Find your passion and follow it says Rozzie O’Reilly

From the family farm to commercial feedlots, today’s guest blog from Rozzie O’Reilly takes us on a journey through what it takes to put a great steak, or lamb chop, on your plate. Rozzie says, “Agriculture is my passion and my life, and this is my journey to date…”

Here is her story…

My agricultural journey began twenty two years ago when I born the daughter of a fourth generation sheep and cattle farmer in the beautiful Riverina of southern NSW. Needless to say, agriculture is in my blood. Our family farming enterprise is no stereotype though. Dad was tragically killed in an accident when I was a toddler, leaving Mum to raise four kids as well as manage her livestock. In addition to running livestock on our small block of land at Narrandera, we primarily agisted stock on surrounding properties.

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Hanging out with some of our cows at home

It was Mum’s determination and courage, as well as her ability to include us kids in the farming enterprise, that lead me to instinctively develop a passion for agriculture and in particular a love for sheep and cattle. From the time I could walk I was in the yards helping Mum draft stock, in the woolshed penning up sheep and rouseabouting, and on the back of the ute helping supplement feed stock. I simply loved getting out and about to help Mum do the daily jobs of producing both food and fibre.

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Helping feed out hay with my brother on the left & feeding poddy lambs on the right.

At the end of Year 12 in 2010, I followed my passion and applied to the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale to complete a Bachelor of Animal Science, majoring in Livestock Production. The following year I moved to Armidale (950km away from home) to begin study and have never looked back since. This was possibly the greatest life decision I have ever made! Throughout the four years of university, not only did I learn a great deal, ranging from livestock nutrition and genetics through to plant pathology (and everything in between), but I was also exposed to an array of amazing opportunities which strengthened my interest in the industry.

During my first year of university I also completed a Certificate IV in Wool Classing at TAFE. Not only did this provide me with a recognised qualification, but it also allowed me to gain work in shearing sheds during holidays to help pay for university fees. At this same time I began taking part in sheep fleece judging and was fortunate enough to compete for the Armidale Show Society at local, regional and state level. Let me tell you, judging fleeces at the Sydney Royal Easter Show is certainly much more stressful than the home woolshed, but nonetheless very enjoyable and a great networking and learning experience.

In 2012 I competed for UNE at the Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) competition, which is an annual conference that exposes university students to all sectors of the red meat industry. While training for the competition I learnt how to assess market suitability, meat quality and yield in beef, pork and lamb species. Though getting up early to stand in meat chillers for training does not sound like a hobby nor great fun, I certainly learnt a lot and gained an appreciation for the most important part of the red meat industry: the consumer.

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Me and a fellow UNE team mate judging a beef carcase class.

I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the 2013 Australian ICMJ Team who toured the United States for four weeks. This was an incredible opportunity! Our team competed in three major US meat judging contests, travelled across ten states and gained a unique insight into the US meat and livestock industry through a number of tours. Visits included the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the USDA Meat Animal Research Centre, three major US packers, as well as feedlot, ranch and retail visits. Essentially, the tour was a complete paddock to plate insight into the US, and allowed comparisons between Australia and the US to be made.

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The 2013 Aussie ICMJ Team in the US; on the left we are outside the JBS Headquarters in Colorado, while on the right is the awards we gained following one of the competitions we competed in.

I am forever grateful for what I have personally gained from my ICMJ experience and would love for as many people as possible to gain what I did. To help achieve this, I co-coached UNE ICMJ teams for two years following my participation and am now currently a committee member of the Australian ICMJ committee. My role on the committee is Careers Expo Coordinator, which is something I am very passionate about as the youth of today are inevitably our future.

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2014 UNE ICMJ Team which I was lucky enough to be a part of the coaching team.

Another wonderful opportunity was the 2014 Indonesian Beef Production Tour, a three week tour coordinated by the University of Adelaide. It was certainly was an eye opener, giving a fantastic insight into each sector of the supply chain in which Australian cattle are exposed to in Indonesia. A significant highlight of the trip was visiting one of TUM’s new abattoirs (TUM is the company that was exposed on Four Corners, which lead to the closure of live export to Indonesia in 2011). The new facility clearly demonstrated that animal welfare is of utmost importance. This had a great positive impact on me, as it is quite contradictory to how live export to Indonesia is portrayed by a number of groups in Australia. Ultimately, this experience gave me the confidence to be able to promote live export upon returning to Australia.

