Ben Barlow learning and growing by empowering young people

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Shoutout out to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for the awesome image

As highlighted by the Chair of our youth leadership team, Dr Jo Newton in her opionion piece in the Stock and Land, agriculture has a lot of great immersion workshop leadership training opportunities. The question Picture You in Agriculture is seeking the answer to is – Are we making the same mistake as the rest of the world and not giving young people the opportunity to practice what they are learning.

The problem is, while the science of management has advanced significantly in the past three decades, the practice of management hasn’t.  The new purpose of business — and the future of work — has to include maximizing human potential. Source

The management team at Western Local Land Services is certainly doing everything it can to empower emerging leaders through action learning  Ben and Erlina.jpg

Chair of Western Local Land Services Ben Barlow with GM Erlina Compton – source

In the last episode of our Lessons Learnt series we met 21 year-old Kate McBride and learnt of her leadership journey. As the youngest board member of Local Land Services she credited Ben Barlow, chair of the Western Division, as an important role model and mentor. Today we chat to Ben to discover his take on leadership, diversity on boards and his advice to young people looking to make an impression on the world.

With experience in agriculture, both on the ground and in corporate and financial circles, Ben Barlow was an obvious choice as an inaugural board member when Local Land Services formed in 2014. The new organisation represented an amalgamation of the Livestock Pest and Health Authority (LHPA), Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and extension sections of the NSW Department of Agriculture.

“I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to bring them all together.” Ben says of his reasons for joining the Western Division board. “Whenever you bring cultures together you can’t expect them to work well straight up; you’ve got to bring the best out of them all across the organisation and you set the tone from the top – from the chair and the board down – and through good counselling and quality discussion time with the general manager who is running it day to day.”

“When we started I think the western board had the lowest customer engagement and staff satisfaction scores of the group and now they are the highest in the state,” Ben says of the transformation that has occurred in the five and a half years since inception.

This transformation has been a product of clear direction and purpose from the beginning, with the Western Division having a strategic plan in place before one was finalised for LLS as a whole.

“Our principles are customers and stakeholders, people, productivity and natural resources of the region,” Ben says. “If a policy enhances these then good; if not we don’t do it. It’s pretty basic. This makes it one of the few agri-political boards I have been in that does not have any politics at all. It just focusses on the job at hand.”

Ben has held the position of chair for three years and believes it is not the role of the chair to have opinions or objectives, but rather to get the best out of the people sitting around the board table, and to facilitate the best questions so management can form direction. To this end he is a strong advocate of a diverse board.

“Over time we’ve moved the composition of the board from mainly older men and a couple of women to a fifty/fifty gender ratio with an average age of about 40, with the youngest being 21,” he says.

“We’ve moved to a generational change to create diversity, pass to the next generation and to maintain good corporate leadership and governance.”

But gender is not the only measure of a diverse board and the Western Division has a stated objective to encourage traditional owners to apply for a seat on the board in the next elections.

“I think that will be a significant step forward. A board is about asking the right questions and you therefore need the right people represented around the table.”

As Kate McBride can attest, joining a board when young and female can be overwhelming and although LLS offers professional development opportunities such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, it is personal guidance and mentorship that can prove most valuable.

“I said to Kate when she was appointed that this was going to be a bit daunting but I would stand behind her all the way,” Ben says, “and it hasn’t been just me but the whole board who have nurtured her and helped her grow. It’s about relationships: Kate may have valued my support and advice on lots of levels but I have also really valued that interaction. It has helped me grow.”

“I enjoy seeing people grow and develop and try, and make mistakes and reach out and try again and get over it. If you do nothing you’re going to learn nothing. If you do something and make a mistake you learn. You’ve got to do something to learn. I’ve had some wonderful leaders and I’ve had some awful ones and I’ve learnt a lot from the best and I’ve learnt a lot from the worst and I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself.”

