The difference between a career and a job

Today’s guest blog comes from Cotton Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey. You can read all about Liz here

Milly the Dog  

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 ………………….

I have recently had the pleasure of visiting 4 schools involved in the Archibull Prize for the Art4Agriculture program and I can honestly say that they all have been a different learning experience.

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.

Moo Baa and Cotton….How out of touch is the next Gen?

Today’s guest blog comes from Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey who was very excited to not only have the opportunity to share the story of Cotton recently at Moo Baa Munch , she also got to speak with both the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom about her favourite topic agriculture.

Liz Lobsey shares the experience ……………………….

I was given the fantastic opportunity last Thursday to head to Corinda State School in Brisbane to speak about Agronomy for Cotton Australia at the Moo Baa Munch.

Firstly I will be upfront and say, defining agronomy, and making it sound like the best job in the world is a little harder then I first thought.


The Cotton Classroom (right at the front gate)

The Moo Baa Munch is organised by Agforce QLD and each industry is invited to host a site and speak about what their industry involves to high school and primary school students and why it is an exciting career prospect. I must say, even I learnt things that I didn’t know, so I can only imagine what the school students brains where like by the time they had visited the very numerous and highly diverse exhibitions.

The field to fabric process which was a joint presentation between Cotton Australia and AWI was fantastic. My favourite question was ‘So where does cotton wool come from?‘ Definitely a question the 4 of us did not expect and definitely stunned all of us.

Being involved in this collaboration between the wool industry and the cotton industry at Moo Baa Much reminded me of a question recently posed by Lynne Strong, farmer and Art4Agriculuture program director in a recent blog. Why can’t industries work together? 

The thing I learnt from this joint field to fabric presentation, was just how successful agriculture can be when we do work together and what a great return on investment for all stakeholders.   

After all once cotton is picked and the wool is shorn and the processing of the end products is almost identical, just different terms are used.


Cotton wool???

I was absolutely shocked that a lot of primary school students actually do believe that cotton actually comes from a sheep. It’s a bit like people thinking that milk comes from a bottle and meat comes from the shelf at the supermarket.

It’s a little scary to think that the people who buy our products are so disconnected, and they are passing this disconnection onto their children, who will pass it onto their children, and the cycle will only continue unless agriculture engages and debunks myths like these now. That’s why programs like the Moo Baa Munch and the Art4Agriculture programs are so extremely important.

What was very powerful for me as a young person with a career in agriculture and working with school children through Art4Agriculture in 2013 and 2014 was the the cotton industry and the wool industry had done their research and recognised the smart way to handle the challenge was tell the story together.


Sophie Davidson speaking about cotton processing as part of the joint Field to Fabric presentation with Wool.

Sophie Davidson (education coordinator for Cotton Australia) put these figures to the students we spoke to.

In 1813, the world population was 1 billion.

100 years later in 1913, the population was 1.7 billion.

In 2013 the world population is 7 billion.

For the last 100 years the world population had increased by almost 5.4 billion people and it is only going to continue to increase.

In light of this, the fact that we have 800 graduates at present completing agriculture related studies each year and we have 4000 graduate positions available, is of great concern.

We cant produce food and fibre without farmers and our farmers cant access the latest research and technology if we have no scientists. We cant give our animals the best care if we have no vets. We can optimise the care of our scarce natural resources unless we have soil and plant scientists like me. And that is just the start of a long list of people needed to help farmers produce the high quality and affordable food and fibre Australia is so famous for. Take the wool and the cotton industry just as example. Everywhere in the world it is recognised that no-one produces better quality wool and cotton sustainably than Australia.   


Me and Sophie Davidson ( Cotton Australia)

I pose this question to you. What do you think Agforce is trying to achieve though Moo Baa Munch?.

  1. Is it the need the need for agriculture to sexy up its image?
  2. If so do we really need to make agriculture sexy to attract the next generation?
  3. Or, do we simply need to reacquaint them with a very important industry that has been here for hundred’s of years and gets more exciting and more necessary every year ?

These were certainly the questions on the lips of Premier Campbell Newman, who I had the pleasure of meeting.


Me and the QLD Premier Campbell Newman

And its not just Campbell Newman asking how can we make agriculture sexy, this is something that industry has been talking about for quite some time.  

Personally I think we should be looking at the first rule of marketing and taking a step back and engaging our consumers and the next generation of agriculture’s potential workforce first and finding out what they really think about agriculture. Once we have this knowledge then we can address their concerns and fix the problems and then we will have a real chance of selling agriculture as ‘dripping with integrity and sexy.’

I was also lucky enough to have a brief conversation with the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom about improving agricultures image, and he firmly believes that something needs to be done, sooner rather then later.

Sid Sidebottom at Moo Baa Munch

Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom

So, it is our responsibility, as professionals, producers and supporters of the agriculture industry to be proactive and engage the public and change their misconceptions. After all can we think of better people to tell our story than the people who grow and produce the products?

I believe that we are at a make or break period for the agriculture sector. Realistically if we don’t do something now to ensure young people see agriculture as an attractive and exciting and innovative industry to work in what sort of future does agriculture have in this country?

What sort of future does Australia have without a thriving agriculture sector? 

The Moo Baa Munch was a fantastic experience for me and I am confident all the visitors felt the same. A huge hats off to Agforce for being proactive and innovative for designing and managing the event. Also a big thank you to Sophie Davidson and Cotton Australia for letting me have the opportunity to travel down and speak to students about the cotton industry, learn more about the wool industry, agriculture and the value of successful cross industry partnerships.

It was a great personal and professional development opportunity for me not only to brush up on my public speaking skills but also a fantastic opportunity to engage with the community and share stories about my favourite topic Australian agriculture and our inspirational farmers.