AGnVET and Art4Agriculture partnership supporting #youthinag

e them Art$agriculture is thrilled to announce with have a new supporting partner. AGnVET are supporting the Young Farming Champions program.

Our partnership with AGnVET will see them join the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to support  James Kanaley, their identified future influencer and innovator to access the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts as well as the diverse networks necessary to support them through a unique journey.

James Kanaley

James Kanaley ensuring Australian farmers are front of mind with consumers 

Along the way, AGnVET will create strong links with other inspiring future influencers and innovators who are the face of youth in agriculture and are well placed to pursue a career and other key roles at AGnVET

AGnVET are also supporting The Long Walk for Lungs 

The Long Walk for Lungs eventuated as a result of AGnVET Services, Bill Van Nierop being diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) in 2015, quite by chance, and like many with a similar diagnosis, he was unsure what it all meant. It was only a ‘blip’ on an X-ray following a bout of pneumonia that raised some initial concerns and prompted further investigation.

IPF is a rare condition. In Australia, there are approximately 1,500 new IPF cases each year. There is no cure available for IPF yet. It is a progressive disease associated with scarring of the lung tissue that makes it difficult to breath. The five-year survival rate is as low as some of the more devastating cancers – approximately 20%.

The cause of IPF is unknown but certain environmental factors and exposures have been shown to increase the risk of getting IPF. Smoking is the best recognized and most accepted risk factor for IPF. Other environmental and occupation exposures such as exposure to metal dust, wood dust, coal dust, silica, stone dust, biologic dusts coming from hay dust or mold spores or other agricultural products, and occupations related to farming/livestock have also been shown to increase the risk for IPF.

With his diagnosis, Bill has become determined to work with Lung Foundation Australia to raise awareness of this devastating disease as well as symptoms of lung disease so that people can be diagnosed and treated earlier. Lung Foundation Australia is the only national charity dedicated to supporting anyone with a lung disease. Find out more

By becoming an advocate for Lung Foundation Australia, and speaking publicly about his personal situation, Bill hopes to create awareness in rural areas of the prevalence of chronic lung disease and to encourage those with symptoms to take them seriously.

Another motivation of Bill’s is to increase the amount of funding for research to improve outcomes for those affected by lung disease.

Bill is walking from Narromine to Forbes via Griffith and Leeton – no mean feat and we are cheering for him all the way

Long Walk for Lungs

Help us spread the word about the environmental factors and exposures have been shown to increase the risk of getting IPF.

Help us spread the word about this great initiative to raise awareness of IPF and funding for the Lung Foundation of Australia. You can donate here

We look forward to adding the AGnVET logo to our list of supporting partners

_ 2017 Picture You in Agriculture Supporting Partners

 

 

Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey is a finalist in the prestigious ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Cotton Achiever of the Year 

Liz Lobsley.JPG

Plant doctors, agros, clod kickers – all nicknames given to those agri-professionals who spend a lot of time in their utes, poke a varied array of instruments into the soil and tell the farmer what to do with his crop. This may be the common perception of agronomists but Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey is part of the new generation of Plant Doctors showing there is more to agronomy – and agriculture – than first meets the eye.
Liz’s contribution to the cotton industry has been acknowledged through her selection as a finalist in the ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Cotton Achiever of the Year

“It’s an absolute honour to be nominated for this award let alone be named a finalist so I can honestly say I am extremely humbled to be named a finalist. To be acknowledged by your peers is something that I can’t put words to but I truly appreciate it”

“If I didn’t have the support of my partner my family, my boss and the growers I work for I wouldn’t have taken part in all that I have. I have participated because I love the industry and I wanted to broaden my knowledge of what affects my growers and give something back.” said Liz

The Australian Cotton Industry Awards program now moves into the judging phase, with the panel of judges travelling to the finalists’ originating regions to meet and assess each of the candidates.

Cash prizes are on offer for the winners across all categories, with an additional research bursary for Researcher of the Year.

The Australian Cotton Industry Awards evening will be held in Griffith on July 26th as part of the biennial Australian Cotton Collective. Get the whole story on what makes Liz stand out from the crowd here  

#youthinag #welovecotton #YFC

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.

Sharna Holman 4

 
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.