With his experience and life-learning Ben has this advice for people looking to make an impression on the world:

  • Listen carefully and watch; take the best of things you see and ditch the worst of things you see, and be very distinctive about that choice,
  • Don’t put on social media what you don’t want to see on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald; where there is mystique there is margin – it gives you some latitude and leverage in life,
  • Find someone who might be able to help you and ask them to help; and they will usually say yes

By legislation, Ben’s term as chair and board member of the LLS Western Division will come to an end in 2020, but Ben believes in the power of positive transition and will step down from these roles this year, but don’t call it succession.

“I think succession implies the end of something whereas I think it is about progression where the work you’ve done has got you to a point and the next part of the journey for the enterprise is a new leader who takes that culture further and does something with it. We’re here for many generations and if we do it well handing over the reins will be a progressive thing.”

#YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices

Kate McBride – a young woman disrupting the status quo

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Special thanks to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for this fabulous photo 

Young people have the most to gain and the most to lose from deccisions made by older generations. Too often their voices are not heard

Amplifying the voices of youth is something very close to the heart of the Picture You in Agriculture team. The Chair of our youth leaderrship team Dr Jo Newton has made it her mission to seek out and showcase young people views on leadership models and you can read her regular opinion pieices in the Stock and Land here  and here

As part of our lessons learnt series we will be showcasing organisations who are giving young people a place at the decision making table and support them on their jounrey

The first in the series will showcase Western Local Land Services 21 year old board member Kate McBride, the Chair of the Board Ben Barlow and Erlina Compton the General Manager Kate McBride.jpg

Picture source  The Australian. Photographer David Geraghty

This is Kate’s story penned by our journalist Mandy McKeesick  

Sometimes we all get caught with our blinkers on, looking inward rather than outward. We could write all our Lessons Learnt series on our Young Farming Champions but Lynne Strong is driven by a desire to acknowledge, celebrate and learn from young agricultural leaders, no matter their background or affiliation. Such was the case when Lynne tuned into a recent episode of the ABC’s Australian Story and was impressed with the communication skills and the presence of a 21-year-old from Tolarno Station on the Darling River.

Kate McBride grew up on the banks of the Darling River. It is close to her heart and the current dire straits it is now in has spurred her to advocate for the river. As she said in the program: “We need to fix this and I’m going to do that in any way I possibly can.”

But as a young person in regional New South Wales Kate initially found herself lacking the skills to communicate her message. Then she found the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“ACF were running the River Fellowship Program and bringing together people from across the Murray Darling Basin to do workshops and training,” Kate says. “My step-mum was involved and when she couldn’t attend one of the programs I stepped in and then Beth Koch suggested I do the entire eight month course.”

The ACF training initially involved gaining knowledge about the Murray Darling Basin and then extended into people and communication skills. The training took Kate from someone who could not string two sentences together in front of a camera to the eloquent young woman on Australian story.

“ACF gave me the confidence to stand up and get my message across, especially to politicians. It taught me politicians are just normal people; they are accessible and you can go and speak to them and get your point across.”

With this new confidence Kate put her hand up for the board of the Western Local Land Services and was duly elected. Like the ACF Local Land Services has given Kate a broad appreciation of agriculture beyond her front paddock; and also training to assist her leadership journey with a three-day Australian Institute of Company Directors course.

As Beth Koch became her mentor with ACF Kate credits Ben Barlow, Chair of Western Local Land Services, as being another great teacher.

“I was pretty nervous when I joined the board but from Day One Ben was incredibly supportive. He is interested in making sure people are growing and have the ability to go out and serve the community. He is an incredible mentor.”

At 21 Kate has a long and potentially influential career in front of her so what advice does she have for other young people interested in the advocacy and political space?

“The most important thing I have ever done is when opportunities have arisen I’ve put my name forward. You’ve got nothing to lose. I’m also constantly learning and working out how to better do things. Rome wasn’t built overnight and I know I’ve got a long way to go.”

