Strong Women

The Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) this week announced the finalists in their inaugural ‘Strong Women Leadership Awards 2012’and and how excited are we that the list included Young Farming Champion Kylie Stretton.


Kylie ( Blue shirt) with fellow YFC’s at the Ekka last week

This is Kylie’s story………

All my life I have been passionate about the rural industry but being quite shy, I wasn’t very sure how to go about promoting it. In the last twelve months I have become very involved in Advocating for Agriculture via social media. I was asked to be co-administrator of Save Live Export (a Facebook group created to bring awareness of “the other side of the story” and connect like-minded people), and also invited to be an administrator of Rural and Remote Australian Women (another Facebook group which acts as a virtual kitchen table to connect women who are otherwise isolated, either by location, family commitments etc.). I am the creator of another Facebook group called “Funny Farm” which acts as a meeting place for men and women across rural Australia, who are passionate about their industry, it’s a place to vent and brainstorm on how to protect and promote our lifestyle. I also run trivia nights in these Facebook groups for fun and laughter. My latest project has been a Facebook page and Twitter profile, Ask An Aussie Farmer – An idea grown by real Aussie farmers so that you have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you.

I have also been looking at ways to help bring awareness to children about agricultural industries. Teaching the next generation about food and fibre production is extremely important to me as today’s children are tomorrow’s decision makers. Last year I was offered as a “prize” to the winner and runner up of the Archibull Prize at the Ekka, and travelled to Brisbane to talk to primary school children about growing up and working on cattle stations.  I also do relief work at our local Kindergarten and with the blessing of the teacher, I often bring “show and tell” such as photos, raw cotton and YouTube clips to share with the children. I also encourage my own children to be “agvocators” which they are more than happy to do, sharing photos and stories with their teachers and classmates.


My beautiful children

To me “Strong Women” are women who lead the way for others, who have strength, courage and compassion. Not only are they leaders, but supporters of others as well.

For the past 12mths I have spent many hours on a computer encouraging people to fight for their livelihoods, to share their stories, to provide a place to laugh, cry and vent without judgment. I try at all times to lead by example, to try things out such as Twitter and Blogging, sharing my success, problems and solutions, to encourage others to follow in my footsteps (and some I have encouraged have embraced this and surpassed my efforts). I try and treat everyone with equal respect regardless if they share my views on a topic and encourage others to do so.

I used to lack “self-worth” when it came to the broader community. I felt like I didn’t have a driving passion, or a direction I wanted to head in. I felt that I didn’t contribute to anything outside of my immediate box. I was quite shy, found it very hard to approach strangers and found it very hard to be a leader. I was quite happy being a follower. In the past 12mths I have found something I’m good at and in turn encourage others to be passionate about the work they do in Rural Australia. I can now (still internally cringing) ring strangers such as media or industry bodies to promote Ask An Aussie Farmer. I have now been in many newspaper articles and radio interviews (each one with less stammering than the last). I also had a great fear of flying which I overcame to fly to Brisbane to talk to the school children (my first proper flight at the age of 30).

I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. I have been given some fantastic opportunities such as going to Brisbane, being invited to MLA’s pilot Social Media workshop, to be spokesperson for Ask An Aussie Farmer, being nominated for QRRRWN’s Strong Women Leadership Award, and being a Young Farming Champion. Each opportunity presents me with a bigger network, more confidence, more information and more will power. If I can pass these things on to more people, that is building a stronger rural Australia.

I asked the following question on the Facebook Group “Funny Farm”
Help….. am writing my Strong Women application. Would you say that in my work in promoting pages such as Save Live Export, RRAW and this page, I have helped people who are otherwise in isolated situations build strong networks and support groups?

The following are some of the responses I received (very overwhelming and humbling to say the least):

Scott Warrington (truck driver, sheep/cattle producer, father NSW): Yes. Also you have enlightened many people, that otherwise wouldn’t have known of said pages. Definitely aided people’s ability to network, with others across Australia.

Raelene Hall (grazier, mother, author, Chief Editor of ICPA Pedals Magazine WA)

A definite yes from me Kylie. I felt the isolation of where I live keenly as no others our age around, too far from town to get involved in things there so these groups have made me feel a) more a part of the pastoral industry b)that there are people all over Australia who will support each other in tough times and c) that we can make a difference.

Jo Bloomfield (grazier, mother, rural advocate NT): When the program 4c (Four Corners: A Bloody Business) first aired I spent the following week writing letters and basically going into panic as I honestly thought I was watching our very livelihood go down the drain. NTCA sent an email around to everyone to become more proactive and take part in the discussions that were happening on pages like Save Live export. From the first time I logged onto that page I felt for the first time after the public backlash of hate that there was support, there was a way forward without destroying my family and our community . Most importantly there were others out there who I could help and have so greatly helped me. Kylie Stretton was a major part of that, a person who’s views I respect, appreciate. Who is not only passionate but compassionate, fair and considers many facets of the arguments. most importantly her humour. Thanks Kylie, you are a special person.

Michael Trant (sheep farmer, live export depot operator, rural advocator and co-founder of Ask An Aussie Farmer WA)

The live export ban to Indonesia last year was the single handed most destructive piece of Government action I can remember seeing. The effect the snap decision had on the men and women who work in and depend on that trade cannot be under estimated. Overnight, fresh from the shock of seeing their cattle subjected to horrendous treatment in a handful of abattoirs, the industry was halted completely in its tracks, leaving the thousands of farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, vets, feed suppliers, yard owners, yard labours and their families not knowing what the future may bring.

Living in remote Australia has many benefits, which could fill this and many more pages. It also has it’s disadvantages. Isolation is the big one. We can’t just up and wander down to the main street of the nearest capital city to march in protest. We can’t strike. And trying to organise people spread out over thousands of miles into a single voice has been described to me as trying to herd cats.

I am not in the cattle game, but I am very reliant on the sheep live export. I could only imagine what the people who had cattle in the yards ready to go, or mustering choppers in the air with trucks rolling in, were going through. But it was so far away from me. Save for a few talkback callers on the radio, I didn’t know what was happening and how they were coping.

Back then, I wasn’t a big Facebook user, it was mainly to stay in touch with old school mates. On a whim, a searched for Live Export, and in amongst all the Ban this, Stop that, Shame this, stood out a Save Live Export page. I asked to join, and shortly my request was accepted.

That was my first contact with Kylie Stretton, one of the groups founding members.

In the weeks and months that followed, I witnessed something truly remarkable. Farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, vets, feed suppliers, yard owners, yard labours and their families were connecting with each other in a way I had not seen before nor imagined. Stories were told, advice given, rage vented and grief consoled. Ideas discussed, plans formulated, politicians lobbied and media contacted. Debates were had, fierce fiery debates on the opposing Facebook pages. Some might ask why, what’s the point of arguing with someone over the internet? Because for the first time, we can, we can put our view across. And maybe, just maybe, someone might listen.

In the middle of all this, was Kylie. Her enthusiasm was contagious. A relevant news article would be published and within minutes she’d have it posted in the group for all to see. An outlandish, incorrect and just plain wrong comment would be made online and she would point us to it, where we would set upon correcting a few things. How useful this was is unknown, but it made people feel they were doing something. Anything. Miles from nowhere, this was our best way to become involved.

Eventually, our governing bodies woke up to the fact that this online Social Media thing might just be useful, and began encouraging farmers to tell their story online to the masses. We were way ahead of them. From the Save Live Export group we have people on Twitter, blogging, and in March the Facebook Page Ask An Aussie Farmer was launched, a page where anyone can ask any question about food and fibre production, to be answered by farmers. Again, Kylies dedication, enthusiasm and willingness to put herself out into the mainstream media as our spokesperson is inspiring.

Kylies work gave people the outlet they were looking for, a place to meet likeminded individuals. Her research has given us facts to counter often hyper exaggerated claims. Her dedication has given us inspiration to venture from our comfort zones and stand up for what we believe in. And her humour has brought a smile to many, including myself. I have never met, nor even talked with Kylie, our contact is purely through messages over the internet, however I consider her a close friend who I am lucky to have met.

She is committed to rural Australia and I could not think of a more deserving person for this recognition.

My aim over the next few years is to bring more awareness about the importance of agriculture to the general public. I’m hoping to get more publicity for Ask An Aussie Farmer and for teachers and parents to be aware of it and to use it as a tool for educating the children in their care. We’d also like to get a fun website up and running to help promote our cause. I’d also like to be able to visit more schools and talk to students face to face.

My other aim is to continue helping others with social media, to help them tell their stories and continue administrating the FB groups I have, building larger and stronger connections. I have a lot to learn, and I feel that being awarded the QRRRRWN “Strong Women Leadership” Award will present me with so many opportunities. I feel it will provide me with stronger networks and education, which in turn I can pass on to others building stronger communities and a stronger Rural Australia.


We think Kylie embodies everything this award stands for Don’t you?

For more information on QRRRWN go to or phone 1300 795 571.