A cattle girl turned cotton, Kate Lumber wouldn’t have it any other way

Today’s guest blog comes from final year Rural Science student Kate Lumber who is on track to career in cotton agronomy, but it wasn’t always going to be that way. Thanks to a summer spent bug checking crops around Moree, Kate’s interest moved from cattle to cotton and her career aspirations were quickly solidified by the mentorship of some “professional and passionate” agronomists.

This is Kate’s story…

Hi, my name is Kate Lumber and I am a fourth year Rural Science student at the University of New England. I grew up in the small country town of Quirindi on the Liverpool Plains in North-West NSW but now call Tamworth home. Despite growing up in town I spent a great deal of my time on family properties. I have wanted to be involved in agriculture all my life and I can honestly say with such strong role models in the industry, I feel as though I was destined for a career in agriculture.

Growing up, my fondest memories were on farm riding horses, doing cattle work or tinkering in the shed with Grandad. I loved getting my hands dirty and was always the first one to volunteer to jump in the ute to go out fencing or feeding. I was a very competitive horse rider and became heavily involved in showing beef cattle and livestock judging throughout high school. I have such fond memories in the sheds at small country shows, with Sydney Royal the highlight of my year; the lead up was considered Christmas Eve excitement for an “Aggie.” Whether it was talking to breeders about their stud genetics, networking and forging friendships or competing to great success, I loved every second of it.

Carcase judging, fleece judging and beef cattle paraders.

Photo: Carcase judging, fleece judging and beef cattle paraders

It was high school that truly opened my eyes to the endless opportunities in agriculture. I was fortunate to have a fantastic support network and teachers that encouraged me to explore every opportunity and move out of my comfort zone. I studied agriculture from year 9 to year 12, receiving the academic excellence award for best in subject throughout my studies.

In 2011 I was offered the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) Industry Placement Scholarship through the University of New England at the Animal Genetics and Breeding unit (AGBU). This was a fantastic insight into the number of opportunities to work with livestock and related industries.

From here I was selected as one of 10 students nationally for the 2011 PICSE Think Tank Forum in Canberra. This was a great opportunity to meet and network with like-minded students and well respected industry leaders. We addressed issues such as food and fibre security and feeding a growing world in a changing landscape. This forum truly inspired me to be part of the generation of agriculturalists to find possible solutions to these challenges and implement change. From here I chose to study a Bachelor of Rural Science at UNE, with the intention of a livestock focus.

On Industry Placement at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) Scanning Cattle at Bald Blair Angus, Guyra NSW.

On Industry Placement at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) Scanning Cattle at Bald Blair Angus, Guyra NSW.

It is amazing what life can throw at you. I was offered my break into the cotton industry following the completion of my first year at university. Although I simply stumbled across the position, I am so grateful I did because it honestly changed my life. I started working as a bug checker with Integrated Crop Management Services Moree (ICMS) in the summer of 2012/13. What started off as an opportunity to earn some money over the summer holidays quickly evolved into a great passion and way of life.

My first day on the job was also the first day I had seen cotton grown in the field and I tell you, I was like a kid in a candy shop and have been ever since. My job involved completing crop assessment, field data collection and tissue sampling. This data was then utilised to assist in nutrient application decisions, irrigation scheduling and the recommendation of pesticide and herbicide applications. This was an incredible introduction to cotton agronomy and I feel so privileged to have been mentored by such professional and passionate agronomists.

In the field bug checking at Moree NSW

 In the field bug checking at Moree NSW

I returned to university with a new found focus, a great desire to further my knowledge, and dreaming of the black soil plains and sunshine, a stark contrast to Armidale’s bitter winter. When the 2013/14 bug checking season came, I went to work with ICMS again. I was constantly learning and adapting in order to meet the needs of the grower and the dynamic nature of the crop. It is amazing how invigorating an early morning, the feeling of mud between your toes and the comforting brush of cotton on tanned legs is. I loved the lifestyle the cotton industry offered. I met so many passionate young people and was part of an incredible community brought together by their love of agriculture. I was having the time of my life, where work wasn’t even work. How many people can say they truly love their job? I am so lucky to be one of them.