 

 

 

Celebrating #YouthinAg Big Ideas – Who will you vote for? Will it be Matt Champness?

At Picture You in Agriculture we believe in collaborating and sharing stories showcasing exciting and innovative leaders in agriculture.

As promised in our previous blog giving our collaborating partners Guy Coleman and Matt Champness the opportunity to share their EvokeAG vision is a natural fit for us.

As it turns out Guy and Matt are great mates ( logical that exciting young people gravitate towards each other).

Please help us to help Matt or Guy to ptich their big idea at Asia Pacific’s biggesst agrifood tech event in February 2020 by voting for them here

This is why Matt thinks you should vote for his pitch

There will be more food eaten in the next 50 years than there has been in the whole of humanity, however, we only have the capacity to produce 30% of that. Currently, I believe it’s pretty shameful that world hunger has increased in recent years, with 820 million people suffering from hunger. This is 2019, we can do better!

Whilst there is much focus on environmental stewardship, conservation and restoration of natural environments, I believe we will never reach sustainable life until everyone has access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. Ending global hunger by 2030 is pillar 2.1 of the UN SDG’s and it’s looking unlikely, with a need to double the current rate of decline in global hunger if we are to reach this target by 2030.

If fortunate enough to be selected as an evokeAg Future Young Leader I will discuss the need for greater collaboration from those within the agriculture sector and afar, to build a sustainable future for us all. I want to encourage the youth of today to look holistically at agriculture and how they can work grow the Australian Ag industry and help to build a world free of hunger. The current single disciplinary research approach is not working on a global or national level. Transformational food system change has to start at the farm and community level. Top down global policy is meaningless if ‘on the ground’ capacity is lacking. Therefore, the solutions to decrease food waste and increase sustainable farm production and profit must be developed on farm.

There will be a day when we live in a world free of hunger, but the time it takes until we get there depends on when we start working together as an agri-food industry, as a nation, and as a global society. I want to help foster interdisciplinary collaboration between the future leaders of the world to ensure I see the day we do live in a world free of hunger.

#ZeroHunger #ZeroWaste #StrongerTogether #YouthinAg #YouthVoices

Celebrating #YouthinAg big ideas. Who will you vote for? Will it be Guy Coleman

The legacy of Picture You in Agriculture programs is the

  • young agricultural leaders we empower to advance Australia’s sustainable agricultural future.
  • the school students we equip through our in school programs with 21st century skills who are inspired to be active agents of social and environmental change.
  • perception that agriculture is an exciting industry
    • where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
    • where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and
    • where partnerships across sectors are encouraged and nurtured

This year to help amplify #youthinag voices we joined forces with the first NFF2030 leaders cohort and the team at AgriEducate.

We are very excited to see both Matt Champness from NFF2030 Leaders cohort and Guy Coleman from AgriEducate have made it through to the finals of the People’s Choice for evokeAG. Future Young Leaders Program 

Please help us to help Matt or Guy to ptich their big idea at Asia Pacific’s biggesst agrifood tech event in February 2020 by voting for them here

This is why Guy thinks you should vote for his pitch

 Bringing out the FarmR in everyone.

At its peak in 2014, Farmville had over 50 million active daily users, even today the number hovers around 20 million. It shows that Facebook users are giving up their time to grow virtual crops, raise virtual animals, market virtual grain and develop a virtual farm all for virtual credits. In a complete contrast to this virtual agricultural engagement, consumers are disconnected from food production more than ever. How does this happen and how do we fix it? Well, social media has been widely touted as the newest channel of engagement, and it certainly helps farmers connect and reach into otherwise unreachable areas. But what if we could take this one step further and employ the latest in connectivity, virtual/augmented reality and robotics and set up what I like to called – FarmR, real farming done virtually. If fortunate enough to be selected for evokeAg, I’ll be discussing the seemingly futuristic ways of engagement and how we can bring together technology with consumer interest to push agriculture into a true 4.0 industry.