How much more can a Koala bear

Who caught the feature on Koalas on Four Corners tonight see “ Koala Krunch Time”

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.

Well the Young Farming Champions and The Young Eco Champions in partnership with Illawarra Youth Landcare are taking up the challenge and getting actively involved in the quest to save the Koala


We are kick-starting this by holding our next training workshop at The Crossing Land Education Trust

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.

Exciting times

Check out this cute video on how they feed the baby Koalas at the Great Ocean Ecolodge in Victoria

The herd has arrived

Exciting news at Art4agriculuture HQ 20 NSW schools have signed on to participate in the Archibull Prize 2012. 

The Archibull Prize is an Art4Agriculture initiative which is supported by Cotton Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Target 100, Pauls and the Upper Naomi Cotton Growers Association. The aim of the Archibull Prize is to bring the next generation of consumers and rural producers together to tell Agriculture’s story and generate two way conversations through art and multimedia

Each school has been provided with a life size fibreglass cow on which the students create an artwork about their allocated food or fibre industry, the farmers who produce it and how this food or fibre is being produced sustainably. The school is also provided with paint materials and a resource kit.

Each school is also allocated a Young Farming Champion whose area of expertise is the food or fibre industry the school is studying.

One of the big features of the program is its a fun way to learn and we ask the students to capture those moments with their cameras along the way.

Here is one way it was done in 2008 by Kiama Public School who created the masterpiece that is Little Miss Sunshine





Little Miss Sunshine



Little Miss Sunshine at the Lighthouse

Little Miss Sunshine visits the Kiama Lighthouse


I am confident the 2012 participating schools will have just as much fun and I cant wait to see the photos

A big congratulations to the following schools:

Abbotsleigh College

Camden Haven High School

Caroline Chisholm College

Cranebrook High School

De La Salle College Caringbah

Elizabeth Macarthur High School

Gunnedah High School

Hills Adventist College

Homebush Boys High School

James Ruse Agriculture High School

Jamison High School

Macarthur Anglican School

Menai High School

Model Farms High School

Muirfield High School

Shoalhaven High School

St Michael’s Catholic School

Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Berkeley Vale Campus

Winmalee High School

Wyong High School

You learn something new everyday

This weekend Art4agriculture hosted the 2012 Young Farming Champions for Workshop 2 in Brisbane.

We chose Brisbane as the venue to coincide with the Ekka. All the moons were aligned  including our superstar videographer Tay Plain being in the country and able to join us for the full three days.

I will do a blog post on the workshop component shortly but first I would like to share our Ekka big day out with you Tay and Ann IMG_4584

Tay and Ann set up at the Ekka

It started with breakfast at Southbank…….

Breakfast at Denim atI South Bank MG_4238 

We did the smart thing and picked the restaurant with most patrons ( well done Kirsty) and we weren’t disappointed with what Denim dished up for us. Those large lattes in the soup bowls were to die for.

As we had Tay our videographer whizz and and our producer, script writer extraordinaire Ann Burbrook both with us at the same time  we were determined to share as much of the Ekka agriculture story as we could.

a Jess and Tom IMG_4593

Tom and Jess at the Dairy Youth Challenge

Using our 2012 Young Farming Champions as both “talent, producers and interviewers” we spent the day  learning from each other, other exhibitors and the punters.

Sammi IMG_4423

Sammi gets up close and personal with the Woolley Jumpers

Lauren Hayden IMG_4450

Lauren, Hayden, Ann and Tay set up the sheep shearing story


Madie IMG_4519

Madie spruiked the Archibull Prize

Kathleen and Lauren IMG_4439

Kathleen and Lauren talked all things fleece

Water a Gold Medal Resource with a Price tag to Match IMG_4299

Kylie discovered that bottled water was liquid gold at the Ekka


We tasted the prime beef which we washed down with Ekka cocktails


Jess IMG_4310

Jess made new friends

and we all discovered much to our delight that the general public where not the least bit concerned about dining in the paddock to plate experience


We visited Heidi at the Ekka Target 100 display which featured QLD primary schools painting Archies at the show 


Ann and Jersey Calf IMG_4363

Ann found the perfect house cow

Steph F IMG_4279

Steph inspired Next Gen F at the Junior District Exhibits

Bess and Edison IMG_4470

We even met the famous @auscottongirl Bess Gairns with her new pride and joy

Megan IMG_4526

Megan talked a lot of bull


and the bulls did a little dance

Little MiraclesNew borns

This was a very interesting concept. No lambs were born whilst we were there so we didn’t get to gauge audience reaction!!! 

It was a great day but sadly every now and then, thankfully in the very small minority there was an industry naysayer determined to ruin the day. There was the whinging beef stud breeder who just couldn’t understand why his animals had to share the showground with non stud breeders. Yes that’s right the general public. Yes you heard right. The most important people in the food supply chain. Yes he was lucky enough to have that once a year opportunity to talk to and share his story with the people who buy what he produces and he them found quite irritating. 

Then there was the guy in the dairy shed I just wanted to hit over the head when I found out later he told the YFC’s they were wasting their time talking to non farmer audiences.  

But nothing dampened the spirit of the YFC’s. Today they are back on farm or at uni organising school visits and media interviews doing whatever it takes to continue the  journey and spread the great story of agriculture across all the bridges.


Walk a mile in my Jeans

Today’s guest post is by Angela Bradburn. Angela is a Policy Officer at Cotton Australiaand recently visited Art4agriculture headquarters at Jamberoo where she go up close and personal with some of the cows.

The colourful ones


and the more traditional variety


and the Archies at Sydney Show

At Sydney Royal with the Archies

Cotton Australia is the peak industry body for Australia’s cotton growing industry and a proud supporting partner of two of Art4agriculture’s signature programs The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions program

Angela is one of a growing cohort of young people from non farming backgrounds going places fast in agriculture

In her role at Cotton Australia, Angela contributes to policy formulation and advocacy as well as acting as a reference point for industry organisations, government and other stakeholder groups on key policy and research issues. Key policy issues she is working on include climate change and carbon faming policies, education, labour and workforce issues. She also works with representative grower panels to provide research and development direction to cotton industry.

Here is Angela’s story ………


I didn’t grow up on a farm, and have mostly lived in metropolitan areas all my life, but I am very proud to be working in agriculture, and currently for the cotton industry which is providing me with so many opportunities to grow and achieve.

I hope by sharing my story and my career path and experiences I can help to convey that there are exciting careers in agriculture aplenty.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at University of Sydney in 2004, and have worked for the last seven years in agriculture and natural resource management policy and programs, across government, in private consulting and now industry. I have  had many great opportunities, colleagues and mentors and challenging and interesting work environments along the way.

I’ve been based on Sydney and Canberra for most of my career, but thankfully with very strong grass roots ties. I’ve spent lots of time in contrasting environments – on the farm and in rural and regional Australia as well as in the board room and corridors of Parliament House.

The thing is my career could have gone many different ways, and there was no lack of choice – once I got into the right networks.

Angela and Scott 3

Angela with husband Scott enjoy the view at Art4agriculture HQ

People are often curious about why I chose to do agriculture. At school I liked science, plants and animals and was also interested in human health. Looking back, agriculture is perfect for this as it touches on all of these things. The interconnectedness of environment, agriculture, food and health is what farming systems are all about!

I spent some time living on a hobby farm in Kangaroo Valley – this definitely sparked an interest. I also ended up doing agriculture as an elective at school and our school had a farm, which was a lot of fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed studying agriculture at the University of Sydney, and was very glad I fell into it. The degree had a strong theoretical science base but involved practical experience on-farm and in agricultural businesses across many industries – an important mix from my perspective. We were a tight knit group that went through, and many of us are still friends and keep in touch. Even just looking at my class of 2004 paints a fascinating and impressive picture of the array of career opportunities in agriculture.

During my time at university I had great opportunities provided to me by the cotton industry. I managed to secure an undergraduate scholarship provided by the Cotton CRC, to support me through my last two years, and in addition I undertook a Summer Scholarship– also an initiative run by the Cotton CRC where you work on a small research project with industry researchers.


I had a great time working on this based in Narrabri at the Australian Cotton Research Institute. This time in a rural community and working in the industry and its research community definitely built my appreciation and an affinity for the industry. The Summer Scholarship program is a highly successful model and I think it’s very important to provide these sorts of pathways for young people to help them in making career choices (it’s great to see other initiatives out there such as the Horizon Scholarship ). It’s wonderful be back in the industry that gave me so many opportunities during my studies and to be interacting with a lot of the same people that I did during my uni years.

After graduating I was lucky enough to secure a position within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Graduate Program. Looking back, this was a really big foot in the door and a good place to start a career. This is a structured program where we rotated through areas of government and received training, leadership and capacity building opportunities. I worked in policy and technical roles across Biosecurity Australia (BA), Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and the Rural Policy and Innovation Division.

Picture 061

From here I worked for four years as a consultant, for a company called Hassall & Associates (now GHD). Our team provided advice to government and industry to help improve the management of natural resources; effectiveness of industry and government programs; and sustainability and competitiveness of rural and regional Australia.

