Meet Alexander Stephens whose cotton picking life is taking him on a big journey across this vast country

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Kimberley Agricultural Investment (KAI), with financial injections from the Federal Government and the private sector, is about to harvest Western Australia’s first wet season commercial cotton crop in nearly fifty years and Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champion Alexander Stephens will be the man doing the picking.

Since the initial cotton industry in the Kimberley’s Ord Irrigation Scheme collapsed in 1974 after a ten year run the science of cotton has come a long way with the development of new varieties, a huge reduction in the amount of pesticide used and an increase in water use efficiencies. KAI’s crop, which was planted in February, heralds a brand new era, and after a challenging growing season with higher than normal spring temperatures, is ready to harvest. Read the back story here

Cotton Australia Young Farming Champion Alexander Stephens is driving the harvest – literally –as he is aboard the picker contracted for the job. Alexander’s adventure as Western Australia’s only cotton picker comes at the end of a season that has seen him travel through Queensland and New South Wales following the cotton harvest. The western extension to his job came about after his boss and Nuffield Scholar Matthew McVeigh entered into discussions with fellow Nuffield Scholar Luke McKay, farm manager for KAI.

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Leaving Hay on July 8th with the cotton picker aboard a truck from BJC Heavy Haulage of Goodiwindi and Alexander in an escort vehicle, the convoy travelled 3900km through Bourke, Mt Isa and Katherine to arrive in Kununurra five days later.

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Alexander has been fascinated with large machinery since he was a boy playing in the sandpit and says:

“In reality the toys have just got a lot bigger and

I have migrated from the sandpit to a farm.”

And his computerised cotton picker is indeed a big toy weighing in at 32 tonnes with a laden bale, and standing 5.2m tall and 6.5m wide. With GPS to measure yield mapping the picker toddles along at 7km/hr and can harvest up to 45-50ha each day.

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Alexander explains how a Cotton Picker works to students at Calvary Christian College 

Alexander expects he will be on the picker for about 4 weeks beginning with a 16ha feasibility trial plot before the remainder of the 350ha is picked for KAI and trucked across Australia to the Louis Dreyfus Company gin at Dalby in QLD.

The world is watching this momentous occasion as commercial cotton moves into the Kimberley and Alexander is excited to be playing such a crucial role.

“Being able to work and travel around the different cotton growing regions that Australia has to offer is an amazing experience and after starting back with the McVeigh family two years ago, I never would have thought that I would have an opportunity to make my way northwest to Kununurra to pick cotton,” he says. “This experience is a combination of excitement and pressure because there is a lot riding on the outcome of this harvest not only from the researchers involved in the trial crops but also for Australian and international investors waiting to find out yield results from the commercial crop.”

Alexander will be hosting our Picture You in Agriculture Facebook page during Cotton picking  time in two weeks time so stay tuned and be part of this watershed moment for agriculture in the Ord

This great video from Bess Gairns shows you how a Cotton picker works

#thiscottonpickinglife #YouthVoices18 #Youthinag

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Young Farming Champions taking the farm to the city

Last week our Young Farming Champions took the fresh young face of agriculture into schools  participating in The Archibull Prize in Sydney and Wollongong

Cotton Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe shared her career journey  with students and teachers at Granville South Creative and Performing Arts High School, Parramatta Public School and Kurring-gai High School.

Emma had great success with her Name the Good Bugs/Bad Bugs game turning students with no previous experience into experts in 20 mins.

She found it very rewarding to hear from the teachers of  the Power of the Cow in Archibull Prize schools.

She took her hat off to the team at Parramatta Public School who have formed a partnership and are working directly with 90 students to complete the program

Horticulture Young Farming Champion Tayla Field supported by the Aussie Farmers Foundation took the story of fruit and veg into schools in the Eastern Suburbs and to Gywnneville Public School

With strong messages about eating fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet

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Students at Little Bay Community of Schools and Gwynneville Public School (below) embrace the concept of Eating a Rainbow of fruit and vegetables every day Gwynneville Public School

and the importance of traceability and biosecurity Tayla was a hit with the students

Tayla was thrilled to see the students eyes light up when she showed the level of technology available to farmers in the horticulture industry she loves

Wool Young Farming Champion Sam Wan had Wooley Dooley time with students at Picnic Point High School. Read all the fun here.

