RAS Youth in Ag Ambassador shares her journey

Over the years Art4agriculture has been very lucky to interact in schools with a number of very talented potential next generation of food and fibre producers and supporters .

Today it gives us great pleasure to update you on the journey of Amber O’Neil who we previously profiled here


Amber who hopes to start a vet science course at CSU next year was recently selected for the very prestigious role of RAS Youth In Ag Ambassador at the 2013 Sydney Royal Easter Show


Youth in Ag Day celebrates the contribution young people make to the agricultural industry in NSW and Australia and also highlights the broad range of opportunities available for young people to be involved in this dynamic and rewarding industry

“Our Youth in Ag Day ambassadors are dynamic, innovative champions for the future of the industry, and for rural and regional areas of Australia,” Mr Davey said.
“These ambassadors have been selected because of their passion for agriculture, their involvement in the industry and their strong desire to contribute to its future. They are excellent role models and a wonderful example of the good things young people are doing in their regional communities.”

Amber shares the experience …………………………….

Being selected as a Youth in Ag Ambassador was a great experience and opportunity! Saturday 30th March 2013 was Youth in Ag Day at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and as an Ambassador it was my role, within a group, to promote agriculture and raise the profile of youth involvement within the industry. We spent the day handing out merchandise, talking to the public and meeting lots of new people.

We started off with a breakfast briefing, where we met all the Youth in Ag Ambassadors and got together before a big day. We were given shirts, caps and badges to wear and a bag of merchandise to hand out at the show. We were then separated into small groups and sent off to different parts of the showground. Our group’s first role was to run the Alpaca Youth Paraders event which we had been organising for months prior to the day. Being part of the alpaca industry allowed our small group to not only run the event but promote the alpaca industry and share our love for the animals and lifestyle with the public. It was a great success, everything running smoothly and all competitors doing everyone proud!

sydney royal paraders - henry fulton kids

Amber trained all these people for the Alpacas paraders competition at the show and they all got ribbons

During the day we also visited the Food Farm, where we assisted in the movement of crowds and spent several hours talking to the public and promoting agriculture. I had a great time sharing my passion for the industry, talking to people who had never heard the word ‘Ag’ before and sharing my love for animals, agriculture and farming. It was amazing to see so many people interested in an industry that many of them had never experienced before and to tell my story.

Archies in the Food Farm

Archies in the Food Farm

The Youth in Ag Ambassadors got together again to watch the RAS Young Farmer Challenge, designed to promote excellence in farming and showcase the involvement of youth in agriculture. It was a great event to watch and we all had a good time.

Youht in Ag day action

We spent the rest of the day talking to the public and handing out badges and caps, which everyone loved. I had a fantastic day and it was such an amazing opportunity to be a Youth in Ag Ambassador.

See the RAS Youth Group starring our very own Kirsty John (centre) and Young Farming Champions Alumni Heidi Cheney ( far right) 



Are you the one?

Todays guest blogger is Amber O’Neill the young superstar who was the overall winner of the Cream of the crop Competition. I have asked Lisa Claessen one of our guest judges to preface Amber’s blog with her thoughts on the winning entry by Amber “Are You the One”

Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201243

Amber O’Neill is congratulated by Sonia Muir NSW DPI Manager Community Engagement

Lisa said “Amber’s winning entry for the 2011 “Cream of the Crop” awards stole my heart. As a teacher, how could I not be impressed by “Are You the One”, a clever tribute to her teachers at Cranebrook High School, and how education enhances an awareness of the contribution of Agriculture to us all.

I love Amber’s ability to see Agriculture with “ big picture” thinking, an industry of many facets, offering opportunities for many.

Amber typifies what I see as an emerging trend; of urban living students, inspired by an experience, perhaps at school, or by an encounter with Agriculture through visiting a farm for work experience or pleasure etc. I find it in quite a few of my kids and am thrilled to see their thirst for knowledge grow, and how some of them are realising their dream to pursue further education within the industry.

I am sure this is not the last we will hear from Amber, and I hope we see her name in Agricultural circles of the future. Passion is an incredible driver Amber; May you find your heart’s desire!”


The Amber O’Neill Story …….

I am a city girl, but my heart lies in the paddocks of country Australia where school is an hour away, where my next door neighbour is unseen and it takes half an hour to drive to the closest road. At night I see street lights and houses, but I imagine the clear, starry nights over the wide open plains.


