Jason Smith Young Farmer of the Year shows you dont have to own the land to farm the land

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Two members of the Art4Agriculture team were recently acknowledged for their contribution to the agriculture sector at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards. Young Farming Champion Daniel Fox was runner up in the Young Farmer of the Year at the awards held at Parliament House in Canberra on 16th August. Greg Mills one of our Young Farming Champions communications experts and trainer won the Rural Consultant of the Year

Attending the awards our National Program Director was very impressed with how each of the winners shared their story

The winner of the 2017 Young Farmer of the Year is Jason Smith a dairy farmer from south-west Victoria. Jason is a great example of the modern ethos that ‘you don’t have to own the land to farm the land” and has successfully used the equity partnerships model to build his dairy business

Jason is a fifth-generation dairy farmer who, after the sale of the family farm, ventured out independently and today leases land in south west Victoria, running 300 stud Jersey and Illawarra cattle along with 200 young stock.

His passion and commitment to the industry is evident through his drive to succeed, furthering his leadership skills through education and leadership courses, and supporting the local community.

“Dairy farming is in my blood,” Jason said. “It was always what I saw myself doing.”

“Our family farm was sold when I was quite young. Venturing out on my own was a big risk and was going to be hard work, but I knew I needed to do it to achieve my goals. I had to make the decision, amidst severe drought, to leave the area I knew so well to farm further south, but it was the best move I could have made.”

“The Australian dairy industry has experienced some really tough times in the last few years, with the milk-price crisis and drought. Like so many others, I am dealing daily with those issues, but I am focused on working my way out of this challenging period.”

Jason is committed to his dairy business and on his leased property, is currently co-ordinating the clearing of 200 hectares of former blue gum plantations to reclaim the area for his dairy herd.

“My intention is to grow the herd to 600 cows within four years,” Jason said. “I have plans for a new dairy and to build an underpass to access the farms on the other side of the road, along with some other major infrastructure changes to ensure the farms growth.”

“I also have a goal to move from a lease arrangement to an equity partnership with the owner of the property I am leasing.”

Jason has shown a commitment to leadership within the industry, completing a Certificate 3 and 4 in Agriculture and engaging in a range of courses including the Woolworths Rural Leaders Course, Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program and Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program.

Norm Stone, Jason’s former TAFE lecturer, believes it is Jason’s dedication and determination which has seen him achieve his goals.

“Jason is a true ambassador for the dairy industry,” Mr Stone said. “He has a real love for his stock and embodies the commitment required to run a good modern herd, including investing the time and effort into a strong breeding program.”

The 2017 Young Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by global leader in agricultural equipment, Case IH.

Case IH Brand Leader, Bruce Healy, commended Jason on his achievements and his ability to build a successful farming business from scratch.

“It is young farmers like Jason who we want to see out there in the industry, using their passion for agriculture and their personal drive to run a thriving farm,” Mr Healy said.

“Case IH has always acknowledged innovation and forward thinking as being integral to success and Jason certainly embodies these and makes a very worthy winner of the 2017 Young Farmer of the Year Award.”

Jason is keen to use his win to encourage other young farmers to invest in themselves as well as the farm.

“Like most farmers, my number one priority has always been the farm and my stock,” Jason said. “But I have seen great value in investing in improving my business and leadership skills.”

“There are some great programs and courses out there to help you to look outside the traditional square box and give you the confidence to turn those innovative ideas into reality.” Source


Jason Smith

Greg Mills champions the big issues for all farmers.

Greg Mills and Pip Courtney

Greg Mills and Pip Courtney from ABC Landline

A big shoutout to Greg Mills of GoAhead Business Solutions our favourite Rural Consultant, workshop facilitator, communications expert extraordinaire and all round great guy who was named  2017 Australian Rural Consultant of the Year  at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, held by the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural. The award, announced at Parliament House in Canberra on August 16, recognises those making a significant contribution to Australian Agriculture 

Working primarily in the intensive livestock industries, Greg offers a range of consultancy services to farming families, agricultural businesses and industry organisations.

However, it is his enthusiasm for agriculture and his ability to present information to a diverse audience which has made him a go-to mentor for many of tomorrow’s industry leaders.

