Young farmers changing the way farmers are perceived

I recently attended an event where this statement was made

Agriculture doesn’t change the world, Agriculture prevents it changing

Visit here for some comment on this

Well I can assure you there is a new generation of farmers who are turning the way agriculture thinks, talks and acts on its head and they leading the change that agriculture must have

A great example of this is  Young Farmer of the Year and Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth who was unable to attend the Farmer of the Year awards ceremony in Australia this week as she was presenting at the INTO conference in Cambridge in England

Anika Molesworth

Anika reports from Cambridge

“I am having an extremely exciting month! It was a thrill to win the Young Farmer of the Year award. Although I couldn’t attend the ceremony in Sydney, I was lucky enough to have my own awards night here- in a 17th century grain store on a fantastic country estate in Cambridge where they preserve heritage lines of sheep and cattle.

Speeches were made about the award with the 300 INTO delegates in attendance.
Climate change, agriculture and land use have been a real theme of this conference, and it’s been great to meet people from all over the world to hear their stories and feel the momentum growing in this discussion”

Wow are young farmers like Anika changing the way farmers are being perceived in the world – not only are our farmers on the front foot of climate change action and adaptation and mitigation strategies  we are now helping drive the conversations on the legacy our generation leaves for the future

Archibull Prize 2015 theme – Agriculture – an endangered species

MPP-hand-threat-spec-web620Just like this little cutie agriculture in this country is under threat and this can potentially have huge ramifications for access to safe, affordable, nutritious food for Australian families  

If we are going to ensure food security in this country agriculture has to be a partnership between farmers and the community

So lets investigate the Australian communities relationship with food ( please assume when I write the word food, I am referring to the two f’s-  food and fibre)

Nobody likes to be put into a box and labelled. However sometimes it’s very useful to help you make a point so please forgive me for putting Australian consumers of food  into 4 boxes.

In one box you have the million people in Australia who are labelled Food Insecure and that means 1 million people in Australia go to bed hungry every night. Yes you read that right.  5% of the people in our wonderful country go to bed hungry every night. Please take the time to read about it here

Then there is the extremely larger box that holds the people who buy their food in the main based on Cost, Convenience and Quality (CC&Q) with a huge focus on cost and convenience

Then there is a small but growing box that I am going to label the people who ‘care’. I am going to call them this because they are the group that will potentially make purchases and are prepared to pay a premium for food grown in a way that meets their values. This group of consumers are interested in the ‘how and why’ of growing food and fibre, and also environmental values, sustainability, appropriate animal care, safety, nutrition, affordability and so on.

Values are an emotion. They in the main are not measurable and everyone of us has different values and how they prioritise them so the descriptors of the word “care’ can be very diverse.

At the other end there is a little group I am going to label “Extreme” for the want of a better word. What I mean here is that this group of people have very very strong views about what the word “care’ means and these people sometimes join organisations to lobby policy and decision makers to regulate and legislate industries to align with their values

For the people who sell food direct to consumers in this country like “Colesworth” for the ‘Food Insecure’ there are initiatives like Foodbank and  Second Bite they can donate food to. Food for example that is going out of date or does not meet the quality expectations of the C,C&Q group

The C,C&Q  are easy to satisfy. Sell food at rock bottom prices and build beautiful mega stores in areas that are within easy reach.  The C,C&Q group scare the living daylights out of ‘Colesworth” and their ability to meet shareholder expectations. Selling food at rock bottom prices from stores that cost you a motza is a no-win race to the bottom for profit margins.

So the group that “Colesworth’ is extremely interested in is the people who “care’.  The group that may pay more if you can meet or exceed their values expectations and help them feel good about their food choices. Colesworth want to grow this group. What is extremely disappointing is Coles in particular have chosen fear based marketing campaigns to grow their market share. I say to you Coles – disgraceful conduct.

Our good farmers also want to grow this group and I believe for all the right reasons. We want to grow this group by having courageous and open and transparent conversations with them.

To do this we have to be prepared to ‘open the door’ to our farms and bring consumers on our journey with us and that means not only showing them the ‘how’ – paddock to plate or field to fibre process but also the  ‘why’ of growing food and fibre,

We want to show them they can trust us to farm without feeling the need to ask policy and decision makers to impose overly budensome regualations on our food and fibre industries. Unlike “Colesworth’ farmers had want to allay consumer fears and reduce stress levels

Today our good farmers are now reconnecting with the people who buy their food and fibre. Listening to them and waking up every morning committed to meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations

It is imperative that we take consumers on our journey with us or we run the risk of consumers have increasingly unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations like expecting farmers to wake up every day to produce food at rock bottom prices for nothing. Our farmers have families too and just like everybody else their first priority is to feed and clothe their families.

