I have been everywhere man

Continuing our feature on Inspiring Young People in the Agrifood Sector. This is a guest post by Steph Fowler who has just started a PhD in Meat and Livestock Science,


There are everywhere man!!! All these inspiring young Australians choosing agriculture as a career of first choice and why wouldn’t they ? Hassad are investing in OZ agriculture for all these reason We should be proud of our Aussie Farmers they have a great reputation world wide


The Steph Fowler story………..

Farming isn’t in my blood; it’s barely even in my family. I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a small coastal suburb, Green Point, as far away from the country as you could get. Believe it or not I have just started my PhD in Meat and Livestock Science, with a project that is looking at the potential of Raman Spectroscopy in predicting meat quality (translation – I measure meat with lasers). I eat and breathe meat and livestock but it hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would end up joining an incredibly rewarding, innovative and exciting industry that would take me across the country and around the world.

New Zealand Drafting

It wasn’t until high school when I decided to study agriculture because I liked animals that I got involved. After a very successful first cattle show, I was hooked and became a fully-fledged member of the school cattle team and spent the remainder of my high school years breeding, preparing and showing stud Limousins.

Central Coast Steer Show 04

Once I left high school I headed up to Tocal Ag College, in search of more practical skills and completed a Cert III in Horse Husbandry and a Cert IV in Ag. Part of these courses included work experience on properties. You can just imagine I readily jumped at the opportunity to go to New Zealand and work as a general shepherd before heading up to work for Northern Australian Pastoral Company on Connemara Station in Queensland. I loved the life of a jillaroo so much that after finishing at Tocal, I readily agreed to stay on with NAPCO heading out to the Barkley Tablelands in the Northern Territory to be a jillaroo, on Soudan Station.

Drafting at Soudan

After my jillaroo career finally ended after I smashed my left foot in a motorbike accident in September 2007, I began the next step in my journey by undertaking a Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Western Sydney in 2008.

Moving Sheep NZ

When I started my undergraduate degree, I became involved with the Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) Competition as a competitor and then as the UWS Coach. ICMJ introduced me to meat science and provided me an opportunity to do work experience across the supply chain with Australian Country Choice (ACC) Teys Australia and Cargill Beef Australia. I worked throughout the beef supply chain, in manufacturing, processing, at feedlots and on stations but still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I completed an enterprise study for uni, at a 17 000hd feedlot that realised I wanted to become a scientist in research and development as I got a real kick out of bringing new ideas to the table and having a say in how things could be done.


My involvement in showing also took a new turn when I started uni as I joined the local agriculture society and got heavily involved in the running of the Hawkesbury Show and helped organise junior judging and a junior judging training day for youth of the area. It was this involvement that lead me to be the Hawkesbury Showgirl for 2011. No small feat for a girl now more comfortable in boots then heels!

Hawkesbury Show 2011

After completing my honours in assessing the impact of Hormonal Growth Promotant defects on the productivity of beef feedlot steers, I was torn between doing more research for the feedlots and taking on a new project within meat science. I ended up deciding on meat science, it’s my kind of career because it’s unique. No two days are ever the same.  I spend days out in the paddocks, in the yards, at the feedlots, in the processors, and in the lab. It’s that vital step where paddock meets the plate, where we can make or break the hard work of the farmers. It’s also important (and usually overlooked) to make sure that the meat industries can increase productivity to ensure supply of meat without compromising animal welfare, the environment and all essential meat quality.

There are increasing challenges associated with meat production with cost-price squeezes, environmental challenges, changing policies and labour skills shortages, to name a few, but there are also increasing opportunities as Australia and the world attempt to meet increasing demand for food. Consequently, the direction of agriculture and meat production for the future is changing and I want to be part of it’s new direction.

Food Self Suffiency

Only 5.7% of Australia is suitable for food production yet our farmers feed 60 million plus people. We  are a very lucky country indeed with food in abundance. Well done Aussie Farmers

Cows Create Careers

Wow what exciting group our 2012 Young Farming Champions are. Tom Pearce is the latest addition to #teamdairy. We cant wait for our next workshop to meet the team. Just talking to them on the phone inspires me

This is the Tom Pearce story ………..

