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 partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.
Our guest post today comes from vet in training Alice Burwell. Alice shares a passion to make a difference and fight for gender equity that has been a consistent theme in our 2020 stories
“Wow, you want to be a vet. You must really love animals”.
Yes, this is partly true. But this is only part of my story. I would always make it very clear that I wanted to be a preventive healthcare vet for large farm animals and help livestock farmers set up their businesses in a way that keeps animals healthy and prevent health problems in herds whenever anyone asked, even as a seven-year-old.
Yet as I grew up I found myself having to justify my potential value to the industry because I am a young female?
I was determined to show female vets are just as enthusiastic about working outdoors with large animals as male vets.
Why should this matter?
If people work hard to gain knowledge they can contribute to industry, they deserve to be treated with respect for their knowledge and contributions regardless of their background, degree or gender.
What do the girls in the pink vests in this image have in common?
Passion is the common denominator, not gender here. Yes, we are all female. Yes, we are all aspiring rural veterinarians. And the reason we were selected as the student delegates for the Australian Cattle Vets conference in 2020 is because of our burning passion for the livestock industry.
Veterinary science used to be a male dominated sector and I am proud to be part of the generation that is changing this.
Where did this burning passion for the livestock industries stem from? For me, it was the days I would spend growing up helping my father and grandfather in the lambing sheds or feeding calves like these ones
I have always been so determined to make my mark on the livestock industries as a professional and have always had an interest in the wider agricultural sector. The management from paddock to plate and from calf to cow is what excites me. I am becoming a veterinarian so that I can help improve the health, welfare and productivity of our livestock industries through producer education and adoption of new research, at herd levels.
Today veterinarians provide holistic farm services and have broad skills in farm consultancy and management as well as providing technical skills and advice on animal health and welfare.
As a vet I aspire to provide the farmers I work with exceptional value from improvements in animal health and management behind the farm gate as well as support them to optimise the value they get from their farming production systems.
The challenge of showing farmers my worth is a both a daunting and exhilarating task. I have studied veterinary science and participated in many extra-curricular activities so that I can play my part in making the agricultural industry sustainable for generations to come. There is nothing more exciting for me than helping producers turn calves into productive, healthy cows that are the building blocks for a producer’s successful business. Regardless of the species, it is the full circle of producing profitable, healthy beef/dairy cattle and sheep in a sustainable and welfare conscious manner that excites me.
As an industry we have many opportunities to showcase our industry is gender inclusive and ensure veterinarians are valued for the diverse skills and knowledge they bring to the farm team.
“As a rural vet you feel connected with the people you work with on farm and you are also an essential part of rural communities. Its a career where you have a strong sense of purpose and you get up everyday knowing you are making a difference”
Our Young Farming Champions are known as innovators, and during isolation they have certainly lived up to this title! In June we launched the Leadership is Language series, where our team sit down (virtually) with some of Australia’s foremost thought leaders to discuss how leadership can be influenced by the language and communication styles we use.
The first interview in our series was hosted by Lucy Collingridge, who chatted to social science researcher Dr Nicole McDonald, and Nicole followed up this debut with a workshop specifically for Young Farming Champions. Next in the series saw friends of the YFC Kirsty White from Bald Blair Angus Stud sit down with human agronomist Rebel Black. Then it was Emma Ayliffe’s turn to chat to agri-specialist Sally Murfet, who also hosted an interactive workshop for the team.
Keep an eye on the website for more interviews in the Leadership is Language series – you’ll never know who might pop up!
In The Field
Here in Australia we may be shivering through winter but YFC Kirsty McCormack is enjoying a Canadian summer. Kirsty has been working for genetics company “Quantum Genetix” as their Technical Sales Manager since Dec 2019. She lives on the ranch where her partner works, right next door to the Rocky Mountains and while July usually means it’s time for the Calgary Stampede, coronavirus has cancelled it this year. Instead of riding rodeo Kirsty is taking the time to enjoy the beautiful Rockies. We recently asked Kirsty what she loves about the world of agriculture
The people!! … how passionate they are. How much innovation and pride they take in making it better! …. the connection to the land the way they manage the soils
Follow Kirsty on Instagram to see and feel how she shares her love of what she does through beautiful words and magificent images.