Now, working at Cotton Australia I continue to be excited by agriculture’s bright future, and the passionate, bright and resilient people that make up the industry.

Sophie Davidson & Angela Bradburn

Angela with Sophie Davidson ( Education Officer for Cotton Australia)

One of the things I enjoy about my current role is that working for an industry body, you have a unique opportunity to work with the other representative groups to present a unified voice for agriculture more broadly. Cotton Australia is a member of other larger groups (such as the National Farmer Federation), and its rewarding working side by side with our colleagues, sharing our experiences and striving for positive change. Piarn Masterclass 2

The cotton industry itself is comprised of very inspiring people – lots of young industry leaders, women and generally innovative and passionate business people.

“Did you know that the average of farmer in the cotton industry is 39 and it is estimated that in Australia 40% of the farms have women as partners in family farms?. If you didn’t know that I bet you know Australia produces the best cotton in the world and we clothe 500 million people.” 

One of the highlights  of my role this year was undertaking a PIARN Master Class*.

Piarn Masterclass

The Inaugural PIARN Master Class with Professor Snow Barlow

The ‘Master Class’ program has been developed and is funded by the Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network (PIARN), out of the University of Melbourne.  Run as a short, intensive program, the initiative aims to connect future research, policy makers and industry leaders with on-farm activity so that primary industries research and development can be more relevant and effective, particularly in managing key climate challenges.

I joined a group of 20 from across different agricultural industries, to take part in three modules held in different locations across rural and regional Australia over late 2011/early 2012.  The program involved farm and site visits, interactive workshops and open forums with producers, leading researchers, policy makers and key industry figures.

The Master Class program provided an opportunity to enhance and build valuable knowledge and networks with policy makers, other industries and researchers.

As well as providing a chance to observe in the field how different farming groups are successfully applying knowledge, the interactive nature of the program means that I will also get to contribute a ‘cotton industry perspective’.

I enjoy remaining connected to both my industry and across agriculture at all levels – policy makers, industry and farmers. Social media is excellent for that and I invite you to follow me on twitter @angelajbradburn

I also value being active in professional associations. In Sydney there is actually a very vibrant network of people who work in agriculture and agribusiness. A lot of us come together as part of the group Farm Writers,which holds events, brings us key speakers and provide a collective forum.  Agribuzz for example is a smart-casual event  that facilitates professional networking and provides professional development opportunities. Over drinks and canapés, our members and friends exchange business intelligence and views, enjoy brief presentations from key note speakers and take the chance to meet agribusiness’s leaders and leaders-in–the-making.

A career in agriculture – give it serious thought.  I did and I have never look back

By the way check this out if you want to know what it takes to Grow a pair of jeans

*Presentations made by a number of invited experts to the PIARN Master class are available at

Conversations of Change

Today my post is going to feature an amazing young woman who is doing agriculture #soproud (excuse the hash tag its a tribute to twitter which has introduced me to whole new cohort of great thinkers that surround and support agriculture right across the nation).

Hello world meet Stephanie Tarlinton

Steph and her parents

Stephanie with her #soproud parents at the recent Dairy Research Foundation Symposium where the audience voted her their favourite speaker.

Today I will be sharing that speech with you but you had to be in the room to understand how powerful it was and wow it was a powerful performance.

Art4agriculuture is also #soproud of Stephanie Tarlinton. She is a graduate from our Young Farming Champions program in 2011 and now a Young Farming Champions’ Ambassador

I first saw Stephanie in a photo and I saw something special and the search began to find out who that girl was.

A little bit of background. In 2004 I was given the task by the RAS of NSW Cattle Council to come up with some ideas to reinvigorate the dairy cattle events at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and if I was going to pull that off successfully I needed to do some serious sponsorship seeking. The obvious first choice here was Semex who are a major sponsor of dairy cattle shows right across the world. So I arranged a meeting with Jim Conroy who heads up Semex Australia. Now Jim is a pretty special man himself and is very committed to investing in youth in the dairy industry.

Jim was on board but it came with one condition and oh boy did that turn out to be an Everest. Jim wanted the Dairy Youth Challenge event to be reinstated onto the dairy cattle calendar at the Sydney Royal Easter show. At the time I had no idea why this event was no longer running but when I told my husband Michael he said “only a mad person would take on that task”. As it turned out adult egos and personalities and politics had shut this event down and it was the Holstein Association of NSW I had to take on and nobody in their right mind did that in those days. Pleased to say those days are well and truly in the past.

So I went back to Jim with my problem and he said Lynne “this time round young people are going to run this event” and he gave me the name of a young woman who equally believes in her peers and she attacked it with gusto with me dodging the slings and arrows.  Anyway we pulled it off. Young people run it today and wow what an event they have turned it into.

6 Youth Challenge Winners NSW Semex team with Dr Neil Moss of Cows r US

This is a picture of the winners of the re-invented event in 2005 and that is Stephanie Tarlinton in the front row. BTW The young man beside Steph in the front row is Mr Cheese from MKR 2014

As it turned out it was to be six years before I met Stephanie at an RAS of NSW Council dinner when she was runner up in the 2011 RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Showgirl Competition and I asked some-one to introduce us. I was fascinated by everything about her. It was quite obvious that this was a superstar waiting to happen. I invited her to join the inaugural 2011 Young Farming Champions program and was thrilled when she accepted.

So enough about the background this is what she  had to say last week


Today I’d like to have a conversation with you,

But firstly so you know who you’re talking to, I’ll tell you a little about myself

I am

  • Firstly a proud dairy farmers daughter
  • The 2011 Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Runner Up
  • An Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion
  • A National Junior Dairy Judging Final winner
  • A Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholar
  • A Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever
  • A NSW Holstein Youth Exchange Awardee

And a young women who has a degree in Agricultural Business Management, loves to travel and feels just as comfortable in a pair of high heels as I do in my gumboots

My story started growing up on my family’s dairy farm which is located on the far south coast of NSW just outside of the township, Cobargo. My family has a long association with the region and in particular the dairy industry.

I have the deepest respect for the humble dairy cow which has provided for my family and wider community over the last 148 years we have been dairying.

So you ask with five generations of dairy farmers behind me what is it exactly that I am going to talk to you about.

No it’s not the quickest way to move a strip graze fence nor is it the best way to dry out the inside of your gumboot when you misjudge the depth of the creek (however Mum’s good hair dryer can perform this task if she isn’t home)


In fact the reason I am here today is to share my experiences of having conversations of change;

Conversations that inspire & engage.

Conversations which have the ability to empower another individual by sharing knowledge and experience.

Such conversations we all have the capacity to have as a way of connecting with those in the community who have not experienced a business/way of life, which is common to us all in room, dairying.

I’m referring to what is more commonly known as a way to help bridge the rural – urban divide.

The Bridge has been built however we need to open the pathway for consumers on either side to be able to connect with those involved in producing our food and fibre products.

With a considerable amount of Australia’s population living in urban centres, those classified as rural including the country’s farmers have an important role to play in reducing the separation between communities.

Engaging in a conversation with someone who has little knowledge of how their food moves from the farm gate to their plate has the potential to give them insights into the real story of modern agriculture.

Connecting with consumers on shared values increases the possibility of forming trust in farming and those whom participate in agricultural business.

Sharing personal stories allows consumers to gain insight and confidence in farming systems, ultimately building connections and breaking down barriers in society which further decreases the divide.

Members from either side of the divide consume food in order to survive and this is a fundamental feature of unity and mutual dependency. A simple discussion on the origin of a food product has the potential for rural person A to connect with urban person B to produce an outcome of greater understanding C.

A + B = C highlights the impact a single conversation can have if society will allow itself the simple pleasure to connect and challenge perceptions.

To quote Ghandi, “be the change you want to see in the world” reinforces the challenge that in order to create ways in which to build relations between the two sectors of society one must accept their role and be prepared to create opportunities for conversation.

For the agricultural sector to develop positive images and perceptions of farming practices and lifestyle, individuals who align themselves with this segment must be prepared to participate in the dialogue.

This is something that after hearing on numerous occasions the comment “oh you don’t look like a farm girl” I regularly seek out opportunities to participate in the dialogue others may see as a waste of time. As the quote behind me states I am the being the change I would like to see and that is having a greater number of consumers with an understanding of just who is putting the milk in their latte and the process it took to get it from the cow to the city cafe.


One opportunity I recently had which allowed me to participate in conversations with next generation of consumers was through the Art4Agriculture Archibull Prize program as a Young Farming Champion. In September last year I made my way to a primary and then to a secondary school in Sydney which saw me become their face of farming.

A face which they were not expecting which was clearly indicated to me “oh so YOUR the farmer” with an intrigued look up and down at my business suit and heels, with a laptop and mobile phone in hand.

I see dairy farmers as business people who work in the food supply sector and although we spend time in gumboots they are what I call “tools of the trade” much like my heels I guess!

