Young people in agriculture – watershed moments to expand their field of influence.

The Young Sustainability Ambassadors program is a new partnership between the team behind Art4Agriculture and Intrepid Landcare.

The program has been inspired by the success of the Young Farming Champions program and we believe a watershed moment for agriculture. Young people in agriculture reaching out to young people in the community with a burning desire to to be part of a movement that takes action to co-create the bright future we all deserve

The end goal of this partnership is to create a network of global communicators who have the skills and confidence to be the face of their hopes, their community, their organisation, their industry and share their story and their vision for the future with young people in schools and their peers right across the globe

With the launch of the Young Sustainability Ambassadors website we would love you to meet another of the programs ambassadors and hear her story

Meet Erin Lake

Megan and Erin (11)

I was always a bit of a shy and nervous person growing up, except around my family and friends who know me for being able to recite relatable movie lines from Ace Ventura at the most perfect of moments. But when it comes to public speaking I usually get that empty feeling at the bottom of my stomach. A sudden flush to the head that jumbles my words, and a tendency to blurt my speech out so fast to get it over with without even realising. Do you relate? The majority of people do, with lots of people in Australia (and the world) suffering from  glossophobia (fear of public speaking).

It is quite a challenge because I really like to analyse situations; sort ideas (being both a splitter and a lumper); develop tables and charts to present complex ideas in a way that can be instantly understood by someone who knows little of the content; and design beautiful reports and presentations to capture people’s imaginations and help them to visualise, understand and decide how they feel about a topic. Usually that topic is the intriguing and brilliant ecology of Australia’s animals and plants and the systems we use (or could use) to improve their survival.

The combination of written and oral communication to share ideas is a highly powerful tool. And I think each needs its own focus and practice as you develop in your career (and as a human). Communicating the value of an idea successfully to a global audience is not something that many appear to do well or at all. Thinking of who does well – obviously (sadly) Donald Trump, (more optimistically) David Attenborough and (incredibly) the #Kardashians.

I learnt very early that attention on a global stage (or pretty much any type of stage) was absolutely not what I wanted in life. But the ability to communicate on a global stage was something that on my journey, I realised would be a very important thing if our wildlife and environment was to be protected and valued the way I think it deserves. Slight dilemma.

I’m pretty happy with where I found the balance. I am now part of a small team who advise Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner, appointed by the Minister for the Environment to bring a new focus to conservation efforts and help address the growing number of flora and fauna in Australia facing extinction. One of the key objectives of his position is to raise awareness in the broader community about the importance of protecting our threatened animals and plants. The Commissioner reaches out to audiences across Australia, and globally, to rally behind our unique, diverse and beautiful wildlife to save them from #extinction.

There are many ways to communicate globally, and being part of a team that communicates to the world about #SavingSpecies like numbats, helmeted honeyeaters and matchstick banksias is a very rewarding and effective way to encourage people to stand up for our wildlife. Preparing presentations, developing policy and sharing information through social media are some of my daily tasks.

Being involved in the Art4Agriculture program absolutely helped me to realise that my message and my values were worth communicating on a global stage. And it helped me to professionally and sincerely present ideas that help inspire people to care about what I care about. Being supported by a suite of talented experts like the beautiful Anne Burbook (program facilitator and communications trainer specialist) nurtured my confidence to help me find my voice and a reason for using it loudly.

I don’t aspire to be a leader, but to have leadership skills.  I want to be able to help others to learn, understand and develop in ways that make them happy and make the choices that they feel are the right choices. I don’t want to tell people how they should be living, or what they should be eating. I want them to have the knowledge to be able to choose for themselves, and the information to be able to understand why.

Just by knowing what is out there can shape your decisions for study, experience and engagement and direct you in a trajectory where your passion can become part of your career. Even if it’s a bit behind the scenes.


Young Farming Champions announced as finalists in NSW/ACT Young Achievers Awards

Today’s post is a big shoutout to Young Farming Champions Anika Molesworth and Josh Gilbert who have BOTH recently been announced as finalists in the Environment and Sustainability category of the NSW/ACT Young Achievers Awards. 