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Closing the gender gap in agriculture to promote STEM careers

Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe is presenting at the PIEFA Conference in Canberra today.  As a young person working in Agriculture Emma knows how exciting it is and loves to spread the word to all the young people she meets in schools. Emma’s presentation looks at the elephant in the room –  industry image.

This is what Emma will share with the audience ………….

The future of our world starts off in the classroom today.

Teachers have a major impact on student learning and career choices.

We have all heard stories about teachers discouraging students from following career pathways in agriculture. Why is that?

Industry image plays a key role in the ability to attract young people into agriculture

Sadly Agriculture has a reputation as the King of Gender Inequality.

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With statistics like these we can see why

  • For 100 years Australia’s agricultural secondary and tertiary colleges were MEN ONLY
  • It wasn’t till the 1970’s that they opened the door to women
  • It took until 2003 for the ratio of men to women studying agriculture at university to become 1:1
  • Whilst women now generate 49% of on-farm income they earn 8% less than men

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  • Women only hold 13% of industry leadership roles (compared to 28% across other industries) .
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  • In fact farming decision-making bodies have been described as “closed social networks” with men over 35 years still the most likely to be elected to boards, despite 40 per cent of Australian farmers being women, with an average incidence of tertiary education that is double that of men. An industry with a men’s club mindset.
  • Agriculture STILL has the least gender diverse board rooms with only 2.3% of women in CEO positions compared to 17% in other industries.

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  • It wasn’t till 1994 the Australian Law Reform Commission reviewed farm women’s legal status and finally defined them as “farmers” instead of
    • Domestics
    • Helpmates or
    • Farmer’s wives

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My name is Emma Ayliffe and I am 26 years old

I am VERY proud to say I am a member of a group of young people changing the face, image and gender diversity of agriculture

As you will have noticed I am female

What you might not know is I am

  • a farmer,
  • an agronomist,
  • a business owner and
  • a Young Farming Champion

I also sit on

  • The Southern Valley Cotton Growers Association Committee
  • Australian Cotton Conference Youth Committee
  • The Irrigation Research and Extension Leadership Group
  • And I am the Vice-Chair of the Youth Voices Leadership Team

As a Young Farming Champion, I go into schools as part of the project-based learning program The Archibull Prize. The Archibull Prize has gained the awesome reputation as being the Queen of Gender Equality

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My role as a Young Farming Champion in schools is to share my career journey in agriculture and inspire others (both men and women) to follow in my footsteps

Like me, many of our Young Farming Champions have STEM based careers.

As part of my agronomy business I am involved in crop research trials and conduct research myself. We test new and evolving farm technology including automation and advanced crop managements and many other areas of agricultural STEM.

AGRICULTURE HAS A LOT OF WORK TO DO TO CHANGE THE IMAGE OF CAREERS IN OUR SECTOR

As you can see from this word cloud from The Archibull Prize entry survey at the beginning of the program young people in schools struggle to identify careers in the sector beyond farming related activities. This is despite 82% of careers in agriculture supporting farmers both behind and beyond the farm gate.

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Talking about agricultural careers to teenagers in conjunction with The Archibull Prize comes at an opportune time as students make crucial decisions on their educational future.

Year on year The Archibull Prize evaluation shows us the key to success is exposing teachers and students to exciting young professionals working in diverse roles in agriculture.

To have young farming professionals share their experiences only makes the decisions better informed and raises excitement about STEM-based careers.

A key hook for both teachers and students is the innovation, science and technology that drives 21st century farming.

The Archibull Prize exit survey highlights the success of this approach

By the end of the competition students have a specific and varied repertoire related to actual career classifications rather than jobs around the farm. This is evident with more technical words being used like agronomist, vet, engineer, scientist, geneticist.