I live in Bega on the far south coast of NSW, and whilst some may say we are a little isolated I have a different perspective. I am 25 minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the snow, 2.5 hours from Canberra, 5 hours from Sydney and 7 hours from Melbourne and 5 minutes from the nearest fishing spot. There are not too many places that can boast that combination! Top that off with the international reputation of Bega Cheese, I’m proud to say I live in Bega and that I am one of the farmers whose cows supply the milk that goes into cheese!

Narelle Norm and Tom Pearce photo by Simone Smith Weekly Times

Narelle, Norm and Tom Pearce on the family farm – photo Simone Smith The Weekly Times

Growing up on the farm I soon realised this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Everywhere the farm beckoned me, the green pastures, the sound of a calf bellowing, the love of the clean crisp morning air, riding “shotgun” in the tractor with dad. I was born and bred a dairy farmer and being the 4thgeneration to farm here I had dairy farming in my blood.

Whist being tagged a farm boy at school may have been a little disheartening at the time I now realise it wasn’t all that bad. While others finished school without a clue in the world where they were headed, I knew what I wanted to do! While school definitely wasn’t my favourite place to be, I stuck it out realising the importance of bringing as much knowledge as I could back to the farm

Every afternoon I raced home, had a quick snack and then headed straight to the dairy to see where I could help! No spending hours indoors playing video games for me, I was always on the motorbike moving cows, helping dad in the dairy or in the calf shed!

july10 012

I finished school in January 2005 and how pleased was I to see the end of those language textbooks and the beginning of the real world! No assignments, no exams just plenty of time to spend on the farm and not to mention the countless hours of free time to spend fishing! University wasn’t for me. My father had generations of knowledge and expertise to share with me and I had a 940 acre textbook to study. I was happy with that and I reckon I’ve done alright since!

My interest in cows really got a kick along when Michael Boyd invited me to attend International Dairy Week (IDW). “Boydy” has always been quick to spot a keen kid and give them a helping hand on their journey to build up a high genetic meritherd of show cattle. So in 2005 this very keen kid attended his first IDW, a week of hands on experience; working with the best of the best in the stud cattle arena to help prepare elite Holstein cows for the show ring. IDW is the largest exhibition of dairy cattle in the southern hemisphere with 3500 people attending in 2012 and all talking cows in the one location. I became addicted after my first show and haven’t missed a year since!


The Mecca for all dairy cattle enthusiasts is on the other side of the world. World Dairy Expois held in Madison, Wisconsin, USA for one week every year and features some of the best dairy cows in the world. I attended my first Expo in 2007. That was 5 years ago and I have been back every year since! The 24 hours’ worth of travel time all seems irrelevant when you’re hanging around these awesome creatures and spending time with like-minded people. Over the years I have made so many great friends and industry contacts both locally and abroad all through a mutual love and respect for dairy cows!


I was keen to get involved myself and join all these young people out in the ring showing their cows. You quickly learn success doesn’t come overnight and getting to the top of the class and staying there is easier said than done! It’s very rewarding to see your own show successes improve and start to be competitive at the highest level.


Over the last few years in local competitions we have achieved a number of supreme champion awards. The last 2 years our family has achieved 2 first place ribbons at the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show, and that was pretty exciting and recognition that you are breeding good cows and continuing to lift your standard. Working our way from the bottom of the class to be now mixing it with the “old hands” of the show ring is quite rewarding!

Have a good eye for cattle is essential and being able to pick out a “good one” is the key to winning in the show ring. To hone my skills I have been to numerous judging schools and participated in many judging competitions.

A highlight was winning the National Junior Dairy Cattle Judging Competition in 2008. I have been invited to judge at numerous shows around the country and most recently at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It was quite the honour to come back and judge the dairy youth competitions that I once competed in myself!


In 2009 I was named as one of the seven RAS Rural Achievers, or as we called ourselves “the Top 7 in the state” This competition identifies highly motivated young people all with keen interest in promoting agriculture. It was a jam packed week of fun and learning at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which gave me new friends and great memories for life.


