Young Farming Champion Calum Watt advancing the WA Grains Industry

“I am passionate about plant breeding because it is the most efficient means by which to improve the productivity and sustainability of plant production and I want to use my passion to address world issues, such as malnutrition.”

CalumW_Photo.jpg Young Farming Champion Calum Watt is kicking big goals in Western Australia as he researches better breeds of barley at Murdoch University in Perth, and a recently announced $25,000 grant from the Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd (COGGO) Research Fund will aid his PhD studies aiming to increase barley yield under future predicted temperature increases.

Established in 2000, the purpose of the COGGO Research Fund is to invest in innovative new research and development projects from across the whole supply chain. “The money will essentially go to paying for glasshouse trials and undertaking genetic studies in the lab,” Calum says. “This project, if fully realised, has large economic potential.”

Calum is the first to realise economics plays only one part of the sustainability circle that is agriculture and his research will address a range of issues that must be balanced and managed by farmers.

“Through genetics and breeding we can develop varieties that use fertiliser more efficiently and increase pathogen resistance resulting in less fungicide and insecticide use,” he says. “Plant breeding can also result in greater water use efficiency (more crop per drop) and higher quality produce through biofortification (improving nutritional content).”

It is for reasons such as these that COGGO was attracted to Calum’s work.

“COGGO is privileged to be able to fund these valuable research projects for the advancement and improvement of the Western Australia grains industry”, Mr Rhys Turton, COGGO Chairman, says. “We have a long history of providing catalytic funding for new R&D ideas and have seen many past recipients make a significant impact on returns for Western Australian grain growers.”

Away from university Calum is making a mark on national and international levels presenting at barley conferences in Perth and Latvia this year and attending a statistics workshop in Bangkok. Both these overseas experiences have been funded by a postgraduate research scholarship. He has also been nominated by his university to attend the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Kuala Lumpur in August.

In 2018 Calum represented agriculture in the Western Australian Young Achievers Awards, reaching the semi-final stages.

“What I realise from events such as these is ultimately how small our industry is yet how much recognition we can achieve,” he says. “It’s a great networking event and it’s really the only type of awards night of this calibre over our way for youth in agriculture.”

Calum’s career will be one to watch as he endeavours to use his research for the greater good.

Calum Watt

“I am passionate about plant breeding because it is the most efficient means by which to improve the productivity and sustainability of plant production and I want to use my passion to address world issues, such as malnutrition.”

 

Young Farming Champions Muster March 2019 First Edition

This fortnight’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country.

Another fortnight of celebrating the amazing achievements of the young farming champs. It is an exciting time for the team, with the Archibull Prize expressions of interests for secondary schools is now open! We can’t wait to see what the schools come up with, and support them on the journey through agriculture.

In the Field

In our latest Lessons Learnt from the Drought Wool YFC’s Bessie Thomas, Peta Bradley  and agronomists James Kanaley and Martin Murray share their stories on how the drought is affecting them, their families and their businesses

You can read Bessie and Peta’s stories here.
Peta

You will find James and Martin’s stories here 

James Kanaley (2)

The last fortnight saw the celebration of Regenerative Ag Day with a number of YFC showcasing what hey are doing with their businesses.

YFC Marlee Langfield is celebrating the selection of one of her photos in the AgWomen Global Book…. stunning pic, Marlee!

Marlee AgWomen.jpeg

Egg Industry YFC Jasmine Whitten has been busy in her new role as the local landcare coordinator for Western NSW presenting to the Cobar and District Rotary club talking about her role for the LLS, her volunteering and how all this fits in with her personal values.

Jas Cobar 2

Friend of the YFC Nicole McDonald has also had a feature piece as part of the Archibull Career Snapshot, and not with the typical agriculture job description that you might expect. Nicole took some time out to describe her role as a social science researcher and how that fits into the broad world of agriculture, going to once again show the wide diversity of career option on ag. Read Nicole’s story here.

Erika Heffer ran a Foundations in Leadership course for a teamwork exercise mentoring 14 people in Masterchef style. She also made an appearance on ABC Swan Hill Radio talking about the Archiebull Prize as well as all the other wonderful projects she has been busy with.

