Erika Heffer from Ricegrowers joins the Young Farming Champions team

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A new collaboration to promote Australian agriculture has been made with the announcement that Art4Agriculture and the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) will partner in 2018.

Art4Agriculture has long been recognised for its delivery of community events such as The Archibull Prize and its training of young people with the Young Farming Champions program. Art4Agriculture works with a range of supporters and is proud to add RGA to that list and to spread the rice industry’s story across a greater audience.

“RGA is excited to support the Young Farming Champions program with RGA’s Erika Heffer from Deniliquin representing the rice industry,” RGA executive director Graeme Kruger said. “RGA understands the importance of developing the skills of our young people. The rice industry is pleased be able to share the story of rice with the wider community through our Young Farming Champion Erika.”

The Young Farming Champions program identifies youth ambassadors and future leaders and provides them with the training and skills to thrive in the modern world of agricultural advocacy. As part of the program Erika will attend workshops in Sydney under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts. She will then have the opportunity to take her story into schools with The Archibull Prize.

“As part of the Young Farming Champions program I expect to meet like-minded young people who love agriculture and to learn alongside them about all things ambassadorship, communication and connection,” Erika said. “I am looking forward to attending workshops and undertaking professional development to prepare me to confidently share my rice story and be a young face of agriculture in my community.”

Erika sees the rice industry as an innovative and evolving one and is keen to share the good news story.

“Our Australian rice growers use 50% less water to grow one kilogram of rice than the world average.  The industry is continually improving our rice varieties to ensure we grow more crop per drop. In Australia, rice production can be switched on or off depending on the water availability, which makes it perfectly suited to our variable climate,” she said.

Welcome Erika we are all looking forward to partnering with you to inspire pride in Australian agriculture and a new generation of  agriculturalists .

Read Erika’s story here

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Meet Erika Heffer who has taken a 900km career journey to do what she loves in the Riverina Rice Fields

We have invited some exciting young actionists in the agriculture and sustainability sector  to share their journey and what drives them. One thing you will notice along the way is the power of industry graduate programs to attract urban Australia’s best and brightest young people

First cab of the rank is Erika Heffer from the Rice Industry

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Hi my name is Erika Heffer and I work in the Rice Industry. I went to primary school in Morisset (45kms south of Newcastle), high school in Gundagai (525kms south west of Newcastle), university in Wagga Wagga (610kms south west of Newcastle) and am now working in Deniliquin (860kms south west of Newcastle).

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Erika Heffer a 900km career journey to the Riverina Rice Fields 

Let’s just say if I stay on this trajectory, I’m going to end up on a boat in the Great Australian Bight.

So why have I kept on moving west? And why am I not fazed that I’m not back living 30km from the beach? I’m not from a farming background but I began dreaming about living in the country and working with farmers during my early teens. By the end of high school I had one goal; I wanted to work in Agricultural extension. I loved both my Agriculture and English subjects and I really wanted to use my interests and gifts in my future job.

During my Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree I took every opportunity of agriculture related work that I could; work experience on a Boer goat stud in Gunnedah, in a Pleasant Hills shearing shed, and five different ag-related casual jobs later I had some experience under my belt and was raring to go.

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After graduating from Charles Sturt University in Wagga, I took a leap and applied for the Rice Industry graduate program. When I was successful I moved out west to Deniliquin to undertake placements with six different organisations in the rice industry, focusing particularly on research and extension.

These placements allowed me to get out into some rice crops, learn about rice agronomy, create contacts with key people in the industry and connect with the farming community in the Murray valley. I also got married in November 2015, and my husband Ryan moved to Deniliquin when he finished his Science and Teaching degrees.

To gain confidence to be as effective as I possibly can in my career journey I have put my hand up put my hand up for the training and professional development roles.  In 2015 I completed my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Previously I had very little prior experience in facilitating groups of adults and I wanted to understand the best way to engage people from all walks of life. What I learnt from the course has helped me to better run informative events for farmers and facilitate their learning. In 2016 I attended the Planning with Communities: Facilitation and Conflict Resolution Training, which really opened my eyes to how important it is to allow community members to drive their own projects and therefore have ownership of the projects. Since the training I have been spending more time actively listening to the farmers and community members I work with, and they have come up with some really great ideas that suit them down to a tee. I wouldn’t have realised my dream of working in Agricultural extension if I hadn’t searched for learning opportunities and spent time developing my skills. I now feel confident walking into a paddock of farmers and seeing a great event unfold.  

Now I am a Landcare Coordinator and Community Support Officer hosted by the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia. To date, I’ve been working in the Rice Industry for 2 years and 3 months and I have loved every season.

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Grinning from ear to ear on my last day as a Rice Industry Graduate and beginning my new role with the Rice Grower’s Association of Australia with my new boss Neil Bull (RGA environmental manager Neil Bull

While the farmers are busy growing their annual Rice crops in the summer months we are running agronomy events, applying for projects and planning business management events for the winter.

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Rice Extension Innovators Workshop Finley 2017

In my role I have been able to support farming and community groups to run projects for women in agriculture, livestock producers and irrigation farmers.  It is a huge privilege to support growers in developing their knowledge and skills to adopt the most environmentally friendly and productive practices they can.

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Rice Industry Field Fay, Old Coree 2017

Learning about improving farming practices and discovering ways to teach and encourage others about agriculture has been my passion ever since high school and now I’m able to call it a career! We may not have the beach in the Murray Valley but we sure do have big skies, beautiful sunsets and some of the very best farmers.

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