Meet Andrea Crothers she is incredibly driven, cheeky and loves a good yarn

Today the Art4agriculture team is delighted to introduce you to Andrea Crothers whose friends describe her as incredibly driven, cheeky and willing to talk to just about anyone.

This is Andrea’s story ……………………………………..

As a journalist for one of Queensland’s leading agricultural news outlets, I thrive on telling other people’s stories. So when faced with the daunting task of sharing my own, I thought I’d better turn to my own friends to give me some descriptors. The words competitive, tenacious and occasionally blonde (not all together thankfully) also ranked highly.

Based in Brisbane, I enjoy the best of both worlds as I frequently hit the beaten track to share some of rural Queensland’s cracking yarns for a living. So how does a dandy lass from Dirranbandi end up here? Well, nature and nurture both played a part.

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I was five years old when I made my first big life decision.

My father was planting one of his first ever cotton crops on our family owned and operated property, “Booligar”, 44km south-west of Dirranbandi.

Unaware he was sowing the seeds for a family love affair with cropping’s white gold, he happily allowed his three young children – my two older sisters and I – to ride alongside him in the tractor cab.

Typically, it was a small and confined cab – one that usually only has room for the operator in centre position, a small and patient passenger to their left, a lunch box and water bottle by their feet, and a mixture of clunky tools and oily rags thrown into the limited space behind the seat.

So wedged behind the tractor’s driver’s seat, I lay head-to-toe next to my eldest sister, Caitlin, cramped up against the back window with Dad’s tools.

Meanwhile, our other sister, Lauren (my twin) was proudly perched on the passenger seat beside our father.

There and then I decided if I was going to be doing laps in that tractor all day, I wanted to upgrade to prime position where I could be amid all of the action. That’s something that has carried through my entire life.

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Virtually raised in the back of a tractor, I developed an early love for cotton.

Backed by 150 years of family farming

It was the 1990s. My parents, Douglas and Lorraine Crothers, in partnership with Dad’s brother and his wife, had recently completed purchasing the family property only to be thrashed with one of Queensland’s worst droughts on record.

The original block was purchased by two brothers, Henry and Thomas Crothers, in 1864. Backed by three generations of Crothers brothers, mothers and others, Dad always said how special it was to live and work the very same land our ancestors had for what is now 151 years.

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It’s in his hands and in his blood – Dad’s the fourth generation to live and work on “Booligar”.

The 11,253 hectare (27,800 acre) property had always been a sheep and cattle station, with diversification into cropping coming later.

It was with the harsh drought of the 1990s, followed by a humdinger of a flood in 1996, that pushed the family to fully explore intensive row cropping to ensure Booligar’s financial sustainability.

They planted their first cotton crop, irrigated, late in 1996 when I was only three years old.

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1997: Donald and Douglas Crothers (Dad) with their first cotton crop. Photo: Queensland Country Life.

Like most farm kids, we pumped poly pipes to irrigate the crop as early as our little hands could fit over the mouth of the siphon (my competitive streak proved handy in racing my sisters to complete a water shift).

With my cousins, we’d wake early to walk up and down furrows, chipping weeds out of the cotton fields in the cool of the morning.

There was also the dreaded stick picking – walking up and down bare developed paddocks to clear remaining timber that would affect machinery and equipment working the field.

These tasks, though arduous at times, were always made worth it when we saw the crop progress.

In March, the familiar white specs of cotton would creep across the green glow of fully grown crops.

Bolls of fluffy white gold burst open until the entire crop was a field of glorious white. And every year, when we jumped in the cotton picker with the contractors, grasped a big bundle of cotton spilt on the module pad or reviewed the ginned product with Dad; we shared a sense of pride in producing something magnificent from the land on which we lived.

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Cotton is Queensland’s fourth highest-value cropping commodity, but the most rewarding by far at “Booligar”.

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Cotton picking at St George and Dirranbandi occurs March-April. The introduction of round module pickers (pictured)in the last few years have greatly improved efficiency and safety.

A craving for rural storytelling

ABC radio playing in the background, politics frequenting dinner conversations, and the Queensland Country Life newspaper received in the mail were all symbols of my childhood that have driven my thirst for rural news.