Greg is widely known as a consultant with a passion to share strategies which build trust in farmers and agricultural industries; who isn’t afraid to face some of most challenging issues facing modern animal agriculture.

This includes confronting animal activist issues, particularly regarding the egg industry.

“Farmers and industries need new strategies to maintain their social licence to operate,” Greg said. “That is, the privilege of operating a farming business with minimal formalised restrictions based on maintaining public trust.”

“When the public trusts farmers to do what’s right they won’t feel the need to impose more controls through legislation, regulation or market requirements.”

Greg has positioned himself as a leading international authority on social license and values-based communication, and has a collaborative relationship with the US-based Center for Food Integrity. With his understanding of both the philosophy and approach to building trust, Greg has developed the Engage training program in Australia which empowers others to use these principles.

“Winning the 2017 Rural Consultant of the Year Award is a fantastic opportunity and will help me highlight the important issues currently facing Australian agriculture, like how the implementation of new technologies and production practices in the future will require continued community support,” Greg said.

“The Award also showcases how rural consultants are rising to the challenge of assisting farmers with the evolving issues of increasing complexity in the modern agricultural environment.”

Greg is an advocate for young professionals in agriculture. He is a key mentor and trainer for the Young Farming Champions Program where he shares his experience and gives participants the skills needed to communicate their own agricultural story with confidence.

Lynne Strong, who is the National Program Director at Picture You in Agriculture and runs the Young Farming Champions Program, believes Greg is always ahead of the curve.

“There are very few people out there like Greg,” Ms Strong said. “He is generous in his approach with our young leaders; providing them with the tools and confidence to stand up and speak on a variety of topics.”

“The expertise, knowledge and skills he brings to the organisation, along with his reliability, are second to none. He is outstanding.”

Research scientist Dr Jo Newton believes Mr Mills’ encouragement has been vital to her career. “In 2015 I was accepted into the Australian Futures Project Actions for NSW Agriculture Initiative, something I do not think would have been possible without Greg’s assistance,” Dr Newton said. “In a nutshell being mentored by Greg and being a part of the YFC program has helped me develop the skills and confidence to aim higher than I previously dreamed was possible.”

Greg with BASF team

Greg Mills and Team BASF who sponsored the Australian Rural Consultant Award

BASF Head of Agriculture for Australia and New Zealand, Gavin Jackson, said Greg was an extremely worthy recipient of the Rural Consultant of the Year Award, acknowledging the work Greg continues to do with industry has had significant impact back to farmers.

“His work in livestock management, strategic farm business management, scientific communications, issue management and project planning and implementation has had a real positive impact not only within industry, but for many farming enterprises,” Mr Jackson said.

“Greg champions the big issues for all farmers.” Source 








Farming is not a joke


Sam Coggins 

Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins was sponsored to attend the Chicago Council Food Security Symposium in Washington DC in March as part of the ‘Next Generation Delegation’.

Following his participation Sam was invited to write a guest blog for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs website

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to present the 2017 Next Generation Delegates blog series. This year’s Delegation was comprised of 20 outstanding students from universities across the United States and around the world studying agriculture, food, and related disciplines. We were thrilled to feature these emerging leaders at the Global Food Security Symposium 2017, and look forward to sharing the exciting work of this extraordinary group.

This is what Sam had to say

The two words required to sell careers in agriculture to young people 

Agriculture’s image problem
My mate Michael couldn’t stop laughing. I had just told him that I was going to Sydney University to study agricultural science. “What are you going to do? Build scarecrows?”

The stigma surrounding careers in agriculture spreads beyond the suburbs of Australia. I met fellow agriculture students Adrian Bantgeui (Philippines), Toluwase Olukayode (Nigeria) and Cassandra Proctor (USA) at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Despite different backgrounds, we all shared similar stories:

  • Adrian shared that Filipino students are belittled for studying “agriculture lamang” (Tagalog for ‘only agriculture’).
  • Cassandra lamented that American youths ask “ew, why study plants? That’s so boring”.
  • Toluwase described how Nigerian agriculture is perceived to be an “industry for poor people”.


