Be inspired

Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion  Emma Visser considered herself very lucky when her prize winning video won her a place at the ABC Heywire Summit. See previous post here.

Nick and Emma Eng Shoot (10) 

When industry invests in young farmers like Nick and Emma we are helping them gain the confidence and skills to be role models that inspire other young people to follow them into farming

Emma’s co-Heywire winners (35 young regional Australians) for 2011-12 have just released their report ‘9 ways to Improve Regional Australia for Young People’. It details nine ideas developed at the 2012 Heywire Regional Youth Summit in Canberra, and it has been submitted to the Federal Government. The heywirers tackle the topics they believe are most pressing: from lowering the road toll, to helping migrants adjust to life in regional Australia, from fostering community bonds in mining towns, to using technology to promote Indigenous heritage. Their ideas have already received interest from schools, academics, the Government, the media and NGOs.

The superbly laid out report brochure ( there are some very bright design minds behind Heywire) can be downloaded here: Take a look I can guarantee you will be inspired

Check out a summary of their ideas here:

http://www.abc.net.au/heywire/stories/2012/05/3499082.htm

Please encourage young people (16-22) like Emma you work with or know to enter the Heywire competition at: http://www.abc.net.au/heywire, for a chance to win a trip to next year’s Heywire Regional Youth Summit. Entries close 17 September 2012.

As Emma says professional development and a chance to be heard opportunities like Heywire should be grabbed with both hands by young people

Back to Emma and her thoughts on the long term outcomes of opportunities like being a Heywire Winner and a Young Farming Champion where you are provided with professional development and the skills set to confidentially share their story with urban audiences

Emma sums it up

“I have told my story so many times I don’t need a script. My story comes from the heart, it resonates with the audiences I want to reach. It is inspiring young people to follow my career pathway into farming. It inspires young people to step out of their comfort zone and it inspires young people to see the value in collaboration. I am nineteen years old and through Heywire and the Young Farming Champions program I have the skills and confidence to spend next 80 odd years making a difference”

Life is what you make it and agriculture is the life I want

This is the second in our series on Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champions for 2012.  As it turns out Billy Browning is very special indeed. Not just because he is our first male young farming champion but because everyone I have spoken to tells me he has a view of the world that we all readily admit we embraced. That is life is what you make. Grab it with both hands and make it happen. One of those people was John Bennett from Landmark who said “Simple words from me can not describe just how remarkable this young man is. I have no doubt that in years to come our industry and indeed, society will benefit from the experiences that Billy receives now.” Like Cotton Australia we are thrilled that we can play a small role in defining the future by investing in agriculture’s rising stars like Billy

Did you know that our family farm will produce cotton this year that will make over 860,000 pairs of jeans. Even better than that cotton is only part of a portfolio of food and fibres our family farm produces to feed and clothe Australians and many other people around the globe

My name is Billy Browning and I am pretty excited about that.

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In fact I am pretty excited and proud of Australian agriculture in general.

Let me tell you why

Did you know rural, regional and remote Australia occupies 99 per cent of Australia’s landmass and supports 7.7 million people and is the source of close to 70% of our country’s export earnings?

It may also interest you to know the agribusiness sector employs close to 1 million people and has a combined value of over $200 billion per year. Our farmers are custodians of over 60 per cent of our landmass and the world’s third largest fishing zone.

We grow and produce over 93 per cent of our domestic food supply and export 80 per cent of total gross value. Not only that but our scientific research base is world class and our disease free, high quality produce underpins increasing overseas demand as our four billion Asian neighbours seek greater quantities of animal protein.

When you look at it like that you can see agriculture and its related support sectors are of great importance to our national economy and wellbeing. It is once you realise this that you can see the opportunities for young agricultural enthusiasts and the networks that are available.

I am excited my future lies with agriculture and this is my story…

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I was born and grew up in the small town of Narromine located in the central west of NSW.  It is here that my passion for agriculture first started. I live on a 3rdgeneration property located on the Macquarie River called ‘Narramine station.’ It has been my home all my life and hopefully will stay that way.

