As we venture forth into a new year and put some distance between ourselves and the lockdowns, restrictions and online world of the pandemic, we want to take a moment to reflect on the Young Farming Champions (YFC) program and lessons learnt in 2022. We spoke with four YFC alumni – Jo Newton, Dione Howard, Franny Earp and Emily May – to get their impressions of the year that was. We found that the highlights have been mentoring from a supportive community, while a wish-list includes face-to-face workshops (or conferences) and long-term funding to secure the future of the program.
What made you proud about being a YFC in 2022?
Dione: “I am proud of the mentoring relationships that have been developed and continued this year between YFC alumni and new program participants. The support extends beyond the program and its workshops, to mentoring throughout many big life decisions that our YFC are making.”
Jo: “Peer-to-peer mentoring was particularly evident in the preparation of school presentations, with YFC presenting in front of one another and providing advice and support to each other.”
Franny: “The YFC community is a supportive space that allows for mentorship and collaboration. I have experienced this community both in terms of YFC activities such as workshops and school presentations, but I have also experienced the community on a personal level through the new friendships I have formed within the YFC community.”
Emily: “I was proud of the way many YFC stepped up this year and embarked on school presentations as part of the Paddock Pen Pals Program and I was especially proud of the YFC who mentored their fellow YFC.”
A big part of YFC is the Innovation Hub (iHub) where YFC get to workshop big ideas. What did this look like in 2022?
Jo: “Having been a YFC since 2013, this year I am most proud of watching newer YFC like Emily and Franny step up and become involved with the iHub and continue their own leadership journeys.”
Dione: “For the iHub, I am proud of the ongoing efforts to deliver Paddock Pen Pals [into schools] and connect with students across Australia. It is the perfect representation of how Action4Agriculture and YFC have adapted during challenging times over the past few years.”
Franny: “Over the year the iHub has experienced many changes including additions to the leadership team and the structure of the hub. I am proud of the way that iHub operates as a ‘flat’ hierarchy ( holacracy), which allows for each member to assume different roles and responsibilities that speak to them and their interests. I believe this ‘flat’ structure will continue to improve the hub’s communication and coordination.”
Emily: “While navigating the change in the iHub structure we were able to host various sessions and support our fellow YFC despite being a very small team of volunteers. This was very fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of.”
It feels like everyone is a bit over online learning after the pandemic. What things could be done differently to improve YFC and the iHub?
Dione: “I would love to see YFC have the opportunity to attend a face-to-face workshop. The life skills and friendships I have made from face-to-face YFC workshops over the years will stay with me forever.”
Jo: “I think we could probably improve the on-boarding process for new iHub members to help them understand how it works.”
Franny: “I also feel that it would be helpful to provide an on-boarding activity to iHub. As a new member this year, a clearer vision of what iHub hopes to achieve and clear action points would lead to significant change.”
Emily: “I believe more regular accountability workshops would be of benefit. This would allow us to understand everyone’s work and stress loads and evaluate people who may either need a bit of a break to unwind or may need a bit more additional support during busy times. It also provides a structured session for a bit of a debrief, which we all need from time to time in a safe environment.”
What would you do if you could wave your magic wand for YFC?
Jo: “If I had a magic wand I’d provide long-term stable funding to the YFC program as it truly is one-of-a-kind in its approach to building capacity and supporting the development in agriculture’s current and future leaders.”
Dione: “I would wave my magic wand for ongoing funding for YFC, face-to-face workshops and the travel to get there – how many waves does the wand get? It would also be ideal to have administrative support for Lynne for the YFC – everything from on-boarding to following up RSVPs and presentation preparation.”
Franny: “I would love to see an in-person event. In my ideal world, we would have a conference-like event that went for several days and included both workshops as well as opportunities for YFC members to present their own research/work.”
Emily: “My favourite and the most rewarding part of the whole YFC family is the impact I can have on those around me through sharing my experiences and assisting others to follow their goals. While encouraging people to do this is always difficult, having a system that more heavily encourages the giving back portion may just be the push some people need to get them to step up and experience the sense of fulfilment and the greater appreciation for the work that goes into creating this program.”
Jo: “To me the community of YFC alumni continues to be a place of shared values and source of inspiration and I hope that the community of YFC can continue to support, nurture and champion one another.”
Dione: “The YFC network is a family where we can learn, grow, and learn some more. We have the opportunity to practice difficult conversations and overcome challenges that instill us with skills for life. The community of practice that has been created over the years is something to be immensely proud of, which includes tried and tested ways that we know work well for young people.”
Franny: “In my eyes, I see YFC as a community network and as a training program. I believe that the network is future-proofed because we have some strong and loyal YFC alumni who are passionate about keeping the conversation alive and work closely with new YFC to help them feel supported.”
Emily: “For me the YFC alumni network is a community of likeminded individuals who share in each other’s wins and learn from each other’s losses. It is a community we can all call upon for support, assistance and guidance but also a community that enriches and inspires others in both the agricultural and wider world to look to us as role models.”