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2014 Indonesian Beef Production Tour; left is a research feedlot we visited, while on the right I am pictured with Febrina, an Indonesian Animal Science university student.

During my final year of university I undertook an Honours research trial in the field of sheep genetics. I tried to determine whether sires re-rank, in terms of their performance, in different environments. Honours certainly was not a ‘walk in the park’; I analysed tens of thousands of data recordings and spent hours in front of the computer. However, the process was rewarding and I gained a very strong appreciation for scientific research, and now understand the vital importance of research to our agricultural industry. I concluded the project with some significant results, which I found exciting and motivating… (and maybe one day I’ll be back to complete a PhD). Overall, I was awarded First Class Honours for my project.

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Pictured with Mum after graduating with a B. Animal Science (1st Class Honours).

I was very fortunate for the support of a number of financial bursaries to help fund my degree including the UNE Country Scholarship and the NSW Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Scholarship. I also gained an Horizon Scholarship for the duration of my degree, which not only financially supported me but also aided in leadership, personal and professional development, supported attendance to industry conferences which broadened my agricultural knowledge, as well as organised annual industry work placements. This wonderful program enabled me to broaden my networks and certainly helped shape the person I am today.

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Attending the 2014 Northern Australia Food Futures conference in Darwin as a Horizon Scholar delegate.

One particular Horizon work placement proved to be very influential in my career progression. In my second year of university I completed work placement at a 32,000 head beef feedlot. Prior to this I had never set foot on a beef feedlot, let alone considered a career in the lot feeding industry. This placement completely changed my perspective of intensive agriculture and I became intrigued with the industry. Since then, I have completed a Feedlot Management unit at university as well as work placement at two other feedlots, and was also fortunate to gain a Meat & Livestock Australia scholarship to attend the 2013 Australian Lot Feeders biannual BeefWorks conference. Most recently though, since finishing university last year, I have begun a Beef Supply Chain trainee position with Kerwee Lot Feeders. This position allows me to combine the knowledge which I have gained at university and through the ICMJ program to help produce tasty beef of the upmost quality. I find this an exciting concept and I am even more excited to see where this role takes me in the future.

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In the pens at Kerwee Feedlot

The world population is continuing to rise at a very fast rate and I believe that intensive farming, such as lot feeding, is going to play a significant role in feeding this ever increasing population. I want to actively help the lot feeding industry to continue moving forward by promoting the importance of high animal welfare and environmental standards, as well as help ensure that lot feeders are up to date with emerging best management practices. Eventually I hope to harness my passion for livestock nutrition and genetics to help maximise production in the most sustainable manner.

Ultimately I wish to be part of the Young Farming Champions program so that I can tell my agricultural story, as well as market, promote and engage consumers with the great products that the Australian agricultural industry produces. I also want to help raise awareness of the diverse range of career opportunities available in agricultural and inspire the young people to consider them.

Australian agriculture is an exciting place to be and has endless amazing opportunities available for people who have drive and passion. So find and follow your passion, seize opportunities and enjoy the ride; you never know where you might end up.

Katherine Mann’s mission to build the next crop of ‘Ag-vocates’

Today’s guest blog comes from Katherine Mann…

In 2013 Katherine graduated from a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) in a class of just three students. Now she’s telling her story in the hopes of inspiring other young people to get involved with agriculture. And like a lot of young ag enthusiasts, her love really started with her school’s show cattle team….

My name is Katherine and I am an agvocate.

From a very young age I remember being immersed in the country lifestyle. Without a doubt, time on my uncle’s Southern Highlands property ‘Clydesdale’ played a large role in my enthusiasm for agriculture today, but there has been 21 years of adventures between then and now.

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Sydney’s western suburbs aren’t the typical place you would go looking for a young girl interested in agriculture but that was where you would have found me. Growing up in Castle Hill, I attended Northholm Grammar School which was the first stepping stone into a somewhat whirlwind adventure. As soon as possible I immersed myself in all the agricultural possibilities the school could offer- the one with the biggest impact, still to this day, was the cattle show team.

