Todays guest blogger is Amber O’Neill the young superstar who was the overall winner of the Cream of the crop Competition. I have asked Lisa Claessen one of our guest judges to preface Amber’s blog with her thoughts on the winning entry by Amber “Are You the One”
Amber O’Neill is congratulated by Sonia Muir NSW DPI Manager Community Engagement
Lisa said “Amber’s winning entry for the 2011 “Cream of the Crop” awards stole my heart. As a teacher, how could I not be impressed by “Are You the One”, a clever tribute to her teachers at Cranebrook High School, and how education enhances an awareness of the contribution of Agriculture to us all.
I love Amber’s ability to see Agriculture with “ big picture” thinking, an industry of many facets, offering opportunities for many.
Amber typifies what I see as an emerging trend; of urban living students, inspired by an experience, perhaps at school, or by an encounter with Agriculture through visiting a farm for work experience or pleasure etc. I find it in quite a few of my kids and am thrilled to see their thirst for knowledge grow, and how some of them are realising their dream to pursue further education within the industry.
I am sure this is not the last we will hear from Amber, and I hope we see her name in Agricultural circles of the future. Passion is an incredible driver Amber; May you find your heart’s desire!”
The Amber O’Neill Story …….
I am a city girl, but my heart lies in the paddocks of country Australia where school is an hour away, where my next door neighbour is unseen and it takes half an hour to drive to the closest road. At night I see street lights and houses, but I imagine the clear, starry nights over the wide open plains.
Living in an urban area, going to school five minutes down the road and having access to all the facilities I need, no one could ever tell that I am a country girl at heart. My neighbour’s house is no more than two metres away on either side and the road is only a few steps from my drive way
My name is Amber and I live in the suburb of Cranebrook, and I am in Year 11 at Cranebrook High School. I love my school and I would never trade it for anything. They have given me the best education I could have asked for and have even managed to satisfy my country passion and thirst for agriculture.
Amber (centre) with fellow students have fun with their 2010 Archibull Prize entries
Our school has a very strong agriculture department with highly supportive teachers and this has enabled me to be accelerated and I now do year 12 agriculture whilst still in year 11 for all my other subjects. People always ask “isn’t it too hard?” or “why would you do more than you need to?” but I just say that it isn’t more work when you’re so interested and nothing is ever too hard if you put your mind to it. I’m not just interested in agriculture though, I also love science and am studying biology, chemistry and physics and love pushing myself which includes studying extension maths and English.
Mr Murray and Mrs Saxon are my agriculture teachers. They are two in a million. They make school and learning so much fun. They encourage, inspire and motivate us and we now share their passion and dedication to the school farm and our animals. They deserve a huge thanks
Whilst I would love to just move to the country side with hectares and hectares of land in the middle of nowhere and own a million animals and grow my own food, I believe that a good education will open many doors and enable me to better understand the land when I finally escape the city.
With four other siblings, younger than me, and two phenomenal parents our family is tight and loving. We all have different passions, whether its sport or agriculture, acting or socialising, we all are all success stories in our family’s eyes. We all attend public schools (primary – Henry Fulton and secondary – Cranebrook High) and wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else. My parents have always supported us, no matter what the circumstance or situation; they have that unconditional love that makes us all proud to say that they are our parents.
Amber and her family celebrate her Cream of the Crop Competition big win
I was born in Perth, before moving to Sydney when I was about 2 and half years old. We drove all the way from Perth to Sydney, from one side of the country to the other. Since our move to this side of the country, I have moved house at least ten times, moving from Cranebrook to Dubbo to Londonderry and back to Cranebrook (living in many houses along the way). I loved moving, the thrill of living in a new house and the first night where we wouldn’t have beds to sleep in was a “routine” (although I am sure mum and dad absolutely loved packing, not).
Through primary school, I wanted to be a journalist when ‘I grew up’. After that I wanted to be a famous horse barrel racer. And now, I want to be an equine/camelid vet (whilst owning a farm) and simply make a difference.
My love for agriculture really sparked when I was in year eight.. All students study agriculture in year eight and I simply fell in love. At that point in time we had a steer, chickens, sheep and alpacas. Alpacas are my favourites. Their huge, deep eyes and beautiful eye lashes, their unusual behaviours and uniqueness just grabbed me and pulled me in.
At the end of year nine, I was invited to Warralinga Alpaca Stud (professional alpaca breeder) to see all their alpacas, during the school holidays. It was the most amazing experience and at the end they offered me the opportunity to help every weekend. I could never say no, and never have. Since that day, I have worked with alpacas every week, training crias (baby alpacas) for the show, cleaning paddocks and feeding all seventy mouths. I have attended all the regional shows and even attended national shows. I have been able to show top quality alpacas, winning champions and reserves, many first places and having the best time ever. At the Hawkesbury Show and the Australian National Show I won first place for alpaca junior judging (where I judge alpacas on their fleece and conformation). These were the best experiences, learning so much about the alpaca industry and its future. I have also participated in handling, showmanship and performance competitions, where I am judged on my ability to handle alpacas, winning first and second place at several shows.
Fellow Cranebrook student Michaela with Amber ( centre) their agriculture teacher Dani Saxon
My love for alpacas has now grown beyond school . Last year I started my own alpaca stud, called Alkira. I bought a white female and have agisted her at Warralinga. I showed her at Castle Hill Show and she received a Reserve Champion, and a very happy owner. I love her to pieces, and she has proven to me that agriculture is definitely the industry I want to spend my life working in.
I am a city girl, but I have taken every opportunity possible to become involved in agriculture and to prove to others that a city girl can get muddy and a fall in love with farming. Opportunities such as the Cream of the Crop Competition have enabled me to share my love for all things agriculture and hopefully give inspiration to others to get involved in agriculture and make a difference.
Although my background is not in agriculture; school and alpacas and my involvement in agricultural shows has shown me that farming is the most important profession in the world.
Farmers and their support networks feed the world. Not a single person can live without some kind of agriculture, and I would love to one day, leave an impact on this amazing industry.
We are very confident you will Amber