Young Farming Champion Dan Fox wins Innovation Farmer of the Year 2018

Young Farming Champion Daniel Fox was announced as one of the winners in the 2018 Kondinin/ABC Rural Australian Farmer of the Year Awards at a dinner at Parliament House in Canberra on October 16.

The Australian Farmer of the Year Awards are designed to celebrate and applaud the outstanding achievements of those individuals and families making a significant contribution to Australian Agriculture.”

Daniel won the Award for Excellence in Innovation, sponsored by Telstra. He is a fifth-generation farmer, whose family have been farming in the Marrar district of New South Wales for more than 80 years. Over the last decade Daniel has been helping move the farm from a traditional mixed sheep and cropping property to a continuous cropping enterprise using regenerative agriculture.

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Farming in partnership with his wife Rachel (left) and parents David and Cathie (right ) and grandparents farming is all about family for Dan Fox 

“It’s very humbling to win this award,” Daniel says. “There are a few local growers in our area moving in the same direction as us and we bounce ideas off each other quite regularly, for which I thank them very much. This award is reassuring that we are moving in the right direction and we will continue to implement regenerative agriculture practices on our farm and share our ideas and the information we learn. On a personal note, I feel this award is just as much earned by my family as it is by me, as without them I would not have had the opportunity to work on our family farm and be inspired by their work ethic and passion for agriculture.”

Changes made on the Fox farm in recent times include the purchase of a disc planter in order to move to a full zero-till controlled traffic system, a transition to organic-based liquid fertiliser, companion cropping and experiments with chaff lining and cover cropping.

Guy Franklin, Telstra’s General Manager, Innovation Accelerator, was impressed by Daniel’s commitment to applying innovative techniques on-farm and making fantastic progress in improving and future-proofing his farming business. “It is great to see a next generation family member apply new thinking to the way of doing things and this shows a good understanding of innovation,” Guy said. “I applaud Daniel, as I think what he’s doing will be a blueprint for how the land will be managed for sustainable use into the future.”

 

Grains and Cattle and Sheep Showcase – 2018 ARCHIBULL PRIZE ARTWORKS

Over the past week we have showcased our 2018 Archibull Prize artwork entries

  1. Horticulture
  2. Pork and Eggs and Poultry
  3. Wool
  4. Cotton – Primary and Rural and Regional Schools
  5. Cotton – City High Schools

and today we bring you our Grains and Cattle and Sheep Archies

First bull of the truck is lil’ T-Bone from The Lakes College on NSW Central Coast.  

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The Lakes College is a Youth off the Streets alternate school who worked with Young Farming Champion Tim Eyes  The school has done a champion of documenting their Archie journey on their blog. Check it out here 

This is what Team TLC had to say about lil’ T-Bone

Our artwork clearly articulates that ‘The future is in our hands’, the current generation of young Australians. We hope our cow bridges the divide between rural and suburbia, politicians and our generation, as well as the disadvantaged and the advantaged in society.

As a team, we wanted our Archie to have an impact on the entire community by essentially transforming it into a giant moneybox to raise funds for rural grants and community initiatives. However, our cow is more then just a ‘cow bank’. It is a symbolic representation of the divide in the community and a call for action all at once.

Our Archie is not perfect. Neither are we (… no one is!) but, our Archie has heart. It encompasses our individual and unique traits, all we have learnt and reflects our core values. It is also, most importantly, an expression of community. We have had all members of our school working on this from our amazing students, to every single teacher, our incredibility hands on principal, generous volunteers, sister school ‘Mercy College’ and rap artist Losty. This totals over 50 people… that is 50 people we have educated about the current climate in agriculture, that is 50 hearts we have touched and we still have more people to reach.

Furthermore, our cow is able to give back to the rural community and help shape ‘Healthy Communities’ across our country. As a giant ‘cow’ bank (not piggy!) we are hoping to raise money for the Aussie Farmers Foundation by taking our cow out into the community.  Community members can bridge the divide by making a donation and a pledge and placing it inside our cow.

