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Hi, my name is Samantha Schottelius and although my family have been involved in the agricultural industry for years I am a first generation farmer!
My mother’s parents, Peter and Sue Bambling who were married in 1962 were both from well know families of the Gayndah district. My grandfather Peter was the youngest child of four and with a passion for earthmoving and large machinery he decided to take up contracting. As time went on their efforts to purchase land paid off when in 1971 they drew a ballot block on the Mackenzie River north of Dingo, now known as ‘Merion’. This is where they settled and still call home today.
My father’s family originated from South Australia and made the move to ‘Willawa’, Theodore in 1965 where they also decided to make the transition from Herefords to the new Braford breed with the purchase of first herd bull in 1966. The Schottelius family drew a ballot block in 1973 north of Middlemount, which took several years to fully stock due to the beef slump. 1978 saw the formation of ‘Willawa Braford Stud’ with classification of seven cows, the purchase of stud bull and two heifers. ‘Willawa’ was bought out by the mine in 1981 and the move to ‘Rolf Park’, Middlemount was made.
As for my parents Mark and Bronwyn what a rollercoaster they have been on over their married life. They were situated at ‘Rolf Park’ with Braford cattle from 1988 until 1997 when the Schottelius family partnership was separated and my father’s parents decided to retire. From here my parents along with my brother and I moved all around Central Queensland following dad with his truck driving. During all of this my mother with a very keen eye and extreme passion for cattle and the land was always travelling to and from her family home ‘Merion’ as her father was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 1993 and her help was needed. Finally, in early 2004 Mum, Dad, myself, younger brother Myles, sister Sara and on the way brother Joe, moved home to ‘Merion’, Dingo. This is where we are now settled and my parent’s lease and share farm part of ‘Merion’ along with agisting two other properties in the Central Queensland region to fatten young steers.
Siblings L to R Joe, Me, Myles and Sara at ‘Merion’ in 2005
So where does this leave me and how could I possibly be a first generation farmer? Well after boarding school in Rockhampton I took twelve months off to help my family on the farm and once again moved myself back to Rockhampton to start university at CQU. I began a three year Bachelor of Business majoring in Business Management in 2009. As my studies went on I made the decision to defer from my degree and gained a position as a Livestock Administrator in Roma. I absolutely loved my time in Roma, moving there and not knowing a soul I met and made some of the most incredible friendships. After a very short 8 months and quite a bit of involvement with the Braford Society I was offered a position with the Fitzroy Basin Association, a natural resource management body in this region. I am based in Middlemount a short 50km from ‘Merion’. Yeha a chance to move back home to the farm!
The area I cover focuses on the Mighty Mackenzie River which flows into the Fitzroy and then out to the Great Barrier Reef! Wow who would have thought that by making farming and grazing practice changes this far inland could make such a difference to our beautiful Reef.
What do I do all day? I LOVE my job!
I travel from property to property in my region helping farmers and graziers to make practice changes on their farm. Our organisation assists landholders to make an investment into our environment.
Today’s landholder may want to fence of his riparian area to improve the water quality which flows to our Reef. This fence not only protects the banks and improves the quality of water from stock but can also create a corridor for wildlife and protected species. This fence helps the landholder manage stock access to this riparian area and also allows him to provide an improved water source to his stock.
Tomorrow’s landholder may want to separate his paddock by fencing off different land types. This allows the landholder to manage once again stock access to different forage. If you were a cow roaming around open pasture and you had a choice between lamingtons and dry biscuits which would you choose? All the lamingtons would be gone! The idea of land type fencing is to utilize all pastures and protect the preferred area from being destroyed by hungry cattle. Giving the preferred pasture the opportunity to recover gives the landholder power to increase ground cover in order to reduce the top soil (nutrients and sediments) lost and deposited into creeks and river systems and of course onto the Great Barrier Reef.
The remainder of my time is spent either in training or workshops and field days, learning and working with other keen agriculturalist in Central Queensland.
Landholders testing pH in a trough on a property at Nebo. This was during a Mick Alexander workshop held for our region in 2012.
Unfortunately, the amount of agricultural land available to use is increasingly declining and with the help of natural resource bodies, new technology, agricultural groups and representatives we are able to make changes to the quality and quantity we produce on reduced areas of land. It is so exciting in my role to see so many people on the land wanting to if they haven’t already make this move to sustainable and environmental agricultural practices.
Brian McGuigan one of my many enthusiastic landholders I am fortunate to work with on a regular basis. His property ‘Dumbarton’ is on the Mackenzie River North of Dingo.
During Beef Week held in Rockhampton 2012 thanks to the Braford Society I was given the incredible opportunity to be associate Braford breed judge with judge Lindsay Dingle.
What an experience to learn from someone with the knowledge and eye as Lindsay. The following week in May 2012 I was visited by two members of the Braford Society to classify 28 Braford females that would establish ‘Triple S Braford Stud’. Later in 2012 I also made the purchase of one heifer and two stud bulls to pursue the dream of my own Braford Stud in partnership with my parents.
Why Brafords?! Well you’ve just got to look at the history, Brafords have been in my blood since the get go. My retired grandfather is constantly visiting making sure I have everything under control! Did I also mention that I spent my high school holidays working on a Braford Stud that my father had also helped on at my young age, along with travelling the show circuit with the school show team. Brafords are beautiful animals and even if they weren’t in my blood I would still chose this incredible breed.
I have met and continue to meet and work with some truly amazing people each and every day, graziers and farmers, consultants, representatives all with an impressive passion for sustainable agriculture. These are the people I look up to, who continually support and inspire me to make a difference in our industry. All these opportunities and experiences could not have come about without my family who have done nothing but support and encourage my every move. The agricultural industry is a welcoming and knowledgeable industry in so many aspects. You don’t need to live on a farm to be part of it! We do have a strong community and I believe we can stand together and bring our urban communities with us.
Earlier in the year I had an email from Simone Neville who is the Agriculture/Primary Industries Teacher at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College – Berkeley Vale Campus. TLSC were runners up in the 2012 Archibull Prize and Simone is very dedicated to nurturing next Gen Food and Food.
Simone’s email was to introduce me to two exciting young people she had met through TLSC involvement in the poultry section at the Morisset & Lake Macquarie District Show.
This is just some of what Simone had to say about Georgia Clark
Poultry have not been shown there for many, many years. In fact it would not have been introduced again if not for the tenacity of a young lady called Georgia Clark who not only competed for the Showgirl award but almost single-handedly organised the poultry section. Georgia is 19 and has just the type of enthusiasm and “get up and go” that I think you are looking for in your fantastic future Young Farming Champions.
She is doing a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience degree at Sydney Uni and is in her second year there. She is very passionate about Agriculture.
As yet we don’t have sponsor for a Poultry Young Farming Champion nor a sponsor from the Chicken and Egg Industry. So I asked Georgia to share her story and maybe just maybe the industry will see the wisdom of investing in this wonderful young lady who is doing an awesome job of sharing their story
The Georgia Clark story ………………….
Agriculture and animals have been in my heart and my life from a very early age.
My first pair of work boots
First drive of the tractor
I now live on a small farm in Lake Macquarie where I breed purebred poultry and Huacaya Alpacas. In the last few years, I started my own poultry stud Rocklilly Downs Poultry with a focus on rare dual purpose breeds.
I am also developing and maintaining genetics of bantam breeds. With a strong focus on sustainability, I am always looking at new and innovative ways to further our genetic developments to ensure our rare breed birds continue to thrive.