Also working in North America is Kylie Schuller who is the sales manager for Andrews Meat Industries in Atlanta, Georgia. Kylie was one of the earliest YFCs, graduating in 2013 and, even though she admits she wasn’t thrilled with agriculture growing up (she grew up on a feedlot), she now has plenty to say on how the industry has provided a world of opportunity for her. See what advice she has for new YFC here.
And while we’re chatting about northern summers YFC Alana Black, who is now based in Scotland, works with the Rural Youth Project. This “research-based project aims to develop feasible strategies to facilitate the involvement of young people in agricultural and rural activity by better understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.” One of Alana’s recent initiatives was to coordinate the Road Ahead seminar, which brought together six agriculturists from across the globe (including our very own Emma Ayliffe) to talk about farming and food-supply post Covid-19. “It was a chance to discuss the future of farming through our eyes and it was followed by the opportunity for journalists from around the world to hit us with their burning questions,” Emma says. If you didn’t manage to stay awake for the 11pm to 1am live broadcast on July 10, you can catch the replay here.
Back on Australian soil and two of our YFC – Emma Turner and Cassie Baile – have been busy providing wool reports for the Australian Wool Network. Watch their most recent video here. And also having a yack about agriculture have been Emma Ayliffe and Martin Murray who recently contributed podcasts to the newly formed Farms Advice website. Catch Emma’s podcast here and Martin’s here.
Combining his interest for plants, agriculture and a newfound love for genetics, Young Farming Champion Calum Watt will be submitting his PhD thesis in September. Calum’s thesis looks at how genetic research improved the productivity, sustainability and profitability of grain production by enabling plants to utilise their resources more efficiently and withstand seasonal stresses. Read the story in FarmOnline here
Out of the Field
We reported last month that Emma and Jo Newton would be featuring on Well-Being Wednesday; a free webinar hosted by Cynthia Mahoney and Louise Thomson discussing the wisdom and stories of rural woman. Well, now you can catch their videos!
In July we also caught up with YFC Dione Howard and her dad Graeme. The Howards have long been associated with NSW Farmers, with Dione’s great-grandfather being involved with early farming advocacy organisations in the 1950s and 60s. Check out the blog to see the cutest photo of Dione and her Dad, and learn why agricultural advocacy is important to them.
The Howard Family a wonderful example of the culture of volunteering and advocacy in rural and regional OZ
YFC Jasmine Whitten is a business analyst with Agripath in Tamworth and this month she spoke with evokeAg about how we are currently using farm data and the potential for where farm data can take us in the future. Discover what she had to say about farm data here.
Last year four of our YFC – Bessie Thomas, Lucy Collingridge, Dione Howard and Emma Ayliffe – were honoured in the annual NSW Department of Primary Industries Hidden Treasures list. This year Lucy is returning the love; taking part in a video to promote the 2020 Hidden Treasures about her extensive range of volunteering.
And while she’s at it Lucy is also going dry in July. This is why: “I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’ve got it pretty easy in life. Some people don’t. We all know someone impacted by cancer, or we have lost someone from the dreaded disease. This July, I’m joining in on #DryJuly to help support cancer patients.” As we go to press Lucy has already raised over $1200 and the month is not over yet. Throw your support behind Lucy by donating here.
In our Prime Cuts this month it’s a huge congratulations to YFC Melissa Henry and her Quebon Coloured Sheep. Melissa is passionate about supporting small-scale producers like herself and hand-crafters that want to grow their livestock enterprise and make the best use of their wool and lamb products. She regularly exhibits Quebon’s coloured wool and recently won Champion Lamb Fleece at the 23rd National Fleece Competition of the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association (NSW) Inc. She also took out prizes for weaner and lamb fleece at the event held in Canberra. Find out more about Melissa’s coloured sheep by visiting the website.
There is now a doctor in the (YFC) house. Congratulations to Anika Molesworth who had her PhD accepted during July – an amazing achievement and very well deserved. We’re all proud of you!
Oh wow, wow, WOW. Our very own Jo Newton has been awarded an OAM! We are so very proud of this young woman whose has contributed to scientific research, inspired countless young people to consider a career in agriculture, volunteered hours of her time and overcome some major life-hurdles along the way. And even with an OAM she remains humble, respects her contemporaries and continues to give back. Read all about it in her own words here and read Beef Central’s celebration of rural OAMs (including Jo) here.