In July 2009 I was hit with the travel bug and after pooling my resources and contacts I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This 6 month sojourn featured time in both North America and Europe. I did the tourist thing and saw the sights, but the majority of the time was spent working voluntarily on dairy farms, attending dairy shows and honing my craft. I learnt so much from the people I worked with, they appreciated my willingness to work hard and they noticed my eagerness and were only too happy to share their knowledge. Its one thing you’ll discover about the dairy industry and I guess it applies to all forms of agriculture; farmers love to promote and teach young people. If you show you are interested and motivated and prepared to listen farmers are only too happy to give advice and point you in the right direction .

On returning home I have put my new found knowledge and enthusiasm into practice on the farm, and shared my knowledge with anyone willing to listen. I have taken our breeding program to the next level, incorporating imported embryos from North America and using the best dairy sires available to mate over our herd. I have actively marketed our cattle in breed magazines, exhibited at major shows and sold heifers at elite dairy sales. My family’s stud Warwick Farm Holsteins and my own Progressive Holsteinsare I hope on their way to becoming household names within the Australian dairy industry.

Something else I am also ardent about is my involvement with the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp. This event is designed to nurture the future of the Australian dairy industry. I am one of a handful of camp leaders who eagerly share their knowledge with the young participants. My passion for the dairy industry has also landed me in a number of positions including Cows Create Careers presentations, the Holstein Australia Youth Committeeand the RAS Dairy Youth Committee all involve fostering and encouraging the next generation of farmers.


My interest in exhibiting dairy cows has taken me to various dairy events and royal shows around the country where I am often bewildered by the lack of basic agricultural knowledge shown by our city counterparts. I have been asked all types of questions and in most cases I’m only too happy to answer but there a couple of times and I think it’s out of frustration I may have been guilty of leading a few city folk astray answering particular questions they ask!, Yes it was good for a laugh but it sheds light on a bigger issue. The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate.

It also saddens me in this age of technology and innovation in agriculture that farming is too often brushed aside as too much hard work and long hours with little financial return.Yes it is hard work and more often than not it’s not a 9-5 job but there is an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you watch something grow and produce something that provides society with its most important needs!

If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.

I believe a great start to communities valuing what farmers do and giving them access to the tools to do it would be to make Agriculture a compulsory subject at school. Today’s youth are the next generation and they have many decisions to make about how best to feed an ever growing population with many third world countries still struggling to feed themselves. If we are going to tackle these complex issues we not only need these young people to support our farmers we also need these young people to see the great career opportunities in agriculture that lie outside the big cities! I can assure them all there is no more rewarding career

From the udder side of the fence

I would like you all to meet our latest Young Farming Champion – Jessica Monteith

How lucky is the dairy industry to welcome this young lady into our midst

Jessica’s story ………..

My life motto has always been “To live with Passion” and I have always focused on the words of Nelson Mandela – “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.

Nelson Mandela Quote

In other words I throw my self 100% whole heartedly into everything I set out to achieve. A life without goals is a life without passion.

Growing up my best friend lived on a dairy farm only a short push bike ride from my house. Right from the start I was always fascinated by the dairy and the cattle and we would follow her dad and grandfather around the farm pestering them with questions and always wanting to help, or more likely hinder their efforts when it came time to feed the calves. I never realised it at the time but these are the cherished memories that inspired me and determined my life goals

I have been lucky enough to meet many people over the years who have helped me achieve many accomplishments that I never would have thought possible, these people I see as mentors whom have shaped my understanding and fuelled my passion for Rural Industries in particular the dairy industry to which I am now devoted.

This passion began when Graham and Jane McPhee of Hillview Park Holsteins in Finley  asked me to join them to help prepare their cattle for International Dairy Week. This annual event  draws around 2000 head of cattle from across Australia. Not only are Jane and Graham the roots of my passion they have helped kickstart my own dairy herd by giving me the best gift ever – the pick of a calf from their calf pen. This calf Hillview Park AJK Eve was my first Holstein and foundation dam of my own Curramore Park Holstein stud.