I loved the whole atmosphere surrounding showing cattle. There was an overwhelming sense of being involved in something bigger than just cattle showing, like knowing that we have the capability to change the future of an already strong industry and make it even better in the future.  Knowing that I was one of the young Australians growing up and becoming involved in the agriculture industry at the same time as the big push to get more youth involved was great!

I also loved seeing the entire paddock to plate process behind beef cattle. Along the way I would sometimes meet people who didn’t understand why I would raise a steer to ultimately slaughter and eat it, but for me knowing this was the cycle of life and was keen to respect the process and be well informed.  Being involved in each stage of the process really allowed my passion for the industry to grow in many different directions.

After my first year with the show teams I made it my mission to involve as many people as possible in the school’s agricultural program and received an Agricultural scholarship for my efforts. It wasn’t long before I was known as ‘That Ag Girl.’

Showing with the school cattle team took me to various agricultural shows throughout NSW and provided me with the opportunity to network and represent other studs across a wide variety of breeds. Along the way I meet so many amazing, inspirational and wonderful people who shared my passion and enthusiasm for the industry.  I am still in contact with many of the people I met through showing cattle today!

I was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Angus Australia Norman Lethbridge Award which is named in memory of the NSW State Committee past Secretary (1983-1994) and well-known stock and station agent and open to 16-25 year olds throughout NSW. I was awarded runner-up within an amazing group; even though I didn’t win, the opportunity opened my eyes to how much I loved encouraging youth involvement within our school and the industry.

In year 12 I undertook a prefect roll in Northholm’s leadership team with a particular focus on the agricultural portfolio and was awarded the Duncan Prize for Agriculture.

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After school I enrolled in a Bachelor of Natural Science (Agriculture) at the University of Western Sydney while also working as a farm hand. Farm working during my first year at university kept me very busy but I wouldn’t have changed a thing because I was able to connect with enthusiastic young people and coordinate the show team.

However after 18 months I decided to move on to my next calling, working at the local CRT store whilst completing my second year at university. For two years I worked and studied simultaneously, gaining not only an enormous amount of knowledge and experience but also a massive sense of pride in seeing farmers and producers striving to create the best produce possible.

In the final year of my degree I took on a sub-major in Animal Science at the same time as accepting the marketing position at that same CRT store. This meant that I was completing a year-long field project with Seed Distributors Ltd testing palatability of pasture species, completing another six full time subjects, working in agricultural sales at CRT as well as coordinating and creating all the store’s marketing material and field day attendances (including Agquip 2013). To say I was busy was an understatement but I still made sure I always had time to show cattle at local shows as well as the Sydney Royal Easter Show!

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I finished my degree at the end of 2013, as the only female in a ‘class’ of three people. It was then that I knew it was imperative for the youth of Australian agriculture to speak out, get active in the community, engage with other young people and get involved in the decision making processes in agriculture.

At the CRT store my background and knowledge in show cattle allowed us to build up the product range on the shelf. As one of the youngest people on staff I became the ‘go to person’ in the shop for new young customers and anyone who came in asking anything about showing cattle. I was also able to connect our clients selling cattle with students I had met through school cattle shows who had expressed to me that they would like to start up their own cattle studs. It was great to see them developing and growing their studs! I still try and stay in contact with them as much as possible and this year I even visited one of the girls at Sydney Royal with her speckle parks!

We also sponsored many local cattle shows including the Hawkesbury Small Breeds Show at the Farming Small Areas Expo, allowing that show event to go ahead for two years when it couldn’t have without sponsorship.

Fast forward six months and I now live in Terramungamine, NSW, about 30km out of Dubbo. I always knew I wanted to experience working in agriculture in areas a bit more west than Sydney’s western suburbs, so when my partner – who I met working at CRT – was offered a managerial position at another rural supplies store in Dubbo, I jumped at the opportunity to go with him. At the moment I’m working in retail while still striving towards my dream career goals.

