Big Dreams Going Places Driving Change

Over the next twelve months Australia’s latest outstanding on-line magazine Leading Agriculture will feature stories about our Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions with big dreams who are going places and driving change

Today we share with you Josh Gilbert;s story in Leading Agriculture Issue 5 

Josh Gilbert Leading Agriculture

Josh Gilbert is an ideas man with a knack for turning his dreams into reality.

 Chair of the NSW Young Farmers’ Council, an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion, Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship alumni, RAS Rural Achiever, current finalist in the NSW Indigenous Young Achiever Awards, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Newcastle, and currently completing a Bachelor of Law; the successes that define Josh Gilbert’s professional life have not come by chance or luck. They are the result of planning, determination and hard work.

Josh has big dreams for agriculture.

A constant influence in his desire to succeed, he says, is his Aboriginal heritage: “I look over the land where my family farm [on the NSW Mid North Coast] and know that’s where my ancestors were thousands of years ago. Knowing there is that connection to the land is something I feel wholeheartedly. I get this vibe whenever I’m there… looking after the land so that I can share that with future generations is something I’m passionate about achieving results for.”

Josh’s family run one of Australia’s most southern Braford cattle studs, on the banks on the Wallamba River on a parcel of land subdivided from what was once Josh’s grandfather’s dairy farm.

But Josh was dreaming of a fast paced, city based career in law and accounting, and it wasn’t until midway through his university studies that something changed.

 “I had an idea that I wanted to combine my love of the law and accounting with my love of farming,

I wanted to be able to take my future children back to the farm and show them the lifestyle I had when I was growing up. At the time NSW Young Farmers was working on its youth finance scheme and I thought that I could use my skills to help out while also gaining more understanding myself as to how to enter the industry.”

It was January 2013. As a NSW Young Farmers’ member Josh attended the AGM and was immediately elected to the Council. In May that year he tagged along on a farm production tour around Armidale, mixing with young farmers and sharing agricultural knowledge; Josh’s mind was ticking over.

 “I had an absolute blast. I was driving home and just decided that from then on agriculture was the way to go and that I’d still finish my law degree, but completely change the direction I was heading, towards agriculture.”

In early 2014 Josh was elected as Council Chair. Since then he has travelled to New Zealand for the Rural Bachelor competition, opened a community park, spoken at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference as well as many local and state events.

This year NSW Young Farmers’ is focusing on local level events across regional areas. On May 9, the Riverina town of Hay will play host to the first ‘Dinner in the Dark’. A social opportunity to boost the spirits of drought affected farming families, the event combines the themes of Earth Hour and climate change with rural mental health.

“It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, to get farmers to come off the land, have a good feed by candle light, watch a movie and help destigmatize mental health and building the support networks for farmers who might be struggling,”

“I really hope that when we have the one in Hay the community will keep it going as a fundraiser for the local community in later years when the seasons are better. If it goes well we hope to do two or three more in western NSW and perhaps into Queensland as well.”

Also on the agenda this year, Josh has been working with national manager of Earth Hour at WWF Australia, Anna Rose, on a cookbook showcasing the stories of 50 farmers from around Australia and recipes inspired by the food they produce.

“I was asked to talk about some of the interesting ways that young farmers are responding to climate change and sustainability on their farms, with the extra university education many young farmers have today,.

I thought about what we’re doing on our family farm and the variations we’ve seen since we owned it. I also talk about Art4Agriculture and some of the NSW Young Farmers’ initiatives and what we’re doing with the Climate Champions and Future Farmers.Network”

Josh met Anna through his role as an Art4Agriculture MLA Young Farming Champion (YFC), and credits the YFC program for the skills sets it teaches and connections it creates.

“The YFC workshops taught me great communication and media skills, improved my presentation abilities, and broadened my thinking across ideas such as social licencing and how we market agriculture to consumers,”

“Art4Agriculture is really passionate about connecting its YFCs with the movers and shakers of the world – people who can inspire, build confidence and connect you with other likeminded people. It provides a lifetime mentoring service and has given me access to people and opportunities I would never have had otherwise,” Josh says.

Along the way, Josh seizes every chance to gather knowledge from mentors and peers:

“Amazing people who are kicking goals.”

“I talk to them about how they’ve done it so I can try to share that with other young farmers,”

Anna Rose was behind the successful ABC documentary series ‘Can I change your mind about Climate Change?’ so Josh has sought her advice on the possibility of producing a similar agricultural themed series.

“I think there’s a great opportunity for farmers to do a ‘Can I change your mind about Animal Welfare?’ series, where we take animal activists onto our farms and actually show them and the viewers what we do on farms, how we do treat our animals – basically being more transparent with our consumers in a way that we haven’t really had a lot of access to in the past.”

Josh is also planning to release his own pod cast series. Featuring interviews from various agricultural and business experts each month, Josh hopes ‘Tractor Talks’ will be available on iTunes by April/May.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts and I think it’s a good opportunity for farmers while they’re out on the tractor harvesting or driving around to listen to some business ideas from influential people in agriculture and learn something that they can practically apply to their business at home,”

Achieving these ideas means of a routine akin to that of an elite athlete in training. The new year has brought with it Josh’s ‘2015 Regime’ involving early starts, listening to his favourite entrepreneurial podcasts, working on Tractor Talks, full-time work and study.

 “How do I achieve things? I break down the goals. I plan very long term and then try to work those plans back to now and everything that needs to be done in the next few months. Then I just work as hard as I can towards that

“I’m really set on what I want to achieve so I always try to make the time to knock out the big ideas. If it means that I don’t get much sleep for a week then that’s just how it is… because I know that the return will have a big impact for agriculture and also me personally.”

High on the list of Josh’s big ambitions is to one day buy back all the farm land his great grandparents once owned in Bundook. As a reminder of what he’s working towards, he visits as often as possible.

“That’s where my family heritage is. I  really enjoy speaking with the Elders of the local Aboriginal Lands Council about the way things have changed and ideas of how I can achieve the best results for both [them and agriculture].”

When overlooking the prime farm land and happy stud cattle, Josh sees a history that is thousands of years in the making. And a future that is well within reach.

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