In The Field
Even though restrictions are easing COVID-19 remains a big part of our lives and affects how we do business. YFC Chloe Dutschke recently shared her experiences of mustering and shearing in these socially distanced times with the National Farmers Federation, who published her story here. In these days when most people take to social media to express an opinion it is refreshing to see Chloe’s story and photos in long form. Well done Chloe.
Speaking of COVID Kylie Schuller chose a pandemic to move to America to take up a position as North American Sales Manager for Andrews Meat Industries. She spent one week in the office before lockdown, which has certainly been an interesting way to start a promotion! You can listen to Kylie’s American experiences in a podcast series from UNE. The series, which looks at the opportunities for work placements for students, also features Emma Ayliffe and Jo Newton.
Speaking of podcasts, friend of the YFC Matt Champness (who has commenced a PhD on irrigation in rice production with Deakin University) joined Sam Wan recently speaking with Generation Ag. Matt spoke about small holder farming and food security, while Sam did what she does best – talk about wool!
Another of our woolly YFCs, Deanna Johnston, is creating beautiful lanolin soaps and creams and marketing them as The Peeping Sheep.
“I’m a country girl who loves to shear and I have a passion for sheep and wool from the paddock to the final product. Making my own soaps started because I have sensitive skin and I couldn’t use most soaps I bought. So, The Peeping Sheep was born! I make everything in my very own kitchen with care and love.”
Get in quick – you definitely don’t want to miss these products! Sam Wan is even using them on her eight-year-old dog Charlie.
“With winter, wet weather and walks her feet needed some TLC so I’ve bought The Peeping Sheep gift pack and will use the 100% lanolin on her paws.”
It’s also been out of the field and into the limelight for a number of our YFCs. Marlee Langfield’s beautiful photography graces the cover of the June edition of quarterly magazine Grain Grower
Meg Rice is the poster girl for the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders advertisements appearing in the May/June edition of the AFI newsletter. Thanks to Corteva AgriScience two emerging leaders will be selected from a field of 60 applicants to join our Growing Young Leaders program
Martin Murray has been paying it forward mentoring school students at Gilgandra (read about it here in The Land) and there are rumours another YFC is taking up calendar modelling – stay tuned for an update.
Students Madison Hourigan, Amelia Murray and Thomas Eason with Teresa Standing, Gilgandra High School agriculture teacher, and Martin Murray, AMPS Commercial agronomist, Armatree. Photo. Gabrielle Johnston.
Also in the limelight are Jo Newton and Emma Ayliffe who will feature in Well-Being Wednesday in upcoming weeks. Well-Being Wednesday is a free webinar hosted by Cynthia Mahoney and Louise Thomson discussing the wisdom and stories of rural woman. Jo will share her challenges and opportunities on June 24, Emma on July 1.
Congratulations also to one of our inagural YFC cohort Alison Hamilton who has been announced as one of NFF’s 2020 Diversity Leaders. Alison is an agricultural powerhouse. She and her family run a small beef trading business, Alison owns and operates AJM Livestock Solutions, she is a Councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership program (ARLP), was the 2010 NSW RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Runner Up and was recently appointed to the board of Riverina Local Land Services. Way to go Alison!
Only an OAM could pip Emma Ayliffe’s Yacker as our headline act this month. Realising that a lot of farmers hate texting or don’t use social media, Emma and her Summit Ag business partner Heath McWhirter have developed the app Yacker. Yacker uses modern technology to connect people though the old-fashioned telephone, creating conversations rather than keyboard wars. Download your own version of Yacker and join the community today.
The YFC introduced a new initiative in June with the launch of the Leadership is Language series. First cab off the rank was Lucy Collingridge interviewing Dr Nicole McDonald. See a replay of the conversation here and stay tuned for upcoming episodes.
Climate Action Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth had a dream come true signing a book deal with Pan MacMillan
Anika says she is loving writing and has been spending her days researching content for her book and planning its structure. “Progress is going really well and I am enjoying the experience” says Anika whose book is on climate change and food security issues as well as the topic of leadership.
PYiA recognises the importance of the work-life balance, which is why we love to celebrate those big life moments in our Muster, alongside our career ones. So big congratulations to YFC James Kanaley and his wife Jess who welcomed their first child, Isla Lucy Kanaley, on May 17.
We are very proud of our Young Farming Champions who are turning their passion into persuasion, through our school programs The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas, sharing with teachers and students that agriculture is the place to be in the 21st century
Is distance a barrier to #ClimateActionNow Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth??
