Ben Egan showing its all in the genes

Meet 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champion Ben Egan

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Ben has spent the last 12 months with the support of his family and friends and the amazing technology that is the GoPro camera collecting photographs and footage  to create a video to share with the schools he will visit as part of the Archibull Prize (and the world) that espouses his love for farming, for cotton and a career in agriculture

I loaded Ben’s Young Farming Champion’s video yesterday and its already had 400 hits on YouTube – its a masterpiece. Click the photo or this link to see this video that is sure to go viral

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Ben Egan showing its all in the genes

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Check out Cotton Australia’s great e-education kits for schools here

Shining the light on cotton

Last week 10 of our Young Farming Champions went to Cotton HQ at Mascot where they got the inside story on the Australian Cotton Industry and what an exciting story it is.

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Young Farming Champions visit Cotton Australia

Cotton is grown on the east coast of Australia from Emerald to Hay. Just love the denim map 

Major Cotton Growing Centres

Cotton is seen as an opportunity crop by Australian farmers in the regions where it is grown. It is only grown when water is plentiful and when it provides the best return on investment at that point in time

Now 20 years ago the cotton industry was shall we say not feeling the love from the community and getting a bit of a bad rap about its environmental footprint. Well kudos to them wow have they got their act together to address this by using Cotton BMP to guide their farmers to grow cotton in harmony with our natural environment. Cotton BMP is your guarantee of Australian cotton farmers environmental and ethical stewardship with audited processes and traceable supply chains – from the farm to you

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BMP Cotton is in high demand in Japan

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Our Young Farming Champions soak up all the knowledge they heard in the CA boardroom from Communications Manager Chris Larsen

Australian cotton farmers have indeed made some big environmental stewardship gains. Check out these very impressive statistics

Australian Cotton Improvements in Pesticide use 

Australian Cotton Native Vegetation 

Australian Cotton Water Use Efficiency

But they are not stopping there and the cotton industry is building on their success story with genetic modification to amplify pest-management benefits to target even more ambitious gains. Having seen biotechnology reduce pesticide use in cotton crops by almost 90 per cent, Cotton Australia is applying a similar strategy to slash the amount of water needed to grow cotton.

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This bold target is, again, relying on CSIRO expertise across a range of agricultural technologies and Cotton Australia has set an aspirational target of doubling the water-use efficiency of cotton crops in just 10 years. See footnote

Cotton Australia’s CEO Adam Kay told the Young Farming Champions

“We already have the most efficient water-use growers in the world, but we are looking to add further to those achievements.”

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Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay with Lady Moo Moo who told all the Young Farming Champions they were all part of the cotton family now no matter what industry they represented

I can tell you they were all feeling the cotton love that saw them all presented with an  these superb Australian grown and made Dri-Glow towels and highly appreciative of the Cotton Australia hospitality

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Thanks Cotton Australia we all had a great time and we are very proud to be part of the Australian Cotton Family

Learn more about the Australian cotton industry here

 

Footnote:  Water Saving Cotton http://www.solve.csiro.au/0807/article10.htm

Cotton Australia announces 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champions

Cotton Australia is delighted to announce the Cotton Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions for 2013

They are

Martin Murray (Toowoomba/Armidale)

Martin Murray in Cotton

You can read Martin’s blog here

Kirsty McCormack (Inverell)

Kirsty McCormack

You can read Kirsty’s blog here

Ben Egan (Warren)

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You can read Ben’s blog here

Elizabeth Lobsley (Toowoomba).

LIz Lobsley

You can read Liz’s blog here

Cotton Australia is very excited by the remarkable calibre of the applicants this year – a real testament to the quality of young people who are swelling the ranks of the cotton industry. We are lucky this year to have a range of career paths (gap year, city to the country, career changers, college and university) and occupations (farmer, agronomist, university students) amongst the YFCs all equally inspired to light a flame for agriculture in the hearts and minds of primary and school students across three States.

