Felicity Taylor: ahead of the pack and ready to work for a strong future for agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes from Felicity Taylor who says she loves to chat about agriculture to everyone. Born into a farming family and growing up on a broadacre cropping property near Moree, it has taken stepping out of her comfort zone for Felicity’s aspirations to take direction. And her sights are set firmly on bringing the best knowledge and skills back to farming in rural New South Wales.

This is Felicity’s story…

My name is Felicity Taylor and I’m a 2nd year Agricultural Economics student at the University of Sydney, a long way from my home in Moree, Northern NSW.

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Until age 16, I lived on a 10,000 acre broadacre cropping property between Moree and Goondiwindi. I ate my fair share of dirt growing up; I had my first day of cattle work at four weeks old, constantly quizzed Dad on all the buttons in the tractors and compensated the isolation with a profusion of poddy calves. I was raised on my grandfather’s ‘back in my day’ stories, but despite the challenges farming brings my family had great pride in our high grade grains and Hereford cross cattle.

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I spent two hours on the school bus every day, before being shipped off to New England Girls’ School, Armidale, for my secondary education at age 11. As we headed down the driveway after each school holidays back home, there’d be tears in my eyes knowing I wouldn’t be back for the next ten weeks. Luckily, my attitude towards boarding school improved once I could study agriculture in Year 9, and by my final year in 2012 I finished as Sports House Captain, Tennis Captain, President of the Charity Committee and the HSC Dux.

However, by 2012, corporatisation had totally changed the social atmosphere of Moree, and like most of our neighbours’, our family farm was sold. With the machinery gone and the cattle loaded up, we relocated 15 kilometres east of Moree to a smaller grazing property. It was a massive blow, and while I’d received a place at the University of Sydney and Wesley College, I put study on hold to spend a year at home.

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I used this time to master power tools as a labourer on the building site of our new house. I cooked pizzas, sold dresses, worked bars and cared for kids when the opportunities arose. I bought and sold steers. I spent a month exploring the European summer. I entered the Showgirl Competition, hoping they’d overlook my shocking sock tan, and came away with a tidy second place. I took on the oldies in the local tennis competition. I travelled the state harvesting seed trials with a research agronomy company. I said no to nothing.

I learnt very quickly that I’m a Moree enthusiast. I’d thrown myself into my hometown headfirst and loved every second of it. But at the same time I saw the community decline, noticeably so even within just a year. Shops shut and jobs were lost, families moved away. So I made the shift to Sydney in 2014 knowing that I had to bring my Agricultural Economics degree back home, and that the valuable resources of my country town needed protecting. How to do this though, I did not know.

I approached university with the same enthusiasm I lived by in my gap year. I networked my little heart out and opportunities kept presenting themselves, I often found myself in positions or at events without any real clue how I got there. I toured central and southern New South Wales with the agriculture faculty and was an ambassador at Youth in Ag Day at the Royal Easter Show. I attended the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Club and UNE Farming Futures industry dinners and University of Sydney Agricultural Ball. I went home as much as possible, continuing to work in research agronomy including harvest in Victoria and South Australia. Oh, I did a bit of study too.

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I was extremely fortunate to be selected for the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship for agricultural leadership, sponsored by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. This led to more adventures, notably a week in Canberra for a development workshop, another at the Gold Coast for the Australian Cotton Conference and soon a stint of work experience at the Cotton Australia Head Office. The more people I meet, the more I learn about progressive agriculture and the more excited I am to graduate and put my knowledge into action.

2015 so far has been yet another whirlwind. I purchased a mob of heifers to be the foundation of my future breeding stock and am keeping a close eye on the market for more. I have been appointed Residential Advisor, the head of my wing, at my college and was invited into the Economics Honours stream due to my strong university results last year. I am constantly on the lookout for networking events or work opportunities.

Just a year ago, I had no idea how to procreate change for the future of Moree, but now my studies have made my strengths clearer. I understand business and economics well and my technical knowledge of farming is growing by the lecture. I know I can chat to anyone about agriculture, and the value of this skill is reflected in the Young Farming Champions program.

Young Farming Champions and the Archibull Prize foster a successful future for agriculture through building the positivity and confidence of young people. These initiatives generate appeal and interest in rural industries by showcasing the rewarding careers the sector provides. Harnessing the opportunity to engage with consumers will ensure Australia’s fresh, nutritious food and durable, versatile fibres are not undervalued. Also, it gives up-and-coming rural enthusiasts such as myself a platform to promote their passions and develop their own futures.

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And what does my future hold?

