Growing Young Leaders meet Calum Watt a crop breeder for the future

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Today’s guest blog comes from PhD candidate and crop breeder Calum Watt

“ I get a lot of excitement from being involved in an industry that is everyday looking for ways to produce more, from less, in the most sustainable way possible. No day is same. There is never a dull moment on my career path.”

Calum shares with us:

  • Careers in agriculture extend beyond the farm gate. “Farmers” can be scientists
  • Crop scientists can improve the productivity, profitability, resilience and sustainability of Australia’s crops
  • Communication is critical to connecting science to the paddock

This is Calum’s story

Warming to the idea that a career in agriculture could or would be for me was somewhat of a slow burn at first.

This is a bit unusual given as I grew up surrounded by agriculture in a rural dairy community in the south of Western Australia. Whilst I loved the lifestyle, I never really considered agriculture from a career perspective because everyone involved in agriculture are farmers, aren’t they?

Or at least that is what I originally thought back in my wild youth. My lightbulb moment came one year into a botany degree that agriculture was where I was wanted to be and my role as an agricultural scientist, more precisely a crop breeder would see me join the 82% of careers in agriculture that support farmers to produce food

.At university I developed a keen interest in genetics and whilst I had always had a passion agriculture and plants I had no idea that there was a career that could marry them all together. This is when I discovered the important role of a crop breeder. An ability to recombine genes to improve the resilience, sustainability and productivity of crop production is something so satisfying; something so simple yet something so critically important to improving our local and global food security. The late Norman Borlaug, an inspiration of mine, stove off global food insecurity by manipulating only a handful of genes through breeding, effectively doubling global crop production in what is known as the Green Revolution.

Gene-editing, has the potential to address the concerns consumers care about most: nutritional health, climate change, food waste and the need for more natural production techniques.

Techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9, which cuts and ‘edits’ strands of DNA, may enable farmers to reduce their use of pesticides, while boosting the resilience of crops to fungi, extreme weather and enriching their nutrient content.

There set the stage for a further 8 years at university progressing me slowly, but surely towards a career as a crop breeder to play my role in supporting global food security and achieving  Global Goal 2 – Zero Hunger and Global Goal 12  Responsible Production and Global Goal 13 Climate Action    

Being a plant breeder allows me to combine my three main passions into one role where I can improve the productivity, profitability, climate resilience and sustainability of Australia’s crop production and help ensure everyone has access to safe, affordable, nutritious food as efficiently as possible. If we can manipulate one gene, improve disease resistance and reduce the need for fungicides this is a win for people and the planet.

I am so optimistic about the future of agriculture and my place within it . The recent awarding of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna  for the development of a method for genome editing  known as CRISPR-Cas9 is an exciting example of just one spanner in the toolbox which crop researchers and breeders can utilise to develop the climate resilient crops of the future.

My excitement at the level of science and technology I get to work with as a crop breeder inspires me to share my story and the research behind the work my fellow crop breeders do on podiums across the country.

I invite you to Join me in an industry that everyday is looking for ways to produce more, from less, in the most efficient, climate resilient way possible.

Calum has recently submitted his PhD and joined the crop breeding team at Intergrain

Listen to Calum share his story on the Generation Ag podcast here 

and read more in this recent Farm Weekly Young Guns article

Learn more about Calum’s work via his published journal articles

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2020.01273/full

https://www.publish.csiro.au/cp/CP20169

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00122-020-03579-z

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00122-018-3243-y

 

Meet Emily May an agronomist in training advocating for urban agriculture

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Our guest post today comes from agronomist in training and peri -urban agriculturalist Emily May

Emily shares with us

  • Peri-urban environments are the agricultural frontier
  • Young farmers can help others adjust to changes and new technology
  • Engaging the consumer is a critical part of modern agriculture

I grew up in a non-farming family in the Hawkesbury district on the outskirts of Western Sydney, an area which has historically thrived as Sydney’s Food Bowl . In more recent years however, the extensive farmland dedicated to the production of fruit, vegetables, turf, flowers and a few smaller livestock holdings has progressively transitioned into urban develop. As the value of land continues to rise, along with the expenses of running a farming business many farmers have found it more profitable to sell to developers. This rapid change in the peri-urban agricultural scene  is something that has challenged me particularly as a young person who credits the community of peri urban agriculture for kickstarting my career.