For Cotton Australia, the YFC program is an important vehicle for building the capacity of young people within the industry to speak to audiences who may be disengaged or apathetic about agriculture. They bring a fresh voice, a human face and an inspiring story that make young people sit up and think twice about stereotypes and misconceptions. The YFCs, as young people themselves are in a unique position to relate to students not much younger than they are.

The Young Farming Champion program will engage, train, mentor and support these four Young Farming Champions to go into schools who are participating in  the Art4Agriculture Archibull Prize program.

The champions will engage with the students, share stories about farmers and farming, build understanding and work together to understand the challenges facing primary industries. They will be provided with training to present and deliver messages on behalf of industry to non-farmer teenage audiences. We hope to see the program increase both the confidence and leadership skills of the participants with the capacity to take a more active role on behalf of industry to achieve industry goals.

Cotton Australia would also like to congratulate Elizabeth Stott (Gogeldrie) on her selection to participate in the highly prestigious Australian Rural Leadership Program this year funded by the CRDC. Elizabeth is an outstanding ARLP candidate and has been a passionate contributor to community activity which has engendered respect and acceptance of the industry in the local community cotton and will no doubt use the ARLP program to increase her capacity to continue this important work in the future.

The lighter side of life

Todays guest blog post comes from Kirsty McCormack. Kirsty is a lover of horses and all things cotton,a converted Ag ‘fag’ and 2nd year Rural Science student at UNE.

Photo shoot for Science Taking you Places

My story starts 19 years ago in the little country town of Inverell.

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My hometown is situated in the New England North West region of New South Wales and is a thriving commercial and service centre with a district population of 18,000.

I have been immersed in the rural side of life every since i was a youngster, which to me is much like the bright side of life. I have ridden horses since I was two with my family and I campdraft most weekends.

Family Photo of me and my brother i was 3 years old on my first horse

I have played Polocrosse, competed at state and national horse riding events and won national titles – all for a great love of horses.

Pony Club Captain winning overall Zone 13 aggregate Highest point scoring club 2009

As well as having a passion for sport, I have definitely tried my hand at a range of things and found that I haven’t completely embarrassed myself 100% of the time!

After growing up on a 75 acre property 8kms out of town with a multitude of 20 plus working dogs, 15 or so horses and a few cattle and sheep which has provided meat for our freezer it is a wonder that I did not have my heart set on a future in agriculture. But that was not the case, I was a head strong driven young girl who had decided that being a lawyer was the ideal occupation for someone that would go head to head with her mother on a regular basis, claiming that she was ‘always right’. So at Holy Trinity School Inverell I nurtured my skills, studying Japanese and Commerce as electives and avoiding agriculture at all costs, assuming that it was only associated with dead end jobs with poor pay. How wrong was I!

It was not until I left the familiar surroundings of Inverell and went to Calrossy Anglican School that I was introduced to this ‘brighter side of life’!

My lines for year 11 did not match up so I had to take Agriculture instead of Religion, and was pleasantly surprised when my teacher Brony Nielsen stepped into the room.

Calrossy Primary Industries class 2012 - having fun on the farm

Fun on the farm

In 2011 with Brony’s encouragement I led a cow for the first time, took up meat judging, attended the biannual Cotton Australia Cotton Conference, went to RYAG Cattle Camp and was voted Karrawarra House Sporting Captain.

House Captin and Mad entusiast for all aspects of shchool life. house Won ALL events that year!

Calrossy opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. Being able to lead cattle at Sydney and regional shows has allowed me to make some great contacts in the cattle industry

Leading at Tamworth Show 2010 Zone finals for selection for sydney

Being the Junior Inter Collegiate Meat Judging Champion at Scone Beef Bonanza in 2011 is another amazing notch to have on my belt. One of the most astonishing experiences was the opportunity to attend the Cotton Conference thanks to WinCott and Georgie Carrigan.

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Attending 2010 Cotton Conference with Calrossy Anglican College

The opportunity to meet so many interesting and diverse professionals in the cotton industry and seeing what the cotton industry has to offer I was absolutely blown away by the innovation, eagerness and pride that everyone there exuded about their passion – cotton. To start with I was going in blind, after only wearing the fibre I had no idea when the plant was grown, what it entailed or the mechanisms used to actually produce a real of cotton, so naturally I came home a little overwhelmed and all hyped on information thinking, about all the possibilities that this little plant had to offer me.