My burning desire to find out ‘why’, and how issues affect those on all sides of the story, drove my parents crazy throughout my childhood.

Being sent away to boarding school on the Gold Coast – the complete opposite of my one-teacher primary school at Hebel – was a fantastic opportunity to gain greater understanding of urban Australia. It also helped me unconsciously create contacts to open the dialogue of communication between the regions.

One might say the beach is hard to turn your back on, but studying near the ocean has only made me appreciate the country even more.

This was particularly realised when I returned to Dirranbandi for a working gap year in 2011.

Stepping off the family farm and into a corporate farming operation just up the road, I took the opportunity to work on Australia’s largest cotton producing property, Cubbie Station. I was the only female in my team, but that didn’t stop me from getting in and having a go. The region is recognised for producing some of the best quality fibre in the world. What stuck is that it takes an entire community to earn that badge.

A few years later I was able to combine two loves – cotton and journalism.

Returning to the region on university holidays, I did a bug checking season under a local agronomist. We’d start at 4.30am, trudging through muddy cotton crops all day to collect field data.

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Bug checking cotton during its growth involves extensive data collection from which an agronomist will consult a grower on crop care.

Any spare moment I had I was in the office of the local newspaper, where I focussed on using my local knowledge to bring more agricultural stories through.

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Reliving my grape harvest days while covering a story for the local paper.

It was one of many internships I eagerly completed over 10 months – including WIN News Sunshine Coast, WIN News Toowoomba, and Queensland Country Life – before being offered an interview with my current workplace.

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Catching up with good friend and WIN News Toowoomba Chief-of-Staff Caitlin Holding at the Brisbane Royal Show in 2014 – one year after she’d encouraged me to pursue a career as a rural reporter.

And now I couldn’t be happier! Working as a rural reporter has further ignited my passion for agriculture and rural Australia.

It has granted me a position to interact with all areas of the industry. What I have learnt so far is driving my ambition to make rural news a greater part of mainstream media.

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I’m very fortunate my work takes me across the state to shine a light on agricultural stories. Pictured here with a colleague in cotton seed at a feedlot near Roma.

The bigger picture: putting rural news in focus

It’s clear family farming has been important in shaping Australia’s agricultural landscape.

But just as the Crothers family have adapted their lifestyle to ensure our property’s sustainability and continued business growth, so is the need to adapt the way agricultural stories are told.

There is a thirst for rural affairs news in metropolitan areas – there’s no denying that.

But the content needs to be digestible. Our goal as rural reporters hoping to penetrate mainstream media is to package agricultural news stories in different ways, for different audiences.

That doesn’t mean becoming public relations tools for agriculture. Rather, it means finding those great stories within the agricultural industries and sharing them.

You only need to look at cotton to see there’s an abundance of content: adoption of biotechnology, pest management practices, global market competition from synthetic fibres, demand for increased water efficiency, succession planning and the role of foreign investment in agriculture.

It’s about telling the story in the right way, for the right audience.

Because after all – don’t we all love a good yarn?

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Meet Casey Onus who says choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

It is that exciting time of year for the team at Art4Agriculture where over the next eight weeks we will introduced you to a diverse and exciting cohort of young people who love agriculture and want to shout it from the rooftops by sharing their story

These young people are lucky enough to either be studying for a career in the sector or have started an exciting journey in their chosen field

Today it gives us great pleasure to introduce you to Casey Onus ………….

Hi my name is Casey Onus and I am 22 year old Agronomist from Tamworth in NSW. Despite being a “Townie” my whole life I was born for a career in agriculture.

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I attended my first agronomy meeting chaired by the infamous Dallas Parsons at Seed & Grain Sales at Croppa Creek on the morning of the 8th of January 1993 at 0 days old and was born later that afternoon at Goondiwindi base hospital.

Despite living in town my whole life I spent a fair chunk of my childhood with my father bouncing around paddocks being paid with lollies to identify weeds and weaving my way through what seemed like forests of cereals and sorghum, trying not to lose myself down Moree’s heavily cracked black soil plains in the process.

