As Pratley et al highlight in their excellent paper in 2022 Winter Australian Farm Journal
Australian agriculture is at the crossroads. It is charging
ahead towards its goal of $100 billion gross value
of production (GVP) by 2030 but is compromised in
that endeavour by its limited ability to find a suitable
Our Young Farming Champions know its important to engage the next generation in conversations about careers in agriculture as soon as possible
Today Wool Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain had those conversations with 110 Kindergarten students at Sydney Primary School as part of our Paddock Pen Pals program
Armed with a list of questions provided to teachers by the students, Katherine settled in to share her story of her farm in Victoria
Students wanted to know
- How big was Katherine’s farm which she explained in comparison to football fields and netball courts
- How many paddocks and what do all the colours mean. Katherine explained the difference between improved, perennial and native pastures
- what sort of sheep do you have on your farm? Katherine explained that her farm was very rocky as it was on the site of a former volcano so they had two types of sheep on their farm
- Coopworth Sheep from NZ which are bred for their meat and highly suited to rocky terrain
- Merino Sheep highly valued for their wool quality
- the students asked her what she did every day and she talked about how no two days were the same and the variety of jobs on farm. She talked about how she loved working with and learning from her dad. And how she loved being able to take her dogs to work
Meet Lenny, Zip and Carly
There were lots and lots of questions about Zip
- The students wanted to know about the difference between human hair and wool
Katherine is very proud that her family has dedicated an area of their farm to protecting endangered native grasslands
“On my farm specifically we do a lot of work in conserving the native grasslands that remain on the property. These grasslands are part of the 1% of the volcanic grasslands that once stretched from Melbourne to near the SA border. We are very lucky to have these grasslands remaining – so we work with botanists and biologists to work out the best ways of preserving and improving these grasslands”
And the questions and answers continued
It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall watching 50 students queue up to ask Katherine questions
- How do sheep sleep?
- Is it muddy at your farm?
- How long does wool grow?
- Why does wool keep you both cool and warm?
- Do sheep often get lost?
- How many steps do sheep walk in one day?
- How much water do sheep drink in one day?
- How much grass do sheep eat in one day?
- Are some sheep naughty?
- Does wool grow as fast as hair?
- How heavy do rams get?
Over the past two months our Young Farming Champions have spoken at science conferences across the world, they have presented to students across the Asia Pacific and over the next two weeks they will be talking to kindergarten students.
To have the confidence and capacity to reach such diverse audiences they have had a minimum of two years of intensive training. As Katherine found out its equally rewarding talking to six year olds as it it sharing scientific research.
As the below graphic and statistics show having role models like Katherine engaging with the next generation are pivotal to raising awareness that there is a career for them in agriculture.
As Pratley et al highlight employment offerings on-farm show no signs of declining or levelling off. (See above graphic) Rather, they have intensified. On-farm over the period of 2015 to 2021 inclusive, the demand for management personnel, based on internet advertisements, increased by over 160%
and for non-management staff by around 77%.
The increase for on-farm staff overall increased by 53% in 2021 over that for 2020. In agribusiness, i.e. off-farm professional employment, the demand increased by 44% over the six-year period and by 70% in 2021
These increases seem extraordinary.
The question we ask is are we leveraging all the opportunities we have at our disposal to engage with the next generation from K to 12 and beyond?
Are we ready to see it as a marathon not a sprint?
Are we ready for best practice?
You can read Katherine’s story in Graziher magazine here