Farming is not a joke


Sam Coggins 

Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins was sponsored to attend the Chicago Council Food Security Symposium in Washington DC in March as part of the ‘Next Generation Delegation’.

Following his participation Sam was invited to write a guest blog for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs website

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to present the 2017 Next Generation Delegates blog series. This year’s Delegation was comprised of 20 outstanding students from universities across the United States and around the world studying agriculture, food, and related disciplines. We were thrilled to feature these emerging leaders at the Global Food Security Symposium 2017, and look forward to sharing the exciting work of this extraordinary group.

This is what Sam had to say

The two words required to sell careers in agriculture to young people 

Agriculture’s image problem
My mate Michael couldn’t stop laughing. I had just told him that I was going to Sydney University to study agricultural science. “What are you going to do? Build scarecrows?”

The stigma surrounding careers in agriculture spreads beyond the suburbs of Australia. I met fellow agriculture students Adrian Bantgeui (Philippines), Toluwase Olukayode (Nigeria) and Cassandra Proctor (USA) at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Despite different backgrounds, we all shared similar stories:

  • Adrian shared that Filipino students are belittled for studying “agriculture lamang” (Tagalog for ‘only agriculture’).
  • Cassandra lamented that American youths ask “ew, why study plants? That’s so boring”.
  • Toluwase described how Nigerian agriculture is perceived to be an “industry for poor people”.


Adrian shared that Filipino students are belittled for studying “agriculture lamang” (Tagalog for ‘only agriculture’).

It seems that careers in agriculture are universally mistaken for not being sophisticated, interesting or lucrative. This is hard to believe considering avoiding a global food shortage is one of our generation’s great challenges. A panel was assembled at the Chicago Council Food Security Symposium in Washington DC to discuss how we can “dial in a new way of thinking about agriculture as a career of first choice”.
How not to sell careers in agriculture

The instinctive strategy for selling careers in agriculture is to talk about our unique interests in it. Too many times I’ve tried to share my love for soil using passion, humour and enthusiasm. You’d be surprised how good my joke about soil health is! Even so, my efforts are generally met with the response, “that’s nice but agriculture is not for me”.

There is more to agriculture than soil. Agriculture is about land rights, social science, animal husbandry, education, trade policy, plant pathology, anthropology, drone technology… the list continues.

In view of this, agriculture can be for everyone! The challenge is not to force our agricultural passions onto young people but to make agriculture accessible to their passions. How do we do this? From my perspective, careers in agriculture are characterized by two words that resonate with my generation:


Cassandra lamented that American youths ask “ew, why study plants? That’s so boring”.

Word 1: Meaning

Agriculture is about putting food on people’s plates and clothes on people’s backs. Sustainably growing more nutritious food with less resources enables farmers to support their families, protect the environment and nourish their communities.

Agriculture is a powerful tool for contributing to things that matter: poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and food security. What career choice could be more meaningful than that?

Word 2: Excitement

An education in agriculture not only empowers you to improve the world, it lets you truly see the world. Since commencing my undergraduate degree in 2014, I have worked on a salmon farm in Tasmania, researched soil microbiology in Canberra, interned at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, joined an anti-food wastage society in central Sydney, attended a food security conference in Washington DC and attempted in vain to plough a rice field with buffalo while studying in the mountains of Sri Lanka. The wide-ranging opportunities in agriculture are not limited to building scarecrows, which would also be fun.


Toluwase described how Nigerian agriculture is perceived to be an “industry for poor people”.

How to sell careers in agriculture to young people

Escaping normality and doing something meaningful appeals to my generation. I do not subscribe to the belief that today’s young people are self-obsessed. Young people that I know want more from their career than a comfortable lifestyle and a stable salary. They want to travel the world and they want to make it better. A career in agriculture is a grounded mechanism for doing exactly that.

The photos in this blog show Adrian, Cassandra and Toluwase wearing a t-shirt bearing the words: “magatnim ay di biro” (Tagalog for ‘farming is not a joke’).

