The Soil you need to Cultivate – and the journey to balancing life, career and family with leadership

 

Young Farming Champion and Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) member Laura Phelps recently grabbed an opportunity to broaden her knowledge and share her insights with the UK Government as part of their BREXIT strategy. This opportunity has taken Laura to London where she will be based for the next six months. Laura’s sojourn has opened to door to appoint Bessie Thomas to the YVLT.

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Bessie as a grazier and young mother brings a further depth and perspective to the group and shows its commitment to supporting young people in leadership as they face the challenges of balancing work and life.

The YVLT recognises young people are going through rapid transitions from study to work and family and part of its aim is to determine how to best support and encourage them to take on leadership roles.

Formerly involved with Art4Agriculture as an AWI wool Young Farming Champion and in media and communications behind the scenes, Bessie stepped away for a time when she had her first child in 2016.

“The Youth Voices committee seems like the perfect way for me to dip my toes in and get involved with agricultural leadership and support roles again without having to move my focus away from home, farm and motherhood,” she says.

Bessie loves her career as a journalist but she also loves her family and her outback property, and although she was quite sure she could combine them all to her usual high standard, life, she has found, has meant prioritising.

“I have a husband I love, a beautiful young child and a farm currently in drought – they all need me and this is the soil I need to cultivate right now.  I can press pause on a career and involvement with external roles, but I can’t press pause on feeding my hungry sheep, supporting my husband, or feeding my hungry child.” Bessie realises she may be able to do it all – but not all at the same time.

The YVLT, now in its infancy, will grow and change as time progresses and how exactly it provides support to its members will also evolve. For now it is enough that one of its goals is to provide a flexible approach to commitment.

“Feeling pressure to over-commit or guilt about potentially letting the team down has stopped me from getting involved with committees in the past,” Bessie says. “With the YVLT I’ve been asked to only give as much of myself as I can. This means I’ll be able to throw my all at projects I’m really keen on when I have the time, or say ‘Sorry guys, I’m shearing/going away/sick and I’m going to be pretty unavailable for the next month’ without feeling guilty about it. Other members are invited to do the same and it means we’ll get the work done as a team without any one person feeling like they have to keep filling in the gaps.  It’s a way for me to get involved, use my skills and help the industries I love, but also know that I’m allowed to press pause for a day/week/month or year if I need to, knowing that I can dip back in when the time is right for me again.”

One of the visions of the YVLT is to let young people share their dreams and design the future they want. By attracting one of Art4Agriculutre’s brightest alumni back to the fold and into a leadership position, the YVLT can already call itself a success.

Welcome Bessie #youthvoices18

Shorn No Bull puts the spotlight on NSW smallest high school

The 2018 Archibull Prize is now in full swing with schools receiving their Archies, connecting with their Young Farming Champions and starting their blogs. I was very taken by this heartfelt blog post from the smallest high school in NSW

Welcome ‘Shorn No Bull’ to Bombala High

Hello and welcome to Bombala High School’s Archibull journey.

This is our very first year of participation and we hope you’re as excited about the Archibull Prize as we are!  In this, our very first post we thought we would take the opportunity to introduce our school and address the white bovine in the room… Why Archibull?  Situated in the southern most region of the Snowy Mountains shire, Bombala High is the smallest high school in New South Wales. Everything we do at Bombala High centres around our school values which are personal best, respect and responsibility and we pride ourselves in our ability to deliver a high standard of secondary education to the children of our rural community.

So why is Archibull right for Bombala High? I hear you ask. Well of course we are motivated by the generous prizes on offer however; there is more to Archibull than mere accolades. Participating in the Archibull competition will provide a variety of valuable opportunities to our students, most notably the chance to be part of something larger than themselves, as well as the ability to give their small, remotely situated school a voice on a national platform.  Being situated on the Monaro it is very apt indeed that our assigned industry is wool. Agriculture and specifically the wool industry make up a large component of the local economy. This means that the Archibull is particularly relevant to many of our students, whose families are employed within the wool industry. A major component of the Archibull is research into the allocated industry and consequently, the Archibull will provide an invaluable opportunity for students to explore the wide range of employment opportunities on offer within the wool and agriculture sectors, as well as furthering their understandings of how these industries operate and contribute to local and national economies.

The creation of our Archibull also provides a range of opportunities for students with different strengths and skill sets. Participation in the Archibull is designed to be inclusive and is not limited to those with artistic abilities. The compulsory blog component of the Archibull is an invaluable chance for our budding writers and information technology students to participate and further their skills. We will also be calling on our agriculture and primary industries students to provide us with information about the wool industry, sustainable agriculture and biosecurity.  All in all we have a lot to do in the upcoming months and we look forward to sharing our Archibull journey with you all.

Bombala High School will be working with Young Farming Champion Dione Howard who knows what its like to grow up in a small town in rural NSW. She looks forward to inspiring the students to follow in her footsteps to a career in the agriculture sector.

 

Special shoutout to the Monaro Team at South East Local Land Services for supporting Bombala High School on their Archie journey

Image: Northlakes High School entry in 2015 Archibull Prize

_2017 Supporting partners Capture

Outback to the Future – enabling the next generation of landcarers

 

In a testament to the drive of young people within agriculture, our Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth was one of the key organisers for a recent conference in the far west of NSW bringing climate change and technology together.

On May 12 approximately 50 people travelled to Fowler’s Gap, about an hour north of Broken Hill where Anika farms with her parents, to attend the seminar Outback to the Future. Held in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, the seminar brought together scientists, industry leaders, government representatives, graziers and the general public to discuss the future of these fragile arid lands.