Lil ‘T-bone is also marked to go on convey through rural NSW with Father Chris Riley in November this year. This is the cow that keeps on giving to our rural community. It is our way of recognising the courage farmers have and thanking them for their efforts. Our cow will bring about change, not just in our school but in the whole community.

Next Archie off the truck is ‘GRAIN’ville Bakery from  the students at Granville Boys High School who partnered with Young Farming Champion Dan Fox 

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The GRAIN’ville Bakery of the World represents the importance of grain to all cultures of the world.  In our  Year 8 Einstein class there are over fourteen different cultures represented, the class connected with the topic of grain by investigation pastries from their cultural background.  Our cow is a proud baker using Australian products creating pastries from around the world. His stomach is his oven and his rump are the serving boards

The flags on the spine of our cow represent the countries of our student’s heritage and flows into the tail which has Australian Grown written down it. These represent the importance of Australian grains to feeding the world, and are also a nod to the multiculturalism of the students coming from a variety of backgrounds but are also all Australian. This is why the baker cow has the Australian flag on his hat.

For city students that go to the bakery every day and who love their man’oushe (Lebanese za’atar flatbread) understanding the connection between the grains and their pastries is important.   This is why represented on the legs are four grain, rice, corn, oats and wheat which connects the grains to the bakery. Connecting the country to the city.

Next up we have MacIntyre High School in Northern NSW who partnered with YFC Meg Rice to study the Grains industry and create Daffy.

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Our cow is called Daffy as there is an elderly retired farmer whom frequently visits our school farm to offer help and show cattle and he is a bit of an icon so we thought we’d remind our teacher of him being around by naming the cow Daffy to have some fun!! (bush humour…)

Daffy is from the heart of country kids suffering through a 100 year drought where time and energy are precious resources. Each student  who participated did it in scarce time as we all have been needed on our farms to cart water, feed sheep and cattle and poddying (bottlefeeding) many newborns which are all priority tasks of everyday life that take us from our school work, homework and assessment needs.

One side of Daffy shows the process of growing a crop from seed to harvest going through stages of growth from 3 leaf to 5 leaf to tillering, booting and seedset and the  machinery involved along the way.

The other side of daffy shows the issues facing production and pathway to new improved techniques for sustainability to lead us from the drought and parched land to hope and growth. Her head is pointing to the future where the career paths lay. The  jumble of careers represent the thoughts of our ambitions and possibilities.

On Daffy’s legs are what drives the motions of crop production with basic gear like rubber tyres and tyned implements and press wheels for that ideal soil and seed contact for growth and germination.

Archie no 30 come from Kellyville High School in Western Sydney. The students partnered with YFC Dan Fox to study the Grains industry and create Ceres.

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 She represents the fertility of the earth and was the Roman God of Agriculture. The Greeks called her Demeter. Most cultures have a deity they trust the growing of crops and food to, in Aboriginal culture from NSW the name is Birrahgnooloo, Kamilaroi.

Our cow “Ceres” pays homage to the way mankind has created sculptures over time, that have looked on to help with the harvest.

We recognise the importance of technologies and improvements of the agricultural experts to improve productivity and quality of grains for food and feed.We also recognise the effect of chance and the elements, clean air, water, heat and earth on growing successful yields of crops. 

Pretty impressive aren’t they. Now whilst the art judge ponders her choices its your turn next

Watch this space as next week we will launch the People’s Choice and you can support the schools and pick your favourite Archie

in 2017 the people’s choice blog post was a social media phenomenon. 185,000 people across the globe visited the blog post 65,000 people voted in the poll.

Young Farming Champions Muster September 2018 Week 4

This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country.

In the field

In Marrar, NSW, Grains YFC and fifth generation farmer Daniel Fox is trying something daring this week, sowing chickpeas for the first time. Best of luck, Dan

 

Our resident YFC “Meat Doctor” Steph Fowler is moving into the next phase of her merino genetics trial, with 600 lambs processed and sampled for meat quality traits. Steph says it will be a while yet before the samples are processed but it’s exciting to have all the samples finally collected for the year! Can’t wait to hear these results, Steph.

Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien has kicked off this years hay making season, giving a canola crop the chop in Narromine, NSW. Fingers crossed for a good season ahead!
Keiley hay making

Out of the Field

Wool YFC and Youth Voices Leadership Committee chair Dr Jo Newton has spent the weekend at the Royal Melbourne Show, stewarding for the White Suffolk, Suffolk & South Suffolk Judging. Jo says, “Being a steward is a bit like being a secretary for the judge who is in charge of assessing the animals. At the MelbShow we used a tablet to record the results for each class, make sure owners (& judge) know what animals are needed in the judging ring as well as announcing results on the microphone.” If you’re at the Melbourne show this week make sure you pass by the Sheep Shed and say G’day to Jo!

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“This is a class of Lincoln ewes in the next ring to the one I was looking after. The lambs had a great time frolicking in the ring while their mums where being assessed,” Jo says.

YFC and Green Globe Awards Finalist Anika Molesworth has hit the radio waves again with a great interview on Hit 99.7 Riverina. Anika has been working to make NSW a more eco-friendly place to live, and she joined the show to talk to Claire & Sam about how she feels about being nominated for an Award. Take a listen here

Anika was also featured on the Weekly Times this week, talking about farming in outback NSW,  championing for climate action and her PhD work. This is a lovely insight into a wonderful ag champion. Well done Anika! Read it here

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#YouthVoices18 #YouthinAg #Farmersforclimateaction

The famous Henty Machinery Field Days were on this week and Wool YFC Dione Howard and Rice YFC Erika Heffer were both there. Dione and fellow vets from Riverina and Murray Local Land Services were answering animal health and biosecurity questions over the three days, while Erika was in the Landcare shed.

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It was a busy week in the office for Dione who then headed to the Hay Sheep Sale on Wednesday, where approximately 47,000 sheep were sold. Dione says many properties were selling large numbers of sheep due to the ongoing dry conditions.

Dione and Chloe

Dione ran into fellow YFC Chloe Dutschke at the sale who had travelled from Tupra station, where she has been contracting for the last couple of months. Great pic, ladies!

Cotton YFC Sharna Holman is super keen to be heading to “Go Ahead” Greg Mills‘s extension workshop in Townsville next week, as part of the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network 2018 Roadshow. Greg is a consultant on all things agribusiness extension, was the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2017 Consultant of the Year, and is a great friend of the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program. We have no doubt you’ll have a great day and take home many valuable insights Sharna!

Prime Cuts

Well done to Grains YFC Dee George (front left) who has been touring the Royal Melbourne Show this week in her role as a Victorian Rural Ambassador State Finalist. #YouthinAg #RoyalMelbourneShow

Dee at Melb Show

And congrats to YFCs Sharna Holman and Alexandria Galea #teamcotton who were both recently elected to the Wincott – Women in Cotton committee, Sharna as communications officer and Alexandria as a regional representative for Central Queensland. Check out these great introductions to Sharna and Alexandria on the Wincott facebook page.

Lifetime Highlights

Massive milestone moment right now for University of New England students, Poultry YFC Jasmine Whitten and Wool YFC Emma Turner, who both have their honours seminars today.

Jasmine’s honours is investigating the effect of environmental enrichment on fearfulness of pullets (young layer hens). Emma’s honours studies the implementation of shorter shearing intervals. Huge congratulations for all the hard work and time you’ve both put into reaching these milestones. Enjoy this moment!

Exciting times ahead for Cattle and Sheep YFC and Rabobank graduate Felicity Taylor who has just received a promotion as a Rabobank Rural Officer. Felicity will spent the next two months in the Netherlands working in Rabobank’s Global Food and Agriulture Sector, supporting multinational agribusinesses, as part of her current graduate position before moving back to her hometown of Moree, NSW, to begin her new position. Mega congrats Felicity!

Felicity Taylor

#YouthinAg #YouthVocies18 #ArchieAction

_2018 A4ASponsors_foremail

Meet Sally Beer whose teachers nurtured her passion for agriculture

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

my professional photo

This is Sally’s story ……..

