Meet Alexander Stephens growing the fibre that Australia wears

Todays guest post comes from young Goondiwindi cotton farmer Alexander Stephens

I am very passionate about the Australian cotton industry, and taking up every opportunity that is placed in front of me will not only build my own personal career, but it helps bring connections throughout the cotton growing regions of Australia.

Hi my name is Alexander.  I am 23 years old and I come from a great, loving farming family of four children. Being the youngest of the family, I was the child that always got that ‘special attention’ from my parents out of my two older sisters and brother.
I grow cotton and you wear it

I was raised on an 800Ha beef/grain/cotton farm on the northern Darling Downs, about 30 minutes east of Dalby. My father managed the farm for 13 years, and it could have not been a better area to germinate the great passion for agriculture that I have today. The majority of my childhood was spent playing in and around of the farm house, with my mother constantly yelling at my brother and I about all the mischief we got up to. At a young age I developed a great obsession with machinery, especially tractors. This obsession would see me having little make-shift farms with my toy tractors around the house, and when it was too wet outside I would be inside the house, pretending to farm up the carpet floor.

Me as a young fella checking out some of the cotton grown on the property “Plain Farm” which my father managed.

After the years of ripping up my mum’s gardens and eventually wearing the wheels off my toy tractors, my attention quickly turned to what was happening on the farm. My afternoons/weekends were spent helping my father, either feeding the cattle in the feedlot, changing syphons in the irrigation, or sitting on my dad’s knee with my hands on of the steering wheel of a tractor.


Helping my dad with pest control in our chickpea crops

After the years helping my dad tackling jobs on the farm, and completing primary school in Dalby, it was time to ship off to high school. At this stage, the property on which my family had been living and farming was sold due to the drought which swept through the region in early 2000’s. However this gave my parents the opportunity to buy into a partnership with the previous owners of the property.

So we packed up and moved three and half hours north to a small town called Wallaville, about 30minutes South/West of Bundaberg. This property was a whole different kettle of fish to what I was used to. It was a 700Ha (approx) citrus farm, and consisted of 60,000 fruit trees, the biggest fruit packing shed in the local growing area, lucerne which supplied the local area with hay, and about 300 head of cattle.

After 4 years of attending high school in Bundaberg, my interest in school began to fade. My parents then decided to send me off to the Australian Agriculture College (Dalby campus) to help me expand my knowledge in what I was more interested in: farming. This would see me excel in my subjects, and I ended up receiving 2 scholarships in 2008. One these scholarships with Oswald Brothers (a earth moving company) and Monsanto Australia helping out with cotton research trials throughout northern NSW and Southern Queensland.

Receiving my Diploma of Agriculture

Attending agricultural college opened up many opportunities for me in the agriculture sector, including the chance to do work experience on my holidays. I was fortunate to be invited to spend time in the cotton growing area around Goondiwindi, with a well-known local farming family, the Corish family.

The Corish family gave me the opportunity to rotate across their farms, learning many skills off the highly knowledgeable farm managers. While doing my work experience with the Corish family, I ended up working and living with one of Peter and Kerry Corish’s sons, Nigel Corish. Nigel is now a highly respected farmer within the cotton industry in Australia. Little did I know all these years ago that working with Nigel Corish would have such effect on my life in the future.

After my two years at the Australian Agriculture College, I graduated at age 18 with a Diploma in Agriculture. With this diploma under my belt, I walked straight into a farmhand role on a Jimbour Plains property, just north of Dalby. The farm is owned by Neil and Sonya McVeigh, and consists of about 2,800Ha of dryland and irrigation country. In summer, the McVeighs farm sorghum, cotton, millet, corn is grown; in winter, wheat, barley, canary, chickpeas. Though Neil had three sons of his own (Matt, Craig and Lachlan), I was treated like I was one of the family. The McVeigh’s farming enterprise was expanding rapidly, and I was given the chance to become care taker of one of their properties. With this responsibility came long work hours, and I would often miss out on nights out with my mates.

Planting millet in late January


Grain Millet

Similar to most Australian cotton properties, we relied heavily on international workers (i.e. ‘backpackers’) during busy parts of cotton growing season, especially around cotton picking in April. I spent many long hours working side by side with the international workers, and I got to know them well. I’d listen to all the stories they had to tell about their home countries, and it made me think it was about time to pack my bags and head overseas. So in 2011 I flew to Europe on my maiden flight, and I spent three weeks tracking through countries such as France, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

Visiting Rome, Italy

After I returned, three and a half years of growing crops on the rich and fertile soils on the Jimbour Plains quickly flew past. I then decided it was time for me to move on to see what new experiences the world had to offer. Although the McVeigh’s gave me plenty of great opportunities while working for their farming business, I knew I had to start expanding my career and my love for farming the land. So after a lot of phone calls, plenty of nagging to my good mate, and a long trip down to Sydney, we booked a one way flight to Kansans City, Missouri. We obtained a working visa with an American “Custom Cutter’ company, a header contractor in Australian terms. I then spent the next six months harvesting wheat in the summer, and corn in the fall, travelling from the great flat plains in northern Texas to the rolling hills of Montana. So far, this would have to have been one of the best experiences of my life.

Waiting for wheat to dry in Seymore, Texas
Harvesting corn in Ellendale, North Dakota

After returning to Australia in early November of 2012, and working for a farming contactor for 9 months, I had an urge to resume my career in growing cotton. Cotton has always been a part of my life, no matter what I was doing or where I lived. This passion for cotton would see me take up a leading farmhand role with Nigel Corish on his irrigated cotton/dryland grain farming property, just 15kms west of Goondiwindi. It was the very same property I had undertaken work experience on so many years ago. In addition to taking on this job, I am also now studying part-time for a Diploma in Cotton Production, through the University of New England.

