Young Farming Champions share Inspirational Night to Showcase Bright Future for Australian Agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes to you from Wool Young Farming Champion Stephanie Grills who frocked up as a guest of Australian Wool Innovation for the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.  

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It was a privilege and an honour to attend the Farmer of The Year Awards 2012 held at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, last Wednesday September 12, 2012 with my three fellow Wool Young Farming Champions. This opportunity was made possible by Australian Wool Innovation and I would like to extend my sincerest thankyou to them.

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2012 Young Farming Ambassador Kathleen Allan and Champions Stephanie Grills,  Lauren Crothers and Sammi Townsend

It was also such a privilege to be amongst a room of such high calibre producers from across the country as well as industry professionals. Not only were we in a room with these people but we were seated with them for the awards night. Over the course of the night I got to sit with a range of people, including John Webb Ware who is a Senior Consultant for the Mackinnon Project, the lovely Annie who has a background in genetics and Dubbo sheep producers and Wool Producer of the Year finalists, Don and Pam Mudford of Parkdale Merino Stud.

Don Mudford, along with his wife and sons, focus on breeding animals for both meat and wool characteristics on their 4200ha farm. Labour efficiency is a key driver in their operation, with a focus on easy care sheep. The management on farm and also farm facilities help to make this achievable. They have selected rams for their breeding values, focussing on eye muscle and fat depth.

Farmer of the Year Awards

It was also an honour to meet Daryl and Irene Croak from Oak Hills Merino Stud in the Central Tablelands. They are no stranger to awards in the Wool Industry, but said it was great to be a part of a night that wasn’t just focussed on Wool and were amazed at the diversity of Australian Farming. They also had the highest praise for the Young Farming Champions program.

Over the course of the night, it became quite evident that the industry is moving forward. Farmers are more sustainable and resourceful than ever before and it was said that “Innovation” is usually the stuff your neighbours think at the beginning, you’re crazy for trying and question if you haven’t lost your marbles! It is these innovative practices that have enabled Australian Agriculture to be at the top of the game.

Farmer of the Year 2012 winner and also Grain Grower of the Year winner, Peter Kuhlmann, farms 9000ha in possibly one of the most difficult regions of the country, just east of Ceduna, South Australia. With just 291mm average of rainfall per year, Mr Kuhlmann has to balance timing of seeding, weed control and water use efficiency, knowing all too well the phrase ‘that every drop counts’. He describes himself as an innovator and is often amongst the first to adopt new technologies and on farm trials to evaluate them.

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Peter Kuhlmann

It was also very inspiring to listen to the Young Farmer and Farming Woman of the Year finalists and winners. If the night was any indication of what lies ahead, Australian Agriculture has a very bright future.

Innovators to my left innovators to my right

Today’s guest blog comes from the Wool Industry’s Young Farming Champion Sammi Townsend

You cant imagine just how excited I was when Australian Wool Innovation offered to fly not just me in fact all 4 of the AWI Young Farming Champions to Melbourne for the Farmer of the Year Awards on 12th of September, 2012, This fantastic experience entailed travelling down to Melbourne from my humble town of residence in Orange to meet with AWI representatives and other AWI guests!

Along with the chance to ‘frock up’, the evening allowed me to recognise the passion and innovation of producers from all corners of Australia! Some who were even seated with me at the table!

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Me (centre) with Young Farming Champions Steph Grills from Armidale and Lauren Crothers from Dirranbandi

This included Mr Don Mudford who is committed to producing easy-care sheep on his 4200ha farm in the Central West of NSW. Don produces animals for meat and wool, having selected sires for eye muscle and fat depth. Mrs Munford, who was also seated at my table, explained that it certainly took some time for her to convince Don that the breeding females were equally as important as the sire. She stated that now Don sees the girls in an entirely different light and the farm has successfully progressed onwards!

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Richard Coole winner of the Wool Producer of the Year award 2012

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Young Farming Champion Ambassador Kathleen Allan with Steph and Lauren

I was also seated at the table with Emily King, Project Officer for AWI. Emily also looks after young grower activities in the industry! To see a young woman equally as passionate about the wool industry as what I am was an inspiration- especially because she studied in Orange as well (so there were plenty of topics of choice to talk about)!