This year I won Champion Japanese Male at the Sydney Royal Easter Show
and Champion Pekin Blue
I am currently moving my production methods to a more organic approach. Through my research and studies at university, I have been able to see the results of both traditional and new, organic methods and I have found that a complementary approach is achieving the best results.
My family has also expanded into breeding Huacaya alpacas with a focus on coloured genetics.
I also making plans to expand into beef cattle, and return to my family’s roots of beef farming.
I am very heavily involved in my local show society and currently the chief steward of the poultry section in the Morisset Lake Macquarie Show Society. This year I was successful in returning poultry to our schedule. The sounds and sights of chickens on show have not been heard at the Morisset Lake Macquarie District Show Society for the last 30 years, so as the chief steward, having over 100 birds being exhibited was a huge achievement and huge draw card for show patrons. I also assisted with the running of the cattle showing, which also made a big comeback after many years. I also competed for and was runner up in the showgirl competition.
At the Show Ball
As a showgirl, I was able to promote agriculture as a career for young people and encourage them to share their passion for the rural community. My passion for my local show stems from both my love of competing and agriculture and combines these perfectly. Horse riding, poultry, cattle and alpaca exhibition are just some of the things that have tied me to our local show.
This year I was also the runner up in the Show girl competition.
I am also in the process of starting the Lake Macquarie Poultry club and I look forward to seeing how the local community will respond.I work with my local primary school, developing a heritage breed poultry unit to be implemented in the coming year.
First chicken to hatch at Blacksmiths Primary School
Sadly I have found many students are very unaware of how the food they eat and the fibre for their clothes is being grown. At my sessions, I ask students many questions about where they think many everyday food and fibre items come from. The children would not believe me when I explained that the cotton in their clothes and in cotton balls was in fact the same thing, and it grew on a plant !
Another class in the poultry section had many questions, and most had never seen a chicken in the flesh before. When the year 6 class was practicing handling the hens, I began to watch a girl who was searching furiously through the chooks feathers and tipping it upside down. In the end she stormed up and said, “This one is missing its udder!” She then went on to explain that the hen’s chicks would not survive as there was no way for them to get any milk!
Dairy also seemed to stump the children. When asked about where yoghurt comes from a little boy bravely answered with ‘from a cow’s belly’. Unfortunately, the rest of the class began to laugh, and one young boy stood up and stated with no uncertainty, that “you just get it from the shop, like bread and cakes.” Trying to help children understand the whole process that gets food from the farm to the supermarket, especially when they have developed their own ideas, is sometimes no easy task!
My love of the land and livestock has now turned into an agriculture career pathway ambition. I am currently studying Animal and Veterinary Bioscience with a focus on agriculture at the University of Sydney
I hope to work with an agri-science or primary industries company, researching animal production systems and working one on one with farmers in the field to them identify and implement actions to remove production constraints and improve productivity and profitability, whilst ensuring sustainability with our production industries.
I also hope to continue working with children and schools. I feel it is vital that young people are encouraged to become involved in agriculture and ensure communities are continuing to play an active part in developing rural NSW. It is this ongoing interaction with school children has opened my eyes and highlights the need to embed agriculture across the curriculum.
I believe it is critical that agriculture is introduced into education from an early age, particularly to reach young people who would otherwise have no contact with these ideas. This is why programs such as the Archibull Prize and Young Farming Champions are so important as they give agricultural industries access to schools in innovative and fun ways to reach students that the more traditional approaches have failed to deliver If I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be a Young Farming Champion it would allow me to share my knowledge and raise awareness with the students, whilst developing their understanding of environmental sustainability issues and the role of rural Australia and how they can be involved.
As a Young Farming Champion I could inspire more young people like Tara
This awareness raising has the potential to spread to students’ families and the wider community, ensuring the sustainability of our rural environment. I will also be able to offer a more scientific insight, opening up different career paths for students, rather than just the traditional “farmer” ideas most would associate with agriculture. I believe that the mix of both my science degree and higher education study path along with traditional agriculture, working with my own stud will provide a new approach.
I am a strong believer in the use of relationship building as a communications tool. Relationships with the community are a perfect opportunity to promote agriculture as a career for people both young and old, and to connect and encourage young minds to the important opportunities and challenges of food and fibre production. By reaching out to all communities, both rural and regional, we will help bridge the divide between city and country and ensure our message of the importance of agriculture and sustainable living is being heard.
Today’s guest blog comes from Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion and founder of Ask an Aussie Farmer Kylie Stretton. Kylie shares with us this highly entertaining presentation she gave on International Women’s Day
Rural women are gaining momentum; we are at the forefront of change in how the rest of the country views rural Australia. And our first step is building connections with our urban counterparts. They want to know more, they want to support us, but we need to make the first step. And please know that when I speak about rural Australia, I don’t just mean those working in Agriculture. We need our rural communities as much as they need farmers. Charters Towers is considered “rural”, you are in essence rural women in a rural community, supported by and supporting rural families. A title I wear with immense pride. The rural population of Australia stands at 11% of total population; we need to find ways to make urban Australia including policy makers aware of us. We want them to understand that our numbers may not be huge, but our importance is. We are essential to Australia’s vibrant economic health, natural resource management and producing some of the highest quality food and fibre in the world.
I haven’t always been so vocal about my passion for rural Australia, but it’s obviously been lying dormant within in me, a culmination of having the land in my blood for hundreds of years.
I have a fairly interesting family history, men who were famous watchmakers, opera singers, written about by Charles Dickens and what not. The first of my family to come to Australia were considered pioneers of the Hunter Valley. But there is very little mention about the women. But from what I’ve found out they’re pretty amazing too. There was my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother, a farmer’s daughter who sailed with her husband and children from England to Van Diemen’s Land in 1826. They bought with them one of the first purebred Devon heifers to grace Australia’s shores, starting off a legacy in the Australian beef industry, of which I am now 7th generation in.
We’ve just moved further north each generation and the preferred choice of breed is no longer the hairy Devons but the sleek Brahmans. And apart from my grandfather, that line of the family tree has been passed down through women.
Then there was my great-great Grandmother on another branch of the family tree who was apparently a four foot, fiery haired, Irish woman who raised her family among the sand dunes of Cameron’s Corner and was respected (or possibly feared) by many. Then my Grandmother from another branch left Sydney as a young woman and travelled to a station near Boulia in Outback Qld to become the first female bookkeeper that those parts had ever seen.
Aberglassyn House, Hunter Valley. This was built by my great-great-great-great Grandparents in the 1840’s
Then there’s all the other amazing women like my mum, aunty, sister and cousins who probably don’t think they do anything special. But they do. Rural Australia can be a beautiful place but can be harsh and unforgiving for those that eke out a living producing enough food and fibre to feed and clothe 60 million people worldwide each year. These “everyday” women bring a softness into this environment, they bring love and grace to temper the mood swings of the awe inspiring Mother Nature.
Like all bush kids I learnt just how fickle Mother Nature could be. I grew up on a station south east of Charters Towers, down near the Burdekin Dam. (My maiden name is Barnicoat for those of you trying to work out exactly where I fit into Charters Towers) and my schooling was done through the School of Distance Education and Blackheath and Thornburgh College as a boarder. We went from having a massive wet season in 1991 to barely seeing a drop of rain until my first day of Boarding school in 1994. It had been that dry that on my first weekend home from school, I was kept awake by this awful noise. It got the better of me in the end I ran crying to Mum. It turns out that at 13, I’d forgotten what frogs and toads sounded like when they had water to play in.