I am very passionate about the Australian cotton industry, and taking up every opportunity that is placed in front of me will not only build my own personal career, but it helps bring connections throughout the cotton growing regions of Australia.

Australia produces cotton that yields two and half times the global average, and we are renowned for our high quality fibre. To remain competitive on the global market, it is essential that we as a growing community aspire to build on our high achieving attributes. That’s why I see that it is very important to build relationships outside the farming community to show how professional  Australian farmers are generate pride in the community and abroad for what they grow and produce.

Meet Daniel Fox who is looking forward to balancing the needs of his farm business with the expectations of the community

G’day, my name is Daniel Fox and I am lucky enough to be a fifth generation farmer, my family farming in the Marrar (NSW) district for over eighty years.


Our property of 2000 hectares is located approximately 10 kilometres north of the Marrar township in the heart of “Prime Lamb Country”. Our farm is run by three generations of my family, with my grandad, my father and myself, as well as my grandma, mother, younger sister and girlfriend lending a hand when the times are busy (which seems to be more often than not these days!!!).


All hands on deck: Lamb marking is a family affair.

I have been told that my love of agriculture began at a young age, helping Dad around the farm while still in nappies (although photos show I might have been in the road more often that I helped). As a toddler, when not outside in some sort of machine with dad, I would get out all my farm toys and make each room in the house a different paddock, coaxing mum into pushing all the toys around and around the rooms, spraying, sowing and harvesting them, all in one day! She still blames me for her “crook” knees.

From looking at photos of myself when I was young, I don’t think I stood a chance of being anything other than a farmer. From a young age, I developed an appreciation for all things agriculture, even at shearing time!!!


Learning the ropes from a young age.

As the years passed, I progressed into my schooling career, which began at the local primary school at Marrar with a grand total of around 40 enrolments from around the district. I have some very fond memories of this great little rural school and its enormous (at the time) playground.


View of Marrar silos from home.

When my sister began school, I moved down the road to Coolamon Central School, a K-12 school where I completed my HSC in 2009. As the years progressed, my passion and love for agriculture grew stronger, as did my passion for science and mathematics. Throughout my time at Coolamon the school took great care of my interests in science and maths and accelerated my studies, where I completed my HSC extension mathematics and physics whilst in year 10. Through these years, it was a tough choice to stay inside and pursue my schooling interests rather than help on the farm.

My hard work and tough choices paid off, gaining some great results I am very proud of. As I was going through those last few years of school, the question of “what are you going to do when you leave school” was often asked of me. My response was always the same; I was going to be a farmer. Many people, who were aware of my success in my studies, often did a double take when I told them the I was going to be a farmer. I would get responses like  ‘You should be a doctor or an engineer. You are too smart to be a farmer and you would be wasting your brain if you returned to the farm”.

I was proud to respond that that farming today is a highly complex and challenging  industry that requires the best and the brightest and its the place I want to be. In fact in my opinion it is far more exciting and rewarding than any other ‘prestigious’ occupation that was suggested to me through school.

It was through my later schooling years that I became even more involved in the farm and this fuelled my desire to farm even more. I successfully wrestled the prized “header driver” position from my Dad in my senior years at school, which I’ve always had my eye on since I could walk. When I saw my first good harvest that came after the droughts in the 2000’s that I could appreciably remember in 2010, I felt the great sense of achievement that farming can bring.


Mum, driving the tractor and chaser bin, loves her new toys as much as we love ours!!! Harvest 2013

I began studying a Double Degree in Science and Education at Charles Sturt University. During the four years, I learnt what full time study at university was all about!!! The juggle between study and work on the farm often ended up with me up until all hours of the night in front of the fire trying to catch up with my uni work after coming home from a full day on the farm. All I can say is that I am very glad that those days are behind me!

University was a great chance for me to meet a huge number of new friends, all coming from vastly different backgrounds. My passion for farming was often a topic for conversation, and all too often I found that many of the people at uni had never experienced the joys of agriculture and were often unsure of how we as farmers do things. In actual fact, they had many misconceptions about the workings of a farm that were quite amusing.

During 2012, I also participated in a Rural Leadership Program run by FarmLink Research, a local agriculture research company. All of the participants had a background in agriculture, and whilst talking to them, this topic of common misconceptions about farming and agriculture was a constant source of humour, with some funny ones coming up like the origins of milk being the supermarket shelf .

Farming is our livelihood. We wake up on the farm, walk out the door to the farm, it dominates our conversations with friends and family, and it’s what we love doing. We also know that up to 99% of the population today may not have the generational, educational or experiential understanding of why we do what we do and they are watching every decision we make via the enormous range of multimedia avenues available to them.

So the misconceptions about how food is produced is a topic of concern.   Farmers rely on the support of people disconnected from the origins of their food who work outside our industry to buy what we produce and ensure the decisions that they make with respect to legislation and policy continue to enable farmers to feed and clothe people ethically and profitably.

I am now enjoying a career that allows me to  not only begin to take a greater role in the management of the family farm as well as taking every opportunity to raise awareness about how we farm and why we do it and why we love it.

Meet Naomi Mulligan part of the growing numbers of young women choosing a career in the cotton industry

Today’s guest post comes from Naomi Mulligan part of the growing numbers of young women choosing a career in the cotton industry

Food is a necessity, farmers are a necessity, and it is true that every family needs a farmer.

Hi, my name is Naomi and for me, agriculture is life.

Naomi Mulligan

My journey in agriculture started the day I was born. Proud to be a third generation cotton farmer, I grew up on a cattle and cotton property west of Moree, NSW.