The Environment & Sustainability Award recognises young people that have demonstrated environmental leadership or a significant contribution to a sustainable New South Wales and the ACT. The award celebrates young people who have demonstrated initiatives in the efficient use of water, resources and energy, better waste management and recycling practices, the enhancement of the environment and effective, practical community action.   These young people will stimulate ideas about sustainability and the environment in their community, sharing solutions and identifying strategies for change in the future.

We are very proud of Josh and Anika and all the Young Farming Champions who are showing true moral courage to lead a movement to inspire other young people to do what inspires them

They all have a crystal clear vision of the bright future they see for agriculture. They are all champions in their own right but know their vision can only be achieved if they do it selflessly together.

_dsc8652  Young Farming Champions leading a movement to inspire other young people to do what inspires them

Young people driving change

The Picture You in Agriculture team has paired up with Intrepid Landcare to roll our the school’s based program Kreative Koalas (website a work in progress). This exciting new partnership  will allow our Young Farming Champions to broaden their networks and influence through a partnership with Young Sustainability Ambassadors ( website to be launched this week)

Today’s guest blog comes from Megan Rowlatt the CEO of Intrepid Landcare who has a long association with the Young Farming Champions program


A state and national award winner, Megan continues to communicate on a global scale through her creative blogging, writing resources and articles for numerous organisations and publications on youth leadership, nature and conservation, and through personal one-on-one mentorship roles with young people across the world. And while she’s constantly on the road creating change in communities all over Australia, it’s not unusual to see her hiking through our rich and diverse Australian bush, swimming in a secret water hole, or getting her hands dirty pulling weeds and planting trees on an epic Intrepid Landcare adventure with a tribe of other like-minded young people.


This is Megan’s story …….


Speaking to crowd-filled rooms, hundreds of people deep about my passion for the environment, the future of the planet, and how young people play a pivotal role in sustainability on a global scale, was something I never would have dreamed possible a few years ago. But today, this is my world.

I work in the environmental conservation space, co-founder of a national organisation in Australia called Intrepid Landcare [link insert:]. We focus on leadership development in young people who have a passion for the environment. It’s my life’s work, my passion, and my purpose.


Intrepid Landcare  Board 

The Intrepid Landcare team  design and deliver leadership programs which inspire and build the capacity of young people to step out into the community and drive change from the grassroots level. It’s environmental conservation meets outdoor adventure, adventure meets purpose, and it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.


A late bloomer to the leadership space, my path has been quite a gentle meandering through little trip ups and hidden lessons, I had no idea I was as passionate about the environment as what I am, or what role I wanted to play in the world, or that I was even capable of the things that I am today. But my connection to nature and deep sense of responsibility to look after it, entwined with a series of serendipitous travel and volunteer experiences has guided me to where I am today.


A connection to nature and deep sense of responsibility to look after it, entwined with a series of serendipitous travel and volunteer experiences has Megan to where she is today.

As a support officer working with people in the Landcare movement who genuinely care about the land, in 2008 I had landed my dream job. But I soon noticed a gaping hole where young people just did not exist in the movement, and took on creating opportunities in my own community. The rest, is history.


Megan’s love affair with nature 

It wasn’t until I recognised I was actually a changemaker and started investing in myself [link insert:], that I started to gain real momentum in my impact. And one of those investments was the ‘Art4Agriculture Young Eco Champions’ program. This program really gave me the communication skills and confidence I needed to craft my vision and message for the future. It played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development and I have since gone on to speak at regional, state and national conferences on natural resource management, youth leadership, and conservation. I’ve appeared on local, state and national radio and television programs, been keynote speaker at environmental film festivals, facilitated countless forums and events, and my work in this space has even taken me to Bhutan to join a team of global changemakers discovering different models of sustainable development.