It has been great to get to know the community in Terramungamine. It was difficult moving without really knowing anyone however I love it now and wouldn’t have it any other way! Waking up and looking out the bedroom window to paddocks as far as the eye can see and hearing the cows bellowing- there’s nothing like it! Even just living out here is a dream come true. It has cemented in my mind this is where I want to be and we now have many dreams for the future.

One thing that I would absolutely LOVE to do is to organise a steer show for the schools surrounding Dubbo, similar to the UniSchool Steer Show for the schools around the Hawkesbury. The UniSchool Steer Show was what really got me interested in agriculture and what made me fall in love with showing cattle. In my experience my entire school liked hearing about the steer show, so I believe it’s a great chance for kids from all backgrounds to get hands on experience with cattle and agriculture.

This year I’ve put my hand up for the Showgirl event at the local show with an aim to open up the possibilities for young aspiring agricultural professionals to get involved and have their voices heard! I hope to take ideas from my local hometown show in Castle Hill, which has a large focus on schools from the area, and tailor them to the Dubbo region.

It’s important to me that youth get involved with agriculture because they are the future of the industry. When I was at school there were a select few people who took the chance to show a 14 year old city girl the ropes and I intend to pass that encouragement on as much as I can. All it takes is one positive remark, congratulations or even a ‘better luck next time’ to someone who is starting out in the industry and it can make all the difference between them pursuing their goal or giving up! I always try my hardest to encourage and help people with their dreams and aspirations.

Ultimately, I would love to start my own cattle stud in the future when I have some of my own land! But until then I have been living my dreams through my friends who have set up their own studs. I try and get involved with the shows as much as possible- if I’m not there helping out with the cattle then I love watching the judging.

I encourage all young people with a story and a passion to speak up and share their experiences in the hope of inspiring a whole new generation of agvocates, because with them the future will be bright.

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Heidi Eldridge says if you want a career in agriculture get cracking, it’s worth every minute

Today’s guest blog comes from 23 year old Heidi Eldridge, who has spent a decade immersing herself in all aspects of the beef industry. From cattle showing and judging, meat judging, research, assisting at a stud, working in an abattoir and jillarooing, to her current role with the Cattle Council of Australia – she’s done it all!

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I was not born and raised on a property but I was fortunate to be surrounded by extended family on dairy properties and studs. I grew up in Albury/Wodonga. This area was known for its rural surroundings and large agricultural community.

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I started pursing the beef industry within my younger years showing cattle and assisting on family properties. My love for livestock in particular provided the drive to succeed within this industry. From a young age I realised that I would have to work twice as hard as my farm born friends to be noticed and taken seriously as someone who wanted to pursue a career in beef cattle. This is what drives me

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I attended St. Pauls College in Walla Walla, attending numerous horse and cattle events throughout Australia. Junior judging, cattle showing camps and youth Angus programs fired my initiative to learn about beef outside of the show ring. Throughout high school I worked for Elders, Wodonga Saleyards and Landmark. I studied a Diploma of Agriculture and Diploma of Equine Studies, leading me to assist the ‘Lawsons Angus’ stud in Victoria. They provided me with three years of guidance within their inseminations, sales, calving and bull unit operations. Throughout my HSC I also worked at the local abattoir in the yards, kill floor and packaging area, providing me with the opportunity to gain knowledge across another sector.

Throughout my teenage years I continued my junior judging. I moved to Canada for 5 months, living and working between two families and taking part in cattle showing competitions and preparation, cropping, rodeoing, cattle camps and school.

After school I packed my ute and drove to Julia Creek, QLD, where I worked for Acton Super Beef as a Jillaroo. This broadened my experience to station run beef operations.

I started university studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management. I worked closely with Rennylea Angus within their calving, insemination and sales units. After becoming more involved in grain and nutrition I worked with Agrisearch Services taking part in grain trials for both cropping and feed based products.

I challenged myself by taking part in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging in Armidale as well as entering Wagga Wagga showgirl and also involved myself in different youth events at university.

 

After making the choice to study via distance I was soon employed full time by Ladysmith Feedlot outside Wagga Wagga, operating in all sections from feed, pen riding, health and welfare and supply. This was an excellent opportunity which took me from pasture fed perspectives into concentrated grain operations.