Throughout school I never really focused on what I wanted to do as a career. I assumed at age 12 that I was going to be member of the Saddle Club and that would be my job, but I quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen.

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Gave up my childhood dream of being a member of “The Saddle Club” to chase a career in Ag

In years 9 & 10 at St Philomena’s we had the option to pick our elective subjects and being the outdoors kid that I was I picked Ag because I didn’t want to be stuck in a class room for any longer then I had to be. I was fortunate enough to have a very passionate Ag teacher who really made me see how important agriculture was not just to me but everyone, if you had to eat or wear clothes then you needed something from agriculture.

I was lucky enough to not only enjoy Ag as a subject but also turn that enjoyment onto results which saw me win the Dallas Parsons Memorial Agricultural Award in year 10 as well as taking out the CMA property planning competition on “Nullamanna station” in 2008.

During year 10 I also attended a Rotary Youth in Ag Cotton camp which really opened my eyes to how big the cotton industry is and the endless opportunities that were available to someone like me. I got so much out of the camp that I volunteered to help in the running of the camp in subsequent years and ended up presenting the marketing and moisture management sections of the camp. It was great to see so many young people, especially from costal backgrounds coming along to see what the local cotton industry was about and if they took away half of what I did from the camp then it was well worth the time and effort.

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Students from the Rotary Youth in Cotton Camp (RYAG)

During years 11 & 12 at Moree Secondary College I unfortunately didn’t have the option to study agriculture as a subject as there were simply not enough students at my school for it to run. This didn’t concern me overly until it came down to crunch time. All of a sudden I was headed for the HSC with no idea of what I was going to do at the end of it.

As luck would have it I was offered a job as a bug checker by the branch manager at Landmark in Moree over the holidays. I spent endless hours out in the cotton fields getting muddy, bitten, sunburnt and couldn’t have loved it more.

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My first cotton crop

Although my father is an agronomist I wasn’t convinced that all agro’s loved their job as much as he did but this cotton season showed me exactly how rewarding it was. I got to see the tiny plants that I’d checked for months on end finally produce these white fluff balls of gold and that was a feeling of satisfaction that I couldn’t find elsewhere.

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White fluff balls of gold!

I applied to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE in Armidale and decided I was going to chase my dream of becoming an agronomist. Uni is hard and I certainly lost count of the amount of times I wanted to throw in the towel, but heading home for cotton season kept me going and rekindled my motivation to get me through another year. I completed the UNE/CRDC Cotton Production Course as part of my degree and even managed to get an article “finding cottons next generation” published in the 2013 Cotton Grower magazine yearbook.

Despite only having one unit left to complete as part of my degree I applied for the Landmark Graduate Agronomy Program and was accepted for a position in Tamworth, under the watchful eye of their agronomist Cameron Barton.

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Despite already working for Landmark for 3 years, my graduate year taught me a hell of a lot at an incredible pace. I managed to squeeze in a trip to the 2014 Cotton Conference thanks to a scholarship funded by Cotton Australia.

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There is no denying Agriculture is full of characters and I was lucky enough to meet Sam Kekovich at the 2014 Australian Cotton Conference

I also flew to Albury with Heritage Seeds to learn about pasture systems and varieties and learnt a lot from countless field days and industry updates. As well as joining the local Duri Ag Bureau and taking on my own clients with a range of new crops, not just the cotton and broadacre crops I was used too. All of a sudden I was trying to grow ryegrass not kill it!

I was lucky enough to stay on at Landmark Tamworth and am now a fully-fledged agronomist working with a great group of farmers from all backgrounds as well as providing precision agriculture services such as NDVI imagery, variable rate maps, capacitance probes and everything in between.

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Growers attending our pasture demonstration trial walk at Woolomin.

Confucius says “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and I firmly believe he was talking about jobs in Australian Agriculture. Because I certainly haven’t “worked” a day in my life yet.

Exploring Precision Agriculture 

The team behind Art4Agriculture are mainly from a livestock background and don’t know much about Precision Agriculture so we jumped at the chance for an expert to give us a Precision Ag 101 Lesson

This is what Casey shared with us

Precision what?
Precision Ag (PA) is no longer the complex and expensive exercise that it used to be. There are many products and even in-built features in today’s farm machinery that are sitting there on-farm just waiting to be used.