Megan in Bhutan 

All of what I step into aims to raise the bar on the way we speak about sustainability in Australia and on a global scale, and at the forefront of this conversation is young people and the role they play in future of our planet. So it has been critical for me to get the skills down, to be able to communicate in a way that resonates with the diverse audiences I want to reach .

Thank you Megan for sharing your story.  As you can imagine we are looking forward to working with this exciting and inspiring young woman and her tribe of changemakers


Meet Caitlin Heppner who lives and breathes the shearing sheds of Australia.

Continuing our series on young women in wool meet Caitlin Hepper our Australia Day guest blogger


‘The hum of the motors rouse me

As I feel the shed erupt,

For 7am has come around

And we know that we have found

The place where we belong’       


Verse 1: I Belong Here (Caitlin Heppner, 2014)

 Being Barossa born and bred I grew up surrounded by viticulture and it wasn’t until I was 10 that I discovered sheep and wool, when I met the Australian Shearing and Wool Handling Team at Portree Station. Up until that day I had never set foot into an operational shearing shed, and little did I know how much I would fall in love with it. Shannon Warnest, Jason Wingfield and John Dalla were the shearers and Mel Morris and Debbie Chandler were the wool handlers. I remember sitting on the catching pen rails, watching everyone, totally engrossed in the atmosphere until I couldn’t see anything…. Jason had thrown a fleece over me and the feel of the wool and the pungent aroma of the lanolin felt like home. In that moment I knew my life would revolve around the wool industry. So at 10 years of age I began working as a rouseabout in local sheds. At 14 I learnt to shear and was competing in shearing and wool handling competitions and at 18 I fulfilled my dream and became a registered Australian Wool Classer.


But of course, my story is a lot more than that. I went to Nuriootpa High with a passion for agriculture and technology. I was introduced to showing cattle, both at school and through a Santa Gertrudis stud, and attended country shows, the SA Junior Heifer Expo and the Royal Adelaide Show. At these shows I also entered handlers and junior judging competitions. As a handler I have placed in every competition I entered (bar one), winning champion 3 times and  winning the beef cattle junior judging at the Melrose Show in 2014 and Reserve Champion at Crystal Brook in 2016. Showing cattle can be glamorous however most people forget the extremely early starts and wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of prime cow manure removed every day!


As much as I enjoy cattle, it is sheep directing my career. I completed my secondary schooling in 2016 through a full-time school based traineeship in Cert IV Wool Classing; working with a shearing contractor in outback SA and NSW. I worked as a wool handler under a Master Classer.

By June I had completed my senior shed and in July I gained my wool classing stencil. Leaving home at the beginning of last year was a massive step but choosing to complete my secondary education the way I did was the best decision I ever made. I not only got a head start in my career but I made many industry contacts and got the chance to live and work in some amazing parts the country.

Soon after receiving my AW stencil I decided to give fleece judging a try. Never did I imagine I would come out as the 2016 State Champion Merino Fleece Junior Judge! I can certainly say I feel at home working with wool, and I hope I have the same amount of success when I head to the National Finals later this year.


I’ve always enjoyed helping and teaching people. I loved being a mentor for my school’s steer and merino teams and in 2014 I was awarded the Australian Defence Force Long Tan Award for leadership and teamwork. In 2015 I was SA’s inaugural representative at Country to Canberra, an initiative that focuses on gender inequality and empowering young rural women.  While I was in Canberra, I met an amazing group of girls, all who were extremely passionate about gender equality. Their interests ranged from STEM (Science, Technology, English and Maths) Fields, through to Rural Mental Health and Feminism. Together, we learnt how to deal with gender stereotypes and just how powerful women can be!


Canberra gave me a chance to be a youth voice for our farmers and the agricultural issues they face daily.

As a consequence of Country to Canberra I am in the planning stages of an advocacy campaign called Farmers Not Forgotten, which will aim to raise awareness of agricultural issues with the community and Canberra politicians.

I am only 18 years old but I know my future lies with wool. I hope to continue as a wool classer, run my own merino stud (and maybe a brahman herd to keep up my cattle skills!), encourage more youth into agriculture, and to bridge the gap between the producer and the consumer. As the title of my poem says: “I belong here.”