AJK Eve First calf

I have found the dairy industry is full of people who are very keen to open doors and nurture new entrants and introduce you to others who share your passion.

One of these is Natalie Cochrane of Eagle Park who owns a dairy farm with her husband Tim at Terara just north of Nowra. After I began showing cattle with Natalie I began to fall in love with her signature breed – Illawarra cattle.

Sydney Royal 2012

Sydney Show 2012 and a gorgeous Illawarra Cow

Whilst I had not grown up on the land I found there are plenty of farming people like Natalie who will work with you and show you the ropes and support you to live your dream. My little herd of registered Holsteins and Illawarra’s which now live at Terara on Tim and Natalie’s property continues to grow slowly between breeding and purchasing new genetics from local breeders.

As part of my involvement in the dairy industry I have been lucky enough to compete and succeed in youth events and attend shows across 5 states of Australia meeting many wonderful people along the way who have become friends for life.

My first trip to Sydney show saw me come home with a blue ribbon from competing in the Youth Challenge. This team orientated event involves a group of young people working together in a range of activities that show how well the team can prepare a team of cattle for judging at the show. I came home with a renewed sense of accomplishment and next year went one further winning the  paraders class against others in my age group who had many more years  experience.

One of my biggest achievements was mentoring the South Coast and Tablelands Youth Challenge team to our first ever representation at International Dairy Week and coming away with success. The smiles and excitement of the team after beating some of the best dairy youth in the country will stay with me forever.

Youth Challenge Team

The IDW Youth Challenge Team

Whilst breeding and showing dairy cattle first spiked my interest in the dairy industry, it is the diverse range of opportunities that agriculture provides which keeps me actively involved now.

Sydney Royal 2009

Sydney Show 2009

My role in working with youth in agriculture is helping young people understand the important and pivotal role that farmers and agriculture play in our past, present and future. I also hope it is influencing them to realise the opportunities that agriculture and agricultural related fields can hold for them.

I am now completing a Traineeship in Financial services through Horizon Credit Union whilst also completing full time study for a double degree in Agricultural Science as well as Agribusiness Finance through Charles Sturt University. I am hoping to follow a career path in finance related to and working one-on-one with our farmers to develop their industries and operations to work to full capacity as well as continuing to work with the next generation. The fact that I don’t come from a farming background helps show that exciting agriculture related careers and opportunities are available to everyone.

Once I have all my qualifications I aim to specialise in Succession Planning and Share Farming in the hope of not only keeping the next generation of farmers on the land but also keep generations of farming history, skills and knowledge maintained by giving young people the opportunity to work on land without the need to buy the land they farm on.

The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of achievements and success for me. After winning the Berry showgirl competition, I then made the top 15 in the state out of 650 young women from across NSW. From there it was off to the Sydney Royal Easter Show where I was awarded First Runner up in The Land Sydney Showgirl Competition. This is a feat that still amazes me and when people ask me if I have come down yet I reply that I have no yet had the chance to go up!

Showgirl with Jane Mcphee

1st runner up Sydney Royal Easter Showgirl 2012 with Jane McPhee

From humble beginnings I honestly did not even expect to do well in the local competition and when I see the Runner Up sash stretched across my bed I have to pinch myself to make sure its real. Showgirl was always something I wanted to have a go at after seeing many inspiring young women from our area do well in the competition and witnessing how it helped them get to where they are today. I did not quite understand though just how many opportunities being involved in the competition held for me. The people I have met and networked with along the way will undoubtedly be further influencers in helping me reach my full potential and allow me to give back to the community that has supported me .

The Showgirl competition has inspired me to get even more involved by recruiting and inspiring other young women to step outside their comfort zone and have a go. I will also use my award as a vehicle to share the great story of Australian farmers and agriculture with the community.

Year of the farmer ambassador

But most of all I want to be a real life example of the doors that agriculture can offer to exciting career pathways and inspire other young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Sadly when I was at school the consensus was and it still seems to be that many students are deterred away from considering tertiary education options by careers advisers due a perceived lack of opportunities and lack of money in the industry.

