The Voice of the Future

Art4agriculture has a big picture vision for Australia. We want a vibrant, dynamic and innovative food sector that is seen by next gen as a career of first choice.

Art4agriculture is on a crusade to do whatever it takes to create a culture of change at industry level and make investing in our young people the number 1 key performance indicator. We are finding exciting, inspiring young people in agriculture everywhere we look and we love it.

Today’s guest blog comes from Horizon Scholar Ashley Hobbins who is currently undertaking a  Bachelor of Applied Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania

Wet day checking for new calves

Ashley was a PICSE student and has been associated with farming all her life. She would like to work as a teacher in Agriculture, inspiring students to undertake a career in primary industries.

Here is Ashley’s story …….

Agriculture is at the core of everybody’s life but for some people it runs a little deeper, it’s a way of life and an industry which inspires. You don’t have to run a thousand head of cattle or grow hectares of crops to have a passion and drive for this amazing sector which is worth so much but unfortunately unnoticed by so many.

My story begins on a cattle and sheep property in the country side of Victoria where as a child I spent my days following dad around when he fed out hay to livestock or penned up sheep in the shearing shed.bobby calf and me

It is however the city where most of the chapters to my story are written. I love living in the city and being able to walk down to the shops to grab a bargain or getting dressed up for a Saturday night out on the town but to me there is nothing like putting on a pair of old jeans and work boots and spending the day out in the paddock. I am currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania and am working towards gaining my Masters of Teaching. It is no secret that the field of agriculture needs more workers and I personally believe that programs such as well-run school farms in high schools create knowledgeable and skilled students ready to enter the workforce or continue further education in agriculture. After working in the industry it is my intention to become a teacher and hopefully inspire students to forge a career in agriculture.

Brooks High School was a major stepping stone for me as it was here that I was introduced to the science behind agriculture and motivated me to pursue the career I am. There are also great programs available such as the Tasmanian Farmers and Grazier’s Discover Agriculture program where I was shown some of the many industries within agriculture and given the opportunity to have a week’s work experience in the dairy industry. I have also been lucky enough to have work experience in the poppy and wine industries as well as government research. There are so many chances for travel within the industry as it is everywhere you go and whilst being involved in the Primary Industries Centre for Science Education program I travelled to Western Australia. I also travelled to Warwick on a Charolais Society sponsored trip where I participated in cattle handling, preparing and judging and was awarded the husbandry award.

1st in handlers

Many people disregard university as an option as it is too expensive but the fact is that there are so many scholarships out there to help budding agricultural scientists. Through the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s Horizon scholarship I have been provided with not only financial support but also a mentor who is there to help me through my degree. I have also had the opportunity to travel to Canberra every year of my degree to build my skills in leadership and meet some great people. This year I also travelled to Sydney on a sponsored trip to participate in the Charlie Arnot workshop.

LR Horizon Scholars IMG_1065

Ashley and fellow Horizon Scholars at FFAgOz workshops in Sydney with Charlie Arnot

Winning the Greenham Tasmania scholarship in 2011 saw me having lunch with the Governor of Tasmania and my acceptance speech for the ACAS/Coca Cola scholarship boosted my confidence considerably. The reason why I mention these accolades is to highlight that if you get out there and discover the possibilities there is every chance you can be offered a way and means of getting where you want to be. University is not the only option and I have enjoyed going through the more practical pathway, completing a VET II Certificate in Agriculture before attending college.

Grinding soil samples

There are so many great people in the industry and being involved in extracurricular activities has allowed me to meet some of these people. I’ve been able to talk to students during recent PICSE and TFGA camps as a guest speaker and co-facilitator at the 2012 TFGA Hobart camp, as well as running a workshop at the Growing Your Future 2011 event. Getting involved in our university’s Ag Science Society as secretary has allowed me to interact with industry members.

In addition to work experience I’ve also worked in a shearing shed, cutting vegetables, packing and preparing vegetables and working with beef cattle as well as selling fruit and vegetables. My passion for beef cattle started with showing at high school where I showed Murray Greys, Angus and Charolais cattle. I was then asked to show for a Belted Galloway stud and now show for a Murray Grey stud as well as being involved in the Murray Grey Youth.