I spent much of my childhood visiting dad in a tractor or moving cattle around. There is a special connection between my family and the land, especially when all three generations are out irrigating the cotton together. My grandfather is a cotton farmer, as is my dad. Dad is passionate about cropping, soil health and optimum management. I have learnt a lot from him over the years and credit much of my knowledge to him.


My Grandfather and uncle after buying the first four-row picker in Moree

Brought up on the land, I was surrounded by all things agriculture and I felt as though it was my obligation to start working in the cotton industry from a young age as a farm hand. But at 11 years old, I had to move to Brisbane for boarding school. The contrast between the planes of western NSW and the bustling high rises of Brisbane was a major change. After graduating, I was excited to be back home, irrigating the cotton. Cotton is an amazing plant and fibre, being one of the world’s most used natural fibres. Yes, we grow your clothes!

My role in agriculture is all practical work. It often involves long hours in a tractor or fixing planters and other implements. It’s not common to see a girl as young as myself driving tractors, but I love it. I began my first tractor shift work at the ripe old age of 12! Now I have the ability to do most of the crop ground preparation and achieve such things as planting this year’s 500ha of cotton.


Tractor maintenance work

Every task comes with its challenges. Some are small and others big, such as the severe drought in last couple of months. It’s particularly difficult to plan for such circumstances and still come out on top. This year I’m working full time on a cattle and cropping property at Croppa Creek, NSW. The property grows feed for cattle including corn and sorghum, but also cotton and wheat.


Heads of sorghum

Every season changes, depending on what we plant and the rainfall we receive. Growing both irrigated and dryland crops means that water availability is vital. This year we have both irrigated and dryland cotton planted as we we are hopeful to have a high summer rainfall.


Me and my cousins during cotton picking season

My family also has a Piedmontese cattle stud where my main job is to feed and look after  the livestock. This involves mustering, maintaining fences, maintaining water systems and any other challenges that the cattle manage to throw at me.


A Piedmontese Bull

This year I’m studying agriculture by correspondence while working on the farm. It is a fantastic and rewarding lifestyle. Education is important and is the key to moving forward within the industry. One of the great things about my agriculture studies is that I can still work full time, while also gaining new knowledge and skills to benefit my practical work. I believe this gives me an advantage over many of my peers who aren’t able to put their learnt skills into practice as early in their careers as me.


One of the many challenges we face, including jumping from a window.

I would really like to lift the profile and image of agriculture, particularly among young people. There is more to agriculture than a lot of Australians realise, even in more urbanised areas.

It’s easy to see why people who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up the way I did often struggle to understand the role of agriculture in today’s society. But I believe my firsthand experience and knowledge, from growing up on the front line, gives me the ability to educate and inspire others.

Food is a necessity, farmers are a necessity, and it is true that every family needs a farmer.

Working in agriculture is full of challenges, rewards and opportunities – it is not yesterday’s industry. I am proud to be part of the younger generation inspiring everyone to appreciate agriculture!

Meet Eliza Star who has cotton in her veins

Our guest blog today comes from Eliza Star

My association with agriculture began growing up on our family farm in central NSW near Carrathool. My grandfather purchased the original farm as a small solider settler’s block where he and my grandmother raised 12 children! So right from the beginning, farm life was all about ensuring the enterprise could sustain such a large family.


The nearest town- Carrathool- Population 99!

We currently grow and produce prime lambs, cotton, rice, Angus cattle and winter cereals; with numbers and area varying with commodity prices. As a child, agriculture was a lifestyle rather than a job and certainly not a career option for me. During the drought, my cousins and siblings were expected to help out a lot more and ironically that’s where I really gained a passion for agriculture. It was a very tough time to grow up as the area downsized in population and a lot of friends, family and businesses have left, never to return. Luckily, we made it through the drought despite no irrigation crops being grown and stock numbers at a minimum.


I decided to study agriculture after I became very frustrated with the lack of information and support that was available to help me pursue a career with agriculture.

I didn’t have an Agricultural teacher in my HSC year so we were left to teach ourselves. At the time, careers advisors would steer me away from such an occupation and in hindsight it only encouraged me.

The decision to go to Wagga Wagga to begin Agricultural Science is one I haven’t regretted. It’s thanks to my father and uncles, who dragged us along to all the field days, sheep sales, farm tours and taught us to drive the tractors, headers, trucks, ride a horse and motorbike, that has equipped me with farm life skills. Since then, I actually enjoy these field days, grower meetings and farm tours!


Saying goodbye to my weaners at the saleyard! I started with a mob of merino ewes and continue to sell the lambs to fund my university studies

Some of the highlights of my agriculture journey have included travelling to China as part of an international experience program. We saw irrigated cropping including rice and maize, camel ‘beef ‘ in the Ganzou, leading dairy producers (sourcing Friesian bloodlines from Australian studs), tea plantations and government funded sheep studs. It was an eye opening experience which highlighted how highly regarded farmers were in the community in China. This experience inspired me to be an ambassador for CSU Global to promote travel programs to students. I have plans to continue my travels and hope to go to America this year on a similar tour.


Climbing the Great Wall of Chinaclip_image010

Standing in a rice field on our Agricultural tour-2013

In addition, another highlight has included my summer jobs and work placement opportunities. These have included; working as a bug checker for a local cotton agronomist which certainly grew my  knowledge of the cotton industry, working in a rural supplies store with a team of agronomists, a sample stand assistant for wheat harvest, a trial assistant at Rice Research Australia and pool guard at the local pool!.


Bug doctor!Looking for bugs (beneficial and detrimental) in a cotton field

Since cotton is relatively a new industry in Southern NSW, there had been some apprehension into growing genetically modified strains of cotton. However, the industry has boomed with new cotton gins to be built in the Riverina and an increase in the number of new farmers deciding to grow cotton. It’s a very refreshing outlook for the area, with many businesses and farmers excited about the future.

