Young Farming Champions Muster July 2022

Headline Act

The Muster showcases the careers, advocacy and lifetime highlights of our Young Farming Champions and it is usually peppered with stories from our YFC alumni. However, in this Muster it is the newbies – those undertaking Cultivate and still learning the ropes – who shine; taking on leadership positions, talking to the next generation, excelling in their studies and revelling in their agricultural careers. Read on to see how Danielle, Lachlan, Florance and Sam are taking the lead to be confident and trusted change-makers – alongside their YFC alumni mentors and friends.


The Team

With The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas ramping up in schools across the country our YFC have been busy connecting with students. Lake Illawarra High School (The Archibull Prize) recently held an Urban2AG careers day and new YFC Danielle Fordham and Lachlan White shared their agricultural career journeys and joined students in a one-on-one ‘speed dating’ session to answer students’ in-depth questions.

Paddock Pen Pals has kicked off in primary schools participating in Kreative Koalas with Chatswood Primary School and Carlingford West Primary School leading the charge. Paddock Pen Pals gives students the opportunity to engage with YFC across a diverse range of agricultural industries including agronomy, sheep production and fisheries. Thanks to Emily May, Dione Howard, Katherine Bain, Sam Wan, Bryan Van Wyk, Lucy Collingridge, Dylan Male and YFC friend Kate McBride for stepping up to speak with our next generation.

In the Field

New YFC Sam O’Rafferty, who works with Emma Ayliffe at Summit Ag, is enjoying his agricultural career as an irrigation agronomist, helping growers produce crops such as cotton, corn, sunflowers, wheat and canola. Here is Sam in a cotton paddock that is ready to harvest, on a farm at Coleambally in Southern NSW.

Also enjoying his career is our fishing YFC Bryan Van Wyk, who is helping introduce new technology to the prawn industry. “One of the exciting projects we are working on is a new prawn processing invention which makes the most of limited available deck space on board fishing vessels. This never-seen-before multi-layered sorting belt and dip tank configuration will allow more prawns to be processed faster, improve product quality and reduce crew fatigue. It will also fit the longer dip requirements for odourless sulphite-free preservatives, which will improve working environments for crews at sea, remove sulphite allergens for consumers and open new overseas markets. Innovation is something I really enjoy. It’s all about finding better ways to do things and improving your industry and business for the future”

Bryan with chief draftsman Gavin Stone adding final touches to the new technology.

Meg Rice works as a senior policy officer at Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in the rural location of Goondiwindi (QLD) and appreciates how a career in agriculture can take her out of the city environ. “How lucky am I that this is the view from my office window”.

A crop of wheat emerging after recent rain in south western Queensland.

Danila Marini’s day job as a livestock researcher involves disseminating new research about her virtual fencing projects and this month she was happy to speak at her first face-to-face conference in two years at The Australian Association of Animal Sciences 34th biannual conference in Cairns.

“As part of the Animal Production Science Journals special issue for the conference I was invited to prepare a full paper on ‘Comparison of virtually fencing and electrically fencing sheep for pasture management’ as well as give a 10 minute oral presentation on the research at the conference itself. It’s always important to share your research at these types of events and it is a great way to make new connections. I had a great time and it’s always interesting to see the other research that is being undertaken in the agricultural industry.”

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Young Farming Champions Veronika Vicic, Danila Marini, Steph Fowler and Dione Howard all presented at the conference 


Out of the Field

The Australian Association of Animal Sciences conference also saw Dione Howard and Jo Newton band together with Lynne Strong, Larraine Larri and Nicole McDonald to prepare an abstract and presentation on how Action4Agriculture’s school-based programs are helping improve agriculture’s social license.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to present A4A’s research to the scientific community and take questions from a curious audience,” Dione says.

It has been a huge month for conferences and presentations with many YFC in action.

Dylan Male was invited by the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) to be a guest speaker at the ‘Global Goals: Environmental Sustainability Forum’, which was delivered online to primary schools across QLD.

“I spoke to students about the important role that farmers and agricultural scientists have in ensuring we live in a world of zero hunger and overcoming the challenges of climate change. I was able to share my experiences of working in PNG and Solomon Islands to demonstrate the importance of food security in our regional neighbourhood. What I liked most about this experience was seeing just how engaged the students were on these topics, and how willing they are to listen, learn and take action.”

Florance McGufficke attended the 2022 MerinoLink conference in Wagga Wagga.

“We had a range of speakers from industry body representatives, researchers, CEOs, young early- career starters and producers; all experts in their field, educating us about research projects, ewe reproduction, retail and the need for positive promotion of agriculture. There are a large number of passionate and enthusiastic people in agriculture and with the right people in the right places I believe great things will be achieved.”

Franny Earp is currently in the UK for a film summer school held by the UCL anthropology department but before she left she was as busy as ever.

Franny coordinated the Development Studies Association of Australia (DSAA) Conference and invited Dylan Male to participate. He did an excellent job sharing his stories about this PhD journey so far.

Dylan spoke on the topic ‘Survive and Thrive: Stories from Students’.