So as I entered year 12 my aspirations and goals began to change, I started investigating degrees and universities that had a strong agricultural line and program.

PICSE Youth Round Table - Ambassador 2012 Canberra

PICSE Youth Roundtable 2012

Here is where I was introduced to PICSE (Primary Industry Centre for Science Education) and the student industry placement scholarship. PICSE provided me with a week jam-packed with sessions, presented by the most energetic scientists, farmers, growers, researchers and students imaginable. I got a taste of what could be really achieved by the agricultural industry, through being able to witness the latest research in mitigating methane production in cattle, rotating dairy’s, greenhouses and grain operations I was no longer hoodwinked by the dead end, bad pay idea. Instead I now think agriculture is one of the most forward thinking, innovative, young industries in this country and the world today. You can have a look at what other young PISCE graduates have to say here

Within my year 12 syllabus we also carried out a Cotton Study which entailed a field trip and farm visit. This trip definitely re-enforced what I had been so awe inspired by the previous year and only fuelled my fire towards being involved in the cotton industry. I got to jump in cotton, be in cotton, feel cotton and help grow cotton. We got in, on and around the module builders the buggies, and pickers. This was enough to send me over the edge – in love with cotton. Cotton trip 2011 that changed my direction

From this trip and PICSE I continued through my final year with a new direction and new motivation, getting involved in all aspects of boarding school life and loving every moment. I graduated with great marks and a great time, enough to get me straight into university the following year at UNE studying a Bachelor of Rural Science.

So through the summer naturally I went bug checking and nutrition sampling.

Bug checking with CGS in summer of 2012

Carol Sanson at Cotton Growers Services at Gunnedah took me on after meeting on the excursion earlier that year, and I thoroughly cherished and enjoyed every moment of it. From literally counting bugs, to meeting farmers, sending leaf and petiole samples and driving the forklift, the whole experience was amazing and has benefited me throughout my studies at university. I was sad to leave the job and not finish the season as the end of the week came around all too soon before picking started.

I am definitely one very lucky university student though, on arriving in first year I was lucky enough to have been awarded financial assistance in the way of four amazing scholarship. With my ATAR I was awarded the UNE Country Scholarship, and three industry prizes, the Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Scholarship, Australian Wool Education Trust Fund Scholarship and RIRDC Horizon Scholarship. Within these amazing opportunities my 2012 year was full of motivating and exciting events that I was able to participate on and present at. I had two trips to Canberra one being awarded as a PICSE Ambassador, going into parliament house and presenting the findings from out Youth Round Table Discussion, and another with the Horizon scholars where we had an opportunity to make invaluable contacts and be heard on the Country Hour LIVE! Attending the 2012 Cotton Conference where I spoke to students, presenting at numerous PICSE events/functions and going to Sydney Royal, has all made for a busy year! Through participating in college life I am now an Academic advisor and on a leadership scholarship at St Alberts College and loving being able to help students learn about science.

I think the agricultural industry has a lot to offer every individual, through the little chunk I have been able to experience and been apart of thus far has only spurred me on towards aligning my future with the future of agriculture. I will never give up my horses and the link I have to the land through my dogs and cattle but with this newfound passion for cotton I can definitely see myself being a plant fanatic. When I finish my Rural Science degree I would like to complete a diploma of education to inspire other students the way my agricultural teacher did, I would like to go on an “agriventure”, be involved in research, be a cotton agronomist and one day a farmer’s wife! – But not just yet.

I am so excited to be involved in this great opportunity to show others how Bright a Lighter Side of Life can be!

Cotton Pickin – the Boggabri Blog

Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey one of our Eco Champions

But firstly a little bit from me to put it into perspective 

One of the things that still fascinates me is despite the vastness of our country just how little of it we can grow food on and how precious our natural resources are to sustain our standard of living now and in the future.