Having the opportunity to network with producers from all walks of life was an experience I’m certainly not going to forget! The enthusiasm producers showed towards their industries demonstrated to me that the future for Australian agriculture is in safe hands, and with the “Young Farmer of the Year” award and “Farming Woman of the Year”, I hope to see many people in the industry, particularly women, be rewarded for their devotion to farming sustainably and feeding the world!

Follow Sammi on Twitter @sammileettt


The Crossing

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

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

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

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Dean and Annette Turner

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

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Tay Plain sets up for the interviews

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Hanging out at The Crossing at Bermagui

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

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Converted railway carriages provide a unique sleeping experience at The Crossing

Megan, Heather and Steph share some weekend highlights with you

Starting with Megan ………………………….

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

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Megan leads the team on a  tree guild planting exercise

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

See Megan’s interview with Dean Turner here

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

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

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Heather with Chris Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and more thoughts from Megan…….

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts from meat scientist  Dr Steph ………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIFE is what you make it

Here at Art4Agriculture HQ our family farm produces the milk that sustains 50,000 people in Sydney everyday. It is what we do. Like all Australian farmers its our job to keep families healthy – bringing them fresh, safe & nutritious, affordable, ethically produced food and fibre every day.

In some ways our team, and every other Australian food and fibre producer, is responsible for the health, and wealth and happiness of Australians, and many other people around the world.

It’s a big job – and going to get a lot bigger over the next 20 – 50 years and we couldn’t do it without the support of the wonderful natural resource management professionals we tap into for knowledge and skills to help us keep our landscapes healthy and our waterways clean.

So the Art4agriculture team is thrilled be a proud supporting community partner of this awesome new initiative L.I.F.E aka Landcare Is For Everyone.

 

LIFE is about people across Australia, just like you, getting involved in Landcare in their everyday lives.

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Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions at The Crossing at Bermagui

We all know planet earth is struggling to maintain the balance of LIFE for all of the species that call it home.  Here in Australia our fragile landscape is under constant pressure from an ever-growing and consuming, modern way of life.  Landcarers everywhere are working together to maintain the health of their local environments, but the time has come for everyone to help maintain the balance of LIFE by becoming involved and thinking about their actions each and every day and what impact they have.

Whether you live in a city or a one pub town, on the beach or on a station, in the Top End or the Island State, this website is designed to give you ideas on what you can do or how you can join others in caring for the land and our environment, because after all, the land is the reason we exist and the reason we continue to survive. Getting involved in Landcare and getting involved with LIFE means many different things to different people, but one thing for sure is that no matter who you are or where you live, there’s a way that you can make a difference. There’s a way that you can help.

  • Check out your local council website and see what environmental or sustainability events and workshops you can attend. You can even be involved in Landcare in your own backyard!
  • Is there a Landcare, Bushcare, Coastcare or other environmental community group in your local area? Why not get in touch with them and see if you can lend a hand?
  • It’s not all about weeding and planting you know.  Volunteer groups need all types of help – can you write, publish and distribute a newsletter? Maybe you can update a website or help with accounts?  Whatever you can do, there’s a way you can help.
  • Are you a farmer witnessing erosion and land degradation on your property? LIFE is just what you need. Contact your local Catchment Management Authority or Natural Resource Management organisation- (Opens in a new window) today, or maybe there’s already a Landcare farming group in your area who can help.
  • Maybe you love surfing and swimming but hate seeing your beach covered in other people’s litter? Get together with some likeminded people and set up a Coastcare group today.  Together, we can make a difference.

These are just a few of the many, many ways that people can get involved with LIFE.  For every local environmental problem, you can bet there’s a group of people who want to take action to help fix it, and you can be part of this action.  LIFE is about the land, and the land is what gives us LIFE, so why not get involved in maintaining the circle of LIFE?

 

See how Art4agriculture HQ is playing their part here

 

 

Landcare is LIFE. Landcare is for everyone.

I grow Cotton and you wear it – Meet Richie Quigley

My name is Richie Quigley and farming is in my blood and I couldn’t be happier about that

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Growing up on our family farm in Trangie, the Macquarie valley, Central Western NSW I have been involved in agriculture as long as I remember.

Our farm “Muntham”, has been in our family for 125 years and my brothers Tom and George and I will be fifth generation farmers

We are lucky enough to have both an irrigation and dryland farming business and grow 500 Ha of cotton as well as about 2200ha of winter crops which include wheat, canola, and chickpeas. We also have 1500 breeding ewes and 150 breeding cows.