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

photos for YFC

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

mum cam sally dad

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

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

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

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

UW

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Beer

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

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

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

Dr Suess

#youthinag

Emma and Cosi team up to have fun with grains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Fact

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

 

1_ Sarah McDonnell

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

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

Fun Fact

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

 

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Me Presenting 

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

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

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Checking out the Rhino that Cosi Bought Tailem Bend

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

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

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

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

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Selfie with the year 7-11’s from Coomandook

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

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Coz it’s a Bargin!

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

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Playing guess which grain is which food at Birdwood High School

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

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

Check out some of the previous winners here

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Tayla Field’s journey from city girl to hooked on the bush and a career in agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes from Tayla Field who often gets asked “How does a girl from Sydney find herself here?”

This is Tayla’s journey from city girl to hooked on the bush and a career in agriculture

Bug Checking Cotton

Born and raised in Inner West Sydney, my family connections spread from Rockhampton to the South Coast of New South Wales, with no clear rural connections. Similar to most young children I went through all the phases of potential career choices while growing up, with being a teacher, vet and policewoman crossing my mind.

Tayla Field

However during school I gained an interest in environmental issues locally, where I saw the opportunity to work in areas of sustainability and environmental management when looking into potential university courses.

Commencing study at the University of Sydney in a Bachelor of Environmental Systems, I had the opportunity to mix and converse with students from an Agricultural background, along with teachers, farmers and industry professionals.

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The idea of an established, changing and exciting food and fibre industry career was put forward  and now realised a career in Australian Agriculture and Horticultural industries was now an exciting and very real option for me

As I was so very excited to start my second year in Agricultural Science, the end of my first year at uni saw me hassling some very helpful members of the faculty to facilitate a course transfer,  Since transferring I have not looked back and have somehow had the the environment comes first knocked out of me by fellow students, leading to a dual interest in sustainable food an fibre production systems working side by side with getting the best outcomes for our planet.

My experience so far has been a diverse tasting plate of livestock, cropping and agronomy, all of which have interesting areas but come with their own challenges.

Walking Heifer

Working in cattle and sheep yards and leading a heifer for the first time are all experiences with livestock that have been challenging for me, but with the experience comes confidence, control and respect for the animals that you are working with.

I enjoy the livestock side of things, however I am majoring in agronomy in the coming year and have gained a lot from spending some time, with mainly cotton agronomists in the Riverina. I have visited the area at different times of the season and have gained a strong interest in the management of cotton, while recently spending time looking at some wheat and barley production in the winter. I can’t wait to get back out there in late November.

Garlic Trials

These are all first time experiences that have only taken place since beginning the course in 2013, and I can only think of how great it would have been to learn this when I was younger or have more contact with agriculture.I see an exciting future for me ahead in an industry where every day is a new learning experience

“How did you end up here?”

The answer is

” I have discovered agriculture is an exciting forward thinking career  and I am Hooked!”.

I am hooked on the innovation and technology, the wonderful people I meet and a career in an industry that underpins a bright and sustainable future for Australia .

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After all would you agree an office like this – could it get any better

Meet Nick Eyres who believes if you want it bad enough the road to a career in agriculture will pave itself

Today’s guest blog comes from WA Sandgropper Nick Eyres

This is Nick’s story………

Never having written a blog, I don’t really know where to start, but hey, I’m Nick Eyres and I’m attempting to complete my undergraduate BSc in Agricultural Science at University of Western Australia. The hardest question I have to answer any time I meet a new person, is “where are you from?” I s’pose it’s no different when writing a blog?

Anyway I’ll get there. Most of my life has been pretty cruisy I guess, being the youngest of 3 boys (and the tallest) I have always had older brothers looking out for me, they made sure I took all the blame for the drama we got up to when we were kids. Of course, I was always around to beat up when they wanted some quick entertainment. I didn’t understand that game. Naturally, they were bigger then me so I didn’t put up much of a fight until one day, when after they swapped with me all my $2 coins for their 50c coins (they are bigger after all) I told them that “one day I’ll be bigger than you.” Whilst that dream came true but I never got to collect on their debts. Anyway, growing up in Tambellup, like any rural place, family is a big deal so we’ve always been close.