“During the discussion, we shared stories of our PhD experiences and tried to make light of the challenges we have faced by sharing a story of our ‘funny failures from the field’. This discussion made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my PhD journey, and I would like to thank and congratulate Fran for running such valuable session,” Dylan says.


Emma Ayliffe and Tim Eyes were panellists at a Grain Growers Innovation Generation event talking about farm ownership.

“It was a privilege to be asked to be part of this and my role was to share some alternative lights on how to be a farmer without owning dirt,” Emma says.

Listen to Tim talk about his experience on Generation Ag here

Lucy Collingridge attended the 2022 Robb College Agrimixer earlier this month.

“I spoke to the students about my roles as a Biosecurity Officer and Technical Officer Vertebrate Pests, and the career opportunities within our agricultural industries.”

Away from conference events our YFC spread the good agricultural word in other forums with Lucy catching up with Mate Helping Mate founder John Harper to discuss how she maintains her mental health and keeps an eye out for mates. Listen to the MHM podcast episode, titled ‘Pat a Dog Day’, here.

Sam Wan featured in Landline’s ‘Magic Merinos’ segment as part of the ABC’s 90th Birthday Celebrations ‘Things that Made Australia’.” Read more about Sam and wool here and see the Landline episode here.

Our YFC were also learning with Dione Howard and Katherine Bain attending the acclaimed AWI Breeding Leadership course in Clare, SA, with both ladies raving about the experience:

“I think most leadership courses can get lost in the aspirational ideas and you leave without gaining any real skills but over the week at Breeding Leadership we had lots of discussions around issues like farm succession, communication and governance that, for me, led to some great ideas to bring home to the farm. I left feeling excited for the future of wool both on and off farm,” Katherine says.

“A group of 19 young wool industry members came together to learn about ourselves and how we can best work within and build the farming businesses we’re involved in. The course was facilitated by Pinion Advisory and we were treated to talks and stud tours, from those out there in the industry with learnings and wisdom to share. The future of the industry is bright and I left feeling inspired for what’s to come,” Dione says.

And when not sharing their stories or learning new skills our YFC give back to communities who have supported them.

Lucy Collingridge and Jessica Fearnley continued their long-running commitment to agricultural shows and have been welcomed as the 2022 Rural Achiever representative and Group 11 Delegate, respectively, to the ASC of NSW Next Generation committee, the junior arm of AgShows NSW.

“This is an opportunity for us to give back to rural Australia and develop the future of agriculture. Agricultural shows are not only a great opportunity for our communities to come together but they also provide a platform for youth development through competitions such as Young Judges and Paraders, and they link key industry professionals with youth who want to jump in to our industry,” Lucy says.

James Cleaver 2019 NSW Rural Achiever, Dione Howard 2020 NSW Rural Achiever and 2022 National Ambassador, Minister Dugald Saunders (Agriculture/Western NSW), Lucy Collingridge 2022 NSW Rural Achiever finalist and Jessica Fearnley 2022 NSW Rural Achiever winner

Jess also attended the bicentennial celebration for the RAS, which turned 200 this year, catching up with RAS Council members, youth group members, young women and Rural Achievers.

Prime Cuts

With funding recently received from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation to enable our new program, Young Environmental Champions, we are pleased to announce that new YFC Florance McGufficke has been appointed to the inaugural VFFF Youth Advisory Group – a forum of youth voices that guide and inform VFFF grant-making. Congratulations Florance.

Another new YFC making an early impact is Danielle Fordham who recently received the University of Newcastle Beryl Nashar Prize in Level 1000 Earth Sciences and the Howard Bridgman Prize for First Year Environmental Science. Both awards were in recognition of her 2021 academic performance.

“I was deeply honoured to receive these awards and it encourages me to keep on striving and putting in the work for a better and brighter future for our community and environment. Personally, these academic awards were an unexpected surprise that came from me just giving university a go after many years of thinking I wasn’t good enough. This recognition is not just for me but for my parents and supporters who get me through the challenges and wins. Thank you so much. My motto through life is when in doubt, just give it a go!”


Lifetime Highlights

One of our lifetime highlights comes this month from Lucy Collingridge who is gifting lifetime highlights to others through the donation of blood, something she does as often as she can.

“At first I was nervous as I wasn’t sure what the whole process was like but I jumped in this time last year to give it a go. It’s really rewarding knowing I can spend an hour donating plasma which will be turned in to one of 18 lifesaving products for our most vulnerable. It could be us, or our family and friends that need an infusion one day so it’s definitely a rewarding way to spend an hour of your day. Given that agriculture is one of the most dangerous careers, I see it as another way to support Australian agriculture and our rural communities.”

You are an inspiration, Lucy!

Equally inspirational is another Wool YFC Emma Turner – how could you not be inspired to give blood with  these wonderful young women as role models


And saving our best snippet of Muster news for last, huge congratulations to Dione Howard who announced her engagement last week to a lucky bloke named Joe Fitzgerald. The whole team wishes you both all the best for a healthy and happy life together.

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