Meet Sam Wan – who was destined to work with sheep and has come a long way since she met her first lamb

sam-wan-1Mill owner’s daughter. Foreign exchange student. Victim to the lamb-is-a-poodle scam. These are my favourite and most amusing cases of mistaken identity.

Hi there, I’m Samantha Wan and I’m a Technical Officer and Auctioneer for Elders Wool, based at the National Wool Selling Centre, Melbourne. I haven’t always been a passionate advocate for the wool industry and agriculture but I am where I am today because I’ve been shaped by the experiences and people met on the way.

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Sheepvention (Hamilton, 2016)

I’m a first generation Australian-born Chinese. My Mum is from Hong Kong with Macanese heritage and Dad is Chinese Malaysian. I’m the eldest of 2 and from the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, 35kms west of the Sydney CBD. Looking back, I didn’t know what lamb tasted like until I was around 10 and I have a not so fond memory of Dad putting it into a herbal Chinese soup. I’d always thought corned beef came from a can – and I only knew it in a congee (rice porridge).The closest thing I had to seeing agriculture in action was Fairfield City Farm, more a petting zoo that showed me how to milk a cow and feed chickens.

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A go at shearing (Yass, 2010)

A career in agriculture never seemed an option so I continued on my merry way expecting to be something (anything) in the Information Technology race.  That wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to Agriculture while it was being offered at school. A great teacher, keen classmates and a mixed bunch of black Corriedales opened up the world of ag shows, sheep classes and junior judging. Even though I was quietly sure this was the start of something bigger, my family weren’t sure what to make of the pieces of satin I hung so proudly and if the fun and enjoyment would ever amount to anything.

Wool broker doesn’t quite make the top three careers your Chinese child should be (see; doctor, lawyer and accountant) so it’s a good thing my parents didn’t fall too hard into stereotypes. After all, my first car would have been my grandma’s old Corolla hatchback instead of a Commodore ute and I’d say it takes a bit of willpower to let your firstborn journey off to places like Yass, Hay, Dubbo, Molong and Warren after you have only had them pointed out on a map.

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Mustering (Warren, 2009)

As was expected, I went to university. The University of Sydney for Science in Agriculture. I also did cross-institutional Wool units with The University of New England. There was more than a bit of alarm when I decided to take a break for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at Richmond TAFE. It was different to say the least and I relished the opportunity for a more hands on go at animal husbandry, including halter breaking in steers. I did eventually go back to complete my Honours with a project on “Vitamin B12 Response Trial in Merino Ewes Incorporating Iodine Supplementation Pre-lambing”.

Through my Wool units at UNE, I was accepted into a short term student research position with The Australian Wool Testing Authority in Melbourne “The Measurement of Colour on New Zealand Wool using NIR.” The industrial training gave me a huge insight into the processes and innovation associated with wool testing.

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Research in progress (AWTA)

To date, I’ve been with Elders for 4 years and 8 months. Each day has something a bit different to deal with – putting AWEX ID’s on wools from across the country, seeing the wool in the shearing shed and now as samples in boxes on the showfloor, analysing and valuing clips, lotting wools for sale, discussing markets with clients and keeping an eye on the dollar. The challenge of assisting with benchmarking events such as Ovens Valley Wether Trial, Gippsland Sheep Breeders Wether Trial and the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial through data calibration, wool valuing and AWEX-ID’ing wools also adds another dimension to the work.

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East Gippsland Field Days valuing for the Gippsland Sheep Breeders Association wether trial (2014)

Volunteering as a sheep steward while studying allowed me to network, seek out opportunities and be on the front line of hearing what judges discussed and favored. Now working in the industry, the advantages are still the same but with a stronger sense of being part of the chain.
Agriculture has allowed me to see truly stunning areas of Australia, add to my experiences and meet amazing people, most of whom I still list as my mentors today. I get to tell the best stories to bewildered aunties and uncles while my sister envies how soft lanolin makes my hands. I love how dynamic the industry is. The limitless recounts of individual perceptions, about how the industry used to be, how many generations have been farming the same land and hearing them come to life rather than just reading it from a book.  It has taught me life skills as well – ones that are second nature for some but are hard work for me. Observation, sense of direction and distance, using landmarks, logic and problem solving all can be tied into more than just a few stories of my own!