If you think a global pandemic is too overwhelming to do something – Anika says think again!
Anika zoomed from her farm in Broken Hill to Pakistan last night, on the topic “How COVID-19 is impacting agriculture and rural communities, and what needs to be done.”
In Anika’s own words ……
To a large and diverse virtual classroom, we spoke about how COVID-19 impacts on both the lives and livelihoods of farmers and people living in rural communities.
My key points were:
• COVID-19 poses a particularly serious threat to farmers who live remotely and do not have easy access to doctors and healthcare.
• The disease is a vulnerability amplifier for poorer farmers, older farmers, those who have limited labour resources and few market options.
• Disruption to food availability and affordability can lead to reduced food options in some regions and therefore poorer diets and malnutrition.
• Transport restrictions can impede access to markets, and challenges in logistics can be particularly obstructive for fresh food that is highly perishable, which may result in increased food loss and waste.
• Increased costs of farm inputs, like livestock feed, fertiliser, water, contract labour and machinery, may result in lower net returns.
• The reduction in tourism to rural areas has flow-on financial impacts to local farmers and local businesses (e.g. restaurants, shops, hotels).
• Improving hygiene and working conditions for farmers is critical to prevent the spread of disease, as well as improving information channels and access to healthcare.
• Improving the standard of living for farmers through education, income diversification, market access, food transport and storage practices, will help them to become more resilient to future crises.
There was great conversation with lots of excellent questions and comments.
I learnt a lot and thank Humera Hania for inviting me to virtually visit Pakistan to be part of this event.
COVID-19 is a big challenge for farmers, but it also encourages us to share ideas and work together for a better and more resilient future.
Visit Anika’s website to learn more how she is putting her passion project into action
“I am passionate about plant breeding because it is the most efficient means by which to improve the productivity and sustainability of plant production and I want to use my passion to address world issues, such as malnutrition.”
Established in 2000, the purpose of the COGGO Research Fund is to invest in innovative new research and development projects from across the whole supply chain. “The money will essentially go to paying for glasshouse trials and undertaking genetic studies in the lab,” Calum says. “This project, if fully realised, has large economic potential.”
Calum is the first to realise economics plays only one part of the sustainability circle that is agriculture and his research will address a range of issues that must be balanced and managed by farmers.
“Through genetics and breeding we can develop varieties that use fertiliser more efficiently and increase pathogen resistance resulting in less fungicide and insecticide use,” he says. “Plant breeding can also result in greater water use efficiency (more crop per drop) and higher quality produce through biofortification (improving nutritional content).”
It is for reasons such as these that COGGO was attracted to Calum’s work.
“COGGO is privileged to be able to fund these valuable research projects for the advancement and improvement of the Western Australia grains industry”, Mr Rhys Turton, COGGO Chairman, says. “We have a long history of providing catalytic funding for new R&D ideas and have seen many past recipients make a significant impact on returns for Western Australian grain growers.”
Away from university Calum is making a mark on national and international levels presenting at barley conferences in Perth and Latvia this year and attending a statistics workshop in Bangkok. Both these overseas experiences have been funded by a postgraduate research scholarship. He has also been nominated by his university to attend the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Kuala Lumpur in August.
“What I realise from events such as these is ultimately how small our industry is yet how much recognition we can achieve,” he says. “It’s a great networking event and it’s really the only type of awards night of this calibre over our way for youth in agriculture.”
Calum’s career will be one to watch as he endeavours to use his research for the greater good.
“I am passionate about plant breeding because it is the most efficient means by which to improve the productivity and sustainability of plant production and I want to use my passion to address world issues, such as malnutrition.”
This fortnight’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country.
Another fortnight of celebrating the amazing achievements of the young farming champs. It is an exciting time for the team, with the Archibull Prize expressions of interests for secondary schools is now open! We can’t wait to see what the schools come up with, and support them on the journey through agriculture.
In the Field
In our latest Lessons Learnt from the Drought Wool YFC’s Bessie Thomas, Peta Bradley and agronomists James Kanaley and Martin Murray share their stories on how the drought is affecting them, their families and their businesses
The last fortnight saw the celebration of Regenerative Ag Day with a number of YFC showcasing what hey are doing with their businesses.
YFC Marlee Langfield is celebrating the selection of one of her photos in the AgWomen Global Book…. stunning pic, Marlee!
