Behind the Canvas

When artwork judge Wendy Taylor and I began our four day journey to visit each of the schools participating in the 2011 Archibull Prize to judge the artwork category  I made a commitment to write a blog about each school and their bovine canvas.  I didn’t quite finish and it is now time I delivered on the promise to showcase all the schools masterpieces. To help me artwork judge Wendy Taylor has written an artwork analysis for each of the schools based on what the students shared with her about their vision for their “Archies”


Terra Sancta Beef (2)

Next gen is so clever don’t you think? 

Macarthur Anglican Primary School – Cotton industry

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“Gossie” (derived from the botanical name for cotton) is a bright and colourful exploration of the cotton industry from nose to tail. Most of the school was involved in some form or another in her development – from the design, to the actual work on the cow and across the many research projects and science experiments about the properties of cotton which the school undertook.


Overlaid over a colourful and tactile patchwork of cotton samples, the rear side of “Gossie” tells the story of the process of cotton – from the planting and the growing of the cotton itself, to the picking and harvesting of the bolls and then to the manufacturing of the cotton into the forms that we recognise. On the front, again overlaid on the tactile cotton patchwork, are some of the many cotton products available in our society today. The story is also told from the tail to the nose of “Gossie”, with growing cotton bolls depicted around the rear legs, the process and products on the two sides, the front legs in actual cotton socks, and the cotton industry logo on the head representing the finished products and the importance of the industry in Australia- the complete circle.

She is finished with the eartag necessary for identification of cattle, which has turned into a coathanger with the Macarthur Anglican School blazer on it (of course it is made from cotton too.)

Caroline Chisholm College – Beef industry

Caroline Chisholm College

“Moobix Cube” was designed and created by five different classes (around 100 students) from Caroline Chisholm College. Using the easily recognisable form of a “rubik’s cube” as the base, they create an effective way to showcase the many differing facets of the beef industry. Whilst a traditional rubik’s cube rotates, this one is composed of a series of smaller cubes on either side of the main cube, which can be pulled out, turned around to a new side and then slotted back into position. Once all of the smaller cubes have been turned around to a new side and replaced, a new picture is then formed.

A total of eleven components of the beef industry as well as “how we can feed Sydney for a day” are represented on this interactive cube. Each section of the cube tells a different side of the beef and food story – from the genetics and selective breeding of beef cattle, to beef products including their medical uses, to the environment (touching on both water security and ideal conditions), to facts and figures, as well as the differing personal experiences that the school has had with the beef industry. All combined onto the one cow.

Cranebrook High School – Sheep industry

“Daisy” and “Ben” represent the two quite different but still interconnected, faces of the sheep industry in Australia as seen by the students of Cranebrook High School. The two calves were designed and created by eight agriculture and art classes ranging from Year 8 to Year 10 students. One calf shows the wool components of the industry, whilst the other depicts the meat components.

“Daisy” is the face of the meat component of the sheep industry. She takes the idea of ‘paddock to plate’ to a very sculptural conclusion. The rear side of “Daisy” shows a three-dimensional tableau of scenic pastoral land, dotted with animals on the ‘tablecloth’ of grass. The front side of “Daisy” shows the final product. It depicts a three-dimensional table, complete with its own chequered tablecloth and food.

“Ben” is the face of the wool component of the sheep industry. He is colourful, tactile and informative. The base layer is a colourful patchwork of woollen squares stitched together and then overlaid with imagery of the implements, the processes and the products used in the wool industry in Australia. Wrapped intricately around and over all of this is the woollen cord which ties it all together.

Richmond High School – Beef industry

“Pattie” was designed and created primarily by a group of Year 11 Art students from Richmond High School and was designed to be able to be shown both indoors and outdoors. She is a colourful and tactile homage to the beef industry in Australia and depicts a remarkably unique interpretation of this industry. She was designed to have a high level of simplicity and clarity.

With a detailed and intricately realistic painted head, she then progresses down the neck to a very flat and colourful base layer of bright red. This ‘stripped down’ base layer, without being graphic or losing the intrinsic simplicity which is “Pattie”, echoes the primary function of the beef industry, which is to provide meat. This flat, bright red colour also contrasts, and in turn highlights, the overlaid patches of tactile green grass which depict the primary meat cuts commonly found on a cow. The grass patches also form a quirky intellectual play as it is the grass which is eaten by the cow which forms the meat itself.

Colo High School – Cotton industry

“Threads” showcases two facets of the cotton industry in two very unique ways, all wrapped up and depicted in a manner which is familiar to us all – washing hanging on the clothes line. The two facets are the growing and manufacturing of the cotton itself as well as some of the final products commonly found in homes throughout Australia. “Threads” was designed and created by a wide range of classes at Colo High School, including a combination of art, agriculture and sustainability classes.

Colo High School

On the outside, “Threads” is simply a cow which has crashed though a washing line, becoming entangled in the washing itself. This washing represents a portion of the variety of cotton products available today to the wider Australian public -Cotton in the recognisable form that we know it. However, “Threads” has an inner, hidden story as well.


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The interior of the cow literally opens up to depict imagery of a very different scale and style. It highlights the growing and manufacture of cotton, the divide between the city and the country, as well as the water required by the cotton industry and the people it provides for. Centred on the inside of “Threads” a heart made from cotton is hanging.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School – Cotton industry

“imoo” looks at the cotton industry from a very different viewpoint. The creative group of students from Hurlstone Agricultural High School have chosen not to show the cotton industry through simply pictorial methods. They have chosen to show both cotton and the additional theme of “What it takes to feed and clothe Sydney for a day” through multi media.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

“imoo” is in fact, different in many ways. Firstly, there is no fibreglass cow underneath its delicate cotton shell -it is simply stiffened layers of cotton. It has a palette of colour which has been limited strictly to white, as well as an intricate, tactile quality. “imoo’s” stiff cotton base has been overlaid with 26 soft patches of hand-sewn embroidery depicting various agricultural products and has also been hand-stitched together into panels positioned primarily according to the sections of an animal that dairy cows are judged on. This tactile, bespoke and quite traditionally-styled pared-back base has then been overlaid by modern technology in the form of 10 ipads. It is these ipads, containing a collection of interactive discussions and interviews about both of the themes, which tell the story. Not only do they tell the initial story, but they can gather both imagery and further stories as time progresses.

Rouse Hill Anglican College – Dairy industry

“Mootilda” is quite simply a tale of two sides. The story told, the imagery depicted, the colour palette and the emotions evoked create a stark contrast between the two sides. Good versus bad. Healthy versus unhealthy. Sustainable versus unsustainable. She was created by nine students from Years 7 to 10, who were primarily Art students.

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The front side is lush and green. A harmonious balance is created between the idyllic rural areas and the pleasant and contented urban areas. Milk comes straight from the cow to provide for the city. Everyone is smiling.

Rouse Hill Anglican

The reverse side of “Mootilda” shows life in an unbalanced way. The city and suburban areas have taken over and the once lush pastures have given way and become just one of many new, monochromatic suburban subdivisions. The green base is dirty and polluted. A ‘tidal wave’ of milk is required and there are no cows to provide it. No-one is smiling. In fact, there is no-one there at all.

