Meet Miranda McGufficke who sees powerful potential in young people in wool

There are a few things I love in this world; my family, my ambitions, and sheep without a doubt I love my sheep. After returning home from a shortened gap year in England, I shed a tear when I came home and saw a sheep. I have so much passion and admiration for these animals and their capacity to grow nature’s most environmentally sustainable fibre.

 

I know I have my Dad, my role model, to owe for this immense passion and strong interest. Particularly in breeding and comparing genetics and in learning how to operate a successful profitable business. I remember growing up we were always asked ‘Would we like to come and help?’ not ‘You are coming to help!’. I believe this choice helped determine my passion as it was my decision, and I did it because I wanted to be there not because I had to.

 

My gap year in 2020 saw me work alongside my Dad. I involved myself into every aspect of our business from rousabouting to genetic data collection and analysis. The things I was able to learn from my Dad and other progressive industry leaders is irreplaceable. I want everyone to have this opportunity as well.

I was fortunate to continue my gap year at home helping my family’s commercially owned and operated merino seedstock business. I spent every day working alongside my dad who is a  driven and progressive producer. I took initiative into immersing myself more into our family business in the form of marketing and promotion. I initiated the creation of social media pages, collating the ram sale catalogues and introducing the Greendale newsletter- I saw an opportunity, and I took it and that’s what I want others to be inspired to do – to take an opportunity, educate themselves and believe they have the potential to have influence and impact.

Working alongside my parents has been the biggest reward for my blossoming interest and career aspirations. Pictured here is my Mum, Michelle and my Dad, Alan.The importance of being family owned and operated is paramount to our progression.

 

Dad has taught me most of what I know today, not only about farming, sheep production and business and also about life. He has given me the to create opportunities and to look holistically at everythingI have just started my tertiary studies and I believe the values and lessons my father has taught me has already benefited my studies. I have clear career aspirations which allowed me to direct my focus onto things that will benefit my progression. Yet I have found the education system and the industry to not be equipped in educating youth in areas such as genetic evaluation and comparison for profitable and sustainable economic performance.

 

This is why I believe education is crucial. More needs to be done in enhancing people’s understanding and knowledge about the benefit of data analysis and ASBV’s as well as how to use these genetic tools and systems. The potential of genetic selection in allowing more profitable and sustainable breeding decisions is unparalleled in comparison to relying on subjective opinion.

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work in your life” – Confucius 

 

In order to be fully understood, direct focus and applicable demonstrations need to be conducted and continually revisited – genetics always vary and progression and change should be the goal.

Ideas of initiating mentorship programs with interested youth and progressive, data focused producers or creating ongoing education programs that teach the whole industry should be the focus of the industry.

There is an apprehension to change. Changes in normality, changes in the process and unpredictability of the outcome. Change is inevitable and the issue I aim to address is the lack of adoption towards these changes. As an industry the key to success is progression. I have ambition to initiate change and promote the importance of adopting new systems into businesses – I want to focus on the youth that will help bring and incorporate this development and boost the productivity and profitability of our industry.

 

‘We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power towards good ends’

-Mary McLeod Bethune.

#womeninwool #youthinag #YouthVoicesinAction

 

 

 

Meet Savannah Boutsikakis who is looking forward to inspiring others to join her in a career in agriculture

Containing our showcase of the stories of the Australian Wool Innovation Cultivate Growing Young Leaders Scholarship finalists

Meet Savannah Boutsikakis………

I am from a 4th generation sheep property in Southern NSW. Throughout high school university was never on the cards for me, until my eyes where opened to early entry by my Year 12 Primary Industries class teacher

Without discussing it with anyone I went off on my own and before I knew it I had applied to University of New England (UNE) in northern NSW. One afternoon I got the unexpected email regarding my early entry offer I had gotten in to UNE, and rest of the week saw another two offers come in.

So having made it this far, I made the decision, I thought why not give the uni degree ago, its Agriculture after all how hard can it be. The stumbling block was I didn’t want to move to the other end of the state. My mum had previously seen an ad in the local paper about the Country University Centre opening in Goulburn with a phone call and a week later I was then the first registered student at the CUC. The CUC is established as a study hub to help and support rural and regional students through their university degree.

