Young Farming Champions as role models are the key to promoting careers in agriculture – engaging with teachers and students using 21st Century creativity

It is undeniable that teachers have a major impact on student learning and career choices. We have all heard stories about teachers discouraging students from following career pathways in the agriculture sector. Why is this so?

Industry image also plays a key role in the ability to attract young people into the agriculture sector.

Its hard to be what you cant see. Our Young Farming Championsare proving to be the ideal role models to inspire talented young people to choose agriculture related career pathways

At Picture You in Agriculture we are learning from and acting on research that shares

“The language typically used in the farming sector to describe the roles of those employed in the industry is out-dated and reflects a mindset which is unattractive to young people. Farm jobs are advertised in terms such as farm hand, station hand, milker and shearer. These terms suggest low levels of skills, training, intellectual content and consequently low status. This is an inaccurate picture of the actual requirements of the contemporary farm employee. Farms require highly motivated, intellectually capable and broadly competent workers. They need people who are able to deal with a wide range of practical problems promptly and with ingenuity. Farm workers need to keep up with the latest research and developments in agronomy and business management. They need to be able to operate and maintain a wide range of technologies from the mechanical to the digital. They need to understand the impacts of global events and markets as well as local policy and market variables. They need significant financial planning and management skills, as they may be dealing with multimillion dollar budgets and regular transactions in the hundreds of thousands. These are exciting, diverse and challenging roles. Little of this comes across in the current nomenclature used to describe jobs in the agricultural sector and in the way the industry is depicted in the media and popular culture” Source 

The Archibull Prize program entry surveys confirm this outdated image of careers in agriculture with students struggling to identify careers in the sector beyond farming related activities. Most of the students’ words were about activities that farmers did i.e. feeding, harvesting, gardening, shearing, milking, watering.

In following Word clouds the larger the word in the visual the more common the word was used by the students.

‘In 2017, more than 323,000 people were employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing but if you consider those employed in the farm input and output sectors, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) says agriculture supports more than 1.6 million jobs in areas like transport and logistics, retail and processing. That means roughly 80 per cent of agricultural jobs are beyond the farm gate and the opportunities are wide and varied.’  Source 

With 80% of careers supporting farmers both beyond and behind the farmgate year on year The Archibull Prize evaluation shows us the key to success is exposing teachers and students to exciting young professionals working in diverse roles in the agriculture sector. A key hook for both teachers and students is the innovation, science and technology that drives 21st century farming. It is also pivotal agriculture provides them with the tools to workshop the diversity of careers.

Students and teachers relate to exciting young professionals working in the agriculture sector 

By the end of the competition students have a specific and varied repertoire related to actual career classifications rather than jobs around the farm. This is evident with more technical words being used i.e. agronomist, vet, engineer, scientist, geneticist.

With a large cohort of our Young Farming Champions being scientists and agronomists their impact is evident through the high numbers of students who listed ‘Agronomist’ or ‘Scientist’ role. This is further confirmed as students listed their top three choices of careers in agriculture they would consider.

Students as the end of The Archibull Prize were asked to list their top three choices of careers in agriculture 

With 89% of teachers in The Archibull Prize exit survey saying they were now confident teaching about careers in Agriculture and a 52% increase in the number of teachers who STRONGLY AGREED there are lots of opportunities for jobs and careers in agriculture its clear we have found a winning formula

The Archibull Prize program design allows agriculture to be embedded into the school curriculum across subject areas its hasn’t been traditionally able to reach. After participating in the program 83% of teachers said they would use learning activities about agriculture in other areas of their teaching.

 

 

Cotton enthusiast Liz Munn believes in reaping what you sow

Liz Munn brings us today’s guest blog which takes us on an 800km journey that begins and ends with cotton. The 21 year old technical officer with the DPI lives by the motto “You can only take out what you put in” and believes the more people show their confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry, the more it will become contagious!

Here’s Liz’s story…

My name is Liz Munn, I am 21 years old and I’ve just moved 800km across the state to work in the field I love – cotton!