I believe that young people will own this message if we sell careers in agriculture as careers of excitement and meaning. 


Yes Sam, if we want to attract the best and the brightest minds we must give them a reason to choose agriculture over everything else. It is these people who will be the changemakers that will deliver the vibrant, profitable and dynamic future of agriculture that it deserves to have. Read our founder Lynne Strong’s blog post for The Australian Farmer on the Image of Agriculture here 

Read previous blogs by the 2017 Next Generation Delegates:

Technology for Youth Engagement in the New Age of Agriculture

How Public and Private Partnerships Can Achieve a More Food-Secure World

Why a Practical Consensus on Animal Welfare Is Essential to Combating Climate Change

Working Together in Times of Food Insecurity

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: The Dilemma for Chicken Farmers in Tanzania

Unifying the Next Generation through Open Data

Food Security: Agriculture, Society, and Ecology

Canada’s Challenge: Ending Chronic Food Insecurity in the Far North

Nutrition Security in the 21st Century


Dr Jo Newton wins Emerging Scientist Award

Young Farming Champion Dr Jo Newton is part of a growing group of bright young minds seeing agriculture as an incubation hub for cutting edge research. We are very excited to announce that Jo has been announced as the winner of the Dairy Research Foundation (DRF) 2017 Emerging Scientist Award at their annual symposium

Listen to Jo’s sixty second promotion for her presentation 

The DRF  annual Symposium, is widely recognised throughout the Australian dairy industry as a showcase of dairy science in application – that brings together the farm and dairy science communities with a special focus on nurturing and developing young and emerging scientists – and linking them with the farm sector.

Each participating young scientist is asked to prepare a presentation that relies on flip charts and items to show and tell (strictly no use of PowerPoint). Scientists are grouped together by ‘common interest/theme’ on platforms, with up to three young scientists per platform. They present multiple times (normally 3-4 times) to groups of 20-50 people each time.  Each platform also features a dairy industry mentor (a farmer/scientist/service provider) whose role is to comment on the projects under profile and discuss how the work may be integrated at a farm level.  Each young scientist has five minutes to deliver their presentation followed by 5 minutes of question and discussion should follow each young scientist’s presentation.

The Dairy Research Foundation Emerging Scientist competition is a unique opportunity for farmers to learn and engage from the young and vibrant researchers who are committed to addressing  current and future industry needs and challenges

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2017 DRF Emerging Scientists (From left to right: Alexandra Green from University of Sydney, Ashleigh Wildridge from University of Sydney, Paul Cheng from University of Melbourne, Alex John from University of Sydney, Nicolas Lyons from NSW DPI Dairy, Veronika Vicic from Charles Sturt University, Laura Senge from Murdoch University, Jo Newton from Agriculture Victoria, Beth Scott from Wageningen University and Juan Molfino from University of Sydney)

Nine emerging scientist from all around Australia kept the audience engaged, entertained and informed of the latest work and trends in the industry. This allowed farmers to get insights into the latest research from vibrant young science communicators  who have chosen the dairy industry as the place they want to be.

‘The quality of the Emerging Scientist competition is getting better every year. Jo  shared her work, her passion and her findings in an interactive and engaging way with the audience and was a well deserved winner  of the 2017 Emerging Scientist competition” said Dr Nicolas Lyons 

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Dr Jo Newton presenting her work at the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium 

Jo works as a research scientist on the Gardiner Dairy Foundation initiated Project, ImProving Herds. The project is demonstrating the impact investing in genetics and herd improvement has on the bottom line for dairy farmers. For example, the project has recently been able to show cows sired by high genetic merit bulls make greater contributions to farm profit over their lifetime than other cows do.