You can vote for Guy here 

Next we will share with you why Matt thinks he has the next big idea

#YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices19

 

 

 

 

Meet Sally Downie a champion for wellbeing

Meet Sally Downie our newest Young Farming Champion and the winner of the 2019 Picture You in Agriculture Scholarship.

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Photo by Forbes Corby

My name is Sally Downie. I’m the daughter of dairy farmers. It’s in my blood.

I grew up on a dairy farm near Forbes NSW with my family. I was the only girl in the family and the youngest. I had some big shoes to fit.A large pair of dirty, well worn boots, the pair you pull on each morning and don’t take off until much later in the evening. They are familiar, comfortable but a token of hard work.  For years I strived to fit into those metaphorical shoes.

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Farm life was normal to me. I’d come home from school and be up at the dairy milking cows, feeding calves and following mum around the farm.

In high school I began to show dairy cattle. It became my mission to show an animal of my own at every Forbes Show. I soon began to show cattle at Sydney Royal Show and International Dairy Week in Victoria. It was at these shows my eyes were opened to the opportunities in the dairy industry and the amazing people involved. I really began to look at cows, to see what made a good cow. I listened to the judge, to what they looked for and how they said it. I felt that this was my place.

By my senior years of high school life was very different. I was still invested in the farm and in love with cows. I was determined to be a dairy farmer, just like my mum. But I had my own goals, I had to make my family proud. Academics clicked for me, I did alright in school with little struggle (expect when it came to maths). I would work after school on the farm then come home to get assignments done, burning the midnight oil. To my family this was odd and something my brother found to bother me about. I began to struggle as I became sick. I was back and forth from hospital admissions and an array of tests, my list of absent days grew. I seemed ok but inside life was a living hell. I finished year 12 as Dux. I returned to work on the farm showing no interest in university.

Things fell to pieces quickly. By December I was very sick, February I was in hospital for several weeks, by April I was 33kg but took on the role as Central West Dairy Coordinator with DairyNSW anyway. Again I went to Sydney Royal but I was a mere shadow of myself, tired but determined. By May I was 30kg and absolutely devastated as I was told I’d be sent to hospital and I’d miss a farm tour of a local dairy farm. I tried to convince them to admit me after the tour. I didn’t win. I still had plans to visit New Zealand with the dairy network in June. At the same time my family were told I had three days to live. June came around and I was still in hospital, a feeding tube up my nose, weak, bed bound. In September I was discharged from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. An eating disorder,that was my diagnosis. How do I live with that? What farmer won’t eat? If dad can’t accept it how can I?

I fell in love, I saw more opportunities in agriculture,

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I began a university degree but I also saw another side to agriculture, the silent suffering, the devastation of mental illness. I accepted my illness. I accepted mental health and began to speak out about it I could no longer say silent about such suffering. I allowed myself to roam, to seek new paddocks.

I opened my eyes, I opened my heart, I opened my world up.

Sally Downie

Resilience starts with believing in yourself. Sally Downie Runner Up Sydney Royal Easter Show Girl 2019

Sally is an alumni of the highly prestigous ABC Heywire Trailblazer program. Read her story here

Watch Sally on Landline here.

You can read more stories about Sally here

Sally now works for Forbes Council as their drought resilience officer. We are very excitied to have Sally join the team.

 

Emotional Win for Agronomist of the Year Casey Onus

Young Farming Champion YFC Casey Onus has been named the Australian Summer Grains 2019 Agronomist of the Year, winning the Zoe McInnes Memorial Award at the annual conference held on the Gold Coast during July. Zoe was a young and well-respected agronomist who was tragically killed in a farming accident in 2013.

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 Casey Onus (centre) with AHRI northern extension agronomist Paul McIntosh and Zoe’s mother Kaz McInnes at the awards night. Source

The Zoe McInnes Memorial recognises outstanding contribution to agronomic excellence in Australia. Casey was nominated alongside senior agronomists with years of experience, proving age is no barrier to the exceptional service she offers to clients.