When I finished school I decided to follow in my Grandmothers footsteps and head west. Not to be a bookkeeper though, my sister got more than her fair share of those sorts of brains, leaving absolutely none for me. Which is scary as we run our own business and I do the books…..
Nor was I going to be a Jillaroo as cattle and horses scare the bejeezus out of me if they get too close. I was going to be a governess and had been offered a job on Gallipoli, which is an Outstation of Alexandria. On the wide open spaces of the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory, Alexandria is one of the biggest cattle stations in the world, it is about a quarter of the size of Tasmania and can run up to 55 000hd of cattle.
The Land of “Nothing”, Barkly Tableland
At first glance it seems to be a “land of nothing”. All blue sky and brown treeless plains. It’s like being in a western movie and you expect a heard of bison to trundle past. But then a massive flock of wild budgerigars wheel over head or some kind of poisonous snake tries to sneak into the school room and you remember exactly what country you’re in.
It’s also isolated by road in the wet season. Which meant I had to fly in on the mail plane. Which was this little sardine can of a Cessna. I had never been on a plane before and it scarred me that much that it took me another 12 years to get on even a 747 heading to Brisbane. I stumbled down the metal shonky steps of this little box of hell, pale as a ghost but still very green around the gills to stand blinking on the rocky dirt airstrip. I squinted through the glare and tears at my welcoming party which consisted of two little brown eyed, blonde haired kids and their dad. And as I shuffled to the left a bit my fuzzy eyes noticed this huge strapping lad. “Oh dear god, please do not let me vomit on his boots.” No, I didn’t disgrace myself, in fact I still must have cut an alright figure. Or maybe my frailness touched this young man’s heart. Or maybe he just moved quick before all the other young ringers came back from holidays as women are scarce out there. Because we’ve been married for nearly 12 years and have two blonde children of our own.
After moving around a bit, we came back to Charters Towers for the kids to be closer to their Grandparents and cousins. And it was good to be home. I’ve heard it said before that you don’t have to be indigenous to feel an affinity for the land. And I get that. My heart lies in the sandy creeks with paper bark tea trees, milky water and black basalt rocks of the Burdekin region. I am so pleased that our little block has a couple of these creeks. They may be hard work with the noxious weeds in them, but I hope Ella-Beth and Clancy grow up appreciating the true beauty and vitality of this district.
And a few years after that we decided to bite the bullet and start our own livestock agency. Now in case anyone’s confused about what a livestock agent does, it means we buy and sell cattle on behalf of our clients, trying to source the best market for them. Like real estate with cattle. Not trying to get them acting gigs like someone has suggested before. Our client base extends across the Southern Gulf, Burdekin and Fitzroy regions, all in the top five beef producing regions of Australia. Because of the diversity, our clients also supply all different types of markets, including live export.
Assessing cattle for Auctions Plus, an online livestock marketing tool
But then came the Four Corners episode “A Bloody Business”, showing horrific cruel treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia. The footage sent shock waves through Australia, urban and rural. And within a week Minister for Agricultural Joe Ludwig bowed under the pressure and suspended live export to Indonesia even to first class facilities, effectively shutting down Northern Australia. And what followed, and still happening today on our own shores is just as heartbreaking as the cruelty inflicted on our beautiful cattle.
Families just like yours, families such as mine are still floundering in the aftermath. The most viable market that many cattle producers had in the north has been halved. And it’s the smaller, family owned stations that are suffering the most. Many are saying that they can’t go another two years at this rate, they will be forced to leave the land they love so much. Property prices have plummeted and in some areas are unsaleable. Without an income, producers cannot run their properties, which will in turn lead to a decrease in natural resource management and animal welfare. As these things don’t come cheap. Many have had to put off staff and bring their children home from boarding school. They are spending less and less in their local communities which means these communities have a declining population. And with smaller populations it’s harder for these communities to hold on to essential services such as education, emergency services, health and aged care. The effect goes much further than a few rich pastoralists as many would have us believe.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, there has been plenty of positives to come out of it. At that time, I used Facebook to keep in touch with old school friends and other friends from towns I’d moved from. But then I noticed the prevalence of all these anti live export, anti livestock production and anti farmer groups. And I got mad. Be damned if I let an animal rights organisation in Melbourne tell the world how we raised our cattle and ran our business. Social Media played a big factor in taking the industry down, it would be an important tool in building it back up again. Gone were the days where we just went about our work, we had to build those connections; we couldn’t let anyone else tell our stories.
And I started to stumble upon people on Facebook and Twitter who had the same idea as I did, and not just live exporting sheep and cattle producers. Farmers from all sorts of industries, all over the country. Wool, dairy, pigs, chicken, cotton, rice farmers, just to name a few all had the misinformed condemning finger of small but very loud groups pointed at them. And we realised that we had to be proactive rather than reactive, we had to learn how to engage with consumers and the general public better. Agriculture and farmers are among the highest trusted industries and professions in Australia, we need to keep it like that.
So a group of us started up Ask An Aussie Farmer, a Facebook and Twitter initiative where consumers can come and ask farmers directly why and how they do things rather than relying on Google and anti farming sites. The support we’ve received from people is overwhelming and every positive connection makes a difference. I have learnt so much about all different types of farming. Every system has its pros and cons. But the biggest thing I’ve learnt and would love to share with everyone is that we as consumers are extremely lucky in Australia to have a such a choice in farming methods that we can choose a product that best suits our values, needs and circumstances.
I was also accepted to be an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion representing beef. Which meant I had to get on a plane and go to Sydney for the first time in my life. Being a YFC has been an awesome experience. I should explain that in the farming world under 35 is considered young. The average age of Australian Farmers is 59, compared to 40 of other professions. We get to meet other young people from other industries and learn important skills such as public speaking, engaging with the community, promoting our industry in a positive manner and handling the media.
Then we go into schools, in Brisbane, Sydney and their greater regions and talk to the students about our industry and the enormous opportunities for careers in Agriculture available to anyone regardless of their past or future.
I also talk about life on a cattle station in North Queensland as it’s a very different world. The schools in return have to complete blogs and videos about what they’ve learned. And the best bit is that they get to decorate life sized, fibreglass cows, the best winning prizes.
These children are amazing, they are so switched on, they love hearing about what we do and some keep in touch and try and soak up everything they can about agriculture. This program, known as the Archibull Prize has been opened right up, so if there’s any teachers here that are interested, or you want your child’s school to participate, please see me afterwards for more details.
Then I was nominated for Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (or QRRRWN for short) Strong Women leadership awards. My nomination was for my dedication in encouraging others to tell their stories, to stand up and be heard but most of all to believe in themselves. It was very humbling to be nominated, I love what I do and to be recognised for it gave me a huge confidence boost.
So I packed the kids in the car, and drove over 1000km to St George where the annual conference was being held. I finally got to meet all these wonderful women I only knew from the internet or media interviews. I attended a series of workshops, built a huge network and even got to meet foreign correspondent Sally Sara and listen to her speak .