There are so many prospects in the agriculture sector and my story is just a snap shot of what opportunities are available. The industry is full of enthusiastic workers from all walks of life and is waiting for even more people to enter the industry and make a difference. So why not take a leap of faith and explore the interesting and amazing sector that is agriculture?!

Back to me. There is no denying that Ashley is a superstar. She sees opportunitities for professional development and she grasps them with both hands and makes life happen for her. Ashley is obviously special but she isnt a one off nor need she be. I get phone calls from young people in agriculture from all around Australia with obvious potential to be another Ashely everyday.

They are out there industry. You just need to invest in them.

A big shout out to Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation for investing in Next Gen though Ashley

When the heart speaks the stars shine

Lucinda Giblett is our latest guest blogger in our endeavour to showcase an emerging and exciting passionate group of people in their 20s and 30s who have chosen farming as a career.

As you will see Lucinda is clearly a deep thinker with a strong social conscience ……

I grew up on the family farm in Manjimup, Western Australia. Think endless pallets of fruit packing trays for cubbies, packing boxes and apple bins for playpens. Study at boarding school, uni, and many years of exotic adventure followed. I guess I had to break free!

In 2008, Dad announced he was converting one of our orchards to organic farming practices. It was a worthy carrot, and a few months later, I was back on sweet home soil and ready to stay.


I’ve since spent my time learning as much as I can about the complex and challenging business of growing food. Our family business supplies supermarkets, producing 5000 tonnes of apples a year – that’s about an apple a day, all year for every person in our 10,000 strong Shire. I’ve also learnt a lot simply by having a go at growing veggies in my backyard. Along the way, I’ve found a true passion for agriculture and ecology, or if you like, land stewardship.

And many of us already know that generally, humans aren’t taking enough care of the earth right now. Once you dig in, you find the issues are deeply more serious than most care to realise.


Left: Display of apple biodiversity of Italy’s Piedmonte region, at Turin’s 2010 international Slow Food convention, Terra Madre, which numbered 500 at the beginning of the 20th century. I attended along 5000 other farmers, scholars, students and chefs from over 160 countries.

I was introduced to food security and related issues via my involvement with the international non-profit organisation, Slow Food, as well as industry campaigns against lax biosecurity protocols proposed for apple imports.

Below: Display of 5 dominant apple varieties worldwide today.


You can’t really begin to understand food security without taking stock of the global picture first. People in countries like Australia have an insatiable appetite to consume, and there are powerful systems in place to perpetuate this paradigm. The emerging middle class in China, India and south-east Asia are keen to follow suit.

We have an apparent ignorance of finite resources (particularly oil and phosphorus), an escalating world populous, increasing climatic variation, vast cities claiming more arable land, less water, declining investment worldwide in agricultural science research, and a host of associated sub plots all of which tell me, and leading commentators I admire such as Julian Cribb, that we are propelling down a very dangerous path.


A depressing scenario, some might choose to think, but I think we need to look for possibility and opportunity. Rather than being blocked by the enormity of the problem, I think we need to ask, what could we do in our local communities? What small steps could we take to ensure our children have a world worth living in?

My answer is creating a local charity called Stellar Violets, and with my proposal I received runner-up in the 2012 RIRDC WA Rural Women’s Awards. Quite a coup really, considering I only entered after someone overheard me talking about the charity idea, and suggested I give it a go!

Named for my grandmothers, in its conception Stellar Violets honours all the oft unacknowledged matriarchs and raft of skilled women that came before us. I’m acknowledging how relevant their wisdom, tenacity and resilience is for us today, and will be for tomorrow.


With Stellar Violets, we’ll create opportunities to learn skills in self-reliance, living simply, food production, master and traditional artisan crafts, with a particular focus on environmental stewardship and applying the wisdom of our elders.


Suiting up to learn BeeKeeping with local master, Curly Aitken, who for years has kept bees on our orchards with his wife Jean.

Our vision is to create the Stellar Violets Experimental Farm to demonstrate self-reliant living and small scale, diversified food production systems based on regenerative agricultural techniques. We’ll invite people from all walks to visit, experience, learn, and contribute.


I don’t think we can overestimate how valuable being part of a strong, resilient, skilled community is going to be in the coming times. If you think self-reliance, and a holistic, ethical approach to nurturing our communities and country makes good old-fashioned sense, get in touch to share in the Stellar Violets vision.