Heading out into the field to check a whitefly trial in Moree NSW

 Heading out into the field to check a whitefly trial in Moree NSW

My third year bought about great opportunity. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a Cotton Australia Scholar to attend the 17th Australian Cotton Conference (2014). This was an amazing experience! Not only did I get to meet and network with passionate and like-minded students but also key leaders within the Industry. I was involved in some amazing youth in agriculture activities and learnt so much about all things cotton. This experience really illustrated for me the importance of research and development in the cotton industry where I was able to discuss current research opportunities with leading scientists and as a result it was a significant contributing factor in my decision to undertake honours in Cotton Agronomy.

Catching up with friends Dee George and Laura Bennett at the Wincott stand, Cotton Conference 2014.

Catching up with friends Dee George and Laura Bennett at the Wincott stand, Cotton Conference 2014.

The summer of 2014 saw me take my agricultural passion international, travelling throughout South East Asia for a two week agricultural tour of Cambodia. This was an incredibly eye-opening experience for many reasons. I was not only exposed to agricultural policy and AID projects being undertaken in a developing country but also various cropping and livestock production systems that highly contrasted those seen in Australia. Through this trip I recognised the great opportunity for economic growth and increased productivity and the growing market for quality Australian product going into South East Asia. The incredible generosity of spirit and entrepreneurial attitude of the Cambodian people was truly inspirational and is something I hold so close from my trip.

Traditional rice harvest, Phnom Penh Cambodia

Traditional rice harvest, Phnom Penh Cambodia

I then went on to spend two weeks in Thailand where I completed an internship with international chemical manufacturing company FMC, in the agricultural department of its Asia Pacific regional office in Bangkok. Going to work in a high rise building was a distinct change of scenery from the fieldwork I have come to know and love. At FMC I was exposed to commercial chemical registration, regulation and product development. I was also involved in the work behind chemical field trials throughout Thailand and the processes of running and reporting on commercial field trials, which I believe to be invaluable. This has given me commercial knowledge of agricultural chemicals to complement the technical knowledge I have learnt throughout my degree.

Looking at FMC herbicide trials on Sugarcane near Kanchanaburi, Thailand

 Looking at FMC herbicide trials on Sugarcane near Kanchanaburi, Thailand

In February 2015 I was awarded a PICSE internship with the CSIRO Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI). I completed a one week internship at ACRI where I was fortunate enough to work in a number of departments including entomology, pathology, agronomy, breeding and semio-chemicals. During this internship I was able to sit down and talk to the leading researchers in each department then work with the technical officers to see first-hand the research currently being undertaken. It involved everything from field work such as scouting and leaf sampling to pathogen isolations in the lab.

I loved my time at ACRI and was offered casual work as a technical assistant for picking with the breeding team which was an incredible experience. I saw the whole process associated with picking through to the ginned and tested samples, even finding time for a little handpicking.

Field work at the CSIRO Australian Cotton Research Institute

 Field work at the CSIRO Australian Cotton Research Institute

As an honours candidate for Rural Science in 2015 I am undertaking a project that that forms part of a trial looking into phosphorus availability in dryland cotton. My thesis looks at the correlation between whole plant nutrient content, indicator leaf tissue sampling and phosphorus uptake in dryland cotton. My field trial is being conducted at the Incitec Pivot “Colonsay” long term trial site on the Darling Downs. Alongside my project partners, I have completed all plant sampling at five sampling dates throughout the season.

I have found it very rewarding, pushing me to problem solve as I continue to find the project both challenging and interesting. It has given me first-hand experience in running a commercially focussed field trial which I see to be of great benefit for me into the future as I pursue a career in Agronomy. I very much look forward to analysing our results and providing information that can be of benefit to the cotton industry.

Field work sampling in Toowoomba for my honours trial

Field work sampling in Toowoomba for my honours trial

As I move through my final year of university study I am looking forward to finishing my degree and entering the workforce. I cannot wait to be able to pursue cotton agronomy as a career and continue to learn all I can about the Industry I love.

I can’t imagine a summer without siphons, helies, black soil and cotton. I am a cattle girl turned cotton and wouldn’t have it any other way.

What a view, how could I want to be anywhere else

 What a view, how could I want to be anywhere else?

James Kanaley lives to work, breathe and love agriculture in rural Australia

Today’s guest blog from James Kanaley highlights the diversity, excitement and huge range of opportunities available in agriculture. From family farming in southern NSW, to following the harvest trail from Texas to Canada, James has taken the road less travelled to reach his current home among the cotton crops of Moree.