“I’m passionate about ensuring that research outcomes don’t just reside in scientific journals. We have world-class research facilities and minds in Australia but haven’t always done a very good job of translating research into action. I think projects like ImProving Herds, where research and extension are intrinsically woven together, is a good way to work towards achieving this. I really enjoy the challenge of collaborating with diverse industry stakeholders to ensure that the work we are doing is relevant, useful and delivered in a way that the industry can use. For example, in a ‘typical week’ I may be working with economists, farm consultants, farmers, vets, extension staff and breed societies. At 16, I was told I was too smart to study agriculture. I’m passionate about being involved in changing the stigma surrounding careers in agriculture and hope that one day every young person, regardless of their background, views agriculture as a rewarding career pathway.” Jo Newton  2107 DRF Emerging Scientist Winner 

Well done Jo  another milestone in a stellar career journey


Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth invited to speak at TEDxYouth Sydney

Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth will join young changemakers, thinkers, innovators, activists, and entrepreneurs to share her big ideas for sustainable farming, environmental conservation and climate change action at TEDxYouth@Sydney on Wednesday 6 September 2017 at Sydney Town Hall.

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Anika joins fellow Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert who spoke at TEDxYouth@Canberra last year on a journey to be a global communicator for #youthinag

Made by young people, for young people, but with the eyes and ears of the world in mind, TEDxYouth@Sydney is a platform for ideas worth spreading

The theme for TEDxYouth@Sydney 2017 is ‘Shifting The Future’ and includes talks and performances from

  • Chris Leben with special guest Lee Lin Chin – the creative team behind SBS presenter Lee Lin Chin’s comedic alter ego and viral smash
  • Maria Tran – martial artist, actor, filmmaker and screen fight coordinator has kicked many asses in international action movies including legend Roger Corman’s Fist of the Dragon
  • Ivan Zelich – young mathematician, who at the age of 17 developed a groundbreaking theorem that took the global scientific community by storm
  • Nural Cokcetin – microbiology research scientist developing new treatments to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs
  • Joe Carbone – performer and parkour specialist
  • Anika Molesworth – climate change activist, sustainable farming advocate and 2017 NSW Finalist for Young Australian of the Year
  • Nick Molnar – entrepreneur and founder of fintech company, Afterpay, that went public on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2016
  • Tilly Lawless – queer, Sydney-based sex worker who argues that sex worker rights are integral to the feminist movement
  • Louise Zhang  – Chinese-Australian artist with a deep passion for cinema horror as an art form
  • Emily Wurramara – young Indigenous musician and seasoned performer who sings in both English and Anindilyakwa, her original language
  • Alice Ivy – rising Melbourne beat maker, guitarist and vocalist who has drawn comparisons to fellow sample-fiends The Avalanches
  • Dauntless Movement Crew – movement based team which combines art forms such as tricking, b-boying (breakdancing), parkour, acrobatics, circus stunts and fire tricks

#gogirlfriend #youthinag



Mandy McKeesick a Gobal AgWomen

Great to see our journalist Mandy McKeesick profile in AGWomen Global

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Mandy at the Sydney Royal Easter Show with YFC Dione Howard and Peta Bradley 

Mandy McKeesick has worked as an exploration geologist in the deserts of Western Australia, as a deckhand on a rather small boat on the Tasman Sea and in offices as a bookkeeper and trainee accountant, but today her home is on a cattle property in central Queensland where along with mustering cows and yelling at miniature fox terriers who think they are pig dogs, she is a freelance writer specialising in rural and regional Australia.

Mandy was born onto a dairy farm in southern New South Wales but her dairying experience ended shortly after she was knocked over and partially eaten by a sow defending her piglets. Mandy’s family then moved to a 14acre block and it was not until she was working in the Great Sandy Desert and met a good, keen Kiwi bloke that her thoughts turned once again to a farming life.


Mandy at home balancing farm life with the life of a journalist 

The Kiwi bloke, soon after to become her husband, had been a head shepherd, possum trapper and deer hunter in New Zealand and his stories rekindled a desire in her to be part of the land once more. Together they bought a hobby farm while running an abalone business and then 13 years ago made the decision to return to farming full time with the purchase of a beef property near Tenterfield and then at Coolatai in northern NSW.

