The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
In high school, Danila Marini “never felt comfortable in my own skin”. The Young Farming Champion (YFC) tried to heavily hide their femininity at the agricultural high school they attended in South Australia, but although was called a tomboy never really wanted to be a male.
“In the early 2000s I didn’t have much exposure to the LGBTQI+ community and only knew of some terms like bisexual while the term non-binary was non-existent,” Danila said.
Now, as the newly appointed Action4Agriculture Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) Ambassador, Danila (30) is excited at the opportunity to share their story with today’s high school students.
The Ambassador appointment came about after Danila participated in a workshop designed for The Archibull Prize (TAP) students of Mary MacKillop Catholic College in Wakeley, western Sydney. The all-girls school was interested in showcasing gender diversity in agriculture and a workshop was coordinated by SDG 5 (Gender Equality) Ambassador Francesca Earp with strong female leads including Tayla Field, Dione Howard, Chloe Dutschke and Katherine Bain. Danila’s inclusion facilitated open discussions about gender fluidity and non-binary people in agriculture.
“There’s definitely a gender bias in many industries such as science and agriculture that swing towards the classic straight white cis male,” Danila said
Danila who is a CSIRO experimental scientist and animal ethics co-ordinator also recognises the hurdles for women and gender diverse people, whether related to societal expectations about having a family, or professional stereotypes.
I have had someone say to me I don’t look like someone who would have a PhD,” says they and “non-binary people present the same,” they said
For Francesca, 25, whose masters and PhD are focused on gender equity and the exclusionary past of feminist history and how it shapes the engagement and empowerment of non-dominant feminist groups, working with a Danila was timely and eye-opening.
“I hadn’t met anyone previously in the ag sector who identified as non-binary,” says Francesca. “The same is true of my work in agricultural development, which is an unfortunate reality of traditional patriarchal perspectives of agriculture that either don’t provide opportunities to non-binary practitioners or researchers or don’t make them feel welcome while fostering engagement and empowerment in the sector.
“Danila was really open in talking about how we could improve the inclusivity of the workshop sessions, talking about equity in general, rather than specifying who we were fighting to have equality for, which I’d really like to take further in my own future research.”
Franny says everyday is an opportunity to open your eyes and see the world from some-one else’s perspective
Danila and Francesca are welcome role models for young people with a personal interest in gender diversity and this illustrates how Action4Agriclutre empowers these young people to talk about the issues important to them, and to take everyone along on a journey of understanding.
“Gender equity is a very complex issue and by focusing on only the ‘female’ aspects of gender equity you not only heavily impact minority groups but women themselves,” says Danila. “I’m not afraid to speak up about my experiences and I realise people can’t change or learn if you are not willing to help.”
After the workshop, Danila said that being a good ally to non-binary people meant being cognisant of the fact that gender is complex. Asking for pronouns and remembering to correct mistakes are two important things.
“It’s very important to understand that non-binary is not a ‘third’ gender – it’s an encompassment of gender fluidity and not all non-binary people present the same,” says they. “Also, do not lump woman and non-binary people together for events if you are not willing to accept non-binary people that are assigned male at birth.”
Having role models in agriculture who promote diversity, equity and inclusion is not only important for students but for teachers, families and communities. Leah Brown, TAP teacher at Mary McKillop, says her students are passionate about highlighting gender issues and contributing to fulfilling gender goals.
“We know that real life activities and projects are great for engaging students in their learning and building relevance and connections to what they are learning with the wider community and the world.”
Can you believe 2022 is already a month old! The New Year brings us opportunities to achieve goals and to step-outside comfort zones to challenge ourselves as advocates and leaders for agriculture. But before we turn with focussed eyes to the opportunities of the new year, let us take a moment, here in January, to reflect on the year that was 2021. It was a year under the shadow of a pandemic that impacted our Young Farming Champions (YFC) in different ways from time management issues to staff shortages but, as you will see, workshops and growing the YFC team where touchstones in a sometimes turbulent year.
Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders
The two-year long Cultivate program is our introduction to the world of Action4Agriculutre and Young Farming Champions. The program is designed and run to support young people involved in a broad range of agricultural careers to be skilled, confident and comfortable to share their stories.
What did 2021 look like for our Cultivate cohort?
COVID complicated study for Franny in 2021 causing her to drop one PhD (but complete two Masters degrees!) but her persistence paid off with when she secured a scholarship for another PhD at James Cook University. Whilst studying she also worked on consultancy projects so in 2021 she was, understandably, a busy person. Participation in Cultivate helped Franny manage her time and expectations:
“I am learning to not overcommit myself and to focus my schedule to activities that align with my passions and values. This is a challenge I am still working on, but the workshops throughout the YFC program (particularly Workshop One with Josh Farr that taught me about core values and how they direct you in everyday life) and the guidance of my supervisors and mentors continues to help me ensure I am filling my schedule in a realistic and appropriate way.”