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Shearing calls (Omeo, 2014)

The teachers and mentors in my life didn’t just give a suburban kid a glimpse of a world outside the city. They enriched my life. From them I drew direction into an incredibly rewarding, constantly evolving industry. If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them.

Note from the Editor

Its is obvious Sam Wan was born to tell stories and we all know how powerful stories can be. They can make you fall in love, they can be an antidote to bias, they can heal rifts, they can be an antidote for bias and a catalyst for change.

Sam didn’t include this adorable little pix  in her blog post but I spotted it on Facebook and just had to share it

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Meet Deanna Johnston the rookie wool producer

If daycare consists of riding shotgun with Dad in the tractor when sowing and harvesting; sleeping in the tender wool bin during shearing time then this has been the best start to my rural career. Hi I’m Deanna Johnston and I’m a rookie farmer.

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I had already started shearing, doing the long-blow on our Coolalee rams before I was going to primary school. My Dad worked as a shearing contractor before settling back down to the farm. Dad had always had an interest in sheep, especially Merinos and he began to get more serious about the sheep enterprise on the farm in the year 2000. We turned to the SRS strain of Merinos and started breeding dual purpose merinos. After the recent big wet we currently have 2000 breeding ewes with 500 with lambs at foot.

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The next step to continue my agriculture career pathway was Yanco Agricultural High School. Right from year seven I was part of the sheep showstock team which led to an introduction to the McCaughey White Suffolk stud where we started to implement Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer into the breeding program.

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I completed my Certificate IV in Woolclassing and Certificate II in Shearing by the age of 16 Since then, shearing competitions and wool handling competitions have become my weekend hobby. In March this year I came out in fourth position in the State Final Fleece judging competition in Sydney.

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More recently I competed at Culcairn Shearing and Woolhandling competition where I was awarded the Phillip Memorial Trophy in recognition of my shearing expertise.

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These competitions  help refine skills and emphasise the importance of the smaller details taught in the TAFE Certificates. You also meet other young people who share your passion for the wool and sheep industry.

In 2014 I was runner up in the National Young Guns competition at LambEX in Adelaide which was attended by over 1000 people. This competition consisted of writing an essay on the topic: “attracting young people into the prime lamb industry “and creating a poster to go with it as well as giving a speech on the topic.  The competition is judged on the essay, poster, speech and the answers to the questions posed by the judges. This was an incredible experience for me. I met many industry leaders, producers, overseas producers and professors who had the same passion: the future of agriculture not only in Australia but in the world.

2016 was also an exciting year for me. My school team won the Champion Secondary School at the 2016 Australian Wool Innovation National Merino Challenge in Sydney and I was  third overall in the Secondary school division.

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The competition attracted over 140 participants from WA, SA, VIC and NSW. Students competed in six activities relevant to Merino Sheep production, including visual scoring of sheep, condition scoring, use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values in ram and ewe selection, wool typing and valuing and feed budgeting. We also attended the Industry Dinner, where we networked with Wool Industry Professionals, university students and other secondary students.

Australian Wool Innovation manager of woolgrower extension and adoption Emily King said the NMC had grown rapidly since its inception because it met the demands of a new generation.

“There is a strong wave of young people coming through who are increasingly enthusiastic about the wool industry. These are the young minds that will take the industry forward with new ideas and new leadership. It’s exciting to see and great to be involved.”

With the end of my HSC year nearing I have been fortunate enough to have to have met some amazing industry professionals including Dr. Jim Watt, Errol Brumpton (OAM) and Charlie Massey (PhD). When I finish school my ambitions is to have a gap year and work in shearing sheds or on a Merino sheep property and then study a double degree in Agriculture and Business at the University of New England in Armidale with a long term view to come back on the farm and take over our sheep enterprise (I haven’t told Dad yet I might tell him about this a bit later).