Did you know most tractors and headers these days already store data automatically? Most people don’t. A lot of farmers are aware their machines are collecting all this data but they don’t know how to access and use it. That’s where I come in, one of the more technical sides of my job involves spending a bit of time in the office to utilise technology to help growers and myself make better on farm decisions.

Data

How?

As farmers are driving their GPS guided farm machinery through the paddocks a lot of them are already (or can easily be set up for) collecting various information. Such as grain yields and changes in elevation across the paddock. As the machine is going along its packaging this data and tagging a gps point with it. This means we can tell exactly how much grain has been grown in certain parts of the paddock and even look at how high or low that exact same spot is compared to the rest of the field.

 Why?

There is only one thing farmers love more than rain, and that’s making money so they can keep on doing what they love. By collecting all this information we can help farmers manage parts of their farm and even parts of their paddocks separately. This means money in the form of seed and fertiliser can be spent on the parts of the paddock that are more likely to grow more grain and make more money.

 So what’s involved?

The very first step is mapping the growers farm so we know exactly how big each paddock is, and this provides us with a base map on which to overlay all that data and information. There are several ways of using PA and this will vary greatly depending on what the farmer wants to achieve. The two main ways I currently use Precision Ag as an agronomist is by processing on farm-yield data and satellite imagery. To make this as easy as possible for the farmers I need two things from them. 1 – their time, half an hour, to map their place so I know what im working with. 2 – The data from their machines, usually a usb or equivalent simply removed from their machine post harvest and dropped into the office.

For the yield data

Growers bring in the data information card from their header/picker/tractor etc. This provides me with the data I need to unravel and turn into something useful. I start by removing any faults in the data, areas where headers have; changed speed dramatically, turned around, etc. as these influence the end result and can throw out the data. I then adjust the data to represent what has actually happened, this involves adjusting the total tonnes of grain recognised by the header to then represent the total that was physically removed from the field. Once that has been done we can then delve further into the data by creating elevation maps, multi year yield and temporal stability maps which can all be turned into management zones and variable rate application maps.

 For the imagery

Growers and agronomists select the pre-mapped paddocks that they require imagery for. Then I get to work placing an order utilising  LandSat8 as well as a variety of other satellites or even planes to gather images depending on the type of imagery we need. I then receive an image (first one below) which is georeferenced for me to ground truth in the paddock. Once I have determined what is causing the variation in the paddock I can then divide the image into management zones. These management zones can also be converted into variable rate application maps. NDVI data is most useful in-season when a quick reaction is needed such as a variable rate application of growth regulators or nutritional products in cotton.

Maps

Maps like these help growers to quantify gains and losses across variable paddocks as well as focus their inputs to areas that are more likely to provide a higher economic return. It can help us better manage; nutrition, irrigation, weed populations and even plant growth. The more data a grower has, the more reliable the management zones become which equates to increased productivity and profitability in the long-term.

Thank you Casey we think its just as well there are people like you around who can help farmers make the most of the modern farming technology and the data it provides

Expressions of Interest now open for Young Farming Champions from NSW

NSW Farmers are calling for Expressions of interest from young people in agriculture in NSW to apply to for places in the 2015 Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program.

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Art4Agriculture and NSW Farmers are recruiting Young Farming Champions who:

  • Are passionate about the agriculture industry;
  • Want to share stories with urban Australians to improve their understanding of sustainable food and fibre production, and in turn improve your understanding of urban consumers;
  • Are interested in being trained to speak confidently and charismatically to school students, the general public and your fellow industry leaders;
  • Want to become part of a network of vibrant, young rural people who are encouraging consumers to value, be proud of and support the Australian farmers who feed and clothe them.
  • Are aged between 18 and 35 years

If you believe you have the potential to be an industry rising star, NSW Farmers would like to invite you to submit your Expression of Interest to be a 2015 Young Farming Champion

Contact Lynne Strong for EOI requirements.

