Today’s guest blog comes from Cotton Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey. You can read all about Liz here
Liz and Milly
Liz is an agronomist aka Plant Doctor and she loves her “career” and she loves to tell people why
This is what Liz has to say ………………….
In the past week I can honestly say that I have spoken to children in kindergarten in Sydney who believe that all farmers have animals to children in cotton growing regions who weren’t quite sure what a cotton plant was.
Excluding the kindergarten class, all the classes I have spoken to are of the same age. The ages between 14 and 16, where most teenagers stop paying attention to their parents and when they believe that the world is wrong and they are always right. I was like that at that age as well. But one difference I noticed between myself at that age and the kids of today is that I had a concept that there was a world outside my home town and that things that I took for granted, other kids my age wouldn’t even know what that was.
Each school I visited was different, I travelled from Clermont in QLD to Sydney and then to Theodore in QLD in two weeks. It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I got to share my story and give guidance to kids who might never have been given these opportunities otherwise. The one thing that my schools has in common was that they were all disadvantaged in some way. Be it location or, bureaucracy within the schooling systems. The unfortunate thing, is that this disadvantage that these kids are experiencing is influencing how they view their futures. Some of these kids believe that they will never go to university because it’s not an option.
I asked all my classes if they believed they had to be from a farm to be involved with agriculture. The great thing was, the Sydney school, of all the schools, all the kids responded with a no you don’t need to be from a farm. The scary thing was, the country schools indicated that you have to be from a farm to be involved with agriculture. That in itself alarmed me a little as I couldn’t quite understand where this perception was coming from. When I asked the kids why they said that you need to be from as farm why they felt that way, they couldn’t tell me why. I then proceeded to tell these kids that I didn’t come from a farm and the look on their faces was priceless. I don’t think I have ever seen jaws hit the floor quite so quickly or quite so hard for that matter.
There was an assumption from the kids that because I’m involved with agriculture, I just naturally must have come from a farming family. For me to then inform them that I wasn’t from a farm was magic. Particularly at Matraville Sports High. The light in their eye’s when they realised that where they come from doesn’t influence who they are or what they can do with their lives was purely magical.
The one thing that scares me the most is that our children are sheltered. The city kids are sheltered from the world outside their suburb and have a very limited concept of what exists even 25 kilometres away.
The country kids are sheltered from the fact that kids that don’t live in rural environments don’t understand the ‘circle of life’ with animals, or the process of harvesting a crop. I had a light bulb moment on my way back from Theodore on Friday. What these school visits have made me realise is that our children take things for granted. Our children take agriculture for granted. City kids take the fact that they have fresh milk, eggs and meat for granted. Our country kids take the fact that agriculture is in their town for granted. This lead me to think, does this mean that our society as a whole just assume that agriculture will always be there, and in turn, are we all taking agriculture for granted?
I said to the year 9/10 class at Theodore that agriculture is quite literally involved in every aspect of our lives. One kid laughed at me, so when I asked him to name where agriculture doesn’t influence something in their lives he couldn’t answer me. I can openly admit, I love putting kids on the spot. Because it makes them take responsibility for their own thoughts and makes them thing about what they are going to respond with next. Kids need to be aware that even in high school, their actions will influence their lives in some way. Like I said to one kid at Theodore, everything has a domino affect, and what you decide to do with your time at school will influence what you do with your life further on down the line.
To me the art4agriculture program is about engaging kids with agriculture and making them think outside the box if you will. Well, that’s what I thought before I went on school visits. Now, I see the bigger picture. The Art4Agriculture program to me is away for me to help kids think about their futures. My future is and always will be cotton. Some of the other Young Farming Champions futures are beef or wool or dairy. Some of the kids I have spoken to, their futures will be with agriculture. But not all kids will go into agriculture, and that is fine. Just like the mining industry isn’t what I would ever want to do, agriculture isn’t for everyone. Each individual child has something that they want to do, whether they are willing to admit what that is I feel, relates to their upbringing and their circumstances. It takes a strong person at the age of 15 to say I want to be a nurse or I want to be a vet. Especially when we are in a society where adults doubt that a 15 year old has any concept of what they want to do with their lives.
I said to my Theodore kids on Friday, a job or work is what you do to pay the bills and get through the week. A career is what you love to death. My career is an agronomist and I live and breathe it and I can’t imagine doing anything else. To see this concept resonate not only with the students but also the teachers was a wonderful moment. It was opening the door for some of these kids to believe that they can be anything that they believe they can be.
While the past couple of weeks have been a blur, and I am exhausted, it has been the most rewarding experience.
If I have helped one child believe that they can be more then what their circumstances may dictate them to be then my job here is done.