Schofield Primary School – Dairy industry

“Milky Way” is fun, colourful and interesting. She was designed and created by 85 students from Schofield Primary School. Each and every one of them contributed their own little bits to the process and to the final product, while the entire school learnt about the dairy industry along with them, during their library times.

Schofileds Public School

“Milky Way” shows the trail of dairy products and the processes of the dairy industry from ‘paddock to latte’, in three dimensional figures down the centre of her back from head to tail. Each of the components of the process is connected to each other by a series of bridges. This imagery of bridges then connects with the wording depicted on her sides – ‘bridging the rural urban divide’. To highlight these words, the students have used ’bling’ (in their words) to catch your attention and to make you smile. “Milky Way’s” face is completed with beautiful red lips and a big smile.

Terra Sancta College – Beef industry

“Koorina” is aboriginal for “to fly”. The name along with the wings on her back and the signage around her neck, are there to emphasise the students desire to promote the fact that ‘we don’t live on air alone’ – that more is required, a lot more. “Koorina” was designed and created by agriculture classes from Terra Sancta College.

Terra Sancta

The front side of “Koorina” shows the trail of the beef industry from ‘paddock to plate’. The cows are travelling in a herd from country to the city and straight into one of the most recognisable icons of Sydney – the Luna Park face. This also highlights the staggering number of cows it takes to feed Sydney for just one day.

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The rear side of “Koorina” depicts a number of facts and diagrams relevant to the beef industry in Australia. The two different sides are connected by a road network running from nose to tail, with various highway and distance signs along the way. It is this network that the beef industry relies on extensively. “Koorina’s” eyes each reflect the opposite of each other – one country and the other city.

Quakers Hill High School – Grains industry

“Bessie” was designed, sculpted and painted by Art students from Quakers Hill High School. The initial concept was based around the artistic styling of Reg Mombasa and the Mambo label. The quirky, fun and colourful representation of a toaster complete with toast has an instant recognisability and connection to the grains industry.

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The imagery cleverly portrayed around the surface of the toaster depicts various facets of the grain industry, all supported on imagery down the legs of “Bessie” of wheat, which is the foundation of the industry. The front side is primarily depicts the processing side of the industry, while the back concentrates on the rural to urban aspects. On the toast popping up from the toaster, there are facts and figures which talk about some of the staggering quantities of products and resources required to feed Sydney.

Quakers Hill

Around the toaster can be found the easily recognisable and distinct features commonly found on all toasters – the control buttons and the power cord (which has become the tail of “Bessie”) all completed in the distinctive ‘Mambo’ style.

Windsor Primary School – Dairy industry

“Winnie” was designed and created by a range of students from Windsor Primary School. Kindergarten students started the coloured base, while students from Year 3 and Year 5 completed her.

Trailing around both sides of “Winnie” is a series of quirky cartoon characters, designed and painted by the Year 5 students, on the lush, green base. These characters represent the process of the dairy industry – from the farmer and the cow waving goodbye to their milk as it leaves the farm and becoming the common dairy products that we know today (yoghurt, cheese, butter and ice cream).

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Around the hooves of “Winnie” the signatures of the primary children involved in the process and their teacher can be seen (because all good artist’s sign their own work).

Muirfield High School – Grain industry

“Cowlie Moonogue” has two very different sides to her. One is a simple, sculptural statement of a common product, while the other is a complex pictorial made from the products themselves.

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The front side of “Cowlie Moonogue” shows a three dimensional ‘local’ hamburger-with-the-lot. It incorporates annotations for the origins of all of the products and the distances each one may have travelled. This is shown on a background of images associated with social media, as the students felt that that was one way that modern society could start to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities.

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The rear side of “Cowlie Moonogue” is a pictorial of Sydney Harbour primarily made from the products themselves. This is representing “what it takes to feed Sydney” – the Opera House has become a serving of Nachos, the ferries on the harbour are rice bowls and the city is bread.

“Cowlie Moonogue” is standing on a piece of highway –a ‘road base’. This represents the journey which products take, from country to city, to feed us all, and is highlighted by her having her own license plate.

Model Farms High School – Dairy industry

“Bessie” is a whimsical, fairytale-inspired depiction of the Dairy industry as designed and created by the clever students of Model Farms High School. She shows strong stylistic links to the artwork of both Reg Mombasa (Mambo) and Keith Haring, while still leaving the viewer in no doubt as to which industry she is showcasing.

Model Farms (2)

The front side of “Bessie” is lush, green and inviting, as well as slightly unusual. It shows subtle, stencilled imagery of cattle collaged into idyllic pastures and surrounded by trees and fencing (unusually depicted as being made from the products of the dairy industry itself – ice creams, cheese etc.) The rear side of “Bessie” shows even more flights of fancy as it concentrates on the industry and the process of milk production itself.

Model Farms (1)

The milk produced is then funnelled through various channels, down the legs and tubing to the waiting, hungry city below, which needs a huge amount of milk just to keep it going.

St Michael’s Primary School – Sheep industry

“Woolly Jumpers” was designed and created by students from Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 from St Michael’s Primary School. They took their research work very seriously and became quite knowledgeable about the sheep industry in Australia, as well as wool itself, its common uses and its scientific properties.

“Woolly Jumpers” is very tactile and very informative and there is no doubt that it belongs to the sheep industry. The front shows the wool industry and the sequence of processes for wool from paddock to the world. It shows many of the countries we export wool to and their relative size and importance to Australia’s wool industry.

The rear side of “Woolly Jumpers” talks about sustainability, about how wool can be used, the properties of wool, as well as numerous images of modern communication items. The latter shows one method which the students (who were previously unaware that the rural sector used these) felt could bridge between rural and urban communities.

Crestwood High School – Sheep industry

“Blossom” was designed and created by around 10 students from Years 8 and 9 from Crestwood High School who requested to be part of the project. She is bright, colourful and informative.

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4 sides of Blossom

On the rear side of “Blossom,” the process from farm through shearing and then manufacture and to the product itself is shown with simplicity and clarity. On the front side of “Blossom” an unbalanced society is represented. The number of houses and developments outweighs the minimal numbers of farms in today’s society.


Connecting the two sides (rural to urban) is a bridge. The bridge echoes each side in its styling. On the rural side (the rear), the bridge is timber, clean and traditional. On the front side, the bridge has graffiti and rubbish. Travelling on the bridge there are also trucks transporting the products to the city. On the top of one truck is a subtle dedication to the ABC reporter Paul Lockyer, who died recently and was an advocate for this message.

Castle Hill High School – Dairy Industry

“Charlie” was designed and created by a small but dedicated team of students from Castle Hill High School. One of only two ‘reclining’ cows given to schools in this year’s competition, the students faced unique issues.

“Charlie” has characteristics drawn from a number of areas. The name is inspired by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” and also from the imagery of Tim Burton. When connected together with the Dairy industry, they have combined to form a “Mad Hatter’s Milk Party”.

“Charlie” has a base comprised of a brightly coloured, chequered tablecloth overlaid with a collection of patterned teacups, milk bottles and spilt milk. Surrounding this are many facts and figures associated with the dairy industry, as well as a combination of aboriginal imagery, items of modern technology and colourful ‘paint splats’ (following the imagery of the spilt milk).