One of my favourite summer jobs has been bug checking. The daily task include monitoring for pests, node counts, boll retentions, petiole collections and data entries. This information is used to assist the grower with information on when to fertilise, water and what insecticides (if any) should be used. I now have a greater understanding and enjoy getting out into dad’s cotton in my spare time to look for bugs. I do believe that cotton will continue to prosper down south with crops showing higher yields and a lower pest threshold.


Stacking hay to feed the cows and calves at the Rice Research Station, Jerilderie

Through volunteering at the Sydney Show for the Rice Growers Australia’s I was surprised by the lack of knowledge of crops we grow in Australia. We had a lot of people through asking questions and one of the most common and surprising (since our rice producers feed between 20 and 40 million people depending on the seasons)  was ‘I didn’t know rice was grown in Australia.’ This is a statement not isolated to the rice industry.

I was excited to find as a result of this experience that people are genuinely interested in learning about agriculture and how important it is that industries and farmers provide every opportunity to facilitate this  This is an area that we in the rural sector must continue to work at overcoming so that the public has a greater understanding of where there food comes from and why they need to buy local, rather than imported, produce.


On my break from volunteer work at the Royal Easter Show, I found a farm friend!

Simple things such as embedding agriculture into education systems, improved product labelling in supermarkets and programs such as PICSE, Horizon and RAS scholarships and Art4Agriculture all help to improve the links between producers and consumers.

You shouldn’t have to come off the land to have the  opportunity to know where your food and fibre comes from.

I have been blessed to be part of some of the above programs and this has confirmed how amazing the opportunities are for young people in agriculture. Two memories that stand out include attending breakfast at Parliament House with agriculture and local government ministers to discuss the issues surrounding agriculture.

In addition, another lasting memory was participating in the draft policy for the Blueprint for Agriculture in 2013 (Department for Primary Industries). These programs helped me to voice the challenges facing females in agriculture and also the importance of encouraging youth back into agricultural industries. Opportunities have arisen from these meetings and I have since spoken at rural succession talks and in the public media.


This is me with my parents after receiving the RAS foundation Scholarship

Another great experience has been participating in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition in 2012. This competition involves several weekly training sessions throughout various abattoirs and butchers. Meat judging then consisted of a week of lectures, intense training, judging and competing of pork, lamb and beef carcasses and commercial cuts. I learned a lot about the meat industry and met some inspiring industry representative leaders.


Some of the beef carcasses we judged

I am also passionate about promoting and supporting social networks in agriculture. Since attending uni, I have been the 26th Annual Agricultural Race Day president, Ag Club treasurer and vice-president. This involved organising events, dinners, agricultural careers fairs and representing the student body. It is very rewarding to know that you have helped someone in their university experience, while at the same time forming lasting friendships with students. clip_image022

Ag Races committee members, (I’m on the right) before the gates opened! Nearly 4000 people walked through the gates. A huge day but worth the effort.

Although I am still very young and new to the industry, people have been extremely encouraging and have given me many opportunities which have aided my studies. At the end of this year I will have completed my studies. From here I am hoping to stay in the cotton and irrigated cropping industry as an advisor.

I still have a lot to learn about agriculture and I am sure that after I hang up my graduation gown that I will continue learning more about the industry.

No matter what I am about to endeavour at the end of my studies, my experiences in agriculture has enabled me to appreciate what the food and fibre industries have to offer. It has given me skills that will ground me for life and hopefully one day I will be able to pass on these skills to future generations.

Giving your students a head-start to partner with farmers to help feed the world

Feeding the world when another 158 people are born every minute is a big job and if we are going to meet this challenge the world will need to see partnerships across the globe between farmers and consumers

In Australia many wonderful initiatives are actively working to engage the next generation of consumers with farmers to partner to achieve this huge task

Today April Browne and Chris Vella are sharing with you an initiative they are coordinating at  University of Western Sydney (UWS)

Chris Vella

Chris Vella Science Education Officer Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE)

As we all know students who participate in agriculture related activities are passionate about the Agriculture industry. They are motivated about their role and are ready to play an active part in Agriculture’s future growth and development. Teachers do an excellent job of building the intrinsic drive for students to get involved in in agriculture. We at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) see our role, as stakeholders in the agri-food chain to build on teachers’ efforts and encourage a lifelong involvement in the industry.

The Youth Agvocate Forum will give a group of year 10 students a unique opportunity to develop their own agricultural values whilst building social capital, an understanding of the agricultural industry and of UWS course offerings. Working in groups, students will engage in three days of experiences at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and UWS which will showcase the best that agriculture has to offer. Over the three days, each group will use their experiences to design an engagement strategy for increasing ‘agvocacy’ amongst their high school colleagues. Students will then have the unique opportunity to pitch their strategy to the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Youth Group for consideration.

The experience of interacting with the general public and promoting agriculture in light of what they participate in is also a skill which will serve them as lifelong learners and ‘agvocates’.

We look forward to giving these students as well as their colleagues a head start into what will be a bright future for them in the agricultural industry.

Ag Forum Flyer

You can find the flyer and application form here

You can read about April Browne who will be helping Chris run the workshop here

April Browne

Meet Sarah Saxton proving careers in agriculture are found in cities too

Meet Sarah Saxton who career in Agriculture saw her moving from the country to the city

Sarah Saxton

This is Sarah’s story ……………………

Every morning I wake up so proud of what Australian farmers are putting on our tables and so excited that I get to be a part of that process. I want every Australian to have the opportunity to feel how I feel about Australian Agriculture, because it feels great!

