The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
Today’s post comes from Wool Young Farming Champion Steph Grills who was recently sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation to attend the Young Professionals in Agriculture forum at Sydney University.
Steph farms at Armidale in NSW
The aim of the forum was to bring young professionals in agriculture together to connect the dots on issues of our time, including: – effectively communicating the science of agriculture – the role of social media in agriculture – promoting agriculture as a career path – networking to influence national agendas
The forum acknowledged
The modern face of agriculture will confront many challenges over the coming years. With fewer resources, our young agri-professionals will be faced with the task of leading this sector through a tough period of global food insecurity. In order to reduce the threat of the world slipping into an unprecedented global food crisis, today’s young agri-professionals will need to utilise their skills in an exceptional manner.
A much more efficient and productive group of young agri-professionals requires; coordination, dedication and education. The upcoming “Young Professionals in Agriculture Forum” aims to offer recent agricultural graduates the opportunity to further their professional development through a range of interactive educational workshops. Targeting the areas of communication, education and coordination, it is hoped that this one day conference will leave young graduates feeling invigorated about the challenges that lie ahead and eager to “keep the conversation going”.
Key speakers included our very own Annie Burbrook, Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia, Social Media expert and Eureka Prize Winner Tony Peacock, Brendan Fox from Farm Plus and Bruce Howie from C-Qual Agritelligence
What follows is Steph’s highlights in her own words …….
It’s exciting to see and even more humbling and rewarding to sit a room full of Young Professionals in Agriculture all from different backgrounds and yet all having a common and united goal, “To start and keep the Agricultural conversation going”.
Costa Georgiadis opened the forum, instilling enthusiasm and such a positive message into the room. Costa has been able to use ABC’s Gardening Australia as a platform to reach those in urban Australia. ‘Agriculture is the kitchen sink of the city’. The work that is being carried out in Bondi by planting herb and vegetable gardens on the curbs of streets to involve communities has demonstrated that its possible in urban areas. He believes in looking at cultural barriers and going around them with vocabulary. Information is just facts which leave a chasm of opportunity. It is the understanding and passion of this information, that is knowledge. You need to use vocabulary in order to engage with people. A perfect example of this is where instead of creating a herb garden, a ‘herb maze’ was created. This engaged people as we are inquisitive by nature, and encouraged people to find out what a ‘herb maze’ entailed as opposed to a simple old garden. Well nothing really. Simply some bark chips for a footpath through the garden in a snail formation. It was the same garden but it attracted and engaged the community.
I have worked extensively with Ann Burbrook through the Young Farming Champions program, and she didn’t fail to impress at the forum. Ann has a way of encouraging those that weren’t apart of the five people in the room of around ninety, that put their hand up because they enjoyed public speaking. Most of us are terrified by the very thought. To speak in public, firstly you need the courage to get up there and then secondly, the confidence to deliver your presentation with passion. It isn’t in fact, about you. It’s about the audience and what you want them to be thinking, feeling and doing. There are many factors in getting your audience to do what you want. This includes your voice, your stance and of course your content. What’s your message?
Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of CRC, introduced the room to the world of Twitter and the merits it provides. We learnt that as followers on twitter, we want posts to be informative, funny and exciting. Not boring and arrogant. No real surprises there however we also learnt that followers like to be challenged and questioned and don’t mind the odd random thought.
We’re also doing a pretty good job of communicating as scientists to other scientists, but we need to think about how to communicate to producers so that it’s valuable to them and then in turn to the community.
Brendan Fox spoke about Building the Knowledge base and how to get value from the internet. There is around 620 million spaces for information, so sorting through the valuable information can sometimes be a challenge.
The Q & A Panel, was the session I found most interesting. Most topics focussed on education, inspiration and engagement for the Agricultural Industry as whole. Some topics covered were that there are many jobs out there, but where are they and how do you find them? Sustainability of agriculture and also branding of the industry and individuals in agriculture was discussed. One major concern was how to involve kids to get a better understanding of the industry at a young age to encourage curiosity as they grow up and leave school. The Young Farming Champions program was a perfect example of how this is beginning to happen. The agricultural sector needs to have more of a voice and to do that we need three key points to market our ideas.
