Snakes alive and horsing around

Today I got an insight into a career option that never occurred to me and most definitely would never sit on my wish list.

But I found out today there are plenty of young people much braver than me and very excited to consider a career as a  herpetologist

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If amphibians and reptiles are your passion then TAFE NSW has the perfect course for you

After a meeting with the bright minds of the agricultural education arm at the Sydney Royal Easter Show I took up the opportunity to call in at The Stables.and sit in on a  great initiative in process that is a result of a partnership between  TAFE NSW – WSI and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW

This week saw the roll out of the latest round of Career Readiness Programs in Animal Care and Equine.  The programs are designed to open pathways and provide learners with a sense of possible career options.

A4 flyer - Career Readiness Program V2

Each program offers a one week intensive ‘hands on’ course handling animals at the state of the art facilities of the Sydney Showground.  Students are trained by the industry expert teachers from Richmond TAFE and enjoy a range of guest speakers throughout the week. The program is facilitated through a simulated work environment, providing learners with a taste of employment options.

The program provides students with advice on suitable career options in their chosen area of industry and assists them to develop pathway programs suited to their skill levels.

You might also like to check out their promo video to gain a sense of the program. 2014 Career Readiness Program

The Farming Game

It is often said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow but like our guest blogger today and so many of our Young Farming Champions have shown young people are also the leaders of today. If you give them half a chance they will astound you with their energy and idealism. More importantly, they will impress you with their maturity and willingness to engage constructively in the process of improving our local communities and the future for agriculture.

Our guest blogger today in Martin Murray who also pens his own very impressive blog the The Farming Game.

Martin is another superb example of the new generation of talented young people from across our agricultural industries working together to help address the negative image and perceptions about agriculture in the wider community.  clip_image014

This is Martin’s story……………………

G’day my name is Martin Murray and I know that agriculture is essential to Australia and its future. I’m a blogger.  I’ve worked on a cattle station in the Northern Territory and currently work on a cotton farm outside of Moree. This year I am about to start a Rural Science course at the University Of New England. clip_image002

I was born in Griffith in the Riverina; our family had rice and sheep property called Kulki on the Sturt highway between Darlington Point and Hay, it was here where I developed my passion for agriculture and farming.

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Kulki from the air

My two younger brothers and I used to have be up a six and ride down the 1km driveway to the bus stop for the two hour bus trip to school in Coleambally.

Tires

The Murray brothers

Other great memories include taking the late lunch down to my dad who was driving the tractor at 5pm in the afternoon, the crop dusters flying low across the water seeding the rice paddies and swimming in the channels.

Rain

My bothers and I singing in the rain

Martin on the quad bike

Unfortunately there were big gaps between the wet and the dry seasons and drought eventually forced us to sell up and move to Moree in northern NSW.

For a while after that I wasn’t that heavily involved in agriculture but I still always thought that it would be in my future. My dad started working in town and we had a small a hobby farm of just 27 acres with about six head of cattle from time to time. I went to boarding school in Sydney were I soon learned the many misconceptions and lack of understanding about agriculture outside of rural areas, but I’ll get to that later. While at school I studied agriculture and started working on a cotton farm outside of Moree during the school holidays mainly irrigating the cotton and also driving tractors.

After finishing school I got a job working on Humbert River Station, a cattle station with plenty of history in the Northern Territory.

Humbert River Station  Map

Humbert River is located 5 hours from the nearest town of Katherine. It is a relatively small station of only about 1500 square kilometres running 13000 head of Brahman cattle and turning off around 3000 head of cattle a year. Humbert River Station

Working on Humbert was a very unique experience not just because of size, location and isolation but because of the size of its crew. Unlike previous years where they had a crew of six stockmen in 2012 they were trialling the use of contractors for stock work so there was only the manager and his family, me and a cook/jillaroo that left half way through the year. This made my time on Humbert River different to the majority of other people’s experiences working on stations as instead of primarily doing stock work I mainly did other tasks such as fencing, bore runs, loader work and putting out cattle lick blocks

Due to the unique nature of Humbert River Station I also had a lot of spare time on my hands so I started writing my blog, The Farming Game. The aim of my blog is to show my daily life and what we do and why we do it. Around the time I started writing Four Corners aired “Another Bloody Business” about the slaughter of Australian sheep in Pakistan. Like the the forerunner program “A Bloody Business” this program used highly emotive images to portray Australian agriculture in a negative light.