“In the room, we had people from many different disciplines, different ages, from people who have careers studying life under microscopes, to people who spend long days in dusty sheep yards. What we all had in common was a fire in the belly to look after this land, and everyone in the room had unique perspectives and skills that brought value to the conversation. Our focus – how to best manage the fragile environment of the Far West into the future, so as to ensure sustainable farming businesses and vibrant and resilient rural communities.

With ten research organisations represented in the room, we asked the questions; What solutions are at hand? What solutions do we need to create? What research needs to be done, and what technology do we need to develop?

We started the morning session with the big picture. Our first two speakers set the scene with perspectives on research and technology  in Australian agriculture, and climate change. We then moved into livestock management and welfare, and the importance of looking after our natural resources for the benefit of our farming businesses. The afternoon sessions had a more personal perspective, as we heard from members of our community – from young members of the community in high-school, to seasoned graziers, and a university lecturer who brings Sydney students to the outback, some for the very first time. The discussions and viewpoints were varied and unique – bringing great value and depth to the seminar.” Anika Molesworth

In the spirit of collaboration another Young Farming Champion, Danila Marini from the University of New England, gave a presentation on virtual fencing and how it could be applied to the vast stations of western New South Wales using a system of smart collars and GPS coordinates. Danila has previously worked on pain relief methodology for sheep and is becoming well known for her animal welfare advocacy.

Another #youthinag highlight was the Landcare Youth Network ( see footnote) presentation with the speakers using no paper notes, preferring phone notes instead and talking about their hopes, their concerns, and the next generation of farmers.

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Kagen Pearce, Maggie Tavian and Chloe Roberts from the Landcare Youth Network 

Kagen spoke about the importance of educating youth and giving them the skills to thrive. He highlighted the importance of programs like the Youth Network.

Maggie told the audience of the importance of investing more time, money and research into the sustainable farming future of the Far West.

Chloe said we need more from our leaders, including scholarships and grants to develop the capabilities of land mangers and young people in the region.

All three said they were interested in a future owning land in the Far West region, and recognise the need to develop their own skills and knowledge, and promote a supportive local and regional community.

Anika’s take-home messages from the seminar were:

  • The importance of having research stations like Fowlers Gap in the Far West, where arid-zone research can take place and provide a fostering environment for learning and experimenting.
  • There is exciting research being undertaken and technology being developed nationally and internationally, which could be applied to farming systems in the region with a few tweaks, and we in the Far West need to demand that it is made accessible and affordable to land managers.
  • The importance in having seminars and discussions that include the voices and perceptions of people from many different disciplines, industry and ages, in order to promote collaboration and creative thinking.

Congratulations to Anika and Danila, two Young Farming Champions blazing paths in agriculture.

Footnote

The Western Landcare Youth Network is an annual program aimed at providing young people with a platform to explore a future in agriculture and the environment with access to skills training in these fields. The Network allows Far West youth to connect with each other and make a difference to their communities under the guidance and assistance of mentors. Students also make a difference to their communities by developing local environmental projects that they carry out. The three pillars of this group are; learning, developing and contributing.

_2017 Supporting partners Capture

Teachers are the key to promoting careers in agriculture – its time to engage them using 21st Century creativity

It is undeniable that 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 the agriculture sector. Why is this so

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

“The language typically used in the farming sector to describe the roles of those employed in the industry is out-dated and reflects a mindset which is unattractive to young people. Farm jobs are advertised in terms such as farm hand, station hand, milker and shearer. These terms suggest low levels of skills, training, intellectual content and consequently low status. This is an inaccurate picture of the actual requirements of the contemporary farm employee. Farms require highly motivated, intellectually capable and broadly competent workers. They need people who are able to deal with a wide range of practical problems promptly and with ingenuity. Farm workers need to keep up with the latest research and developments in agronomy and business management. They need to be able to operate and maintain a wide range of technologies from the mechanical to the digital. They need to understand the impacts of global events and markets as well as local policy and market variables. They need significant financial planning and management skills, as they may be dealing with multimillion dollar budgets and regular transactions in the hundreds of thousands. These are exciting, diverse and challenging roles. Little of this comes across in the current nomenclature used to describe jobs in the agricultural sector and in the way the industry is depicted in the media and popular culture” Source 

The Archibull Prize program entry surveys reflect this outdated image of careers in agriculture with students struggling to identify careers in the sector beyond farming related activities. Most of the students’ words were about activities that farmers did i.e. feeding, harvesting, gardening, shearing, milking, watering.

In following Word clouds the larger the word in the visual the more common the word was used by the students.

Careers entry

‘In 2017, more than 323,000 people were employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing but if you consider those employed in the farm input and output sectors, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) says agriculture supports more than 1.6 million jobs in areas like transport and logistics, retail and processing. That means roughly 80 per cent of agricultural jobs are beyond the farm gate and the opportunities are wide and varied.’  Source 

With 80% of careers supporting farmers both beyond and behind the farmgate 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 the agriculture sector. A key hook for both teachers and students is the innovation, science and technology that drives 21st century farming. It is also pivotal agriculture provides them with the tools to workshop the diversity of careers.

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Students and teachers relate to exciting young professionals working in the agriculture sector 

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 i.e. agronomist, vet, engineer, scientist, geneticist.

Careers exit

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 they would consider.

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Students as the end of The Archibull Prize were asked to list their top three choices of careers in agriculture 

The Archibull Prize evaluation Careers Teacher Response

With 89% of teachers in The Archibull Prize exit survey saying they were now confident teaching about careers in Agriculture and a 52% increase in the number of teachers who STRONGLY AGREED there are lots of opportunities for jobs and careers in agriculture its clear we have found a winning formula

The Archibull Prize program design allows agriculture to be embedded into the school curriculum across subject areas its hasn’t been traditionally able to reach. After participating in the program 83% of teachers said they would use learning activities about agriculture in other areas of their teaching.

 

_2017 Supporting partners Capture