I took this role on as it allowed me to challenge the stereotype of farmers which is so often poorly portrayed in the media, and provided me with an opportunity to share my experience of growing up on the dairy with children who do not have such a luxury and to share the great story that is dairy.

I would now like to share with you one tool I used which has allowed me to engage in conversations;

This is a conversation I have not only shared with you here today and at my schools last year but it has also been shared with the rest of the world via YouTube, In fact my video has been viewed by over 1500 hundred people, an audience I would have not been able to reach with my messages if it had not been for my desire to connect with others in the community who have been labelled on the urban side of the divide.

I believe that challenging stereotypes through highlighting our connections has the ability to show that as people we both have a mutual dependency on food and therefore on one another as a producer and a consumer

I am proud to come from a dairy farm, to be a small town girl, a rural consumer and I see this as one of my greatest assets, I have firsthand knowledge and experiences of food production and therefore I have something to share through conversation with those whom are classed as being from the bright lights of the city.


One girl who calls the bright lights of Sydney home is Year 7 student Sophia, standing second from the left in this photograph. I would now like to take a moment to read you an email I received from this young girl after being to her school

Dear Stephanie,

My name is Sophia and I met you when you visited our school. I am writing to you to tell you how inspiring and amazing your visit was.

My sister Olivia and I both attended your visit and it truly was a life changing experience. As we both live in a very suburban area we don’t get to see a lot of Australian Farmers. What was so incredible about your visit was that you taught our school that farmers are real people too. Your visit and video showed us just how important Australian Farmers are and just how much farmers are like us.

So I am writing to say Thank you. My family and I are originally from NZ however we moved here 5 years ago. I feel like I now understand that the foundation of Australia is made up of Farmers. You have really changed the way I think about farmers and I will now make it my mission to help spread the word, “Farmers are real people too” oh and that “farm girls love their shoes”

Regards Sophia

After reading this email I was touched at how my simple video which showed nothing more than my life on the farm, our girls aka the cows, a few pairs of shoes and some creative dance moves had the ability to inspire a young woman. I was touched at the response I received as for me I was just having a conversation about the everyday things that form life on our farm however for this particular girl my ordinary wasn’t so ordinary.


I chose to share Sophia’s story with you as I believe it is an example of how it only takes a small conversation or connection to create big outcomes. For me knowing I had planted a seed in one person’s mind regarding the way she thought about farmers provided me with the greatest sense of satisfaction and determination to then tell others about my story and encourage them to tell theirs.

In my dealings with people in the agriculture sector I have often found farmers to be very humble people, my parents are a great example of this, however I challenge you all to be inspired by the words of William James –

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does”

I believe as dairy farmers we make a difference, everyday. Everyday there is fresh, safe healthy dairy products available to consumers which have all originated from the only true white gold, milk. It does make a difference to people’s lives that is because the nation’s dairy farmers got out of bed this morning that have food on their table, jobs to go to, communities to live in, someone to call a neighbour, a friend.

I am confident there are many other ways which you all make a positive difference to someone’s life simply due to your actions as a dairy Farmer.

As farmers if we would like others in the community to acknowledge this difference we make to their lives we must be prepared to share with them, to build trust by finding common values and to firstly acknowledge and be proud of the role we play.

I see no easier way to do this then by having a chat with someone. Whether its a taxi driver, the person next to you on the plane, the person at the supermarket checkout, your hairdresser, or your child’s teacher. Share with them your story, challenge the stereotype, leave them with notion that today they met someone who is PROUD to be a dairy farmer or working in the dairy industry.

Conversations provide a key to reducing the disconnect between the farmers who grow the food and the people who buy and consume it. By acquiring education from individuals like ourselves who have firsthand knowledge in agricultural fields, it will enable those divided by urban boundaries to have informed opinions and increased understandings of what it is exactly that you do.

Actively participating in the conversations is essential for progress to be made in reducing the disparity of knowledge because if we don’t take the initiative to stand up and tell our own story someone else will. And I personally know I’d rather tell my side of the story then have someone with extreme views or uninformed opinions reaching the consumer of a product I’m proud to say I produce.


So I would now like to ask those in the audience who are proud to dairy to raise your hand…

Congratulations! I too, am proud to dairy, proud to be a part of a great industry and proud to have such a long family history associated with dairying.

I would now like to ask you all to have a conversation of change, to share your experience and wisdom

And remember every individual has the power to share knowledge regardless of which side of the classroom divide, they take a seat during story telling.

So I challenge you all to be the change we need to see to bridge the divide,

To seek opportunity to engage and educate,

Act as if what you do makes a difference as it does to the consumers of Australia

And finally

Be proud to Dairy, Always.

So in 140 characters “Stephanie stepped out in her black business shoes and her pink lipstick and wowed them with her #proud2dairy message” and she bought many in the audience to tears including me.

Farm Girls Wear Shoes too

Those shoes

This wont be the last time you will hear from Stephanie Tarlinton.

However shortly she is leaving our shores to spend some time with her good friend Leona Dargis in Canada and wont that be a daunting partnership. We hope to share some of this journey with you over the next two years

leona dargis-3

Young Farming Champions hit the road running

The 2012 Young Farming Champions spent last weekend at Clover Hill Dairies  in Jamberoo undergoing rigorous training to ensure that their school partnerships achieve the best outcomes for the student and farmer participants. They received coaching on how to craft a message so that it is remembered, how to connect with the audience, how to cope with nerves, to making a multimedia presentation, and how to prepare for and answer difficult questions.

This year the Art4agriculture Young Farming Champions will represent the Cattle and Sheep, Cotton, Wool and Dairy industries courtesy of Target 100, Cotton Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Pauls Milk 


The workshop was conducted by the delightful genius that is Ann Burbrook

The YFC’s enjoyed hearing anecdotes from both previous YFCs, last year’s school students and their teachers showing what an impact this program can have. From raising awareness of food and fibre production and consumption, to increasing the number of students studying agriculture, as well as challenging stereotypes and setting students on a new career path into the agrifood sector.

Lunch of Champions

Table of champions

Steph T

Stephanie Tarlinton YFC alumni and dairy ambassador was on hand to share her 2011 YFC journey with the inductees.  Stephanie’s  “Farm Girls Wear Shoes too” video was quite a hit with the students and the new YFC’s

YFC workshop

Stephanie Tarlinton presents to 2012 YFC’s


There were food for thought moments for Wool YFC Sammi Townsend

Jess M 3

Pensive moments for Dairy YFC Jess Monteith

“ Wow what a wonderful weekend it was. I was able to learn about other key rural industries to broaden my knowledge and in a sense make me even more passionate about Australian Agriculture and the YFC cause!” said Jess


Plenty of light moments for Beef YFC Madie Hamilton

Beef Young Farming Champion, Madie Hamilton from Mudgee in NSW was exhausted, but excited at the end of the workshop. “The YFC program is a way for me to give back to an industry that has given me so much. I hope I can entice more people to work in any part of the agricultural industry”


Beef YFC and Ask an Aussie Farmer creator Kylie Stretton enjoyed her first trip to Sydney.


Cotton YFC Katie Broughton is doing a PhD researching the potential effects of climate change on the Australian cotton industry. Katie is proud her jeans come from the highest quality cotton in the world and is keen to make it is as easy as possible for our Aussie farmers to keep producing it sustainably    

“It is incredible to work with such a diverse group of young Australians promoting agriculture. The enthusiasm within the group is infectious, and I am excited to be part of a program that is linking people in rural and urban communities.” said Katie


Our young male dairy YFC Tom Pearce handled the all female company extremely well. He tells me growing up with 3 sisters has given him plenty of insights into the female psyche.But he admits he is looking forward to Sam Adams and Billy Browning joining him next time.

“I’m looking forward to presenting my story to a classroom full of interested young adults and hope to inspire a few to seek opportunities outside of the city.” said Tom


The launch of this fantastic new resource from Cotton Australia

“How to grow a pair of jeans”


Katie Broughton and Tamsin Quirk Cotton YFC’s with Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia

“The weekend confirmed for all participants, that they do have a unique story, that they do have something important to say and that they are in a unique position to say it! These young people already have a flame, they already have a voice and they already have a purpose. This weekend gave them the tools they need to realise that purpose”. said Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia who joined the YFC’s this weekend


Beef YFC’s Madie Hamilton, Hayley Piggott and Kylie Stretton (front)


Dairy YFC’s Jess Monteith and Tom Pearce


Wool YFC’s Lauren Crothers, Sammi Townsend and Wool YFC Ambassador Kathleen Allan

Wool Young Farming Champion, Lauren Crothers from Dirranbandi in Queensland said the weekend was one of the most enjoyable she has had this year. “It provided the opportunity to meet with like minded individuals who share a common interest, inspiring the people of Australia and encouraging them to be part of the amazing Agricultural Industry.”

The Young Farming Champions are now working on their videos and industry presentations prior to meeting again in August to review their progress. They will visit their allocated schools in metropolitan Sydney and Brisbane in September this year.

