Meet Sally Beer whose teachers nurtured her passion for agriculture

Today’s guest blog post comes from Sally Beer whose taken every opportunity that has come her way to prepare her for a career in agriculture

my professional photo

This is Sally’s story ……..

I had a fairly typical country kid childhood. Growing up on a mixed cropping and livestock property in Deniliquin, NSW, we always had a myriad of animals to look after- horses, poddy lambs and calves, dogs, cats, budgies, a wild rabbit that my brother rescued from under a bath tub at a polocrosse carnival and somehow convinced my Dad he should keep, and a couple of joeys.

photos for YFC

We still have Milly the poddy lamb, who turns 11 years old this year, in the back paddock, and we would take ‘Dimitry the Roman Kangaroo’ to every horse event in the Riverina when he was a joey, where he would act as our mascot hanging in his green Coles shopping bag on the truck dividers.

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Of course, there was always jobs to help with on the farm, whether we were checking the rice paddocks and irrigating with Dad or mustering cattle. Mum’s favourite story from when I was a baby was when I was crying in the night, so she asked Dad to check on me- Dad took me for a walk around the rice paddocks checking water levels, and was gone for over 2 hours. When he returned, Mum was frantic and I was fast asleep. I was definitely a Riverina baby!

At high school my enjoyment for agriculture was fostered and enhanced by the fantastic agriculture and primary industries teachers. They pushed us to develop our practical skills on the school farm. They also encouraged us to recognise the huge range of opportunities available to career seekers in the agriculture industry beyond the farm gate as well as behind it. It was without a doubt the influence of these teachers that started me on the path I’m on today.

High school finished and, like many 18 year olds, I heard the irresistible call of a gap year. I spent 12 months working on Clonagh, Paraway Pastoral Company‘s backgrounding property near Cloncurry, QLD. During this year I learnt several things: that black tea is always the better option when there is only powdered milk available for smoko; how to leap stock yard railings in a single bound, faster than a speeding Brahman (so much more impressive than Superman); that I have shocking directional skills (this continues to haunt me, and is a source of hilarity to anyone in a car with me); and finally, it is perfectly acceptable to drive 6 hours for a weekend away at a campdraft, and to only hit one town during the interim. During this year, I improved my stock handling skills out of sight and was exposed to an industry vastly different to what I had grown up with, and from there my university career was set. Judging from the people I had met during the year and their varying roles at Paraway, it seemed there was so much variety within agriculture, and I wanted to experience all of it!

I did a Bachelor of Agriculture/ Bachelor of Business at the University of New England, and in my third year completed an exchange year at the University of Wyoming, USA.

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I know every student is tired of hearing it, but university really is the best years of your life, and you should take advantage of everything that comes your way. You never know who you will meet, where you will go or what doors will open up later because of it. During my exchange year in the USA I was fortunate to complete an internship with a contract ranching and harvest crew in Montana during my summer away from university. I learned to rope(badly), wrestle calves and to debate with my colleagues (the virtues of roping compared to a crush when vaccinating and castrating calves was our usual topic). I also travelled to Kenya as part of an ‘Agriculture & Culture’ study tour with my American classmates.

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We visited tea and coffee plantations and an enormous rose greenhouse, visited a Masai tribe in Masai Mara National Park, and stayed at Manor House in Kitale, which is a training facility for young Kenyan men and women to learn best practise in bio-intensive agriculture.

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The students and staff at Manor House were inspiring, and this was, without a doubt, my favourite part of the trip. The Manor House trains its students in low input farming to improve sustainability and efficiency compared to traditional methods, then they return to their communities and teach others. To compare with the students how their families had previously farmed compared to their passionate vision for the future was an eye opening and humbling experience.

Finally, I was lucky enough to be a part of the UNE International Food and Agribusiness Management Association student team in 2016. As part of this we travelled to Denmark for the annual sustainability conference and competed in the student competition.

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Though we did not get through to the final round, sitting in on the conference for the rest of the week was well worth the trip as we discussed major issues surrounding food waste, improving technology in agriculture, impacts of climate change and attracting young people to the industry from the differing perspectives of developing and developed countries.