A one hour train commute and a desk job in the CBD might not be the first thing that jumps to mind when you think ‘career in Agriculture’ but that is how I have found myself a rewarding career in the Australian Dairy industry.

I was born in Gippsland, Victoria on the family sheep property and have moved throughout rural Victoria and NSW following my family’s mixed farming interests. After the wool crash in the early 90s my parents decided to hit the road managing farms, dad soon becoming an expert in the art of growing grass seed. This stroke of fate meant moving house 9 times and living in Omeo, Euroa, Holbrook and Khancoban to name a few!

Growing up on a mixed farming enterprise meant lending a hand to dad on a whole range of tasks, most of which (bar rock picking and cleaning the header!) I thoroughly enjoyed. When I wasn’t riding horses and travelling to rural Ag shows across the country my summers where quickly filled driving headers and handling the constant supply of agistment stock. As it happened I was not the only female driving headers in the Upper Murray region and a group of us soon became sought after for our affinity with the beastly machines. In the summer of 07/08 we were noticed by The Land and featured on the front page which we all found quite a lark!


The female header driving crew, photographed by The Land, me second from left.

Looking back I was very lucky to have two parents so vehemently passionate about farming and engaged in progressing their farming practices. I have no doubt this positive, proactive attitude has helped propel me into a career in Agriculture.

Although my feminine touch was clearly appreciated during harvest, cows were what stole my heart. When there was agistment stock on the farm that calved I was always the first out in the paddock, a sharp eye trained to any calf looking helpless without its mother. Although dad accused me of calf robbing it was the generosity of a few soft hearted beef producers which lead me to gather a small number of orphaned poddy calves each year. A lesson in responsibility and earning money quickly developed into a lifelong passion and so after completing boarding school and going on a gap year I moved to Melbourne to complete a Bachelor of Animal Science & Management at the University of Melbourne.


I quickly took to university like a duck to water and was awarded a Dean’s Honour award and a number of scholarships for academic achievement. Although I knew I wanted to work with animals finding the right direction has been a constant exercise of probing and questioning. Whilst at University I undertook work experience assisting PhD students working on sheep metabolics in an underground lab, I worked in an abattoir in Brisbane, did vintage wines at a large commercial winery in Griffith, and spent some time helping out the local vet. And at the end of all that I was still none the wiser on what my career would shape up to be! Checking out the diversity of careers is something I encourage every young person interested in a career in Ag to do, as you have no idea how many possibilities are out there!


Something that I believe is not adequately addressed in the current model of Agricultural education is that Agriculture is a highly valuable industry, not just a career. I hope to educate Australia’s next generation of consumers that Agriculture is an industry full of possibilities.

I want to raise awareness in kids and adults alike that a whole range of people, in country and city, are involved in getting food on their table and that those people are the cornerstone of our economy and society as we know it. I hope to open people’s eyes beyond the stereotypes of farming (as amazing as it is) to realise the plethora of career opportunities out there for people, in dairy, and the broader food and fibre industry.

By my final year at university I had developed a keen interest in the field of animal breeding and genetics and was fortunate to be offered a scholarship by the Dairy Futures CRC to study the emerging field of genomics. My research project, titled ‘Interrogating a high-density SNP chip for signatures of selection in Dairy and Beef breeds’ challenged me and opened my eyes to the amazing depth of science, innovation and technology which exists, largely behind the scenes, in the Agriculture industry. I was lucky enough to be supervised and mentored by one of the world leaders in genomics research Professor Mike Goddard from the University of Melbourne and it was with his help and support that I gained first class honours for my project. It was through the CRC’s first rate education and engagement program that I was introduced to the Australian Dairy Industry. Through this program I was able to travel to field days and present to farmers about the latest in genomic research. I was also able to assist with the program ‘Get into Genes’, teaching school kids about the science of genomics. It was these experiences that made me realise it was time to shed the lab coat and get out talking about all of that exciting Research and Development


AgFest Tasmania, 2012

My current role as Extension Officer with ADHIS involves delivering the latest science and technology in genetic improvement to Australian dairy farmers. This is done through one on one engagement, public speaking at industry events, and designing tools to make decision making easy.

It is this blend of travelling to rural areas talking to farmers about real issues and staying up to date on the latest in science and research which I love about working in the dairy industry.

ADHIS is a non for profit organisation which means our core focus is always on getting the best information and resources out to every dairy farmer. Having organisations like this dedicated to the betterment of the industry is an incredibly valuable resource and I am not sure farmers realise just how lucky they are!

Working in the CBD in close association with organisations like Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia has offered me a behind the scenes insight into the big issues facing the dairy and broader Ag industry. Issues such as milk price, animal welfare & the risk/benefits of free trade are issues which I am deeply passionate about.


Promoting our wine at Rootstock, Sydney


Whilst at University I was lucky enough to meet my now husband, a winemaker on the Mornington Peninsula. Being a new member of the family winery has given me a fantastic experience in a unique sector of the food and fibre industry. The wine industry’s ‘ground to glass’  production process connects the ‘food and fibre’ and ‘food and wine’ industries in a way not commonly seen in other agricultural industries. Being exposed to and engaged in this end of the food chain has allowed me an insight and perspective into a demographic deeply passionate about food yet largely ignorant of farming.

It is one of my big life goals to strengthen the relationship between the Food and Agriculture industries into what should be a symbiotic relationship.

I have recently been appointed a board member on the Mornington Peninsula Food Industry Advisory Body, a position I hope will begin me on this journey.

Coming from the country to study and now work in an urban environment has highlighted to me the importance of maintaining and strengthening the connect between food producers and food consumers.