Yes we all know Australia is a pretty big place and what most of us don’t realise (including me until recently) is believe it or not over 60% of it is owned, managed and cared for by Australian farmers. To put this into perspective the white bits on the map below are the 40% of Australia that are classified as non agricultural land.Agricultural-Land-in-Australia_thumb,

What’s even harder to believe is that only 6% of our agricultural land is suitable for growing food. This means our 134,000 farmers have a huge amount of land between them that doesn’t generate an income It therefore goes without saying that Australian farmers are at the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community and they have a very big unpaid gardening/park keeping gig in any man’s language. I was as flabbergasted as most people when I found out these statistics that overall 94% of what farmers own and manage returns them no direct in your pocket benefit. As one of those farmers of which 50% of our farm is pristine rainforest it does however give great satisfaction and warms your heart to see it support diverse native vegetation and wildlife.

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Can you just imagine what its like following the cows home through this – I can tell you its doesn’t get much better

However its very clear as many of our farmers readily admit they don’t have the skillsets nor the time to do all of this gardening alone. Luckily Australia has a whole team of very special professionals called natural resource managers who partner with farmers to help them get the best outcomes for Australia’s scare natural resources.

Last year with support from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Initiative Art4Agriculture accessed funding that would allow our Young Farming Champions to train and work side by side and go into schools as part of the Archibull Prize with Young Eco Champions. The outcomes can only be described as phenomenal. Today’s guest blog post comes from Heather Gow-Carey

The Boggabri Blog……………………………..

As part of the Young Eco Champions Program I have developed a strong interest in agriculture and learning more about our industries that feed and clothe us. Even though I grew up in a rural area, I have found my knowledge of agricultural production is quite limited – so I decided that if I wanted to follow a career in natural resource management and agriculture, I really should get some inside knowledge of what is involved on the agricultural side of things.

My first farm visit was cotton!

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I was lucky enough to have the help of Sophie Davidson from Cotton Australia in tracking down a working cotton farm that had been improving both their on-farm efficiency and the health of the surrounding environment. She arranged for me to visit John and Robyn Watson who have been farming since 1979 on their farm “Kilmarnock” at Boggabri in Northern NSW.

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When John began farming here it was the first cotton to be grown south of Narrabri, along the upper Namoi River. 

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Both John and Robyn live and breathe cotton. When I first got to the farm, we jumped in the car and started driving around their property. I was amazed! To be honest, I had hardly seen any form of broad-scale cropping before. While John and Robyn have had lots of visitors to their farm, John mentioned that it was very rare to have someone like me who had almost no knowledge of the industry. So at least I didn’t feel too stupid asking the basic questions! I chatted with John about the production of cotton, right from the beginning when they sow the seeds all the way up to harvest – and even about the ginning and export process.

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Their property is 1500 hectares plus extra land that they lease from adjoining properties. It is a mixture of cotton, grain and cattle grazing, with about half of it under crop (both irrigated and dry-land). Kilmarnock was one of the first farms to take up the Best Management Practices (BMP) Program and John chaired the Australian Cotton Industry Council’s BMP Committee for three years. 

BMP Cotton

He also played an active role in the implementation of BMP in the Boggabri area, encouraging other local growers to get on board with the program and John and Robyn have been active members of their local Landcare group. Robyn has even written a paper titled Restoring the banks of the Namoi on ‘Kilmarnock’: Success arising from persistence

In 1995, they started a program of improving the riparian areas because they were concerned about bank erosion and pesticide contamination of the river. From this time they have revegetated more than 20kms of riverbank, stretching alongside their property, along with encouraging neighbouring properties to undertake similar work. Robyn has been the driving force behind the Landcare work on their property, she would collect seeds and propagate them in a small nursery that she had set up. In talking to Robyn, she mentioned that there had recently been a few fish surveys undertaken along the Namoi River and there was a sharp increase in both the diversity of species along with the overall counts of fish along the revegetated sections. So not only has their work stopped the erosion of their property and loss of fertile soil, it has improved the environment in a number of ways.