As 2018 began so did the chapter of university, studying full time online whilst working two bar jobs saw organisation and motivation in full swing. The intensive schools came, friendships that last a life time were instilled. Everything was going well until the dreaded email came I was failing first year chemistry, in tears I rang the CUC and by the time I was home I had not one but three chemistry tutors.

The CUC became more than just fast internet, it became my uni, support and back stop. Flash forward 3 year and I have just graduated a Bachelor of Agriculture the most challenging but exciting and biggest learning curve I ever did embark on. It’s an honour to be the first registered student to start and finish their degree with the support of the CUC Goulburn.

Since this I was then offered a job in the Moree region sowing the winter crops, not really knowing what I was in for and having no experience with cropping I grabbed the opportunity to go.

 

The week before I left I was with my family talking about the new exciting experience of going to sow the winter crops. My cousin then commented ‘So you just walk along and put the seeds in the ground’ now I knew I didn’t really know what I was in for exactly  but knew it was big tractor with a big planter, so I explained the process to them. This comment really hit home for me, I knew there was a knowledge gap of modern farming practices but I didn’t realise how close to home it really was. My cousin has completed uni, lived and studied overseas, absolutely kicking goals, and yet her comment showed there were people in my family that knew very little about farming today

Agriculture today is an exciting web of careers that feed and clothe and provide people with renewable energy. I am excited to be part of it and I am looking forward to inspiring others to join me

Meet Kate McBride finding her passion and mentors in agriculture

Containing our showcase of the stories of the Australian Wool Innovation Cultivate Growing Young Leaders Scholarship finalists

Meet Kate McBride ——-

As a fifth-generation wool grower I suppose there’s no surprise I’ve ended up in the agriculture industry and I am thrilled to be debunking the stereotypical farmer image.

Kate McBride – Healthy River Ambassador 

I am a farmer, I am female and I am under 30. I am also a board member, a healthy river ambassador, a university student working towards a masters and a researcher at The Australia Institute, one of the country’s leading think tanks.  I’m also regularly speak at events and schools and a perk of my career is the work I get to do in the world of politics, working with politicians from all backgrounds on issues that matter to rural Australians.

Appearance on Q&A in 2019, alongside David Littleproud the Federal Minister for Agriculture   

It wasn’t long ago I was a shy girl that couldn’t string two sentences together in front of a camera, let alone on National TV. So, what’s changed and how can others do it? For me it came down to two things;

  1. Finding my passion and
  2. Learning from mentors.

I found my passion and my call to action happened when I witnessed the complete collapse of the Darling-Baaka river, a place I’d grown up along side and loved. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure why or how I could help. Initially my upskilling involved a lot of learning about the river system, networking with experts and training in skills like media.

Standing in the dry Darling-Baaka river- My call to action

 

The second important element for me was the mentors I sought out and learnt from. I have benefitted from incredible mentors over the years that have helped shape me into someone that not only has a voice, but helps other find their own. For me, having one mentor that I could go to for everything didn’t fit, instead I have an army of people I go to for both personal and professional advice. One thing that has been installed in me is the fact that having a voice and platform is a privilege, and with that comes a responsibility. Not just a responsibility to work on a variety of issues, but a responsibility to help young people whose position I was in not too long ago. To me leadership isn’t about being heard, its about supporting others to grow with you and drawing out the best in them.

Sitting in the Senate Chamber at Parliament House

 

The variety in work our industry offers is unrivalled in my opinion. From sheep yards to think tanks, board rooms to parliament house, Agriculture offers it all.

Not only are we seeing more women enter the industry but equally as importantly, we’re witnessing generational change. Our industry has significant challenges and opportunities ahead and we need to be working together, people young and old, experienced and newbies to not just survive but thrive into the future.

I am looking forward to inspiring other young people, supporting them to find their voice and seeing just how far a career in agriculture can take them !