Adrian shared that Filipino students are belittled for studying “agriculture lamang” (Tagalog for ‘only agriculture’).

It seems that careers in agriculture are universally mistaken for not being sophisticated, interesting or lucrative. This is hard to believe considering avoiding a global food shortage is one of our generation’s great challenges. A panel was assembled at the Chicago Council Food Security Symposium in Washington DC to discuss how we can “dial in a new way of thinking about agriculture as a career of first choice”.
How not to sell careers in agriculture

The instinctive strategy for selling careers in agriculture is to talk about our unique interests in it. Too many times I’ve tried to share my love for soil using passion, humour and enthusiasm. You’d be surprised how good my joke about soil health is! Even so, my efforts are generally met with the response, “that’s nice but agriculture is not for me”.

There is more to agriculture than soil. Agriculture is about land rights, social science, animal husbandry, education, trade policy, plant pathology, anthropology, drone technology… the list continues.

In view of this, agriculture can be for everyone! The challenge is not to force our agricultural passions onto young people but to make agriculture accessible to their passions. How do we do this? From my perspective, careers in agriculture are characterized by two words that resonate with my generation:


Cassandra lamented that American youths ask “ew, why study plants? That’s so boring”.

Word 1: Meaning

Agriculture is about putting food on people’s plates and clothes on people’s backs. Sustainably growing more nutritious food with less resources enables farmers to support their families, protect the environment and nourish their communities.

Agriculture is a powerful tool for contributing to things that matter: poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and food security. What career choice could be more meaningful than that?

Word 2: Excitement

An education in agriculture not only empowers you to improve the world, it lets you truly see the world. Since commencing my undergraduate degree in 2014, I have worked on a salmon farm in Tasmania, researched soil microbiology in Canberra, interned at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, joined an anti-food wastage society in central Sydney, attended a food security conference in Washington DC and attempted in vain to plough a rice field with buffalo while studying in the mountains of Sri Lanka. The wide-ranging opportunities in agriculture are not limited to building scarecrows, which would also be fun.


Toluwase described how Nigerian agriculture is perceived to be an “industry for poor people”.

How to sell careers in agriculture to young people

Escaping normality and doing something meaningful appeals to my generation. I do not subscribe to the belief that today’s young people are self-obsessed. Young people that I know want more from their career than a comfortable lifestyle and a stable salary. They want to travel the world and they want to make it better. A career in agriculture is a grounded mechanism for doing exactly that.

The photos in this blog show Adrian, Cassandra and Toluwase wearing a t-shirt bearing the words: “magatnim ay di biro” (Tagalog for ‘farming is not a joke’).

I believe that young people will own this message if we sell careers in agriculture as careers of excitement and meaning. 


Yes Sam, if we want to attract the best and the brightest minds we must give them a reason to choose agriculture over everything else. It is these people who will be the changemakers that will deliver the vibrant, profitable and dynamic future of agriculture that it deserves to have. Read our founder Lynne Strong’s blog post for The Australian Farmer on the Image of Agriculture here 

Read previous blogs by the 2017 Next Generation Delegates:

Technology for Youth Engagement in the New Age of Agriculture

How Public and Private Partnerships Can Achieve a More Food-Secure World

Why a Practical Consensus on Animal Welfare Is Essential to Combating Climate Change

Working Together in Times of Food Insecurity

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: The Dilemma for Chicken Farmers in Tanzania

Unifying the Next Generation through Open Data

Food Security: Agriculture, Society, and Ecology

Canada’s Challenge: Ending Chronic Food Insecurity in the Far North

Nutrition Security in the 21st Century


Dr Jo Newton wins Emerging Scientist Award

Young Farming Champion Dr Jo Newton is part of a growing group of bright young minds seeing agriculture as an incubation hub for cutting edge research. We are very excited to announce that Jo has been announced as the winner of the Dairy Research Foundation (DRF) 2017 Emerging Scientist Award at their annual symposium

Listen to Jo’s sixty second promotion for her presentation 

The DRF  annual Symposium, is widely recognised throughout the Australian dairy industry as a showcase of dairy science in application – that brings together the farm and dairy science communities with a special focus on nurturing and developing young and emerging scientists – and linking them with the farm sector.