My first introduction to a career in ag came from a weekend job I had during high school on my neighbour’s citrus orchard where I picked, packed and helped with the daily operations of the farm. This weekend job soon turned into an ongoing career working for numerous local growers in the Hawkesbury region including wineries, market gardens, hydroponic propagation and cut flower enterprises.

Whilst I enjoyed agriculture at school I didn’t initially see a long term future in the industry. It wasn’t until I left the industry when I finished school that I realised working in agriculture was something I was good at, I really enjoyed and wanted to be part of on my life journey.

This desire to be part of something bigger was also driven by witnessing the ever-changing dynamic of the agricultural scene in and around the Hawkesbury. I saw opportunities for farmer to embrace new technology and farming approaches and this inspired me to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE. Supporting farmers and growers adjust and uptake best  management practices, reducing reliance on chemicals, increasing their resilience and confidence to navigate the complex world around them, including participating in informed and influential conversations about land uses has become a key driver in my involvement in agriculture.

Today I now take a proactive role in being a voice for the industry and bringing the community on the journey with me to advocate for peri-urban agriculture. I volunteer with the Hawkesbury Harvest and their support has opened a door for me to have a regular spot on ABC Sydney radio sharing the good news stories and opportunities for people can get involved with their local producers in and around Sydney

I am grateful to the Hawkesbury Harvest for mentoring me and opening doors to use the voices of youth through the media to influence policy

I firmly believe our city plans can add value and better protect agriculture from urban sprawl. I believe planners can  make decisions based on evidence to balance competing land uses, taking into account the full suite of values and benefits we gain from Sydney farmers, not just the economic gains we stand to achieve by converting the land to houses.

Farmers in the basin deserve a fair price for what they produce, land security and support from other residents.

Sydneysiders also need access to affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure.

Equally we need access to nutritious and affordable food, reversing the high rate of obesity and diabetes, and “food deserts” without access to groceries particularly prevalent in Western Sydney.

Through increased awareness and accessibility, food shoppers can also support local food producers, increasing the resilience of Sydney’s food system and simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint of food.

I am proud to be part of a passionate team adapting to a changing world. I am  excited to be part of the movement to ensure that agriculture is valued and prioritised as an important land use and economic activity within our communities, that is ensuring buying local food is a choice that consumers can make in future.

I also work in rural sales with Ace Ohlsson, which allows me to meet  a wide range of customers who come through our retail shop along with providing agronomic and management advice to producers in the region who I work alongside.

I am very committed to learning how to effectively amplify the voices of youth, advocate for the industry I love and inspire the next generation to follow in my footsteps

 

Meet Alice Burwell who shares a passion to make a difference and fight for gender equity

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Our guest post today comes from vet in training Alice Burwell. Alice shares a passion to make a difference and fight for gender equity that has been a consistent theme in our 2020 stories

“Wow, you want to be a vet. You must really love animals”.

Yes, this is partly true. But this is only part of my story. I would always make it very clear that I wanted to be a preventive healthcare vet for large farm animals and help livestock farmers set up their businesses in a way that keeps animals healthy and prevent health problems in herds whenever anyone asked, even as a seven-year-old.

Yet as I grew up I found myself having to justify my potential value to the industry because I am a young female?

I  was determined to show female vets are just as enthusiastic about working outdoors with large animals as male vets.

Why should this matter?

If people work hard to gain knowledge they can contribute to industry, they deserve to be treated with respect for their knowledge and contributions regardless of their background, degree or gender.

What do the girls in the pink vests in this image have in common?

Passion is the common denominator, not gender here.  Yes, we are all female. Yes, we are all aspiring rural veterinarians. And the reason we were selected as the student delegates for the Australian Cattle Vets conference in 2020 is because of our burning passion for the livestock industry.

Veterinary science used to be a male dominated sector and I am proud to be part of the generation that is changing this.