E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

M: 0407 740 446

The Experience

The Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia-wide network of young farming professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry.  The program trains young farmers from rural Australia to represent their food or fibre industry and actively engage with students in schools using Art4Agriculture programs as a platform.

The program consists of three workshops which will prepare you to engage with schools as part of the Archibull Prize. These workshops will have the following key areas of content:

Workshop One:

Will focus on industry knowledge, understanding and communicating with consumers, presentation skills, and introduction to multimedia tools and how to use this technology for your school presentations, as part of the Archibull Prize. You must be able to attend this first weekend long workshop in July (TBC). All Accommodation, flights and meals will be paid for.

Workshop Two:

Will provide personalised feedback and development by a professional voice coach on your proposed school presentations, and support to build and enhance your feature video. Media training on how to package a TV news story, preparing the ‘grab’, discussion of what major metro newspapers require for a story and how to shape your story, controlling the agenda with radio and dealing with controversial/difficult interviews, as well as what to do when the media comes to you unexpectedly.

Workshop Three:

Will be evaluation and feedback based, providing you the opportunity to assist with the development of the program in the following year.

 The Outcome

By the conclusion of the workshops, you will be ready to enter schools to tell your story in an engaging and informative way. You will have created a short video that showcases your role in Australian agriculture and can be used to promote your industry to a wide audience via social media. You will become a respected youth spokesperson for your industry and Australian agriculture. Click here to see 2013 Young Farming Champion Ben Egan’s showcase video.

Please note

To qualify for the program applicants must be young farmer members of NSW Farmers.

See here for more information on membership or contact NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council Chair Josh Gilbert

Email: Joshua.gilbert@uon.edu.au

Mobile: 0432 260 024

Sydney Royal Easter Show prize winning display explores the sacrifice, loss and hope of women on the land during WW1.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School has started 2015 with a big bang taking out the first prize award in the School’s District Exhibit display at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show with their beautiful display entitled VALEDICTION

The Schools District Exhibit competition has the dual purpose of showcasing talented young people and their team work from NSW schools as well as identifying, encouraging and mentoring young people to feed into the iconic District Exhibit Display teams.

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 Hurlstone Agricultural High School was also the winner of the 2014 Archibull Prize and you can see their Archie on display in the Food Farm with all the other finalists

In fact 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in the Schools District Exhibit competition where all taken out by schools who are long time participants in the Archibull Prize. So a big congratulations also goes to Muirfield High School and Menai High School

Here is the beautiful story behind Valediction

Valediction explores the sacrifice, loss and hope of women during WW1. Mothers, wives, daughters and sisters farewelled the men in their lives as they made their way to the “Great War”. They said their goodbyes in the knowledge that it may well be their final farewell. Arguably the most devastating cost of war is emotional, yet until recently, it has been the most seldom told.

Valediction is the act of farewelling someone. This display explores the intangible, emotional effects of war. A woman grieves for her husband who will not return as her son leaves the family farm in his uniform to meet his fate. She holds a photograph of her husband. The notice advising her of his death floats to the floor.

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Bundles of letters wrapped in red ribbon are nostalgic links to the past. Red is repeated in the poppies; a symbolic reference to the blood stained ground of the battlefields also alluding to regeneration and hope. This idea is layered by utilising poppy seeds in the construction of the landscape and in the sign at the front of the exhibit.

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The white feather, a symbol of cowardice, is included in the display as it prompted many boys and men to enlist and leave home. This reference is extended by creating wings with white feathers that hang next to the slouch hat; simultaneously alluding to mortality and spirituality.

Women were left to manage the farms. The green of the land starts to engulf the body of the mourning figure as she becomes responsible for its cultivation.

The juxtaposition of patriotism and domestic responsibilities is explored; seeking balance where none could exist. Farmers who had strong, intimate connections with the land lost the opportunity to pass down their invaluable knowledge. Family traditions faltered. Women took responsibility for sustaining traditions, livelihoods, stock, crops and indeed… nourishing the nation.