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Daycare gave me a great passion for the wool industry and a dream to be part of it. I am a dedicated to promoting the sheep and wool industry in the community and as an exciting career. Young people are the future of a successful wool industry through the whole chain from the sheep’s back to yours. The future is exciting and I am lucky I will be a part of it along with many other young and enthusiastic people.

Expressions of interest are open for Cotton Young Farming Champions

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) is calling for expressions of interest from young people in agriculture to apply for a place as a cotton Young Farming Champion in the 2017 Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program.

Art4Agriculture and CRDC are recruiting Young Farming Champions who:

  • Are passionate about the Australian Cotton industry;
  • Want to share stories with urban Australians to improve understanding of sustainable food and fibre production, and in turn improve their own understanding of urban consumers;
  • Are interested in being trained to speak confidently and charismatically to school students, the public and peers;
  • 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 19 and 35 years

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“This first year of the YFC program was a fantastic experience. The workshops really make you think broader. I feel more confident in presenting myself and speaking to people with less scientific backgrounds about my role in the cotton industry. From presenting, speaking and developing your personal brand, to being able to take your message and translate it into one anyone can understand is so important. It allows me to engage with consumers and helps both in my role as an extension officer and when advocating my love of cotton and the broader agricultural industry.” Sharna Holman 2016 Cotton Young Farming Champion 

ABOUT THE YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS PROGRAM

The Young Farming Champions (YFC) are identified youth ambassadors and future influencers working within the agriculture sector. The YFC promote positive images and perceptions of farming and engage in activities and innovative programs under the Art4Agriculture banner, such as The Archibull Prize. The YFC demonstrate passion for their industry, while providing real life examples to young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Because they are young they can relate to students and are adept at breaking down stereotypes of farming and agricultural careers.

Taking part in the YFC program involves undertaking two mandatory weekend Sydney based workshops, under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts.

The program’s focus is developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.

The program equips and prepares the participants for that often very daunting experience of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The YFC leadership development model is providing the rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.

Through these workshops and the program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the YFC are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends.

Being a YFC also comes with the opportunity to be part of The Archibull Prize, one of Australia’s most exciting school programs connecting agriculture and students. The YFC take their own agricultural stories into the classroom and mentor students and staff as they complete their Archibull research.

For further information on the program and to hear from other Young Farming Champions you can access the 2016 Young Farming Champions Report here 

Please note

To qualify for the program applicants must be actively involved in the Australian Cotton Industry

If you believe you have the potential to be the face of the Australian cotton industry in schools CRDC would like to invite you to submit your Expression of Interest to be a 2017 Cotton Young Farming Champion by 10th February 2017

Contact Lynne Strong for EOI requirements.

E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

M: 0407 740 446

 

 

Expressions of Interest Open for 2017 Wool Young Farming Champions

 

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There is strong evident the Young Farming Champions program is having a positive effect on agriculture  

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is calling for expressions of interest from young people in agriculture to apply for a place as a Wool Young Farming Champion in the 2017 Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program.

Art4Agriculture and AWI are recruiting Young Farming Champions who:

  • Are passionate about the Australian Wool industry;
  • Want to share stories with urban Australians to improve understanding of sustainable food and fibre production, and in turn improve their own understanding of urban consumers;
  • Are interested in being trained to speak confidently and charismatically to school students, the public and peers;
  • 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 19 and 35 years

If you believe you have the potential to be the face of the Australian wool industry in schools AWI would like to invite you to submit your Expression of Interest to be a 2017 Wool Young Farming Champion

Contact Lynne Strong for EOI requirements.

E: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au

M: 0407 740 446

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2016 Wool Young Farming Champion Chloe Dutschke talks about what she has taken away from participating the YFC workshops 

ABOUT THE YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS PROGRAM

The Young Farming Champions (YFC) are identified youth ambassadors and future influencers working within the agriculture sector. The YFC promote positive images and perceptions of farming and engage in activities and innovative programs under the Art4Agriculture banner, such as The Archibull Prize. The YFC demonstrate passion for their industry, while providing real life examples to young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Because they are young they can relate to students and are adept at breaking down stereotypes of farming and agricultural careers.