Note: I’m already on the lookout for skilled volunteers and am also be seeking sponsors for projects. Email me to find out more, join us on Facebook, or follow our blog, that’ll become a website later in the year.

Yoghurt comes from trees – dispelling the myths

Agriculture was on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning for all the wrong reasons again.  The article by Saffron Howden highlights the worrying levels of knowledge or lack of, about agriculture in schools

A survey released by Primary Industries Education Foundation shows that student and teacher knowledge of food and fibre production has declined to worrying levels. It is a wake-up call to government says PIEF’s Chair, Dr Cameron Archer.

The survey was undertaken by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). It reveals that 75 per cent of students thought cotton socks were an animal product and 45 per cent of students could not identify that everyday lunchbox items such as a banana, bread and cheese originated from farms.

Read article by  Saffron Howden

Cultural cringe: schoolchildren can’t see the yoghurt for the trees

Read survey

Now lets be clear statistics like this and the fact that they highlight the disconnect between urban and rural Australia are not new and are not surprising.

What is new is that Agriculture now has a peak education body, the Primary Industries Education Foundation’s who, as part of it’s objectives can provide national leadership and coordination of initiatives to encourage primary industries education in schools through a partnership between industry, government and educators.

As witnessed today agriculture now has an independent provider of credible, relevant and factual information on all matters relating to agriculture for the community who can open all the right doors and get front page news in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The statistics are also not surprising after all Australia is the most urbanised country in the world and as we grow so will the disconnect. It was for exactly this reason that Art4Agriculture and our unique education programs were developed

It is vitally important that we re-connect. The health, wealth and happiness of all Australians depends upon it.   We are a lucky country and as a result food security does not register with most Australians.  As a testament to this our Archibull Prize surveys showed only half of the student participants surveyed in 2011 knew that Australian farmers feed 60 million people. In fact 40% thought Australian farmers ONLY feed 6 million people

Yet the survey further showed the students are not overly concerned about food shortages and instead are most worried about water scarcity and pollution – things they have witnessed first hand. We do not want our young people to be food insecure before they appreciate agriculture and the farmers who grow their food and fibre.

This appreciation will only be achieved if we engage in a 2 way conversations with students and teachers.  We all know that just making resources available for teachers without support and context does not work.  Programs must be engaging, they must put farmers and students together, they must support teachers to expand their learning of agriculture and they must deliver real outcomes that can be shared with a wider audience if we are going to have significant impact.

The survey commissioned  by PIEF and undertaken by ACER highlights the importance of a sustainability message for students in addition to students understanding where there food comes from.

We must get the balance right between food and fibre production and the environment. We must communicate this message and our farmers’ commitment to sustainable and ethical food and fibre production to urban audiences.

In fact sustainability IS the key message in Art4Agriculture’s programs with the theme of the Archibull Prize being “What does it take to feed and clothe your community for a day sustainably”.

All our programs are a true celebration of the people and the places behind the food we eat. They deliver strong rural sustainability messages – not just to the students involved, but also to the wider community. They showcase the positive things farmers are doing and empower them to share their stories. Our activities are genuine, contemporary, engaging, fun and full of hope for a sustainable future.

Agriculture, this survey is yet another wake up call to get behind programs such as Art4Agriculture that promote a “whole of industry vision” and a willingness to engage in two way communication between stakeholders and community.


24 hours after this story hit the new stands there are over 1.7 million links to it on the web worldwide. Embarassing yes but lets not play the blame game. This is a tripartate problem for goverment, industry and education but the solution is already out there and its already happening.

Agriculture now has a peak industry education body and we have cross industry highly successful independent in-school programs like Art4agriculture getting measurable results. The challenge is can we break down the industry silos and work together for the common good

Interested in Australian Agriculture?

Want to know all about Australian cotton farming check out this prize winning Archibull Prize entry from Colo High School

Or see what happens when you take fun and innovative agriculture programs into schools and actively engage with next gen who in turn become your AGvocates and tell Agriculture’s story for you.

Art4Agriculture Presents 2011 Cream of the Crop Finalists

Fast Facts about Australian agriculture

Sourced from the National Farmers Federation Farm Facts 2012

  • Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people, 150 at home and 400 overseas
  • Australian farmers produce almost 93 per cent of Australia’s daily domestic food supply.
  • Australia’s major agricultural export markets are China (14 %), Japan (13 %), ASEAN (21 % ), other Asia (16 %), European Union (8 %), Middle East (8 %), United States (7 %) and other (17 %).
  • Australian farmers are environmental stewards, owning, managing and caring for 61 percent of Australia’s land mass.
  • 94 %of Australian farmers actively undertake natural resource management.