Northholm Grammar School – Grains industry

“Miss Bits” is a tale of two very different sides, as seen in a number of the entries in this year’s competition. However, “Miss Bits” and the students from Northholm Grammar have taken a very different path.

Northolm Grammar

“Miss Bits” is dressed on her front side in clothes representing the stereotypical imagery of rural communities. The denim overalls and chequered shirt have then been overlaid with the imagery and logos of many of the commonly known and easily recognisable end products of the grains industry in Australia today. This play of showing the beginning of the process and end destination in the grain industry is also replicated on the rear side of “Miss Bits,” though it is shown in reverse. She is dressed on this side in ‘city clothes’ (the ubiquitous black suit) representing the final destination of the products, with imagery overlaid showing the initial growing stages of a number of grain plants.

The two sides of “Miss Bits” are connected through a tactile trail on her head and tail of actual grain seeds, and through a trail down the centre of her back with the names of a number of the common grains used in Australia.

St Ignatius College – Grain industry

“Betsy” was designed and created by a team of around 30 students from St Ignatius College. She shows an intricate and informative look into the grain industry in Australia.

The front side of “Betsy” shows a detailed pictorial from country to city. The intricate patchwork of the landscape is supported on legs covered in wheat, the foundation of the grain industry today. This side also highlights a number of pertinent facts and figures relating to what it takes to feed Sydney for a day.

St Ignatius

The rear side of “Betsy” shows a number of different facets of the grain industry in Australia. It shows the manufacturing process of turning raw grains into useable end products, as well as imagery of the end products themselves. In the centre is a map of Australia showing the primary grain growing areas of Australia as well as the major ports for the export of the grain, as this is a major component of the industry.

The two sides of “Betsy” are connected by a rail network (the primary method in Australia of transporting grains) running straight up her spine from the rural areas at her tail to the city at her head.

Mt Druitt Tutorial Centre – Poultry industry

“Chickcow” was designed and created by Year 8, 9 and 10 students from Mount Druitt Tutorial Centre. However, most of the school was involved in some form or another, particularly through art classes and cooking classes.

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“Chickcow” definitely shows off the poultry industry of Australia, with its easily recognisable sculptural head, tail and feet. It has both tactile and painted feathers as well as many little ‘info-feathers’ showing facts about the industry, about what it takes to feed Sydney for a day as well as a strong sustainability message. The best part of this cow however, is hiding underneath. Nestled beneath “Chickcow” is a precious clutch of hatching ‘chickcowlets’. Their shells have broken open to reveal the fluffy and googly-eyed little babies that will become “chickcows” themselves.

This cow was so precious to the school that they couldn’t bring themselves to pierce its ear for the earrings they wanted it to have so they had to come up with plan B, which you have to admit is great, clip-on egg rings!

Alice Betteridge School – Grains industry

“Betsy” is a very different type of entry into the Archibull Prize than the entry put forward by Alice Betteridge School last year. While last year their entry was very tactile, with differing textures, finishes and built out areas, this year they have completed a very simple and elegant collage of relevant pictures. They found that because the children couldn’t feel the difference in the components, they wanted to know what each picture was and its relevance. They therefore had a much more complete learning experience. It is fascinating what the children can tell you about the pictures without being able to see them

Alice Betteridge front.

“Betsy” has a collage of pictures at her head, showing a collection of rural images based around grain growing in Australia. At the rear, another collection of pictures shows urban images and a variety of grain based products. In the centre, linking the two collages is a band of water with the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge connecting the two sides. Overlaid across the Harbour Bridge are images of the manufacturing process of grain -turning grains into the final products we know.

Alice Betteridge back

“Betsy” is highlighted throughout with bands of gold colouring. This echoes the ideas of ‘fields of gold’ being the paddocks growing grain, but also shows the importance of the grain industry to Australia.

When NO means almost YES

My name is Lynne Strong and I am the National Program Director of Art4Agriculutre

Art4Agriculture is now an Australia wide network of young people growing rapidly each day. We are passionate industry advocates dedicated to bridging the urban/rural divide.

We initiate and promote programs showcasing the people and places behind the food we eat, encouraging students into farming and strengthening ties between the city and country.


Our programs are a truly innovative way of tapping into youth culture and enthusiasm for the arts.

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They are a fun way to explain the importance of a sustainable agricultural landscape and culture to our urban community and neighbours.

Through our public displays we have been able to give next gen farmers and next gen youth a voice by taking Art4Agriculture programs out of the classroom, onto to world wide web and into to the streets including big events like the Sydney Royal Easter where the bovine artworks and the students social media resources have been viewed by tens of thousands of people.

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I am so proud of and so honoured to with work with the Art4agriculture team of inspiring young Australians who love agriculture and their careers and want to shout it from the rooftops

I was recently asked to do a guest blog post for another blogger under the theme “what drives me”  Over the years may different things have driven me and at times turned my life into a crusade

Today it is fostering opportunities, opening doors, challenging the process, stalking, or  whatever it takes for agriculture to genuinely invest in its young people

I have always found my forte in business as “filling the gap” which to me means I identify the skills and knowledge that the business lacks to function at its highest level and outsource them. Sometimes that person is me. However I believe good business practice is working smarter not harder and I know there are a lot of people out there who have skills and talents I don’t have and I make it my business to find them and surround my team with them

When I returned full time to agriculture 10 years ago I saw some very big gaps that needed filling and elephants in the room that were being ignored at agricultures peril.

The obvious one of course is the consumer. Yes those people we ( farmers) get up every day and work our butts off to produce food for.

Agriculture had been ignoring the most important person in the food value chain for so long, food to the wider community has become all about cooking and eating and recipes and restaurants with little attention paid to the origin of the key ingredients or the land that produces it and the hands that grow it

Now anyone who has spent even a short time in retail let alone 30 years knows the customer is the lifeblood of your business and ignoring your customer’s wants and needs is a business death knell.

When I asked at my industry meetings why farmers weren’t actively engaging with their customers, the farmers in the room invariably said “I am too busy”

My family dairy and yes dairy farmers work long hours but so too do a hell of other people. I know a lot of people who rise at 4am in the morning and don’t get home till 10 at night and they don’t dairy or even farm. They don’t walk around with “I am too busy” badges of honour on their lapel either

So I put up my hand to fill this gap and found the dairy industry in general in NSW was very happy to let me do it alone.

So began my journey for the dairy industry to start two ways conversations with consumers to build lifelong relationships with our customers.

Working initially on the principle the best committee is a committee of one the first and most important thing to do was decide the best demographic to pitch to.

That was the easiest part of the journey. School students are the key. They are our next gen consumers, decision makers, potential competitors for our natural resources as well as our future workforce

I also knew the key to success at the farmgate was inspiring farmers to share the vision so I went searching for people and programs that were resonating with dairy farmers

I came across a program created by an amazing group of dairy farmers who belonged to the Strzlecki Lions Club. The program Cows Create Careerswas run by two superb people John Hutchison and Deanne Kennedy of Jaydee Events and by this time was being funded by Dairy Australia.