Home for me is the rural community of Moree in the North West Slopes and Plains of NSW. It’s the centre of a large agricultural area, known for the rich black vertosol soils which allow crops such as cotton to thrive and is also renowned for its natural hot springs. In the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought, but the people always manage to come out stronger.

At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, about to accept the Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship in 2014.

I believe that for a rural agricultural region to survive it needs a supportive, cohesive community – and I love to get involved! I work with groups such as the Moree Show Society, Leeton Show Society, NSW Farmers, ASC Youth group, ASC Group 14 Ambassador, and the Young NSW Farmers group. I love that show events bring the whole community together to experience all of the rural and agricultural aspects of the area. Getting amongst the hive of activity not only keep me up to date with what is happening in the agricultural industry at a regional basis, but also at a legislative and national basis.

My love of the land came from my grandfather. Some of my best childhood moments was the time spent following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise, so my parents and I helped with jobs such as lamb and calf marking, shearing, tractor driving and harvest. Over the years the farm changed to focus more on grain growing.

My grandfather taught me that you can only take out what you put in; which is a good motto not just for agriculture but for life in general and I have followed it throughout my life.

Looking after a poddy lamb named Claire after it lost its mother.

At school in Moree I was the type of kid that enjoyed getting involved with everything. I was sporting house captain in year 11 and a school leader in year 12. I was active in a range of sports from horses to soccer, and was lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also loved learning to play classical violin for five years, and won a few awards along the way.

When it was time to think about university degrees my interest in agriculture lead me to a Bachelor of Environmental Science at University of New England.

I lived at St Albert’s College where made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I was highly active in the college’s netball and chugby (women’s rugby) teams and also held the position of pastoral advisor (PA) where I supported my fellow students in any way possible and helped organise events.

On the far right of the top row, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

My Environmental Science degree has given me a deeper insight into the need for a partnership between the needs of the native landscape and productive landscape and instilled the importance of preserving the productive farmland that we are lucky enough to have in Australia.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and there is an important place for leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques to give the best protection against our unpredictable seasons while also enhancing competitiveness on the world market. The cotton industry in particular is at the forefront of innovation, and so I took my first steps to become involved.

During my first two summer breaks at university, I worked for a local agronomist as a cotton crop scout. When I first applied for the position I considered it purely a learning experience. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed myself. I found the cotton industry fascinating! Now I’m striving to become an agronomist.

In just a few years I have worked with many great people who were as enthusiastic about the industry as I now am too. Last year I toured one of the local cotton gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process. I also completed two subjects directly related to cotton and its management.

My dedication to regional communities and agriculture was last year rewarded with the 2014 Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship for my work in agriculture and my local show society, as well being appointed as an ambassador for the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) group 14.

Checking some of the first open bolls for the 2014/2015 season.

This year my career has taken off. When I finished my degree in late 2014 there was a drought around Moree so I had to move to southern NSW, almost 800km away to a town I had never been to, to start my career.

In January 2015 I began working with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at Yanco in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area doing research into integrated pest management in cotton. Cotton is a relatively new crop for this region, so I am at the forefront of its progression and success. I am a technical officer, collecting field data, managing and organising others in the field, consulting with growers, and assisting in the creation of trials and data collection methods of those trials.

To most people involved in agriculture it is not just an industry, but a lifestyle that travels down the generations. According to the National Farmers Federation, 99% of all Australian farms are family owned.

Agriculture influences every person in the world even if they are purely a consumer.

With a fast growing population and unpredictable climate, I believe we must protect farms for future generations, and it must be done sustainably and profitably.

I would also like to help change the stereotypical image of the average Aussie farmer. Agriculture is a great industry for young people and women. There are so many fantastic things to attract young people and as an industry we need to make sure we are looking after our youth, helping them survive and flourish so the industry can too.

Agriculture provides 1.6 million jobs to the Australian economy, but there is still miscommunication between farmers and consumers. I believe we need more communication to build support from the community and it is vital our farmers are supported in every sector.

People involved in Australian agriculture put everything into it and I want to make sure that they can always get out what they put in.