Where did this burning passion for the livestock industries stem from? For me, it was the days I would spend growing up helping my father and grandfather in the lambing sheds or feeding calves like these ones

I have always been so determined to make my mark on the livestock industries as a professional and have always had an interest in the wider agricultural sector. The management from paddock to plate and from calf to cow is what excites me. I am becoming a veterinarian so that I can help improve the health, welfare and productivity of our livestock industries through producer education and adoption of new research, at herd levels.

Today veterinarians provide holistic farm services and have broad skills in farm consultancy and management as well as providing technical skills and advice on animal health and welfare.

As a vet I aspire to provide the farmers I work with exceptional value from improvements in animal health and management behind the farm gate as well as support them to optimise the value they get from their farming production systems.

The challenge of showing farmers my  worth is a both a daunting and  exhilarating task. I have studied veterinary science and participated in many extra-curricular activities so that I can play my part in making the agricultural industry sustainable for generations to come. There is nothing more exciting for me than helping producers turn calves into productive, healthy cows that are the building blocks for a producer’s successful business. Regardless of the species, it is the full circle of producing profitable, healthy beef/dairy cattle and sheep in a sustainable and welfare conscious manner that excites me.

As an industry we have many opportunities to showcase our industry is gender inclusive and ensure veterinarians are valued for the diverse skills and knowledge they bring to the farm team.

“As a rural vet you feel connected with the people you work with on farm and you are also an essential part of rural communities. Its a career where you have a strong sense of purpose and you get up everyday knowing you are making a difference”

Meet Elizabeth Argue who at the age of ten was busy opening doors to a career in agriculture

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Our guest post today comes from Elizabeth Argue who at the age of ten was busy opening doors to a career in agriculture

It all started with a passion to be a 10 year old jillaroo and a letter

Elizabeth shares with us:

  • It’s never too early to chase an agricultural dream
  • People, and nurturing the potential of people, is the heart of agriculture
  • Strong rural women can play a pivotal role in agriculture
  • modern agriculture calls for a range of individuals with an ever increasing range of skills from all walks of life.

………….

When you think of a ten year old girl from a cattle property on the Mid North Coast of NSW. You probably picture a girl riding her horse having fun with the neighbours kids building cubby houses at the river. Although I did build my fair share of cubby houses, my ten year old self was pouring over the pages of The Land newspaper, looking over all the job vacancies on cattle stations. I had decided then that school could wait and making a living working the land on a station, most probably like McLeod’s daughters was for me…

Well I was passionate!

I soon found an ad that jumped out at me for the Acton Super Beef company. So I wrote a letter to the company explaining my passion and eagerly awaited a reply. To my and I think my parents surprise a few weeks later I received a reply from Ms Acton herself, kindly thanking me for my letter but explaining that life on a property can be tough, even for someone older than ten. She emphasised the importance of education and suggested I wait a few more years before heading out.

Fast forward to my graduation from high school, I wrote back to Ms Acton and a few months later found myself as a station hand in Central Queensland. Looking back I thank my ten year old self for opening the door that my eighteen year old self could walk through.

Ms Acton was one of the first strong rural women who played a pivotal role in my journey within agriculture. Broadening my horizons considerably and highlighting the significant contribution strong women make to the industry. I have since realised the immense potential that can arise from fostering relationships and opening doors for others, in particular younger generations. This has led me to appreciate that although there are some incredible innovations, technological advancements and pathways developing within the multifaceted agricultural industry – it is the people and fostering the potential of people that is at the heart of the industry.

The people I met while working on the station ranged from hard working station hands, governesses, animal nutritionists to analysists. The list is endless and that was just centred around one property. Since transitioning to study Agriculture and Business at the University of New England, joining various agricultural committees, traveling abroad and working overseas, my perception of agriculture has changed significantly.

From my naïve view as a ten year old romanticising spending days on a horse mustering cattle I have come to realise the agricultural sphere is so much more than this and growing every day. Although there will always be a call for those stockmen and women mustering cattle, modern agriculture also calls for a range of individuals with an ever increasing diverse range of skills from all walks of life.