So the key for farmers is to work with the community to get that very necessary balance. Today more than ever agriculture is a partnership between farmers and the community.

This year the theme for the Archibull Prize will be “Agriculture* – an endangered species” (ht SK) and students and teachers will investigate the many challenges that farmers face and how we build community partnerships to ensure Agriculture gets off the endangered species list permanently.

Earth Hour 2015 will celebrate Australian farmers and the challenges they face under increasing conditions of extreme climate variability 

That the Food Insecure group gets smaller and smaller and that the people who care group gets larger and larger not because they worry about how food and fibre is produced but because they trust farmers and have the time to put their energies into causes like making sure all Australians have full stomachs every night, have clothes to wear and have a roof over their heads

I want to live in an Australia where we all care about people first. I look forward to that day and I am very proud that the Archibull Prize is helping to grow and support that vision.

Kildare Catholic College

In 2014 the Reserve Grand Champion Archibull Prize award winner from Kildare Catholic College exemplified their community – Wagga Wagga

Footnotes

  1. * Agriculture – the industry that provides us with our most basic of needs. The industry that feeds us, clothes us and puts a roof over our heads
  2. Please note this post is a work in progress. It was not written to offend anybody. If I have please let me know how should reword it and I will change it.
  3. Rider – I admit the only thing I look at when I buy eggs is how crushproof I believe the box they come in is.
  4. HT – Hat tip to SK – a lovely lady I met at the NSW Department of Secondary Education yesterday. I shared my vision with her for what I wanted to the Archibull Prize to investigate this year and we work-shopped the theme and I loved her idea

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.

Josh Gilbert Braford Breeder

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.

YFC 2014

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

Calling youth in agriculture. Together we can achieve greatness

Joshua Gilbert Art4agriculture Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion ( sponsored by MLA ) and chair of the NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council had the opportunity to inspire young people in the audience at the inaugural Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball to be the change that agriculture must have

Wagga Ag Ball

Charles Sturt University students (from left) Albert Gorman, Eliza Star, Mikaela Baker, Brittany Bickford, Hannah Powe, Alex Trinder, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Leigh O’Sullivan are organising an agricultural networking event. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Today I share this wonderful speech with you

Josh Gilbert

 Josh Gilbert -photo thanks to Hannah Barber

Tonight, I want to challenge your thoughts on how we communicate as an industry. It starts with a few facts, and how a shift in these completely changes how we are viewed and operate as an industry.

  • In the next 30 years, 50% of the world’s farming land will change hands.
  • We are faced with the oldest average age of workers, running in at around 56.
  • There are 135,000 farm businesses across Australia which means we have 135,000 farmers who are CEO’s.
  • One Australian farmer on average feeds an impressive 600 people on less land, compared to one farmer feeding 20 people 70 years ago.
  • Our great nation is said to have been ​founded on the sheep’s back.

To me these statistics can only mean one thing- there is and will continue to be opportunity for youth in agriculture. But just like our machinery improvements and technology gains and the different styles of farming we see today, we too need to move with the times and change the way we communicate and market Australian agriculture, both here at home and of course overseas.

I expect the Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball will become an annual event for us to discuss these changes. That we will have the opportunity to meet back here each year and challenge our ideals and ways of thinking, so we can best move forward as an industry. I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event and also recognise my NSW Young Farmer colleagues in the room.

Recently someone close to me told me that I can’t need something. That I can’t use this word to try and change things. And while at the time I argued until I was blue in the face that I knew better, I was wrong.

This got me thinking about our marketing strategy for agriculture and how we bombard ourselves and our consumers with statements such as ‘every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’ or that we should ‘ thank our farmers because we ate today’. And while you and I understand the rationale behind this, I think we’re sending the wrong message out to people who don’t necessarily share our enthusiasm or knowledge of our industry.

So this poses the next question. Why is it that we use this language?

Is it because we feel we are the forgotten ones?

Is it out of fear of losing something that means a lot?

Is it because we feel undervalued?

Is it out of insecurity that we have our “right to farm” and at times our farming practices being questioned?

Whether we like it or not there will always be consumers who don’t care where their food comes from as long as its affordable and nutritious. And in reality this is a good thing and our role as farmers is to maintain or enhance the underlying faith those consumers have in the food and fibre we produce.