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Harvesting wheat, Narramine Station, Narromine, December 1903

A convoy of five stripper harvesters and 10 strippers make short work of 5500 acres of wheat grown on the property. On the right can be seen a genuine one-horse-power tread winnower beside grain bags awaiting transport. The railhead at Narromine shipped as many as 103 waggon loads of grain in a day during the harvest.
Find more information about the Melvin Vaniman collection of photographic panoramas in the State Library of New South Wales’ catalogue:
acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemdetailpaged.aspx?itemid=413018

The property is 2276 hectares and was purchased in 1975 by my parents. 62% of the farm has access to irrigation water (in the good times) and we have both irrigated and dry land broad-acre cropping. We grow wheat, canola, cotton and corn just to name the major ones depending on the seasonal conditions and availability of water. This year water is in plentiful supply and we have 400 hectares of irrigated cotton.

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To harvest this crop we will be employing 18 people for cotton picking  which include 4 picker drivers, 6 module makers, 2 boll buggy drivers, 2 truck drivers and 4 ground crew.

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The machinery on farm today looks a whole lot different to 1903!!!!!

The previous ten years of drought has led to many on farm innovations and we have realigned our farm business strategy to adapt to limited amounts of water and ensure long-term sustainability with increased hectares of dryland production. (Art4ag says BTW great story on this in The Land from 2010 can be found here)

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Me as a young farmer

My parents tell me that my third word was ‘tractor,’ behind ‘mum and dad’ that is. As a kid I would always be going to work with dad and often known for falling asleep on the floor of the header during harvest. By the age of 5, I was driving manual vehicles around the farm and by the age of 13, I was part of the workforce, driving tractors as a contractor on neighbouring properties.

I also tried my hand fairly successfully at junior competitions at local shows gaining 1st places in sheep wool and cotton judging

My passion for agriculture increased when my parents sent me away to boarding school in year 7. At Knox Grammar School I studied agriculture in year 11 and 12 and this is where I became fascinated by the science and technology that underpins agriculture.

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The future – How can we be the change that needs to be. 

Firstly currently agriculture is facing a workforce shortage due in part to the ageing of its workforce.  Within seven years, close to 57 per cent of our existing workforce will be over 55 and half of our agricultural scientists are already nearing retirement.  I believe we can attract talented young people to agriculture by showing the innovation and productivity gains that drive the farming sector in this country using young people from within the industry to spread the message that farming is the business to be in for all the right reasons

Secondly it is fundamentally important that we get young people on farms to make the direct connection between the food and fibre and the farm.  On-farm experience is where the greatest knowledge is gained, even if it is only a few hours, anybody that is even considering a career in agriculture should try and gain as much experience as possible in my eyes. The truth is; it is not hard at all to gain experience, there are so many industries out there that are willing to take you around for a day or that are running workshops. For those thinking of being agronomists, call up your local agronomist and just simply ask whether you can go for a run with him to a local farm and just gain an insight, for those wanting to focus more on the economics of agricultural, make a simple phone call to your local bank and ask whether they have an agricultural branch and whether it is possible to come in and just ask some simple questions, their answer will be yes. That is the greatest factor about the industry is that everyone is willing to give everyone a chance.

Obviously my love for agriculture has grown via the farm, I work full-time on the farm when I am home. I am involved in all operations, irrigation, harvest, picking, spraying, earth-moving, sowing and general farm maintenance. This has led me to realise the important relationship between farm inputs and outputs and why smart business thinking is they key to sustainable farming. This realisation has lead me to studying agricultural economics at the University of Sydney.

Support Networks Abound

I am fortunate enough to have gained a Sydney University Rural Sustainability scholarship and be an Horizon scholar. I mention these scholarships to show people that it is possible to get into university and follow your dreams even if you don’t get the marks or have the funds, there are so many scholarships on offer for people wanting to be involved in agriculture and wishing to enter the industry, you just have to go searching!

So this is my story to date and i hope it has show you like me you can have a bright future in the agriculture sector. I encourage those with an interest or even a niggling to go and ask questions as many questions as you would like There are plenty of people wanting to help.

Although I haven’t decided on what part of the industry I want to end up in, I know that I am trying to make the most of the opportunities out there and taking on everything along the way.

Just remember it’s a learning curve – and mistakes will be made along the way but my experience tells me there are plenty of people and support networks in agriculture and the rewards are worth it .

Cotton on to Cotton with Tamsin

Art4agriculture has a brand new partnership with the cotton industry and we are very excited about it

Cotton Australia is investing in their next generation of farmers and inspiring people who support farmers and we have identified a number of cotton industry rising stars who will be sharing their stories with you via Art4agricultureChat over the coming months

Our first cab off the rank is Tamsin Quirk …….