It is my passion for people that is driving my vision for the future. I want a career where I can open young peoples eyes to the diversity of rewarding careers in the industry I love. I want to ignite a spark  in particular women from all backgrounds to discover their inherent calling in agriculture. There is a plethora of opportunities developing and I would love to be the one to open doors for others to these opportunities, just like Ms Acton and a letter opened for me.

#CareersinAgriculture #genderequity #inclusivity #WomeninAg

Meet Veronika Vicic who sees a commitment to genuine and lasting relationships between producers and consumers as the key to success for agriculture

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Today we share PhD candidate Veronika Vicic’s story

“As future leaders of agriculture, its is imperative we encourage relationships between agriculture and the wider community by sharing our stories and our commitment to understanding the values of the community and shopping behaviours of consumers

Veronika invites us to:

  • Find innovative ways to keep the lines of communication open along the agricultural supply chain
  • Enable others to broaden their agricultural knowledge and  encourage individuals to enter our diverse industry will strengthen agriculture 

As a young person who grew up in Sydney  I only became aware of the  exciting opportunities in the agriculture sector at university. University has shown me research and development play a pivotal role in Australian agriculture supporting farmers to produce food and maintain the landscapes we grow it on

Being city born I am also aware that as future leaders of agriculture, it is imperative we encourage relationships between agriculture and the wider community by sharing our stories and our commitment to understanding the values of the community and shopping behaviours of consumers

Consumers in our society are becoming increasingly conscious of animal welfare standards, the quality of their food and where it is being sourced.  My first hand experience has shown me consumer views can be distanced from the reality of modern agricultural practices. The diversity of views shared on social and in print media can either expand the urban-rural gap, or minimise it. Bridging the gap is where I believe we should  begin.

Working within the industry has given me confidence we strive to maintain some of the world’s highest standards. It has also shown me it is imperative we communicate the efforts behind Australian producer’s work ethic and commitment to the quality products that consumers receive and how the industry maintains this standard by continually shaping business models to suit evolving consumer demands. I see our role is to communicate to our consumer audience in a way that everyone can understand and engage with.

Meat judging in Japan

My research is based within the beef and dairy industries. My team’s focus is to optimise supply chains for non-replacement calves within the dairy industry.   Producers are committed to giving their animals the best whole of life experience and my team supports them with the latest research to help them make the best decisions for their animals and their enterprises. When starting this project I could instantly see that the pathways of communication from producers to consumers were often lost along the supply chain and with the increasing consumer interest in supply chain transparency, this was the initial gap my team and I had to address.

Growing calves in Koroit 

The big question we asked was how do we engage with the community so they can identify biases and agendas in media, are able to distinguish fact from fiction and be informed consumers?

As a city kid exposed the world of agriculture at university I am passionate about sharing my story and encouraging other young people to follow my journey to a rewarding career in agriculture. Through my research I want to be able to support farmers to make the best decisions for their animals and their business and help them share their stories to encourage others to effectively navigate the complex and nuanced modern supply chain landscape.

Participating in consumer beef research

You can do a deeper dive into Veronika’s research here

 

 

Meet Ishaya Usman Gadzama who has journeyed from Africa to Australia to seek every opportunity, open every door, give back and pay forward 

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.

Today we share with you Ishaya Usman Gadzama’s story. Ishaya grew up in  Sub-Saharan Africa and witnessed children dying of malnutrition first hand. His aspiration is to fight hunger and improve people’s lives through the provision of safe, affordable, nutritious food for all. This challenged him  to ensure best practice animal well being. Ishaya is currently studying a PhD at the University of New England investigating  Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

Ishaya shares with us:

  • Seeing food insecurity first-hand has been a driver to study agriculture
  • Young people can be effective mentors for other young people
  • Seek every opportunity, open every door, give back and pay forward

This is Ishaya story …..

As a young child growing up in Sub-Saharan Africa, I followed my parents to our family farm, but at that period I thought I was being punished until one day while resting under one of the Mango trees I observed an ant after coming across a ‘food’ it immediately went and call the others and they came and took the food to their home. This behaviour made me become inquisitive about living things.