Taking part in the YFC program involves undertaking two mandatory weekend Sydney based workshops, under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts.

The program’s focus is developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.

The program equips and prepares the participants for that often very daunting experience of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The YFC leadership development model is providing the rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.

Through these workshops and the program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the YFC are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends.

Being a YFC also comes with the opportunity to be part of The Archibull Prize, one of Australia’s most exciting school programs connecting agriculture and students. The YFC take their own agricultural stories into the classroom and mentor students and staff as they complete their Archibull research.

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Wool Young Farming Champion Dione Howard visited Hurlstone Agricultural High School in 2016 as part of The Archibull Prize  

Please note

To qualify for the program applicants must be actively involved in the Australian Wool Industry

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Wool Young Farming Champions are changing the way consumers think about natural fibres 

To see what the Young Farming Champions have been up to in 2016 read the annual report here

Meet the new generation of Plant Doctors – Part One

 

YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS ARE DEFINING THE ROLE OF AGRONOMY WITHIN AGRICULTURE AND SHARING THEIR TALES WITH THE COMMUNITY.

Plant doctors, agros, clod kickers – all nicknames given to those agri-professionals who spend a lot of time in their utes, poke a varied array of instruments into the soil and tell the farmer what to do with his crop. This may be the common perception of agronomists but Young Farming Champions are showing there is more to agronomy – and agriculture – than first meets the eye.

Coming together under Art4Agriculture’s innovative Young Farming Champions program, agronomists James Kanaley, Emma Ayliffe and Liz Lobsley are exploring the similarities and differences in their chosen careers. All have contrasting backgrounds – James is a fifth generation farmer, Emma grew up on remote pastoral stations and Liz is a self-confessed townie – and all work in diverse regions of Australia, but they have all studied at university, are bonded by the common crop of cotton and a desire to encourage the next generation of agronomists.

It is autumn and white fields of fluffy cotton await picking around Moree in northern New South Wales. James is waiting too. “There’s nothing quite like growing a crop from seed, nurturing it through to harvest and turning the land you work into a productive food (and fibre) bowl,” he says. “I remember how excited I got each harvest as a young fella as the headers fired up and burnt diesel day and night to bring the crops in.”

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James is far from the family farm at Illabo in southern NSW and his journey to consulting agronomist, overseeing a range of crops including canola, barley and mung beans, has exposed him to agricultural operations across the globe. He has seen farming in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and followed the harvest through sun and snow from Texas to the Canadian border in the USA. “It was great to learn about other styles of farming but I think my trips highlighted just how adoptive, adaptive, innovative and resilient Australian farmers are,” he says. “I love working as an agronomist and working hard to produce as much as possible from every millimetre of rain that falls or every megalitre of water that is siphoned down a field during irrigation.”

The use of water for cotton irrigation is magnified in Emma’s job with Tandou Limited who launched a visionary and ambitious plan to irrigate the outback in the 1980s, and where now, in good seasons, cotton is grown on lakebeds near Menindee in western NSW. “Tandou is an amazing place to see for the first time,” Emma says. “I remember driving out 140km from Broken Hill for my interview and rounding a bend over a red sand hill to be greeted with fields of green.”

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Working here as an on-farm agronomist represents the perfect combination of career and outback for Emma whose love of open spaces was spawned growing up on station country in north-west South Australia. “My job includes everything from rotation and fertiliser programs, irrigation scheduling, insect and weed management, through to driving tractors, loading seed trucks, fixing breakdowns and taking people on farm tours,” she says. However as with all farming operations climate and rainfall make the ultimate decisions and in a dry year, such as 2016, lakebed farming has been suspended and Emma has been transferred to company farms at Hay to continue cotton production.

