Life is an opportunity– Cotton said grab it with both hands and Katie did

We are a bit overwhelmed at Art4agriculuture headquarters. We have a queue of amazing young agriculture  superstars to profile. Its time to celebrate.  Just who are we kidding; Oz is full of incredible young things taking up agrifood career pathways

Another shining example is Katie Broughton who is the third in our series of stories on Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champions for 2012.

Here is Katie’s story ……

I grew up on a mixed farming property at Young, in southern NSW. It seemed like the perfect childhood. I loved having the open spaces and the freedom to play outside. I loved milking the cows with dad, going around the paddocks with both of my parents, picking up firewood with my whole family and looking after poddy calves and lambs. I suppose that during this time, I inadvertently learned a lot about the farm and how the business runs. For me, however, it was a way of life.

katie broughton milking cow

Throughout school I loved biology, much to the amusement of my friends. So when I finished my HSC, I knew that I wanted to go to University and study science, but had never really considered a career in Agriculture. I was overwhelmed by so many different options, and considered such diverse courses as Nutrition and Dietetics, Medical Science and Land and Water Science, but eventually decided on a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Sydney. I realised that although agricultural science may seem specific, in actual fact it is incredibly diverse, with options to study soil science, agronomy, plant pathology, entomology, economics, and the list goes on!

Katie Broughton 1

It may seem unusual that someone would choose to study an agricultural degree at the University of Sydney (right in the middle of the city), and I have often been asked why, especially when there were other options which were closer to home. For me, it was an opportunity to live in the city, and I wanted to know what it was like. I am really glad that I made this decision. However, there were so many people and it drove me crazy that it would take an hour to drive a distance that would only take 15 minutes to drive at home.

I lived at one of the colleges on campus, and this was one of the best decisions that I have made. It was wonderful to make so many new friends who were studying a variety of degrees and from all walks of life! Since many of these friends have also moved around the country, I take the opportunity to visit them when I am passing by in my travels.

In the summer holidays between 2007/08, I had the opportunity to work on an entomology (insect) project at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) in Narrabri, NSW. I looked at the behaviour of mirids (a pest in cotton) and their response to their predators. The following summer holidays between 2008/09, I came up to ACRI at Narrabri again, this time to work on my 4thyear honours project looking at root growth in cotton.

Katie Broughton 3

I have just started my PhD looking at the effect of climate change on cotton production, and I am again living in Narrabri.

In March 2012 Katie was awarded a DAFF Science and Innovation Award for her PhD research.

I have already had some amazing opportunities since starting this project. Last year, I went to the World Cotton Conference in India. This was a wonderful adventure… I saw Indian cotton varieties and production systems, I met international scientists and had the opportunity to do some sight-seeing in India. Later this year, I will travel to Texas in the United States to spend some time working with scientists on new technology that I will bring back to use in Australia.

Both of these trips have been made possible by financial support from the cotton industry. I feel that the cotton industry listens to what the consumers want, and to what farmers need and it invests resources into developing opportunities. Over the years, research has enabled the cotton industry to reduce pesticide use and to improve water use efficiency, both of which were major concerns within the wider community. The research that I am involved in is looking at the impact of climate change on Australian cotton production, and I am excited that the work that I am involved in might ultimately be used to help formulate management decisions, in cotton and other crop production, in years to come.

Katie Broughton 4

Having lived in a couple of different rural communities and in the city, I have no difficulty in deciding where my future lies. My understanding of the challenges that rural communities face in times of floods, droughts and changing economic, ethical and social climates has inspired me to become involved in agricultural research. From a personal point of view, I love being involved in the local community whether it is a weekend picnic with friends at Mt Kaputar, helping with the Science in Schools programme at local primary schools or taking a turn supervising the jumping castle at the local food festival.

Art4agriculture with the support of Cotton Australia is taking Katie and Tamsin Quirk to Broome to participate in Catherine Marriott and Lizzie Brennan’s initiative Women Influential.  Our second workshop will see Billy Browning take up the Young Farming Champion’s Challenge.

Its time to stop kidding ourselves young exciting people do want careers in agriculture and our future is in safe hands as long as we stand together committed to finding the resources to invest in them

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