QRRWN is a fantastic organisation dedicated to building stronger rural communities. The support network they have formed for the farmers devastated by floods in South East Queensland is tremendous. They have two new recent initiatives, one being the Strong Women Leadership Awards. Nominations for the 2013 awards opened today, I have brought along some fliers, so please nominate those you think deserve that recognition. The other new initiative is the Strong Women Webinars. Every month an inspiring woman talks about her journey and her vision. I have also brought along some fliers and registration forms for the Webinars. There is also a form to sign up for the QRRRWN E-newsletter. Everyone who puts their name down to receive that goes into the draw to win a yearly subscription to the Strong Women Webinars. I listened to the amazing Catherine Marriott, runner up for Rural Woman of the year in 2012 this morning. Some upcoming webinars will feature chef Maggie Beer, clothing designer Liz Davenport and amazing business woman Miriam Silva The QRRRWN 2014 conference will be held here in Charters Towers, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming details.
One thing I’ve learnt through all of this is that if you want change, you need to participate. If you want better education, health, safety, understanding for your cause or whatever your community needs don’t be afraid to stand up and say your piece. We can’t sit back and expect industry bodies and government to change everything for us, it’s up to us to get the ball rolling. It is up to us to affect change. Believe in yourself, your community and your cause and others will support you. Three years ago I would have never of believed that I would be doing the things I am.
Everyone has a gift, just not everyone has opened theirs yet.
Todays guest blog post comes from Kirsty McCormack. Kirsty is a lover of horses and all things cotton,a converted Ag ‘fag’ and 2nd year Rural Science student at UNE.
My story starts 19 years ago in the little country town of Inverell.
My hometown is situated in the New England North West region of New South Wales and is a thriving commercial and service centre with a district population of 18,000.
I have been immersed in the rural side of life every since i was a youngster, which to me is much like the bright side of life. I have ridden horses since I was two with my family and I campdraft most weekends.
I have played Polocrosse, competed at state and national horse riding events and won national titles – all for a great love of horses.
As well as having a passion for sport, I have definitely tried my hand at a range of things and found that I haven’t completely embarrassed myself 100% of the time!
After growing up on a 75 acre property 8kms out of town with a multitude of 20 plus working dogs, 15 or so horses and a few cattle and sheep which has provided meat for our freezer it is a wonder that I did not have my heart set on a future in agriculture. But that was not the case, I was a head strong driven young girl who had decided that being a lawyer was the ideal occupation for someone that would go head to head with her mother on a regular basis, claiming that she was ‘always right’. So at Holy Trinity School Inverell I nurtured my skills, studying Japanese and Commerce as electives and avoiding agriculture at all costs, assuming that it was only associated with dead end jobs with poor pay. How wrong was I!
It was not until I left the familiar surroundings of Inverell and went to Calrossy Anglican School that I was introduced to this ‘brighter side of life’!
My lines for year 11 did not match up so I had to take Agriculture instead of Religion, and was pleasantly surprised when my teacher Brony Nielsen stepped into the room.
Fun on the farm
In 2011 with Brony’s encouragement I led a cow for the first time, took up meat judging, attended the biannual Cotton Australia Cotton Conference, went to RYAG Cattle Camp and was voted Karrawarra House Sporting Captain.
Calrossy opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. Being able to lead cattle at Sydney and regional shows has allowed me to make some great contacts in the cattle industry
Being the Junior Inter Collegiate Meat Judging Champion at Scone Beef Bonanza in 2011 is another amazing notch to have on my belt. One of the most astonishing experiences was the opportunity to attend the Cotton Conference thanks to WinCott and Georgie Carrigan.
Attending 2010 Cotton Conference with Calrossy Anglican College
The opportunity to meet so many interesting and diverse professionals in the cotton industry and seeing what the cotton industry has to offer I was absolutely blown away by the innovation, eagerness and pride that everyone there exuded about their passion – cotton. To start with I was going in blind, after only wearing the fibre I had no idea when the plant was grown, what it entailed or the mechanisms used to actually produce a real of cotton, so naturally I came home a little overwhelmed and all hyped on information thinking, about all the possibilities that this little plant had to offer me.
So as I entered year 12 my aspirations and goals began to change, I started investigating degrees and universities that had a strong agricultural line and program.
PICSE Youth Roundtable 2012
Here is where I was introduced to PICSE (Primary Industry Centre for Science Education) and the student industry placement scholarship. PICSE provided me with a week jam-packed with sessions, presented by the most energetic scientists, farmers, growers, researchers and students imaginable. I got a taste of what could be really achieved by the agricultural industry, through being able to witness the latest research in mitigating methane production in cattle, rotating dairy’s, greenhouses and grain operations I was no longer hoodwinked by the dead end, bad pay idea. Instead I now think agriculture is one of the most forward thinking, innovative, young industries in this country and the world today. You can have a look at what other young PISCE graduates have to say here
Within my year 12 syllabus we also carried out a Cotton Study which entailed a field trip and farm visit. This trip definitely re-enforced what I had been so awe inspired by the previous year and only fuelled my fire towards being involved in the cotton industry. I got to jump in cotton, be in cotton, feel cotton and help grow cotton. We got in, on and around the module builders the buggies, and pickers. This was enough to send me over the edge – in love with cotton.
From this trip and PICSE I continued through my final year with a new direction and new motivation, getting involved in all aspects of boarding school life and loving every moment. I graduated with great marks and a great time, enough to get me straight into university the following year at UNE studying a Bachelor of Rural Science.
Carol Sanson at Cotton Growers Services at Gunnedah took me on after meeting on the excursion earlier that year, and I thoroughly cherished and enjoyed every moment of it. From literally counting bugs, to meeting farmers, sending leaf and petiole samples and driving the forklift, the whole experience was amazing and has benefited me throughout my studies at university. I was sad to leave the job and not finish the season as the end of the week came around all too soon before picking started.
I am definitely one very lucky university student though, on arriving in first year I was lucky enough to have been awarded financial assistance in the way of four amazing scholarship. With my ATAR I was awarded the UNE Country Scholarship, and three industry prizes, the Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Scholarship, Australian Wool Education Trust Fund Scholarship and RIRDC Horizon Scholarship. Within these amazing opportunities my 2012 year was full of motivating and exciting events that I was able to participate on and present at. I had two trips to Canberra one being awarded as a PICSE Ambassador, going into parliament house and presenting the findings from out Youth Round Table Discussion, and another with the Horizon scholars where we had an opportunity to make invaluable contacts and be heard on the Country Hour LIVE! Attending the 2012 Cotton Conference where I spoke to students, presenting at numerous PICSE events/functions and going to Sydney Royal, has all made for a busy year! Through participating in college life I am now an Academic advisor and on a leadership scholarship at St Alberts College and loving being able to help students learn about science.
I think the agricultural industry has a lot to offer every individual, through the little chunk I have been able to experience and been apart of thus far has only spurred me on towards aligning my future with the future of agriculture. I will never give up my horses and the link I have to the land through my dogs and cattle but with this newfound passion for cotton I can definitely see myself being a plant fanatic. When I finish my Rural Science degree I would like to complete a diploma of education to inspire other students the way my agricultural teacher did, I would like to go on an “agriventure”, be involved in research, be a cotton agronomist and one day a farmer’s wife! – But not just yet.
I am so excited to be involved in this great opportunity to show others how Bright a Lighter Side of Life can be!
Hi all! My name is Ashlee Hammond and I am currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at LaTrobe University, Bundoora. I love everything about Agriculture and it is definitely the career pathway for me!
I was born in Warrnambool and have moved quite a few times since as my parents’ share-farmed dairy farms throughout central and northern Victoria. My parents bought a dairy farm just south of Kerang in north western Victoria and even though my family sold the farm, I have called Kerang home ever since.
Kerang is in North Western Victoria and is a high production area for dairy.