There is however up to 10% of the population who care very much about how their food and fibre is produced and are questioning modern farming methods. It is imperative we acknowledge that part of our role as a farmers and members of the agriculture sector is to actively engage and build honest and transparent relationships with these consumers. It is imperative that agriculture offers them access to real farmers and the opportunity to ask questions even the difficult ones. Its is imperative that our farmers not get defensive and have the skills sets and knowledge to engage  with non farmers audiences in a language that resonates with them.

It is essential that each of us be prepared to tell our stories, that we put a face to and share our values of why we farm the way we do to help ensure the community has the confidence that our farmers are committed to producing affordable, nutritious, safe food and quality fibre. This is the greatest opportunity and most effective way we have to connect with our consumers.

Trust, respect, pride and faith in farmers and farming practices are developed through positive messages and transparency, through messages that build a connection and pride  Playing the sympathy or the you “need me” card on the other hand only polarises the very people it is so important we build these connections with. The truth is farmers and consumers need each other.  We must rise above this ‘them and us’ mindset and focus on sharing with the community that Australian farmers are committed to being leaders on the world’s stage in safe, affordable nutritious food and quality fibre production.

To ensure that we get the ball rolling tonight, I’d like for you all to pull out your phones. I have a tweet here that will link to my Facebook that states ‘The future ag leaders at #WACAgBall14- we all love what we do, we are all proud of what we do,so let’s share it with the world’. What I’d like you to do is this- retweet, share, like, comment, favourite the message and start sharing your stories. If we are to create this change- we need to start working on it now.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to keep the conversation going. Think about why you’re involved in agriculture, the impact that you play and what you want the future to look like. Then plan and share- because together we can achieve greatness.

Together, we can show that Australian agriculture has deserves the respect, pride and idolisation that we received decades before and still does.

 

Thanks Josh very inspiring indeed

#youthinag why I believe in strength in numbers.

Todays guest blog comes from Wool Young Farming Champion and PhD student Jo Newton

Jo is one of the growing number of young people who grew up in the city who are attracted to career pathways that support Australian farmers and food and fibre production in this country. At Art4Agriculture we believe our role is to help empower the younger generation of rural entrepreneurs to drive the direction and take ownership of the future of the agricultural sector.

We believe the fastest way to do this is cross industry programs and networks that bring young people from every food and fibre industry together to work towards a connected, cohesive, profitable and respected agrifood sector

As you can see from Jo’s blog she has been lucky enough to tap into many of these programs and she shares that exciting journey with you today……….

I believe the multitude of #youthinag groups across Australia is one of our greatest strengths as an industry. Since I became a country convert 6 ½ years ago I have felt truly lucky to have become a part of the agricultural community. Somewhat ironically, in the last couple of years it has been by old school friends from Melbourne who have made me realize just how lucky I am, and we as an industry are.

Around 2 years ago a few girlfriends and I were out to tea and a catch up. Having all graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in the last couple of years conversation quickly turned to our future career paths. My girlfriends were flabbergasted when I started talking about some of the opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to take part in as a young person in agriculture. They were blown away by the magnitude of programs such as the RAS Rural Achiever Program and the Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship program and wished that their industries offered similar professional development opportunities for young professionals. As an aside if anyone has heard of professional development programs of scholarships for young people in the health professions or social work my girlfriends would love to know.

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Pictured above: the 2013 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achievers, I’m third from the right in the front row & 2014 GRDC YFC Dwayne is in the middle of the back row

Whilst clearly enjoying their new careers, my friends raised another challenge that entry to the working world had brought. They often found themselves surrounded by people much older than them at work which is definitely something I am able to relate to. My friends talked about the challenge of meeting other young people in their profession and I asked them if their industries had a youth network, council or group and received negative answers. At this point I realized just how lucky I am to work in agriculture.

Given a choice of many youth groups from my industry to be a part of or none at all, I’m certainly glad to have the former. Since I moved to Armidale these #youthinag groups have been vital for me to meet other young agri-professionals. Whilst I may be the youngest person in the office, the various different #youthinag groups provide me with the opportunity to network with a whole range of other young like-minded people. Different groups have provided me with different opportunities; from social gatherings, forums, newsletters, fieldtrips, scholarships, conferences and networking events I believe I have got something different from all the groups I am a part of.