I want to debunk these misconceptions and promote the many facets of agriculture and career options not just on farm but the many people and businesses who support agriculture in rural communities.

Not coming off a farm makes me even more driven to prove that you do not have to be born on a farm in order to pursue and succeed in an agricultural field.

Follow Jess on Twitter @jm458


Look out Hillary Clinton, Jordan Kerr might just be joining you on the list of 100 most influential people

The Mudgee district is well known for its fine wine. Its also the home of a quite remarkable young man. Our guest blogger today is Jordan Kerr one of the major prize winners in the Art4agriculture Cream of the Crop Competition. Jordan attends Hurlstone Agriculture High School at Glenfield and is now in his final year. He is hoping his HSC mark will allow him to do a degree in Social Inquiry and International Studies at UTS with a view to a career in international politics and diplomacy.

Jordan is certainly off to a great start. He represented Australia at the Global Young Leaders Conference 2011, where he had a speaking gig at the United Nations 2011 in New York.

Jordan also played a very active role in the fight to save his school from being the victim of urban sprawl in 2009. Jordan featured in a Daily Telegraph story where he was quoted as saying “ the Government is trying to turn the school into a hobby farm with one cow and one sheep. I am asking, as a student, to please help save my school and the future of Australia,” he said. “We are a fully functioning farm that is running with a profit. It is the future and the State Government needs to learn to keep its hands off.”


Jordan and his dog as they appeared in the Daily Telegraph in 2009 with a passionate plea to save Hurlstone Agricultural School from the auctioneers hammer 

Buoyed by vocal students like Jordan, the lobby group SHEAP and strong community support the school managed to escape the auctioneers hammer. Read the incredible full story How people power saved Hurlstone’s green space here

Jordan’s extra curricula activities which include being Chair of the school’s environmental committee and overseeing the installation of a $10,000 Eco gardenat the school has seen him win the NSW Premiers Diamond Award for volunteering 2010.

Jordan also played a key role in Hurlstone Agricultural High School’s Archibull Prize entry for 2011. The cow they called iMoo is made out of stiffened cotton and covered with 10 iPads. IMG_0466

Jordan sought and obtained interviews with a number of NSW government ministers  including Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson and the Premier Barry O’Farrell which he then loaded onto the the iPads to make their cow highly interactive and quite unique indeed . See Jordan talk about the interviews here and read our popular blog post on iMoo here


Jordan pictured with Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP at the Archibull Prize Awards ceremony

I have never quite met anyone like Jordan before. He is one of the most focused young people I have seen and I have gut feeling Mudgee will famous for a lot more than its wine when Jordan enters the world of international politics.

Here is Jordan story …….

After growing up in Mudgee and attending Mudgee Public school I followed my sister to Sydney to attend Hurlstone Agricultural High School. There were a number reasons I was keen to attend Hurlstone including the fact that it is one of the top schools in NSW and I also wanted to experience the excitement of going to a boarding school. While this was all well and good I soon found out that boarding school was not easy. Living away from home as a 12 year old, was a bit lonely. But I soon settled in and the support from the students and the staff was fantastic. Attending Hurlstone has also allowed me to explore my extracurricular and leadership potential. In 2011 I represented Australia at the Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC and New York.


At this conference I spoke to fellow international youth delegates at the United Nations as well as speaking to a conference room full of students about the importance of Agriculture to our future.This conference was a great opportunity for me as I met lots of passionate and committed people interested in the same things that I am.


Jordan speaks at the UN in 2011

When I saw a poster advertising the Cream of the Crop competition I thought to myself what a fantastic idea. I knew coming from a regional area and going to Hurlstone I had the inside story on agriculture that I could share to help educate others. Living in the city I was well aware most people believed that milk came from the supermarket and meat came from the butchers. Speaking at the Global Young leaders Conference in 2011, I knew the importance of agriculture for our survival and international stability. Understanding the role of agriculture in feeding 3rd world countries is also of paramount importance.