A Field of Remembrance takes out the big prize at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show

Have you ever had a big picture vision and just needed the right people to come along at the right time to help you make it all happen? We at Art4Agriculture have been lucky enough to have met a few of those in the last 6 years who are superstars in their own right

Let me re-introduce you to two people, Craig and Wendy Taylor, who have cemented themselves well and truly in archives that detail the watershed defining moments of Art4Agriculture and The Archibull Prize. You can read how this very important partnership began here

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The Central District Exhibit display that officially launched The Archibull Prize in 2010

As you will see from the background story and this recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald Craig and Wendy are the designers of the Central District Exhibit display at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

On behalf of the Art4Agriculture team and people everywhere who flock to the show and see these magnificent displays as their first point of call I want to congratulate Craig and Wendy and their team for taking out the well-deserved FIRST PRIZE accolade at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show

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This is the beautiful story behind the winning exhibit

FIELD OF REMEMBERANCE

For the 2015 Central District Exhibit at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, we have elected to commemorate 100 years since the Anzac landings at Gallipoli in 1915. We want to portray this theme primarily through the act of ‘Remembrance’.

Our focus is to use distinctive elements in a quiet, respectful and dignified manner. We want to honour those that fought, their sacrifices and the legacy which they have created in Australia today.

The most recognisable elements commemorating the Anzac landings which are seen in modern Anzac Day ceremonies are all used in the display. These are:

  • An Australian Soldier playing the sombre melody of the “Last Post” in the quiet dawn light,
  • A field of red poppies blowing in the breeze. Red poppies have been used at such ceremonies since 1921, and are even said to have been used since the time of Genghis Khan to commemorate the sacrifice made soldiers who died in war. These poppies visually evoke the Western Front, as the scarlet corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) was one of the first and most distinctive plants to spring up in the disturbed earth of the battlefields. The poppy was also present at Gallipoli and according to official war historian C.E.W.Bean a valley south of Anzac beach was named Poppy Valley. This poppy is now known as “the Flanders poppy” and is seen commonly at both Remembrance and Anzac Day services around the world.
  • The most well-known  stanza of “The Ode of Remembrance”  from the 1914 poem called “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon. The reading of the fourth verse has become an intrinsic part of Anzac Day services in Australia and many other parts of the world. “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.”
  • The simple and emotional words known to all Australians, “Lest We Forget”.

On the deck, the fruit, vegetables, grasses and grains form an undulating carpet beneath the poppies and create the base of the field. This patchwork of produce showcases the wide variety of colours, shapes, sizes and textures seen in the agricultural products grown in our area. From the front of the display to the back, the produce is prolific, generous and colourful. The poppies and the produce below them form a consistent and coherent agricultural image.

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A pictorial of how the winning District Exhibit came together in 2015

Well done Craig and Wendy we know how much thought, love and passion ( and sometimes tears) go into making these display happen – You are both indeed Legends

Big Dreams Going Places Driving Change

Over the next twelve months Australia’s latest outstanding on-line magazine Leading Agriculture will feature stories about our Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions with big dreams who are going places and driving change

Today we share with you Josh Gilbert;s story in Leading Agriculture Issue 5 

Josh Gilbert Leading Agriculture

Josh Gilbert is an ideas man with a knack for turning his dreams into reality.

 Chair of the NSW Young Farmers’ Council, an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion, Woolworths Agriculture Business Scholarship alumni, RAS Rural Achiever, current finalist in the NSW Indigenous Young Achiever Awards, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Newcastle, and currently completing a Bachelor of Law; the successes that define Josh Gilbert’s professional life have not come by chance or luck. They are the result of planning, determination and hard work.

Josh has big dreams for agriculture.

A constant influence in his desire to succeed, he says, is his Aboriginal heritage: “I look over the land where my family farm [on the NSW Mid North Coast] and know that’s where my ancestors were thousands of years ago. Knowing there is that connection to the land is something I feel wholeheartedly. I get this vibe whenever I’m there… looking after the land so that I can share that with future generations is something I’m passionate about achieving results for.”

Josh’s family run one of Australia’s most southern Braford cattle studs, on the banks on the Wallamba River on a parcel of land subdivided from what was once Josh’s grandfather’s dairy farm.

But Josh was dreaming of a fast paced, city based career in law and accounting, and it wasn’t until midway through his university studies that something changed.