“I think often as young agronomists we don’t feel as though we have been around long enough to make an impact in our clients’ business and the greater agricultural industry. So to receive recognition like this is great feedback that perhaps we are on the right track and delivering real value.”  she says.

Casey felt it was a huge honour to be nominated for this award and a big surprise to win, yet beyond the accolades the award has personal meaning.

“I knew Zoe when I worked with Landmark and she was the sort of agronomist to whom we should all aspire. She was passionate, driven, she never took no for an answer and she would have a go at anything.”

These are traits shared by Casey and it is obvious she has learnt well from her role-model.

The award comes with a $5000 bursary.

“I  would like to use the bursary to follow my passion for precision agriculture and traceability throughout the entire grain supply chain.”

Casey is well known for her determination to introduce technology to growers, whether that is by utilising big data collected on farms or contracting drones to check crops for pests.

“I want to employ that technology to develop a paddock to plate process for grains, so the bursary may help me find someone working in this space who I can learn from. I’d like to find someone like Zoe.”

Casey joined the Young Farming Champions program in 2015. We are thrilled to have role model of her calibre advocating and inspiring pride in Australian agriculture

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#Youthinag #YouthVoices19 #StrongerTogether

 

 

Oxley Park Public School using their kitchen garden to help students take control of their nutritional needs

This week, as part of our series shining a spotlight on our amazing school partners, we celebrate Oxley Park Public School who participated in the inaugural Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre  Kitchen Gardens program and hosted its celebration event.

The program aims to develop student educational and life skills. Eleven schools are participating and students spend one hour a week in the garden and one hour a week in the kitchen. Branimir Lazendic is principal of The Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre.

“I’m always looking out for inquiry-based, real-world projects for kids to do and with Kitchen Gardens the students are involved with growing their own produce, harvesting it, preparing it and sharing it. Kitchen Gardens allows students to work collaboratively as part of a group, to think critically and creatively, to contribute effectively to society and to look after their own well-being. Without well-being you can’t have learning in the first place.” Branimir Lazendic principal of The Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre.

Cassandra Lindsay is a teacher at Oxley Public School and has developed the fully functional garden, which provides a range of fresh organic produce to students and local families.

Teacher Cassandra Lindsay talks about the Kitchen Garden Program at Oxely Public School

Cassandra also runs the Garden Club five days per week at lunchtime where all students who are interested can learn the skills of growing and caring of fruits and vegetables.

“My passion for school gardens began long before I actually became a teacher.  As a child I would spend time with my grandparents helping them tend to their backyard vegetable garden and in high school I took agriculture as an elective and spent all of my lunchtimes in the ag plot.  When I started teaching at Oxley Park Public School it was evident many of our students had not had the opportunity to grow food, or even had any understanding of the process it takes to actually have vegetables on the dinner table. Enabling students to produce food in an organic low cost manner is empowering as a teacher.  Every day I can give a child an opportunity to experience growing of food, gives every child another chance to a healthier future.”

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Wow, with that passion we can’t wait to see what Oxley Park Public School will bring to their Kreative Koalas project, especially with Cassandra at the helm. She has already instigated environmental changes in the school with initiatives such as nude food days, improving paper recycling and recycling plastic bottles, and believes Kreative Koalas will further fuel the school and community’s war on waste.

“Our vision is to create a plastic free canteen and school environment. I want to empower our students to have a voice to make a change, be the voice of their community and spread awareness amongst the school community.  This project is also an opportunity for our students to make real changes and share their story through a mix of artwork and digital media.”

Oxley Park Public School will definitely be a school to keep an eye on in this year’s Kreative Koalas.

Mega shoutout to our Kreative Koalas supporting partners Hunter Local Land Services and Holcim Australia – we couldn’t do it without you