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John Hutchison and Deanne Kennedy @ Sydney Royal Easter Show

This secondary school program was rolling out in Victoria only but John and Deanne had trialled it successfully in one NSW school at the invitation of NSW dairy farmer Jane Sherborne

John and Deanne were a breath of fresh air and visionaries but no amount of lobbying at Dairy Australia could convince them to move the program out of Victoria so we came up with another plan and put in an application to IMB Foundation for $30,000 to bring Cows Create Careers to NSW. Excitingly the IMB Foundation shared our vision and the success of the program in NSW has resulted in a domino effect with Cows Create Careers rolling out across Australia

And what an amazing grass roots initiative it is and I for one have found employees through the program and what a great job one of those young people, Emma is doing advertising the program free gratis on behalf of Dairy Australia. Including this YouTube video which has over 14,000 web hits


Like me, John and Deanne were keen to build on the success of Cows Create Careers and we began our search for a program for primary schools students. We knew interest in agriculture and its careers starts early in a child’s development in primary school and develops through the entire schooling experience. In addition, decisions around primary industries and agribusiness careers are heavily influenced by parents and teachers, most of whom have very little knowledge of contemporary farming.

After trawling the web and talking to lots of bright minds I came up with the idea for “Picasso Cows” which in turn became the inspiration for Art4agriculture’s Archibull Prize. John and Deane loved it and we created a complete primary school program based on painted cows to tell the story of sustainable dairying using  the Cows Create Careers model.

I found funding to pilot Picasso Cows (special thank you to Kiama Council for believing in me and providing seed funding) in 4 NSW schools in 2007 and a further 10 schools in 2008. The students’ artworks were mind blowing and certainly convinced Dairy Australia that it would be smart of them to fund Picasso Cows nationally going forward


One of the exciting side benefits of Picasso Cows is it attracted new and different kinds of young people to agriculture. So I decided to harness all of this energy into what is now Art4Agriculture.


By this time I had recognised three things

1. The Australian dairy industry was entrenched in silo thinking and it would take a tsunami of people to change this paradigm.

2. Teachers are the key. Reaching and influencing Australia’s 286,000 teachers is a massive task. Yet most school based initiatives aiming to incorporate primary industry contexts into the classroom have failed because they are poorly conceived, too narrowly focused (to one specific industry sector for example), under-resourced, have no or inadequate teacher professional learning components to the activities, or are not designed with teachers’ needs, capabilities and capacities in mind.

3. Encouragingly, many primary industries have a strong desire to better engage with the education sector and actively acknowledge effective engagement requires acceptance of a comprehensive and collaborative vision.

So art4agriculuture began a new and exciting journey partnering and collaborating with education, like-minded farmers, like minded primary industries, with the supply chain, corporates, government and the community.

So what drives me? Some people say I am one of those people to whom no means almost yes and when one door shuts I know another will open if I maintain the rage.

But whilst that may be true its inspirational people who drive me. I love doers. I love people who get up every day and want to make a difference. These people never ever use the words “too busy”. If something needs doing or something needs to change then they find the time to make it happen.

I salute all the people who have made Art4agriculuture the success it is today. I salute those industries who have put their hand up and invested their money in our Young Farming Champions.

I salute all those wonderful farmers and agriculture advocates who give us encouragement and support and open doors for us.

I salute the students and teachers who tell the real story of Australian agriculture through their artworks and social media resources

You drive me

Meet Krissy Riley the Flying Governess

Imagine living three hours from a town. Three hours if there is an emergency. Three hours from a pub. Well I live three hours away from all of these things.

My name is Krissy Riley and I live and work on a cattle station in the Kimberley. Three hours from anything.


Two years ago, I was a swimming teacher in a Queensland mining town, I was paying $500 a week rent and spending a fortune just living. I was always on my phone. I was reliant on technology to get by in everyday life. I would spend $10 on a gossip magazine, which I would read while eating my microwave dinner. Full of protein and toxic goodness. Was this the life I wanted to live?

I needed some direction. I Googled and I Binged. And I stumbled across a website called I decided to upload my resume, sit back and wait.
I was not prepared for what happened next. Within three days I got over 30 job offers from all over Australia.

But none of the jobs felt right. Until one day I received a phone call that changed my life.
It was from a woman called Helen, from Anna Plains cattle station, three hours from Broome. She was very polite and got straight to the point. I would be teaching two children School of the Air. metimandjo

And then she put the children on the phone.I decided right then that I would take the job.
I had never lived or worked on a cattle station before. Flying across the country, I knew this was going to be a big change. I was so nervous. Words can’t explain how I felt that day.

My job turned out to be amazing. It was so fulfilling. Helping two young children learn was truly satisfying. I got to watch them grow and become young adults. They were picking up on my jokes and my sense of humour.

krissy and joanna

The months past at Anna, and I had slowly come to terms that I no longer had mobile reception. I was reading books instead of watching TV. I was listening to triple j instead of mainstream radio. I was enjoying life!
But when animal cruelty in Indonesia’s abattoirs forced the Australian government to shut down live exports, Anna Plains’ employees feared for their jobs.

And while the station, which musters thousands of head of cattle by helicopter, might seem larger than life, last year it was brought to its knees.


There was a lot of the anxiety on the station during the live export suspension. It was a pretty scary time, you think you’re going to lose your job, your home.

We did stop mustering for about a month, we were going to rallies in Broome, speaking to the members of parliament, trying to really push, say that it wasn’t our fault

It was very difficult to explain to the children who lived on the station what was happening. It is their home, their livelihood basically, being pretty much shunned in front of them.

The station is now back up to normal, although I think many people have been affected. I know a lot of people would have lost their jobs: a lot of jillaroos, jackaroos, ringers, things like that, and it’s obviously going to affect a lot of young people out there.

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Two years on, moving here, three hours from anywhere, I still believe it is best thing I had ever done!




Krissy was one of 33 young Australians who were selected to participate in the 2012 Heywire Regional Youth Summit which takes place over six days each February. Young Heywire winners aged 16 – 22 fly in from all over the country to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for an all-expenses-paid week where they discuss ideas, walk the corridors of power and make life-long friendships.


Each Heywirer represents a rural or regional pocket of Australia, and was chosen to attend on the strength of their written, video, audio or photographic stories that they shared on this website.

Over the week the Heywirers do heaps of activities, some important and serious, others just plain fun. The week includes a reception at Parliament House, a visit to the Australian War Memorial, optional sporting activities at the AIS, a tour of ABC Canberra (including a chance to sit at the news desk!), and the Heywire No Talent Quest.


There are plenty of optional sporty activities too, like touring the AIS, visiting the Sportex museum and even using the professional training facilities at the AIS alongside elite athletes.

The Heywire Regional Youth Summit is a chance for the participants to develop outstanding ideas and proposals that will create change in their local communities.

Krissy and her Heywire team of Melody Pedlar, Alyssa Allen and Emma Visser are hoping to create a website that is a one-stop shop for information on rural issues.


“I’m working with a group I met at the Heywire Summit that’s raising awareness about agricultural communities, what you can do, what jobs are out there and what education is available. For instance, if you’re doing School of the Air and you want to do extra courses, you can go there and click on the education link and check it out and see what’s available.” said Krissy

Their website which will be called “AGregate” would also help show careers in the Agrifood Sector as a viable career option that people might not know about.