There are so many young agriculturalists in Australia trying to make their voice heard, as I am. I want to be involved in advocacy for the cotton industry, particularly through engaging with consumers of Aussie cotton. I believe the industry can reach its goals. The more people who get involved and strive to enhance their skills, the more our confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry will become contagious. We will get out what we put in.

Emma Ayliffe says agriculture in the outback is the journey of a lifetime

Today’s guest blog from Emma Ayliffe starts on a sheep station in outback South Australia and takes us to the lush lakebed cropping fields of one of New South Wales’s most unique cotton operations. She’s a girl from the bush who’s found her way back again as on-farm agronomist, an enthusiastic photographer and a lover of all things crops and cotton.

This is Emma’s story…

I have always had a love of the bush and that is where my journey began, on a station in the North-West Pastoral District of South Australia. I spent my childhood riding my horse behind mobs of wild merinos on stations west of Port Augusta and grew up a typical station kid. In between School of the Air lessons my days were spent outside on water runs, mustering and ‘helping’ dad and the station hands out in the shed.

So how exactly does a station girl from half way between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy end up growing cotton on the bottom of the Menindee Lakes…?

My father has always been passionate about agriculture and I guess that rubbed off on my mum and me too. When I was 12 my parents moved me and my two younger sisters closer to a town so we didn’t have to go to boarding school and this opened up a whole new world to us. Along with the introduction of ‘normal’ school we were introduced to world of cropping. And although we had moved from a world of station dust to tractors and green paddocks my father was as keen as always to get us involved where ever possible.

At the end of school I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and began studying a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) at the University of Adelaide. I went into the degree thinking I would end up doing something livestock related but, like most kids, changed my mind. I enjoyed agronomy much more and changed the direction I was heading.

As part of Uni my year helped set up an “Ag Experience” trip overseas. It was a lot of hard work but we successfully got sponsorship for our trip to India and it was amazing. We toured research facilities and met with farmers. We viewed community farming groups and toured rural villages. It was amazing to see the variation in this country from the richest farmers who owned tractors and employed workers, to the poorest of farmers who were still planting their crops by hand. I had a go at cutting rice straw, which is a lot harder than it looks, as well as visiting some of the tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal.

After completing Uni I began working in broad acre agronomy in the mid-north of South Australia and spent a lot of my time in fields of canola and wheat. I had a great boss and mentor who really helped me to get even more excited about the career path that I had chosen. After a little over a year I decided that it was time for a change of scenery and a new challenge, so I began hunting for my next big thing.

I stumbled across an advertisement for an on farm cotton agronomist working in the bush, and I though what a perfect combination of the career I have chosen and my love for the outback so I applied. Tandou is an amazing place to see for the first time. I still remember driving out for my interview, 140 kilometres south of Broken Hill, in western NSW, rounding a bend and over a sand hill to see the fields of green…

I had only seen cotton once in my life, so I had no clue about how to grow it, but I got the job, packed up my stuff and moved in to my one bedroom Jayco unit (in the middle of 24 other units!) and had my first experience with irrigation and cotton. Nearly two and a half years later, it is the best decision I have ever made!

I am an on-farm agronomist working at Lake Tandou, 50 kilometres out of Menindee at the bottom of the Menindee Lakes. My job includes everything from rotation and fertiliser programs, irrigation scheduling, insect and weed management and picking through to driving tractors, loading seed trucks, taking people on farm tours and fixing things. It is an amazing job that has helped grow my skills as an agronomist, but also my general life skills. It has also given me the opportunity to meet and work with a range of amazing people!

As part of my job now I have found a love for photography. I spend some time every week taking pictures of the crops and the operations around the farm to document the growing of the crop, as well as the unique operation that we run here at Tandou.

Cotton is an amazing crop and an an amazing industry to be part of. Coming from SA – and downstream of the Murray-Darling river system – I grew up hearing many misinformed negatives about it. But it’s not until you immerse yourself into this world that you truly appreciate how the industry is so open and excited about sharing its story. There is great comradeliness and flow of information between growers and everyone is willing to help everyone else out and share their success stories.