Each participating young scientist is asked to prepare a presentation that relies on flip charts and items to show and tell (strictly no use of PowerPoint). Scientists are grouped together by ‘common interest/theme’ on platforms, with up to three young scientists per platform. They present multiple times (normally 3-4 times) to groups of 20-50 people each time.  Each platform also features a dairy industry mentor (a farmer/scientist/service provider) whose role is to comment on the projects under profile and discuss how the work may be integrated at a farm level.  Each young scientist has five minutes to deliver their presentation followed by 5 minutes of question and discussion should follow each young scientist’s presentation.

The Dairy Research Foundation Emerging Scientist competition is a unique opportunity for farmers to learn and engage from the young and vibrant researchers who are committed to addressing  current and future industry needs and challenges

DRF Energing Scientist

2017 DRF Emerging Scientists (From left to right: Alexandra Green from University of Sydney, Ashleigh Wildridge from University of Sydney, Paul Cheng from University of Melbourne, Alex John from University of Sydney, Nicolas Lyons from NSW DPI Dairy, Veronika Vicic from Charles Sturt University, Laura Senge from Murdoch University, Jo Newton from Agriculture Victoria, Beth Scott from Wageningen University and Juan Molfino from University of Sydney)

Nine emerging scientist from all around Australia kept the audience engaged, entertained and informed of the latest work and trends in the industry. This allowed farmers to get insights into the latest research from vibrant young science communicators  who have chosen the dairy industry as the place they want to be.

‘The quality of the Emerging Scientist competition is getting better every year. Jo  shared her work, her passion and her findings in an interactive and engaging way with the audience and was a well deserved winner  of the 2017 Emerging Scientist competition” said Dr Nicolas Lyons 

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Dr Jo Newton presenting her work at the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium 

Jo works as a research scientist on the Gardiner Dairy Foundation initiated Project, ImProving Herds. The project is demonstrating the impact investing in genetics and herd improvement has on the bottom line for dairy farmers. For example, the project has recently been able to show cows sired by high genetic merit bulls make greater contributions to farm profit over their lifetime than other cows do.

“I’m passionate about ensuring that research outcomes don’t just reside in scientific journals. We have world-class research facilities and minds in Australia but haven’t always done a very good job of translating research into action. I think projects like ImProving Herds, where research and extension are intrinsically woven together, is a good way to work towards achieving this. I really enjoy the challenge of collaborating with diverse industry stakeholders to ensure that the work we are doing is relevant, useful and delivered in a way that the industry can use. For example, in a ‘typical week’ I may be working with economists, farm consultants, farmers, vets, extension staff and breed societies. At 16, I was told I was too smart to study agriculture. I’m passionate about being involved in changing the stigma surrounding careers in agriculture and hope that one day every young person, regardless of their background, views agriculture as a rewarding career pathway.” Jo Newton  2107 DRF Emerging Scientist Winner 

Well done Jo  another milestone in a stellar career journey


Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth invited to speak at TEDxYouth Sydney

Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth will join young changemakers, thinkers, innovators, activists, and entrepreneurs to share her big ideas for sustainable farming, environmental conservation and climate change action at TEDxYouth@Sydney on Wednesday 6 September 2017 at Sydney Town Hall.

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Anika joins fellow Young Farming Champion Josh Gilbert who spoke at TEDxYouth@Canberra last year on a journey to be a global communicator for #youthinag

Made by young people, for young people, but with the eyes and ears of the world in mind, TEDxYouth@Sydney is a platform for ideas worth spreading

The theme for TEDxYouth@Sydney 2017 is ‘Shifting The Future’ and includes talks and performances from