Overall the whole day was incredibly inspirational and informative. I would like to thank the Sydney University and Young Professionals in Agriculture team for getting the whole day up and running and to those guest speakers who donated their time for the day.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) for giving me the opportunity to attend as part of my personal development through the Young Farming Champions Program. I believe these are the types of platforms are such important opportunities for everyone in agriculture and I congratulate AWI for recognising this and supporting their Young Farming Champions to such a high level
Today’s guest post is by Steph Grills another young Australian food and fibre producer who is very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries in her family and she is very keen to carry on that tradition
The Steph Grills story …………
In the late 1600’s, John Grills and his wife Urah, moved to St. Mellion, Cornwell England, where John practiced the trade of a worsted-comber 1. Four generations later, John (IV) and his wife Rebecca, decided to emigrate to Australia, settling in Maitland, NSW where John was a soldier, stonecutter and farmer. Their son Thomas, moved to Saumarez, Armidale where he married Ellen O’Connor and selected land on the eastern fall country of the New England Tablelands in 1881. Thomas and Ellen had 11 children, who went on to have 73 grandchildren, many of whom remained on the land. This property, along with later purchases, remains in the family to this day.
Agriculture was also very prominent in my mothers’ side of the family. In 1833, in Langport, Somersetshire England, John Turner married his wife Sophia. Four children later, they decided to make the journey to Australia in 1849. Initially settling in Adelaide they followed the Gold Rush to Victoria where they settled in Adelong in 1860. Here, John invented the first known steam crushing mill for gold. They also erected a school and were well respected in the area. The family continued the Agricultural tradition and bred cattle and sheep, as well as operating a dairy, wine and chaff making industries. One of their sons, Octavius (Doc), moved to the New England area which is where my mums’ family have remained.
After selecting the original country in 1881, a further two blocks of land were purchased over the next 40 years by Thomas and Ellen. Ellen went on to leave this land to the women of her family, until her three grandsons took it over as a partnership in 1960. The partnership was dissolved towards the end of the decade, and country was split into three separate properties. My father has gone to great lengths over his lifetime, to get back all of this country to once again make it one, and this is where I had the privilege of growing up as a seventh generation Aussie farmer. You would be quite right to say ‘it’s in my blood’.
The start of a family farm …
My grandfather took on the mammoth task of changing his block into a productive property. The 2200 ha were split into just 5 paddocks at the time, the soil had never seen superphosphate, bare ground was prominent under the heavily timbered country and rabbits were a constant problem. He set about developing the land by ringbarking trees, aerial seeding the country and also spreading super phosphate by plane.
My Grandfather standing amongst the ringbarked trees
The country was first improved on the ground with two TE 20 Ferguson tractors, pulling 7ft gear to put down introduced grasses to improve the productivity of the country in 1954. In 1959, the country benefited from the first aerial fly out of super phosphate in bagged form, which was hand lifted into the plane in 50kg bags. The ground application of super was also put out with the improved pasture seed. In 1972, the first woolshed was built on the northern end of the property. Prior to this, sheep would need to be walked anywhere up to 15 km to the other end of the original property, which my uncle then owned following the partnership being dissolved in 1967.
Current Woolshed (extended in late 90’s)
The original livestock were Herefords and Merinos. Market demands and trends have meant a third of the herd remains as a Hereford base, a third is aimed at the Angus premium market and the remaining third aimed at the crossbred market, where high growth rates can be obtained through hybrid vigour. Australian beef is part of the worlds’ highest quality meat, known for its consistency and being safe and disease-free.
In 1964, while already having a Merino flock, the first ewes were purchased from the Fulloons, which are now the sort after ‘Cressbrook’ bloodlines. Fine merino wool and mutton production is still an important part of the production on the property. In the mid – late ‘70s, fat lamb production was introduced, however, their feed requirements were found to be too high for return and they were phased out in the early 1990’s. Wool continues to play an important role and is somewhat iconic on the New England tablelands.
Over the years, improved pasture management has led to a much higher yields and efficiency per hectare. Originally we grew permanent pastures of cocksfoot, fescues, ryegrass and clovers. These days, a high-performance short-term pasture is sown down which includes high performance ryegrasses and herb species such as plantain, chicory and clover to provide finishing feed for fattening cattle, before establishing a high performance permanent pasture.