Cotton also plays a major factor in the life of Liz who took a circuitous route to agronomy on the Darling Downs around Dalby in Queensland. “I originally thought of agriculture as dirty and, to be honest, boring,” she admits and her first university degree, and subsequent career, was in accounting. However, an interest in agriculture ignited in high school led her back to university and agronomy. “Now when I think about agriculture I think about people, innovation, passion and commitment, and within agriculture you are so much more than what your title defines. As an agronomist, on a daily basis, I assist growers makes decisions about how to nurture their crops and produce the best yields while keeping production costs low, keeping the level of chemicals used to a minimum and being friendly to the environment.”

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Liz also finds her background in accounting helps her to perform business analysis and management, something she enjoys as much as partaking in an end-of-day beverage on a farmer’s verandah, building relationships in which she feels she has gained surrogate families. “Agriculture is an essential part of the economy but I also think it is an important part of our society’s way of life. We are blessed to have an agricultural industry with all if offers and it is time for a revival of sorts. It is time for everyone to peel back the layers and take a serious look at agriculture. It is not just a career choice, it is a lifestyle choice and it offers a wonderful way of life.”

James, Emma and Liz credit the Young Farming Champions program for giving them the skills to engage with the community and take on roles of responsibility within their industry. For instance James is now on the NSW Young Farmers Council. “I have got to the stage in my career where I have experience up my sleeve and some valuable knowledge. I want to help young people in agriculture to get their voices, views and opinions out there,” he says. Likewise Emma has worked with school children as part of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association, and Liz is the Next Gen coordinator for the Australian Cotton Conference.

Blending their differences and similarities has also seen the three young agronomists create a Facebook page called ‘Agros – Tales from the field’ where interested people can follow not only the life cycle of cotton but of other crops such as quinoa, sunflowers and legumes. James, Emma and Liz add comments and photos as they explain agronomy in their corner of the country – offering insights into planting, pest and weed control, weather conditions, harvest and yields, to name but a few.

However perhaps the most important part of the Facebook page, as it is in their careers, is the showcasing of the everyday life of an agronomist, encouraging questions and commentary. James, Emma and Liz are showing there really is more to agronomy – and agriculture – than first meets the eye.

Reprinted from Leading Agriculture Issue 18

 

 

The Archibull Prize – happiness is ???

Yesterday’s The Archibull Prize 2016 Awards and Exhibition Day  was the culmination of nine months of blood, sweat and tears by 35 schools  up and down the Eastern seaboard.

Check out the Champions and Grand Champions here

Those nine months deliver many highlights for me. Yesterday I was just blown away by the students. Each and everyone of them  did their school, their champion teachers and the education system and Australia proud.

Love this classic comment when one of the Young Farming Champions asked one of their schools what was there favourite moment of the Awards Ceremony and the answer

“getting measured for my school blazer “

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Superstars from Northlakes High School 

How good is it to get an email like this

Hi Lynne

On behalf of our students at …..  I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation for The Archibull Prize award ceremony today.

Being our first entry, reaching the finals was beyond our expectation. Attending today was such an insight into many things. The organisation of the awards was outstanding with each of the presenters being engaging and informative in both their formal roles and in their informal chats with our students.

The quality of work presented by the other schools was exceptional and a real eye opener into the many shared hours of research, collaboration and dedication involved in this program. The reactions of the students from our and other schools and their obvious pride in their work was an absolute delight to witness.

Thank-you so much for having us today…..

 

All the students were so proud of their cows and so proud of themselves and so proud to represent their schools.

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   some early photo highlights 

and nobody was more proud of them all than me.

Big Congratulations to the Matraville Sports High School who also looked very classy in their blazers.

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Matraville Sports High School with Director General of NSW DPI Scott Hansen 

Pick the winner of the 2016 Archibull Prize

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It is with great excitement that we announce the finalists in The Archibull Prize 2016 .

The judges decision is in and now it’s your turn to decide the People’s Choice.

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Click on the photo to see a larger version and vote for your favourite Archie.

We know these photos don’t do the entries justice so if you would like to see all the 2016 entries and more elements and both sides of all the finalists and meet the students who created them you will find them in our judging tour Flickr Album here 

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