Sally Beer

I’m now finished at UNE, and have taken up a job as a ‘Junior Accounts Manager’ for GeoCommodities, a grain and pulse broking company based in Horsham and in Bendigo. My primary responsibility is organising freight for the grain we sell, and there is no two days that are the same! We are working in domestic and export markets, with buyers and sellers of varying sizes. It is an enormous, dynamic and welcoming industry that requires fast thinking and good interpersonal skills (because you will be on the phone. A lot!). You are constantly thinking on your feet to get the best result for both your grower and buyer, or in the event of a delay or truck breakdown you need to be able to change things quickly.

Though I still have much to learn, the main thing I have picked up on my travels is that we are incredibly lucky to have the training opportunities that we do in Australia. Agriculture needs to continue to attract and retain talented young professionals at every level in the value chain to ensure we continue to improve and meet every challenge of sustainable food production. By using programs such as Art4Agriculture, and young Livestock Breed Societies, and Farming Challenges at the local agriculture  shows, we are showing school students during their formative years that agriculture is a dynamic and exciting industry that needs them in it.

I will finish with the classic Dr Seuss quote; ‘Oh the places you’ll go!’ I have adapted this as my personal slogan for the agricultural adventure I am on. I hope that I might be able to encourage some other young people to come into an industry they otherwise they may not have considered, because…

Dr Suess

#youthinag

Meet Annicka Brosnan who says the world of agriculture is full of exciting choices for young people

Today we meet Annicka Brosnan a girl from the country who moved to the city to study a dual degree of Science and Arts, majoring in biomedical science, Spanish and geography. only to find her heart was in agriculture

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Dexter, a pure bred dorper, and me after he wandered into the farm office looking for food

Hi my name is Annicka Brosnan.  Have you ever woken up knowing something wasn’t quite right, something was niggling away in your mind? Welcome to everyday of my life three years ago. I was studying at the University of Queensland, a duel degree of Science and Arts, majoring in biomedical science, Spanish and geography. I was enjoying it, but still it didn’t feel right, I was tossing around ideas: medicine, vet, marine biology? Nothing was fitting however, not until I had a geography module all about agriculture. I loved it. For the first time getting up for 8am lectures on a Monday morning was no longer a struggle. Like any 18 year old that has had an epiphany, I rang my mum. I rambled, non-­‐stop for about 15 minutes before my mum finally interrupted and asked ‘What are you trying to say Annicka?’ and with absolute certainty I declared that I wanted to study agriculture.

The strange part of this anecdote is that I’m from a farming background. I have lived my whole life on the same 6 acres, a hydroponic lettuce farm. My maternal grandparents own a winery, and my paternal grandparents have a typical Western Queensland merino turned cropping, dorper and cattle property.

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Riding Teddy, our 20 year old Australian Stock Horse

Whenever I was on a property it always felt like home. I loved helping out whether it was lamb marking, grape squashing or stick picking. There is a catch though, the reason why I never considered agriculture despite all this was not once did anyone encourage it as a career path. Not a single career advisor suggested it, there wasn’t a single motivational speaker from the agricultural community at my school and it just wasn’t on my radar.

So where am I now? I’m in my second year of Rural Science at the University of New England, studying externally and working on my family lettuce farm. I’m completely loving it and learning about the in and outs of the family business is fascinating. Our family business consists of three farms, a hydroponic lettuce farm, a free-­‐range egg farm and a seasonal fruit and vegetable ground grown farm. Combined with locally grown tomatoes and mushrooms we supply around 250 cafes, restaurants and establishments in Toowoomba, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. We also do around 15 farmers markets. On weekends I often work on one of our stalls, I love connecting with our customers and being able to say, yes this is fresh and a good quality product, how do I know this, because one of my brothers picked it the day before.

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Planting out on our farm in Toowoomba

During the week, I work as an office manager. I often talk to chefs and restaurant owners about our produce: about what is working for them, where they see the market going and products they would be interested in buying. Part of this includes handling complaints and from these I have learnt the most. Talking to dad and our agronomist, we are able to trace back and identify insects, diseases or fertilizer shortages/overuse causing damage and hence showing up in the restaurants. With this knowledge we are then able to create a management plan and address the issue.