Erika Transparent 2

Sheep YFC Chloe Dutschke has been in NSW at Wyvern Station learning the tools of the trade for sheep. This included learning about sheep selection, stockmanship, personal development, agtech and a heap of other skills. This was thanks to the Peter Westblade Scholarship where Chloe was joined by 30 other sheep producers.

Chloe Dutschke 1

Out of the Field

Congratulations to YFCs Keiley O’Brien and Jasmine Whitten who both competed in their Showgirl zone finals this month. These two stars shone bright and you should both very proud of your tremendous efforts. Thank you to Lucy Collingridge for your involvement and keeping everyone up to date with your wonderful hosting of the Picture You in Agriculture Facebook page during the week of Showgirl Finals.

Horticulture YFC Tayla Field was featured on the Career Harvest website with an article on careers  in horticulture and all of the opportunities that have been provided to her, read more here.

Shoutout to James Bidstrup for a mention at the evokeAG conference. The importance of sharing the amazing story that is Ag isn’t lost at all on the wider community it seems! Thanks so much.

James Bidstrup

And what do NASA and Australian Agriculture have in common? YFC Rebecca Thistlewaite has featured on the Graincorp podcasts to discuss how research coming from NASA is helping plant breeders and scientists to breed hardier crops. Take a listen here.

Bec T

Prime Cuts

Expat and YFC Laura Phelps has been promoted in her role in Brexit to the Head of EU-Exit at Food Standards Agency. Congratulations Laura on this amazing promotion, we are looking forward to seeing what you can achieve.

Finally, the Youth Voices Leadership Team held their inaugural AGM on Monday. Huge congratulations to these YFC on their re-election to the following committee positions:

Dr Jo Netwon, Chair

Emma Ayliffe, Vice Chair

Peta Bradley, Secretary

Dione Howard, Mentor Leader

Anika Molesworth, External Relations Manager

Bessie Thomas, Communication Co-ordinator

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices19

 

YVLT

Can you imagine hand feeding 20,000 mouths in a drought?

Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought series with Young Farming Champions Peta Bradley and Bessie Thomas

Firstly some background for this story.  In Australia, a large land holding used for livestock production is known as a ‘station’. Most stations are livestock specific – classed as either sheep stations or cattle stations depending upon the type of stock raised – which is, in turn, dependent upon the suitability of the country and the rainfall. The owner of a station is known as a grazier, or pastoralist and, in many cases, Australian stations are operated on a pastoral lease. Australian sheep and cattle stations can be thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour hundreds of kilometres away. Some stations have over 20,000 sheep in their care.

All stock workers need to be interested in animals and handle them with patience and confidence. They need the skills to make accurate observations about livestock like judging an animal’s age by examining its teeth, and experience in treating injuries and illnesses as well as routine care requirements such as feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccination and dealing with predators.

Those caring for sheep must also deal with flystrike treatments, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock need special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with difficult births.

Apart from livestock duties, a stock person will also to inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards damaged by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife. Source

In the first two instalments of our drought series we talked to Young Farming Champions predominantly involved in cropping operations. Today we speak to Bessie Thomas and Peta Bradley who represent sheep and wool, and discover the strategies they have employed to survive, the changes drought has enabled and the importance of mental health and family.  Bessie and Peta’s family farms are both in NSW but very different in terms of topography , sheep carrying capacity (10:1)  and acreage  (20:1)

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The last two years have reminded both urban and rural Australia that drought is an inevitable part of the Australian landscape and its impacts are wide reaching.  Both Bessie and Peta’s families know their first priority is their families and the animals in their care and its imperative to access drought response resources promptly and maintain wellbeing.

Team Thomas

Bessie and husband Shannan from Burragan Station, 100km east of Wilcannia* in western New South Wales, run a merino operation in partnership with Shannan’s parents.

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Team Bradley 

Peta comes from Armatree, 100km northwest of Dubbo where her parents, Jenny and Craig, run a Border Leciester Stud and commercial merinos (with cereal and pulse cropping).