I moved to Canberra to pursue my greatest achievement within the beef industry yet, to be employed by The Cattle Council of Australia as the Stakeholder Relations Officer. The role is an excellent opportunity to operate within the industry working first hand with producers and industry representatives. I believe that my experience throughout the beef industry supply chain has assisted in understanding issues relating to my position. Although I was not born into a farming operation I do believe that I have worked hard to immerse myself in the industry and all that is has to offer.

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Over the next 10 years I see myself networking throughout the industry and involving myself in many meetings, events, discussions and boards to ensure that Australian beef producers are being heard. I also wish to increase the awareness of youth working within the industry and showcase how the next generation can step up and influence change if given the right support. I hope to travel around Australian and internationally, learning from and engaging with beef industry professionals. I am interested in furthering my education via university as well as taking part in youth agricultural programs.

The Young Farming Champions program is beneficial in raising awareness of the opportunities for young people within agriculture and boosting the career success, support and mentorship of young farming professionals within their chosen industry. Without support our youth will not be given the push to stay in the industry.

Being able to take advantage of programs such as Young Farming Champions means young people will not only gain the drive for a successful career in agriculture but they will also have heart for the industry.

From Dagwood Dogs and Prize Dahlias, Sheep Shearing and cattle judging the local show movement is still at fever pitch in Crookwell

I have spent most of my time at local shows either showing cows or horses.

The upper Lachlan Catchment Landcare group was a great supporter of the 2014 Archibull Prize and Crookwell being part of this region their local show was a great opportunity to celebrate their local Archibull Prize 2014 entries, tell the great stories of our sheep, cattle, wool and dairy farmers and meet the locals

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So I jumped in the car last Saturday to join the wonderful Mary Bonet and the Upper Landcare Group in their tent at the Show

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 The delightful Mary Bonet

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Seeing these wonderful books at our stand created for the Cattle and Sheep industry by the Kondinin Group was blast from the past by showgoer Scott Boyle who help collate them whilst working at Kondinin in WA 

Having had quite a walk to get in the gate I was thrilled to meet Dr Rod Hoare who is the Chief Ground Steward and has access to this great little golf cart- the perfect vehicle to tour the show sites for this little black duck

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 Chief Ground Steward Rod Hoare enjoyed the traditional dagwood dog whilst touring the showground in this wonderful little buggy

First up was the local sheep shearing competition an iconic part of livestock agriculture in Australia. Competitors are judged by the quality of their shearing as well as the speed of the shear. Visit True Blue Australia to find out more

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I took this little time lapse video of the intermediate class won by the shearer at Stand 2

Next up was the pavilion. The photos share the kaleidoscope of colour of the arts and crafts and vegies, produce, flowers, cakes and everything that says the finest of rural Australian local show culture

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I caught up with some ladies working and supporting rural mental health through the Rural Adversity Mental Health program and we had our picture taken for the local paper.

Then Mary introduced me to local member for Goulburn the Hon. Pru Goward who was very impressed with the Archibull artworks of the local schools

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Pru was keen to see the 2014 Champion Archibull Prize Winner “Ni-Cow’ and I was only too happy to show here but we seemed to be in a Tony Abbott black spot

Then we had a little tour of the cattle sheds and the cattle judging

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Where we met Ernie Stevenson an early and influential member of the Murray Grey society.

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Back at the tent I met local cattle farmer Ken Wheelwright who is part of the KLR Mastermind Group.

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More about Rod, Ernie and Ken in my next post on Clover Hill Dairies Diary

Then it was time to catch up with local Young Farming Champions and former Crookwell Show girls Jasmine Nixon and Adele Offley

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Ah the local show so much to see so little time but thanks to Rob and all the wonderful locals I think managed to fit most of it in

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Then the two hour drive home in the fog and the rain but it was all worth it

Young Farming Champions go behind the scenes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

Three of our Young Farming Champions are bursting at the seams with anticipation and the Sydney Royal Easter Show can’t come round fast enough for them this year after being announced as recipients of Rural Achiever Scholarships.

