Todays guest blog comes from Wool Young Farming Champion and PhD student Jo Newton
Jo is one of the growing number of young people who grew up in the city who are attracted to career pathways that support Australian farmers and food and fibre production in this country. At Art4Agriculture we believe our role is to help empower the younger generation of rural entrepreneurs to drive the direction and take ownership of the future of the agricultural sector.
We believe the fastest way to do this is cross industry programs and networks that bring young people from every food and fibre industry together to work towards a connected, cohesive, profitable and respected agrifood sector
As you can see from Jo’s blog she has sought out and tapped into many of these programs and she shares that exciting journey with you today……….
I believe the multitude of #youthinag groups across Australia is one of our greatest strengths as an industry. Since I became a country convert 6 ½ years ago I have felt truly lucky to have become a part of the agricultural community. Somewhat ironically, in the last couple of years it has been by old school friends from Melbourne who have made me realize just how lucky I am, and we as an industry are.
Around 2 years ago a few girlfriends and I were out to tea and a catch up. Having all graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in the last couple of years conversation quickly turned to our future career paths. My girlfriends were flabbergasted when I started talking about some of the opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to take part in as a young person in agriculture. They were blown away by the magnitude of programs such as the RAS Rural Achiever Program and the Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship program and wished that their industries offered similar professional development opportunities for young professionals. As an aside if anyone has heard of professional development programs of scholarships for young people in the health professions or social work my girlfriends would love to know.
Pictured above: the 2013 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achievers, I’m third from the right in the front row & 2014 GRDC YFC Dwayne is in the middle of the back row
Whilst clearly enjoying their new careers, my friends raised another challenge that entry to the working world had brought. They often found themselves surrounded by people much older than them at work which is definitely something I am able to relate to. My friends talked about the challenge of meeting other young people in their profession and I asked them if their industries had a youth network, council or group and received negative answers. At this point I realized just how lucky I am to work in agriculture.
Given a choice of many youth groups from my industry to be a part of or none at all, I’m certainly glad to have the former. Since I moved to Armidale these #youthinag groups have been vital for me to meet other young agri-professionals. Whilst I may be the youngest person in the office, the various different #youthinag groups provide me with the opportunity to network with a whole range of other young like-minded people. Different groups have provided me with different opportunities; from social gatherings, forums, newsletters, fieldtrips, scholarships, conferences and networking events I believe I have got something different from all the groups I am a part of.
Picture: in 2013 my involvement with #youthinag saw me represent my university & Australia at the Enactus World Cup in Mexico
I often hear that having too many groups is a weakness. I prefer to think of our diversity as a potential strength. Earlier this year I had the privilege of being funded by AWI to attend YAC (Youth Agricultural Central) organized by the Future Farmers Network (FFN). It was an electrifying experience and over the two days I learnt that many of the groups face similar challenges. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with like-minded young professionals all passionate about agriculture’s future. Whilst each #youthinag group might offer something different to members, our strength will be multiplied many times over if we come together and unite on key issues to achieve lasting change. The annual YAC conferences organized by FFN are a great forum to build connectedness between our groups and I hope to see them continue to grow from strength to strength.
Having just recovered from my 2014 Sydney Show experience I am yet again amazed by the strength of the #youthinag network and the admiration, loyalty and support we display to one another. The stands of the amphitheater were packed by #youthinag supporting their peers during the 2014 Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Announcements and Rural Achiever Public Speaking showcase whilst the annual Catchup at the Royal was filled with young people from many different #youthinag groups.
With such a strong network of passionate young people, which I consider to be stronger than youth networks in other industries, how can you not be excited about the future of agriculture.
Picture: How many #youthinag groups can you fit in a photo? NSW Young Farmers, RAS Youth Group, ASC of NSW Youth Group and Art4Ag YFCs catch up at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.