The place where where I belong       


Meet Sam Wan – who was destined to work with sheep and has come a long way since she met her first lamb

sam-wan-1Mill owner’s daughter. Foreign exchange student. Victim to the lamb-is-a-poodle scam. These are my favourite and most amusing cases of mistaken identity.

Hi there, I’m Samantha Wan and I’m a Technical Officer and Auctioneer for Elders Wool, based at the National Wool Selling Centre, Melbourne. I haven’t always been a passionate advocate for the wool industry and agriculture but I am where I am today because I’ve been shaped by the experiences and people met on the way.


Sheepvention (Hamilton, 2016)

I’m a first generation Australian-born Chinese. My Mum is from Hong Kong with Macanese heritage and Dad is Chinese Malaysian. I’m the eldest of 2 and from the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, 35kms west of the Sydney CBD. Looking back, I didn’t know what lamb tasted like until I was around 10 and I have a not so fond memory of Dad putting it into a herbal Chinese soup. I’d always thought corned beef came from a can – and I only knew it in a congee (rice porridge).The closest thing I had to seeing agriculture in action was Fairfield City Farm, more a petting zoo that showed me how to milk a cow and feed chickens.


A go at shearing (Yass, 2010)

A career in agriculture never seemed an option so I continued on my merry way expecting to be something (anything) in the Information Technology race.  That wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to Agriculture while it was being offered at school. A great teacher, keen classmates and a mixed bunch of black Corriedales opened up the world of ag shows, sheep classes and junior judging. Even though I was quietly sure this was the start of something bigger, my family weren’t sure what to make of the pieces of satin I hung so proudly and if the fun and enjoyment would ever amount to anything.

Wool broker doesn’t quite make the top three careers your Chinese child should be (see; doctor, lawyer and accountant) so it’s a good thing my parents didn’t fall too hard into stereotypes. After all, my first car would have been my grandma’s old Corolla hatchback instead of a Commodore ute and I’d say it takes a bit of willpower to let your firstborn journey off to places like Yass, Hay, Dubbo, Molong and Warren after you have only had them pointed out on a map.


Mustering (Warren, 2009)

As was expected, I went to university. The University of Sydney for Science in Agriculture. I also did cross-institutional Wool units with The University of New England. There was more than a bit of alarm when I decided to take a break for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at Richmond TAFE. It was different to say the least and I relished the opportunity for a more hands on go at animal husbandry, including halter breaking in steers. I did eventually go back to complete my Honours with a project on “Vitamin B12 Response Trial in Merino Ewes Incorporating Iodine Supplementation Pre-lambing”.

Through my Wool units at UNE, I was accepted into a short term student research position with The Australian Wool Testing Authority in Melbourne “The Measurement of Colour on New Zealand Wool using NIR.” The industrial training gave me a huge insight into the processes and innovation associated with wool testing.


Research in progress (AWTA)

To date, I’ve been with Elders for 4 years and 8 months. Each day has something a bit different to deal with – putting AWEX ID’s on wools from across the country, seeing the wool in the shearing shed and now as samples in boxes on the showfloor, analysing and valuing clips, lotting wools for sale, discussing markets with clients and keeping an eye on the dollar. The challenge of assisting with benchmarking events such as Ovens Valley Wether Trial, Gippsland Sheep Breeders Wether Trial and the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial through data calibration, wool valuing and AWEX-ID’ing wools also adds another dimension to the work.


East Gippsland Field Days valuing for the Gippsland Sheep Breeders Association wether trial (2014)

Volunteering as a sheep steward while studying allowed me to network, seek out opportunities and be on the front line of hearing what judges discussed and favored. Now working in the industry, the advantages are still the same but with a stronger sense of being part of the chain.
Agriculture has allowed me to see truly stunning areas of Australia, add to my experiences and meet amazing people, most of whom I still list as my mentors today. I get to tell the best stories to bewildered aunties and uncles while my sister envies how soft lanolin makes my hands. I love how dynamic the industry is. The limitless recounts of individual perceptions, about how the industry used to be, how many generations have been farming the same land and hearing them come to life rather than just reading it from a book.  It has taught me life skills as well – ones that are second nature for some but are hard work for me. Observation, sense of direction and distance, using landmarks, logic and problem solving all can be tied into more than just a few stories of my own!


