About art4agriculturechat

This blog will share farming stories from our family farm Clover Hill Dairies. What you will discover however is that farming today is so much more that growing food and fibre. By opening the door to my role in our family business I am hoping you will gain greater insights into the passion and committment of the people and the places behind the land that produces our food and hands that grow it

“Why do farmers farm? ………and always the answer is: Love”

“Why do farmers farm”, ………and always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. They like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.” Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food

Never was this quote truer than when I asked one of our Young Farming Champions (who we will call Emily for this story) what she wanted to achieve from her school visit this week .

“I want the students to love my farm as much as I do. I want them to love wool just as much as I do”

Emily is visiting a primary school in Sydney with 300 students who are studying the wool industry for The Archibull Prize.

Emily lives on a farm whose scale I can’t even comprehend. She is sharing her story via a PowerPoint that has beautiful pictures and no words until you reach the last slide and how powerful are those words on the last slide .

(Please note I have rounded off the numbers in this story as Emily has done to make it easy for  the students do the maths)

Emily’s presentation starts and ends with the same beautiful picture

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Emily asks the students her name. If no-one remembers, she invites all the girls in the room whose name starts with the letter E to stand up and she asks them one by one what their name is. Then she invites all the Emily’s in the room to be her helpers. When the students go home and tell their parents Emily’s story. They will say Emily told us this and when the students make their career choices they will remember Emily’s story

Emily tells the students it takes her 10 hours to travel to Sydney. She tells them her family farm is 250,000 acres and their school would fit 125,000 times into her farm. She tells them she has 25,000 sheep on her farm and if they all took some of Emily’s sheep home to look after each student would have 95 sheep in their backyard.

Emily is part of a family of five and she tells the students that her family look after the sheep. That means each family member has 5000 sheep each to look after.

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Emily tells them when she was their age there was only 6 people at her school. She was the only girl and her family made up half the school and she could play every sport that needed a team member.

There was no high school anywhere near Emily’s farm and she travelled 10 hours to boarding school in South Australia and only saw her family every three months. She now travels 10 hours to university.

It takes Emily’s family 3 hours to get to their closest supermarket. They go once a month. To ensure they can store enough food they have a cool room.

Then she shares with them  a year in her family’s life and it all revolves around the sheep. She talks about the rams being with the ewes for 6 weeks and after the rams come out her favourite time of the year starts 5 months later when the lambs start being born

Around 6 weeks later they bring the lambs and the ewes to the yards where the lambs are drafted from their mums. Then each of the lambs get an ear tag because they cant tell you how old they are. So each year the lambs get a different colour. The female lambs have their tags in the opposite side the males. Emily tells them that one person puts in 25,000 ear tags. I said you must be joking Emily say no I am not.

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The lambs then all go back to their mums and the next big event on the calendar is shearing. Emily explains when the first sheep came to Australia they had 1.5kg of wool on their backs and modern sheep have 8 kg. To help the students put this productivity gain into perspective one of the teachers had filled up 8 of the students water bottles and put them in a back pack so they can see how heavy 8 kg of wool is. Emily then shows them a pix of the shorn sheep coming out of the shearing shed all jumping for joy to get the wool off their backs.

Wool on truck

Each bale of  wool weighs a 195 kg  and as you can see 25,000 sheep produces a lot of wool. Which then travels six hours to Melbourne to be sold

Emily then talks about the sheep’s health checks and show the students how they are sprayed ( jetted) for lice. The spray is yellow to make sure none of the sheep are missed

Coloured sheep Emily then talks to the students about how much planning goes into looking after 25,000 sheep and 250,000 acres

She talks about the things they cant plan for, The big one being rain.

Liquid goldThis much rain provides grass for 25000 sheep for six months. If it doesnt rain they buy corn to feed their sheep.

cornI couldn’t stop thinking that would be truckload after truckload of corn coming in to feed 25,000 sheep. I hate to think what that costs. I can see why Emily’s family calls rain liquid gold.