I have always loved the rural lifestyle and can’t remember ever being jealous of my friends who got to ‘walk down the street’ every day after school, but who had never ridden a motorbike!
My passion for a career in agriculture started when I was in Year 10 at school and started my VET Certificate II in Agriculture. Through this two year course, I learnt how to show and judge beef cattle, which I absolutely love!
Me leading a Hereford Steer at Kerang Technical High School, 2010.
I am so passionate about showing and now, judging beef cattle that I started my Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and based all the components possible around agriculture. I played netball for the sport component, but my community service, skill and adventurous journey were all based on agriculture. For the community service and skill component combined I compiled a book called ‘Around the Ring’. This was a 120 page compilation of 28 beef cattle judges from Australia, England, Ireland, Canada and the USA that asked them two questions, ‘What is your ring craft routine?’ and ‘What are your golden rules of communication?’. The book was a lot of work and took over 18 months to complete, but was well worth it! There is now a copy at the National and State library, as well as my local library! It feels surreal having my name on a book in the library at home!
Me at the Royal Melbourne Show 2010 where ‘Around the Ring’ was published.
At the Royal Melbourne Show 2012 when I was asked to be an Associate Judge for the Limousin breed with Head Judge, DuncanNewcaman.
I finished my VCE in 2010 and then decided to study agriculture even further! I am now completing my final year of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at LaTrobe University, Bundoora. This is an amazing degree and I love all my subjects, even ‘dirt’ (soil science). University is quite expensive, so I am extremely lucky to have some help from the Horizon Scholarship, under the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. This amazing scholarship not only gives me a lump sum at the start of each year for my studies, but also allows me to spend three days a year in Canberra with the other scholars and to complete industry work placement for two weeks per year, all paid for! This work placement counts toward my compulsory work placement for my course too, which is a great help!
Uni life is good fun! The 2012 Ag Games team!
I have tried to stay heavily involved in agriculture in a hands on way throughout my tertiary education because I know people living in the city can become separated from the country life. I have now completed work placements at dairy farms, piggeries and even a chicken farm to gain as much diverse industry experience as I can. I have also been showing cattle at the Royal Melbourne Show each year, which is something I love doing and plan to do again this year!
Whilst at the Royal Melbourne Show I have been able to talk to the general public about agriculture and where they think their food comes from. This has lead me to become very passionate about agriculture being embedded in the national curriculum so students all over Australia will not only know where their food comes from as well as the challenges and constraints our farmers face to ensure the highest quality affordable food comes to your table. plan to stay on at University for another year and do my Honours project, then graduate and begin working in an area I’m passionate in!
2012 was an exciting year for me. Firstly I applied for and was selected to on the ‘Young Agribusiness Professionals’ committee which is under the Victorian Farmers Federation and involves hosting events in your local area to ensure young, rural people get their say in agriculture. This has been a great committee to be a part of and I plan to stay on it for a few years to come!
Secondly I was selected to attend Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Youth Ag Think Tank which brought together 30 young Australians with an interest or experience in agriculture to explore ideas aimed at encouraging more young Australians to become involved in this industry.
The Think Tank helped raise awareness and celebrate the range of career opportunities available to young people in agriculture.
Me with fellow participant and team member Stephanie Coombes
Participants also developed ideas and strategies to attract and retain more young people working in the industry.Aged from 18-35 years, the diversity of their backgrounds and experiences meant 30 participants views and opinions shared were realistic and practical.The Ag Youth Think Tank concluded with participants presenting their strategies to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Parliamentary Secretary, key stakeholders and senior public servants.
Our group’s theme was “Agricultural education and careers”. Our aim was to come up with fresh and innovative ideas that we could pitch to senior government influencers and industry stakeholders. It was a great honour to be able to present on behalf of our team
Another big highlight for me in 2012 was being awarded one of the positions as a ‘Heywire Winner’. You can read my story here Part of winning meant I got to spend a week in February this year with 32 rural, passionate people who had great stories to tell!
Throughout the week we were split into groups with each group to pitch an idea about an issue at Parliament House.
The groups were drink driving, body image, mental health, opportunities in rural and regional areas, marriage equality and, our group, valuing our food producers. Our groups idea was to have the farm-gate prices that primary producers get paid on the shelf price tag next to what the supermarkets are charging. This would hopefully inspire consumers to buy more Australian produce and, hopefully in the future, increase the price that primary producers are being paid.
Accepting my award from Hon Senator Joe Ludwig
We were very lucky to get lots of media support for our idea and they certainly resonated with the politicians we were honoured to pitch it too
I love everything about agriculture and can’t wait to graduate and help raise awareness and appreciation amongst people all over Australia about where their food and fibre comes from. Agriculture is an integral part of life and I know that awareness raising campaigns and embedding agriculture in the curriculum can help people understand the commitment that goes into producing our food and the complex supply chain that puts milk in the cartoon and the steak on our plates!
Today’s guest blog post comes Elizabeth Stott. Liz’s story remind me of the James Ruse Agricultural High School Archibull Prize entry which tells the story of cotton and draws you in through powerful imagery that focuses on the roots of the cotton plant and cotton’s commitment to using Australia’s scare water resources wisely
This is Liz’s story ……..
Born in Sydney and growing up in Canberra, I am not what you would call a typical “Country Gal”. While my roots are very much in the city, my heart is definitely in the country… let me tell you how I ended up living on an irrigation farm, hundreds of kilometres from everything I have ever known.
I grew up in Canberra with my two younger sisters. We lived in a typical family home on a ¼ acre block in the suburbs. Our spare time was spent playing sport, swimming in our pool and riding bikes around the neighbourhood with the other kids in our street. I attended Canberra Girls Grammar School from Prep right through to Year 12, graduating in 2000.
Our school holidays were often spent visiting my Grandma who still lived on the sheep farm in Berrima where my mum grew up. I have vivid memories of adventures in the nearby bushland with my cousins, going out on foot, alone, to herd sheep from one paddock to another just to feel “farmie” (really it was a fruitless exercise as there were no gates on the paddocks anymore) and fossicking through junk left in the rundown, old family home next door. I remember trying really hard to get my hands dirty so I could be just like my uncle who was a farmer on another property nearby. I suppose it was then that the country girl deep inside began to emerge.
The old farm-house where my mum grew up in Berrima, NSW was a great place to find hidden treasures
“When I grow up, I want to be…”
After year 12, I decided to take a gap year and travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland, with my best friend from high school. We lived and worked in Scotland for five months before travelling around Europe. After returning to Australia, I started my Bachelor of Science degree at the Australian National University majoring in Zoology. I have always had a love of animals, so decided to take a part time job as a veterinary nurse while I completed my university studies. This was both an enjoyable and useful experience. Until I started working in a vet hospital, I had always wanted to be a vet. In fact, I was planning on using my science degree as a stepping stone into studying veterinary science at university. However, my three years working as a vet nurse soon changed my mind. Not because it is a bad job, but because I realised vets spend 5 years at university with a 1st year out salary of around $45,000 a year and work around 70 hours a week. Yes, call me lazy… but I thought perhaps there is more to life than just work.
Having completed my studies in 2004, in 2006 I made the move to the “Big Smoke” (Sydney) where I started working at a specialist veterinary clinic, the Animal Referral Hospital. Instead of nursing, I worked in customer service and eventually progressed to the role of Operations Manager. Whilst working full time, I decided I needed to supplement my science degree with something more specialised, so I completed a Graduate Diploma in Applied Science majoring in Wildlife Health and Population Management at Sydney University. The best thing about this degree was that we mainly undertook field based study on a large sheep farm, Arthursleigh, near Marulan. Again, I loved being out in the wide open spaces, getting my hands dirty setting Elliot and Pitfall traps so we could study the native mammals.