 

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About Me

If anyone had said to me seven years ago that I’d be a student at the University of New England completing a Bachelor of Agriculture I don’t think I would have believed them.

Coming from a non-farming background with both my parents in the health industry, I felt like I didn’t have the skills nor the knowledge to go into an agriculture related career.

Not only have I have learnt new things and developed new skills, I have formed lasting friendships and networks that are truly invaluable.

As A Kid

I grew up in Moree in NSW and it is cotton country.  Its is also quite famous for its Hot Mineral Baths which were were discovered accidentally when searching for irrigation water in 1895. 300,000 visitors of all ages visit annually and many believe in the healing powers of the Artesian mineral waters.

The streets are filled with Toyota land cruisers and an array of other utes and 4WD’s – I love coming home from the city, or uni, to see three or four muddy big Toyotas parked down the main street. Another thing I absolutely love is the dress code, every second person is wearing a pair of boots and jeans with their sleeves rolled up, and then you’ll get the occasional Agri-Business guy walk past in his polished R.M Williams boots and moleskins. There is always and will always be a rural feel to the place which is what I love, and I think “how could you want to be anywhere else?” It’s so easy-going and has such a sense of community. Everyone says hello in the street and everyone knows who you are.

I’d lived in town until I was 12 and had never really been involved in agriculture, but once we moved out onto a bit of land, things changed.

My first introduction to the cotton industry was in primary school and I remember looking out the window and seeing the huge pieces of machinery being escorted past the school during harvests and cotton season, and being inquisitive as to what they did and how they worked.  Check out the latest innovations in Cotton Picking here

Cotton Picker

Can you imagine how city people look when they see these monsters driving down the main street of Moree

Where it all began…

For one of my year 9 and 10 elective subjects at school I chose Agriculture. This was when my passion sparked. I had never reallyknown where I wanted to go in life until then. My agriculture teacher specialised in agronomy and this opened up an exciting world I had never really been exposed to. She was so enthusiastic about Ag. Walking through a paddock to check the veggie garden, the whole class would be pulled up to get a 5-minute rundown on a weed she’d just walked past and it was amazing to see someone so passionate, confident and knowledgeable; and it wasn’t just one weed, it’d be two or three on the way down and at least another one on the way back. I suddenly wanted to know about all the ins and outs of crop production and with cotton being so widely grown in the area, it was hard not to become involved. I soon was topping my Agricultural class in year 10 which resulted in me receiving the Dallas Parsons Memorial Award, which is given to students who have worked hard and been identified as having a bright future in Agriculture.

Years 11 and 12 saw me add Primary Industries to my studies and then I really saw my future opening up, I was topping the classes again and I couldn’t wait for every Ag and Primary Industries lesson. Although both the classes weren’t very big (with only 5 girls sitting the HSC Agriculture exam and me and one other boy sitting the Primary Industries one) I  had so much fun and learnt so much about the important industries that feed, clothe and house us from doing the subjects. I got to the point where I wanted to do nothing else as a career, and Agriculture was my soul focus.

Hard work, passion and commitment delivers cotton to my door

Coming towards the end of year 12 I set my eye on winning the Auscott Scholarship.Every year the local Auscott cotton ginning company awards this scholarship to a local Moree year 12 student who has worked hard and has persistence and enthusiasm for the career that they want to take. The scholarship is worth $11,500 for every year of study for 3 or 4 years. After a long process of waiting in anticipation I was shortlisted and then had a phone call to say that I had been chosen to be the recipient. The scholarship will be a massive aid for helping to pay for my accommodation and textbooks as well as giving me a contact network as I go forward to a career in the cotton industry.

Cotton Scholarship

Auscott “Midkin” farm manager Sean Boland with the recipient of the award Tamsin Quirk, and her parents Shayne and David Quirk –  Photo courtesy of Moree Champion read the full story here.

Learning, learning…

As my knowledge for agriculture grows, so does my passion and I realise and appreciate how lucky I was to have grown up in a community underpinned by the cotton industry. Our local cotton farms are family run businesses and cotton is the economic and social lifeblood of our community

I realised that not everybody had highways that looked like some-one had just busted a thousand pillows open all over the side of the road, and trucks all loaded up with wheat and cotton weren’t a regular thing in the main streets of other towns.