Here is James’s story….

james cotton

Agriculture is my life. My name is James Kanaley and I am a 5th generation farmer and agronomist from Illabo in southern NSW where my family has been farming for over 100 years.

Farming dominates my earliest childhood memories. Whether it was clunking around riding in the dusty old header cab harvesting wheat with dad or steering the old truck without reaching the pedals as the sheep followed behind gobbling up their rations of barley and lupins.

tree planting

Me with my two younger brothers and father, “helping” him plant trees in creek lines in the early 90s. This was common on our farm and others, aiming to improve vegetation areas whilst decreasing salinity and erosion problems initiated by previous generations.

I spent my childhood on our family farm, which is a mixed farming operation. On half of our farming area we grow crops of wheat, canola, lupins and barley. The remaining 50 percent of the area is sown down to lucerne-clover pasture for our merino sheep flock to graze on and produce fine wool. The entire farm is worked in rotation, each paddock will go through a cropping and a pasture phase. Our farm is set on picturesque undulating red-brown earth with a winter/spring dominant rainfall pattern – although we take it when we can get it!

Like any farmer’s son I grew up learning from my dad and was lucky to have an intelligent, hard working father who has taught me a lot over the years and still teaches me plenty today! I am the eldest of three boys and a farm is the perfect place for three brothers to run amok on, most of the time at the expense of our parents’ tolerance and energy. Although three boys with a lot of energy can come in very handy when you the kelpie working dog is out of action and the sheep need to be mustered up.

I have always had a love for growing crops ever since I can remember. There’s nothing quite like growing a crop from seed, nurturing it through to harvest and turning the land you work into a productive food bowl. I can still remember how excited I got each harvest as a young fella as the headers fired up and burnt diesel day and night to bring the year’s crops in.

James Sowing

Planting a crop of grazing wheat on our family farm after some good autumn breaking rain, to be grazed by sheep and then taken through to harvest grain.

I also know how important our livestock are to our mixed farming system and will always have a soft spot for our merino sheep. I am a strong believer in diversification in farming systems and believe the strongest farming operations are able to optimise climatic and economic forecasts for agricultural commodities and manage their cropping and livestock enterprises to complement each other.

My first job outside the farm was at our local rural store. I sold agricultural chemicals, animal supplements, clothing, dog food and everything in between. We had one agronomist who would come back into the store covered in mud up to his knees telling us about what was going on out in the paddocks and enjoying having a laugh with the farmers. At the time I was only just learning what an agronomist was but this was the moment I realized the career I wanted to be in: Agronomy.

I attended the local high school in Junee and when I went to choose agriculture as one of my year 11 and 12 subjects I was told I was the only student choosing it. It was then I thought, why? We are in a strong agricultural area, how can I be the only student interested in agriculture? Agriculture is a way of life for our region and is the backbone of the local economy. Agriculture has always been one of my greatest passions. Why was an area that was rich in agriculture and dependent on the industry not attracting young people? By sharing my career journey I am hoping I can buck this trend and inspire other young people to aspire to agriculture related careers.

James Canola

Inspecting a very good canola crop flowering during September, spring is a spectacular time of year when all the canola is flowering.

After gaining entry to Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga to study Agricultural Science I decided to take a gap year and work for a year…

Then, on New Year’s Day 2006 a fierce and terrifying bushfire ripped through over 25,000 ha of prime farmland and our property, leaving nothing but ash and dust behind it. It was the middle of the drought and we had just had the first decent spring rainfall in years, which only added fuel to the fire. I spent a good portion of my gap year clearing trees, re-fencing and fixing up our devastated farm. The drought had already pushed and tested many farmers but even after the bushfire everyone remained positive. They kicked the charred earth and barren landscape but knew the autumn rains would come again and trigger a rush of green to blanket the slopes and plains once again.

The bushfire and millennium drought showed Mother Nature at her worst, putting farmers under sever emotional, financial and physical pressure but it showed the resilience of our farmers and their determination. It made me proud to be part of an industry that could go through so much and work so hard without much reward, sometimes only to wake up the next day and do it all again until the drought breaking rains came.