Living in an urban area, going to school five minutes down the road and having access to all the facilities I need, no one could ever tell that I am a country girl at heart. My neighbour’s house is no more than two metres away on either side and the road is only a few steps from my drive way

My name is Amber and I live in the suburb of Cranebrook, and I am in Year 11 at Cranebrook High School. I love my school and I would never trade it for anything. They have given me the best education I could have asked for and have even managed to satisfy my country passion and thirst for agriculture.


Amber (centre) with fellow students have fun with their 2010 Archibull Prize entries

Our school has a very strong agriculture department with highly supportive teachers and this has enabled me to be accelerated and I now do year 12 agriculture whilst still in year 11 for all my other subjects. People always ask “isn’t it too hard?” or “why would you do more than you need to?” but I just say that it isn’t more work when you’re so interested and nothing is ever too hard if you put your mind to it. I’m not just interested in agriculture though, I also love science and am studying biology, chemistry and physics and love pushing myself which includes studying extension maths and English.


Mr Murray and Mrs Saxon are my agriculture teachers. They are two in a million. They make school and learning so much fun. They encourage, inspire and motivate us and we now share their passion and dedication to the school farm and our animals. They deserve a huge thanks

Whilst I would love to just move to the country side with hectares and hectares of land in the middle of nowhere and own a million animals and grow my own food, I believe that a good education will open many doors and enable me to better understand the land when I finally escape the city.

With four other siblings, younger than me, and two phenomenal parents our family is tight and loving. We all have different passions, whether its sport or agriculture, acting or socialising, we all are all success stories in our family’s eyes. We all attend public schools (primary – Henry Fulton and secondary – Cranebrook High) and wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else. My parents have always supported us, no matter what the circumstance or situation; they have that unconditional love that makes us all proud to say that they are our parents.

Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201247

Amber and her family celebrate her Cream of the Crop Competition big win

I was born in Perth, before moving to Sydney when I was about 2 and half years old. We drove all the way from Perth to Sydney, from one side of the country to the other. Since our move to this side of the country, I have moved house at least ten times, moving from  Cranebrook to Dubbo to Londonderry and back to Cranebrook (living in many houses along the way). I loved moving, the thrill of living in a new house and the first night where we wouldn’t have beds to sleep in was a “routine” (although I am sure mum and dad absolutely loved packing, not).

Through primary school, I wanted to be a journalist when ‘I grew up’. After that I wanted to be a famous horse barrel racer. And now, I want to be an equine/camelid vet (whilst owning a farm) and simply make a difference.

My love for agriculture really sparked when I was in year eight..  All students study agriculture in year eight and I simply fell in love. At that point in time we had a steer, chickens, sheep and alpacas. Alpacas are my favourites. Their huge, deep eyes and beautiful eye lashes, their unusual behaviours and uniqueness just grabbed me and pulled me in.


At the end of year nine, I was invited to Warralinga Alpaca Stud (professional alpaca breeder) to see all their alpacas, during the school holidays. It was the most amazing experience and at the end they offered me the opportunity to help every weekend. I could never say no, and never have. Since that day, I have worked with alpacas every week, training crias (baby alpacas) for the show, cleaning paddocks and feeding all seventy mouths. I have attended all the regional shows and even attended national shows. I have been able to show top quality alpacas, winning champions and reserves, many first places and having the best time ever. At the Hawkesbury Show and the Australian National Show I won first place for alpaca junior judging (where I judge alpacas on their fleece and conformation). These were the best experiences, learning so much about the alpaca industry and its future. I have also participated in handling, showmanship and performance competitions, where I am judged on my ability to handle alpacas, winning first and second place at several shows.

Amber and Dani Saxon

Fellow Cranebrook student Michaela with Amber ( centre) their agriculture teacher Dani Saxon

My love for alpacas has now grown beyond school . Last year I started my own alpaca stud, called Alkira. I bought a white female and have agisted her at Warralinga. I showed her at Castle Hill Show and she received a Reserve Champion, and a very happy owner. I love her to pieces, and she has proven to me that agriculture is definitely the industry I want to spend my life working in.

I am a city girl, but I have taken every opportunity possible to become involved in agriculture and to prove to others that a city girl can  get muddy and a fall in love with farming. Opportunities such as the Cream of the Crop Competition have enabled me to share my love for all things agriculture and hopefully give inspiration to others to get involved in agriculture and make a difference.