My university studies provided me with a many amazing experiences including spending a week at Taronga Zoo in Dubbo where we went behind the scenes with the zoo veterinarians.
How a chance encounter can change your life
So, how did I go from frolicking around with native wildlife and working in a veterinary hospital in Sydney to a cotton farm 700 kilometres away? Well the answer is simple, I met a farmer.
I met my husband, Dallas, in 2008 while I was visiting my family in Canberra. It was pure luck that he and I happened to be in same pub one night when we locked eyes across the room. The rest, as they say, is history. I quit my job in Sydney, packed up my cats and my meagre furniture and moved to the farm Dallas ran with his mum and dad the following year. Since then, I have immersed myself into the agricultural industry working in Policy and Public Relations at Murrumbidgee Irrigation during the week and driving tractors and changing siphons on weekends.
Helping out driving the tractor on the weekend
On our farm we grow around 600 hectares of irrigated cotton during summer and various cereal crops during winter. Cotton is a relatively new crop in this area, which is traditionally the heart of the Australian rice industry. We started growing it three years ago as it was the most profitable water efficient crop for us to grow. Being an irrigation farm, water is our most precious resource and we are currently putting a lot of time and investment into changing our farm layout to be as water efficient as possible.
When I first met Dallas and he told me he was an irrigation farmer, I thought this meant he had lots of little sprinklers in his paddocks. I was soon to learn I was completely off the mark with this and a load of other things I thought I knew about farming…. and so were a lot of my friends. Having grown up in the city, I realised that I didn’t really have any appreciation of where my bread, milk and clothing came from or the hard work, commitment and high level of technology work that went into producing it. As far as I was concerned, it simply appeared in the store and the most I thought about the products I was buying was whether they tasted good and how much they cost.
Since moving out here to the farm, I have come to appreciate the knowledge, experience and multi skills needed to produce the items we take for granted every day. Farmers have to be machinery operators, agronomists, scientists, mechanics, meteorologists, and financial planners just to name a few. There are no set working hours, often no weekends and holidays are as rare as hen’s teeth. I can’t think of any other profession that requires such dedication and diversity of high level skills and knowledge.
The last four years have provided me with a number of fantastic opportunities to educate fellow city slickers about where their food and fibre comes from, what is involved in producing it and how important the agricultural industry really is to each and every one of us. I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of workshops in Canberra which have taught me a lot about how to effectively communicate with politicians and other decision makers to help them understand some of the issues facing the agricultural industry and regional Australia so they can try and do something to assist us.
I met with Senator Barnaby Joyce to discuss issues facing young farmers in 2012
Explaining the impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on our farm to Minister Tony Burke in front of 12,000 people in Griffith, NSW
Late last year, I was awarded the Cotton Industry Leader Scholarship for the Australian Rural Leadership Program which I will complete over the next two years. This program like the Young Farming Champions program aims to provide participants with a once in a lifetime to develop skills, build influential networks and help those who are not involved in agriculture understand that all the fresh fruit, vegies and comfortable clothing they take for granted does not just magically appear in the stores. It only happens as a result of many dedicated people involved in the supply chain including our farmers committed to producing affordable and highly quality food and fibre. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to mentor other young people and help them realise that there are a huge range of career opportunities available to them and encourage them to pursue a role in the agricultural industry.
How lucky is agriculture this city call spotted a farmer in a pub!!!!!!
Last Thursday was the 1st day of the Sydney Royal Easter Show 2013 and as has become a highlight of my year, once again I ventured to the show to judge the Schools District Exhibits Display.
My goodness after judging this section for 3 years wow is the competition heating up. This year just four points separated 1st and 4th.
Firstly a bit of background. The competition has the dual purpose of showcasing talented young people and their team work from NSW schools as well as identifying, encouraging and mentoring young people to feed into the iconic District Exhibit Display teams.
The Iconic District Exhibits in 2013
This year everyone agreed ( including a number of judges of the big displays) that all four schools had taken the competition to a whole new level.
It wasn’t just the quality of the design, creativity, artistic merit and innovation that caught the judges attention. Equally impressive was how the students engaged with the judges (and the general public) and their levels of energy. I was so impressed with the professionalism of the students. They energised me. They really knew their stuff. How to tell the story of the development of the big ideas, why they were so passionate about their theme and how well the teams came together. I could go on for ever they were all just mind-blowing
But we can only have one winner and this year’s winner of the Schools District Exhibits Display competition was Woodenbong Central School who bravely addressed a very powerful cultural issue through there very thought provoking display.
Building Respect in Our Communities
My two fellow judges Andrew Barnum and Nicole Punt are both well known in the art and design world and once again I benefited immensely from their broad experience and expertise.
As Andrew explained this was a “an artwork with a simple clear message that takes a viewer into the artist’s world and holds them there, makes a connection and leaves a lasting impression”
I approached the judging from a farmer perspective being highly appreciative that all of these wonderful young people were helping me tell farming stories to my urban customers – the lifeblood of every farmer’s business.
Tying for second place was Muirfield High School who reached out to the Art4Agriculture ethos in me with their display that showed how their school agriculture department was ‘opening the door to a green future by inspiring young people to take up careers in the agri-food sector’
Agricultural education opening the door to a greener future
Equal second this year was Calrossy Anglican School whose display had a strong sustainability theme and an equally strong sense of community. You could even smell the Lucerne in their backdrop, their country region just wafted out to you
And a very close third was Menai High School who also had a strong focus on sustainability. Using a big foot as the central focus the display moved in the background from the drab colours of the smoke stacks and cooling towers of the mining industry to the bright green fields of produce and very clever examples of sustainable energy use
One of the major objectives of the Archibull Prize is to give students a voice through their artwork to not only promote the program and its key messages to hundreds of thousands of people, but to showcase the students’ opinions, learnings and values to the community.
Art4Agricultures partnership with the RAS of NSW (through the Sydney Royal Easter Show) and the RNA of Queensland ( through the Ekka ) gives us a wonderful opportunity to do this
This is how the clever team in the Food Farm have achieved this in 2013 at the Sydney Royal Easter Show
James Ruse Agricultural High School and Model Farms High School
De La Salle College
Shoalhaven High School
Hills Adventist College and Macarthur Anglican School
Todays guest blog comes from Kristy Stewart whose family farms in the foothills of the Otway Ranges in Victoria
“It’s time to get back to our roots & realise the importance of agriculture to the people of Australia and by extension, the world”.
Australia is now the most urbanised country in the world and farmers and the people they feed and clothe are getting further and further apart. Its nobody’s fault its just the way Australian has evolved.
It saddens me that our culture has become almost detached from its umbilical cord to life?. For me connecting agriculture with the community is a priority, without one the other cannot exist. Often people look for the cheapest food options without reflecting on the commitment and care that goes into producing high quality nutritious Australian grown products and the consequences of buying imported goods produced with low cost labour and unsustainable farming practices.
On the other hand there is growing support for farmers markets in our cities and people are responding to the personal experience of buying direct from the grower. They place considerable value on being able to talk directly to the farmers and hear how the food was produced and where it comes from.
It is my hope that as an industry we can create a much greater and stronger connectivity between Agriculture and the community. A great way to do this is by creating more and more opportunities for personal connections (especially with the younger generation, primary and secondary age), education, art and music.