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Most of our childhood photos are of my two brothers and me outside playing in the dirt and the mud pushing around toy tractors (more often than not with no clothes on), maintaining our miniature interpretation of our family farm in our veggie patch. The fence still bears the scars from when we cut it as we ‘bought’ more land (much to mums delight). As we grew older, our passion for farming grew when we were able to move from our “Tonka” farm to outside the fence with dad.

A typical busy week on the farm can include spraying to keep fallow paddocks weed free, sowing crops, spraying for weeds in the crop with selective herbicides, spreading fertiliser, harvesting, ground preparation for cotton, irrigating cotton, planning crop rotations, animal husbandry, and general farm maintenance and mechanics.

All of us had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. This opened the doors to so many opportunities and experiences (considering the local school had about 6 students in each year), but was often seen as an inconvenience as holidays and harvest never seemed to line up completely!

A highlight of my school life happened in my final year when I was lucky enough to be selected and represent Australia in the “Australia A” Schools Rugby Union. This was an amazing opportunity that I am confident may not happened if I didn’t have the chance to attend boarding school.

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After finishing school, I had a gap year working at home before heading to university.

I made this choice to gain strong foundation hands on experience that would allow me to relate my future studies back to practices and principles that are currently used or could possibly be used on our own farm. My gap year reinforced that my future lay with farming and how much agriculture has to offer and working outside is so much better than a class room or an office.

There are so many career options available, and so many job opportunities. I am currently studying Science in agriculture and will major in agronomy – which the link between scientific research and primary producers, and am very much interested in the production side of agriculture. I want to grow it.

To assist with my university studies and access a diverse array of opportunities I applied for and was lucky enough to win a Horizon Scholarship.

My sponsor is Woolworths, and as part of the program the students spend two weeks of industry placement with their sponsor. My placement saw me spending two weeks in Woolworths head office, working with the fresh food department. It was an eye opening experience to see what happens to our produce after it leaves the farmgate and the sheer volume of food that is distributed by one of our major supermarkets as well as their commitment to quality.

Woolworths is also a major sponsor of the Australian Year of the Farmer, and I was invited to the launch of Australian Year of the Farmer last October as representative of the young farmers of our nation. This was an experience I will never forget. One which saw me meet and mix with a number of very influential and inspiring people including Andrew Forrest, the Governor General and Glenn and Sara McGrath to name just a few

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Australian Year of the Farmer launch October 2011

In particular I found the following excerpt from Quentin Bryce’s speech compelling

The Year of the Farmer 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 in the process.

In the world of the 21st century farmer, we find people who are environmentally-aware, innovative, tertiary-educated, global, entrepreneurial and collegiate.

Primary producers today are a different breed to their parents and grandparents.

The love of the land is still deeply ingrained, but to make money – and they must be profitable to survive – they have become masters of numerous skills, and technologically adept.

They understand land and water management, laser levelling, remote sensing, GPS management, conservation agriculture, organics, biodynamics and, overall, their role in national and global food security.

Perhaps these are new labels for traditional concepts, but today’s farmers employ cutting edge technology that would baffle office workers in the cities.

Technology is powering Australia’s farming future.

I encourage all Australians to join in the celebrations next year; to take the opportunity to leave the cities, and learn how our farmers underpin our economy.

They are leaders, and we can learn much from that leadership.

The Year of the Farmer is a wonderful opportunity for all Australians to better understand, and value, the part farmers play in our health and well-being and prosperity.

Each and every day. We simply couldn’t live without them!

Another highlight of my Horizon Scholarship has been the recent opportunity to attend the 16th Australian Cotton Conference thanks to the generosity of Cotton Australia. The conference was a great opportunity to meet a large number of people in the cotton industry and hear a number of presentations from leaders in the industry on current issues and new innovative ideas for the future of the industry.

Agriculture is an easy choice for me, as it is a lifestyle as well as a job. It’s the feeling of having an office outside, and every day working with natural elements to produce food and fibre, feeding and clothing the people all around the world.

I challenge you to have a look at a career in agriculture, as the people anywhere in the agricultural industry will give you a go if they can see you’re interested in learning. It’s dynamic industry that is constantly evolving and changing trying to continue to feed and clothe the growing hungry world.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

For more information on QRRRWN go to www.qrrrwn.org.au 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

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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