Moo Baa and Cotton….How out of touch is the next Gen?

Today’s guest blog comes from Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey who was very excited to not only have the opportunity to share the story of Cotton recently at Moo Baa Munch , she also got to speak with both the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom about her favourite topic agriculture.

Liz Lobsey shares the experience ……………………….

I was given the fantastic opportunity last Thursday to head to Corinda State School in Brisbane to speak about Agronomy for Cotton Australia at the Moo Baa Munch.

Firstly I will be upfront and say, defining agronomy, and making it sound like the best job in the world is a little harder then I first thought.

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The Cotton Classroom (right at the front gate)

The Moo Baa Munch is organised by Agforce QLD and each industry is invited to host a site and speak about what their industry involves to high school and primary school students and why it is an exciting career prospect. I must say, even I learnt things that I didn’t know, so I can only imagine what the school students brains where like by the time they had visited the very numerous and highly diverse exhibitions.

The field to fabric process which was a joint presentation between Cotton Australia and AWI was fantastic. My favourite question was ‘So where does cotton wool come from?‘ Definitely a question the 4 of us did not expect and definitely stunned all of us.

Being involved in this collaboration between the wool industry and the cotton industry at Moo Baa Much reminded me of a question recently posed by Lynne Strong, farmer and Art4Agriculuture program director in a recent blog. Why can’t industries work together? 

The thing I learnt from this joint field to fabric presentation, was just how successful agriculture can be when we do work together and what a great return on investment for all stakeholders.   

After all once cotton is picked and the wool is shorn and the processing of the end products is almost identical, just different terms are used.

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Cotton wool???

I was absolutely shocked that a lot of primary school students actually do believe that cotton actually comes from a sheep. It’s a bit like people thinking that milk comes from a bottle and meat comes from the shelf at the supermarket.

It’s a little scary to think that the people who buy our products are so disconnected, and they are passing this disconnection onto their children, who will pass it onto their children, and the cycle will only continue unless agriculture engages and debunks myths like these now. That’s why programs like the Moo Baa Munch and the Art4Agriculture programs are so extremely important.

What was very powerful for me as a young person with a career in agriculture and working with school children through Art4Agriculture in 2013 and 2014 was the the cotton industry and the wool industry had done their research and recognised the smart way to handle the challenge was tell the story together.

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Sophie Davidson speaking about cotton processing as part of the joint Field to Fabric presentation with Wool.

Sophie Davidson (education coordinator for Cotton Australia) put these figures to the students we spoke to.

In 1813, the world population was 1 billion.

100 years later in 1913, the population was 1.7 billion.

In 2013 the world population is 7 billion.

For the last 100 years the world population had increased by almost 5.4 billion people and it is only going to continue to increase.

In light of this, the fact that we have 800 graduates at present completing agriculture related studies each year and we have 4000 graduate positions available, is of great concern.

We cant produce food and fibre without farmers and our farmers cant access the latest research and technology if we have no scientists. We cant give our animals the best care if we have no vets. We can optimise the care of our scarce natural resources unless we have soil and plant scientists like me. And that is just the start of a long list of people needed to help farmers produce the high quality and affordable food and fibre Australia is so famous for. Take the wool and the cotton industry just as example. Everywhere in the world it is recognised that no-one produces better quality wool and cotton sustainably than Australia.   

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Me and Sophie Davidson ( Cotton Australia)

I pose this question to you. What do you think Agforce is trying to achieve though Moo Baa Munch?.

  1. Is it the need the need for agriculture to sexy up its image?
  2. If so do we really need to make agriculture sexy to attract the next generation?
  3. Or, do we simply need to reacquaint them with a very important industry that has been here for hundred’s of years and gets more exciting and more necessary every year ?

These were certainly the questions on the lips of Premier Campbell Newman, who I had the pleasure of meeting.

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Me and the QLD Premier Campbell Newman

And its not just Campbell Newman asking how can we make agriculture sexy, this is something that industry has been talking about for quite some time.  

Personally I think we should be looking at the first rule of marketing and taking a step back and engaging our consumers and the next generation of agriculture’s potential workforce first and finding out what they really think about agriculture. Once we have this knowledge then we can address their concerns and fix the problems and then we will have a real chance of selling agriculture as ‘dripping with integrity and sexy.’

I was also lucky enough to have a brief conversation with the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom about improving agricultures image, and he firmly believes that something needs to be done, sooner rather then later.

Sid Sidebottom at Moo Baa Munch

Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom

So, it is our responsibility, as professionals, producers and supporters of the agriculture industry to be proactive and engage the public and change their misconceptions. After all can we think of better people to tell our story than the people who grow and produce the products?

I believe that we are at a make or break period for the agriculture sector. Realistically if we don’t do something now to ensure young people see agriculture as an attractive and exciting and innovative industry to work in what sort of future does agriculture have in this country?

What sort of future does Australia have without a thriving agriculture sector? 

The Moo Baa Munch was a fantastic experience for me and I am confident all the visitors felt the same. A huge hats off to Agforce for being proactive and innovative for designing and managing the event. Also a big thank you to Sophie Davidson and Cotton Australia for letting me have the opportunity to travel down and speak to students about the cotton industry, learn more about the wool industry, agriculture and the value of successful cross industry partnerships.

It was a great personal and professional development opportunity for me not only to brush up on my public speaking skills but also a fantastic opportunity to engage with the community and share stories about my favourite topic Australian agriculture and our inspirational farmers.

2 thoughts on “Moo Baa and Cotton….How out of touch is the next Gen?

  1. The Cotton exhibit and presentations were outstanding Thankyou for attending and showing our students the story of cotton Janet Cleary Corinda SHS AgTeacher

    • Hi Janet
      Thank you on behalf of Liz and Cotton Australia and Australian Wool Innovation for this feedback
      Hats off to Corinda HS for helping to make this possible
      Lynne Strong National Program Manager Art4agriculture

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