Bryan Van Wyk
Bryan’s personal highlight of 2021 was purchasing his first home and his biggest challenge was addressing COVID-induced labour shortages, which saw him sourcing, training and managing a team of casual workers to unload prawns in the remote town of Karumba.
As a YFC Bryan nominates the first workshop with Josh Farr as a highlight where he was introduced to Google Calendar.
“I work in operations in a highly dynamic work environment where organisation is key to productivity. Google Calendar has been a game changer for me. Not only has it helped me keep better track and planning of day-to-day tasks, but it has allowed me to get the most out of each day, both on a personal and professional level.”
And on the YFC as a whole Bryan says:
“We are not the same group of people we were at the start of 2021. We have become more confident, more knowledgeable, experienced and more authentic. If there is one thing to be proud of it’s the support and encouragement we have given each other through various platforms. I feel I can reach out to any YFC for advice or information at any time and I hope others feel that way about me.”
Workshops were also high on the list of highlights for NTCA supported YFC Shannon, particularly those held by Josh Farr
“the workshop on goal setting and lifestyle design has helped me to structure my work day to be more productive and this has encouraged me to take on more community engagement activities and make more time for my professional development” and Roxi Beck – “her workshop has been valuable to me in learning how to communicate better with the general public and have more confidence to answer some tough or perhaps uncomfortable questions. Her workshop focused on the importance of shared values and how to practice the listen and ask process when having these conversations.”
Shannon’s role in the beef industry in 2021 was impacted by staff and management challenges, challenges she overcame with support from YFC mentorship:
“Having a YFC ‘buddy’ to talk to regularly and discuss challenges and ideas has helped me to develop professionally and become a better contributor to such conversations and situations.”
Showing determination and commitment to a cause was a highlight of Dylan’s year as he ran his first marathon, finishing in a very respectful time of 3hr 38m. This work ethic was reflected in his approach to the Cultivate program.
“Together (as YFC), we continue to display the qualities of leadership and our shared determination to advocate for the Australian agricultural sector. My biggest YFC learning was realising the importance of forming genuine connections and relationships with other people. Without this we are unable to make the changes we set out to achieve.
“My biggest challenge has been setting long-term goals and figuring out how I can achieve them. I am overcoming this challenge by pursuing opportunities to develop my skills and knowledge, by collaborating with others and by becoming intentional in everything I do. The YFC program has been pivotal in this.”
PhD student Veronika names the publication of her first research paper as a highlight in a year that was overshadowed by the pandemic.
“The continuation of uncertainty surrounding COVID and not being able to plan things too far in advance both at work and at home was a challenge this year. I think this was a big reminder to just keep going with the flow and not to put too much pressure on anything in life. Josh’s workshops on time management and allocating time to what was important have helped improve my work-life balance.”
Veronika finds the community and networking established through the Cultivate program to be another highlight of 2021:
“We work in different industries under the banner of agriculture and it has been really nice to reach out to others and learn from them. It just proves how diverse and rich agriculture is.”
“Taking back fun and adventures”
“Personally, the biggest highlight for me was spending quality time with family and friends, especially after not being able to see them for many months. It’s amazing how it can recharge you to keep striving towards your goals. The influence of COVID on our way of life in 2021 certainly put strain on my mental health, but with access to good resources, good strategies and a supportive network I was able to overcome it. It’s important to recognise that with those challenges came many positive opportunities to learn and try new things that I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.”
Participation in Cultivate helped Steph work her way through the travails of 2021.
“I learnt a lot about myself through the YFC workshops, and the importance of good self-awareness and drawing upon shared values in our interactions with others. Being strong, positive advocates for our industry and providing our fellow YFC’s with support for all achievements large or small, is something I am proud of.”
“enjoying all that nature has to offer”
On graduation from the Cultivate program participants become fully fledged YFC, multiply their impact by visiting schools, have opportunities to grow their networks, forge careers and to take on leadership roles and development. They routinely reach for the sky and are amazingly successful in realising their ambitions. Let’s chat to a couple of our alumni.
Long-standing YFC Emma Ayliffe blazed her way through 2021. She was named Australian Young Farmer of the Year, continued to build her rapidly growing business and managed her own farm with partner Craig through rain and mice plaques.
“My biggest learning from being a YFC in 2021 was that the power of the people around you is critical for learning, briefing, opportunities and moving forward; and I am proud that despite meeting obstacles and challenges the YFC as a group pulled off amazing workshops and skill building opportunities. The workshops of 2021 have added so much value and allowed everyone to keep moving forward.”
Working through different strategies and techniques to run both a consultancy and her own farm was one of Emma’s biggest challenges in 2021. Being part of the YFC network helped her overcome and thrive.
Another Alumni kicking big goals was Dione Howard who realised a long-held dream in 2021.
“Being named the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever Representative for 2020-21 was a personal lifetime highlight. I am excited to be representing NSW in the National Rural Ambassador Competition in Sydney during April 2022.”