For both properties 2017 and 2018 were years of below average rainfall. “In 2018 we had 83mm for the year which is less than 30% of the annual average, and the year before was also only about 60% of the annual average,” Bessie says. “It has turned the countryside to dust and dried up dams, and the heat waves have cancelled any moisture from showers we have had.”

Dust storms

Feeding sheep at Burragan Station 

Similarly Armatree has been reduced to a 300mm annual rainfall (down from the average of 520mm). “This equates to our farm being relocated to Broken Hill,” Peta says. “2019 has commenced with January being the hottest on record and zero rainfall recorded on the chart.”

Strategies common to both operations are reducing sheep numbers and feeding stock they have identified as drought resilient. At Burragan they have de-stocked by 50% and sold all of their 500 cattle, while at Armatree stock have been reduced by over a third.

“We’ve been feeding for more than 18 months which affects finances, creates time pressures and puts pressure on vehicles and trailers. It becomes mentally and physically exhausting,” Bessie says. “Feeding out hay in heat, wind and dust is some kind of torture.”

Jenny and Craig Bradley.jpg

The Bradleys ( Jenny and Craig pictured here in 2014 ) are looking forward to seeing barley crops like this one when the rains return Source

“Our farm stores enough fodder to feed all stock including finishing lambs for a full twelve month period, well beyond a normal drought,” Peta says, “but we used all stored fodder in 2017 and have had to purchase fodder for 2018. To accommodate this cost we have maintained selected breeding stock only. We have also sold lambs as early as possible after weaning, undertaken measurements on stud stock lambs as early as permissible and selected the stock we want to keep  well ahead of normal time frames.

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Some lambs getting ready to be weighed through the automatic drafter/scales at the Bradley’s farm.

The measurements the Bradley’s take before they decide which animals they will keep include:

  • Body weights (weaning – 12 weeks of age, 5 months and 7 months)
  • Ultrasound fat and muscle measurements
  • Scrotal circumference on rams

In total an animal that is retained as a breeding ewe on the Bradley farm has in excess of 50 measurements recorded in her lifetime. These measurements are taken to be put into the genetic evaluation for sheep – allowing them to choose the animals that are genetically the best to breed from.

Weaning early, utilising confinement feeding and drought lots and always remaining flexible in our management decisions have been ways of dealing with this drought.

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The Bradley’s select their sheep for productivity. Every now and then you come across a special sheep. This ewe is having triplets again – for the fourth year in a row! She has reared 9 lambs in three years. 

Weaning early in drought is important as lambs are competing with their mothers for grain. This allows the ewes an opportunity to get back into condition faster and also removes the competition for grain and fodder from the breeding ewes on the lambs.

Even the wool clip has been negatively impacted. Heavy, dust-laden wool sells for fewer dollars per bale.

Wool.jpg

But surprisingly the drought has had upsides. For years the Thomas’ had been discussing keeping Burragan purely as a merino property and transitioning Shannan’s parent’s property into dorpers, and that is a vision the drought has enabled/forced them to do. The drought has also highlighted the need for planning and flexibility in plans, and the critical need to put people first.

“Ensuring that we make time for ourselves and the family whether it is maintaining exercise routines, weekends away or taking family holidays are as important, if not more so, as practical farming,” Peta says, “as is the importance of networking to ensure we are operating at best practice.”

Bessie copes with the drought by downloading her thoughts and images through social media and this compilation of her 2018  year has led to the family being offered a week’s holiday at Port Stephens, courtesy of the huge generosity of Alloggio.com.au owners Will and Karen Creedon, the Port Stephens Council and Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC

And although the constant raised dust is destructive to the land – filling grids and yards, blocking gateways and covering fences – Bessie can still find joy.

Dust

“The dust storms are ominous and interesting, I quite enjoy the dramatic skies that come with them – as long as I am safely in the house!” Bessie says

*Think it’s hot at your place? A property near Wilcannia broke the record for Australia’s highest overnight temperature in mid-January, reaching a minimum of 35.9C.