Cotton Cotton Everywhere

Does it get more beautiful than images like this?

The most important thing growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.

The cotton industry is very lucky indeed to have Tamsin don’t you think?

Camden Haven High School first Sydney Royal

Hi my name is Paige and I attend Camden Haven High School. I love my school and I want to tell you what makes it special. Agriculture that’s what!!!!.

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Agriculture is compulsory for years seven and eight. I think this is a great idea as it gives students who do not live rurally or who do not have the opportunity to live with animals and have agricultural knowledge the chance to experience and enjoy what agriculture has to offer young people of today.

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Our agricultural department focuses on a ‘paddock to plate’ experience giving the students in years nine and ten the option of electing two courses unique to Camden Haven High School; Vet studies and Agrifoods. From year nine to twelve, agriculture is also available for students to elect for study . In  years eleven and twelve we have the opportunity to do both primary industries and senior agriculture, along with a new horticulture course.

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The agricultural department not only has strong links with local farmers but also supports local businesses by buying their produce. The Camden Haven High School Agricultural Department has also formed a sub branch of the Camden Haven Show Society and we are are actively involved in preparing, organising, giving ideas and helping out with local events.

Agriculture has become so popular at our school the number of students who attend the agricultural plot before school, at recess and at lunch times has tripled in as many years. We have a very diverse range of animals that we care for including chickens, sheep, ducks, rabbits, turkeys, budgies, guinea-fowl, pigs, donkeys, cattle (including three breeding heifers), a water buffalo, guinea-pigs and two national park certified brumbies.

peter and friend

What is particularly special about the ‘ag plot’ is it is also a safe place for students who do not fit in with the rest of the school or are having a rough time or just enjoy the peace and quiet as there is always a great student/teacher support network to found in the agriculture department

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I am personally involved with the school cattle team. Being the leader/captain has helped with my personal development and taught me many life and team work skills.

It has improved my ability to speak publicly, organisational skills, give directions confidently and have learned that it is important to make the wisest decisions even if they are not the most popular.

Currently there are forty students actively involved in preparing and showing the school cattle for the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I must admit directing such a large team gives me a positive sense of satisfaction and confidence.

The animals we are showing come from our agricultural teacher Mr Hickson, he grows Limousin and Limousin cross steers and heifers. They are also donated to our school by our long-time supporter Robert Rule.

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We selected these animals as they both have the muscle development and fat coverage for their weight classes; they are also wide through the top line from the shoulders through to the rump. They are the pick of the animals from this year’s show team as they display the best attributes.

Students in the Sydney Show team this year are mainly year 10 students who have been constantly involved in showing cattle from year 7 onwards and they make up the bulk of the senior students in the team and basically run it.

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We have been preparing our animals since October 2011, when they were first brought in to be broken in. This involves daily walking, brushing, leading and feeding our animals.

They are also tied up daily to get used to long periods of being in one place; we also wash and blow-dry our animals to prepare them for cleaning at the show.

This is our first royal and it will be a new experience and all the students are so excited and highly appreciative of having this great opportunity.

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and to top it all off one of their students is a finalist in Cream of the Crop Competition with the winners presented with their prizes on April 14th at the Show in the RM Williams Stables 

BTW

How timely these photos came through late last night of Olympic Park preparations for the Royal Easter Show from an excited George Davey AM General Manager, Agriculture at Sydney Royal

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The Beef Cattle Ring Hocker

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The Beef Cattle Sheds

The Voice of the Future

Art4agriculture has a big picture vision for Australia. We want a vibrant, dynamic and innovative food sector that is seen by next gen as a career of first choice.

Art4agriculture is on a crusade to do whatever it takes to create a culture of change at industry level and make investing in our young people the number 1 key performance indicator. We are finding exciting, inspiring young people in agriculture everywhere we look and we love it.

Today’s guest blog comes from Horizon Scholar Ashley Hobbins who is currently undertaking a  Bachelor of Applied Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania

Wet day checking for new calves

Ashley was a PICSE student and has been associated with farming all her life. She would like to work as a teacher in Agriculture, inspiring students to undertake a career in primary industries.

Here is Ashley’s story …….