Going into high school I already knew where my heart was at, so I studied more of Biology, Agriculture and Chemistry and these courses laid the bedrock of my knowledge in the field of Biological Sciences as my best grades came under these courses.

My enthusiasm for agriculture continued to grow as I witnessed how children in my community die of severe malnutrition such as kwashiorkor and marasmus due to inadequate or poor access to high-quality food. For years, I asked myself what if I was in their shoes? In addition, the United Nations projected the world population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050. There is therefore the need for an increased effort towards food production – growing more grains, fruits and vegetables, raising more livestock, harvesting more fish and collecting more eggs and milk. These ignited a deep passion within me to seek a profession in agriculture to contribute to finding lasting solution to food insecurity issues and to make sure people have regular access to high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

Motivated by the passion to improve food production, I proceeded to the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria in search of world-class education to study Agriculture for a Bachelor Degree. It was there that I was nurtured and taught by elite lecturers with international experience in both practical and theoretical courses in crop and animal production, agricultural economics, and biotechnology.

I believe the only way we can feed approximately 10 billion people by 2050 is if food production becomes much more sustainable and governments  need to take action. I joined the services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in June 2014 working as a Research Fellow at the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, where I supervised undergraduate field practicals, carried out on-farm training of staff and farmers in feed formulation; contributed in on-farm animal-based research studies and field surveys and advised the government through NAPRI reports.

As a staff-in-training (SIT), I obtained theoretical knowledge and practical training over the course of two years studying for a Master’s degree in Animal Science and I shared my research findings with different stakeholders at national and international seminars and conferences, and through publications.

I am driven by curiosity to learn and I like to apply scientific knowledge in a societal context. In February 2019, I was appointed as a next generation Social Media Ambassador for Global Food Security Symposium at the Chicago Council for Global Affairs. I am involved in several volunteering activities such as the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Grooming Leaders for Agriculture (GLA) and FarmCoach Agro-Services, through which I acquired a solid experience in mentoring which had positively impacted the lives of young people. I have been supporting young agricultural students in their personal and professional development to become excellent young professionals who can effectively contribute to food security, food safety and sustainability. Currently, I am mentoring 17 young people sharing my knowledge and inspiring them to take careers in the agriculture sector to contribute in feeding about 10 billion people by 2050.

As a result, I received an Award for my outstanding leadership and valuable contribution to the development of the Agriculture sector in Nigeria and also for my service as a mentor in the ongoing Grooming Leaders for Agriculture (GLA – seniors programme). My commitment to motivate people and communities towards a positive change was rewarded by winning a merit and experience-based award (the Marshal Papworth scholarships) to study an MSc in Agricultural Sciences and Production Systems at Harper Adams University in the UK and in February 2020, I was also nominated for a Chevening Scholarship in the UK.

Furthermore, I won the prestigious Netherlands Fellowship Programme (now Orange Knowledge Programme) where I was trained by world’s leading experts at Aeres TCI in Animal Feed formulation and production. This gave me the privilege to establish professional networks with resource persons working in the poultry, pig and feed processing industries.

Doggedness and a search for knowledge have always been my strong points, perhaps this explains why I was awarded the University of New England International Postgraduate Research Award (IPRA) scholarship for a 3 years PhD programme in Animal Science and I also won the UNE International Accommodation Scholarship.

My passion, ideas and commitment to provide the solutions and leadership needed to improve people’s life through agriculture right from childhood made me to volunteer as one of UNE’s International Students’ Ambassador; leveraging the UNEBuddy online platform, interacting with potential students online sharing my experience and engaging in discussion on UNE’s innovative research culture, and answering questions related to teaching and research in UNE. This concretize my selection as UNE HDR Representative in the Department of Animal Science, where I am identifying the research needs of HDR students, contributing in discussions supporting the strategic plans of the Faculty of Agriculture and advancing the capabilities of Ag students.

I love so much agriculture related courses and I took some online trainings offered by Coursera and I was awarded financial assistance which earned me certificates in Dairy Production and Management, Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Chicken Behaviour and Welfare, Sustainable Food Production through Livestock Health Management and How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper.

