and Marlee will be documenting every step of her farming journey with her magnificent prize winning photos


#drought #YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #ThisisAusAg


Young Farming Champions Dan Fox and Emma Ayliffe find farming in a drought is a steep learning curve

Young Farming Champions Dan Fox and Emma Ayliffe come from different ends of the farm ownership spectrum but both have learnt valuable lessons as they have embarked upon new enterprises during a drought.

Dan, the 2018 Australian Innovation Farmer of the Year is a fifth-generation farmer, whose family have been farming in the Marrar district of southern New South Wales for more than 80 years. Over the last decade Dan has been helping move the farm from a traditional mixed sheep and cropping property to a continuous cropping enterprise using regenerative agriculture, and in the last two years he has introduced even more changes.

Dan has planted cover crop brassica/legume/grass pasture mixes of lentils (left) oats,cereal ryegrass, filed peas, faba beans, turnips and tillage radish which not only enrich the soil they also provide highly nutritious feed for sheep  

Emma Ayliffe is a well-respected agronomist, private consultant and business owner who in 2018 bought her first farm with partner Craig Newham at Burgooney near Lake Cargelligo in the Central West of NSW, where they set about growing wheat, barley and lambs.


Emma Ayliffe and Craig Newham bought a farm together in one of the worst drought years on record 

On first glance it may appear Dan and Emma have little in common; one is changing a generational farm, another is starting a farm from scratch. But like all farmers they share the inconsistencies of the weather, and they realise that it is not so much what happens to them, but how they react to it, that makes the difference.

“Our average rainfall is 500mm but in the last twelve months we only received 200mm, and we also had some of our most severe frosts on record, yet we were able to harvest wheat at the area average of 2.5tonnes/ha,” Dan says.

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Harvesting Wheat on the Fox Family Farm

This amazing result is due to changes Dan has implemented in the last two years to conserve soil moisture during the summer fallow period.

“We got 100mm of rain in the fallow period and looked after it with our stubble, fallow sprays and groundcover management. That’s the only reason we ended up with a crop, because of the stored soil moisture before the crop went in. Years like this, which is one of the driest we’ve seen, show this approach to be a very valuable tool and dry years are when you really learn. Anyone can grow a crop in a good year but it takes a bit of skill in a drought.”


Harvesting lentils 

Emma follows the principles of moisture conservation but in her case even the early rains were missing.

“We didn’t get a good break to sow into and then we never really had any good in-crop rainfall.  This meant poor to no yields for most of our cropping area and not much stock feed resulting in us sourcing grain for our sheep and grazing off crops,” she says.

emma - impressive but dry

No shortage of dust storms but very little rain 

It was a testing year to start farming but valuable lessons were learnt.

“Fortunately we both work other jobs to help keep some money rolling it and we learnt about diversification. Sheep were an amazing asset to us this year.”

emma ayliffe sheep

Drought puts a lot of pressure on farmers and their animals – with hand feeding a daily ritual 

Speaking from her own experiences in this challenging dry period Emma has this advice:

“Smile! We can’t make it rain. Do your budgets so you know what you’re up for. Don’t be scared to ask for help or advice from people who have been doing it longer. When you find yourself in the dust stand up, brush it off and go again. A new year means 365 days to kick goals.”


And how does the prolonged dry effect confidence going forward?

“This is farming, This is the “gamble” that we take to grow food and fibre. It reiterates to us the importance of having a good drought management strategy in our business to support us in tough times. As a farmer it makes me want to work harder to learn how to do more with less, as an advisor it makes me admire the strength and resilience of the growers I work with even more so.”  Emma says. 

Dan, too, is optimistic.

“We’re only 2 years in and I’ve got a lot of confidence that the longer we stick with this system to build soil health and reduce our harmful insecticides and cut our fungicides right out, the better it is going to be. I think if we get a dry period such as this in ten years’ time our results will be better again – we’re pretty excited by the future.” he says. 

dr ellen moon df