Agriculture is at the core of everybody’s life but for some people it runs a little deeper, it’s a way of life and an industry which inspires. You don’t have to run a thousand head of cattle or grow hectares of crops to have a passion and drive for this amazing sector which is worth so much but unfortunately unnoticed by so many.

My story begins on a cattle and sheep property in the country side of Victoria where as a child I spent my days following dad around when he fed out hay to livestock or penned up sheep in the shearing shed.bobby calf and me

It is however the city where most of the chapters to my story are written. I love living in the city and being able to walk down to the shops to grab a bargain or getting dressed up for a Saturday night out on the town but to me there is nothing like putting on a pair of old jeans and work boots and spending the day out in the paddock. I am currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania and am working towards gaining my Masters of Teaching. It is no secret that the field of agriculture needs more workers and I personally believe that programs such as well-run school farms in high schools create knowledgeable and skilled students ready to enter the workforce or continue further education in agriculture. After working in the industry it is my intention to become a teacher and hopefully inspire students to forge a career in agriculture.

Brooks High School was a major stepping stone for me as it was here that I was introduced to the science behind agriculture and motivated me to pursue the career I am. There are also great programs available such as the Tasmanian Farmers and Grazier’s Discover Agriculture program where I was shown some of the many industries within agriculture and given the opportunity to have a week’s work experience in the dairy industry. I have also been lucky enough to have work experience in the poppy and wine industries as well as government research. There are so many chances for travel within the industry as it is everywhere you go and whilst being involved in the Primary Industries Centre for Science Education program I travelled to Western Australia. I also travelled to Warwick on a Charolais Society sponsored trip where I participated in cattle handling, preparing and judging and was awarded the husbandry award.

1st in handlers

Many people disregard university as an option as it is too expensive but the fact is that there are so many scholarships out there to help budding agricultural scientists. Through the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s Horizon scholarship I have been provided with not only financial support but also a mentor who is there to help me through my degree. I have also had the opportunity to travel to Canberra every year of my degree to build my skills in leadership and meet some great people. This year I also travelled to Sydney on a sponsored trip to participate in the Charlie Arnot workshop.

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Ashley and fellow Horizon Scholars at FFAgOz workshops in Sydney with Charlie Arnot

Winning the Greenham Tasmania scholarship in 2011 saw me having lunch with the Governor of Tasmania and my acceptance speech for the ACAS/Coca Cola scholarship boosted my confidence considerably. The reason why I mention these accolades is to highlight that if you get out there and discover the possibilities there is every chance you can be offered a way and means of getting where you want to be. University is not the only option and I have enjoyed going through the more practical pathway, completing a VET II Certificate in Agriculture before attending college.

Grinding soil samples

There are so many great people in the industry and being involved in extracurricular activities has allowed me to meet some of these people. I’ve been able to talk to students during recent PICSE and TFGA camps as a guest speaker and co-facilitator at the 2012 TFGA Hobart camp, as well as running a workshop at the Growing Your Future 2011 event. Getting involved in our university’s Ag Science Society as secretary has allowed me to interact with industry members.

In addition to work experience I’ve also worked in a shearing shed, cutting vegetables, packing and preparing vegetables and working with beef cattle as well as selling fruit and vegetables. My passion for beef cattle started with showing at high school where I showed Murray Greys, Angus and Charolais cattle. I was then asked to show for a Belted Galloway stud and now show for a Murray Grey stud as well as being involved in the Murray Grey Youth.

There are so many prospects in the agriculture sector and my story is just a snap shot of what opportunities are available. The industry is full of enthusiastic workers from all walks of life and is waiting for even more people to enter the industry and make a difference. So why not take a leap of faith and explore the interesting and amazing sector that is agriculture?!

Back to me. There is no denying that Ashley is a superstar. She sees opportunitities for professional development and she grasps them with both hands and makes life happen for her. Ashley is obviously special but she isnt a one off nor need she be. I get phone calls from young people in agriculture from all around Australia with obvious potential to be another Ashely everyday.

They are out there industry. You just need to invest in them.

A big shout out to Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation for investing in Next Gen though Ashley

Creative Cowboys

 

Today we feature the outstanding and multi-talented Queensland farmer and artist Annabel Tully

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Annabel Tully painting with her “easel” on her homeland “Bunginderry” in Qld’s Channel Country

Firstly a little background

Art4Agriculture is an independent, non-political, partnership focused, not for profit grass roots organisation. We deliver programs designed by farmers for farmers that focus on youth, careers, the community, the environment and the arts and link all of these back to agriculture

We only work with organisations who partner for the common good of agriculture.

