Taking the stress out of plant life

I heard a funny story from a biology teacher the other day. In a discussion about stress in plants a student says to the teacher “plants are rooted Miss”. The teacher looks a bit mortified and the student replies “they are rooted because they cant get up and move when they are under stress’

its stressful being a plant

Grain crops under stress – get this stuff off me

So loving this story shared with me yesterday Plants freak out  like animals when stressed. Extract

Both plants and animals produce a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. This acid is primarily produced when the organism is under stress: when it’s hungry, or scared, or exposed to pathogens or (in the case of plants) acidity or salinity.

What has only been suggested up until now is that the presence of this acid acts as a signal to tell the plant to behave in a certain way. That’s changed now. According to the authors of the ARC study, “We’ve discovered that plants bind GABA in a similar way to animals, resulting in electrical signals that ultimately regulate plant growth when a plant is exposed to a stressful environment.”

Breeding plants for stress reduction

With the help of farmer levies from the GRDC the CSIRO are breeding plants that are more stress and disease tolerant to help our grain farmers supply safe, affordable and nutritious food to Australian families

Agvision – celebrating careers in agriculture and advocating on behalf of farmers

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the incredible event that is AgVision

This one-day agricultural careers expo is the brain child  of Junee high school teacher Sandra Heffernan and team and is designed to inform students and educators about the broad range of careers available in agriculture, science and agri-business. Students from Years 9-11 had the opportunity to learn from industry experts and to select five workshops from a choice of 50 hands-on sessions.

This year the RAS of NSW hosted the event and invited the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to help them showcase the exciting young people who have chosen diverse careers in agriculture.

Young Farming Champions Tom Tourle and Tim Eyes are great advocates for the TAFE pathways

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Peta Bradley, Dee George, Kylie Schuller, Martin Murray and Rebecca Thistlethwaite all shared their university adventure

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Our industry bodies were there en masse and if they weren’t there was some-body else doing a great job of showcasing their industry

Well done UNE – loved the grain fed versus grass fed session hosted by Kylie Schuller. Learnt so much and the students were glued to Kylie’s every word

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I had the opportunity to see the sessions run by Belinda Cay from Agcommunicators on behalf of GRDC. Wow she is impressive and again it was a fantastic refresher course for me on DNA and plant science.

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I will do a separate post on this activation. We have some great video footage and slides we can share with you including a great video of an experiment YFC and graduate agronomist with Elders Dee George performed for the students

Emily King from AWI hosted a great wool workshop with Tom and Peta and Amy and it was heartening the number of young people in the audience who are keen to go back to the farm and pursue the family tradition of wool production

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I was recently part of a twitter discussion with farmers few weeks ago who are very passionate about educating students and teachers about agriculture and careers in agriculture.

Most industries now have fantastic resources for schools and there a number of bodies like PIEFA, RAS of NSW and GRDC who do very impressive professional development workshops for teachers to help them roll out the resources in the classroom.

Sadly few farmers know this. Its also important for our farmers to know the aim is to raise awareness of the diversity of agriculture careers and not to necessarily educate the world about agriculture.

By farmers directly engaging with the community we can help build mutually beneficial relationships with the people who buy what farmers produce. We can show them the faith they have in farmers iin this country to produce safe and healthy food is warranted and encourage parents to be excited if their sons and daughters choose a career in the food and fibre sector

I am a farmer and I learnt a huge amount yesterday. I learnt whilst grain fed beef is tenderer I prefer the flavour of grass fed beef

I saw how exciting plant science is and I learnt a lot about wool. The community isn’t ignorant they just aren’t lucky enough to have the advantages I have. To grow up surrounded by agriculture and able to attend events like yesterday and learn about other facets of agriculture I don’t have in-depth knowledge of

Be assured farmers there are lots of wonderful people and industries funded by your levies doing a great job marketing what you do to next gen. We are just competing in a big space with very limited funding and man/woman power to achieve it

To sum up Agvision is an exhilarating event for students, teachers and display holders and I very confident it inspired many of next gen food and fibre producers to get excited about a career in ag

Seed to Store – creating a buzz around grains

Young Farming Champion Dan Fox certainly got a great opportunity this week to combine his two first loves – teaching and food production (apologies to his girlfriend)

Dan is a very bright young man who completed HSC physics and maths in Year 10. As I always struggled with physics and maths I am just awestruck that some people can do this

When Dan completed his HSC he went off to Uni to become a teacher. After completing his degree he found his farming roots calling him back to the farm where is waking up every day committed to growing the best grain for your weetbix, the barley for your beer and the canola oil for your salad and helping turn spring into that amazing colour carpet splendour that is canola in flower.

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Dan Fox in the canola

At the invitation of the Grains Research and Development Corporation which funds Dan to be a Young Farming Champion Dan had a whirlwind trip to South Australia to help promote the Seed to Store Video Competition

As part of the team who did the ‘Seed to Store – Story of Australian Grain’ schools presentation sessions today Dan visited Urrbrae Agricultural High School and Oakbank Area School and presented to over 400 secondary school students.