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YFC Tim Eyes, Dee George and Kylie Schuller on Day 1 of their Sydney Royal Easter Show 2015  journey  

 The Rural Achievers will participate in a 12-month program that provides a range of networking and professional development opportunities, including an 11 day behind-the-scenes experience at the 2015 Sydney Royal Show, official functions with RAS councillors and Agricultural Societies Council representatives, cocktail reception at Government House, tour of NSW Parliament House and of program sponsor The Land’s head office at North Richmond.

The achievers will also have the opportunity to represent the RAS at Royal shows and events across the country.

One Rural Achiever will also be selected to represent NSW at the 2016 National Rural Ambassador Awards in 2016. You can read all about it in The Land here

 GRDC Grains Young Farming Champion Dee George said

The thing I am most excited about being a Rural Achiever is the networks and people I will get to meet and talking to like-minded people. I’m also looking forward to the Sydney Royal Show experience, which will be unlike any other year I have been to the Show as we will get to do a lot of behind the scenes work.

MLA Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion Tim Eyes said

I’m so excited to be able to share my passion for agriculture with like-minded people in the 2015 RAS Rural Achiever program because it’s a great opportunity for us to shine a light on one of Australia’s most prized industries.

I’ve shown cattle at the Sydney Show for eight years, so I am most excited about seeing behind the scenes and talking to the organisers about the logistics of it all and how they pull it off every year. When you show cattle there that’s just two weeks of your life, but for them, they live and breathe the show all year.

And NSW Farmers Young Farming Champion Kylie Schuller is equally excited saying

 I believe the Rural Achiever program is a great opportunity to equip myself with the skills, knowledge and networking opportunities to enhance my ability to engage with the community, in order to promote our rural industries, our produce and people.

I am particularly excited to get an insight into the organisation and co-ordination of the Food Farm as well as the various Gourmet Food experiences that showcase exceptional regional produce.

Special thanks to our YFC ( Dwayne, Jo, Josh and Georgia) who have been through the Rural Achievers experience in the past and  mentored Kylie, Tim and Dee for the interview process.

Lets hope one of them does as well as MLA Young Farming Champion Prue Capp and wins the national title. I am sure they will be well and truly in the running

The Farming Narrative will be told – its up to farmers to decide how it will be remembered

Ar4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert’s presentation to the audience at the NSW Department of Primary industry’s workshop on SOCIAL LICENCE TO OPERATE – CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY answered the question posed by the FarmOn team in their recent blog ‘So are farmers ready to care’ found here

We at Art4agriculture are thrilled that the organisers of the event acknowledged that youth are passionate and committed to doing whatever it takes to get the narrative right and  chose to give youth a voice through Josh to tell their story

Below is an abbreviated version of Josh’s talk

Connecting with the community – the narrative

My name is Joshua Gilbert. I am, a fourth generation Braford breeder on the Mid North Coast of NSW, an area my ancestors have farmed for over 40,000 years. I commenced my law and accounting studies in 2009, with the aim of working in community practice. In the process of studying, I found myself drawn back to agriculture, and recognised that my skills could complement both my on farm operations as well as my fellow farmers.

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My long-term aim is to go back to my family farm. I know that agriculture has changed, and that it now requires high level skills for farmers to be successful in the tough climate we find ourselves in. At a wider level, my background will also help me support farmers to up skill in financial literacy.

I am also completing a law degree with a view to spending some time in policy, and getting a greater understanding of what can be achieved. I also hope this training will ensure that I can add value to policy discussions, and ensure we get the best outcomes for agriculture. I am also considering a career in politics.

As a young person who is passionate about the cattle industry, watching the impact of the Live Export scrutiny on our fellow farmers in the Northern Beef Industry, I realise the greatest threat to sustainable red meat production in this country, is no longer harsh climatic conditions and volatile prices, but rather, whether or not our customers find our farming and animal welfare practices socially acceptable.

I also acknowledge that negative consumer images and perceptions about modern farming practices are seriously threatening farmers’ social licence to operate. I feel very passionate about ensuring I have the knowledge, skill sets and a team of people-around me, to help turn this around.