At the conclusion of the conference on feeding the growing global population I spoke with fellow speakers about what issues they thought currently faced our sustainability. The main concern was population growth and its ramifications on food security and the environment and political stability.  Population and urban expansion became the theme for my Cream of the Crop Competition 2011 entry. The idea was to help show the impact unchecked population growth will have on not only Australia, but the entire world.

After creating my PowerPointI thought about the logistics to feed such vast areas of population and what does it take to feed massive cities such as Sydney?

I knew that opinions would vary so decided to conduct a variety of video interviews on the issue from the public to the NSW Premier. I then compiled the interviews into a video titled ‘Feeding Sydney’to help people come to terms with the huge amount of food that it takes to feed Sydney each day.

Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201246

Team Kerr at the Cream of the Crop Competition Awards and Presentation Day

I believe education in particular kids teaching kids is a great way to tell the real story of agriculture. In this way we can generate respect for food and the people and industries involved in its production as well as the farmers that grow it and all the people who support them such as the scientists who do the research and development.  Lets not forget the resources of land, water and human skills that produce it. Wow when you think of it that way its must be the greatest story ever told.

Thank you Jordan.  This is indeed a special young man don’t you agree?

Be inspired

Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion  Emma Visser considered herself very lucky when her prize winning video won her a place at the ABC Heywire Summit. See previous post here.

Nick and Emma Eng Shoot (10) 

When industry invests in young farmers like Nick and Emma we are helping them gain the confidence and skills to be role models that inspire other young people to follow them into farming

Emma’s co-Heywire winners (35 young regional Australians) for 2011-12 have just released their report ‘9 ways to Improve Regional Australia for Young People’. It details nine ideas developed at the 2012 Heywire Regional Youth Summit in Canberra, and it has been submitted to the Federal Government. The heywirers tackle the topics they believe are most pressing: from lowering the road toll, to helping migrants adjust to life in regional Australia, from fostering community bonds in mining towns, to using technology to promote Indigenous heritage. Their ideas have already received interest from schools, academics, the Government, the media and NGOs.

The superbly laid out report brochure ( there are some very bright design minds behind Heywire) can be downloaded here: Take a look I can guarantee you will be inspired

Check out a summary of their ideas here:


Please encourage young people (16-22) like Emma you work with or know to enter the Heywire competition at: http://www.abc.net.au/heywire, for a chance to win a trip to next year’s Heywire Regional Youth Summit. Entries close 17 September 2012.

As Emma says professional development and a chance to be heard opportunities like Heywire should be grabbed with both hands by young people

Back to Emma and her thoughts on the long term outcomes of opportunities like being a Heywire Winner and a Young Farming Champion where you 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 through Heywire and the Young Farming Champions program I have the skills and confidence to spend next 80 odd years making a difference”

Fascinated by Plants

Art4agriculture’s vision is for business and industry to work alongside education authorities, schools and students to support the learning and development of young people and enable all young Australians to reach their potential. We have a whole of industry vision and collaborate and cross-promote widely through our diverse and extensive communications network.

Today’s guest post comes from Arwen Cross from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and one of the team behind Fascination in Plants Day


Antartic Beech

Arwen’s favourite plant is the Antarctic Beech.

She likes their gnarly trunks, but these trees are her special favourite because they have Antarctic in their name. When Arwen was 12 she decided she was going to be a scientist in Antarctica. But when she grew up and became a biochemist she discovered there were no pretty icebergs in her lab. So she decided talking about science would be more fun than doing it, and became a science communicator. She is still waiting to find a job that features icebergs, but in the meantime working with plants at ACPFG is pretty fascinating.

Here is what Arwen has to say about her obsession for all things from the Viridiplantae family  ….  

From peppery smell of eucalyptus on a hot summer’s day, to getting wet feet watering my silverbeet before work – I love plants. That’s why I’m so excited about helping organise Fascination of Plants Day in Australia.

My name’s Arwen, and I’m a science communicator. I work at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics in Adelaide. The scientists here are working hard to make better varieties of wheat and barley for Australian farmers. They’re particularly interested in helping plants tolerate drought and salinity.