These images are only increasing consumer wariness of modern farming practices and it concerns me greatly that agriculture is constantly being portrayed in the media as having  bad environmental practices as well as the negativity around genetically modified crops and excessive water use.  I have since found issues like these have been around for a long time and the day before writing this article I heard a song by Slim Dusty “To Whom It May Concern”  which was released in 1978 that highlights that the rural urban divide was an issue even back then. I hope my blog The Farming Game will help people rethink and see agriculture more positively.

Whilst I was at school I heard some pretty amusing things from my fellow students who have never crossed the Great Dividing Range and had the opportunity to discover all the exciting things rural and regional Australian has to offer. The most amusing one I came across was from a city class mate who believed that Dubbo was just a one street town with a population of no more than 100. Although I found this hilarious at the time it really highlights the problem of the divide and the need to change perceptions of, and promote rural Australia and it’s importance to the national economy and society as well as all the opportunities in rural cities.

Underpinning my strategy to bridge the divide is to make our country shows more interactive and to bring more farmers to events in the cities where people can hear the farming stories and see the faces behind the produce they buy.

Social media such as twitter and the many blogs written by farmers are also having a great effect on bridging the divide. Bringing the farm to schools and introducing students to young farmers like the Art4Agriculture programs is a great way to get the message across to children. Programs like this not only help build awareness of, and interest in agriculture, they help create a new generation of agricultural-savvy Australians. Some may even choose agricultural careers whilst many others will know more about where their food comes from and appreciate the care and commitment that goes into growing the shirt on their back or putting the steak on their dinner plate. Hopefully Art4Agriculture will be able to spread their programs to all states in Australian and reach more Australian children.

As for my future my biggest challenge starts this year studying Rural Science at the University of New England while hopefully being able to continue writing my blog as well as working on my other two websites Farming Photo’s and Cotton Careers. My major goal in life is to own and run my own mixed cattle and cropping property, while continuing to promote agriculture and bridging the rural urban divide.

 

Congratulations Martin, Art4Agriculture look forward to following your journey. Maybe you might even find the time to join the team for 2013

Next Gen says Support our Aussie farmers now!

I have been rolling out agriculture awareness and interest generating programs in our primary and secondary schools for over 8 years. I have learnt a lot of things in that time.

Firstly the community does value its farmers they just know very little about them or what it takes to grow the food on their table or the fibre that keeps their families warm and the products they build their houses with for that matter. Secondly there is no-one more powerful to tell agriculture’s story than Gen F aka the next generation of food and fibre producers  

My blog today will show you just how powerful two way conversations with the people who buy the food and fibre our farmers produce can be. In particular students in schools, our next generation of consumers, decision and policy makers and maybe even the next Gen F.

This blog will share with you part of a speech given this week by Sophia Wakeling who has participated in the Archibull Prize for the last two years as part of her school team.

Sophia gave this speech as part of the Australia Day Speaking Contest where students are asked to pick a topic that is relevant to Australian society.  

Sophia’s mum Julia shared her speech with Young Farming Champion Kylie Stretton who popped into Sophia’s school recently. She said Sophia was inspired to write her speech as through her involvement with the Archibull project the students have met with some amazing young farmers and that she knew the issues she shared with the audience are very real for farmers and Australia.

I spoke with Sophia’s mum today who said she sent the speech to Kylie because she wanted to thank all the Young Farming Champions for teaching our youth to respect those that work so hard on the land to feed and clothe us! Julia said because Sophia is sharing her Archibull journey with their family they now all think about what they buy and how it affects Australian farmers. They always now buy brands and have even gone so far as to sign up with Farmers Direct so they can avoid the big supermarkets. I must admit I had a smile on my face when she told me they don’t support Woolworths anymore because they noticed the Woolworths logo was no longer on our list of supporting partners.     