Egg Industry YFC Jasmine Whitten has been busy in her new role as the local landcare coordinator for Western NSW presenting to the Cobar and District Rotary club talking about her role for the LLS, her volunteering and how all this fits in with her personal values.
Friend of the YFC Nicole McDonald has also had a feature piece as part of the Archibull Career Snapshot, and not with the typical agriculture job description that you might expect. Nicole took some time out to describe her role as a social science researcher and how that fits into the broad world of agriculture, going to once again show the wide diversity of career option on ag. Read Nicole’s story here.
Erika Heffer ran a Foundations in Leadership course for a teamwork exercise mentoring 14 people in Masterchef style. She also made an appearance on ABC Swan Hill Radio talking about the Archiebull Prize as well as all the other wonderful projects she has been busy with.
Sheep YFC Chloe Dutschke has been in NSW at Wyvern Station learning the tools of the trade for sheep. This included learning about sheep selection, stockmanship, personal development, agtech and a heap of other skills. This was thanks to the Peter Westblade Scholarship where Chloe was joined by 30 other sheep producers.
Out of the Field
Congratulations to YFCs Keiley O’Brien and Jasmine Whitten who both competed in their Showgirl zone finals this month. These two stars shone bright and you should both very proud of your tremendous efforts. Thank you to Lucy Collingridge for your involvement and keeping everyone up to date with your wonderful hosting of the Picture You in Agriculture Facebook page during the week of Showgirl Finals.
Horticulture YFC Tayla Field was featured on the Career Harvest website with an article on careers in horticulture and all of the opportunities that have been provided to her, read more here.
Shoutout to James Bidstrup for a mention at the evokeAG conference. The importance of sharing the amazing story that is Ag isn’t lost at all on the wider community it seems! Thanks so much.
And what do NASA and Australian Agriculture have in common? YFC Rebecca Thistlewaite has featured on the Graincorp podcasts to discuss how research coming from NASA is helping plant breeders and scientists to breed hardier crops. Take a listen here.
Expat and YFC Laura Phelps has been promoted in her role in Brexit to the Head of EU-Exit at Food Standards Agency. Congratulations Laura on this amazing promotion, we are looking forward to seeing what you can achieve.
Finally, the Youth Voices Leadership Team held their inaugural AGM on Monday. Huge congratulations to these YFC on their re-election to the following committee positions:
Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought series with Young Farming Champions Peta Bradley and Bessie Thomas
Firstly some background for this story. In Australia, a large land holding used for livestock production is known as a ‘station’. Most stations are livestock specific – classed as either sheep stations or cattle stations depending upon the type of stock raised – which is, in turn, dependent upon the suitability of the country and the rainfall. The owner of a station is known as a grazier, or pastoralist and, in many cases, Australian stations are operated on a pastoral lease. Australian sheep and cattle stations can be thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour hundreds of kilometres away. Some stations have over 20,000 sheep in their care.
All stock workers need to be interested in animals and handle them with patience and confidence. They need the skills to make accurate observations about livestock like judging an animal’s age by examining its teeth, and experience in treating injuries and illnesses as well as routine care requirements such as feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccination and dealing with predators.
Those caring for sheep must also deal with flystrike treatments, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock need special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with difficult births.
Apart from livestock duties, a stock person will also to inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards damaged by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife. Source
In the first two instalments of our drought series we talked to Young Farming Champions predominantly involved in cropping operations. Today we speak to Bessie Thomas and Peta Bradley who represent sheep and wool, and discover the strategies they have employed to survive, the changes drought has enabled and the importance of mental health and family. Bessie and Peta’s family farms are both in NSW but very different in terms of topography , sheep carrying capacity (10:1) and acreage (20:1)
The last two years have reminded both urban and rural Australia that drought is an inevitable part of the Australian landscape and its impacts are wide reaching. Both Bessie and Peta’s families know their first priority is their families and the animals in their care and its imperative to access drought response resources promptly and maintain wellbeing.
Bessie and husband Shannan from Burragan Station, 100km east of Wilcannia* in western New South Wales, run a merino operation in partnership with Shannan’s parents.
Peta comes from Armatree, 100km northwest of Dubbo where her parents, Jenny and Craig, run a Border Leciester Stud and commercial merinos (with cereal and pulse cropping).
For both properties 2017 and 2018 were years of below average rainfall. “In 2018 we had 83mm for the year which is less than 30% of the annual average, and the year before was also only about 60% of the annual average,” Bessie says. “It has turned the countryside to dust and dried up dams, and the heat waves have cancelled any moisture from showers we have had.”