Thanks Bessie and Peta we know that by you sharing your stories you will give hope to others facing similar challenges

#StrongerTogether #YouthVoices19 #ThisisAusAg #YouthinAg

See Andrea Davy’s wonderful story on Bessie in the Rural Weekly here 

Read Peta’s story in The Land here

Visit the NSW DPI Drought Hub here for more information

There’s a Rural/Rural Divide and it’s not doing Agriculture any favours

Food is our common ground, it creates communities, a universal language and experience

This week’s social media sensation (see Footnote) and Wool Young Farming Champion Bessie Thomas from Wilcannia in Far Western NSW who knows all about dry river beds and what its like to farm with very little water is very unhappy about the farmer versus farmer divide she is witnessing in the media and she wants it to stop

This is Bessie’s plea ……..

The environmental crisis of the Murray Darling river systems has hit headlines this week and copping most of the flack is Australia’s cotton farmers.

While temperatures soar, rivers dry up and fish die across New South Wales, bridges are burning in my social media feed too.

Water users, including farmers, downstream are blaming irrigators upstream and right now being a cotton farmer in Australia seems dirtier than the algal waters of the Menindee Lakes.

Murray-Darling debacle aside – read this great perspective from Mike Logan for more on that – this week’s online cross industry interaction has illuminated an ingrained problem that affects us all: there’s a rural/rural divide and it’s not doing agriculture any favours.

I have livestock farming friends downstream who’ve de-stocked and are showering with a single bucket of rainwater because the river water they would usually use is too putrid. And I’ve got irrigation farming friends upstream who’re being blamed for taking water they also don’t have. Verbally their stones are aimed at each other, though I’m sure they’d be friends if they met at a BBQ.

pho - food quote

I have a friend who lives in marginal livestock country, farming meat-sheep, working in agribusiness and completing PhD research with an end game of helping feed the world’s hungry. Her farm just happens to be smaller than average for the region.

Her research gives her access to a global audience, with invitations to speak at agricultural events world over. And while some locals throw verbal stones about “hobby farming,” everyone who hears her speak is enchanted by her passion for the industry and love of the outback landscape. Even if her external audiences only take away one positive message from her talks, that is an inspiring thing.  It could simply be, “I’ve always wanted to visit the outback and now I’m actually going to do it!” and that would would be invaluable to her region.

I have another friend who works in the city but farms in the country on weekends and during holidays. “Part-time farmers” get a bad rap from us “full-timers,” yet who’s to judge if part-time job is a full-time passion?

When her colleagues ask what she’s up to for the weekend and she tells them about her farm, she is building connections with consumers of our produce. Next time those work colleagues order dinner at a restaurant they’ll think of her and maybe they’ll choose the dish with locally grown ingredients over an imported product. That is an enormous benefit to all of us.

Every step of the agriculture cycle is vital to a healthy and wealthy nation. Every day, Australian farmers produce nutritious, safe and affordable food for 60 million people and are entrusted as stewards of 60 percent of the Australian landscape.

‘If we can’t respect each other as experts in what we do,

then we can’t expect consumers to.’

Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion founder and mentor Lynne Strong recently told me,

“When our fellow farming industries are under the hammer it’s hard to know how to support them without making comment on the controversy. Yet, the best way for agriculture to build social licence, maintain it and be credible, is cross-commodity support.”

Bessie.JPG

We don’t have to agree with each other, but let’s ask questions, listen to the answers and respect each other enough to broaden our minds. It’s time to build cross-industry relationships and be each others advocates.

Let’s bridge our rural/rural divide and embrace the power of collaboration to build lasting connections with consumers.

#StrongerTogether  #YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg #BreaktheDrought

Footnote:

Bessie volunteers ( in the little spare time she has ) as our social media manager and she created this fabulous video of life on her farm in 2018 Check it out it, its gone viral this week and will melt your heart. We cant wait to share with you the Random Acts of Kindness it has generated

 

 

 

A NEW WAY TO EMPOWER  RURAL AND REGIONAL WOMEN

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Chair of our Youth Voices Leadership Team Jo Newton recently penned a piece for Stock and Land on why agriculture doesn’t need another leadership program. And why not? Because we already have a tried, tested and proven one in the Young Farming Champions program that offers participants leadership pathways beyond the traditional intensive workshop model.