With declining populations in rural Australia as farms and farming communities ‘get big or get out’ there is less and less opportunity for people to engage and connect through the traditional channels of a family members or friend’s farm. With these relationships less likely to happen organically I believe it is essential that we look to new models of communication and strengthen our voice to foster passionate, informed consumers and future generations of food and fibre producers. If Australians want to remain in control of our food supply chain it is essential that we build strong and long lasting relationships with each other and every member of our community.

Meet Diana George who is proud to be part of the next generation of female farmers

Farming has a reputation as been traditionalist.  According to long held traditions farming is a man’s world and the men inherit the earth and the women become farmer’s wives. Well not everybody is doing what their grandfather did.

Here is a great guest post from Dee George whose family is bucking the stereotype

Dee George

My name is Diana George, I am a Bachelor of Agriculture Student at UNE. I am a fourth generation farmer and my sister and I will be the first girls to inherit our property. I come from a mixed farming enterprise two hours West of Dubbo near the small town of Nevertire NSW.

On our family farm where I have lived all my life, we run Beef Cattle, Meat Sheep and dry land cropping enterprises. We have also previously been Cotton Irrigators. Agriculture is in my blood, my mother is a farmer, my father is a farmer, my older sister is a female shearer and my younger sister shows cattle and loves machinery as much as I do!

Our first cotton crop was picked in April 92, and I was born in March 92. So it’s safe to say that the obsession I now have with cotton and agriculture started from there, in dad’s arms when I was one month old. .


Dad and me in one of our cotton crops.

I basically went everywhere with dad, in a little carrier he had strapped on his chest. And when I was old enough to walk there was no way I was missing out on any syphon changes even the ones at 2am in the morning! Much to my mother’s protest. With cotton in its prime articles were being written of bumper crops all over the state. The Land Newspaper approached mum and dad about doing an article on our seasons and crops. I featured in  The Land Newspaper with dad in one of our cotton crops at picking time. And still to this date I have the picture on my desk.

Diana and Trevor George in the cotton

Did I always want to be in agriculture? No. when I was a little girl in primary school, I was going to live in the city, drive a convertible and be a dance teacher.

Agriculture was just where I came from and I didn’t realise how dearly I treasured it and needed it. But when I had to quit dancing as it was becoming too far to drive for lessons three times a week, I discovered my love for cattle and tractors. The rest just fell into place. Unlike most farm children you see I didn’t own a horse and couldn’t (and still can’t) really ride one!

When I was in year five in 2002, we picked our last cotton crops. After 8 years of drought and no water allocations we turned to dry land cropping, even sowing wheat and barley into our irrigation blocks. Often our crops wouldn’t get to harvest due to the lack of water, and we were hand feeding our sheep and cattle day in and day out. Only one year in the middle of the drought was there enough water in the irrigation scheme to allocate water to famers, we choose to plant and irrigate forage sorghum to bale into hay to sell and feed for our stock..

My love of Agriculture extended throughout high school where I studied as much Ag related subjects as possible. I attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange. Here I was a part of the Cattle team, and after much encouragement from our neighbour and stud owner Steve Chase I learnt to show cattle and joined the KWS Cattle team. My love for cattle grew even more. Showing cattle opens up so many opportunities that linked into everyday life, which may surprise you. By showing cattle with the school I was exposed to the stud industry at all levels. We showed at all our local shows and also at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This also helped me achieve numerous awards for Judging Cattle and Handlers Classes, including winning RAS NSW Reserve Champion Junior Judge. All of these experiences gave me a new sense of confidence in myself. Showing cattle enabled me to make friends and contacts for life, helped develop many life skills the main one being public speaking and also allowed me to apply for scholarships to do things I’d only dreamed of doing. I don’t show cattle as much anymore, but I am still involved by helping out with junior heifer shows as well as I am a part of the Dubbo Show Society.


Showing cattle at Blayney Show.

Even with the drought and lack of funds my parents did everything they could to ensure I had the education I needed and ensured I stayed at Kinross. It is at times like these you can see boys and girls that have grown up before their time, accepting responsibilities and helping their parents as much as possible. My little sister and I were like this, as much as mum and dad didn’t want us to worry about how tough things were at home we always did, it was always on our mind. And due to this every holidays we would come home and set to work on the farm to help dad out as much as possible. The main gesture I remember offering dad was I opted out of going to schoolies after finishing my HSC to come home and sit on a header for dad over harvest. In 2009 my HSC year, dad purchased a header of our own to ease the costs of sourcing contactors. At that time I never even thought I’d get to drive it but at the first chance dad jumped at teaching my sister and I all the bits and pieces. This didn’t just include driving it, we also learnt how to service it, because as dad says if you drive it you must know how to fix it (this included cars to!).


Me Driving our Case 2388 Header.

Many times over the years my father has been asked if he would rather boys to help instead of girls, my father’s response is simple, I wouldn’t trade my girls for the world!

As dad has always ensured that both my sister and I are capable in handling stock and driving machinery, proving to many that we can do just as much as any boys ( and as Ginger Rogers once said ‘even backwards and in high heels’)


Me sowing our Wheat.

In my year off in 2010, between school and Uni I had planned to travel or head north to work on a cattle station, but instead headed home for most of the year. Helping dad plant, spray and harvest our crops. One of my greatest achievements was being accepted to University of New England (UNE). This was also the year that the drought eased for us, giving us a year average of 704ml! ( Our rainfall yearly averages had gone from 665ml in 1998 to 346ml in 2002, and hit a low of 201ml in 2006)

I am currently at UNE in my last year of study for my Bachelor of Agriculture. During this time I have participated in many subjects which have given me a better understanding of Agriculture, how to improve aspects of our farm and have been given hundreds of opportunities to do things which I didn’t even know where available. In my 2nd year at Uni I applied for an Angus Youth Scholarship and won a trip up to the Rockhampton Beef week, to learn about northern producers and to meet with some great people. I also became involved in the annual Farming Futures Dinner and Careers Fair that UNE run, I was the dinner coordinator for two years, gaining so many contacts through this experience, which have allowed me to line up summer jobs as well as give me an insight to where I would like to go with my degree.