Aside from academics, I love giving back to the community so I was featured in study international  and ABC New England North West  radio interview and online

My aspiration to fight hunger and improve people’s lives through the provision of quality-food, challenged me to delve into the area of improving animal welfare. I was awarded a PhD project in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at UNE which is being funded by AgriFutures Australia. There is an increasing demand for meat chickens produced in a free-range system in Australia. This recent increase has been largely driven by the perception that free-range chicken meat is a welfare friendly product.  My research aimed at motivating meat chickens to access the outdoor environment and we hypothesised that this will improve their health, welfare and meat quality.

I am also running for the position of Student Representative to represent UNE students in the UNE Council and to contribute effectively and ethically to strategic decision-making for the sustainable development of agriculture and to ensure students’ interests and voices are heard.

 

 

Meet Francesca Earp who is hungry for equality

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited young people in agriculture to share with us their journey to a career in the agriculture sector. We asked them to show us what they stood for and if they could wave a magic wand what would they change.

Today we meet Francesca Earp  who shares with us her

  • Belief that gender inclusivity is the future of food security.
  • Young people can contribute to international agriculture
  • Empowering women benefits everyone

The is Francesca’s story ……

In November of 2018, less than a week after my final exam for my undergraduate degree, I packed my bags and moved to Laos. As my friends prepared for a uni free summer, I purchased a pair of zip-off pants. While my classmates worried about their final exam results, I worried about the waterproofing of my steel-capped boots. When everyone else my age was wondering what they were going to do with their lives, I unbeknownst to myself had already started.

I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I decided to enrol in my Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience, even though the closest I’d gotten to livestock was milking a cow at the Easter show. Despite my lack of experience, I’d somewhat made a name for myself as the girl who loved adventure and getting her hands dirty. During my degree, I spent my holidays in South Africa at a White Shark research centre or as a farmhand at a Goat farm in Rural NSW

 Francesca on a Rural placement on a goat farm in Wellington, NSW.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree, but I did know I was interested in the relationships between communities and their farming culture. I also loved travel and had been hooked since a service trip to Nepal in my high school years

Francesca and girls from the Dream Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal

So, it also came as no surprise when I decided to complete my honours project in Laos, investigating the cost of foot-and-mouth disease control. Just weeks after returning from my trip to Laos, my supervisor asked if I’d be interested in returning to Laos full time. This time as the in-country implementation officer for two agricultural development programs. It was a no brainer.

I flew to Luang Prabang in November of 2018, determined to make a difference. I worked with farmers, government and university staff. It wasn’t until six months into my time in Laos that I realised what I was genuinely passionate about. I noticed that the female farmers sat at the back of the room during training, that they answered on behalf of their husband in surveys and that I was one of the only females in my team. I noticed female farmer exclusion and disempowerment. After that, I knew what I wanted to do. I became dedicated to the inclusion and empowerment of female farmers in a culturally appropriate manner. I designed non-verbal training tools such as board games and activity books to accommodate for the higher rates of illiteracy due to limited schooling

Female farmers in Xayabuli, Laos playing the board game designed by Francesca

 I ran female only training sessions. I became a PhD candidate, investigating the impact of socio-cultural factors on the uptake of agricultural development training programs, with a emphasis on the female farmer. My focus and passions go beyond the empowerment of female farmers in Laos. Just as food security is a global problem, so too is the exclusion of the female farming community. Female farmers in Australia still suffer the effects of gendered disempowerment themselves. With Australian women only becoming legally recognised as farmers as late as 1994.

Gendered poverty, traditional gender roles and patriarchal perceptions of female leadership all result in female disempowerment. Globally women are more likely to conclude formal education early, be victims of violence and displacement and often bear the responsibility of household management. In many counties, ‘ women are more susceptible to disease, malnourishment and the impacts of climate change.

The disempowerment of females results from long-standing and pervasive gendered marginalisation.

The experience of female farmers is a result of the socio-cultural factors of her community.

It is shaped by:

  • her age
  • her ethnicity
  • her community and
  • her beliefs.

For that reason, we need to tailor our gender empowerment strategies to our beneficiary groups.