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Lulu, a merino cross and my first poddy lamb, she turns 11 this winter

 So where do I want to go from here? Everywhere! I feel the opportunities in the agricultural sector are endless and I’m just at the very beginning of an exciting career. As interesting as I find horticulture my true passions lie with animal and wool production. Over the years I have amassed my personal herd of 14 poddy lambs and a mini herd of 4 horses. I hope I will find my way into this sector of agriculture sometime in the future. Alongside wherever my career take me I would love to encourage more city kids and even kids from agricultural backgrounds like me to become involved in the agricultural sector and release the potential it has for the future and its dynamic nature. There are so many local, national and international opportunities out there whether it be in research, precision agriculture, education, business or even law.

Working in agriculture no longer means returning to the family place for life, it’s more innovative and exciting than ever. In a world of choice who knows what the younger generation could excel at and who knows where I could end up? Maybe I’ll end up in education or maybe I’ll end up mustering in the NT and disappear into the red.

 

Meet Wool Producer Katherine Bain who loves the magic of white wool from red soil

As part of our series on Young Women in Wool meet today’s guest blogger Katherine Bain

Growing up surrounded by agricultural history has instilled in me a passion to ensure agriculture, and particularly wool, is a valued industry for the future.

I am a 6th generation farmer. Old family photos and the physical remains of my ancestors’ homes have shown me how important this land has been to people, and has helped me decide I want my career to be in agriculture.

Shearing time at home is always an important time of the year, with most events and holidays being discussed as pre-shearing or post-shearing. In my early days, I would often be found shadowing dad as he filled pens up with woolly sheep, and I would then count them out freshly shorn. Living on very red soil I always thought this colour transition from red to white in the sheep quite magical. At smoko time, I would often run off and have a quick nap in the wool bins before getting back on the bike to bring in the next mob.

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I’ve never been one to hang back and watch from the sidelines so whenever an opportunity presents itself I take it with two hands. I’ve always been Dad’s right-hand woman on the farm but when I was 14 I became more invested in agriculture when, after much discussion, we bought 50 Coopworth ewes and a ram and I started the St Enochs Coopworth Stud. The Coopworth is renowned for its maternal instinct and high weaning percentage (not so much its wool), which were the genetics the farm was missing at the time.

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Delving into the world of sheep genetics was very new to my father and me but it opened my eyes to the wider world of agriculture. It’s not all just driving around paddocks, drenching and shearing. Since founding the stud I’ve been able to expand my knowledge of the sheep industry by attending sheep judging workshops (where I learnt what to look for in terms of sheep confirmation) and volunteering at ram sales.

It wasn’t until 2012, when I did a Rotary Exchange year to Japan, that I really began to understand the global interest in Australian wool. My time in Japan was fascinating. I found a society with similar technology to Australia, but with a strong sense of tradition and appreciation for quality. Wool clothing is a staple in their wardrobes – they wear it almost daily and value its warmth and comfort.

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As a girl from an Australian sheep farm the Japanese people were excited to speak to me about wool and learn about what I did on the farm. It was a great conversation starter. I learned what our Japanese consumers value in the end-product and so came to understand the importance of ensuring our Australian products meet consumer expectation.

Since Japan I have worked hard to understand the different facets of the wool industry. I have worked with a wool brokerage firm to gain insight into how wool is traded on the global market, seen the scouring process and toured the Australian Wool Testing Authority, and completed my wool classing certificate so I can work in sheds, which I feel is a great grounding for a career in the wool industry. Heading into my second year at Marcus Oldham College I am directing my study towards a career in commodity trading with my main interest being in wool.

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I am excited to be a part of the rapidly expanding and evolving wool industry. It allows me to pursue my passion, gain knowledge and share my experiences of Australian wool production on a global level.

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.

Emma and Cosi team up to have fun with grains

Today’s guest blog comes from  Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe who travelled to South Australia to join the AgCommunicators team and Cosi on the Seed to Store promotional tour to South Australian schools

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Emma (centre front) had a great time as you can see …… 

On Monday and Tuesday this week I was lucky enough to be part of the GRDC and AgCommunicators Seed to Store Tour around SA.

Seed to Store is a video competition that is run by the GRDC where entrants are asked to make a simple 1 minute video that showcases the grains industry and tells the story of the seed getting from the paddock to the store. As part of the process the GRDC asks a specialist group of people to promote the event, the grains industry and the great opportunities the industry provides as well as create a buzz around the competition. The winners of each category are shown at the Royal Adelaide Show and win themselves a cheeky $1000!