So a little bit about me…
.L-R Michelle, me and Hannah (my big sisters)
Born and raised on a grazing and integrated agroforestry farm on the north-eastern foothills of the Otway ranges. Our farm is named ‘Yan Yan Gurt West’, after the Yan Yan Gurt Creek that flows through the property.
I’m a 5th generation farmer on our 580 acre property. I’ve loved the land since I can remember. Running around the farm on epic adventures with my two big sisters, following dad and mum around (probably hindering more than helping) with farm work are cherished childhood memories, I remember the first year I was old enough to work in the woolshed as a roustabout, my excitement was palpable!
Me and my two big sisters Michelle and Hannah on our trusty old horse Shannon outside the woolshed
We’ve run both sheep and cattle (mostly sheep in my time). We have horses, alpacas, chickens, a pet magpie, ( mum’s a wildlife carer) as well as a vet nurse AND a farmer. I don’t know where she finds the time! She also train’s working dog’s.
My family has been involved in the WWOOF Organisation (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) since I was about 5 or 6 years old. Basically travellers can join this organisation and receive a book full of descriptions of different host farms around Australia, receiving board and keep, in exchange for helping out on the farm. It is a fantastic organisation and a great way to travel. Through this I have met many amazing young and enthusiastic people. It has taught me a lot about different cultures and left me with many lifelong friends who I hope to visit when I travel. The people that come and stay are interested and work hard, enjoying the experience of our culture and way of life on the farm. Every time a wwoofer comes to stay I realise how lucky I am to have the lifestyle that I do. Many don’t want to leave!
We run a prime lamb operation with first cross ewes, white Suffolk and poll dorset rams. I love all the aspects of running sheep on our farm, the big operations; lambing time, lamb marking, dagging, crutching and shearing are always guaranteed to be great fun, especially seeing the looks on the wwoofers faces when they first see a lamb being born!
Take a tour of the farm with dad
We apply sustainable farming practices to our farm operation. My dad (also has plethora of jobs to his name) conducts tours as part of the Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN) on integrated agroforestry farming systems, promoting the use of trees to make farming more environmentally sustainable and economically rewarding (In short, trees for both conservation and profit) to a wide audience
Trees for conservation and profit
Some of the OAN team leaders left to right: Andrew Stewart (my Dad), Mike Robinson-Koss, David Curry, Rowan Reid.
We love to share our story with the many visitors we host at the farm. From fellow farmers to the Minister for Agriculture
Mum and Dad being interviewed by Minister Tony Burke
To the leader of the greens party and visiting delegates from South America, China and Africa.
L-R Kristy and Hannah Stewart; Christine Milne (Greens leader) in centre
The tours generally involve going around a variety of different farms in the district involved in the OAN. It is a fantastic network that encourages strong relationships of learning and growth between all types of farming people.
The tours also encompass school groups, university classes and TAFE education groups
Morning tea and a lecture in the shed by Rowan before taking off on a walk around the farm.
This is the kind of thing I hope to see spread throughout the Industry, bringing people onto farms to understand the challenges and constraints, connecting farmers with farmers to consult and learn from each other to improve their land management practices. I’ve seen the vast improvements and plethora of information and interest that people take away from these ‘farm tour days’.
Me and my cousin Nick planting trees!
This is a photo of my sister Hannah, taking a group of local primary school children on a tour of our farm, organised with our local Landcare network.
I think it is so important to get young primary school aged children out on the land so they can have a good understanding from a young age where there food comes from, how it grows and mist importantly have a connection with the land.
The farm tour was a huge success; Hannah devised fun activities such as bridge building competitions and many others. The kids came away from the day having had a great time getting muddy and creative, but at the same time they were learning the importance of looking after the land and understanding where their food comes from!
Currently we are looking into value adding, experimenting with Australian bush food and native cut flowers to create more revenue for the farm. My parents are constant sources of inspiration and strength for me, encouraging me to promote the Agricultural industry to the next generation, as a sustainable conservation aware industry full of opportunities for a fulfilling career.
L-R Mike Edwards, Christine Milne(Greens Leader) Senator Richard Di Natale and Jill Stewart presenting Christine Milne with native farm grown flowers and bush tucker plants.
My sister and I were lucky enough to be two of 16 young women from around Australia to participate in the AWiA (Australian Women in Agriculture) leadership and decision making course in Canberra. A fantastic organisation raising the profile of Women and the next generation in Agriculture. For me it was a real eye opener, it was such an empowering thing to meet and network with other like-minded young people from around the country, this experience renewed my confidence and hope for the future of Agriculture in Australia. There are many supportive organisations out there for young people interested in Agriculture, this is one of them.
Currently I have just moved into my second year at university studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences. I still go back home on holidays for shearing and other big farm events!
Our shearer attempting to teach me how to shear a lamb properly!
Once I’ve finished my degree I’d like to travel for a few years, perhaps doing some work in the industry overseas, visiting other cultures and seeing the way they care for the land. A trip to the Philippines visiting farms two years ago sparked off that particular interest. It is fascinating to see the way other cultures care for their country, I think we can a learn a lot from them and they in turn from us.
Rice terrace farming in the Philippines
Eventually I think I would like to work as a sustainable farming systems consultant, especially for small scale farms as well as work in facilitating connections between country and city people. Also (of course!) run a farm of my own (but who knows where I’ll be really, somewhere in the industry anyway!).
I see the problems that the Ag industry faces (increased population, less Agricultural land, soaring fossil fuel prices, conservation and sustainability concerns etc.) as exciting challenges to be taken up by the next generation.
Challenge drives innovation and the growth and diversification that will shape the future of our Agricultural in Australia. With the many bright young people involved in Agricultural, the industry has a positive future with much to offer.
The next step is getting more people (like you readers!) to be involved in the diverse career pathways agriculture encompasses. From finance, marketing & politics to farming the land, environmental work and scientific research. Or even just going out and visiting a farm, seeing how it works and what life is like out in the country.
A shot of our farm
I believe that the Australian agricultural industry has huge potential to be one of the world leaders in taking significant steps towards conservation farming practices, increasing productivity, addressing food security and promoting environmentally sustainable management techniques and I look forward to being part of the growing movement of young farmers signing up to turn the challenges into opportunities.
Last year when I visited the Sydney Royal Easter Show as always my first port of call was the fabulous district exhibit display. The Southern District display was this magnificent tribute to women in agriculture in their region and right in the centre at the top was a picture of a young lady called Jasmine Nixon.
Can you imagine how excited the Southern District team was when Jasmine went on to win RAS Showgirl 2012.
Today Jasmine is our guest blogger
Passion: a strong feeling about something, compelling enthusiasm and positive interest.
What are you passionate about?
My passion is agriculture and I am proud to say I love my beef cows! Every day I know that I am contributing to help feed the world – and I also love what I do. Agriculture is an exciting place to be, yes there are challenges but there are also endless different opportunities within agriculture and that is something I hope to share and encourage a new generation to take on the challenge to help feed the world!
Hi, my name is Jasmine Nixon and I am proud to be the 6th generation to grow up on my family farm “Merryvale” on the Southern Tablelands of NSW. Needless to say agriculture is in my blood and I am very thankful for all the opportunities that growing up on a farm gave me.