Shearing calls (Omeo, 2014)

The teachers and mentors in my life didn’t just give a suburban kid a glimpse of a world outside the city. They enriched my life. From them I drew direction into an incredibly rewarding, constantly evolving industry. If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them.

Note from the Editor

Its is obvious Sam Wan was born to tell stories and we all know how powerful stories can be. They can make you fall in love, they can be an antidote to bias, they can heal rifts, they can be an antidote for bias and a catalyst for change.

Sam didn’t include this adorable little pix  in her blog post but I spotted it on Facebook and just had to share it





Expressions of interest are open for Cotton Young Farming Champions

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) is calling for expressions of interest from young people in agriculture to apply for a place as a cotton Young Farming Champion in the 2017 Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program.

Art4Agriculture and CRDC are recruiting Young Farming Champions who:

  • Are passionate about the Australian Cotton industry;
  • Want to share stories with urban Australians to improve understanding of sustainable food and fibre production, and in turn improve their own understanding of urban consumers;
  • Are interested in being trained to speak confidently and charismatically to school students, the public and peers;
  • Want to become part of a network of vibrant, young rural people who are encouraging consumers to value, be proud of and support the Australian farmers who feed and clothe them.
  • Are aged between 19 and 35 years


“This first year of the YFC program was a fantastic experience. The workshops really make you think broader. I feel more confident in presenting myself and speaking to people with less scientific backgrounds about my role in the cotton industry. From presenting, speaking and developing your personal brand, to being able to take your message and translate it into one anyone can understand is so important. It allows me to engage with consumers and helps both in my role as an extension officer and when advocating my love of cotton and the broader agricultural industry.” Sharna Holman 2016 Cotton Young Farming Champion 


The Young Farming Champions (YFC) are identified youth ambassadors and future influencers working within the agriculture sector. The YFC promote positive images and perceptions of farming and engage in activities and innovative programs under the Art4Agriculture banner, such as The Archibull Prize. The YFC demonstrate passion for their industry, while providing real life examples to young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Because they are young they can relate to students and are adept at breaking down stereotypes of farming and agricultural careers.

Taking part in the YFC program involves undertaking two mandatory weekend Sydney based workshops, under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts.

The program’s focus is developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.

The program equips and prepares the participants for that often very daunting experience of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The YFC leadership development model is providing the rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.

Through these workshops and the program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the YFC are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends.

Being a YFC also comes with the opportunity to be part of The Archibull Prize, one of Australia’s most exciting school programs connecting agriculture and students. The YFC take their own agricultural stories into the classroom and mentor students and staff as they complete their Archibull research.

For further information on the program and to hear from other Young Farming Champions you can access the 2016 Young Farming Champions Report here 

Please note

To qualify for the program applicants must be actively involved in the Australian Cotton Industry

If you believe you have the potential to be the face of the Australian cotton industry in schools CRDC would like to invite you to submit your Expression of Interest to be a 2017 Cotton Young Farming Champion by 10th February 2017

Contact Lynne Strong for EOI requirements.


M: 0407 740 446



Meet the new generation of Plant Doctors – Part One



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 Champions are showing there is more to agronomy – and agriculture – than first meets the eye.

Coming together under Art4Agriculture’s innovative Young Farming Champions program, agronomists James Kanaley, Emma Ayliffe and Liz Lobsley are exploring the similarities and differences in their chosen careers. All have contrasting backgrounds – James is a fifth generation farmer, Emma grew up on remote pastoral stations and Liz is a self-confessed townie – and all work in diverse regions of Australia, but they have all studied at university, are bonded by the common crop of cotton and a desire to encourage the next generation of agronomists.