Fertiliser usage on the property has also come a long way over the last century. In the early days, single super was a major investment, with large returns. Currently however, although still important, fertilising the country has moved along with the advancements of soil and pasture testing. The addition of lime and natural products/by-products of other industries, such as chook manure have proven to be worthwhile both in a sustainable, environmental sense and also in regard to return in improved growth of pasture. We have now adapted and are developing the country through means of biological farming; introducing ‘good-bugs’ back into the country.
Surviving three droughts over this time stands testament to those who were looking after it at the time. Future dry times are sure to return cyclically but with the use of sustainable agriculture, increased knowledge and better management practices we are confident we will be resilient.
Like many Australian farmers our family are dedicated to undertaking weed control, pest and disease management and habitat and biodiversity enhancement.
We are testing both our soils and our pastures and creating nutrient maps so we can pinpoint exactly what the soil needs in order to remain ‘fuelled-up’ to continue being sustainably productive.
We have fenced of our waterways and have dedicated areas put aside to increase biodiversity and provide safe habitats for native flora and fauna.
Growing up a Grills…
With such a large extended family and great community spirit, growing up here was something I’ll cherish forever. I have four sisters, three of which are married with 7 kids between them. Horses were a massive part of my childhood and provided many a great time, which still continues today.
Starting early – 12 months old with my Dad
I grew up with them, not ever remembering even how I learnt to ride. My father was a keen and talented campdrafter, whilst us kids competed in ribbon days, and attended pony camp and travelled to shows all around.
Pony Club in 1995
We moved back into the Polocrosse scene when I was about 10, and haven’t looked back since.
Steph says catch me if you can
Cattle and sheep work was simply just a way of life. Very rarely were there ‘days off’, as there was always something that needed to be done or checked. There are many great memories growing up mustering cattle or being lucky and being ‘let into’ the big shearing shed when we were just tiny. From heading out at dusk with Dad, probably when I was meant to be having a bath and getting ready for dinner and bed, to check on a heifer calving, or to go down to give a poddy one last pat goodnight.
It’s a passion instilled as a youngster that I wouldn’t change for quids. I went off to boarding school at 11 years old and counted the hours when I would get to go home of a weekend. The school cattle team brought me some reprieve and ‘filled the gap’ a little. It was here that I had the opportunity to go on and win the National title for Beef Cattle Parader at the Hobart Show in 2002.
Winning at Hobart Royal 2002
It wasn’t until my final two years of school where I was able to study Agriculture and Biology, that I really found school somewhat enjoyable. So I threw myself into my studies, especially for these two units, and came out the other end of my HSC, with the award for Agriculture, Hospitality and a merit award for Biology. I was accepted early into University through the School/College Recommendation Admission Scheme. However, university wasn’t at the top of my list. I went home to work for twelve months on the farm and decided that I needed some qualifications to back me up. I completed my Certificate IV in Agriculture through a traineeship program at home. But from here I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to follow on with Agriculture and I loved the livestock industry, so I enrolled at UNE, to study my Bachelor of Livestock Science.
Although different paths have taken me away from completing this until now, I have learnt a lot in the past few years and have made some wonderful friends across the country.
I even moved to Mungindi, NSW for 2 ½ years to become the offsider in a broadacre spraying operation. Although my family had had cattle on agistment around Moree and I had grown up with a few friends out that way, I knew very little about the cropping industry and its a time which I will cherish both for the knowledge learnt and the great friendships gained.
The future of Australian Agriculture…
I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. So many people are now voicing their support for Australia’s food and fibre producers, from all different walks of lifes and as a farmer this is so rewarding to see. No longer are farmers and all those working in the industry, just sitting on the fence, just like me they are starting to share their stories with the community. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level. I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career
“Life on The Land – Don’t ever give up!”
1. WOOLCOMBER ( Taken from Family Tree magazine November 1996 Vol 13 no 1)
Woolcombing was part of the process of worsted manufacture. In the manufacture of woollen textiles the raw wool was carded to lay the tangled fibres into roughly parallel strands so that they could be more easily drawn out for spinning. Wool used for worsted cloth required more thorough treatment for not only had the fibres to be laid parallel to each other but unwanted short staple wool also had to be removed. This process was called combing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid 18th century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.
The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches – originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool the comber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way. When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound. The noils or noyles ( short fibres left after combing) were unsuitable for the worsted trade so were sold to manufacturers of baize or coarse cloth.