In my 3rd year, I applied for a MLA and Live Corp Scholarship to travel over to Freemantle to undertake a Stockman’s Accreditation Course, which enables me to work on a Live Export boat as a Stockman. To be fully accredited I have to do two practice voyages where I am assessed and then am given the ok to be fully accredited. I am hoping to get on two voyages this year. I also gained my certifications for Pregnancy Testing and Artificially Inseminating cattle. Now in my 4th and final year of study I was lucky enough to be the 2013 recipient of the Rob Seekamp Memorial Scholarship, and have also just been informed I have received an RAS Scholarship.

In my 1st year of Uni in 2011, the government’s water buy back scheme finally went through, at this point we sold our water licence as along with many other properties we were in an area which wasn’t viable to move water to. Our irrigation channels and dams were decommissioned and we can no longer grow cotton, which saddened me as it was such a big part of my childhood,

There is an upside to the decommissioning as we  now have more area to put to dry land cropping than before. We are now solely dry land cropping with our sheep and beef enterprises. I enjoy just as much as I ever did heading home and helping dad with our commercial herd of Angus cattle, our small mob of Dorper sheep and the preparation, sowing, spraying of our crops, but most of all you can’t beat getting on the header during harvest especially when you have a great season.


My summer jobs have always been agriculture related and I have just come back from working on a cotton property in South West QLD. Taking me back to my love of cotton and irrigating. As well as this harvest just gone I gave the header driving a rest and worked for our local Grain Corp receiving and unloading grain trucks.

Agriculture is a part of who I am, I wouldn’t be the same without it. I don’t have a favourite industry within Agriculture I love them all, after all I am a farmer’s daughter and very proud to be part of  the next generation of female farmers!

Is art, design, creativity and teamwork your thing


If art, design, creativity and teamwork are your thing, then it’s time to get involved with the 2014 Archibull Prize.

It’s a great way to learn – hands on – about the challenges of feeding, clothing and housing the world when our natural resources are shrinking.

Secondary and Primary students have the chance to paint a life-sized cow or use it as a subject in their artwork. Schools can explore and showcase a primary industry. There are also opportunities to pair up with Young Farming Champions and connect with farmers, natural resource managers, industry and community experts.

An Art4Agriculture initiative, the Archibull Prize has been running successfully in New South Wales for the past three years and will be expanding to QLD, Victoria and ACT this year.

Expressions of interest are now open

Contact Lynne Strong at

Meet Elizabeth Munn who believes a future in the cotton industry is on the horizon

Today’s guest blog post has been written by Liz Munn a young lady who believes you get out of life what you put into it and agriculture deserves a life- long commitment



My name is Liz Munn and I am 20 years old in my 3rd and final year of my degree studying at the University of New England in Armidale.

I come from the small rural community of Moree in the North West slopes and plains of NSW. Moree has a population of just over 9,000. It is situated in the centre of a large agricultural sector due to the areas rich black vertosol soils, allowing enterprises such as cotton thrive. It is also renowned for its natural hot springs. During the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought.


My grandfather inspired me to have a love of the land. From an early age, I spent time following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise. As well as lamb and calf marking, there was shearing, tractor driving and harvest which both my parents and I helped with.

Over the years, the farm changed to focus more on grain growing. He taught me that you can only take out, what you put in – which is a good motto; not just for agriculture, but for life in general. He was at the forefront of soil conservation, ensuring that the farm would be around for future generations.


I completed my schooling in Moree at 3 separate schools- Moree Public School (K-6), then St Philomena’s (7-10) and finally Moree Secondary College (11-12).

As a kid I had lots of opportunities to grow as a person and I took them with both hands.  I firmly believe life is what you make it and I put a lot of effort into everything I did

At school I was sporting house captain for Freeman House in year 11, and a school leader in year 12. I was heavily involved in a range of sports from horse sports, soccer and athletics.  I was even lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also attended classical violin lessons for 5 years winning many trophies and ribbons for both sport and music.


I am in the navy and red competing in 100m hurdles at state level in Sydney.

Nearing the end of year 12 it was time for me to choose a degree for my university studies. I was very interested in visual arts as well as biology, but had to choose one or the other, so I followed the science path.

I was accepted into a Bachelor of Environmental Science. Several people mentioned that I was going to be a “Greenie” now but I know from the wise words of my grandfather

that it is the marriage of the environment and agriculture that will ensure the survival of both.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and it needs leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques. Leaders who promote adaptation and adoption of environmentally sound farming methods , to ensure Australia can be competitive on the world market, and give the best protection for our farmers and our farmers against our unpredictable seasons.

At University I live at St Albert’s College, which has a family ethos and I now consider it my second home as we are all a family. Here I made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I am highly active in the college’s netball team as well as the chugby team (women’s rugby). I currently hold a position in the college known as a pastoral advisor (PA) where I support my fellow students in any way possible and help organise events.


On the right hand side at the end, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

In Moree I am also involved in rural community programs. I have been a member of the Moree Show society for 4 years. Show societies run events that bring the whole community together to celebrate agricultural excellence and raise awareness of the value of farming to rural and regional economies 

I have been a steward for the car show and this year I am the assistant secretary. I also competed in the local show society showgirl competition and received runner up.


That’s me third from the left before the winner of the showgirl was announced at the Moree Show.