Jo has received plenty of positive feedback from the article and it has prompted us to reflect on the mentorships and partnerships that support our Young Farming Champions as they transition to leadership roles. Jo personally values being mentored by David Mailler

‘David is someone I look up to. He challenges my thinking, encouraging me to look at a problem from new angles’. says Jo 

Dione Howard, who works as a district veterinarian, has recently formed a professional alliance with chair of Hunter Local Land Services Lindy Hyam.

As some-one starting my career journey its very valuable to have a mentor who has had successful careers in multiple sectors beyond agriculture. Lindy can help guide me through both my career and leadership journey challenges, help me make difficult decisions and offer advice when I am not sure which direction to take.” says Dione.  Watch Lindy talk about her career journey here

It was also our own Lynne Strong who introduced Anika Molesworth to Farmers for Climate Action, where she now sits on the board of directors.

“The best way to harness the energy of our emerging leaders is to connect them to one-another and greatly improve our collective capacity to shape a bright agricultural future. Farmers for Climate Action, like the Young Farming Champions program, is a network of individuals from all walks of life, from all different regions and farming industries – who all share a common vision. We are taking the journey together – and the shared values, support and respect we have for one another is the reason we are successful.” says Anika 

In 2019 PYiA, in conjunction with Young Farming Champions, will launch an extension to their leadership development with the introduction of a unique inter-generational mentorship model to empower rural and regional young women. The program,  Cultivate- Empowering  Influencers will support experienced leaders, coaches and champions to support young rural leaders to support emerging leaders and aspiring leaders to transform agriculturists into advocates and changemakers by:

  1. Creating confident, independent thinkers and skilled communicators,
  2. Building capacity to be adaptable and resilient in complex and challenging times,
  3. Developing enthusiastic, knowledgeable and capable young people taking an active role in the decision-making processes.

The model recognises successful people surround themselves with a framework of empowerment including the five principles of connect, coach, inspire, champion and mentor.

Young people need to identify others who can assist them with these principles. The initiative will see experienced leaders, mentor intermediate leaders such as Jo, who will in turn work with new Young Farming Champions and potentially with students who show potential though The Archibull Prize.

Training of both mentors and mentees is critical to success and the program will begin with an intensive two-day program bringing together mentors and mentees.

“This is a Pay-it-forward model of mentoring. Experience is leveraged in a hand up model, across three generations of leaders. Seasoned leaders mentor leadership program graduates into the hands-on aspects of business leadership, while YFC program graduates work with new participants, smoothing the way to more visible roles. This way experience is shared and expanded upon.” says Zoe Routh from Inner Compass Leadership Development.

For more information on how your organisation can partner with us please contact Lynne Strong Partnerships Manager E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

#YouthVoices19 #YouthinAg

_2018 A4ASponsors_foremail

Meet Alexandria Galea who doesn’t mind a cotton tale or two or three

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Alexandria Galea doesn’t mind a yarn. She grew up on a cotton property in central Queensland and while she admits she didn’t have an instinct for farm work, she did develop a love of sharing stories from her farming background.

This love of sharing and storytelling led her to a degree in secondary school education.

“I was half way through my teaching degree when I realised I also wanted to study agriculture, and it greatly excited me to think of all the pathways I could take. Upon graduation I turned to the field to gain more experience and exposure to agriculture and was fortunate to be offered a role as a sales agronomist with Cotton Growers Services.”

Today we introduce you to the second of our 2018 Cotton Young Farming Champions Alexandria Galea

This is Alexandria’s story

For generations my family have been working on the land. The family tree has gotten its hands dirty in many fields starting in horticulture on the Mediterranean island Malta and dry land cropping in South Australia. Today some are growing sugar cane or rearing cattle. In the mix I have grown up in the Central Highlands of Queensland on my parent’s irrigation property where we grow cotton, grains and pulses.

Despite coming from these blood lines I never quite inherited the nature of the typical country girl. I blissfully ignored practicality and sun safety to rock getups that only the Spice Girls could pull off around irrigation ditches or cattle yards (at least I was easy to spot). Although I was never hard to find as you could hear me a mile away yelling for help when bogged or caught in such a good yarn with the calves that I’d walk straight into the backside of a cow.