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Emily tells the students it takes two days to drive around the farm to check the sheep have enough water to drink and they do that every three days. When the weather is really hot they check the troughs every day

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Emily tells the students the number one rule on their farm is Never Skip a Water Run Day

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Emily goes home as often as she can. As she said there are usually five family members to look after the farm but life has dealt the family a tough blow

It’s how cancer affects husbands, wives, children, mates, cousins. It’s the community who are always there for any family within it. It’s for the amazing, tough, resilient members of my community who have defeated cancer, it’s for the ones who are currently under going treatment & it’s for the ones we’ve lost to cancer.

Emily is running 10km around Uluru because

I love to run & it’s how I cope. I want to do something. I’m running to make a difference not just to myself, but spread that it’s okay to talk to people about it. I’m running for reason 

This is her post from Facebook

I’m not the fittest, the fastest or the smartest – but I’m pretty darn determined. I am determined to raise funds & awareness for cancer.
Determined to spread that it’s okay to have bad days & good days. That some days you’ll cope & some days you’ll break down. That’s just how it is, it’s your parents doing that 14 hour round trip. It’s not being there. It’s toughening up & getting on with it. It’s brave faces & doctors & staying strong. It’s the reality that so many rural Australians face because there’s just no other option. So I am determined to run for a reason. To run around that big red rock in the middle of the desert in the aim to get people to talk about it, so make it a dinner conversation. Make it a coffee chat, make it a phone call. Donate a dollar or 2. Spread the awareness of how difficult it really is to seek treatment – rural Australians can’t just “pop down” to the hospital for chemo or radiotherapy. It’s not a day trip. It’s not a “quick visit”. It’s being away from family, from your home. Its isolation. It’s good days & bad days – and I’m determined to make every day a good day. If my run makes two people have a chat about how they are going, if it makes someone feel that it’s okay to not be okay. If it gets someone else to know it’s not just their family, then I would’ve succeeded. I would’ve made a tiny difference. It’s how cancer affects husbands, wives, children, mates, cousins. It’s the community who are always there for any family within it. It’s for the amazing, tough, resilient members of my community who have defeated cancer, it’s for the ones who are currently under going treatment & it’s for the ones we’ve lost to cancer.

This is one very special young lady who shared her story with 300 young people from the city who i am confident now love her farm as much as she does and I guarantee they know her name

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Peta Bradley born to be a star

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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.

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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 and Emma Ayliffe have launched the Young Farming Champions stories

To coincide with the AGWomen stories, Grass Roots Media has launched an Instagram account  @AgWomen

Everyone can get involved and its a great opportunity for women in agriculture to drill down to WHY they love what they do

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

E: admin@agwomenglobal.com

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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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2017 Young Farming Champions announced and the journey begins

Last weekend bought the new crop of Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions together in Sydney with members of our alumni for the first Young Farming Champions workshop of 2017.

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The 2017 Young Farming Champions – top row L to R Sam Wan, Emma Longworth, Meg Rice, Joe Banks, Hamish McGrath, Nellie Evans, Jess Lehmann, Caitlin Heppner Bottom Row L to R Deanna Johnston, Annicka Brosnan, Katherine Bain, Lucy Collingridge

The Young Farming Champions program seeks out and trains our dynamic, best and brightest young agricultural professionals. We develop their skills to enable them to share their ideas, dreams and motivations with their host schools as part of The Archibull Prize . The program fosters vibrant conversations and allows the Young Farming Champions and young people they engage with in schools to work together to develop ways to co-create a bright future for Australia.

Part of Art4Agriculture’s mission is to encourage a new culture where Australian agriculture has a strong focus on investing in its people. A culture that provides our farmers with the skills, knowledge, confidence and connections to move to a new era of communication and collaboration

At Art4Agriculture we are passionate about collaboration and developing partnerships with other providers, so that there is a seamless professional development program for young people. Making the program offering flexible allows young people to dip in and out depending on their life and professional context at the time, because not everybody’s life progresses at the same rate or in the same linear fashion.