For the last two university summer breaks I have worked for a local agronomist as a crop scout. I first applied for the position as a learning experience. Then I found the more I learnt, the more I enjoyed myself and finally realised this was the profession I wanted for me. I find the cotton industry fascinating and have been inspired to join their ranks by the enthusiastic people I have been lucky enough to work with to date

Last year I also went on a tour of one of the local gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process, which allowed me to see the industry from field to fibre.


Agriculture is not just an industry to most people. Its a lifestyle, a passion that is passed down through generations. But you don’t have to come from generations of farmers to be part of this wonderful industry

Agriculture currently influences every person in the world as we are all consumers 

Agriculture in Australia faces pressure from competition for farmland from mining and housing and vagaries of climate. It suffers from poor image problem and a misconception it is not a good career choice for a young person

As a person who knows you get out of life what you put into it I am looking forward to taking an active hands on role and helping provide solutions to the challenges our farmers face and building partnership with the community to take on this shared responsibility    

You can watch this video from the US that shows all the opportunities for careers in agriculture

Meet Rebecca Freeman doing it backwards and in high heels

Todays guest blog comes from Rebecca Freeman another young agribusiness professional who has made the most of all the opportunities a career in agriculture has opened for her.

“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation”

As you will seen Rebecca is also a great story teller

This is Rebecca’s story ……

I’m Bec Freeman and my agricultural background reads like a farmer driving her header blindfolded backwards without autosteer through the hilly block.


I was born into a mixed broadacre cropping and livestock family that through the years became more broadacre than livestock, moved from being a four son operation, to a husband and wife team, to a two generational partnership.

I learned to ride a motorbike at 5, drive a car at 10 and a tractor not long after. I grew up knowing in summer you itched of barley dust and rain was the best smell and sound in the world. Winter was a time of gumboots and raincoats and the sting of cold air on your cheeks as you checked the ewes or monitored the crops.


I knew everyone in town and had 24 friends at school – the whole school. Saturdays were for sport and dinner at the local pub and holidays were yearly trips to the beach. Dogs were your first work tool you owned and the last mate you had left when things got tough.

By age 14 I wanted out. Surprised? My folks weren’t. Some spirits are meant to roam free and they saw that in me and trusted that the love they had given me of farming, rural Australia and the land would guide me in the right direction, wherever that was to be.

Boarding school and three years doing a degree in Sport Science landed me still not knowing where I wanted to head and keen to swap the city for the country again. After eight years away I found myself back at home working in the local vet clinic as a vet nurse and helping out on the family farm with my Dad and brother. I had good communication skills and so helped out on the farm mostly with brokering discussions and facilitating brainstorming (or just storming) sessions. Off farm I continued to work in customer service over the years, as a barmaid, in administration and in sales.


Fast forward a decade and I’m still here in the Mid North, but wow my career in agriculture has been anything but traditional. Back then I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer long term, I am too restless and people orientated to be committed to the routine and dedication to seasons required of a grain grower. However, I loved farmers and I understood their passion. My passion wasn’t farming; it was the farmers themselves – the people behind the business. I admired all the qualities of these amazing people and I had skills that I knew, if I could just find some way to apply those skills to farmers lives whole communities would benefit.

I had an incredible opportunity to work nationally as the Executive Officer for the Future Farmers Network. This was perfect for three very simple reasons – I got to meet hundreds of young people in ag, I got to travel all over regional Australia and I could raise my three children from tiny, little Koolunga because I could work from home in the industry I loved (and still drive the odd tractor or drench the odd sheep).


It was during this time I had three encounters that shaped where I am today. The first was meeting some key people in the network. They opened my eyes to the variety in careers in agriculture. Until that point my exposure had been very traditional – farmers or service providers from banks, dealerships, chemical companies and the like. Then I discovered capacity building careers, like consultants and facilitators, job titles are a lot less defined but to me so appealing! I found out that people without agricultural backgrounds are some of the most successful people in the industry, because they think creatively about how to help the passionate people on the ground.

The second encounter was attending a grains conference and meeting people developing mobile technology for farmers. This was when I realized my true potential wasn’t in a job that was already out there waiting for me to find it. My future lay in taking my ideas for improvement, mixing them with varied experience in the industry I loved, adding the right knowledge from different sources and applying it back to my passion – farmers. I created my own job in agribusiness and haven’t looked back.

The third encounter was my experience with the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award and discovering what a difference good leadership could make in rural Australia. This award caused me to embark on a journey to develop my own natural ability, in work or as a member of a rural community, to lead others to achieve their own success. I realized that by developing myself constantly, there would always be a place for my career to develop too.


I currently live in Clare, South Australia with my three children. I am the Yorke and Mid North Regional Manager with the Department for Primary Industries and Regions, and have the goal here of developing my knowledge of all aspects of the rural sector and the relevant industries, to better lead and guide farmers in the future. I am also a Director in an agribusiness that is passionate about capacity building for the ag sector and a partner in my family farm. I know what I don’t want from my career too, which is as important as knowing what you do want.


Best of all I am still only a short drive away from my family farm and enjoy watching the sixth generation look in awe at their Grandpa as they occupy the little seat next to him in the header, like I did, and realize they are a part of feeding the world. I call them holistic farm kids because I’m teaching them about agriculture from the tractor right through to my office in a government department and every step I’ve taken on the way…so far.

“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation’

My key message to young people looking at agriculture as a career path is don’t pigeonhole yourself or the industry. If I can go from being a fifth generation farmer, to a first generation agribusiness partner, having developed an iPad app, experienced the national not-for-profit ag sector and increased my knowledge of government agency operations in the space of ten years, where could I be in another ten?

For me, the common thread in all I’ve done has been the passion I have for the people who produce food and fibre.”

Follow Rebecca on twitter @rusticbecca