Hear the girls present the AGregate team pitch here

Creative Cowboys


Today we feature the outstanding and multi-talented Queensland farmer and artist Annabel Tully

Painting en situ Annabel Tully_low

Annabel Tully painting with her “easel” on her homeland “Bunginderry” in Qld’s Channel Country

Firstly a little background

Art4Agriculture is an independent, non-political, partnership focused, not for profit grass roots organisation. We deliver programs designed by farmers for farmers that focus on youth, careers, the community, the environment and the arts and link all of these back to agriculture

We only work with organisations who partner for the common good of agriculture.

In 2011 RIRDC provided seed funding to get our Young Farming Champions program off the ground. What a watershed moment that has proved to be for the future of food security in this country.   

RIRDC have a number of initiatives that nurture rural and regional talent and one of these is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

To me this award identifies outstanding rural women in each state of Australia who day-in and day-out perform with flare, dedication and success resulting in creating growth and well-being for their own businesses, their communities and organisations they belong to.

Each winner has identified an exceptional community or industry good program they wish to undertake and the award provides them with funding and a support network to bring their vision to fruition.

Just by being nominated for an award is a tremendous boost for any individual or team program. Its says “We think you are equal to or better than the very best in the country”

Having participated in a number of award processes I know there are many positive flow on effects.  Art4agriculture have been awarded grants and contracts and our Young Farming Champions have received opportunities of a lifetime as a result of the attention focused on successful award entries.

Art4agriculutre has now formed a partnership with Annabel Tully who shares our commitment to deliver the best outcomes for agriculture at every turn

You can see why Annabel lights our fire by reading her story here

I’ve just been on the most incredible journey…….


No it’s not Nepal, Cambodia or the Greek Isles, I’ve just spent the last 12 months being a part of the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Awards process in Queensland. (It does go national) I am thrilled to say I am a finalist headed for a big interview process in Brisbane next month. This journey of self-reflection has really nailed down for me exactly why I have a fire in my belly about anything rural and remote and what am I going to do with it?

So a little on my background… I’m a woman (for starters), a wife, a mother, a farmer, a teacher , an artist and an advocate for our bush way of life. For many years I have put my hand up for anything that had a farming or arts touch to it. But what really keeps that fire burning, is the people, without us, there is no agriculture. Sounds pretty simple, if not, stupid, I know, but when we are confronted with all the pressures of contemporary agriculture…..environment, global food security, financial pressures of feeding and educating another generation… blah blah blah…. the people part of agriculture is something I am not willing to forget. Let me share this journey with you if I may be so bold as to ask for a moment or 2 of your precious time???


So my pitch for the Awards is a project I call “Creative Cowboys.” Come one, come all!

I’m offering an opportunity for fun and laughter and a reason to connect with the person standing next to you. I plan to offer all-inclusive arts based activities for people living in farming communities – yes even those who can’t even draw a stick figure! The aim is to offer some respite for farmers, a no man’s land where we you may chat to the stranger next to you about not very much at all, and that’s the whole point.

Orgy of Life_onlinegallery_tongalderrychannels wet

Annabel Tully 2011 Tongalderry Channels (wet) Oil, pigment and found ochre on linen

Bushies are a resilient mob, a humble mob, a sometimes quiet and unassuming mob. We are faced with many challenges, and this is what brings the enormous rewards and our determination to stay. We problem solve, more often than not, without the assistance of others. But without the people, there is no agriculture. So I aim to offer a little respite, a shady tent at a field day or rodeo, if you like, where friends, neighbours and strangers can come together and have some fun, a little calm before the next storm. Because if you are a bushie, you know what I’m talking about…. there will be a next time, not so far in the future, when we will need to band together for survival.

Whether I am successful in my bid for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award bursary for this project is not the end of this journey. I’ve already reached my destination. The process of simply applying for the awards has enabled me to realise what my skills are and how I can make a difference. I am clear about my role in this glorious life I lead in the bush. Are you?

You can read more about and/or contact Annabel here



Margaret Rivers’ Cate Blanchett goes back to her roots

Our blog today features next gen superstar Joanna Wren. Joanna was WA Trainee of the Year in 2008 and is currently a fellow Agrifood Skills’ Ambassador with Art4Agriculture’s Lynne Strong and Hollie Baillieu

Joanna Wren and rake

Joanna Wren – photograph by Stephen Blakeney (see footnote)

Joanna has had a very diverse career pathway that has led her back to her roots, from a Bachelor Arts and a love of television and theatre to her passion for horticulture and a strong understanding of the employment and environmental challenges the industry faces, Joanna is committed to becoming a leader in her field. Joanna runs own her business Sunshine Produce, in partnership with her brother. When not getting her hands dirty in the market garden, Joanna enjoys developing her artistic talents as a member of the Margaret River Theatre Company

This is Joanna’s story straight from the heart…….

I come from a farming family and loved growing up on the farm

Over the years my family have grazed both cattle and sheep and for as long as I can remember Dad and Mum have grown vegetables commercially.converted_81

‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I used to spend weekends and holidays planting cauliflowers, weeding capsicums and pruning tomatoes, not really even realising at the time that I was gaining new knowledge and skills every season I worked.

Whilst I loved the farm I also have a real love and passion for theatre and film and television and chose to study a Bachelor of Arts at Perth University. After spending four years living in Perth as part of my degree I realised that I really missed the country and made the decision to take a city break and move back home for six months and work with Dad growing vegetables. But six months turned into eight which turned into twelve and I have now been back down on the farm for over four years. I found not only did I really enjoy growing vegies, but that the skills that I had gained from growing up in the farm environment had never left me. I was hooked and wanted to learn more and so I did a Certificate IV Traineeship with my parents business “Wren’s Vegie Patch”


‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

When it was time to look at a career path for me, I never really looked at a VET pathway in horticulture or agriculture as an option but now as I reflect on my Traineeship I can really clearly see how suitable training can not only make you “work ready” it can have such a positive effect on an individual’s life. Not only did I gain more practical skills and increased my knowledge of production horticulture but with my growing confidence I took on more responsibilities within the business (with fantastic encouragement from my parents) which included other things such as supervising and training staff and marketing.

Jo on tractor

‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I was lucky enough to win the 2008 Trainee of the Year award at the WA Training Awards and with my prize money started my own little business which focused on growing smaller amounts of mixed vegetables for the local market. Not long after I formed a business partnership with my brother and together we now run Sunshine Produce, a production horticulture business in the South West corner of Western Australia. Based in the Margaret River region, we produce cauliflowers, tomatoes and pumpkins for the domestic Perth Market.


‘Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferguson’

I have still kept my interest in promoting local food and am always working to expand our local sales. And when I’m not harvesting, packing, irrigating, weeding, fertilising, working on the accounts, handling orders or sleeping, I am to be found working on a value added product that I’ve developed – a yummy pasta sauce using my own vine ripened tomatoes. At this stage it is just a small side project, but I’m hoping to see it grow to bigger volumes.

Back in 2008, I also got my training and assessing qualifications which enabled me to begin training other people in Horticulture at the South West Institute of Technology in Margaret River.