We are all in this together

Art4agriculture was conceived because I saw a number of gaps that needed filling and the first need was to put real farmer faces to the produce and give people real farmers they can relate.

Secondly their was a real need to put farmers back in the driving seat and give them a vehicle to tell their story their way.

I was finding more and more our industry messages where being delivered by marketing people who new nothing about the farms and the farmers they were promoting and this was leading to frightening outcomes. Just to give an example Dairy Farmers a very large farmer owned dairy cooperative released a very shiny expensive booklet called “Who we are and what we do” and all of the on farm images in the booklet where of a farmer with beef cattle.

It was no better at Dairy Australia. Six years ago according to the Dairy Australia marketing department Australian Milking Zebus were a major dairy breed in Australia and Jersey cows and Guernsey cows were the same thing. To make matters worse there was a  breed of Australian bred cattle of significant numbers – Aussie Reds – that they had never heard of.

Thirdly Art4agriculture was conceived to give agriculture a strong voice through Next Gen.  Pivotally our Next Gen Young Farming Champions actively acknowledge all primary industries share common and are breaking down the silos that have stagnated agriculture in this country for too long. They have a whole of industry long term collaborative vision and we are currently call for Expressions of interest for our third round of Young Farming Champions who will be trained to go out into their communities and sharing their farming stories to diverse audiences from school students to government ministers at every opportunity

Art4agriculture also recognise there are some phenomenal organisations and people  doing wonderful things to selflessly promote rural and regional and remote Australian communities and their farmers. We have been approached by and now formed partnerships with some of these very exciting organisations and people to cross promote our joint vision and allow us all to punch above our weight for the common good of agriculture and the farmers who feed us.

Art4agriculture’s first partnership was with LandLearn NSW. At that time LandLearn NSW was coordinated by the amazing Carmen Perry from whom the fledgling Art4Agriculture team learnt so much.  We are forever grateful Carmen.

Today LandLearn NSW is run by Carolyn Smith another dynamo with a smile to knock your socks off who is a true treasure to work with.

Art4agriculture is a proud supporting partner of the annual LandLearn NSW Speech Spectacular and what we love about this competition is its provides a clever vehicle for next gen urban to tell and share our farming stories and key messages for us.

Here is a great example.  Grace Mahon is a year 5 student at Jamberoo Public School and this speech “The Environment is What we Eat” has found her a place in the finals on March 15th at Dubbo NSW

Video and images by Art4agriculuture

The overall winner (and for the last two years this has been a primary school student) is given the opportunity to be the guest speaker at the Cream of the Crop Awards and Presentation Day at Sydney Royal Easter Show each year

Last year the winner was Callum Hislop.

The first Speech Spectacular Winner Lachlan Hoyle deliver his speech at the Cream of Crop Awards and Presentation Day in 2010. Lachlan is introduced to the audience by MC Young Farming Champion Alison McIntosh

Check our some of the other 2012  finalist speeches here

Very impressive indeed. Australia’s farmers say #thankyouLandlearnNSW and #nextgenurban for helping spread the great story of Australian agriculture

Don’t fence us in

I was recently approached by a film company for some recommendations of young people in the Agrifood sector for “talent” for a series of stories on exciting young Australians. Not knowing a lot about the project I decided to let some exciting young Australians pitch themselves (without knowing) through our blog 

The film company said to me “We don’t just want women” and I said to them Art4Agriculture isn’t a female only organisation by design but we know if we had waited for the male sex to put up their hands to even the numbers Art4Agriculuture wouldn’t exist yet and as “doing” is more important to us than to be “seen to be doing” we just got on with it

So this article today titled Caring professions are being ignored in our awards system in today’s SMH caught my eye.  The first paragraph reads 

Another Australia Day, another round of fireworks and another honours list. Another evocation of the qualities Australia admires and the fields that Australians look up to, from which we can deduce that Australians think the things men do are twice as worthy as the things that women do.