Girls in the glasshouse. Monica Ogierman, Alison Hay and Arwen Cross are fascinated by plants.Read some more about Monica and Alison below

My job, as a science communicator, is to help the scientists explain their plant science to other people. But we want to hear what other people think about plants and plant science too! That’s why we’re organising the Fascination of Plants Day video competition.

Australian secondary students have a chance to win $1000 by filming videos about plants or plant science. The videos should be up to 3 minutes in length. If you want more information, or if you’re ready to enter your video, go to www.acpfg.com.au/videocomp

I had fun making a video about the students and scientists here at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. Do you like plants for the same reasons as they do?

Want some inspiration



More about Arwen’s team


I first heard about DNA in grade 10 – I thought it was the coolest thing: a molecule that encodes LIFE! I said to myself “When I grow up, I want to be a molecular biologist and help people”.  After many years of study at The University of Adelaide, I become one, and researched bugs (bacteria) that make people sick. Really sick.  I worked at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and a lab in Germany as a research scientist.  Now, I’ve ‘seen the light’ and work in the field of plants (get it…field!). I communicate with the community about research ACPFG does on wheat on barley, because these plants are important for our food supply. I also have the privilege of working with our postgraduate students, who will become world-class plant scientists when they grow up. Not a bad way to earn to a living!



Alison fell in love with a horticulturist when she was 19 and since then she’s been surrounded by plants!   She studied Botany at uni and could be found surveying native plants just about anywhere in South Australia, from the arid North to the wetlands of the South East.  She also found out weird things about plants – like they have hormones!  She ended up marrying the horticulturist and whenever they travel they try to visit as many national parks as possible.  Alison’s favourite tree is the giant sequoia. There’s a forest of them in California and some of them are around 3,000 years old!  She also loves tiny little mosses, like the ones that grow in New Zealand.  When she’s not looking at plants in different countries she works as a Research Officer trying to find out how wheat and barley grow in soil when the nutrients are not always in the right proportions!

You can contact the video competition organisers by emailing events@acpfg.com.au

Are you the one?

Todays guest blogger is Amber O’Neill the young superstar who was the overall winner of the Cream of the crop Competition. I have asked Lisa Claessen one of our guest judges to preface Amber’s blog with her thoughts on the winning entry by Amber “Are You the One”

Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201243

Amber O’Neill is congratulated by Sonia Muir NSW DPI Manager Community Engagement

Lisa said “Amber’s winning entry for the 2011 “Cream of the Crop” awards stole my heart. As a teacher, how could I not be impressed by “Are You the One”, a clever tribute to her teachers at Cranebrook High School, and how education enhances an awareness of the contribution of Agriculture to us all.

I love Amber’s ability to see Agriculture with “ big picture” thinking, an industry of many facets, offering opportunities for many.

Amber typifies what I see as an emerging trend; of urban living students, inspired by an experience, perhaps at school, or by an encounter with Agriculture through visiting a farm for work experience or pleasure etc. I find it in quite a few of my kids and am thrilled to see their thirst for knowledge grow, and how some of them are realising their dream to pursue further education within the industry.

I am sure this is not the last we will hear from Amber, and I hope we see her name in Agricultural circles of the future. Passion is an incredible driver Amber; May you find your heart’s desire!”


The Amber O’Neill Story …….

I am a city girl, but my heart lies in the paddocks of country Australia where school is an hour away, where my next door neighbour is unseen and it takes half an hour to drive to the closest road. At night I see street lights and houses, but I imagine the clear, starry nights over the wide open plains.


Living in an urban area, going to school five minutes down the road and having access to all the facilities I need, no one could ever tell that I am a country girl at heart. My neighbour’s house is no more than two metres away on either side and the road is only a few steps from my drive way

My name is Amber and I live in the suburb of Cranebrook, and I am in Year 11 at Cranebrook High School. I love my school and I would never trade it for anything. They have given me the best education I could have asked for and have even managed to satisfy my country passion and thirst for agriculture.