Feeding sheep at Burragan Station
Similarly Armatree has been reduced to a 300mm annual rainfall (down from the average of 520mm). “This equates to our farm being relocated to Broken Hill,” Peta says. “2019 has commenced with January being the hottest on record and zero rainfall recorded on the chart.”
Strategies common to both operations are reducing sheep numbers and feeding stock they have identified as drought resilient. At Burragan they have de-stocked by 50% and sold all of their 500 cattle, while at Armatree stock have been reduced by over a third.
“We’ve been feeding for more than 18 months which affects finances, creates time pressures and puts pressure on vehicles and trailers. It becomes mentally and physically exhausting,” Bessie says. “Feeding out hay in heat, wind and dust is some kind of torture.”
The Bradleys ( Jenny and Craig pictured here in 2014 ) are looking forward to seeing barley crops like this one when the rains return Source
“Our farm stores enough fodder to feed all stock including finishing lambs for a full twelve month period, well beyond a normal drought,” Peta says, “but we used all stored fodder in 2017 and have had to purchase fodder for 2018. To accommodate this cost we have maintained selected breeding stock only. We have also sold lambs as early as possible after weaning, undertaken measurements on stud stock lambs as early as permissible and selected the stock we want to keep well ahead of normal time frames.
Some lambs getting ready to be weighed through the automatic drafter/scales at the Bradley’s farm.
The measurements the Bradley’s take before they decide which animals they will keep include:
Body weights (weaning – 12 weeks of age, 5 months and 7 months)
Ultrasound fat and muscle measurements
Scrotal circumference on rams
In total an animal that is retained as a breeding ewe on the Bradley farm has in excess of 50 measurements recorded in her lifetime. These measurements are taken to be put into the genetic evaluation for sheep – allowing them to choose the animals that are genetically the best to breed from.
The Bradley’s select their sheep for productivity. Every now and then you come across a special sheep. This ewe is having triplets again – for the fourth year in a row! She has reared 9 lambs in three years.
Weaning early in drought is important as lambs are competing with their mothers for grain. This allows the ewes an opportunity to get back into condition faster and also removes the competition for grain and fodder from the breeding ewes on the lambs.
Even the wool clip has been negatively impacted. Heavy, dust-laden wool sells for fewer dollars per bale.
But surprisingly the drought has had upsides. For years the Thomas’ had been discussing keeping Burragan purely as a merino property and transitioning Shannan’s parent’s property into dorpers, and that is a vision the drought has enabled/forced them to do. The drought has also highlighted the need for planning and flexibility in plans, and the critical need to put people first.
“Ensuring that we make time for ourselves and the family whether it is maintaining exercise routines, weekends away or taking family holidays are as important, if not more so, as practical farming,” Peta says, “as is the importance of networking to ensure we are operating at best practice.”
Bessie copes with the drought by downloading her thoughts and images through social media and this compilation of her 2018 year has led to the family being offered a week’s holiday at Port Stephens, courtesy of the huge generosity of Alloggio.com.au owners Will and Karen Creedon, the Port Stephens Council and Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC
And although the constant raised dust is destructive to the land – filling grids and yards, blocking gateways and covering fences – Bessie can still find joy.
“The dust storms are ominous and interesting, I quite enjoy the dramatic skies that come with them – as long as I am safely in the house!” Bessie says
*Think it’s hot at your place? A property near Wilcannia broke the record for Australia’s highest overnight temperature in mid-January, reaching a minimum of 35.9C.
Thanks Bessie and Peta we know that by you sharing your stories you will give hope to others facing similar challenges
Food is our common ground, it creates communities, a universal language and experience
This week’s social media sensation (see Footnote) and Wool Young Farming Champion Bessie Thomas from Wilcannia in Far Western NSW who knows all about dry river beds and what its like to farm with very little water is very unhappy about the farmer versus farmer divide she is witnessing in the media and she wants it to stop
This is Bessie’s plea ……..
The environmental crisis of the Murray Darling river systems has hit headlines this week and copping most of the flack is Australia’s cotton farmers.
While temperatures soar, rivers dry up and fish die across New South Wales, bridges are burning in my social media feed too.
Water users, including farmers, downstream are blaming irrigators upstream and right now being a cotton farmer in Australia seems dirtier than the algal waters of the Menindee Lakes.