The 2012 Young Farming Champions are:

  • Kylie Stretton, Charters Towers, QLD – Beef Industry
  • Hayley Piggott, Rolleston, QLD – Beef Industry
  • Madeleine Hamilton, Sydney, NSW – Beef & Sheep Industry
  • Billy Browning, Narromine, NSW – Cotton Industry
  • Katie Broughton, Narrabri, NSW – Cotton Industry
  • Tamsin Quirk, Moree, NSW – Cotton Industry
  • Jessica Monteith, Berry, NSW – Dairy Industry
  • Tom Pearce, Bega, NSW – Dairy Industry
  • Lauren Crothers, Dirranbandi, QLD – Wool Industry
  • Kathleen Allan, Yass, NSW – Wool Industry
  • Sammi Townsend, Lyndhurst, NSW – Wool Industry
  • Samuel Adams, Armidale, NSW – Wool Industry
  • Bronwyn Roberts, Emerald QLD – Natural Resource Management /Beef
  • Stephanie Fowler, Richmond NSW – Beef

Our 2012 Art4agriculture Ambassadors are

  • Catherine Marriott, Perth, WA – Beef Industry
  • Melissa Henry, Boorowa, NSW – Wool Industry
  • Kathleen Allan, Yass, NSW – Wool Industry

We have had lots of superb YFC applicants this year and hope to invite some of them to join the program next year. If your industry would like to invest in its young people and sponsor a Young Farming Champion send me an email I would love to talk to you 


NSW – the faces of the future

Give me a home where the buffalo roam says Jo Roberston

Today’s guest blog comes from Jo Roberston who you guessed it grazes buffalo on her farm. I have been looking forward to hearing Jo’s story because I know nothing about buffalo. So thank you very much Jo for sharing your story


A bit about me

Hi, my name is Joanna Robertson. I have completed my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England in Armidale at the end of 2011. Since finishing uni I have been working in Armidale for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries as a Graduate Officer, currently in extension (beef cattle, sheep and agronomy).

I grew up on a mixed enterprise property at Tooraweenah in Central West New South Wales with numerous different crops and livestock.

Jo and Gucci 1991

Me and Gucci

The livestock included sheep, cattle and water buffalo, definitely not your every day farm animal. My parents had both been in the Northern Territory where they had worked with water buffalo, of the Swamp variety, on improving meat quality and domestication practices. Our  foundation herd of buffalo came from the Townsville research station in QLD. Other animals were bought from various locations around the eastern states, some in SA, including Dubbo Western Plains Zoo. At our peak we had around 100 breeding cows plus their offspring (steers and heifers).


Mum, Dad and myself (in the middle) with some of the original ‘girls’ that were brought down from the Townsville research station.

When they returned to “Tara” they brought what they knew with them as well as maintaining also sheep, cattle and crop enterprises. So as a kid I was lucky enough to work with all these animals and take care of the inevitable poddys 1 that came with having livestock. We also looked after some of the local wildlife which led to numerous pet kangaroos, birds (including an owl), reptiles and even the occasional echidna.

Picture of me and a joey

I attended the local primary school in Tooraweenah, a small school with a very big heart. Tooraweenah Primary School has been dubbed the ‘school with a view’ because it has the Warrumbungle mountains as its backdrop.

After finishing at Tooraweenah I then attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange as a boarder. While at high school I took up showing cattle with an Australian Lowline breeder, Tammy Breuer. Tammy took me under her wing after I had a couple of bad experiences with bigger breeds of cattle and taught me everything I know today. Tammy took me to all the  regional shows that my school commitments would allow me to attend. I also accompanied Tammy to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne royal shows. In 2004 my parents encouraged me to break in a steer and prepare it for the Dubbo national steer show. Murray, or as he was more affectionately known, Muzza, was a Murray Grey x Limousin steer. While I still had a lot to learn about the nutrition side of preparing and animal to show I had learnt a lot about grooming and breaking in animals. Tammy was there to help me every step of the way and provided support and guidance where needed. Muzza lead me to Grand Champion parade that year which was an amazing achievement.


Muzza and Jo at the Dubbo Steer Show 2004

After regaining my confidence with cattle I went on to work for numerous other studs with countless different breeds including Herefords, Angus, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Brahman, Limousin, and Charolais just to name a few. Tammy has been an huge inspiration and influence in my life. She passed away early last year and I miss her immensely.


Tammy and “the girls” at Sydney Royal Show 2005 with the senior champion bull and grand champion Lowline.

In 2007 I took a year off between finishing high school and starting university. I spent a few months up in the Northern Territory on a small  by territory standards) family owned station, Sunday Creek. Sunday Creek station, located 3 hours south of Katherine, is owned and operated by Tom and Bev Stockwell along with their 3 kids Peta, Brian and Claire. While I was there they also had a French exchange student and a Canadian whom both came out to experience outback Australia. This made for some very interesting days in the saddle and in the yards. All mustering was done on horse back, which for me was both a challenge and great fun. Growing up I had always wanted a horse but hadn’t been able to have one and had only ridden friend’s horses. Working with horses everyday was like a dream come true for me. The first horse I was put on was a bombproof 17 hand ( 5 feet 8 inches tall at the withers )  horse named Hercules. While he was a wonderful, quiet horse though I constantly found myself looking for termite mounds to stand on just to mount him! I rode a couple of different horses while I was there which was great and I learnt a lot about the different personalities of horses.

Me and one of the many station horses on Sunday Creek

For our weekends off we occasionally went to the local pub which was only half an hour away. The Daly Waters pub was always an extremely busy place and popular tourist destination, especially during the dry season as it was a popular tourist destination. I also attended the Daly Waters camp draft which was a great day out for the whole family. clip_image010

Me on Maddie, one of the kids ponies, at the Daly Waters Camp draft

One of my main responsibilities while at Sunday Creek was to look after the ever growing number of poddy calves. This included both the bottle fed poddys and pellet fed poddys The pellets are high in both energy and protein and this gives the poddy calves the necessary boost to keep them healthy and growing well clip_image012

Friday, my first poddy calf of the season He was a Brahman x Droughtmaster. I managed to teach him to shake hands for his milk every day. I was sad to leave him behind.

Working in the Northern Territory opened my eyes up to just how different extensive cattle production is compared to what is almost considered intensive cattle production in the south eastern states. On Sunday Creek we did lick runs every week which involved putting out a loose lick supplement, similar to lick blocks more commonly used in the southern states. These supplements are used all year round. There are 2 main supplement types; One for the wet season and one for the dry season. These two licks are also formulated for weaners, as they can’t go straight onto a full grown cattle lick. The licks are formulated to suit the age and needs of the animals being fed as well as the different times of the year.

Cows tucking into loose lick at Sunday Creek (the black thing hanging down is a scratching bar that is treated with chemical for the animals to rub on to help protect them from buffalo fly, a prevalent pest in the NT)

Me and my water buffalo!


Growing up with water buffalo enabled me to see a side of livestock production that most people don’t get to see. It also enabled me to see the joys and challenges of working in a new and emerging industry. Many of my earliest memories are of watching my dad work the buffalo through the yards: marking, weaning, pregnancy testing and sending them off for sale. Many people believe that buffalo are hard to handle but if they are handled often this is not the case. Like most livestock, the more you handle them, the quieter they are.

I would also accompany my parents to the abattoirs so I was exposed to the paddock to plate concept from an early age and it has given me a greater appreciation of the critical control points that exist between the yards at home and the knocking box of the abattoir. Meat quality has undergone a lot of research in most meat products. The buffalo industry came up with TenderBuff branding in the 1980s to ensure meat that was to be sold was of the highest quality. Its similar to the MSA grading system used for beef.


Once I started university in 2008 I took more of an interest in the buffalo industry from a research and promotion perspective looking at increasing awareness of buffalo and their products in Australia. In December 2008 I accompanied my Dad and Barry Lemcke (principle buffalo research scientist) to Cairns in northern Queensland to have a look at a prospective buffalo project to be funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). While we were up there we visited the Millaa Millaa buffalo dairy owned by Mitch Humphries up on the Atherton Tablelands.


Riverine buffalo cows in the holding yard waiting patiently to be milked.

In 2009 I travelled up to Darwin to spend 4 weeks during semester break working with Barry Lemcke, buffalo and cattle research officer NT Department of Resources. While I was up there I was lucky enough to work on both cattle and buffalo projects.


7/8 Riverine x 1/8 swamp buffalo cows with calves at foot. Beatrice Hill research station NT.

During my time on the Beatrice Hill Research Station, west of Humpty Doo, one of the OUTBACK magazines free lance journalists turned up to do a story on the buffalo industry. I was lucky enough to not only be quoted in the article but to also get my photo in there. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! It is an excellent article and I encourage any who can find a copy to have a read as it gives a great history of buffalo in Australia and where the industry is now heading.