I think I took for granted some of the lessons and skills that I learnt growing up on a farm. Every farm kid learns early on that the animals have to be fed, even if it is raining or snowing outside and the importance of making sure the chooks were locked away at night. We were taught responsibility to look after another living creature when you were given a poddy lamb to look after and we knew where eggs came from. My brother worked out the business side of this and even setup a good little enterprise marketing duck eggs to our neighbours!
Our region is well known for fine wool sheep, prime lamb production, beef cattle and seed potatoes but my family farm is focused on beef cattle production.
Crookwell – my hometown
My family run a commercial Angus herd and we collect a lot of performance data to help continually improve our breeding program. Both my Dad and Grandfather work side by side every day and the whole family help with cattle work or planting trees in the school holidays. I was very lucky to be close to my grandparents as we all live on the same farm – and I was always renowned for being late for dinner as I was busy discussing cattle genetics at Grandad’s house.
While I was brought up on a beef farm, I had never really considered agriculture as a career, cattle work was just something you did when you lived on a farm. At boarding school, I couldn’t take my pony so I settled on trying my hand at showing cattle with my school’s cattle team as the next best thing. Needless to say, I soon discovered showing cattle was quite different to horses and this set me on a pathway that would open many new windows of opportunity.
The thing I love about country people is that there is always someone there looking out for you, and encourage you along the way. George Reid of Narrangullen Angus, had heard that I had started getting involved with cattle showing at school. George suggested that I attend the Angus Youth Roundup. This “cow camp” looked like fun so off I went in the school holidays. Although I was bought up on a farm, my only involvement with show cattle was at school so I had a lot to learn. The Angus Youth Roundup had both junior competitions and educational sessions for various age-groups and experience levels and introduced me to a lot of new people involved in the cattle industry.
I guess you could say the rest is history – I continued my involvement with my school cattle team and also started to get experience working for other studs in the industry as my network of contacts expanded. By doing work experience, both on farm and at shows, I learnt the business aspects of breeding cattle and also became more interested in the way our family raised our own cattle.
That’s me on the left with the poddy at Melbourne Show
In 2006, the opportunity came up to purchase some registered stud Angus cows and this has become my little project. My aim was to effectively ‘tailor-make’ bulls to suit our commercial operation so we could achieve greater genetic progress. My small stud has grown and last year registered 40 calves and we have also started selling a few bulls locally as well.
At the end of high school, I took a gap year and spent 6 months working on a farm in Minnesota USA. Wulf Limousin Farms was a family operation that supported 9 families! They farmed approximately 6,000 acres, growing mostly corn, soybeans and wheat as well as backgrounding cattle on their 20,000 acre ranch in South Dakota. The Wulf family also ran an 800 head herd of registered stud Limousins and sold 300 bulls in their annual sale. Another part of their business model was feeder cattle and they finished approximately 34,000 head of cattle per year through their own and contract feed yards in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. I also got to help prepare their team for the National Western Stock Show in Denver – showing cattle in snow was certainly a new experience and it was amazing to experience one of the biggest stock shows in the world.
My adventure in Minnesota was a wonderful experience and I learnt a lot about farming and raising cattle and also about how many layers to wear when you have to scoop snow out of the feed bunks at 20 below in a blizzard. I learnt to appreciate the challenges and differences in agriculture in a country on the other side of the world and this has greatly broadened my perspective on where Australia sits in agricultural terms on a global scale and the factors that influence that.
After my stint overseas I returned to Australia and started studying a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England in Armidale. I really enjoyed my course and the more I learnt, the more I realised the amazing diversity of career opportunities that were out there in agriculture. There is a lot of science, innovation and technology in agriculture today, and I believe that is something that is not shared enough and understood by the broader community.
While at university I participated in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition. This built on the skills I had learnt while junior judging at shows but instead of judging the animal in the ring, you learnt how to assess market suitability, meat quality and yield in beef, lamb and pork. Getting up early and going to the wholesale butchers to stand in a chiller might not sound like a lot of fun, but I learnt a lot of new skills and a great appreciation for meat science and how the product we grow is presented to the end consumer. It also led me to my current job as a quality assurance and quality control graduate with Teys Australia, based at their beef processing plant in Wagga Wagga.
Working in an abattoir was not where I expected to end up after spending four years at university, but it has taught me a lot more about the beef supply chain and has given me a new perspective on the challenges and opportunities that we face in Australian agriculture.
I have continued my involvement with Angus Youth since my first Roundup, over 10 years ago. It has provided me with many wonderful opportunities including a study tour to New Zealand as well as numerous new skills and friends. I have gained so much from the Angus Youth program that I hoped to give something back and to help keep to program growing so I became involved on the National Management Committee and served as chairperson for two years. Every year this program runs a National Junior Show as well as several international scholarships, junior judging workshops, paraders’ competitions and industry tours. The most exciting part is that the program is run by youth for youth.
Participants at the 2013 Angus Youth National Roundup
From starting as a novice in the juniors over ten years ago, this year I was Vice-Coordinator of the 2013 National Angus Youth Roundup in Dubbo which was the biggest in the event’s history. We had 207 competitors between the ages of 8-25 and their black (or red) bovines participate in a range of educational sessions, judging and paraders competitions from across the country and New Zealand over the four days of the Roundup. This was a huge feat and I’m glad that I had such a great committee to work with to get the job done! I have gained a lot from my involvement with the Angus Youth program, so it is great to be able to give something back and help grow the program for the future, so other youth can have similar opportunities and build their own passion for our beef industry.
Growing up my family has always been involved in my local country show, so representing my hometown in the Showgirl Competition was a natural progression and also a huge honour to be able to give something back to my community. Making it to the State Final was such an exciting ride and to be then named the 50th The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl was something very special – and I still can’t believe that girl on the front of The Land was me!
Jess Monteith, Berry Runner Up, Me and Kate Warren from Dubbo 3rd place in 50th The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl
The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition is not just about representing your local show but also about giving young women the skills and confidence to become ambassadors for our rural communities. For any young women, who have a passion for their rural community I strongly encourage you to become involved in the Showgirl Competition. It has given me the courage and ability to get out of my comfort zone and has increased my awareness of the issues facing regional Australia. It opens up a door to an amazing network of people from all walks of life with a similar passion for our rural communities.
My Showgirl experience has made me acutely aware that there is a strong need for better education of consumers and the broader community in regard to agriculture and the importance of our rural communities and the integral role they play into putting food onto the table around the world.
2012 State Showgirl finalists with Her Excellency, Governor of NSW Prof Marie Bashir.
Last year I was assisted by the RAS of NSW to attend the Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship program. I joined a group of enthusiastic and passionate young people involved in a wide range of agricultural industries from across Australia to embark on a challenge of agribusiness industry sessions from farm succession planning and policy to distribution centres and the retail end of one of Australia’s biggest supermarkets, and everything in between.
The best part of the scholarship was being in a room with like-minded young people, passionate about agriculture and who weren’t afraid to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. It was also very interesting to fill the gap on the last piece of the supply chain puzzle and gain a better understanding of our consumers. The biggest take home message for me was the need for improved supply chain interaction with our consumers and I strongly believe, while our industries will play a role in this, I too can play a significant part in helping the broader community gain a better knowledge of the commitment of Australian farmers and many support businesses who partner in our communities to provide safe affordable nutritious food for nation and I hope I can continue to share that story.
My passion is agriculture and I am proud to say I love my beef cows! Every day I know that I am contributing to help feed the world – and I also love what I do. Agriculture is an exciting place to be, yes there are challenges but there are also endless different opportunities within agriculture and that is something I hope to share and encourage a new generation to take on the challenge to help feed the world!