Murray-Darling debacle aside – read this great perspective from Mike Logan for more on that – this week’s online cross industry interaction has illuminated an ingrained problem that affects us all: there’s a rural/rural divide and it’s not doing agriculture any favours.
I have livestock farming friends downstream who’ve de-stocked and are showering with a single bucket of rainwater because the river water they would usually use is too putrid. And I’ve got irrigation farming friends upstream who’re being blamed for taking water they also don’t have. Verbally their stones are aimed at each other, though I’m sure they’d be friends if they met at a BBQ.
I have a friend who lives in marginal livestock country, farming meat-sheep, working in agribusiness and completing PhD research with an end game of helping feed the world’s hungry. Her farm just happens to be smaller than average for the region.
Her research gives her access to a global audience, with invitations to speak at agricultural events world over. And while some locals throw verbal stones about “hobby farming,” everyone who hears her speak is enchanted by her passion for the industry and love of the outback landscape. Even if her external audiences only take away one positive message from her talks, that is an inspiring thing. It could simply be, “I’ve always wanted to visit the outback and now I’m actually going to do it!” and that would would be invaluable to her region.
I have another friend who works in the city but farms in the country on weekends and during holidays. “Part-time farmers” get a bad rap from us “full-timers,” yet who’s to judge if part-time job is a full-time passion?
When her colleagues ask what she’s up to for the weekend and she tells them about her farm, she is building connections with consumers of our produce. Next time those work colleagues order dinner at a restaurant they’ll think of her and maybe they’ll choose the dish with locally grown ingredients over an imported product. That is an enormous benefit to all of us.
Every step of the agriculture cycle is vital to a healthy and wealthy nation. Every day, Australian farmers produce nutritious, safe and affordable food for 60 million people and are entrusted as stewards of 60 percent of the Australian landscape.
‘If we can’t respect each other as experts in what we do,
then we can’t expect consumers to.’
Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion founder and mentor Lynne Strong recently told me,
“When our fellow farming industries are under the hammer it’s hard to know how to support them without making comment on the controversy. Yet, the best way for agriculture to build social licence, maintain it and be credible, is cross-commodity support.”
We don’t have to agree with each other, but let’s ask questions, listen to the answers and respect each other enough to broaden our minds. It’s time to build cross-industry relationships and be each others advocates.
Let’s bridge our rural/rural divide and embrace the power of collaboration to build lasting connections with consumers.
Bessie volunteers ( in the little spare time she has ) as our social media manager and she created this fabulous video of life on her farm in 2018 Check it out it, its gone viral this week and will melt your heart. We cant wait to share with you the Random Acts of Kindness it has generated
Jo has received plenty of positive feedback from the article and it has prompted us to reflect on the mentorships and partnerships that support our Young Farming Champions as they transition to leadership roles. Jo personally values being mentored by David Mailler
‘David is someone I look up to. He challenges my thinking, encouraging me to look at a problem from new angles’. says Jo
Dione Howard, who works as a district veterinarian, has recently formed a professional alliance with chair of Hunter Local Land Services Lindy Hyam.
“As some-one starting my career journey its very valuable to have a mentor who has had successful careers in multiple sectors beyond agriculture. Lindy can help guide me through both my career and leadership journey challenges, help me make difficult decisions and offer advice when I am not sure which direction to take.” says Dione. Watch Lindy talk about her career journey here
It was also our own Lynne Strong who introduced Anika Molesworth to Farmers for Climate Action, where she now sits on the board of directors.
“The best way to harness the energy of our emerging leaders is to connect them to one-another and greatly improve our collective capacity to shape a bright agricultural future. Farmers for Climate Action, like the Young Farming Champions program, is a network of individuals from all walks of life, from all different regions and farming industries – who all share a common vision. We are taking the journey together – and the shared values, support and respect we have for one another is the reason we are successful.” says Anika
In 2019 PYiA, in conjunction with Young Farming Champions, will launch an extension to their leadership development with the introduction of a unique inter-generational mentorship model to empower rural and regional young women. The program, Cultivate- Empowering Influencers will support experienced leaders, coaches and champions to support young rural leaders to support emerging leaders and aspiring leaders to transform agriculturists into advocates and changemakers by:
Creating confident, independent thinkers and skilled communicators,
Building capacity to be adaptable and resilient in complex and challenging times,
Developing enthusiastic, knowledgeable and capable young people taking an active role in the decision-making processes.