As with many YFC, Dione found time management a challenge but also relished the opportunities to connect with esteemed leaders as part of the online YFC workshops. “It was wonderful to workshop sessions with Charlie Arnott and Roxi Beck from CFI and Kwame Christian, as well as to learn from Gaye Steel. I love to be able to continue learning as an alumnus of the program and building on my skills and knowledge.
“I continue to be amazed at the ability of the YFC program to transition to learning online, which began in 2020 but has evolved to a seamless delivery of content that fits in around everyone’s schedules, using the impressive Mighty Networks platform.”
This image is from a photo shoot for The Daily Telegraph, a story about the bumper season for cropping farmers projected at the time (July 2021). My partner Joe and I wandered through the paddocks on the property at Wallendbeen where he works. I think it sums up another year of isolation, but an excellent season for farmers and our enthusiasm for what’s to come!
Through her YFC workshops Jess increased her facilitation skills.
“It takes a lot of time and practice to learn how to facilitate well (and to work a room using zoom!), a skill I still need to constantly work on.”
Jess was also proud of the way the YFC evolved as a group in 2021.
“Transitioning from YVLT to the new project specific YFC Leadership committee with the Innovation Hub will be a great move going forward.”
COVID challenges continued to impact all YFC and Sam was no different but she came to realise the strength of working under pressure.
“I gained an appreciation for small things and, when struggling, was able to refocus on taking stock of what is important, reminding myself of values and re-evaluating goals and boundaries.”
These sentiments were echoed in her approach her YFC work.
“All training – the coaching on resilience, flexibility and scheduling – came together to continue to bring agriculture into classrooms and, in a time where so much was put on hold, the YFC team was still able to develop and grow; delivering our own workshops and creating content to share with the YFC network.”
2022 Highlights (already!)
Our Cultivate cohort and our Alumni have hit the ground running in 2022 and in less than a month have already achieved milestones.
For Cultivate member Veronika Vicic this took the form of receiving an Australia Day award from the National Council of Women of NSW in recognition of her contribution to the rural community. Veronika was presented with the award at Parliament House in Sydney on Jan 24.
“Receiving this award has re-ignited my passion to continue following a career path in agriculture and to voice how rewarding involvement in this industry is. In my academic and non-academic career I hope to continually engage in community outreach and through leadership I hope to encourage younger audiences to be aware of Australian agriculture.”
“I applied to be a Rural Achiever as I wanted to connect and discuss agriculture with other rural achievers, members of the ag society and the general public. I love the Royal Easter show and being given the opportunity to help on sections stewarding and judging is so exciting! I used to love helping at my local show and have continued my connections with local shows around the Central Tablelands with my role as a Development Officer for NSW DPI. With the Rural Achiever award I hope to inspire the younger generation and general public to take a greater interest in where the food and fibre comes from. YFC, Lynne and Dione, have all inspired and helped me along my Rural Achiever journey and I am so lucky to have them in my network!” says Jess
Moving forward in 2022
We welcome Florance McGufficke to the Cultivate team as the AWI scholarship winner. Florance has hit the ground running, attending the first workshop of the year with Julia Telford who conducted DiSC personality profiling for the YFC.
“What I took away from this workshop was that it is important to understand your ‘style’ or ‘personality’ but it was more about learning how to identify other people’s styles, so that we can work collaboratively, communicate effectively and build strong relationships personally and professionally,” Florance says.
“Our vision for our 2021 Archie was to focus on well-being and use the cow to be a public artwork to express well-being words provided by the community and well-being initiatives within the school. Well-being initiatives include the design of a well-being haven for students, and a colour run that was designed but which we have not been able to run due to COVID restrictions. We have also initiated another public art project working with the council which will explore well-being. Funding has been applied for and we are hoping to have it completed mid 2022.”
Watch Jillian talk about how the school was inspired to go on their journey here
Similarly, in primary schools it has been important to build resilience, especially in school communities where the pandemic came hot on the heels of devastating bushfires in 2019-2020. To support these schools St Vincent de Paul’s (Vinnies) Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program provided funding to deliver Kreative Koalas into five schools.
The Vinnies Program has three major areas of focus – future preparedness and building resilience, community cohesion, and environmental regeneration and sustainability. “Vinnies views Kreative Koalas as aligning with all three, but particularly the resilience building and environmental sustainability,” John Fenech, the manager of Community Development Bushfire Recovery at St Vincent de Paul Society of NSW says.
The Australian Government recently created a Student Wellbeing Hub, which incorporates Beyond Blue’s report on resilience in children aged 0-12. This resource is available to teachers who can use further resources within Kreative Koalas to create targeted resilience interventions for their students in need.
When we take time to reflect we realise SDG 3 affects not only our students and teachers but all of us. Our good health and well-being underpins all we do in our lives, just as the SDG underpins the work of Action4Agriculture.
Read how more of our Archibull Prize schools are building resilience here
Apply to participate in The Archibull Prize 2022 here