With experience in the deserts and on the ocean Mandy thought she would adapt to farming quite easily. She soon found out she was wrong. Mustering on a fractious thoroughbred, training working dogs, cattle husbandry and driving the ancient truck with no power steering all proved to be a steep learning curve and she vented her frustrations in a blog called Rocky Springs Rambles. That most of the last 13 years have been drought added yet another dimension to her world.

Mandy had always enjoyed writing and in the depths of the drought, at age 44, she embarked on yet another career move, this time as a freelance writer, passionately bringing the stories of rural and regional Australia to a wider audience. She has written for national publications such as R.M. Williams OutbackAustralian Geographic and The Sydney Morning Herald, and through her corporate work meets many inspirational people in the world of agriculture.

“I really think it is a privilege to live and work in rural Australia and in agriculture. It gives you a connection to nature and to country not enjoyed by those who live in urban environments. To have the responsibility of caring for livestock while working with the whims of Mother Nature, and to understand what you know will always be exceeded by what you don’t (and to be comfortable with that) is a rare and wonderful way of life. To be able to share the amazing characters and stories within agriculture through words is just icing on the cake.”

We love the way that you have grown and adapted to your surroundings, and found your own way to make your role in the primary industries work for you. We truly believe that telling the stories of the primary industries is such a key component in ensuring the industry continues to grow in a positive way. We love what you do Mandy!

Chloe Dutschke inspiring careers in wool one lightbulb moment at a time

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How proud does this Facebook post from Young Farming Champion Chloe Dutschke make the Art4Agriculture team

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Chloe inspiring students at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show 

This is why we exist. To give young people in the agriculture sector the confidence to stand up and share their story about the industry they love and how proud they are to be a young agribusiness professional

_2017 Supporting partners Capture

Peta Bradley wins 2017 Young Stud Master of the Year award

Having spent a day at the 2017 Sydney Royal Easter Show with Peta Bradley it is clear she is a very popular young lady. We could not walk a metre without some-one in the sheep pavilion stopping her to say hello.


Peta was recently featured in the article Young Leaders Paving the Way in The Land and it was one of their most popular articles ever

We recently caught up with Peta at the Young Farming Champions alumni workshop in Sydney and I have never seen anyone with a brighter smile on their face. Just before getting on the plane Peta who is an AWET wool honours scholarship holder completing a Bachelor of Rural Science at UNE had received a phone  call to say she had been chosen for her dream job working with Sheep Genetics Australia as a MERINOSELECT development officer.

It doesn’t stop there last night at the Young Stud Masters’ Muster  Peta was honoured to win the Young Stud Master of the Year award – the first female to ever do so.

Peta Bradley

This award is a celebration of the best and brightest young people working in the sheep industry. Nominated by a committee member the young people vying for the award must be promoting all aspects of the sheep industry

We agree with Wool Education Australia, Peta is an amazing woman to have as part of the sheep industry! We are looking forward to seeing where her future career takes her.


Peta Bradley born to be a star

_2017 Supporting partners Capture 

Women in Agriculture; invisible no more

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Over the next six months, fifteen of our Young Farming Champions will be featured in the AGWomen Global initiative. Like the Australian Invisible Farmer project, AGWomen Global will profile different women, making an impact in the primary industries, no matter the level of their contribution. A huge kudos to both these organisations for creating an opportunity to celebrate success and share the stories of women who help to shape the agriculture sector.

Love the blurb

We believe that everyone has a story.  Most peoples first response is “I’m not that interesting” – but we all have a different journey and role to play in such an awesome industry.  If you are part of the primary industries in any way we want to hear from you.  All that’s required is a big smile, lots of enthusiasm and the willingness to tell us your story.