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Steve and me (centered) with some cousins having some quality chook time in Tambellup

Eventually, in 2000, we moved to Geraldton, where we farmed in Eradu, following dad’s dream of getting rid of the sheep. But soon we found ourselves in Watheroo putting a crop in, in 2004. This was a ripper farm. I was asked years ago which of our farms was the best, this one came with an Emu called Hector.

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Me and Steve picking malee roots in Geraldton

It is pretty awesome looking back on being a kid and being thrown into a new environment all the time, even though sometimes it is hard not knowing anyone, it teaches you at least a couple of things. I went to 6 different primary schools by the time I had finished year 6, at which point we had to move to Perth when dad got diagnosed with the big C, just after the first crop in Watheroo was in the ground. 2004 was a bumper year, one of the best the region had seen in a number of years, but for us it was a different story. My older brothers (Steve and Tom) were both off at boarding school in Perth, so there were many trips for me to the city to await more news from the doctors, and for dad to get his treatment. It was July when he was first diagnosed, and he passed away in December that year. This was a pretty average time for us all, but the amazing thing about it was that we still had a crop that was being harvested. Family and friends called in from all around the state to help us get that crop off, and that’s a pretty incredible thought.

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While it’s a pretty sombre thing to share, I reckon it’s the only way I can outline my love for not only agriculture, but the community that comes in the deal. This is exactly why I am passionate about being involved with the industry, and keeping these communities together.

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At the gate of Acacia, our last property in Watheroo

Since 2004 I have lived in Perth, with my mum and my brothers until slowly, one by one, we all left home as soon as we could. I finished school in 2010 unsure of what to do, and after working as a labourer for a year, I tried a semester of engineering at UWA to find that it is in fact exactly what I don’t want to do (apparently a common scenario). After discovering that your career should be whatever you enjoy, I started Ag Science and haven’t looked back. I have definitely taken advantage of the student lifestyle too, rediscovering my passion for sport, getting involved with rowing (which I had forgotten about since I finished school) at UWA. I started to train and compete in a High Performance program that took me to the national championships for the last two years, in my bid to make an Australian team.

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2013 UWABC mens 8+ winning the state sprint champs

While thus far I have been unsuccessful, it has ignited in me a passion for the sport, and for fitness and a lifestyle that is based around being healthy and active. The satisfaction you get from racing well is something that is bloody addictive, and leaves you hungry for more success. I love the training, the people and the sleeping when you are competing, but the best thing is definitely the food – as much as my heart desires. Yeah, this sport is a little bit of a contrast to the lectures in my undergraduate, but that’s why I think (not my boss when I am asleep in my lunch break) that the two work so well together, and why one has complemented the other so well.

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Definitely not a lecture theatre. Me (left) and Sam (in blue) racing the U23 men’s pair in NSW earlier this year.

There are a few things that interest me, with regards to agronomy really. I suppose it could go either way, but while I think there is more clarity in the science behind crops, animal nutrition is a huge frontier for growth. However, having started with a double major in Ag and Chemistry, soil chemistry does tickle my fancy,  but who knows? I do think with the massively expanding technology base being used in Ag systems, there is a huge potential in precision farming in the future.

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Mika teaching me the ins and outs of the sheep yards

Finishing 3rd year now, and another year working as a researcher’s assistant at AHRI (Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative) based out of UWA. My days are spent counting seeds in a lab and looking after pot experiments – if I’m not in a lecture – to keep the bread on the table (well, to be honest the bread in our household is free thanks to the art of dumpster diving), but this is all between training and looking after my new kelpie puppy Mika. Keeping a sheep dog occupied when it’s on permanent holiday isn’t hard when all your lecturers love having a dog listen in on the content of the lecture.

Long Road will pave itself

None the less I guess I’m starting to think about work opportunities now and what the next step of my life will hold, but really, who knows these days.

Perhaps I can fly drones for a living.

So long as what I choose is a passion, the road will pave itself, right?