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With a large cohort of our Young Farming Champions being scientists and agronomists, their impact is evident through the high numbers of students who listed ‘Agronomist’ or ‘Scientist’ role. This is further confirmed as students listed their top three choices of careers in agriculture that THEY would consider.

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The full extent as to the endless opportunities and career options cannot be described in the short 5 minutes that I have here today but working with students participating in the Archibull Prize for SEVEN months in schools allows them to immerse themselves in every aspect of the farming industry as they study and explore ALL of the exciting career options.

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Women (like me) are key agents of change and innovation and offer significant leadership in sustainability, food security, rural communities, natural disasters and policymaking.

If we are going to have a profitable, productive, resilient and sustainable agriculture industry into the future the sector must been viewed as a career of first choice that promotes gender equality.

Young people are doing amazing things in agriculture – both young men and young women – we have a chance to model gender equity to the next generation when going into schools

The Archibull Prize model shows how far we have come.

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We invite you all to join us in The Archibull Prize to create a future where men and women work together as partners on farms and on boards and where the conversation is no longer about gender, but how we are building a better agricultural future for Australia.

Watch Emma talk about her career journey at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Secondary School Careers Workshop

 

 

 

 

Meet Emma Ayliffe at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and learn how spiders can be your friend

Meet Young Farming Champion, Farmer and Agronomist Emma Ayliffe who with farmer Craig Newham will be running the Good Bugs, Bad Bugs Workshop at Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary School Preview Day.

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Read Emma’s story in AGWomen Global HERE

Student participants will go home with a new appreciation of the insects around us using cotton farming as the model. The first thing they will learn is there are NO actual bad bugs, just bugs in the wrong place at the wrong time and there are some very pesky little bugs that just love to chew cotton plants. With Australia being the most water efficient cotton producing country in the world and (with Egypt) producing the best quality cotton in the world  ( ours is the whitest and the strongest) our cotton farmers are being very diligent about encouraging the bugs in the wrong place at the wrong time to find somewhere else to live and dine.

Students will discover our cotton farmers have developed a very impressive pest management system known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM for short.

Its a big picture process that requires

1. Knowing your enemy and your friends.
2. Taking a year round approach.
3. Thinking of the farm and surrounding vegetation as a whole system.
4. Having good on-farm hygiene.
5. Considering options to escape, avoid or reduce pests.
6. Sampling crops effectively and regularly.
7. Aiming to grow a healthy crop.
8. Choosing insecticides wisely to conserve beneficials (good bugs) and bees.

Emma and Craig will introduce the students to the good bugs also known as beneficials and the bag bugs that the good bugs keep under control. Then the students will test their bug knowledge

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And like Emma they will find that spiders can be your friend ( at a distance)

Join the Young Farming Champions at Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary School Preview Day. Meet the team HERE

Watch what we do

@eastershow #youthvoices18 @art4ag @archibull #welovewool #eatveggies #welovecotton #weloveeggs #youthinag

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Sharna Holman is crazy about Cotton.

Meet Young Farming Champion Sharna Holman. She is crazy about cotton. Have a 10 minute conversation with her and you will be crazy about cotton too.

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Read Sharna’s story in AGWomenGlobal here

Sharna will be presenting the Cotton or Not workshop at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary School Preview Day.  Sharna’s hands on workshop will share with the students  how Cotton plays a big part in our everyday lives. We sleep in it, dry ourselves with it, wrap our bodies in it and we even cook with its oil. And it’s produced by Aussie cotton growers right here under the Australian sun.