I identified the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions as a group of young people who felt just like me. A core focus of the program is to provide training in how to effectively engage and build relationships with consumers. Through our learning and interactioins we are finding this is an important foundation to success.

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Meat and Livestock Australia Young Farming Champions

I  have just completed my first year of training, which involved learning how to tailor my presentation to an audience in a way that resonates and how to engage with school children. What is particularly exciting about the program is we are also able to engage with their teachers and friends to build a cohort of people who become ambassadors for agriculture and are excited about careers in agriculture.

As part of the program we also get to be the young faces of farming and go into schools participating in the Archibull Prize. This gives students the chance to ask questions about farming practices and careers in the agriculture sector. As part of the Archibull Prize the students create artworks, blogs and multimedia animations, which help take agriculture’s story well beyond the classroom

The program teaches us that the aim is not to educate. The aim is to engage and provide opportunities for consumers to have open, honest and transparent conversations. In this way, we are able to convey we care just as much about the environment and animal well-being as they do.

We are in turn able to show them how challenging it is to farm in a world with declining natural resources, and that if we are going to do this successfully, we need to build strong partnerships between agriculture and the community.

We are also given media training with a strong focus on handling the difficult questions. This has been particularly rewarding for me and shown me it’s not as hard as you might think.

I was recently asked to participate in a live radio interview with the ABC about an upcoming presentation I was to give to the NSW Farmers, Wagga District Council. Having completed a few interviews before with very supportive journalists, I knew I had been lucky and that this would not always be the case.

Prior to the event, I prepared my key messages and because of my Young Farming Champions media training, I was able to stay on message no matter how hard the journalist wanted me to focus on the negatives of agriculture.

In the past, I would have fallen into the trap the journalist set for me. However, I had recently attended a Young Farming Champions workshop where, in the safety of a training environment, I was grilled in the art of staying on message and getting the outcomes I wanted from the interview. This was a very rewarding experience and gave me new confidence

Next year I will have the opportunity to hone my skills by going into schools as part of Art4Agriculture’s programs. Once I have graduated to the next level, I will be given the opportunity to attend master classes, where I will learn how to engage with a diverse range of audiences. Art4Agriculture has recently built a relationship with Rotary and Young Farming Champions who have done master classes will now have an opportunity to present to Rotary groups across Sydney.

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If we want to go further we are given training in how to create a TED talk. We are also provided insights into the art of successful marketing and how important it is to take your audience on the journey with you

But there are plenty more people out there, who are just as passionate as me. People who want to be proactive and build relationships with the community, so we can all work together.

Similarly, they need training, mentoring and ongoing support. Too often I see passionate advocates provided with half day media training and then expected to talk to the media and get it right.

We all feel a huge responsibility when we talk on behalf of our sector and the industry we are part of. It is our responsibility to ensure that the people who take this role on are provided the best training and support, that people who are the faces of the corporate world receive.

We also need to acknowledge not everyone is suitable for this, and we need to support and show how people can value-add to advocacy in many different ways at a level that they are comfortable with.

I am using the skills, knowledge and networks I have developed as an MLA Young Farming Champion to help other youth recognise the social networks and relationships that underpin the new community interest in how our food is produced. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with consumers, and have two-way conversations, that will generate a mutual understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints.

I believe that as farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, however we have not historically been good at communicating this. Our narrative is not to change people’s values, but to demonstrate that farmers share these same values. We have immense pride in what we do; we just need to share these narratives beyond our farm gates to instil trust and confidence in our practices.

Rather than bombard consumers with more science, research or information, I believe it is integral that we demonstrate that we share our consumers’ values on topics that they are most concerned about—safe food, global warming, quality nutrition and animal welfare.

As part of the Young Farming Champion team I now have access to mentors and training, to help develop the skills sets, knowledge and confidence to be part of the solution. These mentors have hands-on, coal face experience, and share this openly and passionately- to help all those involved in the program. This experience is critical to our success- a crucial knowledge bank and practical resources that ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes that we may have made in the past.

We need to be talking about our farms and our values to become just another role  of the farmer. However it is important to note that this process does not involve educating people, but rather being open and transparent when they want to engage with us.