I aspire to lead a generation of educated rural women who can spend the day on the tractor or out fencing, then come home to cook a mean roast dinner. I want to be ahead of the pack, owning my own cropping property, experimenting with varieties and innovative techniques. I want to share information with my neighbours and market my own produce. Alongside this, I dream of a rural journalism career, ensuring farmers can stand united in fair, positive and accurate media to appeal to consumers and policy makers. I want my children to be as fortunate as I was in experiencing the strength of character a rural community provides.

Chris Kochanski from Southern Ag Grain stood up at the Wagga Ag Ball last year to say, “Agriculture can take you anywhere, but it will always bring you home.” That’s the perfect encapsulation of my life to date. I’m meeting people daily, dipping my toes into a number of rural industries, giving it all a go. There’s farming in my blood and work to be done and I’ll happily step up to the plate, whatever it may be, to ensure a strong future for Australian agriculture.

Follow Felicity on twitter @flisstaylor95

#youthinag why I believe in strength in numbers.

Todays guest blog comes from Wool Young Farming Champion and PhD student Jo Newton

Jo is one of the growing number of young people who grew up in the city who are attracted to career pathways that support Australian farmers and food and fibre production in this country. At Art4Agriculture we believe our role is to help empower the younger generation of rural entrepreneurs to drive the direction and take ownership of the future of the agricultural sector.

We believe the fastest way to do this is cross industry programs and networks that bring young people from every food and fibre industry together to work towards a connected, cohesive, profitable and respected agrifood sector

As you can see from Jo’s blog she has sought out and tapped into many of these programs and she shares that exciting journey with you today……….

I believe the multitude of #youthinag groups across Australia is one of our greatest strengths as an industry. Since I became a country convert 6 ½ years ago I have felt truly lucky to have become a part of the agricultural community. Somewhat ironically, in the last couple of years it has been by old school friends from Melbourne who have made me realize just how lucky I am, and we as an industry are.

Around 2 years ago a few girlfriends and I were out to tea and a catch up. Having all graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in the last couple of years conversation quickly turned to our future career paths. My girlfriends were flabbergasted when I started talking about some of the opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to take part in as a young person in agriculture. They were blown away by the magnitude of programs such as the RAS Rural Achiever Program and the Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship program and wished that their industries offered similar professional development opportunities for young professionals. As an aside if anyone has heard of professional development programs of scholarships for young people in the health professions or social work my girlfriends would love to know.

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Pictured above: the 2013 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achievers, I’m third from the right in the front row & 2014 GRDC YFC Dwayne is in the middle of the back row

Whilst clearly enjoying their new careers, my friends raised another challenge that entry to the working world had brought. They often found themselves surrounded by people much older than them at work which is definitely something I am able to relate to. My friends talked about the challenge of meeting other young people in their profession and I asked them if their industries had a youth network, council or group and received negative answers. At this point I realized just how lucky I am to work in agriculture.

Given a choice of many youth groups from my industry to be a part of or none at all, I’m certainly glad to have the former. Since I moved to Armidale these #youthinag groups have been vital for me to meet other young agri-professionals. Whilst I may be the youngest person in the office, the various different #youthinag groups provide me with the opportunity to network with a whole range of other young like-minded people. Different groups have provided me with different opportunities; from social gatherings, forums, newsletters, fieldtrips, scholarships, conferences and networking events I believe I have got something different from all the groups I am a part of.

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Picture: in 2013 my involvement with #youthinag saw me represent my university & Australia at the Enactus World Cup in Mexico

I often hear that having too many groups is a weakness. I prefer to think of our diversity as a potential strength. Earlier this year I had the privilege of being funded by AWI to attend YAC (Youth Agricultural Central) organized by the Future Farmers Network (FFN). It was an electrifying experience and over the two days I learnt that many of the groups face similar challenges. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with like-minded young professionals all passionate about agriculture’s future. Whilst each #youthinag group might offer something different to members, our strength will be multiplied many times over if we come together and unite on key issues to achieve lasting change. The annual YAC conferences organized by FFN are a great forum to build connectedness between our groups and I hope to see them continue to grow from strength to strength.

Having just recovered from my 2014 Sydney Show experience I am yet again amazed by the strength of the #youthinag network and the admiration, loyalty and support we display to one another. The stands of the amphitheater were packed by #youthinag supporting their peers during the 2014 Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Announcements and Rural Achiever Public Speaking showcase whilst the annual Catchup at the Royal was filled with young people from many different #youthinag groups.

With such a strong network of passionate young people, which I consider to be stronger than youth networks in other industries, how can you not be excited about the future of agriculture.

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Picture: How many #youthinag groups can you fit in a photo? NSW Young Farmers, RAS Youth Group, ASC of NSW Youth Group and Art4Ag YFCs catch up at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

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