In fact right down Eastern Seaboard from Clermont in Queensland to just over the Victorian border. You can even find Cotton at the back of Bourke

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Sharna is a city kid, introduced to agriculture at school. She fell in love with the cotton industry and is super keen for young people to follow her into the industry. In fact there are careers in Cotton from A to Z

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We can all be very proud of our Cotton industry and Australian Cotton farmers

Some interesting facts for you

  • In an average year, Australia’s cotton growers produce enough cotton to clothe 500 million people.
  • Australia is the most water efficient cotton producing country in the world. Source
  • Australia and Egypt produce the best quality cotton in the world. Our cotton is the whitest and strongest. Source 
  • The Australian Cotton industry attracts young people like Sharna. Even their farmers are young. The average age of Cotton farmers is 39 and 40% of cotton farmers are female
  • And its good for the planet. Net on-farm emissions of greenhouse gases on cotton farms are negative because cotton plants store more carbon than is released from production inputs used during growth.

Primary School students can meet Sharna at Stand No 13 on 22nd March 2018

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Secondary Students can hear from and chat to Sharna at the Careers Workshop below Ag Career Arvo Flyer

#youthvoices18 #youthinag #welovecotton #wearnatural

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An invitation for Primary School students to meet the Young Farming Champions at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

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A passion to link consumers with producers … to promote public understanding of farming, and the interconnectedness of health and well-being and the agricultural sector … is the driving force behind the role of the Young Farming Champions (YFC)

Our YFC help agriculture to build its fan base and encourage young people from all walks of life to join them and follow their career pathway into the agriculture sector. Since 2010 they have being doing this very successfully through The Archibull Prize.See our 2017 Annual Report here. The Archibull Prize is a world first. A competition that uses art and multimedia to engage school students in genuine farm experiences, and gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, the fibres they use and the environment they live in. Young Farming Champions (YFC) participate in The Archibull Prize by visiting and mentoring schools, sharing their stories and insights into contemporary farming practices and inspiring students to consider careers in agriculture.

Over the past three years the YFC have been spreading the agriculture love far and wide as keynote speakers at conferences, delivering TED talks and running events and workshops across the country.

In 2018 our YFC will be participating in a smorgasbord of events to hone their skills and deliver their unique style of engaging and inspiring future generations of agriculture ambassadors and the best and brightest to join the sector

I cant think of a better way to kickstart 2018 than a partnership with the agriculture education team at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. In the lead up to the show we will be inviting  Primary School students to sign up to meet the YFC team on Primary School Preview Day in The Food Farm. Students meeting the YFC will participate in hands on workshops for the Cotton, Wool, Horticulture and Egg Industries. They can also chat to YFC and farmer Tim Eyes who will be the star attraction at the Thank a Customer workshop.

Get a taste of Primary School Preview Day here

Secondary students will also get the opportunity to hear from  and meet the YFC at the Careers in Ag  workshop in Cattle and Horse Experience Arena

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We look forward to profiling our Event Activation Team over the next 10 days. Get a sneak peak and meet them here

#youthvoices18 #youthinag

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Cotton enthusiast Liz Munn believes in reaping what you sow

Liz Munn brings us today’s guest blog which takes us on an 800km journey that begins and ends with cotton. The 21 year old technical officer with the DPI lives by the motto “You can only take out what you put in” and believes the more people show their confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry, the more it will become contagious!

Here’s Liz’s story…

My name is Liz Munn, I am 21 years old and I’ve just moved 800km across the state to work in the field I love – cotton!

Home for me is the rural community of Moree in the North West Slopes and Plains of NSW. It’s the centre of a large agricultural area, known for the rich black vertosol soils which allow crops such as cotton to thrive and is also renowned for its natural hot springs. In the past few years the community has been brought together in crises of major flooding, fires and drought, but the people always manage to come out stronger.

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At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, about to accept the Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship in 2014.

I believe that for a rural agricultural region to survive it needs a supportive, cohesive community – and I love to get involved! I work with groups such as the Moree Show Society, Leeton Show Society, NSW Farmers, ASC Youth group, ASC Group 14 Ambassador, and the Young NSW Farmers group. I love that show events bring the whole community together to experience all of the rural and agricultural aspects of the area. Getting amongst the hive of activity not only keep me up to date with what is happening in the agricultural industry at a regional basis, but also at a legislative and national basis.