The hour long sessions looked at the Australian grains industry, growing great grains, plant breeding for quality food products and careers in grains / agriculture.

Dan shared his journey with the students, speaking about his career, sustainable farming and opportunities in the grains industry and knowing Dan I am positive the crowds loved him!

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There was lots of activities, quizzes, plant crosses, prizes

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Apparently this young man was asked to  “emasculate” a plant! Priceless!

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Dough stretching competition – learning about gluten and dough quality

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everyone had lots of fun including Dan front and centre here

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You can find out everything you need to know about the competition here

Seed to Store Competition

Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert is keeping the agricultural dream alive

Today I had the opportunity to attend the NSW Farmers Annual Conference at the iconic landmark that is Luna Park in North Sydney

NSW Young Farmer Chair and Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert had the opportunity to follow the keynote address from Hon Niall Blair MLC Minister for Primary Industries with this very inspiring speech. Josh Gilbert Niall Blair Martin Murray Jo Newton

Young Farming Champions Josh Gilbert,  Martin Murray and Jo Newton with Hon Niall Blair MLC

I feel the Land.

I embrace its presence.

And I thrive at the joy in farming it.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for the opportunity to address you on behalf of our young farmers. I would like to further acknowledge that we meet on Aboriginal land today and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.

I stand before you today, acutely aware that my ancestors farmed the same land my family farm today, over 40,000 years ago.

I am filled with pride knowing that I’m the fourth generation to breed Braford cattle and that I can look over our herd with my Grandfather and Dad today and admire the changes and improvements we have made to the breed made over the last 50 years.

And it burns deep inside of me, every time I see rejuvenation of the landscape, every time I see that weary farmer smile at the birth of a new born calf and every time I see the next generation plan their career and future in agriculture.

I want to take you back to the time that you decided to start farming, the time when you purchased your farm, bought those first few head of livestock or planted that first crop. I want you to think about how you felt and what you were thinking of… What convinced you to take that plunge?

While I know at some stage the financials and business opportunities would have weighed heavily on your mind, I want to focus on the more romantic, practical reality here. There was that moment you decided that maybe you could start a family, settle down, and raise your children, perhaps in a similar environment that you were raised… There was a moment you decided that agriculture was not just about you or money- that it was a part of a bigger picture.

It is this dream that drives us to want to be the best farmers we possibly can – that means we borrow money to feed stock in the hard times, take the gamble on an extra property or put in that last cent just to get started.

Every day, we look over the farm and envisage utopia. From watching your daughter learn to ride a horse, your son crack a stockwhip or a wedding under the gum tree on the top of the hill- each day our drive reflects a dream for a better future, not the disruptive past.

Though too often we shy away from these foundations of what we do and why do it, instead adopting a pressured view alike stereotypical corporate business acumen- making a lot of money amidst bad decisions. So today, I want to explore this notion with you further- Australian Agriculture… It’s not about now and it’s not about me.

This is depicted seamlessly in what NSW Farmers support within our young farmers’ cohort-

  • Providing 5 scholarships again this year to 5 amazing youth who will ensure the growth of our regional areas
  • Sponsoring 2 incredible ladies in the Art4Agriculture project to go into schools as part of the Archibull Prize and inspire children with their stories
  • Creating 4 branches around the State to guarantee that young people in Sydney and within regional NSW have their voices heard
  • Individual branches sponsoring committed youth to travel here for 3 days to be engaged at Annual Conference.

Each day, our association touches the lives of young farmers and rural youth, and encourages them to create their utopia, just as we have done before them.

But the challenge for creating these dreams extends further than our young farmer group.

The phrase “we need visionaries, not profiteers” can extend no further that the current challenge upon the Liverpool Plain’s, where Fiona and the Liverpool Plain’s Youth depict our love for the land and rally for the opportunity to farm- to discover their potential for the future. Just as our city counterparts, our kids should have the opportunity to dream of a future in the same area and even the chance to farm the same land as their family have in the past. We all deserve that chance.

To keep the agricultural dream alive and to ensure that in the next 40,000 years our children can share the same opportunities have, we must work as one. We can’t let the little things get us down, we can’t challenge each other in open forums and we can’t afford not to support one another. Whether you belong in designer suits or dusty boots, if you share the dream of a better tomorrow- you are not alone.

Unlike the current media attention, our journey is in fact not about who wins or will make the most money- rather an adventure to ensure that our peers will always get the same opportunities, whether they live on the sandy beaches or on the red dust plains. This venture is not about me, it is not about you – it is about ensuring that young farmers of the future can have the opportunity to farm, if that is their desire.

Within young farmers- we are building this desire and passion to farm, providing sessions on young farmer start-up methods as we know the cost to enter the industry is high

This year we toured the south of the State with our Victorian colleagues to grasp an appreciation of where we need our businesses to go

We held a Masterchef dinner on the river in Hay to ensure our colleagues have an outreach when experiencing mental illness.