 “I had an idea that I wanted to combine my love of the law and accounting with my love of farming,

I wanted to be able to take my future children back to the farm and show them the lifestyle I had when I was growing up. At the time NSW Young Farmers was working on its youth finance scheme and I thought that I could use my skills to help out while also gaining more understanding myself as to how to enter the industry.”

It was January 2013. As a NSW Young Farmers’ member Josh attended the AGM and was immediately elected to the Council. In May that year he tagged along on a farm production tour around Armidale, mixing with young farmers and sharing agricultural knowledge; Josh’s mind was ticking over.

 “I had an absolute blast. I was driving home and just decided that from then on agriculture was the way to go and that I’d still finish my law degree, but completely change the direction I was heading, towards agriculture.”

In early 2014 Josh was elected as Council Chair. Since then he has travelled to New Zealand for the Rural Bachelor competition, opened a community park, spoken at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference as well as many local and state events.

This year NSW Young Farmers’ is focusing on local level events across regional areas. On May 9, the Riverina town of Hay will play host to the first ‘Dinner in the Dark’. A social opportunity to boost the spirits of drought affected farming families, the event combines the themes of Earth Hour and climate change with rural mental health.

“It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, to get farmers to come off the land, have a good feed by candle light, watch a movie and help destigmatize mental health and building the support networks for farmers who might be struggling,”

“I really hope that when we have the one in Hay the community will keep it going as a fundraiser for the local community in later years when the seasons are better. If it goes well we hope to do two or three more in western NSW and perhaps into Queensland as well.”

Also on the agenda this year, Josh has been working with national manager of Earth Hour at WWF Australia, Anna Rose, on a cookbook showcasing the stories of 50 farmers from around Australia and recipes inspired by the food they produce.

“I was asked to talk about some of the interesting ways that young farmers are responding to climate change and sustainability on their farms, with the extra university education many young farmers have today,.

I thought about what we’re doing on our family farm and the variations we’ve seen since we owned it. I also talk about Art4Agriculture and some of the NSW Young Farmers’ initiatives and what we’re doing with the Climate Champions and Future Farmers.Network”

Josh met Anna through his role as an Art4Agriculture MLA Young Farming Champion (YFC), and credits the YFC program for the skills sets it teaches and connections it creates.

“The YFC workshops taught me great communication and media skills, improved my presentation abilities, and broadened my thinking across ideas such as social licencing and how we market agriculture to consumers,”

“Art4Agriculture is really passionate about connecting its YFCs with the movers and shakers of the world – people who can inspire, build confidence and connect you with other likeminded people. It provides a lifetime mentoring service and has given me access to people and opportunities I would never have had otherwise,” Josh says.

Along the way, Josh seizes every chance to gather knowledge from mentors and peers:

“Amazing people who are kicking goals.”

“I talk to them about how they’ve done it so I can try to share that with other young farmers,”

Anna Rose was behind the successful ABC documentary series ‘Can I change your mind about Climate Change?’ so Josh has sought her advice on the possibility of producing a similar agricultural themed series.

“I think there’s a great opportunity for farmers to do a ‘Can I change your mind about Animal Welfare?’ series, where we take animal activists onto our farms and actually show them and the viewers what we do on farms, how we do treat our animals – basically being more transparent with our consumers in a way that we haven’t really had a lot of access to in the past.”

Josh is also planning to release his own pod cast series. Featuring interviews from various agricultural and business experts each month, Josh hopes ‘Tractor Talks’ will be available on iTunes by April/May.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts and I think it’s a good opportunity for farmers while they’re out on the tractor harvesting or driving around to listen to some business ideas from influential people in agriculture and learn something that they can practically apply to their business at home,”

Achieving these ideas means of a routine akin to that of an elite athlete in training. The new year has brought with it Josh’s ‘2015 Regime’ involving early starts, listening to his favourite entrepreneurial podcasts, working on Tractor Talks, full-time work and study.

 “How do I achieve things? I break down the goals. I plan very long term and then try to work those plans back to now and everything that needs to be done in the next few months. Then I just work as hard as I can towards that

“I’m really set on what I want to achieve so I always try to make the time to knock out the big ideas. If it means that I don’t get much sleep for a week then that’s just how it is… because I know that the return will have a big impact for agriculture and also me personally.”