Just like farmers learn how to use  new farming equipment and technologies, we need to build up our farming community to be confident and have skills  to talk about what they do and why they do it.

My Young Farming Champion story has shown what is possible, it has shown what the backbone of the farming narrative needs to be, and that we can build a confident and skilled group of likeminded people, prepared to talk positively about farming.

It is important agriculture comes together, up skill its people and start telling its story to the world. While everyone has a different story, there are common messages and ways to tell our story that will start people talking positively about farming.

The farming narrative will be told

ht to Greg Mills and Ann Burbrook

#YouthinAg Leadership Hub

Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program aims to create an Australia wide network of Young Farming Champions with diverse roles in the our  food and fibre industries that are passionate and skilled in sharing their values and experiences with the non farming community.

The program equips young farmers, in a safe and nurturing environment, to be the next leaders of agriculture on a national and world scale.

To be a leader you have to have many qualities including the desire, drive and courage to get the best outcomes for the common good.

Meat and Livestock Australia supported Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert is definitely a young man with a great deal of desire ,drive and courage. He recently penned this blog for the NSW Farmers initiative AgInnovators 

Uniting a fragmented industry

17th Nov 2014By Josh Gilbert, NSW Young Farmers

When R.M. Williams first opened his first store in Adelaide, Sir Sidney Kidman celebrated his birthday in the heart of the city with a rodeo and Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup, 14 percent of the Australian population was employed in Australian agricultural sector. Both rural and urban communities celebrated the industry and a career in agriculture was highly valued.

Today less than three percent of the Australian population is employed in agriculture. Our farmers’ commitment to producing high quality produce has never been stronger but a majority of urban consumers have little concept of what we do and appear relatively indifferent to the origin and quality of the food they select from supermarket shelves.

The bright light in what otherwise could be a depressing picture is the small but growing group of people in society who are interested in how their food and fibre is produced and who are willing to pay for quality.

It is these people who give us the best opportunity to create partnerships with our consumers and help ensure that the wonderful story of Australia’s agriculture gets spread further and wider into the future.

However, in order to have successful and lasting partnerships with consumers who really care about food quality and sustainable farm practice, we, as the Australian agricultural sector, need to come together as a connected, cohesive and collaborative industry. We need to start behind the farmgate, forming partnerships between farmers and the diverse subcategories we personally represent. Without well-founded industry collaboration, agriculture in Australia will not be able to provide a unified, coherent and respected voice that resonates with the community and government.

To emphasise the challenge we face in achieving unity, I want you to think of the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the words ‘agriculture’ or ”farming?

Are you thinking of a subsector such as beef, grain or dairy?

Or perhaps even a commodity like goat meat, cheese, seafood or apples?

Or what about something more specific like Braford Cattle or super fine Merino wool?

Or a farming region such Darling Downs or the Mallee?

Or state farming organisations like NSW Farmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Perhaps you are thinking of one of the plethora of commercial and government bodies in the agricultural sector providing advice, policy and services.

Currently, there are thousands of voices speaking for agriculture with different opinions and agendas and this is limiting our ability to form better relationships with each other, let alone our consumers. Is it any wonder that urban Australia and our politicians are confused about what agriculture stands for and what agriculture wants?

Of course every subsector of agriculture has different specific production methods and policy issues. But we have far more in common than we have differences.  In order for Australian agriculture to prosper we must agree on the main narrative –  which in my view is about sustaining the quality and integrity of our farming operations and products –  and deliver this narrative effectively with a unified voice. As part of this, we need to create better relationships within the industry, support our colleagues in their pursuits and actively show respect and encouragement for our fellow farmers.

One opportunity I am involved with that is achieving success is the Art4Agriculture program. The platform encourages Young Farming Champions from a variety of sectors to collaborate and discuss their ideas about the industry and how we can best move forward together. My involvement in this program has helped me to see other perspectives and has convinced me of the importance of achieving unity on the really important issues.

In order for our industry to receive the respect and admiration that we previously enjoyed, we must work together. We must formulate, collaborate and be innovative with our ideas as an entire industry rather than continuing to focus on what is happening within our respective boundary fences.

Well said Josh. We look forward to the day when silo farming is a thing of the past

free-range-farming