We believe partnerships and collaboration are the solution to many of the challenges in agriculture. Just imagine what we could achieve if we all worked together across sectors, across industries, across communities to pool resources, pool thinking, pool skills, to enhance, for the benefit of all. So you can see why we are over the moon that our mission for collaboration has gained huge momentum in 2017 not only allowing us to continue to train young people to tell agriculture’s story as well as support our alumni on the next stage of their leadership development

This year sees the NSW Government and Local Land Services combining with our industry partners to support the 2017 Young Farming Champions on their journey. Thanks to Aussie Farmers Foundation and two anonymous donors we were also able to add three independent scholarships

Thanks to the support of Aussie Farmers Foundation, Australian Wool Innovation, Cotton Research and Development Corporation  and alumni employers Elders, AGnVET and Landmark we are able to offer workshops for our alumni that they have identified meet their personal and profession development needs.

YFC Alumni  (6).jpg  YFC Alumni know that no matter how big the challenges they face, there is always time for some lighthearted moments . L to R Laura Phelps, Jo Newton, Dione Howard, Dwayne Schubert, Tayla Field, Peta Bradley, Sharna Holman, Casey Onus

WATCH THIS SPACE. We cant wait to share with you our latest video on “Sharing the Wool Story” hosted by Dione Howard and Peta Bradley

IMG_9333.JPG Peta Bradley – The Lady in Red born to walk, talk, wear and spruik wool 

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It was so rewarding for our team to hear both Dione and Peta say they weren’t the least bit nervous about making this video – “its pretty easy to talk about something you love so much and want to share your love of wool with the world’

What the alumni are saying about our new program offering

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Ben Egan is urging farmers to fill in the survey that will track the training needs of the farm sector.

Ben Egan The Land

Quoting the hard hitting  blog from Agricultural Appointments,

It has been widely acknowledged that Australia faces critical skills shortages in the agribusiness sector according to a raft of government enquiries, a growing chorus of academic reports and just about anyone who has ever tried to find highly-skilled candidates for agribusiness job vacancies.

It’s not overstating the case to suggest that these critical shortages threaten the ability of the agricultural industry to continue to grow and respond to rising global demand for food and agricultural services.

So where are the key shortages and what are the consequences of not addressing them? See the article here to find out where 

Young Farming Champion Ben Egan recently feature in The Land here  is calling on farmers in the cropping sector to  fill in this survey

Ben who is a cotton and gain grower believes there is a critical training gap in his industry with limited courses available for those working at ‘paddock level’.

An initiative of the New South Wales Government in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cotton Australia has allocated $14.7 million over three years to increase staff skill levels and attract newcomers to the grains and cotton industries.

The GRDC and Cotton Australia are now conducting an industry-wide training needs survey to help track the immediate and future training needs of growers, on-farm staff and the broader industry. The results of this survey will inform the rollout of the AgSkilled project across NSW.

Ben is a cotton and gain grower believes there is a critical training gap in his industry with limited courses available for those working at ‘paddock level’.

The young grower is farm manager at Kiameron Pastoral Company, an 8000 acre family operation with 1750acresof irrigated cultivation, 1400 acres of dryland farming and 4850acres of grazing country.

At Kiameron we rely heavily on backpackers and casual labour, but finding people with the skillsets we need can be a challenge. 

I am constantly looking for opportunities for both my permanent and casual staff to develop and improve their skills and knowledge.

It seems as though we can get access to middle management through university training, but we struggle a lot with getting skilled assistance in that leading hand, irrigation worker type space,” 

I have undertaken further training at TAFE, but better training across all levels of the cotton and grains industry could really drive our productivity and profitability.” Ben  said.

Ben is now encouraging others involved in the grains and cotton sectors to have their say about what training is needed to future proof the grains and cotton industries as part of a new initiative called AgSkilled.

Please get behind this excellent initiative by having your say in the survey found here