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From a farming perspective, the Watsons have been improving the overall efficiency of their production which means they are using less water, pesticides and herbicides and getting higher overall yields. There are a number of ways that they have been doing this:

  • Having designated dry-land cropping areas, which rely only on rainfall reduces overall water consumption, along with having extensive channel and dam networks to recycle flood irrigated areas. They have also recently got an overhead pivot irrigation system which moves slowing down the crop rows to prevent extra water loss.
  • All cotton is GM so as to be resistant to round-up and cotton pests. This means that they have reduced the amount of pesticide that is used, so they very rarely have to spray at all. Being resistant to round-up results in reduced soil cultivation and lower amounts of herbicide required on cotton crops to control weeds and facilitates healthier soils through less soil disruption and reductions in residual herbicides.
  • They ensure that there is always a few ‘refuge crops’ (usually pigeon pea) sown each year, so this allows insects that would be affected by GM cotton to have the ability to persist and not alter their population structure or effect the birds that feed on them.

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Robyn is also very talented at spinning cotton, and generously taught me how to do it. I found out firstly you have to pull the bolls away from the cotton plant and pluck out the cotton seeds. This is essentially what happens at the cotton gin, though on a much larger scale. You end up with a bowl full of fluffy cotton balls and from here you can start to spin.

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Using an ordinary spinning wheel, it is possible to end up with a range of different thicknesses of hand-spun cotton which can be dyed and then knitted or woven just like wool. I was very impressed and even got to take a few bolls so I could give it a go at home. Robyn is one of the few people who spins with cotton and I think she may be going to go to the Royal Easter Show to do some demonstrations – she is one talented lady!

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While I was up north, I was also able to visit the Namoi Catchment Management Authority (CMA) at Narrabri and go out in the field with Lauren Wilson and Megan Davies to conduct some vegetation surveys. One of the target areas that the Namoi CMA is working on is the protection of riparian areas that are not in poor condition, though need some assistance (eg. through fencing out livestock) to ensure that their condition does not worsen. I found this a great experience to have a look at regions that are so climatically different from down on the South Coast of NSW, and find out about the challenges that these regions are facing from an environmental perspective.

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‘I really did have a great time visiting Boggabri and Narrabri, even though it was only short, I learnt so much and had such wonderful experiences. Coming into this program, I had the opinion that most people hold about the cotton industry – that it used huge amounts of water and sprayed chemicals all over the place.

From learning from the other Young Farming Champions and this visit to Kilmarnock, I really have changed my perspective of the industry. It is a vital industry to Australian agriculture and is one that is innovative and always changing to promote efficiency and ensure overall productivity.’

 

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I now know the story of cotton – it is how this little plant turns into the pair of socks on your feet.’

*Heather has just finished an International Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) (Hons) and gone to Canberra to join the DAFF Graduate program

You can share stories with Heather on Twitter here  @HeatherGowCarey

Archibull Prize Judging …a bit more

Model Farms High School

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“Lady Moo Moo” is a character! (This is not surprising really when you consider her namesake Lady Ga Ga).

 

She is dressed from head to hoof in denim and cotton, inlaid with intricate and subtle detailing.

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She is not a cow you are likely to forget easily –not too many cows have horns quite like hers!

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Her udder and hooves have been carefully and very painstakingly wrapped with precision.

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and her messages have been, quite literally, sewn into the fabric of her skin.

REMARKABLE FACT

Did you know that Model Farms High School found they had a 100% denim ownership at the school? Every person owned something made from denim –whether it was jeans or some other item.

Archibull Prize Judging Day 2

And we were off and racing into Day 2…

James Ruse Agricultural High School

“Bessie” is a cow of 2 sides- both very individual and very distinctive.

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On one side she explores the cotton industry through their reliance on water and Australia’s desperate need for this to be done responsibly and sustainably.

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On her other side she is tactile and has an x-ray effect. The digestive system is mechanical and references the machinery and the science necessary to maintain this industry.

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Bessie’s two sides are bound together by the cotton plant on her spine. It is wrapped in wire (showing the strength and viability of the cotton plant and the industry itself) and the roots spread out like a cobweb, linking all the parts of the cotton story.

 

Their video “How to be a Smart Cotton Farmer”  is definitely well worth the watch too!