During my study in Wagga Wagga I was lucky enough to travel to Vietnam with our 3rd year Agriculture class for a tour through farming regions in the Mekong Delta. The trip was amazing and a real eye opener getting off the beaten track to look at farming operations in third world regions of a developing country. It did make us feel very lucky to live and farm in Australia but at the same time it was interesting to see people who were less fortunate, and with less access to technology, productively use the land to feed their families and communities.

I spent a lot of my uni holidays working for a corporate cropping farm close to home. It was a great experience coming from a family farm environment to see the differences in how the corporate farms operate. Corporate farms are run with a lot less emotion than family farms and treated more like business investments.  The company I worked for which was a large asset management group called Warakirri Pty Ltd.

The sheer size and scale of corporate farms appeal to young people who may never have the opportunity to own their own farm and realise you don’t have to own the farm to farm the farm. They are also be a fantastic experience for young graduates like me keen to take strong business skills and a diverse knowledge bank back to the family farm. Foreign investors employ local people and spend money in local communities and whilst it is important to recognize the role the corporates play in the industry I believe the future of agriculture in this country will always ride on the back of family farming businesses. .

After I graduated from university I travelled to the USA in 2011 to work on the wheat harvest trail. It was a fantastic experience working from the Texas plains to the Canadian border harvesting wheat, corn and soybeans. It was great to learn a lot about the American style of farming but what I think my trip highlighted most was how underrated Australian farmers actually are. My American experience made it clear to me just how adoptive, adaptive, innovative and resilient our farmers are.

Snow in Kansas

Waking up to an unusual morning during corn harvest in Kansas, USA for me and the other Australian workers.

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Harvesting wheat in the rolling hills and plains of Montana, USA.

After getting some of the travel bug out of my system I started working as a dryland agronomist in the Henty area in southern New South Wales, working with mixed farmers to advise them on their crop and pasture systems. This is where I started learning the ropes as an agronomist or ‘clod kickers’ or ‘plant doctors’ as we are affectionately called. I get a kick out of interacting with farmers and enjoy helping them get the best return on investment from their businesses.

I found I was extremely excited by the cotton industry and was keen to learn more about it. To do this I left Henty in 2014 to work as an agronomist in Moree, northern NSW. The Moree region is a very diverse farming area and I’ve had the chance to work with everything from cotton to faba beans. Irrigated cotton is grown as an opportunity crop whenever growers have access to water and is the lifeblood of the area. I love working as an agronomist and working hard to produce as much as possible from every millimeter of rainthat falls or every megalitre tof water that is siphoned down a field during irrigations.

checking wheat

Checking wheat during the winter, tools of the trade for an agronomist, Quad bike, moisture probe and iPad. Technology enables us to record and send data from the field saving extra office time

Working in the agricultural industry is not the only perk, the lifestyle and community that comes with it is something that I would never change, whether it’s trotting around on the rugby paddock or water skiing on irrigation dams. We are all in it for the same reason to work, breathe and live agriculture in rural Australia.

I want to be able to share my passion and knowledge of working in an industry that feeds and clothes an increasing world population.

I want to be able to share how exciting the constantly changing technology and science is in the industry.

I want to inspire other young people to aspire to careers in the agriculture sector.

I want to raise awareness of how important agriculture and farming is to our communities and create a wider appreciation of the role our farmers play.

Agriculture is my life and it is a diverse industry that I can’t imagine not being a part of.

wheat

You reap what you sow, a fantastic wheat crop at home approaching harvest and filling well with large plump grains of wheat.

Cotton enthusiast Liz Munn believes in reaping what you sow

Liz Munn brings us today’s guest blog which takes us on an 800km journey that begins and ends with cotton. The 21 year old technical officer with the DPI lives by the motto “You can only take out what you put in” and believes the more people show their confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry, the more it will become contagious!

Here’s Liz’s story…

My name is Liz Munn, I am 21 years old and I’ve just moved 800km across the state to work in the field I love – cotton!

Home for me is the rural community of Moree in the North West Slopes and Plains of NSW. It’s the centre of a large agricultural area, known for the rich black vertosol soils which allow crops such as cotton to thrive and is also renowned for its natural hot springs. In the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought, but the people always manage to come out stronger.

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At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, about to accept the Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship in 2014.