OUTBack magazine cover of the Buffalo Industry feature story. Issue 67 Oct/Nov 2009

Also in 2009 I attended the inaugural New Rural Industries Australia (NRIA) conference held on the Gold Coast, QLD as a representative for the NSW buffalo Industry. It was a very interesting conference with many varied industries being represented. Industries included: crocodiles, olives, truffles, camels and native flowers just to name a few. It was an excellent opportunity for some of these smaller industries to get together, network and learn from each others opportunities and mistakes.


NRIA conference 2010, Jo holding a crocodile from Karoona Crocodile farm QLD.

I was supported by other buffalo producers from QLD, Margret Thompson and Mitch Humphries, at the conference who supplied some of the cheese products that are made from buffalo milk (mozzarella and feta). Buffalo cheese was also on the menu of the conference as the chef tried to use every product that was being promoted at the conference in the menu over the 2 days. It made for some very interesting meals!

Since 2009 I have been looking at increasing my own herd with the addition of a bull. Unfortunately he was not as fertile as we had hope and has only produced one calf over the past 3 years. However, I must take into account the differences in gestation between buffalo and cattle. The gestation period of a buffalo is actually 10.5 months where as cattle are only 9. Buffalo calves also stay with their mothers for a lot longer than cattle. Buffalo calves are weaned when they are 12 months or older where as beef cattle calves can be weaned much earlier. For now my herd remains small and is just for my own enjoyment but hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, I will be able to produce enough buffalo meat to supply a market and I have done some extensive market research. Hopefully a saltbush fed buffalo product will be on the menu at the farmers markets near you soon!


Kyle, my first swamp buffalo bull


Kyle’s first calf, a little heifer calf, called Kylie (she is about 6 months old here)

Unfortunately, due to old age, Kyle passed away about a month ago and we now have a new bull calf (around 2 years old), yet to be named. He came from a buffalo producer in SA. He was delivered on ANZAC day so we thought a name relating to ANZAC day would be a good one. Any ideas?


My new little swamp buffalo bull

A little bit about buffalos

There are currently two main types of buffalo in Australia the Swamp buffalo and Riverine buffalo. Swamp buffalo are the buffalo commonly found in the Northern Territory. They have much bigger, sweeping horns, lighter grey colour and less hair. Where as Riverine buffalo have short, tightly curled horns, a lot more hair and are also a lot fatter than the Swamp buffalo.

Buffalo have the same names as cattle; females are cows or heifers (if they haven’t had a calf yet), steers (castrated males) and bulls (intact males).


Swamp Buffalo- at home, New South Wales


Riverine Buffalo- at Beatrice Hill research station, Northern Territory

Next year (2013) I will be attending the World Buffalo Congress, which is to be held in Phuket, Thailand, as a representative for Australia. This will be an amazing experience which will allow me to network with like minded people across the globe as well as hear about some of the latest advances in buffalo research.

I could write about buffalo all day, however for now I will leave it at that and if anyone would like to know more the Australian Buffalo Industry Council website is it has links to all of the state bodies and information about the products produced by buffalo producers.

Farming Futures

Last year a friend of mine, Jo Newton, and myself came up with an idea of hosting a networking/socialising function to get University of New England agriculture degree related students together with agricultural industry employers. This was the start of the Farming Futures Industry Dinner. It was organised by the Rural Science Undergraduate Society (RSUS) in conjunction with Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE). We had 2 speakers, both former agriculture degree related graduates from UNE, to talk about where your degree can take you and opportunities that exist in the Agriculture sector in Australia. Our fist speaker was Dr Geoff Fox, former employee of the World Bank. He inspired everyone with the number of diverse careers he had had since he finished at UNE. Our second speaker was Troy Setter who is the current Chief Operating Officer for the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). He highlighted the opportunities you can have in a very short period of time if you are willing to work for it. Chris Russel our master of ceremonies for the night, was a hit with everyone.


Farming Futures Industry Dinner organising committee with VIP guests Dr Geoff Fox, Jo Newton, Chris Russell, Troy Setter, Jo Robertson, Sarah Foster and UNE Vice Chancellor Prof Jim Barber

Overall, it was a great night with a good number of Agriculture industry employers/leaders and university students. This year the dinner will be hosted again but this time a careers fair will be held beforehand during the day. This allows the students to have a look around at what is available in a more formal setting then discuss with the employers at the dinner, in a more informal setting, the opportunities available to them. As I am no longer a student at the uni I hope to attend the dinner as a representative of the NSW DPI graduate program.


Jo on Merry, a poddy Riverine buffalo calf at Beatrice Hill Research Station NT.


Agriculture is a very diverse industry in which a large variety of jobs can be found. Anyone wanting to be involved in agriculture can be! There is a place for everyone, you don’t have to have grown up on a property to be involved or to get involved.

Any Questions?

Q. What are poddys Jo

A 1 Poddy’s are young calves that are hand raised

Meet Steph Grills proud to be continuing here family wool tradition

Today’s guest post is by Steph Grills another young Australian food and fibre producer who is very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries in her family and she is very keen to carry on that tradition

The Steph Grills story …………

In the late 1600’s, John Grills and his wife Urah, moved to St. Mellion, Cornwell England, where John practiced the trade of a worsted-comber 1. Four generations later, John (IV) and his wife Rebecca, decided to emigrate to Australia, settling in Maitland, NSW where John was a soldier, stonecutter and farmer. Their son Thomas, moved to Saumarez, Armidale where he married Ellen O’Connor and selected land on the eastern fall country of the New England Tablelands in 1881. Thomas and Ellen had 11 children, who went on to have 73 grandchildren, many of whom remained on the land. This property, along with later purchases, remains in the family to this day.

Agriculture was also very prominent in my mothers’ side of the family. In 1833, in Langport, Somersetshire England, John Turner married his wife Sophia. Four children later, they decided to make the journey to Australia in 1849. Initially settling in Adelaide they followed the Gold Rush to  Victoria where they settled in Adelong in 1860. Here, John invented the first known steam crushing mill for gold. They also erected a school and were well respected in the area. The family continued the Agricultural tradition and bred cattle and sheep, as well as operating a dairy, wine and chaff making industries. One of their sons, Octavius (Doc), moved to the New England area which is where my mums’ family have remained.

After selecting the original country in 1881, a further two blocks of land were purchased over the next 40 years by Thomas and Ellen. Ellen went on to leave this land to the women of her family, until her three grandsons took it over as a partnership in 1960. The partnership was dissolved towards the end of the decade, and country was split into three separate properties. My father has gone to great lengths over his lifetime, to get back all of this country to once again make it one, and this is where I had the privilege of growing up as a seventh generation Aussie farmer. You would be quite right to say ‘it’s in my blood’.

The start of a family farm …

My grandfather took on the mammoth task of changing his block into a productive property. The 2200 ha were split into just 5 paddocks at the time, the soil had never seen superphosphate, bare ground was prominent under the heavily timbered country and rabbits were a constant problem. He set about developing the land by ringbarking trees, aerial seeding the country and also spreading super phosphate by plane.

Pa in Rungbark Trees

My Grandfather standing amongst the ringbarked trees

The country was first improved on the ground with two TE 20 Ferguson tractors, pulling 7ft gear to put down introduced grasses to improve the productivity of the country in 1954. In 1959, the country benefited from the first aerial fly out of super phosphate in bagged form, which was hand lifted into the plane in 50kg bags. The ground application of super was also put out with the improved pasture seed. In 1972, the first woolshed was built on the northern end of the property. Prior to this, sheep would need to be walked anywhere up to 15 km to the other end of the original property, which my uncle then owned following the partnership being dissolved in 1967.


Original Woolshed



Current Woolshed (extended in late 90’s)

The original livestock were Herefords and Merinos. Market demands and trends have meant a third of the herd remains as a Hereford base, a third is aimed at the Angus premium market and the remaining third aimed at the crossbred market, where high growth rates can be obtained through hybrid vigour. Australian beef is part of the worlds’ highest quality meat, known for its consistency and being safe and disease-free.

In 1964, while already having a Merino flock, the first ewes were purchased from the Fulloons, which are now the sort after ‘Cressbrook’ bloodlines. Fine merino wool and mutton production is still an important part of the production on the property. In the mid – late ‘70s, fat lamb production was introduced, however, their feed requirements were found to be too high for return and they were phased out in the early 1990’s. Wool continues to play an important role and is somewhat iconic on the New England tablelands.

Over the years, improved pasture management has led to a much higher yields and efficiency per hectare. Originally we grew permanent pastures of cocksfoot, fescues, ryegrass and clovers.  These days, a high-performance short-term pasture is sown down which includes  high performance ryegrasses and herb species such as plantain, chicory and clover to provide finishing feed for fattening cattle, before establishing a high performance permanent pasture.


Improved Pasture

Fertiliser usage on the property has also come a long way over the last century. In the early days, single super was a major investment, with large returns. Currently however, although still important, fertilising the country has moved along with the advancements of soil and pasture testing. The addition of lime and natural products/by-products of other industries, such as chook manure have proven to be worthwhile both in a sustainable, environmental sense and also in regard to return in improved growth of pasture. We have now adapted and are developing the country through means of biological farming; introducing ‘good-bugs’ back into the country.