High on the list of Josh’s big ambitions is to one day buy back all the farm land his great grandparents once owned in Bundook. As a reminder of what he’s working towards, he visits as often as possible.

“That’s where my family heritage is. I  really enjoy speaking with the Elders of the local Aboriginal Lands Council about the way things have changed and ideas of how I can achieve the best results for both [them and agriculture].”

When overlooking the prime farm land and happy stud cattle, Josh sees a history that is thousands of years in the making. And a future that is well within reach.

Young Farming Champions with an appetite for change are dressed to impress

You never know where one of our Young Farming Champions will pop up next

Josh and Tom at Parliament House

YFC Josh Gilbert and Tom Tourle dressed to impress at Parliament House in Canberra

This week Beef and Cattle Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert and Wool Young Farming Champion Tom Tourle have hit the bush capital along with seven leading farmers and three environmentalists  who are taking their climate concerns to Parliament House tomorrow.

Creating a very powerful and compelling partnership in an exciting collaboration between two sectors who haven’t always met in the middle and at times have been at loggerheads the team will have robust conversations with Australia’s top decision-makers at Parliament House in Canberra about the devastating impacts of climate change on food and farms

The plan was spun by nine farmers featured in the Planet to Plate cookbook  (released this month as part of Earth Hour on Saturday March 28) and made possible by the team behind Earth Hour Australia.

Not only will the delegation speak with Australia’s top decision makers about the impact of climate change on food and farming they will also deliver 226 copies of the new Earth Hour Planet to Plate cookbook – one to each MP and Senator – which is packed with climate stories from 50 Aussie farmers and information from scientists about how climate change is affecting farming and rural communities.

“9 farmers, 226 politicians and one key message- climate change is impacting our food production and something needs to be done now,” Josh Gilbert said.

“The opportunity to discuss the real climate change impacts we are experiencing on our farms to the leaders of our country is incredible,” he said.

“Backed by leading scientists from Australia and extraordinary showcases of Australian food production on our farms, we believe our stories have the ability to change the government’s stance on climate change forever.

“That proposition is breathtaking, especially to be able to change the world for future generations.”

Earth Hour Australia said the farmers will be sharing their stories to highlight that “climate change is not just an issue that people in urban areas care about, but one that resonates strongly with people from the bush.”

“We will be encouraging politicians to aim higher when it comes to cutting pollution and making the swap to renewable energy,” the team said.

Among the delegation are some of agriculture’s most noted and inspirational names, including 2014 Dairy Farmer of the Year, Greg Dennis, and ‘Climate Champion’ and sheep and cropping farmer Peter Holding.

Owner-operator of Scenic Rim 4Real Milk at Tamrookum, Qld, Mr Dennis said sustainable agriculture is a two way street. “The farmer’s conscience in day to day operations have grown considerably in recent years,” he said.

“We now pay attention to our impact on climate change, with equal respect to the impact of climate change on us – and our subsequent management decisions.”

On Mr Dennis’s family farm 77 kW of solar panels are currently being stalled, reducing the reliance of fossil fuel power sources by almost 50pc. “Our individual actions…as a collective agricultural community, will play a major role into the foreseeable future,” Mr Dennis said.

Peter Holding farms merino ewes, canola and wheat on the south west slopes of NSW, and set up his own local Landcare group 15 years ago.  Mr Holding said climate change is damaging farming in his local area and across Australia.

“The problem is becoming more urgent every day: even though we’re in one of the best areas of NSW for rainfall (at Harden), we’re now sitting on the edge of an encroaching drought.” Mr Holding said.

“I just don’t know how people are going to survive it – it’s such a serious problem that it’s getting past the need for a polite discussion about it,” he said.

“Agriculture is the lifeblood of rural Australia; it helps keep communities together and alive. But it’s not taken seriously enough because it’s not as sexy as mining.”

Josh and Tom with Joel Fitzgibbon

Josh and Tom meet with Shadow Minster for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon MP

Proud of you team @art4ag YFC #appetiteforchange #drivingchange