Jo Wren teaching

I really see the importance in having clear and relevant training pathways available to young people in horticulture so that they can see where their training is taking them. And I also see the need for practical, flexible and no-nonsense training for my industry and I try to reflect that as best as I can in my training programs.

I recently was appointed as an AgriFood Skills Australia Ambassador and it has been such a wonderful experience to be given the chance to represent my Industry at a National level. I have also really enjoyed spending time with the other seven Ambassadors who are from all across Australia and from all different Agriculture backgrounds and I can’t begin to describe how inspiring it is to be surrounded by these people who are so passionate about promoting Australian Agriculture and encouraging more people to become involved in such a fantastic and varied industry.

Now don’t get me wrong, growing vegetables can be ridiculously hard work and is definitely not for everyone. During the peak season of January through to May I work seven days a week and with a busy harvest a twelve hour day is not unusual, and is in fact commonplace. It can also be heartbreaking, we’ve had a whole crop wiped out by a freak hailstorm, complete plantings of cauliflowers destroyed overnight by rabbits and roos, it sounds dramatic but with vegetable growing a single day can make or break a season. But yet there’s something about it that I really connect with. I love the fact that I can grow quality, sustainable food for people. The satisfaction and sense of pride that comes with sending off a full truck of produce to the Markets. The fact that I get to work outside in one of the most beautiful corners of the world. The relief and burst of confidence when business decisions work out in your favour. The anticipation of waiting to see whether or not all your crop setup work has paid off. Even with its challenges, it is such an exciting and diverse industry to be a part of and I hope that in my own small ways I can contribute to the sustainability of the Australian horticulture industry and watch it grow from strength to strength.


Other great stories about Joanna and Wrens Vegie Patch can be found here

Q&A Young Grower Feature Rising Star

2008 Spice Magazine Wrens Patch

“Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass”.

Today’s guest blogger is Jack Piggott

Jack is currently at Bond University studying degrees in Law (LLB) and Biomedial Science (BBioMedSci).

Jack Piggott

I know it is an unusual combination, but it is more complementary that people think and I enjoy it.
I am a passionate voice of youth, and have been involved in many projects and initiatives to that effect.

For the last week the Art4agricultureChat has been showcasing the amazing youth initiative that is Heywire

I invited Jack to write a blog because not only is he a previous Heywire winner You can read his winning story here excitingly his team managed to get their “pitch” idea up and running – see footnote

jack Piggott 2

Jack shares his Heywire experience ……….

Wow. A year passes so quickly these days. Back in the good ‘ole days, I used to get a full twelve months, now I’m flat out getting 6 with no change! You see it was this time last year I was hopping on a plane Canberra bound, full of anticipation (and trepidation I must admit) for Heywire. If you’re not familiar with Heywire, go and have a look at their website now. I’m serious, go now!

You’re back! Did you spend the better part of an hour reading, watching and listening to the winner’s stories? I know I did. Why? It’s because Heywire attracts some of the most engaging young storytellers from across the country. And because they are from regional and rural areas, they’re telling stories that we don’t seem to hear a lot of these days. Stories about emergency landings while flying with your father, or about homesickness that you get at boarding school 1000km away from your family and culture, and the quirks of donating blood, real stories by real young people living “outside of capital cities” who don’t often get heard.

But the brilliant thing about Heywire is that it doesn’t just stop there. It gives you the skills and contacts to put ideas into action, and to take that action to the people. And that is something rural youth need; because often we have good ideas, only for them to disappear because we’re too far away from where all the action is.

And it’s that, a disconnect, that lies at the heart of the city – country divide, and alleviating it goes a long way to solving the ‘people’ problems that we face in the sticks. I say ‘people’ problems; what I mean is problems with industry perception, recruitment and political issues.

And why do I think that young people are the best to solve these problems? It’s not merely the fact that the average age of famers (of all breeds) has risen from 44 in 1981 to 53 years in 2011 (and to 60 if you’re a Qld. beef producer!). It’s because youth have the most creative approaches to solving some of the big issues in farming and then they ask the question “why not?” I’m not suggesting that we have all the answers, and we have much to learn from the generations who have done a lot of the hard work.

But we need to be involved in the big decisions that are made in the industry. After all we’re the ones who are going to have to live with it. That’s why we need Heywire and programs like it. To shake things up and take a fresh look! It’s as Noble prize winning poet Maya Angelou observed: I love to see the young go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.


Ideas developed at the 2011 Heywire Youth Issues Forum including Jack’s team were presented to the then Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon as part of the recommendations of a major health conference.
Jack and his team’s Heywire proposal called on the federal government to fund a telephone psychology clinic that would allow people in remote areas to have regular appointments with a qualified mental health provider over the telephone; and access the same provider each time.
“It’s great to see that this conference believes that our idea has merit and that young people can a driving force in health service innovation,” says Jack
The idea was chosen as one of 13 priority recommendations out of nearly 250 submitted to the conference, where mental health was a prominent issue.
“This recommendation presumably stood out because it deals with an issue of undoubted current importance and is detailed and practical,” says Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance, which ran the event. “It would provide better continuity of care and confidentiality to people suffering from mental illness in remote areas.”
The conference recommendation reads:
“To increase access to mental health services in rural areas the government should fund a telephone psychology clinic through Medicare. Clients would be referred through pathways that enable them to access existing Medicare rebates (mental health packages). To ensure continuity of care, the patient would be treated by the same qualified mental health professional each time, who would know the particulars of their client, and offer ongoing treatment (as opposed to current telephone services which focus on intervention).”

More details about the Heywirer’s telephone psychology clinic proposal can be found here. And the group’s ‘How to Change a Life’ website can be found here.

Like Jack you too can make a real difference it just requires “two hands, two eyes and a heart.”

Heywire is open for your entries right now – upload them directly to the site. The Heywire competition calls for stories about you and the community where you live.
To enter, visit

Follow Jack on Twitter  @jackpiggott

Visit his website here

Making a difference – everybody has all that is required

“All you need is two eyes, two hands and your heart in the right place to make a difference”

I had the pleasure of attending the Heywire Gala Dinner last night. Art4agriculuture is a proud supporting partner of Heywire and Heywire of us. The relationship is a collaborative partnership that is as simple as cross promoting each others activities.

One of the features of the dinner was a number of inspiring speeches from young people. They included some of this years winners like Alyssa Allen and Melody Pedler, former winner Naomi Gooden and Jack Black look alike Chris Raine the inspiration behind Hello Sunday Morning who said this last night  “All you need is two eyes, two hands and your heart in the right place to make a difference” He is so right. If we really want to we all have the necessary body parts that we can mobilise to make a difference .


Chris Raine from Hello Sunday Morning – wow doesn’t he look like Jack Black

Art4agriculture exists for young people in agriculture and provides them with the opportunity to make a difference in so many ways and they ARE and they can show you.