Amber (centre) with fellow students have fun with their 2010 Archibull Prize entries

Our school has a very strong agriculture department with highly supportive teachers and this has enabled me to be accelerated and I now do year 12 agriculture whilst still in year 11 for all my other subjects. People always ask “isn’t it too hard?” or “why would you do more than you need to?” but I just say that it isn’t more work when you’re so interested and nothing is ever too hard if you put your mind to it. I’m not just interested in agriculture though, I also love science and am studying biology, chemistry and physics and love pushing myself which includes studying extension maths and English.


Mr Murray and Mrs Saxon are my agriculture teachers. They are two in a million. They make school and learning so much fun. They encourage, inspire and motivate us and we now share their passion and dedication to the school farm and our animals. They deserve a huge thanks

Whilst I would love to just move to the country side with hectares and hectares of land in the middle of nowhere and own a million animals and grow my own food, I believe that a good education will open many doors and enable me to better understand the land when I finally escape the city.

With four other siblings, younger than me, and two phenomenal parents our family is tight and loving. We all have different passions, whether its sport or agriculture, acting or socialising, we all are all success stories in our family’s eyes. We all attend public schools (primary – Henry Fulton and secondary – Cranebrook High) and wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else. My parents have always supported us, no matter what the circumstance or situation; they have that unconditional love that makes us all proud to say that they are our parents.

Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201247

Amber and her family celebrate her Cream of the Crop Competition big win

I was born in Perth, before moving to Sydney when I was about 2 and half years old. We drove all the way from Perth to Sydney, from one side of the country to the other. Since our move to this side of the country, I have moved house at least ten times, moving from  Cranebrook to Dubbo to Londonderry and back to Cranebrook (living in many houses along the way). I loved moving, the thrill of living in a new house and the first night where we wouldn’t have beds to sleep in was a “routine” (although I am sure mum and dad absolutely loved packing, not).

Through primary school, I wanted to be a journalist when ‘I grew up’. After that I wanted to be a famous horse barrel racer. And now, I want to be an equine/camelid vet (whilst owning a farm) and simply make a difference.

My love for agriculture really sparked when I was in year eight..  All students study agriculture in year eight and I simply fell in love. At that point in time we had a steer, chickens, sheep and alpacas. Alpacas are my favourites. Their huge, deep eyes and beautiful eye lashes, their unusual behaviours and uniqueness just grabbed me and pulled me in.


At the end of year nine, I was invited to Warralinga Alpaca Stud (professional alpaca breeder) to see all their alpacas, during the school holidays. It was the most amazing experience and at the end they offered me the opportunity to help every weekend. I could never say no, and never have. Since that day, I have worked with alpacas every week, training crias (baby alpacas) for the show, cleaning paddocks and feeding all seventy mouths. I have attended all the regional shows and even attended national shows. I have been able to show top quality alpacas, winning champions and reserves, many first places and having the best time ever. At the Hawkesbury Show and the Australian National Show I won first place for alpaca junior judging (where I judge alpacas on their fleece and conformation). These were the best experiences, learning so much about the alpaca industry and its future. I have also participated in handling, showmanship and performance competitions, where I am judged on my ability to handle alpacas, winning first and second place at several shows.

Amber and Dani Saxon

Fellow Cranebrook student Michaela with Amber ( centre) their agriculture teacher Dani Saxon

My love for alpacas has now grown beyond school . Last year I started my own alpaca stud, called Alkira. I bought a white female and have agisted her at Warralinga. I showed her at Castle Hill Show and she received a Reserve Champion, and a very happy owner. I love her to pieces, and she has proven to me that agriculture is definitely the industry I want to spend my life working in.

I am a city girl, but I have taken every opportunity possible to become involved in agriculture and to prove to others that a city girl can  get muddy and a fall in love with farming. Opportunities such as the Cream of the Crop Competition have enabled me to share my love for all things agriculture and hopefully give inspiration to others to get involved in agriculture and make a difference.

Although my background is not in agriculture; school and alpacas and my involvement in agricultural shows has shown me that farming is the most important profession in the world.

Farmers and their support networks feed the world.  Not a single person can live without some kind of agriculture, and I would love to one day, leave an impact on this amazing industry.


We are very confident you will Amber