#WomeninWool #YouthinAg #YouthVoicesinAction #GrowingYoungLeaders

 

Meet Jamie Pepper who was born to farm

Continuing the stories of our Australian Wool Innovation Cultivate Growing Young Leaders Finalists 

Meet Jamie Pepper

My love for farming was instilled in me at a young age. Growing up on a family farm, spending my weekends and school holidays helping out on the farm made me realise this was the industry I wanted to dedicate my working career to.

After my formal schooling was completed, I gained some valuable work experience (and studied) so I could bring new skills, new perspectives and commitment to do the best I can back to my family farm.

 

Farming is much more than a job or career for me. It is my life. The deep relationship I have with the land and the animals is something I feel deeply .

 

In a post-pandemic world, the future of agriculture is very bright and exciting. With stable commodity prices, positive cash flows and equity farmers, including myself, are able to reinvest back into our businesses.

 

With Australia’s climate variability, environmental sustainability and the way I manage the land is important to me. The unreliability of rainfall means managing water sources to ensure clean and fresh water for the livestock all year round. Fencing off dams and creeks helps to achieve this (the added benefit is helping the fish and water birdlife). Fencing off bare patches/land-slips and planting trees is another activity I do, in which to look after the land for future generations.

Growing my confidence and leadership ability will help me to make informed decisions to capitalise in this exciting industry. Whilst there are foreseeable issues which directly affect the way I farm (mostly around climate variability), I am very much looking forward to what the future brings. I am particularly interested in exploring breeding opportunities for my livestock, making smarter decisions on my farm and being a proud ambassador for the industry that I love.

I have always been a big believer that change doesn’t just happen, we need to make it happen. With the benefit of completing the Growing Young Leaders Program I hope I can be in a position in the future to be part of decision-making processes which affect our industry. I want to make farming the best it possibly can be, I look forward to being a part of the leadership of this industry

Meet Florance McGufficke on a mission to improve communication between consumers and wool producers

Continuing our meet the finalists series in the Australian Wool Innovation – Cultivate Growing Young Leaders Scholarship

Meet Florance McGufficke……

I have always had a connection to the land, growing up on a sheep and wool enterprise in Cooma, southern NSW. I never went to day-care, I went to ‘daddy day-care’ spending my time out in the paddock with dad (mostly eating sheep poo). When I was in primary school if we were shearing at home I would go straight to the shed after school, uniform and all.

Involving myself in sheep husbandry activities, data analysing and genetic data collection with the goal to continually improve our sheep to meet consumer demands and deliver a superior quality merino wool product. I was fortunate to attend boarding school and spend 12-months in the UK for my gap year.

I have just completed a double degree of a Bachelor of Agriculture and Business at UNE

 Success comes from hard work and dedication, that is what my dad Alan taught me 

 

During my tertiary education I networked with a variety of people and held leadership positions, my most recent being the Senior Resident Advisor (SRA) at St Alberts College.

In the last 5 years I have appreciated the value in breeding highly productive and profitable sheep and the benefits of using top genetics to create a superior product. Throughout my studies my attention was drawn to the need to increase sustainability in agriculture and to take a more market-oriented approach in the supply chain. I have a passion for wool focusing on this incredible fibre I believe my roles in leadership have equipped me with the skills to engage consumers in conversations about the sustainability of this superior fibre.

Consumers today are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and their impacts on the environment. They have increasing concerns about their purchases, questioning the sustainability of apparel fibres and demanding transparency and traceability of products. In regard to the wool industry, the future of fashion is heavily dependent on sustainable fibres. Wool is the solution to the future of sustainable fashion. The characteristics of the wool fibre make it highly sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Transparency is key to a create a cohesive pipeline and meet consumer demand- some bales of wool during our last shearing

 

I believe wool’s superior qualities need to be promoted to highlight the environmental benefits.

Fast fashion has resulted in an increased turn-over rate of clothing compared to 15 years ago due to the constant shift in fashion trends, with clothing collections doubling from 2-5 per year and lifestyle choices influencing consumer demand. With the consequences building as a result of fast fashion I believe we need to educate people about the impacts their purchasing habits have on the environment, as well as about the alternative choices they can make. The perfect world would see every household be able to own woollen underwear or t-shirt so they understand and appreciate the natural qualities of wool and the benefits this fibre has for their personal health, as well as the longevity of the environment. Creating clothing only of natural fibres, and reducing man-made fibres would reduce the level of micro-plastics in our oceans and pollution on land.