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Picture: in 2013 my involvement with #youthinag saw me represent my university & Australia at the Enactus World Cup in Mexico

I often hear that having too many groups is a weakness. I prefer to think of our diversity as a potential strength. Earlier this year I had the privilege of being funded by AWI to attend YAC (Youth Agricultural Central) organized by the Future Farmers Network (FFN). It was an electrifying experience and over the two days I learnt that many of the groups face similar challenges. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with like-minded young professionals all passionate about agriculture’s future. Whilst each #youthinag group might offer something different to members, our strength will be multiplied many times over if we come together and unite on key issues to achieve lasting change. The annual YAC conferences organized by FFN are a great forum to build connectedness between our groups and I hope to see them continue to grow from strength to strength.

Having just recovered from my 2014 Sydney Show experience I am yet again amazed by the strength of the #youthinag network and the admiration, loyalty and support we display to one another. The stands of the amphitheater were packed by #youthinag supporting their peers during the 2014 Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Announcements and Rural Achiever Public Speaking showcase whilst the annual Catchup at the Royal was filled with young people from many different #youthinag groups.

With such a strong network of passionate young people, which I consider to be stronger than youth networks in other industries, how can you not be excited about the future of agriculture.

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Picture: How many #youthinag groups can you fit in a photo? NSW Young Farmers, RAS Youth Group, ASC of NSW Youth Group and Art4Ag YFCs catch up at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

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The future is a clean canvas where we can create our own art

The future is a clean canvas where we can create our own art or allow others and circumstance to randomly direct our destiny.

climate change cartoon1

This is a reblog of the blog we have created to support the schools and students participating in the 2014 Archibull Prize

We will soon be announcing the successful schools. As a result of the overwhelming responses to our expression of interest the schools this year have gone through a 3 stage process in the race to a place in the program

Starting of course with Stage 1 submitting an EOI this a was followed by Stage 2 which asked both the teachers and students to complete an entry survey

The survey helps us understand in respect to the teachers what they want for their students from the program. Wow what the teachers want for their students is very diverse and we look forward to meeting their expectations

With respect to the students we survey their entry knowledge of things like their knowledge of modern Australian farming practices, the meaning of terms like ‘food gap” and ‘ecological footprint’, what farmers are doing on their farms to ensure healthy landscapes and clean waterways and number of other questions which will give us insights to the issues we should be having two way conversations between producers and consumers about

Once the schools have completed Stage 2 we then asked them to set up their blogs using this one as an example

The Archibull Prize is not just for young Picassos. It combines art and multimedia to share the students’ journey with the community.

The blog element is worth 50% of the point score so it plays a very important role in the students and schools quest to win the Archibull Prize. It also plays a very important role in creating a buzz in their wider community and we suggest the students encourage their parents and friends to follow their blog

Whilst a blog is very easy to set up the security systems demanded by the education department in some states ( particularly QLD) means the schools have to get very creative. We are finding our schools are very creative indeed and many of the teachers are relishing the opportunity to work with their IT student gurus to up skill their IT knowledge

You can find 4 blog examples from the winning schools here.

This year the theme for the Archibull Prize is the school’s allocated ‘food or fibre industry and sustainability’

Whilst many people in the community think sustainability is all about the environment we will show the students that sustainability requires a triple bottom line approach

The students will be given on farm insights on how in recent years most Australian farmers have adjusted their farming practices to improve the animal husbandry and environmental and economic sustainability outcomes of their farming systems.

It is generally agreed sustainable farming systems have the following characteristics:

  • they are profitable
  • they conserve natural resources(especially soils, waterways and vegetation)
  • they recycle nutrients through the farming system
  • they minimise energy usage
  • they attempt to repair past environmental damage (eg soil erosion, salinity, acidification, vegetation decline)
  • they minimise the usage of chemicals

The students will be made aware that is important that sustainable agriculture involves a holistic approach that enhances livelihoods, improves wellbeing and reduces environmental impacts

sustainability

Source Steve Spencer Fresh Agenda

Examples of Sustainablility on US dairy farms

Examples from the US. Source Steve Spencer Fresh Agenda Dairy Australia Horizon 2020 project

Our food and fibre industries have lots of wonderful resources to assist the students on their journey See here

But the Archibull Prize journey is not all about the role farmers are playing, it also helps the students reflect and understand the role they can play to ensure a sustainable future.

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”
Both the limitations and the pathways to success exist in our mind and imagination. John Schaar, Professor Emeritus at the University of California

As you go through our day today, we must own the past, manage the present, and imagine the future.
Today’s the day!  Jim Stovall

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Meet Daniel Fox who is looking forward to balancing the needs of his farm business with the expectations of the community

G’day, my name is Daniel Fox and I am lucky enough to be a fifth generation farmer, my family farming in the Marrar (NSW) district for over eighty years.