Enough said farm work was not quite my strong point but I loved it. As I grew up I realised I had a passion for collaborating, sharing and learning with others, in particular youth, or what others would call an interest in talking the ears off somebody. With this in mind I set out to become a teacher.

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A passion for teaching and sharing a story led to an invitation to join the Young Farming Champions program 

Following high school I spent my time split between studying a Bachelor of Secondary Education and working in agricultural businesses. Working in agriculture started as a necessity to pay for the hefty bills of text books and late night educational excursions at university to become a real joy which I looked forward to. I got to experience a range of jobs from working with agronomists bug checking, accounting and supplying growers with products. Most importantly I got to have a good yarn with a diverse range of people within the industry.

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 Never a dull day in my office especially when you get stuck in the mud

I found this work very interesting and rewarding, it opened my eyes to the magnitude of careers in agriculture which are not locked within the boundary fence of a farm. For the first time I could see how I (the not so intuitive farm girl) could be involved in an industry so close to my heart. I enjoyed liaising with farmers, the mix of working in the field and in the office, understanding the science behind growing plants and the ability to see a range of crops across a vast area. I was half way through my teaching degree when I realised that I also wanted to be studying agriculture. This greatly excited me to think of all the pathways I could take. Upon graduation of university I had the opportunity to work in the classroom however I turned to the field to gain more experience and exposure to agriculture. I was fortunate to be able to take on a role as a sales agronomist with Cotton Growers Services.

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Working in agriculture is full of challenges to overcome in particular managing climate constraints.

In this role I had the pleasure of facilitating educational workshops at the Emerald Agricultural College to give students exposure to and broaden their knowledge of different types of crops, roles within farming and a range of technologies. In this space I am the most excited, it is a feeling of its own to open the eyes of another especially about farming.

My path in agriculture has only just began and I am very excited to see where my sparkling boots take me and for the yarns to be had! All are welcome to join.

Alex joined 2018 Cotton Young Farming Champions Sally Poole and Anika Molesworth at our first YFC workshop for 2018 in Tocal this month and it is clear she well make a great storyteller for cotton. Welcome Alex

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices18 #ArchieAction #StrongerTogether

 

Young Farming Champions Muster July 2018 Week 3

This week’s Young Farming Champions stories from around the country

In the Field

Cotton Young Farming Champion Alexander Stephens takes out this year’s award for the most fields visited having covered over 6000km from Dalby, QLD, to Hay, NSW, and up to Kununurra, WA, to pick the world’s strongest and whitest cotton.

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What a way to see Australia, driving very big toys! We can’t wait to hear more about cotton picking on the Ord River, Alexander.

Wool Young Farming Champion Emma Turner spent last week home on the station collecting data for her honours thesis looking at the differences between 6 monthly and 12 monthly shearing. It involved lots of colour:

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Out of the Field

Youth Voices Leadership Team Chair Jo Newton will be hosting our social media pages this week. Head on over to our Picture You in Agriculture Facebook page to follow along and enjoy Jo’s insights from the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium and  Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo 

YFC Anika Molesworth jetted off to Argentina this morning. By invitation from the Argentine Agriculture Minister, Anika will be visiting farms, running workshops with young farmers and presenting on global agricultural challenges and opportunities.

This program coincides with the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, and part of her brief is to collaborate with young South American farmers to prepare a report for the Ministers on the vision of strong and resilient farming sectors, enabling young farmers, and promoting future industry leaders. Anika will be working with Australian Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud and visiting farmer groups to discuss collaborative relationships between countries and tackling the industry’s big challenges.

YFC Sam Coggins has just returned from Myanmar where he reviewed three Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) projects looking at pulses, soil mapping and nitrogen fertiliser efficiency. The three projects aim to improve food security and farmer livelihoods. Read more about what ACIAR is doing in Myanmar here

Sam Coggins in Rice Field

Prime Cuts

We are very excited to announce the Rice industry has joined the Art4Agriculture team and our very first Rice Young Farming Champion is Erika Heffer. Welcome Erika and thank you the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia. We’re really looking forward to working together. Read the story here

Erika-Heffer3 (002) YFC

Following us on Facebook here and Twitter here

#YouthVoices18 #ArchieAction #YouthinAg

_2017 Supporting partners Capture