In 2011 RIRDC provided seed funding to get our Young Farming Champions program off the ground. What a watershed moment that has proved to be for the future of food security in this country.   

RIRDC have a number of initiatives that nurture rural and regional talent and one of these is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

To me this award identifies outstanding rural women in each state of Australia who day-in and day-out perform with flare, dedication and success resulting in creating growth and well-being for their own businesses, their communities and organisations they belong to.

Each winner has identified an exceptional community or industry good program they wish to undertake and the award provides them with funding and a support network to bring their vision to fruition.

Just by being nominated for an award is a tremendous boost for any individual or team program. Its says “We think you are equal to or better than the very best in the country”

Having participated in a number of award processes I know there are many positive flow on effects.  Art4agriculture have been awarded grants and contracts and our Young Farming Champions have received opportunities of a lifetime as a result of the attention focused on successful award entries.

Art4agriculutre has now formed a partnership with Annabel Tully who shares our commitment to deliver the best outcomes for agriculture at every turn

You can see why Annabel lights our fire by reading her story here

I’ve just been on the most incredible journey…….

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No it’s not Nepal, Cambodia or the Greek Isles, I’ve just spent the last 12 months being a part of the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Awards process in Queensland. (It does go national) I am thrilled to say I am a finalist headed for a big interview process in Brisbane next month. This journey of self-reflection has really nailed down for me exactly why I have a fire in my belly about anything rural and remote and what am I going to do with it?

So a little on my background… I’m a woman (for starters), a wife, a mother, a farmer, a teacher , an artist and an advocate for our bush way of life. For many years I have put my hand up for anything that had a farming or arts touch to it. But what really keeps that fire burning, is the people, without us, there is no agriculture. Sounds pretty simple, if not, stupid, I know, but when we are confronted with all the pressures of contemporary agriculture…..environment, global food security, financial pressures of feeding and educating another generation… blah blah blah…. the people part of agriculture is something I am not willing to forget. Let me share this journey with you if I may be so bold as to ask for a moment or 2 of your precious time???

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So my pitch for the Awards is a project I call “Creative Cowboys.” Come one, come all!

I’m offering an opportunity for fun and laughter and a reason to connect with the person standing next to you. I plan to offer all-inclusive arts based activities for people living in farming communities – yes even those who can’t even draw a stick figure! The aim is to offer some respite for farmers, a no man’s land where we you may chat to the stranger next to you about not very much at all, and that’s the whole point.

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Annabel Tully 2011 Tongalderry Channels (wet) Oil, pigment and found ochre on linen

Bushies are a resilient mob, a humble mob, a sometimes quiet and unassuming mob. We are faced with many challenges, and this is what brings the enormous rewards and our determination to stay. We problem solve, more often than not, without the assistance of others. But without the people, there is no agriculture. So I aim to offer a little respite, a shady tent at a field day or rodeo, if you like, where friends, neighbours and strangers can come together and have some fun, a little calm before the next storm. Because if you are a bushie, you know what I’m talking about…. there will be a next time, not so far in the future, when we will need to band together for survival.

Whether I am successful in my bid for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award bursary for this project is not the end of this journey. I’ve already reached my destination. The process of simply applying for the awards has enabled me to realise what my skills are and how I can make a difference. I am clear about my role in this glorious life I lead in the bush. Are you?

You can read more about and/or contact Annabel here

web: www.annabeltully.com

email:  info@annabeltully.com

Margaret Rivers’ Cate Blanchett goes back to her roots

Our blog today features next gen superstar Joanna Wren. Joanna was WA Trainee of the Year in 2008 and is currently a fellow Agrifood Skills’ Ambassador with Art4Agriculture’s Lynne Strong and Hollie Baillieu

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Joanna Wren – photograph by Stephen Blakeney (see footnote)

Joanna has had a very diverse career pathway that has led her back to her roots, from a Bachelor Arts and a love of television and theatre to her passion for horticulture and a strong understanding of the employment and environmental challenges the industry faces, Joanna is committed to becoming a leader in her field. Joanna runs own her business Sunshine Produce, in partnership with her brother. When not getting her hands dirty in the market garden, Joanna enjoys developing her artistic talents as a member of the Margaret River Theatre Company

This is Joanna’s story straight from the heart…….