#YFC Jess Lehmann , Laura Phelps, Bessie Thomas, Peta Bradley ,Emma Ayliffe, Rebecca Thistlethwaite, Kirsty McCormack , Melissa Henry, Dione Howard, Jo Newton , Casey Onus  Anika Molesworth and Sharna Holman  have launched the Young Farming Champions stories

Everyone can get involved and its a great opportunity for women in agriculture to drill down to WHY they love what they doTo coincide with the AGWomen stories, Grass Roots Media has launched an Instagram account  @AgWomen

This is how some of our Young Farming Champions shared their WHY with the world

“I’m a nurturer – I love caring for my sheep, being responsible for the decisions that impact  their wellbeing and productivity. I’m proud of the product that we produce – clean naturally coloured fleeces that go on to be handspun and felted into beautiful items. I love going into the paddock and recognising each of their faces, and it is very satisfying to see our lambs go on to good homes, either as breeders or as a spinner’s flock.” Melissa Henry 

“I am immensely fortunate to work in agriculture and live in rural Australia. I wake listening to magpies warbling in the morning. I get to see wind rippling wheat fields. I am researching the latest technology to help farmers manage their soil and water resources more efficiently, so more crop can be grown with less footprint on the environment. I check over lambs, wade through rice paddies in Cambodia, ride horses, and at the end of the day I get to watch the sun set over an unobstructed horizon. I can’t imagine any other line of work I’d rather be in.”

“When you spend some time in the outback, or on any farm, you develop a deep sense of familiarity with the landscape and the life it holds. The water in the creek, shrubs growing in the paddock, and the grazing sheep, are not resources to be exploited, but become intrinsic parts of your home; each component adding value to a whole system, and the farmer plays a pivotal role in that. I love what I do, because I get to witness the amazing interaction between life on farms, to study it and help share new knowledge.” Anika Molesworth 

“My world is hundreds of kilometres of pure earth and sky. Each time I watch our sheep file through the landscape towards the dam for a drink I think about why I am doing what I do and why I love it. For me, it is the wonder of watching the world evolve at the hands of Mother Nature and being close enough to hear her speak. It is the pleasure of knowing our animals are constantly cared for to best of our ability. It is the satisfaction of a hard day’s work, always striving to provide positive environmental and animal welfare outcomes, and making the best decisions to build our business. It is knowing our healthy, happy sheep are growing a beautifully natural, sustainable, eco-friendly, versatile, quality product from just rain, grass, sunshine, and team work. I am here, doing what we do, because every day I spend nurturing the growth of a fibre that so honestly reflects our world at its most pristine, is a day I can be proud of.” Bessie Thomas 

“Land is a non-renewable resource and with the growing global population I think precision agriculture holds the key to helping farmers meet the demand in the future. I love seeing the positive change I can create in my clients’ businesses by adjusting the way they manage their farming practices. Working with several clients across a range of very different operations gives me the opportunity to see what does and does not work. This enables me to come up with creative solutions, collaborating ideas from both cropping and livestock worlds instead of staying inside the box.” Casey Onus 

“I am incredibly spoilt, getting to experience the challenging but satisfying world of teaching high school students, while soaking up the lifestyle of agriculture by living on my family’s farm. I am a huge advocate for education; what opportunities it can open for the individual but also what impacts it has on the community as a whole. The more informed we are and the more we thirst for understanding, the more we can interact in harmony and create a supportive environment for all. I enjoy interacting with our youth on a daily basis and encouraging a love for education, but I also love the opportunity to go home and learn something about stock or machinery or land health on a daily basis from my parents. As my Dad likes to say “a day when you haven’t learnt something is a day wasted” and I guess this quote has really shaped my life and what I enjoy.” Hannah Barber 

If you want to share your WHY with the world contact Anna at AgWomen Global


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“I do what I do because I love helping people and I find plants truly amazing. Understanding how a crop grows and how our management influences the quality and quantity at harvest is an exciting process. To be constantly learning, evolving our management techniques and evaluating what we do as advisers means we are able to see the growers we work with achieve year on year. To be able to get up and spend my days outside in the sunshine dealing with some of the most resilient and inspirational people means I will never have to work a day in my life!” Emma Ayliffe

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