I believe that for a rural agricultural region to survive it needs a supportive, cohesive community – and I love to get involved! I work with groups such as the Moree Show Society, Leeton Show Society, NSW Farmers, ASC Youth group, ASC Group 14 Ambassador, and the Young NSW Farmers group. I love that show events bring the whole community together to experience all of the rural and agricultural aspects of the area. Getting amongst the hive of activity not only keep me up to date with what is happening in the agricultural industry at a regional basis, but also at a legislative and national basis.

My love of the land came from my grandfather. Some of my best childhood moments was the time spent following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise, so my parents and I helped with jobs such as lamb and calf marking, shearing, tractor driving and harvest. Over the years the farm changed to focus more on grain growing.

My grandfather taught me that you can only take out what you put in; which is a good motto not just for agriculture but for life in general and I have followed it throughout my life.

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Looking after a poddy lamb named Claire after it lost its mother.

At school in Moree I was the type of kid that enjoyed getting involved with everything. I was sporting house captain in year 11 and a school leader in year 12. I was active in a range of sports from horses to soccer, and was lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also loved learning to play classical violin for five years, and won a few awards along the way.

When it was time to think about university degrees my interest in agriculture lead me to a Bachelor of Environmental Science at University of New England.

I lived at St Albert’s College where made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I was highly active in the college’s netball and chugby (women’s rugby) teams and also held the position of pastoral advisor (PA) where I supported my fellow students in any way possible and helped organise events.

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On the far right of the top row, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

My Environmental Science degree has given me a deeper insight into the need for a partnership between the needs of the native landscape and productive landscape and instilled the importance of preserving the productive farmland that we are lucky enough to have in Australia.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and there is an important place for leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques to give the best protection against our unpredictable seasons while also enhancing competitiveness on the world market. The cotton industry in particular is at the forefront of innovation, and so I took my first steps to become involved.

During my first two summer breaks at university, I worked for a local agronomist as a cotton crop scout. When I first applied for the position I considered it purely a learning experience. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed myself. I found the cotton industry fascinating! Now I’m striving to become an agronomist.

In just a few years I have worked with many great people who were as enthusiastic about the industry as I now am too. Last year I toured one of the local cotton gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process. I also completed two subjects directly related to cotton and its management.

My dedication to regional communities and agriculture was last year rewarded with the 2014 Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship for my work in agriculture and my local show society, as well being appointed as an ambassador for the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) group 14.

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Checking some of the first open bolls for the 2014/2015 season.

This year my career has taken off. When I finished my degree in late 2014 there was a drought around Moree so I had to move to southern NSW, almost 800km away to a town I had never been to, to start my career.

In January 2015 I began working with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at Yanco in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area doing research into integrated pest management in cotton. Cotton is a relatively new crop for this region, so I am at the forefront of its progression and success. I am a technical officer, collecting field data, managing and organising others in the field, consulting with growers, and assisting in the creation of trials and data collection methods of those trials.

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To most people involved in agriculture it is not just an industry, but a lifestyle that travels down the generations. According to the National Farmers Federation, 99% of all Australian farms are family owned.

Agriculture influences every person in the world even if they are purely a consumer.

With a fast growing population and unpredictable climate, I believe we must protect farms for future generations, and it must be done sustainably and profitably.

I would also like to help change the stereotypical image of the average Aussie farmer. Agriculture is a great industry for young people and women. There are so many fantastic things to attract young people and as an industry we need to make sure we are looking after our youth, helping them survive and flourish so the industry can too.

Agriculture provides 1.6 million jobs to the Australian economy, but there is still miscommunication between farmers and consumers. I believe we need more communication to build support from the community and it is vital our farmers are supported in every sector.

People involved in Australian agriculture put everything into it and I want to make sure that they can always get out what they put in.

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There are so many young agriculturalists in Australia trying to make their voice heard, as I am. I want to be involved in advocacy for the cotton industry, particularly through engaging with consumers of Aussie cotton. I believe the industry can reach its goals. The more people who get involved and strive to enhance their skills, the more our confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry will become contagious. We will get out what we put in.

Emma Ayliffe says agriculture in the outback is the journey of a lifetime

Today’s guest blog from Emma Ayliffe starts on a sheep station in outback South Australia and takes us to the lush lakebed cropping fields of one of New South Wales’s most unique cotton operations. She’s a girl from the bush who’s found her way back again as on-farm agronomist, an enthusiastic photographer and a lover of all things crops and cotton.