Just a couple of examples

Young Farming Champion Alison McIntosh featured here in the wining secondary school video from the 2011 Archibull Prize from Caroline Chisholm College


Young Farming Champion Stephanie Tarlinton inspiring next gen to be dairy farmers in this primary school winning video entry from Schofields Public School

The dedicated Art4agriculture team and now the 2011 Young Farming Champions alumni wake up each morning committed to providing vehicles and platforms to source funding, open doors and smooth the way to showcase the talented young people in agriculture. Sadly too often in agriculture we make what should be easy, too hard and we burn our young people out

One of our 2011 Young Farming Champions Alumni Emma Visser was lucky enough to be one of the 35 young Heywire winners from regional Australia who travelled to Canberra for the week long Youth Summit .

In their final job for the week, the group presented the big ideas they’ve been working on to their peers, an expert panel from different sectors, stakeholders and senior ABC staff.
After dividing themselves into nine interest groups during the week, each group was required to pitch a concise idea that would benefit the community relating to their specialty.
The groups were focusing on topics like small town survival, immigration and inclusion, the impact of mining on regional communities and Indigenous heritage.
Emma Visser and her team of Alyssa Allen, Krissy Reilly and Melody Pedler after much collaboration decided they would pitch a website called AGregate – a website to collect information about careers, education opportunities and student exchanges in regional areas. You can hear the AGregate pitch here

The Pitch

Emma and her team pitch the “AGregate” website


The AGregate team like all the Heywire winners were presented with their winners certificates by Senator Joe Ludwig Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries


Emma and Senator Ludwig

Borrowing from  website 

Emma Visser is a city girl who moved to the Illawarra region of New South Wales, she says it (AGregate) would help show people that you can make the move successfully.
“I have a strong passion for agriculture and I’m not from an agricultural background.
For me it’s important other young people get that opportunity, and Heywire has been a great way for me to show that even if you’re not from a farming background you can still get in to a career in agriculture”.
She says her main objective was to try and bridge the gap between rural and urban communities, and make life easier for someone searching for a potential career in agriculture.
Naomi Gooden a 2002 winner was especially impressed with Emma’s group’s use of a website.
“These are innovative ideas using technology of today that Australians can connect to”.
Naomi went on to say “ Just because you’ve pitched your idea doesn’t mean the idea is done – you don’t have to rely on a government department to take up your idea, you can go home and do it.”
It’s a sentiment that would resonate with fellow audience member Chris Raine, founder and CEO of the website Hello Sunday Morning.
As a hard-living advertiser he chose to give up alcohol and blog about the process.
The popular website is now a go-to portal for people wanting to try a healthy challenge and contribute their stories.
Naomi says there are always people happy to help see ideas become realities.
“You can find mentors and support but if you really believe in your idea, don’t let it stop here, it’s very possible – this is the first step of something really great.”
Emma Visser says the week-long summit has given her skills she’ll be able to use later in life.
“We’ve picked up a lot of things which have built our confidence to get up and put forward something we’re passionate about and do it effectively.
“We were taught how to relax so we’re not as nervous and the importance of storytelling – we found out it’s important to tell a story so you can connect with an audience on a emotional level which makes it more personal.”
Technology is something Emma is passionate about, and just like her AGregate website, she will continue to make informative videos about life on the land, just like her Cows Create Careers video that attracted a whooping 15,000 web hits in 2 years. In fact its gone viral and has been attracting 1000 hits week for the last 4 weeks
“I love multimedia – it’s the most effective way of telling my story”. said Emma
“It’s great when I go in to schools and communicate with them because with my videos they can hear from me and see my job and what I do.
“It’s a great visual aid and I’ve heard people say they want to be like me because of these movies.”

Emma is just one of many young people Art4agriculuture has identified who are using “the two eyes, two hands and their heart to make a difference.”

Never before has it been more important for Australia to invest in our young people in rural regional and remote Australia. They are the lifeblood of our communities

If you are an Australian farmer you can make a difference by lobbying your peak industry body to invest in your next gen farmers.

Back to Emma and her thoughts on the long term outcomes of opportunities like being a Young Farming Champion who are provided with professional development and the skills set to confidentially share their story with urban audiences

Emma sums it up

“I have told my story so many times I don’t need a script. My story comes from the heart, it resonates with the audiences I want to reach. It is inspiring young people to follow my career pathway into farming. It inspires young people to step out of their comfort zone and it inspires young people to see the value in collaboration. I am nineteen years old and I have the skills and confidence to spend next 80 odd years making a difference”

EMMA 0001

As a proud Heywire supporting partner we are thrilled to let you know entries are open for the 2012 competition. If you fit the age criteria or know some-one who does tap them on the shoulder and suggest they enter for the opportunity to experience the best week of their life
Also tweeting via @heywire and #heywire
On facebook: at
Join us on flickr here
Meet all of the 2011 Heywire winners and why not enter the 2012 competition NOW.

“Bring a friend” – our latest campaign

We have all heard the catch cry “agriculture is full of old people”. Well that’s rubbish. Its time to stop the proliferation of this highly damaging myth.   Art4agriculture for one knows agriculture does attract exciting and inspiring young people. What agriculture doesn’t do well is invest in them

Art4agriculture’s Young Farming Champions are determined to reverse this paradigm and we have the runs on the board to prove that with the right support networks we can ensure that agriculture invests in and nurtures its young people  .

Our next step is setting up a collaboration model which will connect like minded young people who are partnership orientated and put them in the spotlight and provide identified pathways to industry leadership.

So what can all the “old people in agriculture” do to help us. We are asking our industry leaders to participate in our “Bring a Friend” initiative. This is how it works. If you are invited to a decision making event ask the event organiser if you can bring a friend. Then identify an exciting young person in agriculture under 35 who deserves to be heard and take them with you.

Over the next few months we will not only be showcasing exciting individuals in the Agrifoods sector we will be showcasing watershed initiatives that are setting the bar for investing in young people from rural and regional and remote Australia.

This week it is the Heywire Youth Summit that is on the podium. Art4agriculture’s Emma Visser is lucky enough to be selected as one of “ 36 young, thoughtful and opinionated Australians who are coming together in Canberra this week to attend Heywire – a “Tell It Like It Is” Regional Youth Summit.


Emma has paired up with Alyssa Allen from Donald Victoria, Melody Pedler from Jondaryn Queensland  and Krissy Riley from Anna Plains Station in WA to form the “Agriculture Group”


Emma and Alyssa

Over the course of the week the participants get training in how to develop and pitch their proposals and communicate their ideas effectively.


Lots of great ideas already

This training culminates in a presentation on Thursday, in front a panel of judges, where the Heywirers pitch their ideas.


LtoR  Alyssa Allen, Melody Pedler, Krissy, Riley and Emma Visser pitch

This morning the agriculture group pitched an idea for an agriculture exchange program to improve skills, increase opportunities and open doors for young people in agriculture.

Fantastic insights from Ella Hind

To watch each person sense their individual power, to understand that – for once – they may actually be issued with a voice. Watching that revelation is magical, and I felt much of that taking place today. By the end of the week, I hope we’ll be unified by that magic and our shared experiences. Experiences that could well turn out to create the best week of our lives.

You can follow “Team Agriculture” visionary ideas on Twitter via

@krissyT89 Krissy Riley

@MelodyPedler Melody Pedler

Special thanks to Krissy Riley for some of the photos appearing in this blog

McLeod’s Daughters telling next gen agriculture needs you

I was recently asked by Stephanie Coombes to answer the question Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture?”