In 2005 I won an award titled “ Kiama Electorate Woman of the Year”  which saw me on the podium a number of times asked to talk on various themes around women’s rights and women’s roles in society. I must admit it wasn’t a space I enjoyed being in. I was a retail pharmacist for 30 years. Women were always the employee of choice and could always command a better wage than men because it was recognised by the owners of pharmacies who were invariably men that “women make the best pharmacists and pharmacist assistants”. In fact I never felt disadvantaged because of my sex in any way in the pharmacy profession. Agriculture is different and in the main I believe this is because too often we define people in agriculture by the number of hours they work and tasks they perform not by how smart they work    

I recently wrote a blog post on the danger of defining something by simply attaching a label to it. This post looked at the demonization of large scale conventional agriculture out of hand 

Often labels elicit strong feelings, I am a baby boomer and soon that will lead to the label “senior citizen”   Please, please rebadge that one before it’s my turn. I like this one “60 is the new 20”.

This post is exploring another label “Women”. I like to read and last Friday when my TV reception went AWOL I read a number of book reviews.  One review “women will enjoy this book” raised my eyebrows (and generated steam)

Wow in the first instance this book must be a publisher’s goldmine with women currently 49.76% of the world’s population.

Secondly as I fit the label by virtue of my sex this review must mean by association I will enjoy this book.  Now I just happen to enjoy crime novels particularly novels by the Scandinavian writers Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum., Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Stieg Larsson and Arnaldur Indriðason. But this wasn’t a crime novel let alone a Scandinavian crime novel

So here is my personal reflection on the label “women” with respect to recognition of the role of women and gender equity. 

Firstly as a generalisation men and women are different in many ways and that is a good thing. 

Agriculture today still tends to let others pigeon hole women by failing to acknowledge that women farmers are champions not only behind the farmgate but also that they contribute at an unparalleled level in the wider community.

Recent example that comes to mind – “Wanted for Australian Year of the Farmer promotion. Young Male Farmers for Cleo photo-shoot and Rural Women Leaders with recipes for cookbook”

Its undeniably true there are amazing women out there who can hold their own and stand side by side with men driving headers, handling bank managers, drenching livestock , artificially inseminating cattle, birthing calves and the list goes on. Yet they are not acknowledged as “real farmers” because of their sex. This is a travesty and many women are justifiably lobbying hard to change this mindset.  There are also many farming women who are doing equally amazing things beyond the farmgate who are celebrated by the community, but go unrecognised by industry.

I am the current runner up in the National Farm Industry Leader of the Year. After the announcement there were the usual congratulations and commiserations. One of which was “a win would have been great victory for women in agriculture”.   My reply was “yes it would have been a bonus for women but it would have been a great victory for AGvocacy”  

Women have come a long way since the 15th century when marriage was what defined a woman. A woman was who she married. When unmarried, a woman was the property of her father, and once married, she became the property of her husband.

She had few rights, except for any privileges her husband or father gave her. Married women had to obey their husbands and were expected to be chaste, obedient, pleasant, gentle, submissive, and, unless sweet-spoken, silent.  Whew just as well I didn’t live in the 15th century  

Another Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend article showed statistics revealed 40% of children under 10 receive an allowance. Unexplainably boys receive 10% more than girls.   A wise woman once said people treat you how you teach them to treat you

I put it to you gender equity starts in the home with education and awareness from day one.

Bringing up the next generation to value and respect women at all levels will achieve more in one or two generations than the last 500 years of sweat, pain and frustration   

To me and the women I find my self surrounded by in agriculture, awards are one of a number key marketing tools and a platform to assist with our future work.

For example  the media profile that goes with winning an award for me can  

  • Encourage other young farmers, to contact me and be trained as ‘industry champions’ for the Young Farming Champions program
  • Motivate and create the extra impetus for much needed funding and the public and industry support required to engage and raise awareness of the next generation of Australian consumers and decision makers about the pivotal role Australian farmers play in producing our food and fibre and supporting the nation’s economy, community and rural amenity.

If awards are just a competition between various demographics then I wonder if the Sydney Morning Herald worked out the statistics on how many farmers got Australia Day award honours compared to other professions.

Its not what we win that defines us Australia, its what we do. Lets not sweat the small stuff which is such a waste of energy and attracts a carbon tax.     

BTW.  I have asked equal numbers of exciting young men in the Agrifood sector to write me a blog post. To-date I have one. I look forward to your comments on men in agriculture and their propensity to hide behind a bushel