I come from a farming family and loved growing up on the farm

Over the years my family have grazed both cattle and sheep and for as long as I can remember Dad and Mum have grown vegetables commercially.converted_81

‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I used to spend weekends and holidays planting cauliflowers, weeding capsicums and pruning tomatoes, not really even realising at the time that I was gaining new knowledge and skills every season I worked.

Whilst I loved the farm I also have a real love and passion for theatre and film and television and chose to study a Bachelor of Arts at Perth University. After spending four years living in Perth as part of my degree I realised that I really missed the country and made the decision to take a city break and move back home for six months and work with Dad growing vegetables. But six months turned into eight which turned into twelve and I have now been back down on the farm for over four years. I found not only did I really enjoy growing vegies, but that the skills that I had gained from growing up in the farm environment had never left me. I was hooked and wanted to learn more and so I did a Certificate IV Traineeship with my parents business “Wren’s Vegie Patch”

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‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

When it was time to look at a career path for me, I never really looked at a VET pathway in horticulture or agriculture as an option but now as I reflect on my Traineeship I can really clearly see how suitable training can not only make you “work ready” it can have such a positive effect on an individual’s life. Not only did I gain more practical skills and increased my knowledge of production horticulture but with my growing confidence I took on more responsibilities within the business (with fantastic encouragement from my parents) which included other things such as supervising and training staff and marketing.

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‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I was lucky enough to win the 2008 Trainee of the Year award at the WA Training Awards and with my prize money started my own little business which focused on growing smaller amounts of mixed vegetables for the local market. Not long after I formed a business partnership with my brother and together we now run Sunshine Produce, a production horticulture business in the South West corner of Western Australia. Based in the Margaret River region, we produce cauliflowers, tomatoes and pumpkins for the domestic Perth Market.

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‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I have still kept my interest in promoting local food and am always working to expand our local sales. And when I’m not harvesting, packing, irrigating, weeding, fertilising, working on the accounts, handling orders or sleeping, I am to be found working on a value added product that I’ve developed – a yummy pasta sauce using my own vine ripened tomatoes. At this stage it is just a small side project, but I’m hoping to see it grow to bigger volumes.

Back in 2008, I also got my training and assessing qualifications which enabled me to begin training other people in Horticulture at the South West Institute of Technology in Margaret River.

Jo Wren teaching

I really see the importance in having clear and relevant training pathways available to young people in horticulture so that they can see where their training is taking them. And I also see the need for practical, flexible and no-nonsense training for my industry and I try to reflect that as best as I can in my training programs.

I recently was appointed as an AgriFood Skills Australia Ambassador and it has been such a wonderful experience to be given the chance to represent my Industry at a National level. I have also really enjoyed spending time with the other seven Ambassadors who are from all across Australia and from all different Agriculture backgrounds and I can’t begin to describe how inspiring it is to be surrounded by these people who are so passionate about promoting Australian Agriculture and encouraging more people to become involved in such a fantastic and varied industry.

Now don’t get me wrong, growing vegetables can be ridiculously hard work and is definitely not for everyone. During the peak season of January through to May I work seven days a week and with a busy harvest a twelve hour day is not unusual, and is in fact commonplace. It can also be heartbreaking, we’ve had a whole crop wiped out by a freak hailstorm, complete plantings of cauliflowers destroyed overnight by rabbits and roos, it sounds dramatic but with vegetable growing a single day can make or break a season. But yet there’s something about it that I really connect with. I love the fact that I can grow quality, sustainable food for people. The satisfaction and sense of pride that comes with sending off a full truck of produce to the Markets. The fact that I get to work outside in one of the most beautiful corners of the world. The relief and burst of confidence when business decisions work out in your favour. The anticipation of waiting to see whether or not all your crop setup work has paid off. Even with its challenges, it is such an exciting and diverse industry to be a part of and I hope that in my own small ways I can contribute to the sustainability of the Australian horticulture industry and watch it grow from strength to strength.

Footnote

Other great stories about Joanna and Wrens Vegie Patch can be found here

Q&A Young Grower Feature Rising Star

2008 Spice Magazine Wrens Patch