This is the second in our series on Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champions for 2012. As it turns out Billy Browning is very special indeed. Not just because he is our first male young farming champion but because everyone I have spoken to tells me he has a view of the world that we all readily admit we embraced. That is life is what you make. Grab it with both hands and make it happen. One of those people was John Bennett from Landmark who said “Simple words from me can not describe just how remarkable this young man is. I have no doubt that in years to come our industry and indeed, society will benefit from the experiences that Billy receives now.” Like Cotton Australia we are thrilled that we can play a small role in defining the future by investing in agriculture’s rising stars like Billy
Did you know that our family farm will produce cotton this year that will make over 860,000 pairs of jeans. Even better than that cotton is only part of a portfolio of food and fibres our family farm produces to feed and clothe Australians and many other people around the globe
My name is Billy Browning and I am pretty excited about that.
In fact I am pretty excited and proud of Australian agriculture in general.
Let me tell you why
Did you know rural, regional and remote Australia occupies 99 per cent of Australia’s landmass and supports 7.7 million people and is the source of close to 70% of our country’s export earnings?
It may also interest you to know the agribusiness sector employs close to 1 million people and has a combined value of over $200 billion per year. Our farmers are custodians of over 60 per cent of our landmass and the world’s third largest fishing zone.
We grow and produce over 93 per cent of our domestic food supply and export 80 per cent of total gross value. Not only that but our scientific research base is world class and our disease free, high quality produce underpins increasing overseas demand as our four billion Asian neighbours seek greater quantities of animal protein.
When you look at it like that you can see agriculture and its related support sectors are of great importance to our national economy and wellbeing. It is once you realise this that you can see the opportunities for young agricultural enthusiasts and the networks that are available.
I am excited my future lies with agriculture and this is my story…
I was born and grew up in the small town of Narromine located in the central west of NSW. It is here that my passion for agriculture first started. I live on a 3rdgeneration property located on the Macquarie River called ‘Narramine station.’ It has been my home all my life and hopefully will stay that way.
Harvesting wheat, Narramine Station, Narromine, December 1903
A convoy of five stripper harvesters and 10 strippers make short work of 5500 acres of wheat grown on the property. On the right can be seen a genuine one-horse-power tread winnower beside grain bags awaiting transport. The railhead at Narromine shipped as many as 103 waggon loads of grain in a day during the harvest.
Find more information about the Melvin Vaniman collection of photographic panoramas in the State Library of New South Wales’ catalogue: acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemdetailpaged.aspx?itemid=413018
The property is 2276 hectares and was purchased in 1975 by my parents. 62% of the farm has access to irrigation water (in the good times) and we have both irrigated and dry land broad-acre cropping. We grow wheat, canola, cotton and corn just to name the major ones depending on the seasonal conditions and availability of water. This year water is in plentiful supply and we have 400 hectares of irrigated cotton.
To harvest this crop we will be employing 18 people for cotton picking which include 4 picker drivers, 6 module makers, 2 boll buggy drivers, 2 truck drivers and 4 ground crew.
The machinery on farm today looks a whole lot different to 1903!!!!!
The previous ten years of drought has led to many on farm innovations and we have realigned our farm business strategy to adapt to limited amounts of water and ensure long-term sustainability with increased hectares of dryland production. (Art4ag says BTW great story on this in The Land from 2010 can be found here)
Me as a young farmer
My parents tell me that my third word was ‘tractor,’ behind ‘mum and dad’ that is. As a kid I would always be going to work with dad and often known for falling asleep on the floor of the header during harvest. By the age of 5, I was driving manual vehicles around the farm and by the age of 13, I was part of the workforce, driving tractors as a contractor on neighbouring properties.
I also tried my hand fairly successfully at junior competitions at local shows gaining 1st places in sheep wool and cotton judging
My passion for agriculture increased when my parents sent me away to boarding school in year 7. At Knox Grammar School I studied agriculture in year 11 and 12 and this is where I became fascinated by the science and technology that underpins agriculture.
The future – How can we be the change that needs to be.
Firstly currently agriculture is facing a workforce shortage due in part to the ageing of its workforce. Within seven years, close to 57 per cent of our existing workforce will be over 55 and half of our agricultural scientists are already nearing retirement. I believe we can attract talented young people to agriculture by showing the innovation and productivity gains that drive the farming sector in this country using young people from within the industry to spread the message that farming is the business to be in for all the right reasons
Secondly it is fundamentally important that we get young people on farms to make the direct connection between the food and fibre and the farm. On-farm experience is where the greatest knowledge is gained, even if it is only a few hours, anybody that is even considering a career in agriculture should try and gain as much experience as possible in my eyes. The truth is; it is not hard at all to gain experience, there are so many industries out there that are willing to take you around for a day or that are running workshops. For those thinking of being agronomists, call up your local agronomist and just simply ask whether you can go for a run with him to a local farm and just gain an insight, for those wanting to focus more on the economics of agricultural, make a simple phone call to your local bank and ask whether they have an agricultural branch and whether it is possible to come in and just ask some simple questions, their answer will be yes. That is the greatest factor about the industry is that everyone is willing to give everyone a chance.
Obviously my love for agriculture has grown via the farm, I work full-time on the farm when I am home. I am involved in all operations, irrigation, harvest, picking, spraying, earth-moving, sowing and general farm maintenance. This has led me to realise the important relationship between farm inputs and outputs and why smart business thinking is they key to sustainable farming. This realisation has lead me to studying agricultural economics at the University of Sydney.
Support Networks Abound
I am fortunate enough to have gained a Sydney University Rural Sustainability scholarship and be an Horizon scholar. I mention these scholarships to show people that it is possible to get into university and follow your dreams even if you don’t get the marks or have the funds, there are so many scholarships on offer for people wanting to be involved in agriculture and wishing to enter the industry, you just have to go searching!
So this is my story to date and i hope it has show you like me you can have a bright future in the agriculture sector. I encourage those with an interest or even a niggling to go and ask questions as many questions as you would like There are plenty of people wanting to help.
Although I haven’t decided on what part of the industry I want to end up in, I know that I am trying to make the most of the opportunities out there and taking on everything along the way.
Just remember it’s a learning curve – and mistakes will be made along the way but my experience tells me there are plenty of people and support networks in agriculture and the rewards are worth it .
billy you are so grown up now. you dont look like my little fishn buddy anymore. just the other day i came across the letter you wrote me when i left there. it brought tears to my eyes. firstname.lastname@example.org