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Our property of 2000 hectares is located approximately 10 kilometres north of the Marrar township in the heart of “Prime Lamb Country”. Our farm is run by three generations of my family, with my grandad, my father and myself, as well as my grandma, mother, younger sister and girlfriend lending a hand when the times are busy (which seems to be more often than not these days!!!).

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All hands on deck: Lamb marking is a family affair.

I have been told that my love of agriculture began at a young age, helping Dad around the farm while still in nappies (although photos show I might have been in the road more often that I helped). As a toddler, when not outside in some sort of machine with dad, I would get out all my farm toys and make each room in the house a different paddock, coaxing mum into pushing all the toys around and around the rooms, spraying, sowing and harvesting them, all in one day! She still blames me for her “crook” knees.

From looking at photos of myself when I was young, I don’t think I stood a chance of being anything other than a farmer. From a young age, I developed an appreciation for all things agriculture, even at shearing time!!!

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Learning the ropes from a young age.

As the years passed, I progressed into my schooling career, which began at the local primary school at Marrar with a grand total of around 40 enrolments from around the district. I have some very fond memories of this great little rural school and its enormous (at the time) playground.

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View of Marrar silos from home.

When my sister began school, I moved down the road to Coolamon Central School, a K-12 school where I completed my HSC in 2009. As the years progressed, my passion and love for agriculture grew stronger, as did my passion for science and mathematics. Throughout my time at Coolamon the school took great care of my interests in science and maths and accelerated my studies, where I completed my HSC extension mathematics and physics whilst in year 10. Through these years, it was a tough choice to stay inside and pursue my schooling interests rather than help on the farm.

My hard work and tough choices paid off, gaining some great results I am very proud of. As I was going through those last few years of school, the question of “what are you going to do when you leave school” was often asked of me. My response was always the same; I was going to be a farmer. Many people, who were aware of my success in my studies, often did a double take when I told them the I was going to be a farmer. I would get responses like  ‘You should be a doctor or an engineer. You are too smart to be a farmer and you would be wasting your brain if you returned to the farm”.

I was proud to respond that that farming today is a highly complex and challenging  industry that requires the best and the brightest and its the place I want to be. In fact in my opinion it is far more exciting and rewarding than any other ‘prestigious’ occupation that was suggested to me through school.

It was through my later schooling years that I became even more involved in the farm and this fuelled my desire to farm even more. I successfully wrestled the prized “header driver” position from my Dad in my senior years at school, which I’ve always had my eye on since I could walk. When I saw my first good harvest that came after the droughts in the 2000’s that I could appreciably remember in 2010, I felt the great sense of achievement that farming can bring.

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Mum, driving the tractor and chaser bin, loves her new toys as much as we love ours!!! Harvest 2013

I began studying a Double Degree in Science and Education at Charles Sturt University. During the four years, I learnt what full time study at university was all about!!! The juggle between study and work on the farm often ended up with me up until all hours of the night in front of the fire trying to catch up with my uni work after coming home from a full day on the farm. All I can say is that I am very glad that those days are behind me!

University was a great chance for me to meet a huge number of new friends, all coming from vastly different backgrounds. My passion for farming was often a topic for conversation, and all too often I found that many of the people at uni had never experienced the joys of agriculture and were often unsure of how we as farmers do things. In actual fact, they had many misconceptions about the workings of a farm that were quite amusing.

During 2012, I also participated in a Rural Leadership Program run by FarmLink Research, a local agriculture research company. All of the participants had a background in agriculture, and whilst talking to them, this topic of common misconceptions about farming and agriculture was a constant source of humour, with some funny ones coming up like the origins of milk being the supermarket shelf .

Farming is our livelihood. We wake up on the farm, walk out the door to the farm, it dominates our conversations with friends and family, and it’s what we love doing. We also know that up to 99% of the population today may not have the generational, educational or experiential understanding of why we do what we do and they are watching every decision we make via the enormous range of multimedia avenues available to them.

So the misconceptions about how food is produced is a topic of concern.   Farmers rely on the support of people disconnected from the origins of their food who work outside our industry to buy what we produce and ensure the decisions that they make with respect to legislation and policy continue to enable farmers to feed and clothe people ethically and profitably.

I am now enjoying a career that allows me to  not only begin to take a greater role in the management of the family farm as well as taking every opportunity to raise awareness about how we farm and why we do it and why we love it.