The agricultural show has been part of the Australian landscape since the 1820s, providing a vital connection and
conversation between the city and the bush. Over the years the show has struggled to retain its relevance in a changing
world but Ryan McParland is leading a charge of young people determined to modernise and revolutionise this mainstay of
agricultural pride. With Ryan at the helm the enthusiasm of youth from both urban and rural environments is married to the
wisdom and experience of age, and all in the show world are coming along for the ride.
Ryan McParland with his father Shaun at Government House
Action4Agriculture director Lynne Strong recently spent a number of weeks working with Ryan McParland at agricultural shows in the Illawarra. She has been inspired by his vision for building a cohort of committed youth volunteers who can support rural and regional Australia.
“The leadership journey begins with knowing how to lead yourself, then to lead teams and finally to lead systems. I believe Ryan has the capacity to not only lead systems but to drive meaningful change within Australian agriculture. He has the skills to create a movement and also the skills to gather around him the role models, mentors, champions and funding partners that he needs to be successful,” Lynne Strong CEO Action4Agriculture
Ryan grew up on a Jamberoo dairy farm and his family have always been strong supporters of the agricultural show movement, including the now-defunct Rural Youth program.
“The McParland name is synonymous with Albion Park Show and I got to know Ryan when he was still in school and would come to show meetings [at age 15 Ryan was the youngest member ever of the Albion Park Show]. I’ve watched his development, seen the beginning of his career with the steelworks and been fascinated by his never-ending enthusiasm for agriculture” says Colin Hollis former MP and show committee stalwart.
Ryan’s road to honorary Young Farming Champion is differentiated by the fact he does not work in agriculture; instead Ryan is a mechanical engineer with BlueScope Steel and a tireless volunteer for agricultural shows in his spare time. Harry Murphy is Ryan’s boss at BlueScope and understands the tightrope Ryan often walks.
“We work a nine day fortnight where Ryan puts in longer days but that works for him because he then has a four day weekend for his show commitments. He’s a very skilled and keen young engineer who’s a very systematic thinker with excellent time management, and we lean on those skills in our business. He’s learned a lot of those skills through his involvement with agricultural shows, which makes him well ahead of the curve for someone of his age and experience,” Harry Murphy, Manager Energy Services Asset Development, Digital, Services and Manufacturing Excellence
Ryan, who has been with BlueScope since he began a cadetship ten years ago sees a flow between his agricultural world and his engineering one.
“Growing up on a farm you realise things don’t always go as planned, things change, and you develop a mindset of adapting and getting on and getting the job done. You deal with many different people at the shows and this develops leadership skills. I think that goes a long way towards shaping my career.
“But in the reverse, there’s a big safety and risk management culture at the steelworks that when combined with the structure, critical and creative thinking, people management and problem solving that comes with engineering, can be transferred to agriculture,” Ryan says.
The benefits are also material ones with BlueScope sponsoring Ryan’s show work.
“BlueScope has a vision of industry and agriculture being connected and they see there’s a pathway of bringing people into both industries,” he says.
Carmen Martinago is a McParland family friend who knew Ryan while she also worked at BlueScope, and it is her own volunteer work with Albion Park Show since her retirement that has brought her into a closer working relationship with him. She has watched as he inspires volunteers at their local show, converting them to committee members, and liaises with groups such as the Wollongong Camera Club to leverage benefits to all.
“Ryan has got that combination of having very good ideas and having the boundless energy to actually bring those ideas to fruition. He does this by bringing other people along with him – he’s got this lovely collaborative approach – and he truly acts as a leader; even the older members of the committee become part of the journey,” Carmen Martinago former Learning and Development Manager BlueScope
Over the years Ryan has held just about every position available within agricultural shows but his passion is a modernised revival of Rural Youth, which he has developed into The Ag Group (TAG). His enthusiasm for the project was one of the reasons he was chosen as a RAS Rural Achiever in 2020/2021, joining one of our original YFC: Dione Howard.
“Ryan is a fantastic role model to young members of the agricultural show movement – he takes the time to show youngsters all there is to showing (livestock, poultry) and ways they can volunteer to ensure that the show movement thrives.
At Sydney Royal I very much enjoyed seeing Ryan in his element within the show community who gets behind him and likewise who he supports. Ryan is a natural choice to be an honorary Young Farming Champion, with a career outside of agriculture and a passion and great success within the sector.” Dione Howard, National Rural Ambassador