Although my background is not in agriculture; school and alpacas and my involvement in agricultural shows has shown me that farming is the most important profession in the world.

Farmers and their support networks feed the world.  Not a single person can live without some kind of agriculture, and I would love to one day, leave an impact on this amazing industry.


We are very confident you will Amber

Cream of the Crop 2011 Winners Announced

Cranebrook High School Student Amber O’Neill has won the Cream of the Crop Competition at the Sydney Royal Easter Show this year.

Tarryn and Amber O'Neilll Cream of the Crop Competition, April 201238

Tarryn Whitfield from Landcare Australia presents Amber with the Woolworths Award of Excellence for Best Video

The Cream of the Crop Competition is an Art4Agriculture initiative which invites students in NSW schools to create a PowerPoint or a video promoting the importance of agriculture to their peers to encourage a better understanding of agriculture as well as promote agricultural careers and rural life.

Amber prepared four entries for the competition this year but it was her video about agricultural careers “Are you the One?” that took out the overall prize.

Amber O’Neill Winner of 2011 Cream of the Crop Competition


Amber highlighted a chef, a scientist, a mechanic and a designer as careers linked to agriculture and interviewed eight of her teachers at Cranebrook High School to discover which subject is most strongly linked to agriculture’s sustainability.

“What the judges loved about Amber’s winning video, was her understanding of the diverse careers in Australian agriculture,” says Art4Agriculrue National Program Director Lynne Strong.  “As an industry, we are keen to point out that not all jobs in agriculture involve mud and flies!”

Her four-minute video features 30 agricultural careers that derive from school subjects such as mathematics, geography, food science and industrial design. “Importantly too, Amber’s video pays tribute to the unsung heroes of Australian agriculture, the teachers who instil knowledge and passion in their students who become our sector’s next generation of leaders and innovators,” says Lynne.

When asked what inspired her to enter multiple entries, Amber, who is in Year 10 at Cranebrook High School “I love it, there are so many interesting topics.” This was Amber’s first attempt at making a video and while it took a while to master the program, she was excited by the result. Read Amber’s guest blog here

Fellow winner, Neil Jain of Hurlstone Agricultural High School agrees that you learn something new every time you enter. “Not just about the subject, but the technology,” says Neil whose video  “Genetic Modification – Is it Safe?” won the Best Middle School category.

Neil Jain Winner of Middle School Section Cream of the Crop 2011


Neil’s entry explored the science of genetic modification as well as some of the issues surrounding the arguments for and against the science. “It’s an important topic for feeding the world”, said Neil. “Genetic modification may not always be 100% safe, but if it is a solution to the global food crisis, it should be a field to look into.”

Also of Hurlstone Agricultural High School is Jordan Kerr who won the best Senior School entry for his video “Feeding Sydney” which explores how much food Sydney needs and the sustainability of the city’s food supply.

Jordan Kerr Winner 2011 Senior Section Cream of the Crop Competition


Jordan filmed vox pops with commuters in Sydney asking how many tonnes of food they thought Sydney consumes every day then captures their reactions when they learn the figure is 5,500 tonnes; 1,000 times more than one guess.

Jordan’s video also features interviews with the Premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, Leader of the National Party Andrew Stoner and the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson.

“This year the Cream of the Crop Competition finalists covered topics as diverse as keeping chickens, sustainable agriculture, the global food crisis and the sheep and cotton industries, which again, demonstrates the diversity of our sector,” says Lynne.  “All finalist presentations are now on the Web for sharing with the world and with around 100,000 web hits since 2009, they are certainly making an impression,” says Lynne.

The event featured Stephanie Coombes, creator of Careers in Australian Agriculture website & proud Agvocate for Australia Agriculture as MC. See Steph’s blog on her day here

Isobel Moore winner of the Dubbo Speech Spectacular was guest speaker

Hear guest presenter Catherine Marriott RIRDC Rural Women’s Award WA talk about the Cream of the Crop on Show Radio and watch the finalists receive their awards here

Cream of the Crop 2011 finalists receive their awards


A special thank you to the Cream of the Crop competition’s sponsors

Woolworths Ltd

Dairy Research Foundation

Managing Climate Variability Program


Country Valley Milk

Medenis Vet Clinic

Landcare Illawarra