It is hard not to have love, enthusiasm and motivation for a job that is so diverse in an industry that is at the forefront of many aspects of agriculture and provides so many opportunities to learn, network and get involved. I find myself talking to anyone who will listen about the good stuff and the challenges and the opportunities; I am sure that people must get sick of me talking cotton!

While working here I have also become the secretary of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association, one of the most unique as we only have one grower, which is us! Through this I have been able to start sharing my love and passion for the job with the future agriculturalists of Australia as we often support events at the local school in Menindee as well as facilitating farm visits for other schools from cities like Mildura. This gives kids an opportunity to see what agriculture is actually about and helps dispel many myths that people still have about the cotton industry.

 I love my job, I love the outback, I love sharing what I know and enjoying this journey!

Meet Jessica Kirkpatrick who enjoys both the challenges and opportunities a career in agriculture offers

Hi I’m Jessica Kirkpatrick, a 19 year old student, grain analyst and sheep breeder.

I’m from a mixed farming operation in south western Victoria. I loved growing up on our 3000 acre property with sheep, horses, dogs and an array of farm animals. The best part was having all the wide open spaces to explore! Beaufort is our closest town only 10 minutes away and the next rural centre is Ballarat about a 45 minute drive.

Galloping to knock over the tent peg (2011)

The Kirkpatrick’s have been on our home property, “Glenayr” for 150 years. My father took over the farm when my grandfather died and has been a farmer for 41 years. There aren’t many people can say they have stayed in a job for that long! My brother and I are the sixth generation to be apart of the business.
We have always been encouraged to be involved in the farm including animal husbandry activities including shearing, drenching, pregnancy testing, fleece testing and general mustering.

At the age of 12, in partnership with my brother we established the “Jessie James” Border Leicester stud.

Initially, it was a huge shock for an 11 and 12 year old to succumb to the reality of debt! However this project has given me so much. It is the book keeping skills, the understanding of fluctuating markets, the responsibility of checking the lambing ewes before school and selecting desirable traits we wish to breed in our flock.

Droving sheep on horseback was always a common occurrence (2009)

My passion for agriculture has also stemmed from my education. I went to a rural primary school and then high school involved a bus trip every day to go to Ballarat Grammar. At Grammar, I studied agriculture and horticulture in years 10, 11 and 12. I was involved in the school sheep and cattle show teams. These experiences broadened my horizons to see a variety of industries and the potential career pathways.

Lamb marking at the school farm for agricultural studies (2010)

I decided at the end of year 12, I wanted to continue my education in agriculture and now I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. At completion I want to become an agronomist. I have a particular interest in soil science and want to assist farmers in increasing yields whilst being economically and environmentally sustainable.

The four months of the year I’m not at university I spend at Lakaput Bulk Storage. This is a facility where grain growers can store their wheat, barley, oats and canola throughout the year and can arrange the selling of the grain to marketers. For the 2011/12 and 2012/13 I was a grain sampler. This role involves collecting a grain sample and then testing it for quality by following a standards chart. In the recent 2013/14 season I was manager of the classification and sampling arm at the site. This has been an excellent experience as it has allowed me to see the importance of an agronomist in grain production, to ensure the grower can make the highest grade and receive the best price. I have also learnt about the grain marketing aspect and how the markets work and how prices are determined. I feel it is my time at Lakaput which has helped me decide that agronomy is the right career choice for me.


Sampling a Broadbent Grain truck and is tested for quality. (2013)

Bunkers and Silos are where the grain is stored on site (2014)

The local agricultural show is a large part of my family and personal community involvement. I have competed at horse shows since the age of five and as I have grown older I have taken on more roles within the event. I feel agricultural shows are a place for the community to meet and a way for people to display their best crafts, art, cookery, and livestock, whilst in a healthy competitive environment.

I was awarded the 2013 Victorian Agricultural Shows Junior Ambassador Runner Up at state final. This is a competition that recognises youth involvement at Victoria Agricultural Shows, with criteria including agricultural show involvement, community service, general presentation, general knowledge, ambitions and public speaking ability. At the event I was interviewed by a panel of judges, participated in an on-stage interview and had time to interact with like-minded people. It is at events like this that I can see the sector has a bright future ahead with more younger people coming through the ranks.