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This is Emma’s story…

I have always had a love of the bush and that is where my journey began, on a station in the North-West Pastoral District of South Australia. I spent my childhood riding my horse behind mobs of wild merinos on stations west of Port Augusta and grew up a typical station kid. In between School of the Air lessons my days were spent outside on water runs, mustering and ‘helping’ dad and the station hands out in the shed.

So how exactly does a station girl from half way between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy end up growing cotton on the bottom of the Menindee Lakes…?

My father has always been passionate about agriculture and I guess that rubbed off on my mum and me too. When I was 12 my parents moved me and my two younger sisters closer to a town so we didn’t have to go to boarding school and this opened up a whole new world to us. Along with the introduction of ‘normal’ school we were introduced to world of cropping. And although we had moved from a world of station dust to tractors and green paddocks my father was as keen as always to get us involved where ever possible.

Me with my sisters and ponies

At the end of school I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and began studying a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) at the University of Adelaide. I went into the degree thinking I would end up doing something livestock related but, like most kids, changed my mind. I enjoyed agronomy much more and changed the direction I was heading.

As part of Uni my year helped set up an “Ag Experience” trip overseas. It was a lot of hard work but we successfully got sponsorship for our trip to India and it was amazing. We toured research facilities and met with farmers. We viewed community farming groups and toured rural villages. It was amazing to see the variation in this country from the richest farmers who owned tractors and employed workers, to the poorest of farmers who were still planting their crops by hand. I had a go at cutting rice straw, which is a lot harder than it looks, as well as visiting some of the tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal.

Cutting rice straw

After completing Uni I began working in broad acre agronomy in the mid-north of South Australia and spent a lot of my time in fields of canola and wheat. I had a great boss and mentor who really helped me to get even more excited about the career path that I had chosen. After a little over a year I decided that it was time for a change of scenery and a new challenge, so I began hunting for my next big thing.

Stacking Hay

I stumbled across an advertisement for an on farm cotton agronomist working in the bush, and I though what a perfect combination of the career I have chosen and my love for the outback so I applied. Tandou is an amazing place to see for the first time. I still remember driving out for my interview, 140 kilometres south of Broken Hill, in western NSW, rounding a bend and over a sand hill to see the fields of green…

Tandou Map Google Earth

I had only seen cotton once in my life, so I had no clue about how to grow it, but I got the job, packed up my stuff and moved in to my one bedroom Jayco unit (in the middle of 24 other units!) and had my first experience with irrigation and cotton. Nearly two and a half years later, it is the best decision I have ever made!

I am an on-farm agronomist working at Lake Tandou, 50 kilometres out of Menindee at the bottom of the Menindee Lakes. My job includes everything from rotation and fertiliser programs, irrigation scheduling, insect and weed management and picking through to driving tractors, loading seed trucks, taking people on farm tours and fixing things. It is an amazing job that has helped grow my skills as an agronomist, but also my general life skills. It has also given me the opportunity to meet and work with a range of amazing people!

As part of my job now I have found a love for photography. I spend some time every week taking pictures of the crops and the operations around the farm to document the growing of the crop, as well as the unique operation that we run here at Tandou.

One of my photos of the crop

Cotton is an amazing crop and an an amazing industry to be part of. Coming from SA – and downstream of the Murray-Darling river system – I grew up hearing many misinformed negatives about it. But it’s not until you immerse yourself into this world that you truly appreciate how the industry is so open and excited about sharing its story. There is great comradeliness and flow of information between growers and everyone is willing to help everyone else out and share their success stories.

It is hard not to have love, enthusiasm and motivation for a job that is so diverse in an industry that is at the forefront of many aspects of agriculture and provides so many opportunities to learn, network and get involved. I find myself talking to anyone who will listen about the good stuff and the challenges and the opportunities; I am sure that people must get sick of me talking cotton!

While working here I have also become the secretary of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association, one of the most unique as we only have one grower, which is us! Through this I have been able to start sharing my love and passion for the job with the future agriculturalists of Australia as we often support events at the local school in Menindee as well as facilitating farm visits for other schools from cities like Mildura. This gives kids an opportunity to see what agriculture is actually about and helps dispel many myths that people still have about the cotton industry.

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 I love my job, I love the outback, I love sharing what I know and enjoying this journey!