Success comes from:

  • acknowledging the intersectionality of the female experience
  • being sensitive to the role of the female farmer in her own community.
  • learning to ask the right questions.
  • ensuring that development is custom-made to each community we apply it to.
  • being vigilant that the empowerment of marginalised groups is self-directed.
  • putting these women in the position that they can define their own empowerment.

Once we learn to do that, we will be empowering women the world over. Learning to tailor extension programs in Laos can teach us how to empower our own female farming communities here in Australia. Its an answer to a much bigger question.

Back in Australia, after a year and a half of living in Laos, I am still dedicated to the empowerment of the female farmer. I believe that we need to understand and recognise the cultural script of beneficiary communities so that we can tailor agricultural extension programs to these socio-cultural factors. More importantly, I believe in the power of the female farmer. I believe that inclusivity in agricultural extension programs won’t just improve their equality, but also their successes. I believe that gender inclusivity is the future of food security.

Young Farming Champion Dr Anika Molesworth recently interviewed Francesca for our Leadership is Language series. You can watch the interview here

Read Francesca’s blog “Things my father taught me ”  here

Footnote

Update on Francesca’s career journey in agriculture

Francesca began a PhD in 2019 investigating the inclusion of female farmers in agricultural development programs in Laos and due to COVID travel restrictions, has put that on hold to study a Master of Global Development at James Cook University.

Connect with Francesca:  LinkedIn and on Twitter 

#BtheChange #Changemakers #YouthinAg #YouthinAction #SDG5 #SDGs

 

Meet Renae Kretchmer who became a farmer to be a cultivator of life and a steward of the land

 In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited young people in agriculture to share with us their journey to a career in the agriculture sector. We asked them to show us what they stood for and if they could wave a magic wand what would they change

 Today we begin the series with Renae Kretchmer story who is jointly celebrating her 21st birthday and the release of her Heywire video.

Renae shares with us

  • the strength of country communities, especially in times of need
  • farmers are some of the most driven, intelligent, innovative and resourceful scientists you will ever meet
  • showing young people that exciting young people are farming  will encourage a younger generation to become involved with agriculture
  • agriculture is sustainable, regenerative and innovative

Meet Renae Kretchmer

For those who don’t know farming, there are things that fill your heart with joy; like springing out of bed on a frosty morning as if it’s Christmas to check for newborn lambs, even when it’s too cold for the motorbike to start. Or, sitting out on the deck after a hard days’ work, looking across the land and knowing you’re truly doing good. It is having the satisfaction when a new species of native bird decides to call the farm home, or the delight in raising chickens totally free-range. It is having the opportunity to put your heart in what you do

As a kid I was asked; ‘what do you want to become?’

It was simple: A farmer.

Do the pictures you see of old bloke with a pitchfork scare our youth away from such a rewarding and fulfilling career in agriculture? Is this stereotype masking the fact that farmers are actually some of the most driven, intelligent, innovative and resourceful scientists you will ever meet?

Despite the perception an A-grade student may not be perceived to ‘want to be a farmer’. I was proud to answer the question?

I wanted to be part of the new generation that you saw when you googled “Farmer”

For me it has always been easy to see; farmers are cultivators of life, they feed the world, are true stewards of the land and perhaps have the most important job out there. But they are constantly combatting this ‘farmer misconception’, and that must be changed. I want all young people like me to have the confidence to say with pride that she wants to be a farmer and to feel they have made a valued choice. For her to have the opportunities to cultivate that spark of interest into something amazing.

Farming is unlimited opportunities to marvel at nature; to experience wholeheartedly the joys each new season brings. To be at the mercy of the weather but still have profound faith. To pray for rain and then dance when it’s bucketing down.

My dream is to be a regenerative, ethical, diverse and pasture-raised farmer and to inspire others to peruse this profound career .

And here is a fact: we need farmers and we need people who support farmers to do what they do.

Too often we are reminded that the average age of a farmer is almost 60. For me I see a whole generation of innovative youth excited to take part in the progression towards a sustainable and regenerative agricultural career.

Watch Renae’s beautiful bitter sweet Heywire story here