My 1,863km journey began in Hay where I live. On my 7 hour drive to Adelaide I had time to ponder on the week ahead. Would the kids be excited? Would we be able to deliver some good messages? Would I forget what I was meant to say in my talk? How much are these kids even going to care about grains? Would the schools truly be happy to have us there?

Monday morning the lovely Sarah McDonnell picked me up and we began our way to our first school, St Francis De Sales in Mt Barker. We met the third member of our team there, the iconic Andrew “Cosi” Costello who presents a show called “South Aussie with Cosi” on Channel 9. This school was amazing; we were greeted by a sea of some 120 year 6 and 7’s who were all eager to hear about grains, show off their new horticulture building but most of all excited to meet Cosi!

Fun Fact

Did you know that there are 50,000 edible plants in the world that we know of, yet 60% of our diets are made up of wheat, rice and corn?

 

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The lovely Sarah telling the students about the Seed to Store Competition

We spent about an hour at each of the schools talking about grains and our involvement in the different areas of Agriculture. Cosi had studied as Roseworthy, like myself, but had worked in the livestock industry. He now runs a charity in Cambodia called Cows for Cambodia that is focused on helping to break the poverty cycle as well as teaching Cambodians about farming practises. Sarah was a food scientist before moving into education, focused on primarily Agriculture and I am an agronomist, so it was my job to explain a bit about what goes into growing grains. Other than having to endure us talking we also played a few games such as can you guess the grain and can you match the grain to the food it becomes? Did you know that Barley is in Mars Bars?

Fun Fact

The Roman goddess, Ceres, who was deemed protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today – “cereal.”

 

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Me Presenting 

From here we headed to Unity Collage in Murray Bridge in the Cosi Car. Once again the excitement of having Cosi visit the school became apparent quickly. It was also here that I learnt that Cosi was quite hilarious as he retold of his stories of struggles at high school with having a police officer as a father. After a quick lesson on “how not to pick up chicks” we chatted about grains, careers and tested everyone’s knowledge.

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Helping the Girls team win at guessing which grains become which foods at Unity

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Checking out the Rhino that Cosi Bought Tailem Bend

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The Cosi Car…it was hard to miss and attracted a lot of attention

The final school for day one was Keith Area School, and after a bit of a delay we got there about 45 minutes before the end of day bell. I thought this could be interesting, right before home time all these guys are going to want to do is get out of here but they were great fun! They were very interactive and attentive and an absolute laugh. Cosi was grilled about what they needed to do to win the big bucks with their videos.

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As he is one of the judges its smart for entrants to know Cosi’s Pearl Barley’s of Wisdom 

After staying the night in Keith we headed to the Area School at Coomandook. We had nearly half the school come to listen, and what a way to start the day. Everyone was highly entertained by Sarah story about “sensory analysis”, or taste testing to you and me, and how her love of Arnott’s chocolate biscuits had driven her to date a guy who worked there! The questions were fired thick and fast at the end of the session about grains as well as careers.

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Selfie with the year 7-11’s from Coomandook

From here we headed to Birdwood High School in the Adelaide Hills. It was quite a long drive and Cosi couldn’t resist a snack on the way…and what is better than one that he promotes!

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Coz it’s a Bargin!

The final school of the day was Birdwood High where we managed to get a whole range of students from year 8 to year 12. We got to the school right before the end of lunch bell. Our first port of call was the Ag Block where we got to cuddle some orphaned lambs.  Once in the hall with everyone they were really involved which was awesome, and as a special treat I got to see my cousin who goes to school there.

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Playing guess which grain is which food at Birdwood High School

We all said our goodbyes and I was on my way home again. On my 7 hour drive home I once again got time to reflect on the couple of days that had just been and all the laughs and things I had learnt. I learnt that the kids in a lot of these schools are genuinely interested to find out where their food comes from and their teachers genuinely want to teach them that.

I learnt that, once I got over my nerves and worry about forgetting what I had to say, interacting with students like this is very rewarding. And I leant the Seed to Store competition is a great opportunity and incentive for students, and community alike to learn about and showcase grains and pick up a lazy $1000! Most importantly I learnt that it is important for people like myself to go and showcase the good news stories and highlight the positives of the industry because for a lot of these kids it is probably something they have ever thought of looking at as a career, and to show them there is a lot more to agriculture then being a farmer.