My answer was “I think less people are getting involved because industry is not exposing the next generation of potential agriculture entrants to the enthusiastic inspiring young professionals in our food and fibre industries who are living the dream and have the capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry and a great career opportunity”

Now whilst industry may not be getting out there and telling its story the media is. Sometimes the outcomes are positive and too often they are very damaging. However there have been some very successful vehicles such as McLeod’s Daughters that captured the imagination and heart strings of many young girls particularly young girls who love horses and attracted them to agriculture career pathways.

What’s exciting about these young people is they inject new ideas, promote change and generate innovation. Today we providing you with a perfect example of this, Stephanie Coombes doesn’t just want a career in agriculture she wants to start an domino effect and inspire other young people to join her. To kick start this she has developed a “Careers in Australian Agriculture” website

This is Stephanie Coombes story …….

Ten years ago, if anyone had told me I would be working in the agricultural industry when I was older, I probably would have answered- “You think I’m going to be a farmer?”

Born and raised in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, agriculture wasn’t something I was connected to growing up. I had always had a love of animals, especially horses, but that was as far as it went. Furthermore, I didn’t really know anything about agriculture except the anecdotal stories of farmers on tractors out in the paddock, and shearers shearing sheep

Some years later, I still have trouble explaining to people why this city girl chose an agricultural science degree. I think I thought I would end up working on a farm like “McLeod’s Daughters” (try not to roll your eyes!). I loved that television show growing up, and I would have to say it is what definitely sparked my interest in agriculture.

Stephanie McLeod… could I be another illegitimate daughter?Mum, is there something you aren’t telling me?

Going into the Agricultural Science degree, I actually had no idea what I was getting myself in to… as in NO idea! The reason as to why I chose that degree, and why I remained enrolled in it, are very different. Once I got into my degree, I discovered this whole other world, and I haven’t turned back since. I thought I was going to work on a farm as a labourer, like in McLeods Daughters, but at uni I learnt about the science, business and technology which underpins agriculture. There is just so many facets to this industry I often got overwhelmed thinking about them all, and what I wanted to do when I finished.

Initially I became really interested in soil science, and by my second year I was hooked, and odd as that sounds. I was a bit nerdy sometimes, because this was all new to me, I found it so interesting and I just wanted to learn it all. However, in the winter holidays of my second year I went out mustering to a cattle station in for their annual 6 week muster. It was then and there that I decided that beef cattle production was the area I wanted to pursue. However when I got back to university and took another class; pasture science, cropping system, grain marketing etc., I could easily imagine myself having a career in any of these industries. My interest in cattle remained strong, and that’s how I got to where I am today.

 The first yard up of the season at Wongawol Station, 2008

Fast forward a couple of years, and I have graduated with first class honours, and I’m currently editing my thesis so it can be published in a scientific journal. I completed my thesis in the field of meat science. Yes, the science behind steak! I didn’t even know it existed until my 3rd year of university! Gosh, the amount of work that goes into producing and developing each and every one of the commodities and products available at the local supermarket is astounding. Meat science was something I had only had one lecture on before I chose it as the field of my thesis. The lecture wasn’t from my university either, my lecturer had invited a guest from another university to speak, and I am so grateful that she did! Completing my own research was an awesome experience, but to also be researching something I was genuinely interested in and passionate about… I know how I lucky I was.

Taking muscle samples from beef carcasses in 2011 for my thesis

This certainly is not where I thought I would be when I was saying “when I grow up…” as a child, and needless to say my family are still somewhat confused as to how this city girl became mad about beef cattle! The things I have learnt and experienced throughout my degree, not to mention the places I have been and they people I have met, make me feel very lucky. I have been able to go to work/ university/ tafe each day and do something that I enjoy, and be a part of something that actually interests me. I love what I do, and I often joke that my some of my jobs are a “working holiday” because I enjoy them so much. Don’t worry though, there are days when I would rather stay in bed, but for the most part, I love what I do.

In 2010 I took a semester off uni and moved to Katherine, NT, to complete a Certificate II in Agriculture. I had spent 3 years building a solid foundation of knowledge based upon theory, and had done two mustering seasons, but I wanted to develop my practical skills and have them recognised with the certificate. Going to college was one of the best things I have ever done. It was not only an incredible experience to live away from home, and learn about beef production in a new environment, but I met my best friends through the course. It was also a really safe learning environment, as in we could all have a go at learning and not feel silly or embarrassed if we didn’t get it right. I was lucky to do the course with a really good group of kids, and as there was only about 12 of us, we were a tight knit bunch.

Some of the KRC class of 2010 having a happy snap in the workshop during out mechanics class.

We learnt a range of skills at college, from welding, mechanics and tractor operation, to branding, castrating and mustering cattle. The best experience for me though, was being able to work with show cattle, and take them to a rural show on display. I had only ever worked with commercial cattle before, and they aren’t the type that liked to be patted! Show cattle, are completely different, because you can lead them around like a horse. We not only led the show cattle, we brushed and bathed them, and played with them. I really got the chance to learn about the cows up close and personal, and fell in love with the Brahman breed, even though I was showing a bull who was not too fond of me!

Rambo and I having a stand off. I had Chris as my protection, but maybe he would have been better placed between Rambo and I!!

Luckily Star was much more of the cuddly type!

In the second half of 2010 I then moved to Gatton, Qld to do a semester of classes through the University of Queensland. UQ had really different classes to my uni at home, and they were way better too! I took specialised classes in animal biosecurity, animal health and diseases, and animal biometeorology, which is about how animals interact with the weather. I also took a grain marketing class, as I mentioned above, I still had interests in other areas of ag. Animal biometeorology was by far my favourite class. Again, I suspect my inner nerd is to blame, but I loved all of the practical classes, and doing research for my assignments. Living on campus was a great experience too, it’s how I met the rest of my best friends! The people were great, and no one cared that I was from the city!

Dressing up as a cowgirl for a “Cowboys and Indians” themed party on campus. Even several years later, I was still trying to play the role of a cowgirl!

Everywhere I have been I have learnt something different about the industry, and learnt how interconnected it is with the way our society functions on a day to day basis. I am continuously surprised by how innovative and technological the industry is, and what role Australia plays in feeding the world.

Now that I have finished university, I have two career goals. 1) To work in the live export industry, in animal welfare, training, education and supply chain management and 2) To be an active advocate for agriculture, to do my part to reduce the urban/ rural divide, and run a campaign to expose people with no agricultural background to the industry and the opportunities it offer. The latter is what led me to create my website Careers In Australian Agriculture

My advice to anyone thinking about getting into agriculture is… do it! We need you! The world needs to feed 50% more people by 2050, and as Australia is one of the most efficient food and fibre producers in the world, we will play a fundamental role in that. People need to eat, and Australia has the ability to feed the world in a clean, green and ethical way. No matter what experience you have, or what your strengths are, there is a role for you in the industry. The agricultural industry offers careers from the boardroom to the bush, so no matter whether you are more comfortable behind a motorbike or a microscope, there is a role for you!

Wow Stephanie cant wait to see where you be and what you have achieved in ten years time. I am highly confident you wont be standing still

Stephanie now has her own blog you can follow her journey here