We have been using ASBV’s and measuring performance for over 14 years and from my experience and background in data collection and analysis continuous improvement is key to delivering a consistently superior quality merino wool  

 

I aspire to be a leading advocate for increasing the level of transparency and traceability in the wool industry.

I believe a market-oriented approach is the key to improving market responsiveness and building a reputation for wool as a superior and sustainable fibre. I want to increase cohesion along the supply chain and ensure  consistent communication channels between the producer and the consumer

I believe transparency is the key to engaging all stakeholders to ensure wool is successfully produced, promoted and consumed.

I know the benefits of this luxurious fibre, and have a desire to be a leading advocate for the future of the wool industry.

 

Meet Katie Barnett – a young woman excited about a future in wool

The Australia Wool Innovation Cultivate- Growing Young Leaders scholarship invites young people in the Australian wool industry to nominate to learn how to become confident ambassadors and trusted voices.

The program identifies and supports young agricultural professionals and equips them with the skills to:

  • Connect and collaborate with the next generation of consumers and multiply their impact
  • Advocate for, and drive change in, the Australian agricultural sector.

They then become the face of our in-school programs and role models for who you can be in agriculture.

It gives us great pleasure to share with you the stories of our 2021 finalists

 Meet Katie Barnett 

My name is Katie Barnett. I am 21 years old and from Kempsey, on the Mid North Coast of NSW. In 2019, I ventured to Armidale, NSW to complete a double degree, a Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business at the University of New England. I am currently in my fourth and final year. I sit on multiple committees such as ASC of NSW Next Generation, Kempsey Show Society and UNE’s RSUS. In addition, I work on two properties, Kyabra Station and Taylors Run part-time and am just about to start another job at Precision Pastures. I have a small share in a mob of cross-bred ewes and have an enormous interest in women and youth in Agriculture, community involvement and the sustainability and resilience of the Australian sheep and wool industry.

 

 

How did I get here? I didn’t grow up on a property and I didn’t have family close by with a property for me to go to. I come from a rural town and went to a mainstream Public School.

Attending the Kempsey Anzac Day March with my fellow Kempsey High School Captain Dion Thompson-Stewart

I’ve always had a passion and ambition to become involved in Agriculture, so I took every opportunity that came my way. It doesn’t matter what your background is, your age or even your gender. If you try hard and keep persevering, you’ll achieve your goals. If I can make it so, can you!

Me and my kelpie Liz

I have been involved in many areas of the Agriculture Industry. I have worked with dairy cattle, pigs, beef cattle on smaller scale and beef cattle on a larger scale (cattle station in QLD) and harvested crops to name just a few.  The sheep and wool industries are my favourite.

Its vaccination time on the farm

I love the diversity, the endless opportunities, the innovation, the technology, and the science.

I am proud to be part of an industry where sheep turn grass, water and sunshine into wool – a natural fibre that will last for years and years in your wardrobe, needs less washing, is fire resistant, breathable, recyclable and biodegrable and does not contribute to microplastic pollution

I am particularly interested in supporting producers to continue to deliver sustainable, ethically produced wool.

  • Understanding what are our buyers looking for?
  • What are the main challenges we face as an industry?
  • How do we remain competitive in a world where we compete with many other products such as synthetic fibres?

When we have healthy soils and pastures we can optimise the animal health and welfare outcome for sheep as well as increase the amount and quality of wool they produce. Animals in farming systems can reduce the need for input such as fertilisers and by implementing rotational grazing techniques ensures that grass is trimmed regularly, allowing it to regrow, store more carbon in its roots and support biodiversity in and above the soil.

Trees are an integral part of the farming system, providing shade for livestock, capturing carbon and shelter for native animals 

I believe that I have a great future ahead of me in the sheep and wool Industry and I encourage everyone to have a go. You never know what lies ahead.