Through the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship I have been able to experience the cotton industry. Being Victorian, cotton is a very foreign crop to me. I enjoyed a work placement on a property near Moree in Northern NSW. I was shown the basics of cotton farming and was even lucky enough to spend a day with an agronomist. It truly cemented my career pathway in agronomy and I’m looking forward to many more experiences in this field.

Starting siphons for irrigation (2014)

I’m excited to see the agricultural sector changing and developing in my life time. I’m looking forward to having a career which can take me anywhere around the country or even overseas. The grains industry is of particular interest to me and I’m keen to be able to provide agronomic services to cereal and oilseed producers.

It is important for me to give back to the sector through promotion. One way to do this is through education and showing young people of both urban and rural communities the numerous opportunities our industry has to offer.

We know how good our industry is so we must show it off to others!

“When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”

I feel this quote simply sums up my perception on agriculture. It’s not just a job. It is a lifestyle, passion and a place where family and friends meet. This passion is held by many people in agriculture and will ensure we can move forward as a united front and tackle issues such as feeding a global population, because after all who doesn’t like meeting a challenge head on and being part of a success story

Meet Kate Molloy who is part of Next Gen applying science to fuel and feed the globe

Meet today’s guest blogger Kate Molloy the next generation of plant doctors applying science to fuel and feed the globe

One thing that amazes me is the amount of young people who are inspired to take up a career in agriculture after spending time ‘bug checking’.  Just in case you are as fascinated as me as to what this entails I found this on Dr Google

 

This is Kate Molloy’s story………………….

Throughout my life I have always been surrounded by agriculture. Sheep, cattle, cropping you name it; I have even experienced a taste of fish farming.

Me and my dad

From when I could walk, farm animals and plants have always been a part of my daily life and I would never have it any other way. So I guess you could say that it was inevitable that my chosen career path became the red-dirt road to agriculture.

My adventure started in the small country town of Goolgowi where we only ran a small hobby farm.

We dabbled in a bit of everything and my grandfather even had his own small piggery there. Goolgowi was a small, thriving, agricultural community with no end of support from its members. When the drought hit NSW was when I realised how much agriculture supports rural communities such as this. Pretty quickly farming families that had made Goolgowi home for generations had to move on in search of greener pastures and the community diminished significantly. My family and I even had to move but not too far away. We began running a farm called Ballandry Station at Yenda, NSW.

At Ballandry we became sheep and cropping farmers. Times were tough so everyone was expected to pull his or her weight. This meant getting up at four in the morning to beat the heat when the sheep needed moving to a new paddock, or paddocks needed to be worked up. My sisters and I had to learn how to drive from extremely young ages so that we could tow the hay trailer around while dad through hay out to the starving sheep. At the end of every year we had to jump on tractors and the header to help harvest our wheat crops. This was one of the most important events of the year for us and it was a lot of fun as well.

Dad taught my sisters and I to drive from extremely young ages so that he could throw hay out to the starving sheep whilst we drove the ute slowly through the paddock. This wasn’t uncommon though as majority of farmers had to rely on the family pitching in because they couldn’t afford help. Every year my sisters and I help harvest our crops usually driving tractors and headers. It is an extremely fun and action packed time and one of the most important events for us as cropping farmers.

Me (on the right) driving the chaser bin whilst my dad harvests the wheat

Living on a farm has many more positives than negatives. We have an abundance of space, which means room for heaps of pets. Horses, dogs, cats and one massive pet steer were just some of the animal friends we accumulated. After school we would ride the horses or the motorbikes, or we would take the dogs to the dam for a swim. There was always something to do

I began to love the cropping side of farming. It amazed me how quickly the seeds we planted grew into golden wheat plants that provided a shed-full of grain after harvest. I enjoyed going out and checking for different weeds and diseases with dad during the winter when the plants were still young.

As I said I have had a taste of many different agricultural industries. I loved our family holidays to the isolated community of Tibooburra where my uncle ran a large cattle station. We helped with cattle work and daily station chores when we were there and attended the odd gymkhana or rodeo. These visits only fuelled my love of agricultural and my desire to build a life around it.

