Our farmers are destined for The Good Place

For fans of The Good Place ( see footnote) a recent survey has shown that Australian  farmers are more likely than their community peers to get a free pass

A 2017 Regional Wellbeing Survey conducted by the University of Canberra found rural communities have a higher percentage of volunteers (up to 70.7%) compared to their urban counterparts (24.5%), reflecting the strong connection rural people have to their communities.

The survey found farmers, in particular, had high rates of volunteering with over half the respondents giving up time for unpaid work.

Benefits of volunteering include a better understanding of community, new skills, knowledge and contacts, new perspectives, expanded networks, increased influence, growth in confidence and personal satisfaction.

At Picture You in Agriculture many of our young people give generously of their time in volunteer roles ranging from positions on the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) to engaging with agricultural shows, taking on industry roles and setting up projects and organisations. They do these things to add to the diversity of thought, creativity, perspectives, opportunities, and problem-solving approaches that can deliver successful outcomes for  agriculture and rural and regional communities.

In 2018 19 Young Farming Champions travelled over 24,000 kilometres to visit schools participating in The Archibull Prize. That’s the equivalent of travelling ½ way around the equator. They volunteered over 2650 hours to share their love of agriculture and inspire other young people to follow their career journey .

Here we catch up with six young women to discuss one of their multiple volunteering roles, and to find out their three wishes for agriculture.

BESSIE THOMAS – sheep grazier, Cobar NSW

Bessie volunteers as communication manager for Youth Voices Leadership Team

My motivation is for consumers to have a better understanding of Australian agriculture and food cycles. I can’t change billions of consumers but I can help people in agriculture better their communication with consumers.

Volunteering fills my need for human connection. It fuels my intellectual need to keep my brain working and learning; it fulfils my need for a creative outlet beyond my home; it aligns with my morals and professional skills.

I love being part of a tribe of fierce women with a vision for the best future for young people.  Hopefully volunteering in this capacity will lay foundations to make my daughter’s path in life more enjoyable.

Bessie’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • More understanding of, and patience towards, consumer views
  • Agriculture being proactive rather than reactive
  • Broader minds of those in decision making positions

JO NEWTON – research geneticist, currently based in Ireland

Jo volunteers as chair of Youth Voices Leadership Team

In agriculture we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to professional development opportunities for young people. The training, opportunities and support I’ve received through my involvement with the Young Farming Champions (YFC) program easily surpasses the other programs on offer.

When the opportunity arose to be a part of the YVLT I jumped at the opportunity to give back to a program that’s given me so much. Not only have I gained invaluable skills, confidence and knowledge I feel like I’ve found my tribe in the YFC. It really is a privilege to chair such a proactive, responsive and inspiring group of people.

Jo’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • A united agriculture voice to the community
  • A tribe of young change-makers with the skills and confidence to take a seat at today’s decision making tables
  • To share and promote our stories about Australian agriculture

DIONE HOWARD – district veterinarian, Wagga Wagga NSW

Dione volunteers as the WoolProducers’ Youth Ambassador and Young Farming Champions Mentor Leader

I had very little experience with policy prior to the Youth Ambassador role. It has opened up a whole new world in the agricultural space and I feel that I now have a much clearer idea of how decisions are made that affect farmers and people like myself as a veterinarian.

The Animal Health and Welfare focus of WoolProducers is also a natural alignment with my skill set and I hope to establish some strong career-long connections as well as governance skills through my involvement with the organisation.

Dione’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • Greater connectivity through internet, landline and mobile phones
  • Genuine cross-industry collaboration
  • The corporate sector sees regional and rural Australia as an ideal base for their businesses

LUCY COLLINGRIDGE – biosecurity officer, Narrabri NSW

Lucy volunteers with RAS Youth Group

I was a state finalist in The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition in 2016 and I was eager to continue my involvement and be a part of the team that contributes to the wonderful public education and entertainment aspect of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I applied for the RAS Youth Group, and was accepted, in late 2016.

The Youth Group is a committee of young agriculturalists with similar passions however we are all from different backgrounds and are involved in many different aspects of the Australian agricultural industry.

The monthly meetings we hold are a great introduction to formal committees, strengthening our communication and time management skills. The networks I have developed have been phenomenal and it has provided me with the opportunity to steward for the merino sheep classes as well as the Young Judges Competitions for fleece and merinos.

I enjoy working with those from an agricultural background as well as engaging with those who may not have had any exposure to agricultural beforehand.

Lucy’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • Increased brand awareness of our unique agricultural products
  • Australians are proud of their farmers and the products they produce
  • All farmers have access financial literacy upskilling

 AIMEE SNOWDEN– the LEGO® Farmer, Southern Riverina, NSW

Aimee founder of Little Brick Pastoral volunteers to encourage young people to consider careers in agriculture 

I started the LEGO® Farmer, now under the brand Little BRICK Pastoral, as a bit of fun. As it grew I realised the potential it had to be a celebration of Australian agriculture. I want my images be a positive reflection of Australian food and fibre production and to illustrate the everyday of farming in a unique way.

Starting Little BRICK Pastoral has led to agricultural education, classroom resources and now careers education. Using LEGO® I can literally create any person I want and I hope to showcase the diversity of our industry. A career in agriculture is not just a farmer driving a tractor all day.

Aimee’s three wishes for agriculture is an industry that:

  • Is viewed in a positive light
  • Showcases the diversity of careers in agriculture
  • Speaks with a united voice

Alana Black – policy and communications officer, Griffith NSW

Alana founded Fledgling Farmers and volunteers her time to encourage farmers to have succession plan conversations 

My Mum has always said to us if you’ve got a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your stomach then you’ve got something to give back to your community.

Growing up in Rydal (popn. 50), I was raised as much by the community as by my fantastic parents. I think volunteering from a small age – I’ve probably been volunteering at the local show society since I was five years old – it’s just been bred into me. The feeling you get from volunteering is unlike any other.

When I moved to Sydney after university I had to get into volunteering because I thought how else was I going to meet people and build a community around me like I have back at Rydal.

Life doesn’t have much meaning if you’re not trying to do something to help someone.

Alana’s three wishes for agriculture:

  • For farming families to adopt business management and positive communication practices to aid generational transitions
  • For the Australian Government to adopt schemes like the UK’s Young Farmer Entry Scheme and Canada’s Agricultural Financial Service Corporation to help get more young people into agriculture with the opportunity to become an owner/operator
  • That we embrace the digital and technological agriculture revolution

FootNote – The Good Place is a fantasy TV show depicting a heaven-like utopia designed, in reward for people leading a righteous life.

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