It is autumn and white fields of fluffy cotton await picking around Moree in northern New South Wales. James is waiting too. “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 (and fibre) bowl,” he says. “I 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 crops in.”


James is far from the family farm at Illabo in southern NSW and his journey to consulting agronomist, overseeing a range of crops including canola, barley and mung beans, has exposed him to agricultural operations across the globe. He has seen farming in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and followed the harvest through sun and snow from Texas to the Canadian border in the USA. “It was great to learn about other styles of farming but I think my trips highlighted just how adoptive, adaptive, innovative and resilient Australian farmers are,” he says. “I love working as an agronomist and working hard to produce as much as possible from every millimetre of rain that falls or every megalitre of water that is siphoned down a field during irrigation.”

The use of water for cotton irrigation is magnified in Emma’s job with Tandou Limited who launched a visionary and ambitious plan to irrigate the outback in the 1980s, and where now, in good seasons, cotton is grown on lakebeds near Menindee in western NSW. “Tandou is an amazing place to see for the first time,” Emma says. “I remember driving out 140km from Broken Hill for my interview and rounding a bend over a red sand hill to be greeted with fields of green.”


Working here as an on-farm agronomist represents the perfect combination of career and outback for Emma whose love of open spaces was spawned growing up on station country in north-west South Australia. “My job includes everything from rotation and fertiliser programs, irrigation scheduling, insect and weed management, through to driving tractors, loading seed trucks, fixing breakdowns and taking people on farm tours,” she says. However as with all farming operations climate and rainfall make the ultimate decisions and in a dry year, such as 2016, lakebed farming has been suspended and Emma has been transferred to company farms at Hay to continue cotton production.

Cotton also plays a major factor in the life of Liz who took a circuitous route to agronomy on the Darling Downs around Dalby in Queensland. “I originally thought of agriculture as dirty and, to be honest, boring,” she admits and her first university degree, and subsequent career, was in accounting. However, an interest in agriculture ignited in high school led her back to university and agronomy. “Now when I think about agriculture I think about people, innovation, passion and commitment, and within agriculture you are so much more than what your title defines. As an agronomist, on a daily basis, I assist growers makes decisions about how to nurture their crops and produce the best yields while keeping production costs low, keeping the level of chemicals used to a minimum and being friendly to the environment.”


Liz also finds her background in accounting helps her to perform business analysis and management, something she enjoys as much as partaking in an end-of-day beverage on a farmer’s verandah, building relationships in which she feels she has gained surrogate families. “Agriculture is an essential part of the economy but I also think it is an important part of our society’s way of life. We are blessed to have an agricultural industry with all if offers and it is time for a revival of sorts. It is time for everyone to peel back the layers and take a serious look at agriculture. It is not just a career choice, it is a lifestyle choice and it offers a wonderful way of life.”

James, Emma and Liz credit the Young Farming Champions program for giving them the skills to engage with the community and take on roles of responsibility within their industry. For instance James is now on the NSW Young Farmers Council. “I have got to the stage in my career where I have experience up my sleeve and some valuable knowledge. I want to help young people in agriculture to get their voices, views and opinions out there,” he says. Likewise Emma has worked with school children as part of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association, and Liz is the Next Gen coordinator for the Australian Cotton Conference.

Blending their differences and similarities has also seen the three young agronomists create a Facebook page called ‘Agros – Tales from the field’ where interested people can follow not only the life cycle of cotton but of other crops such as quinoa, sunflowers and legumes. James, Emma and Liz add comments and photos as they explain agronomy in their corner of the country – offering insights into planting, pest and weed control, weather conditions, harvest and yields, to name but a few.

However perhaps the most important part of the Facebook page, as it is in their careers, is the showcasing of the everyday life of an agronomist, encouraging questions and commentary. James, Emma and Liz are showing there really is more to agronomy – and agriculture – than first meets the eye.

Reprinted from Leading Agriculture Issue 18