Australian Agriculture- Valuing our Famers by Sophia Wakeling

Whilst you listen to my speech today, I hope and encourage you to think about this quote  from a young beef farmer from Queensland named Kylie Stretton who visited our school as part of the Archibull Prize. What Kylie had to say has really changed the way I thought about where my food comes from and my farmers. By sharing this with you I hope it has the same impact and if not I’m sure that by the end of my speech you will look at it in an entirely different way.

“Australia is very lucky that lots of us have never known extremely hard times or poverty, so we really take our food for granted. I think that supermarkets selling fresh food at cheap prices makes people value it less. And if they value our beautiful fresh food less and take it for granted, then they take for granted the people that produce it.”

Until last year, my 12 years of existence had never included stopping to consider where my food came from, or how it was produced. According to what the media had told me I believed that farmers rode around on tractors all day and lived on dry dusty land. Unfortunately, I also believed agriculture was an awful industry to work in or be involved with for a career.

But this all changed at a school assembly last year a new project called The Archibull Prize was introduced to my school. At first, I didn’t give it a second thought. At the time I thought I was too busy to help out with a farming project. But when my art teacher approached me and asked me to join the project, I reluctantly agreed. The Archibull Prize is a project developed by farmers and supported by industry. The project aims to debunk the stereotypes and change students (and teachers) opinions about the agriculture sector and encourages students to think about sustainability and where their food comes from.

Before we started the project we were required to fill out a survey that tested our knowledge of the agriculture industry. It was then that I realised how little I knew about where the food that I was eating (and buying) on a daily basis came from. Shockingly, I realised that what I thought I knew about the agricultural industry was very wrong. Embarrassingly, I also learnt that more than 40 % of students in year 10 thought cotton came from an animal and more than a quarter of younger students believed yoghurt and scrambled eggs came from plants.

As we progressed further and further into the project I began to realise just how valuable farmers and agriculture are not only to me, but to the entire world. I have learned that farmers are truly the backbone of Australia. Without farmers we would not be able to survive. Without farmers other industries would struggle to survive as many jobs depend on the agriculture industry.

An example of this is the fashion industry. Without cotton and wool farmers, clothes with natural fibres would no longer be able to be processed or made into new designs. This same scenario is reflected in almost every industry in every country in the world. Without farmers we would not have jobs, homes, food or clean water.

I think what farmers have done for us is incredible and they deserve an enormous amount of respect and gratitude for what they have done. So now that we have established the fact that YES farmers are important and that we need to value them and their products, I would like to share with you one way that you can start supporting our Aussie farmers.

There is a common saying that “farmers are price takers and not price makers”. This means that farmers don’t have a lot of control over what price is offered to them for the products they produce.

One of the major reasons that farmers are offered so little for their great products is because they are often pushed out of the market in favour of cheaper, lower quality products such as home brand. A great example of this is home-brand milk being sold for $1 a litre. While this may seem like a great, cheap deal to most consumers, milk being sold for so little is causing great harm to our farmers.

Because of the milk price wars many Australian farmers are only receiving 11 cents per litre for their milk. If this injustice continues to happen, Australia will not have any dairy farmers left. We will be forced to import milk from overseas.

I don’t want the future of Australia to be like this so please! I strongly urge you to support our farmers. If we do not stand up for our farmers and our country I am afraid that in the years to come we will lose what our ancestors fought so hard for: a clean, safe environment and good, healthy food. I believe that as the next generation, we the youth of Australia need to get up and start the change.

Change how you think about Aussie farmers.

Tell your friends and spread the word, and most importantly buy our Australian farmers products and support them.

Always remember every single one of us can make a difference so please do your little bit for our Australian farmers.

I hope that you have been inspired by my speech today.

I want to make a difference and I want you to help start the change with me, support our farmers not our our supermarket’s profits.

Be a-part of this change and see Australia transform.

Support our Aussie farmers now! 

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Sophia (centre) interviews Wool Young Farming Champion Sammi Townsend

Wow your speech certainly makes my heart sing Sophia thank you so much.

BTW a great example wouldn’t you say that you don’t have to make agriculture compulsory in schools to share its story. See previous blog post here. All we need is for more industries and supporting partners to invest in Art4Agriculture which uses art and multimedia to ensure learning about agriculture is exciting and fun