Sadly when I began high school this passion was put aside for a while when I began listening to the people who believed there was no real future in agriculture. Our school had amazing facilities for an agricultural program but never actually got one going so slowly my interest began to dwindle and the career I had envisioned in my head changed to becoming a teacher.

However in Year twelve I went out on a limb and decided to spend a day with our local agronomist. My love and passion for agriculture resurfaced and I was asked to become a bug checker during the summer holidays. This meant checking many different types of crops from rice to sunflowers and wheat to pumpkins for bugs that would cause damage.

Thankfully my passion for agriculture was reignited before university admissions closed and I have now finished two years of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. Every summer since I have continued my work with our agronomist and will eventually be a full fledged one myself when I graduate. Slowly I have been handed more and more responsibility in my position and it has definitely expanded my skills in grain production.

Through the university I was able to travel to China in 2013 to experience and learn about agriculture in a different country.

Me on the Great Wall of China

My eyes were definitely opened and not only did I gain a load of information on agriculture but I also got to experience another culture and learn about the Chinese society. This is one experience I will never forget and in the future I hope to travel to other countries to also learn about different agricultural methods.

This year I was honoured enough to be selected as one of the eight Royal Agricultural Society Rural Achievers for 2014. This is something I am so excited about because it is yet another opportunity to showcase agriculture and expand my rural leadership skills. It is an awesome program that showcases young leaders in the rural community at the Sydney Royal Show.

So for now my path is heading straight for agronomy, or as some like to call them a ‘crop or plant doctor’,  If you eat, wear clothes, live in a house or even drive a car, your life has been influenced by an agronomist. Agronomists play an important role in the agricultural, food and clothing industries. Agronomists are plant scientists. They are experts in agriculture. They work with plants such as cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat, rice, peanuts and more. Many agronomists work in research. Some develop new breeds of cotton, creating plants that are stronger and more resistant. Some agronomists work with wheat, developing hybrids that produce more yields per acre. Often times their work is done right there in the middle of the field. Currently, some agronomists are working with peanuts, trying to create peanuts that people are not allergic to.

I am excited that my passion for agriculture has led me to pursuing a career in advisory services to farmers. I want to be able to help them grow the best grain possible so that our bread, flour and other grain products are the best in Australia and the world. All of these events in my life are leading me to an awesome career in agriculture, which I hope to educate people about and invite them into this industry.

You can follow Kate on twitter here @katemolloy93

Innovation Innovation wow

This week has delivered some phenomenal stories about productivity increases by Australian farmers with the support of the expertise they outsource

I am blown away by this tribute to our agronomists ( otherwise known as plant and soil doctors)

Watch it here http://vimeo.com/70913110

Then there is the rise in robotic technology assisting farmers.

Check out this superb example of a drone ( unmanned aerial vehicle) shooting aerial photography

Then there are robots that milk cows

 

and robots that round up cows

Robots assisting the horticulture industry. See this great story from Susie Green “embracing Change” 

If you want to put a smile on your face today this is a quirky story about taking the use of drones to a whole new level

Agriculture…is like an onion…it has lots of layers!

Today’s guest blog comes from Liz Lobsey, a very exciting young lady introduced to the exciting and diverse world of careers in agriculture whilst at school

Hi, my name is Liz Lobsey and I am 26 years old.

I’m an agronomist by day, and a closet agriculture advocate, also commonly referred to as an agvocate the rest of the time. I am a firm believer in the agriculture industry and it is not only my occupation, but it is also my passion.

On top of this I am lucky enough to I live in Toowoomba in sunny Queensland

Now, I’d like you to think about this.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about agriculture?

  • Livestock?
  • Crops?
  • Food?
  • Clothing?

Fair enough but these are stereotype images. To me agriculture is so much more than the food you put in your mouth or the clothes you wear on your back

When I think about agriculture I think about people

I think about innovation

I think about passion and commitment

.

It wasn’t always this way When I first started high school and found out I had to do agriculture in year 7 the first thing I wanted to do was run away and hide. This was because my perception of what agriculture actually is was completely wrong. I thought of agriculture as dirty and, to be honest, boring; not something I was really looking forward to having to do. However, when I actually started learning about what it involved, my passion for agriculture surfaced and I have never looked back.