The model recognises successful people surround themselves with a framework of empowerment including the five principles of connect, coach, inspire, champion and mentor.
Young people need to identify others who can assist them with these principles. The initiative will see experienced leaders, mentor intermediate leaders such as Jo, who will in turn work with new Young Farming Champions and potentially with students who show potential though The Archibull Prize.
Training of both mentors and mentees is critical to success and the program will begin with an intensive two-day program bringing together mentors and mentees.
“This is a Pay-it-forward model of mentoring. Experience is leveraged in a hand up model, across three generations of leaders. Seasoned leaders mentor leadership program graduates into the hands-on aspects of business leadership, while YFC program graduates work with new participants, smoothing the way to more visible roles. This way experience is shared and expanded upon.” says Zoe Routh from Inner Compass Leadership Development.
For more information on how your organisation can partner with us please contact Lynne Strong Partnerships Manager E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandria Galea doesn’t mind a yarn. She grew up on a cotton property in central Queensland and while she admits she didn’t have an instinct for farm work, she did develop a love of sharing stories from her farming background.
This love of sharing and storytelling led her to a degree in secondary school education.
“I was half way through my teaching degree when I realised I also wanted to study agriculture, and it greatly excited me to think of all the pathways I could take. Upon graduation I turned to the field to gain more experience and exposure to agriculture and was fortunate to be offered a role as a sales agronomist with Cotton Growers Services.”
Today we introduce you to the second of our 2018 Cotton Young Farming Champions Alexandria Galea
This is Alexandria’s story
For generations my family have been working on the land. The family tree has gotten its hands dirty in many fields starting in horticulture on the Mediterranean island Malta and dry land cropping in South Australia. Today some are growing sugar cane or rearing cattle. In the mix I have grown up in the Central Highlands of Queensland on my parent’s irrigation property where we grow cotton, grains and pulses.
Despite coming from these blood lines I never quite inherited the nature of the typical country girl. I blissfully ignored practicality and sun safety to rock getups that only the Spice Girls could pull off around irrigation ditches or cattle yards (at least I was easy to spot). Although I was never hard to find as you could hear me a mile away yelling for help when bogged or caught in such a good yarn with the calves that I’d walk straight into the backside of a cow.
Enough said farm work was not quite my strong point but I loved it. As I grew up I realised I had a passion for collaborating, sharing and learning with others, in particular youth, or what others would call an interest in talking the ears off somebody. With this in mind I set out to become a teacher.
A passion for teaching and sharing a story led to an invitation to join the Young Farming Champions program
Following high school I spent my time split between studying a Bachelor of Secondary Education and working in agricultural businesses. Working in agriculture started as a necessity to pay for the hefty bills of text books and late night educational excursions at university to become a real joy which I looked forward to. I got to experience a range of jobs from working with agronomists bug checking, accounting and supplying growers with products. Most importantly I got to have a good yarn with a diverse range of people within the industry.
Never a dull day in my office especially when you get stuck in the mud
I found this work very interesting and rewarding, it opened my eyes to the magnitude of careers in agriculture which are not locked within the boundary fence of a farm. For the first time I could see how I (the not so intuitive farm girl) could be involved in an industry so close to my heart. I enjoyed liaising with farmers, the mix of working in the field and in the office, understanding the science behind growing plants and the ability to see a range of crops across a vast area. I was half way through my teaching degree when I realised that I also wanted to be studying agriculture. This greatly excited me to think of all the pathways I could take. Upon graduation of university I had the opportunity to work in the classroom however I turned to the field to gain more experience and exposure to agriculture. I was fortunate to be able to take on a role as a sales agronomist with Cotton Growers Services.
Working in agriculture is full of challenges to overcome in particular managing climate constraints.
In this role I had the pleasure of facilitating educational workshops at the Emerald Agricultural College to give students exposure to and broaden their knowledge of different types of crops, roles within farming and a range of technologies. In this space I am the most excited, it is a feeling of its own to open the eyes of another especially about farming.
My path in agriculture has only just began and I am very excited to see where my sparkling boots take me and for the yarns to be had! All are welcome to join.
Alex joined 2018 Cotton Young Farming Champions Sally Poole and Anika Molesworth at our first YFC workshop for 2018 in Tocal this month and it is clear she well make a great storyteller for cotton. Welcome Alex