Check out some of the previous winners here

The 2014 Winner – The Australian Grains Industry has a Great Story to Share

 

This is a great video entrant and runner up, from last year

 

And this guy won himself $1000, that’s a lot of chocolate!

 

 

Thanks to Belinda from the GRDC and Lynne from Young Farming Champions for this amazing opportunity and to Sarah and Cosi for the laughs and memories and I can’t wait to (hopefully) do it all again next year!

Meet Deanna Johnston proud rookie farmer

Today’s guest blog post comes from Deanna Johnston who is very proud to be a rookie farmer.

Another great story from the inspiring new generation of farmers

With my Kelpie pup I trained

If day care 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.

Our breeding ewes with their lambs

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 which gave him invaluable insights as to how  other farmers run successful 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 for a purpose – dual purpose merinos. Currently we are experiencing an  extended dry period  and are grazing  2000 breeder ewes with another  800 little mouths in the feedlot.

After primary school the next step for me to broaden my knowledge  and an early start to my career calling to the agricultural industry was to attend Yanco Agricultural High School. Right from year seven I was part of the sheep show team in which I was able to become part of the McCaughey White Suffolk stud where we started to implement Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer into the breeding program.

Supreme Ewe at Holbrook

Completing my Certificate IV in Woolclassing and Certificate II in Shearing by the age of 16 proved to me that this was the industry I wanted to be part of. Since then, shearing competitions and wool handling competitions have become my weekend hobby.

Competiting in Fleece Judging

In March this year I came out in fourth position in the State Final Fleece judging competition in Sydney. These competitions are great for refining the skills that are taught in TAFE Certificates. An added bonus is you meet other young people with the same passion for the wool and sheep industry.

4th in State Final Fleece Judging

In 2014 I was runner up the National Young Guns competition at LambEX in Adelaide which over 1000 people attended. This competition involves writing an essay on the topic: “attracting young people into the prime lamb industry” and creating a poster to go with it. When in Adelaide I had to speak on my topic, answers questions posed by the judges who also adjudicated on the essay, poster and speech component. This was an incredible experience for me as I met many industry leaders, local and overseas producers and scientists and academics who all had the same passion: the future of agriculture  in Australia and the the world.

The PETA campaign against the shearing industry was released while I was attending the LambEX conference. It hit me hard as I was very disappointed that industry my family was part of was being portrayed in this negative light   This made me even more determined to share the positive stories far and wide about the wool industry I love and the farmers I know who care deeply about their animals.

Shearing competition at Yanco (1st place)

Having been lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by the sheep and wool industry I know it has a lot of offer. I want to share this message with other young people who haven’t had the same opportunities. The Australian wool industry provides thousands of jobs both in Australia and overseas. No matter where your interests lie, the wool industry has a career path suited to you. Careers in the wool industry can be divided into two main areas — on-farm and off-farm. By attracting young people into the sheep and wool industry, it will only grow and become more successful, not only focusing on the producing side but through the whole chain from paddock to plate and in this case clothing.

With the end of my HSC year nearing I have been fortunate enough at my age to have to have met some amazing industry professionals including Dr. Jim Watt and Errol Brumpton (OAM). When I finish school my ambitions are to study a double degree in Agriculture and Business at the University of New England in Armidale with the prospects that I will come back on the farm and take over the sheep enterprise (I haven’t told Dad yet I might tell him about this a bit later).

So how I spent day care wasn’t so bad at all as it left me with a great passion and a dream. Being in this agricultural industry is where I want to stay as the world is going to become more reliant on what the industry can offer. The future is exciting and I am lucky I will be a part of it along with many other young and enthusiastic people.

Breaking news – The 2016 National Merino Challenge results are in and Deanna has taken out 3rd palace in the secondary school division and her school Yanco Agricultural High School have won Champion Team

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Well done Deanna and Yanco

For Sharna Holman a career in cotton sparked by Ag in the Classroom

Today we are catching up with Sharna Holman who I invited to write a blog in 2012. You can find it here  Its so rewarding to find four years later a young girl from the city so inspired by her journey from Ag in the classroom to the Sydney Royal Easter Show and a scholarship to the Australian Cotton Conference now fulfilling her dreams with a career in Cotton

This Sharna’s update ……..