Surviving three droughts over this time stands testament to those who were looking after it at the time. Future dry times are sure to return cyclically  but with the use of sustainable agriculture, increased knowledge and better management practices we are confident we will be resilient.

Like many Australian farmers our family are dedicated to undertaking weed control, pest and disease management and habitat and biodiversity enhancement.

We are testing both our soils and our pastures and creating nutrient maps so we can pinpoint exactly what the soil needs in order to remain ‘fuelled-up’ to continue being sustainably  productive.

We have fenced of our waterways and have dedicated areas put aside to increase biodiversity and provide safe habitats for native flora and fauna.

Growing up a Grills…

With such a large extended family and great community spirit, growing up here was something I’ll cherish forever. I have four sisters, three of which are married with 7 kids between them. Horses were a massive part of my childhood and provided many a great time, which still continues today.

Me with Dad on Horse

Starting early – 12 months old with my Dad

I grew up with them, not ever remembering even how I learnt to ride. My father was a keen and talented campdrafter, whilst us kids competed in ribbon days, and attended pony camp and travelled to shows all around.

Steph Grills jumping on Midsun Jamboree 1995

Pony Club in 1995

We moved back into the Polocrosse scene when I was about 10, and haven’t looked back since.

Stephanie Grills Polocrosse

Steph says catch me if you can

Cattle and sheep work was simply just a way of life. Very rarely were there ‘days off’, as there was always something that needed to be done or checked. There are many great memories growing up mustering cattle or being lucky and being ‘let into’ the big shearing shed when we were just tiny. From heading out at dusk with Dad, probably when I was meant to be having a bath and getting ready for dinner and bed, to check on a heifer calving, or to go down to give a poddy one last pat goodnight.

It’s a passion instilled as a youngster that I wouldn’t change for quids. I went off to boarding school at 11 years old and counted the hours when I would get to go home of a weekend. The school cattle team brought me some reprieve and ‘filled the gap’ a little. It was here that I had the opportunity to go on and win the National title for Beef Cattle Parader at the Hobart Show in 2002. Winning Hobart Royal

Winning at Hobart Royal 2002

It wasn’t until my final two years of school where I was able to study Agriculture and Biology, that I really found school somewhat enjoyable. So I threw myself into my studies, especially for these two units, and came out the other end of my HSC, with the award for Agriculture, Hospitality and a merit award for Biology. I was accepted early into University through the School/College Recommendation Admission Scheme. However, university wasn’t at the top of my list. I went home to work for twelve months on the farm and decided that I needed some qualifications to back me up. I completed my Certificate IV in Agriculture through a traineeship program at home. But from here I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to follow on with Agriculture and I loved the livestock industry, so I enrolled at UNE, to study my Bachelor of Livestock Science.

Although different paths have taken me away from completing this until now, I have learnt a lot in the past few years and have made some wonderful friends across the country.

I even moved to Mungindi, NSW for 2 ½ years to become the offsider in a broadacre spraying operation. Although my family had had cattle on agistment around Moree and I had grown up with a few friends out that way, I knew very little about the cropping industry and its a time which I will cherish both for the knowledge learnt and the great friendships gained.


Mungindi Cropping

The future of Australian Agriculture…

I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. So many people are now voicing their support for Australia’s food and fibre producers, from all different walks of lifes and as a farmer this is so rewarding to see. No longer are farmers and all those working in the industry, just sitting on the fence, just like me they are starting to share their stories with the community. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level.  I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career


“Life on The Land – Don’t ever give up!”

1. WOOLCOMBER ( Taken from Family Tree magazine November 1996 Vol 13 no 1)

Woolcombing was part of the process of worsted manufacture. In the manufacture of woollen textiles the raw wool was carded to lay the tangled fibres into roughly parallel strands so that they could be more easily drawn out for spinning. Wool used for worsted cloth required more thorough treatment for not only had the fibres to be laid parallel to each other but unwanted short staple wool also had to be removed. This process was called combing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid 18th century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.

The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches – originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool the comber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way. When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound.  The noils or noyles ( short fibres left after combing) were unsuitable for the worsted trade so were sold to manufacturers of baize or coarse cloth.

The yarn so far……

Art4agriculuture takes great pleasure in introducing you to one of our Young Farming Ambassadors. Our ambassadors are young people in the agrifood sector who have dedicated large chunk’s of their lives to promoting agriculture beyond the farm gate selflessly on behalf of their industry and I am highly confident you will see why Kathleen Allan fits the bill perfectly  

The Kathleen Allan story for your pleasure ……………….   

Hi my name is Kathleen Allan and I am excited about the future of Australian agriculture. I would love to share some of my story – the yarn so far…..


Kathleen and Yoda

I’m a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a farmer, an AGvocate, an AG-educator, a bit of a foodie and a public servant. I am not sure that I do these “jobs” in the correct order or as well as I would like. I am a typical country mum – a jack of all trades and master of none! Like so many others, I try to do everything and seem to have time for nothing.

Copy of bgc yass

My family, lives on a property on the Boorowa River near Yass in southern NSW, where we run a self-replacing, superfine merino flock and operate our award-winning small business Farm Animal Resource Management (farm) – an agricultural education business that was established in 1994 to promote the importance of agriculture in an increasingly urbanised community. Putting my foodie hat on, we also raise very edible breeds of waterfowl and poultry, fatten pigs, and run a range of “house” cows that are used in our educational displays that also provide the raw ingredients for some great home-made cheeses and ice-cream. That’s value-adding at its best – from the paddock to the plate! Oh yes, then there is our Shetland pony, much loved by all of us, especially my young daughters, Bella and Molly.


As a fifth generation farmer, agriculture is in my blood, and from a very early age I developed a love of farming and animals. I was obsessed with James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” and like so many teenage girls, I wanted to be a vet. A highlight of my high school years was time spent with my godfather during holidays on King Island in Tasmania. He was the only private vet on the Island, as well as filling additional roles for the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments.

Lamb marking

With schooling behind me and a “not quite Vet Science score”, I commenced a Bachelor of Rural Science at the University of New England in Armidale. University was great – a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. My first 12 months at Uni was spent at St Albert’s College (Albies), and at the end of first year, I took up a position as a Riding School Instructor at the New England Girls School. This position allowed me to have my horse from home as well as gave me suitable “digs” to concentrate on study and assignments. The 4 years of study at Uni flew by and I majored in animal health and sheep and wool production, with an honours thesis on Ovine Johnes Disease. Becoming a vet didn’t seem quite as important as I completed my studies and further developed my interest in the sheep and wool Industry. A highlight in my final year was coming third in the Australian National Merino Breeding Skills Competition and receiving the School of Rural Science Deans Prize. But it wasn’t all sheep and study at uni – I met my future husband David while at UNE, and we both graduated with a Bachelor of Rural Science – my degree with Honours in 2008.

I love wool

I love my wool

Just weeks before I finished my degree, my younger sister Lisa-Jane died suddenly at the age of 16. It was a very tough time for all of us and it was so difficult to return to Armidale to finish those last weeks, cope with exams and submit my thesis. So when I did return to Yass, I threw myself into farm life, helping with our, now struggling, display business and got involved with all sorts of community activities before having a stint in the USA as a Riding Instructor at a Summer Holiday Camp in Maine. The added responsibility that entailed, plus the distance from home, turned out to be a great tonic for me.

Back home after a wonderful adventure, I became actively involved in the local Yass Show and the Royal Canberra Show as an exhibitor, steward, judge and committee member. My mother was elected the first female president of the Yass Show Society, and the great part of having your mum as president of the local show is you are guaranteed to be taken along for the ride, whether you want to be or not.. I managed the farmyard nursery for several years and was a steward and committee member in the merino sheep section, while also taking on the duties of Publicity Officer. Wearing this hat, one of the highlights of my time with our local show was when we managed to get city TV cameras out to the event for some excellent coverage! I was a Showgirl and an inaugural member of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Youth Group. These experiences were very important for me and I encourage any young people interested in being part of agriculture and regional areas to get involved in their local show. This is a great way to contribute to your community and an excellent way to meet other passionate and enthusiastic people.

Probably one of my greatest achievements when I returned home to Yass after finishing university was my involvement in developing the Johnes Disease management plans for shows – for sheep, cattle, goats and alpacas. This gave me first hand experience developing and applying practical risk management strategies to ensure continuation of sheep showing in NSW. I got to work with Commonwealth and State and Territory animal health regulators and policy developers as well as vets, sheep industry representatives and Royal and State Show Society associations. A satisfying and significant application of my thesis and uni studies!


Finewool Merino

In 2001 I won the NSW Young Australian of the Year Award for Regional Initiatives for my work contributing to the management of Ovine Johnes Disease and the promotion of agriculture. I was thrilled to be later invited to be an Australia Day Ambassador for Gunning during the Year of the Outback. In 2002 I was awarded the UNE Young Distinguished Alumni Prize for my contribution to agriculture. A very proud moment, but one of the most humbling experiences for me, was being asked to present the Occasional Address at the UNE Graduation Ceremony that year – amidst many excited graduands and in front of those awe inspiring academics and community leaders that make up the fabric of this prestigious university..