My love of the land came from my grandfather. Some of my best childhood moments was the time spent following him around the farm and learning as I went. He had a mixed farming enterprise, so my parents and I helped with jobs such as lamb and calf marking, shearing, tractor driving and harvest. Over the years the farm changed to focus more on grain growing.

My grandfather taught me that you can only take out what you put in; which is a good motto not just for agriculture but for life in general and I have followed it throughout my life.

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Looking after a poddy lamb named Claire after it lost its mother.

At school in Moree I was the type of kid that enjoyed getting involved with everything. I was sporting house captain in year 11 and a school leader in year 12. I was active in a range of sports from horses to soccer, and was lucky enough to compete at state level in Sydney for athletics. I also loved learning to play classical violin for five years, and won a few awards along the way.

When it was time to think about university degrees my interest in agriculture lead me to a Bachelor of Environmental Science at University of New England.

I lived at St Albert’s College where made many friends and was introduced to several sporting, academic, and cultural groups. I was highly active in the college’s netball and chugby (women’s rugby) teams and also held the position of pastoral advisor (PA) where I supported my fellow students in any way possible and helped organise events.

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On the far right of the top row, after we played our first game of chugby in 2013.

My Environmental Science degree has given me a deeper insight into the need for a partnership between the needs of the native landscape and productive landscape and instilled the importance of preserving the productive farmland that we are lucky enough to have in Australia.

Agriculture is a constantly evolving industry and there is an important place for leaders who are up to date with the latest technologies and techniques to give the best protection against our unpredictable seasons while also enhancing competitiveness on the world market. The cotton industry in particular is at the forefront of innovation, and so I took my first steps to become involved.

During my first two summer breaks at university, I worked for a local agronomist as a cotton crop scout. When I first applied for the position I considered it purely a learning experience. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed myself. I found the cotton industry fascinating! Now I’m striving to become an agronomist.

In just a few years I have worked with many great people who were as enthusiastic about the industry as I now am too. Last year I toured one of the local cotton gins where we were shown all of the aspects of the ginning process. I also completed two subjects directly related to cotton and its management.

My dedication to regional communities and agriculture was last year rewarded with the 2014 Coca-Cola/ ASC Scholarship for my work in agriculture and my local show society, as well being appointed as an ambassador for the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) group 14.

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Checking some of the first open bolls for the 2014/2015 season.

This year my career has taken off. When I finished my degree in late 2014 there was a drought around Moree so I had to move to southern NSW, almost 800km away to a town I had never been to, to start my career.

In January 2015 I began working with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at Yanco in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area doing research into integrated pest management in cotton. Cotton is a relatively new crop for this region, so I am at the forefront of its progression and success. I am a technical officer, collecting field data, managing and organising others in the field, consulting with growers, and assisting in the creation of trials and data collection methods of those trials.

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To most people involved in agriculture it is not just an industry, but a lifestyle that travels down the generations. According to the National Farmers Federation, 99% of all Australian farms are family owned.

Agriculture influences every person in the world even if they are purely a consumer.

With a fast growing population and unpredictable climate, I believe we must protect farms for future generations, and it must be done sustainably and profitably.

I would also like to help change the stereotypical image of the average Aussie farmer. Agriculture is a great industry for young people and women. There are so many fantastic things to attract young people and as an industry we need to make sure we are looking after our youth, helping them survive and flourish so the industry can too.

Agriculture provides 1.6 million jobs to the Australian economy, but there is still miscommunication between farmers and consumers. I believe we need more communication to build support from the community and it is vital our farmers are supported in every sector.

People involved in Australian agriculture put everything into it and I want to make sure that they can always get out what they put in.

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There are so many young agriculturalists in Australia trying to make their voice heard, as I am. I want to be involved in advocacy for the cotton industry, particularly through engaging with consumers of Aussie cotton. I believe the industry can reach its goals. The more people who get involved and strive to enhance their skills, the more our confidence and enthusiasm for the cotton industry will become contagious. We will get out what we put in.