My name is Sharna Holman, a born and bred Sydneysider and since I could remember I have had a love of animals, being outside and working with others. However these days while a lot of that is the same, home is in Emerald, Central Queensland and I work in agriculture loving everything it has to offer. But the real question is how did a Sydney girl end up in Central Queensland working in the cotton industry?

Over four years ago I spoke to and wrote a blog titled Sydney Show a Career Maker for Lynne Strong about how influential the Sydney Royal Easter Show and agricultural shows can be on young people thinking of becoming involved in the agricultural industry. I was extremely fortunate in attending Muirfield High School, in Sydney’s north-west, which had a farm where my passion for agriculture was quickly sparked. Students had the opportunity to participate in competitions at agricultural shows as well as being involved in Art4Agriculture’s own The Archibull Prize program. It’s these opportunities that encourage students like myself, particularly those who don’t come from agricultural backgrounds, to find out more about the industry and the different career paths available.

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Muirfield High School’s food and vegetable display at the Sydney Royal Easter Show
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 Muirfield High School’s Archie on display in the Food Farm in 2011.

At the end of school, I definitely knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture so began studying a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney because of the diverse subject options and professional development available. I went into the degree not being exactly sure what I wanted to do but throughout the four years I went through so many options: geneticists, agricultural marketing and communications, researcher, agricultural teacher, agronomist? Whatever I was learning during the semester I loved and wanted to learn more. Throughout my degree I grabbed as many opportunities as possible that helped me learn more about the agricultural industry and interests within the industry.

Sharna Holman 3

The University of Sydney team coming 2nd place at the Grain Growers National Universities Crop Judging Competition in 2015.

In 2014 I was awarded a Cotton Australia scholarship, having the opportunity to attend the 17th Australian Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast. I left the conference having learnt about Cry proteins toxins used in plant breeding, pickers, fibre quality, marketing Australian cotton as an ethically and sustainably produced fibre and so much more, as well as having had the chance to network and learn from the experience of growers, researchers, and people who work in the industry in many capacities.

Sharna Holman 3

A really good question would be, ‘Sharna, cotton? Have you ever seen a cotton plant before going to the cotton conference?’ and the answer would be a definite no, but did I want to learn more, yes!

It was through networking with researchers at this conference that I organised my honours project investigating the development of tolerance to toxin in Helicoverpa moths, one of the main pests in the cotton industry, with the assistance of a CRDC Summer Scholarship. So in the Summer of 2014 – 2015 I moved to Narrabri and began working on my honours project at the Australian Cotton Research Institute. It was here that I learnt so much more about the cotton industry, agronomy and pest management through having the chance to spend time with researchers and assist with trials. I finished university knowing that I would love the chance to work and be further involved in the cotton industry.

Early this year I was fortunate in getting a job I love, in an industry I love and made the 16 hour journey from Sydney to Central Queensland. I work in the cotton industry as an Extension Officer working with growers helping them connect to research to improve their productivity and profitability, while also having a role in CottonInfo, the cotton industry’s extension program, as Technical Specialist for Disease, Ratoon and Volunteer Management. Even though I have only been working in my role for a short period time, I absolutely love the feeling of waking up to a job I love.

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I  assist with research trials occurring around Central Queensland. This trial is exploring the different planting windows growers have the opportunity to plant in with the release of Bollgard III in the 2016 – 2017 season.

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 I get to meet, work with a variety of different growers and people.

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 I have the chance to learn new things everyday

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I don’t have a ‘normal’ working day. Some days I will be in a field working on a trial, other days I might be in a meeting, or you could find me at my desk analysing results or writing up an article on crop protection for growers. Some days I even get to have an awesome view from the picker.

I am so lucky to be involved in an industry where the growers, researchers and industry members are incredibly innovative and passionate. The cotton industry is constantly trying to look for new ways to be sustainable and efficient while remaining productive throughout the entire production chain. Everyday I look forward to helping growers find and obtain information through resources, trial results and workshops.

I believe anyone can find a role they would love within the agricultural industry, whether that be within research, business, marketing, farm management, mechanics and robotics – there are so many different career paths. However for someone without an agricultural background, often agriculture is misunderstood and people only see the surface. Opportunities like participating in events ( or volunteering) at agricultural shows and the Art4Agriculture’s Archibull Prize program allow you to get a hands on view and see the exciting agriculture sector I see with boundless cutting edge career opportunities.