I’m not from your typical farming family, in fact, you could probably refer to me as a townie. My family connection to the land is minimal. But my passion for the industry is enormous! I have pottered about, I have studied a different degree, I even sat in an office for a good 3 years, and it was then that I realised that agriculture was where I wanted to be. So, I went back to uni and started studying agronomy. Some might think that I am a glutton for punishment after completing 6 years of university going on to my 7th, which tends to be a running joke with my friends. But when asked why I wanted to study agronomy, by one of my friends, my response was thus.

How many jobs are there, where you can sit on the front veranda of your clients’ home, have a beer and talk about the day while watching the sunset?

Do you get the chance to watch a storm roll in over the flat black soil plains at your job?

Do you have laugh while you’re helping a grower pull out that silly agronomist who got the tractor bogged? (Yes, I am talking about myself).

Does your job give you the opportunity to actually have relationships with your clients where they become surrogate families?

How many jobs do you know of where you have the chance to be constantly learning new things?

How many jobs do you know of that are involved with an industry that is one of the most sustainable, innovative and productive in the world?

A lot of people will associate agriculture with long hours, hot dusty days, and a lot of hard work. And I will openly admit, it is a lot of hard work, and it can be dirty and dusty, on the other spectrum even muddy at times.

But it is all part and parcel of the experience and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.

I am involved in the cotton and grains industries and the growers I work with are some of the most innovative and passionate people I have ever met and most likely ever will know. Both of these industries are constantly looking for new ways to be sustainable while remaining productive. It is inspiring to me to be involved in industries where the industries themselves are making the active effort to be better at what they do and making a conscious effort to implement change and be on the front foot to avoid outside influences impacting on what they do and can achieve.

Earlier I mentioned when I think of agriculture, I think of passion and I strongly believe no matter what you are doing with you, life has little meaning unless you have passion for what you do.

Sadly I also believe that agriculture is a misunderstood industry; it is so much more than what you see on the surface. I was recently at a committee meeting where our vice-chairperson was describing her role as a farmer’s wife: she did the books, looked after the kids, fed the workers, drove the tractors and the list goes on. There is so much more involved with working on a farm or within the industry than what appears on the surface.

While agronomy is my primary job I also do business analysis and management; sometimes I am even a farmhand.  My boss constantly says to me that while we are agronomists and think we are mainly working with soils and plants, its the people who make change so we also have to be psychologists and know what drives change.

Within agriculture you are so much more then what your title defines you .As an agronomist on a daily basis I assist growers make decisions about how to nurture their crops and produce the best yields possible while keeping production costs low, keeping the levels of chemicals used to a minimum and being friendly to the environment.

On a daily basis I learn something new, I change the way I thought about a process and I help implement these new processes into the production systems that I work within. The interesting part of this is that one idea, is never implemented in the same way, that one idea can result in 6 or 7 different production processes dependent on how that grower runs their farm. While all farming may look the same from the outside, their a subtle differences on each farm that make it operate in the productive way that it does.

I am proud to say I work in an industry that

  • produces enough food to feed 60 million people.
  • produces 93% of the food we consume.
  • produces enough cotton to clothe 500 million people.

Did you know?

  • one 227kg of bale of cotton is enough to produce 215 pairs of jeans and 1,200 shirts.
  • Australian agriculture produces some of the highest quality food and fibre on the world market, and does so with a decreasing amount of land and water.

Agriculture is an essential part of the economy, but I also think agriculture is an important part of our society’s way of life. We are blessed to have the agriculture industry with all it offers and it is time for a revival of sorts. It is time for everyone who has the potential to get involved with agriculture in some way to peel back the layers of what agriculture is and take a serious look. It is not just a career choice; it is a lifestyle choice as it offers a wonderful way of life.

The passion of the people in this industry is infectious and the resilience of the people in this industry its own life lesson. I’ve only been in the industry for a couple years now and the way I look at life has changed dramatically.

So, when you think about the word agriculture, have a real think about it and tell me what comes into your mind?