Agriculture is not just farming

For the last 12 years I have worked for the Australian government in Canberra. I am what is known as a public servant. During this time, I have held several roles that are all very relevant to the future sustainability of Australian agriculture. Initially working in technical and scientific roles, for the last 8 years, after finding a real love for communication and stakeholder engagement, I have worked in a number of professional communication roles in the areas of agvet chemical regulation, animal welfare, food policy and water management. I am currently working on chemicals and plastics regulation reform – an important issue given all the challenges facing the Australian manufacturing industry. Access to well regulated chemicals is crucial throughout the agriculture supply chain. I really enjoy working for the Australian government and being part of the Australian Public Service as it offers diversity, great career development opportunities, excellent pay and conditions as well as job satisfaction and the flexibility to pursue other passions.

From the paddock to the playground

Breast cancer promo

Breast Cancer Prevention Promotion Day

For the last 18 years I have been part of our highly successful, award-winning family business, farm animal resource management (f.a.r.m).Under the f.a.r.m. banner, we provide farm animal and agricultural education displays at schools, festivals, and agricultural and royal shows throughout Australia. These displays are a way of improving the understanding of where our food and fibre comes from. I am very proud to have worked closely with my mum as she passionately endeavours to help city families understand and value the importance of agriculture.

miss moo adelaide

We have done some pretty amazing displays and events over that time including managing the first live birthing centre in the ACT, successfully staging the biggest farmyard nursery for the last Royal Easter Show at the old grounds at Moore Park and hosting the longest running farmyard nursery display at a major festival – our Patting Paddock was at Floriade in Canberra for 30 days! Our well known cow milking demonstrations have been featured at the National Science Festival, Floriade and other major exhibitions. We have had a cow in the Channel 9 studio in Sydney for Mornings with Kerri-Anne, featured with the cows in several children’s TV shows, as well as managing live TV broadcasts with some rather high profile news and weather presenters. We had our farm/B&S ute and poll dorset wether in a huge chesty bonds shearers singlet as part of the Patting Paddock display at the Deniliquin Ute Muster. And yes, there was that “Farmer wants a Wife” episode too! Last year we did a full cow milking and dairy products display on the lawns outside the ABC studio in Canberra, in full view of all passing traffic, and the program was broadcast live for 2 hours. We have managed media launches for major industry associations at venues such as the Exhibition Park in Canberra, the National Convention Centre and Old Parliament House. To extend the diversity of our work, we have also been known to don period costume at some major heritage events throughout the ACT region.


Our “Farm to You” education programs, Wonderful Wool, Exciting Eggs, Fabulous Fibres and Marvellous Milk have been developed over the last 10 years with the culmination being the creation and staging of a series of Milking Barns at major shows including the Canberra Royal Show, Sydney Royal Easter Show, Royal Adelaide Show, Ekka in Brisbane and the Royal Melbourne Show. The statistics are scary! At last count, our team of wonderful cows have probably done more than 1200 Milking Barn sessions, allowing nearly ½ million people to learn “where milk comes from”.

royal melbourne show team

Royal Melbourne Show Team

The work of farm is all about ‘bridging the city country divide’, teaching city children and families where our food and fibre comes from and promoting the importance of agriculture. As practicing farmers we are passionate about our job and are committed to providing hands-on opportunities for city families to enjoy and learn about our livestock industries, understand modern agriculture, and hopefully pursue a career in this industry of the future. That is why I am so excited about 2012 being the Australian Year of the Farmer. This year-long celebration of the vital role farmers play in feeding, clothing and housing us all, is long overdue and the Governor General’s words in launching the Year ring very true – “its purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed –to our rich rural history”. In doing so it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes along the way. Recently mum and I were thrilled to accept an invitation to act as Champions for the Australian Year of the Farmer.


To celebrate the role that farming and agriculture plays in Australian life and share some of our experiences we were really pleased to be part of FarmDay in May. On a very wet and windy day – the southern tablelands at its best – we hosted six families at ‘Bindaree’ for a day of fun and friendship. We did sheep shearing, cow milking, cream separating and butter making, as well as a farm walk to see some of the revegetation and rehabilitation work we have undertaken with Greening Australia over the last 12 years.

Farmday milking

I think the highlight for the younger children visiting the farm was going for a pony ride in pouring rain! We finished the day in front of the warm fire with some hot soup, crusty bread and home-made haloumi for the adults while the children managed some very sheepish craft activities and demolished ‘those sheep cupcakes’……

FarmDay cupcakes

The Legendary Farm Day Sheep Cup Cakes ( more on these in another post)

Wonderful wool

I love superfine merinos and the wool they produce. Inspired by the legacy of a grandfather I never met – a very talented sheep breeder and woolclasser with an eye for a good-framed animal carrying a clean, white, soft-handling fleece, I have developed a real passion for sheep and wool. Motivated by my mothers drive to pursue this same dream to produce high quality wool on a relatively small scale, I have been able to maintain this involvement with the fibre I love. Wool is an amazing product – it’s natural and versatile, has a timeless history and an exciting and sustainable future.

nan jane and bella

 Nan Jane and Bella

For a long time I have had this romantic idea that it would be great to wear something made from our wool, and given the size of the Australian wool industry you might be surprised to know that this is not that easy to achieve.

molly in the wool

 Molly in the wool

The Bindareelan Wool concept was conceived in 2008 when it became very obvious that there was a real demand for premium quality Australian merino wool products suitable for use in an increasingly popular handicraft market. This demand coupled with an aim to diversify and value-add the family’s high quality but relatively small annual wool clip and low-value coloured wool into a boutique product led to the launch of Bindareelan Wool.


bindareelan wool

Our location in the Capital region, an area renowned for an interest in paddock to plate and therefore, grass to garment, with consumers enjoying a higher than average disposable income, means we are ideally placed to position our product. Based on high quality raw wool from white commercial superfine merinos and a small flock of coloured merinos, used in our educational displays, Bindareelan supplies a range of superfine merino wool products. This range includes individual raw fleeces, scoured wool, wool tops, felting batts and 8ply yarn in skeins or balls in a range of white and natural colours, available direct to buyers or through local specialty yarn and handicraft stores and markets. We think Bindareelan Wool is an exciting initiative tailored to meet the 21st century resurgence in interest in using natural, clean, sustainable fibres.



The future

Recently I attended a forum hosted as part of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Blueprint for Australian Agriculture consultation process. At the end of the forum, we were asked to comment on our vision for Australian agriculture. My vision for Australian agriculture is:

Australian agriculture – a diverse, inclusive and coordinated industry that is economically and environmentally sustainable and valued by the whole community.

I saddens and disappoints me immensely that Australian agriculture is so fragmented. We need to be coordinated and to be coordinated we need to be inclusive. As an industry, its is pivotal we acknowledge the contribution of everyone in our industry regardless of their size, the role they play or the product they produce. On the other hand, in order to be valued by the community, we must tell our story, we need to be innovative in our farming practices, we need to be committed to best-practice farming techniques and strive for continuous improvement. Most importantly though, we need to know who our customers are, engage with them so that we can understand their needs and provide a range of products that meet those needs.


wool products

The reality of a diverse and competitive job market means that at the moment our industry in the main attracts those with a passion based on their upbringing and background or a connection with some awesome childhood experience that has aroused their curiosity about career opportunities in agriculture.  Whilst it will certainly help this dilemma won’t disappear if agriculture or primary industries are included in the primary school curriculum or as elective units in the high school curriculum. This is part of the answer, it is not the solution. We should also focus on providing information and resources for teachers to use and promote agriculture and farming as a context for learning across all curriculum areas. But in order for the whole community to value Australian agriculture, everyone, not just students or children, need to have ongoing access to a range of opportunities to engage in and learn about agriculture. As farmers and producers we need to tell our story.

The big idea

My years of experience in this area tells me the best way to engage the Australian community with agriculture and farming is through food. And there is no doubt that modern consumers want to know as much as possible about what they eat. In particular, where it comes from, how it is produced, what standards apply, the transport methods used and the costs associated with producing the food. Let’s expand the ‘paddock to plate’ concept and include the farming story by being part of the cooking show revolution or partner with some of our leading chefs and restaurants. Most importantly though, we shouldn’t rely on small organisations or well-meaning individuals to Champion the cause – let’s all get behind it together. After all, if you want to eat, you need farmers, and when the whole community understands and values where their food comes from, we will be able to encourage a wider range of participation in agriculture as a career.

Patting Paddock

 Patting Paddock

I want to be part of the future for Australian agriculture and, as a mother I want my daughters to value their rural heritage and participate in taking this vital industry forward. We live in exciting and challenging times. The global population is increasing rapidly and Australia can continue to contribute to feeding that population in sustainable and innovative ways through the efforts of passionate and enthusiastic young people in agriculture.