Excitingly the events we hosting, the policy we are debating and the services we are providing, we have seen over a 30% increase in membership this financial year.

At the core of this rapid turnaround is my team.

I am thankful many of them have joined me here today at Annual Conference and extend my sincere thanks to the district councils and commodity groups who have sponsored them, along with head office for their support and assistance. I would further like to congratulate Derek on his recent appointment and wish Fiona all the best wishes for the future- I know you have been a fantastic inspiration and role model for the youth in NSW.

I want to take you back to the time that you decided to start farming, the time when you purchased your farm, bought those first few head of livestock or planted that first crop. I want you to think about how you felt and what you were thinking of… What convinced you to take that plunge?

We feel the land.

We acknowledge its presence.

Thank you Josh you did the youth of Australia proud

Why young farmers are forging careers despite the odds and living to tell the tale.

Young Farming Champions Tim Eyes and Anika Molesworth are today taking part in Beef Jam  3-day event that takes young producers and consumers on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain and gives them 48 hrs to reshape the way we grow, buy and eat our red meat.

Late last month Tim and Anika featured on SBS The Feed in a program that asked the question ‘Why do young people choose to become farmers in this day and age?’

Anika

Why would a sane twenty something head into a career that’s riddled with financial and environmental uncertainty?

A career with an average age of 52, that when seen on TV, it’s all cracked dirt, foreclosed farms and farmer suicide?

Andy Park joins three young Australian farmers; from the scorched outback, to the rain-drenched coast and to a food bowl feeding the nation.

They face three challenges not always talked about on TV. And Andy helps castrate a sheep.

Find out what’s on on the mind of young people working the land and how and why young farmers are forging careers despite the odds.

You can view the program here

Snakes alive and horsing around

Today I got an insight into a career option that never occurred to me and most definitely would never sit on my wish list.

But I found out today there are plenty of young people much braver than me and very excited to consider a career as a  herpetologist

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If amphibians and reptiles are your passion then TAFE NSW has the perfect course for you

After a meeting with the bright minds of the agricultural education arm at the Sydney Royal Easter Show I took up the opportunity to call in at The Stables.and sit in on a  great initiative in process that is a result of a partnership between  TAFE NSW – WSI and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW

This week saw the roll out of the latest round of Career Readiness Programs in Animal Care and Equine.  The programs are designed to open pathways and provide learners with a sense of possible career options.

A4 flyer - Career Readiness Program V2

Each program offers a one week intensive ‘hands on’ course handling animals at the state of the art facilities of the Sydney Showground.  Students are trained by the industry expert teachers from Richmond TAFE and enjoy a range of guest speakers throughout the week. The program is facilitated through a simulated work environment, providing learners with a taste of employment options.

The program provides students with advice on suitable career options in their chosen area of industry and assists them to develop pathway programs suited to their skill levels.

You might also like to check out their promo video to gain a sense of the program. 2014 Career Readiness Program

Art4Agriculture founder & rural change maker wins 2015 Merial Howard W Yelland Award

The Art4Agriculture team and Young Farming Champions are thrilled to announce…

The 2015 Merial Howard W Yelland Award for service to the Australian beef industry was today presented to rural and social entrepreneur and Jamberoo farmer Lynne Strong for her outstanding contribution to the improvement of Australia’s beef industry.

Lynne is the first woman to win the Merial Howard W Yelland Award, which recognises her “role as a pioneer in the development of the Art4Agriculture initiative and the Young Farming Champions program” and her “passionate advocacy of the role which agriculture and agricultural communities have in the Australian economy.”

The award acknowledges Lynne’s commitment to providing a strong connection between agricultural industries, food supply chains and consumers. The Art4Agriculture and the Young Farming Champions programs have given students in urban schools a “link to the land” and a focussed image of the role of Australian agriculture in sustainable food production, ensuring that Australian livestock producers are promoted as committed and responsible users of natural resources at the forefront of world’s best livestock practice.

Lynne said the award was a ground-breaking acknowledgement that what farmers do beyond the farm gate in the 21st century is just as vital as what they do behind it.

“If we are going to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for Australian families and Mother Nature – agriculture must be a partnership between farmers and the whole community,” Lynne said.

“This award is the beef industry saying we are proud of what we do, we have great stories to tell and we want to share our stories with the world,” she said.

“Most importantly this award is a salute to all the Young Farming Champions who are breaking new ground and starting a movement to help agriculture have the courageous conversations we all need to have to ensure we build lifelong and powerful partnerships of trust between farmers and the community.”

The award is presented by the Australian Beef Industry Foundation (ABIF) in conjunction with Marcus Oldham College, Geelong and is supported by Merial Australia. Selection criteria for the award includes: Recognition of extent of their contribution to the Australian beef industry; Recognition of their contribution both nationally and internationally; Leadership role as a change agent; and Contribution above their normal role in the industry.

Well done Lynne, from all the Young Farming Champions and team!

Lynne Strong with Young Farming Champions and Winner of 2014 Archibull Prize