  • Chris Leben with special guest Lee Lin Chin – the creative team behind SBS presenter Lee Lin Chin’s comedic alter ego and viral smash
  • Maria Tran – martial artist, actor, filmmaker and screen fight coordinator has kicked many asses in international action movies including legend Roger Corman’s Fist of the Dragon
  • Ivan Zelich – young mathematician, who at the age of 17 developed a groundbreaking theorem that took the global scientific community by storm
  • Nural Cokcetin – microbiology research scientist developing new treatments to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs
  • Joe Carbone – performer and parkour specialist
  • Anika Molesworth – climate change activist, sustainable farming advocate and 2017 NSW Finalist for Young Australian of the Year
  • Nick Molnar – entrepreneur and founder of fintech company, Afterpay, that went public on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2016
  • Tilly Lawless – queer, Sydney-based sex worker who argues that sex worker rights are integral to the feminist movement
  • Louise Zhang  – Chinese-Australian artist with a deep passion for cinema horror as an art form
  • Emily Wurramara – young Indigenous musician and seasoned performer who sings in both English and Anindilyakwa, her original language
  • Alice Ivy – rising Melbourne beat maker, guitarist and vocalist who has drawn comparisons to fellow sample-fiends The Avalanches
  • Dauntless Movement Crew – movement based team which combines art forms such as tricking, b-boying (breakdancing), parkour, acrobatics, circus stunts and fire tricks

#gogirlfriend #youthinag



Mandy McKeesick a Global AgWomen

Great to see our journalist Mandy McKeesick profile in AGWomen Global

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Mandy at the Sydney Royal Easter Show with YFC Dione Howard and Peta Bradley 

Mandy McKeesick has worked as an exploration geologist in the deserts of Western Australia, as a deckhand on a rather small boat on the Tasman Sea and in offices as a bookkeeper and trainee accountant, but today her home is on a cattle property in central Queensland where along with mustering cows and yelling at miniature fox terriers who think they are pig dogs, she is a freelance writer specialising in rural and regional Australia.

Mandy was born onto a dairy farm in southern New South Wales but her dairying experience ended shortly after she was knocked over and partially eaten by a sow defending her piglets. Mandy’s family then moved to a 14acre block and it was not until she was working in the Great Sandy Desert and met a good, keen Kiwi bloke that her thoughts turned once again to a farming life.


Mandy at home balancing farm life with the life of a journalist 

The Kiwi bloke, soon after to become her husband, had been a head shepherd, possum trapper and deer hunter in New Zealand and his stories rekindled a desire in her to be part of the land once more. Together they bought a hobby farm while running an abalone business and then 13 years ago made the decision to return to farming full time with the purchase of a beef property near Tenterfield and then at Coolatai in northern NSW.

With experience in the deserts and on the ocean Mandy thought she would adapt to farming quite easily. She soon found out she was wrong. Mustering on a fractious thoroughbred, training working dogs, cattle husbandry and driving the ancient truck with no power steering all proved to be a steep learning curve and she vented her frustrations in a blog called Rocky Springs Rambles. That most of the last 13 years have been drought added yet another dimension to her world.

Mandy had always enjoyed writing and in the depths of the drought, at age 44, she embarked on yet another career move, this time as a freelance writer, passionately bringing the stories of rural and regional Australia to a wider audience. She has written for national publications such as R.M. Williams OutbackAustralian Geographic and The Sydney Morning Herald, and through her corporate work meets many inspirational people in the world of agriculture.

“I really think it is a privilege to live and work in rural Australia and in agriculture. It gives you a connection to nature and to country not enjoyed by those who live in urban environments. To have the responsibility of caring for livestock while working with the whims of Mother Nature, and to understand what you know will always be exceeded by what you don’t (and to be comfortable with that) is a rare and wonderful way of life. To be able to share the amazing characters and stories within agriculture through words is just icing on the cake.”

We love the way that you have grown and adapted to your surroundings, and found your own way to make your role in the primary industries work for you. We truly believe that telling the stories of the primary industries is such a key component in ensuring the industry continues to grow in a positive way. We love what you do Mandy!

Chloe Dutschke inspiring careers in wool one lightbulb moment at a time

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How proud does this Facebook post from Young Farming Champion Chloe Dutschke make the Art4Agriculture team

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Chloe inspiring students at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show 

This is why we exist. To give young people in the agriculture sector the confidence to stand up and share their story about the industry they love and how proud they are to be a young agribusiness professional

_2017 Supporting partners Capture