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.

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.

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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.

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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

Cotton on to Cotton with Tamsin

Art4agriculture has a brand new partnership with the cotton industry and we are very excited about it

Cotton Australia is investing in their next generation of farmers and inspiring people who support farmers and we have identified a number of cotton industry rising stars who will be sharing their stories with you via Art4agricultureChat over the coming months

Our first cab off the rank is Tamsin Quirk …….

 

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About Me

If anyone had said to me seven years ago that I’d be a student at the University of New England completing a Bachelor of Agriculture I don’t think I would have believed them.

Coming from a non-farming background with both my parents in the health industry, I felt like I didn’t have the skills nor the knowledge to go into an agriculture related career.

Not only have I have learnt new things and developed new skills, I have formed lasting friendships and networks that are truly invaluable.

As A Kid

I grew up in Moree in NSW and it is cotton country.  Its is also quite famous for its Hot Mineral Baths which were were discovered accidentally when searching for irrigation water in 1895. 300,000 visitors of all ages visit annually and many believe in the healing powers of the Artesian mineral waters.

The streets are filled with Toyota land cruisers and an array of other utes and 4WD’s – I love coming home from the city, or uni, to see three or four muddy big Toyotas parked down the main street. Another thing I absolutely love is the dress code, every second person is wearing a pair of boots and jeans with their sleeves rolled up, and then you’ll get the occasional Agri-Business guy walk past in his polished R.M Williams boots and moleskins. There is always and will always be a rural feel to the place which is what I love, and I think “how could you want to be anywhere else?” It’s so easy-going and has such a sense of community. Everyone says hello in the street and everyone knows who you are.

I’d lived in town until I was 12 and had never really been involved in agriculture, but once we moved out onto a bit of land, things changed.

My first introduction to the cotton industry was in primary school and I remember looking out the window and seeing the huge pieces of machinery being escorted past the school during harvests and cotton season, and being inquisitive as to what they did and how they worked.  Check out the latest innovations in Cotton Picking here

Cotton Picker

Can you imagine how city people look when they see these monsters driving down the main street of Moree

Where it all began…

For one of my year 9 and 10 elective subjects at school I chose Agriculture. This was when my passion sparked. I had never reallyknown where I wanted to go in life until then. My agriculture teacher specialised in agronomy and this opened up an exciting world I had never really been exposed to. She was so enthusiastic about Ag. Walking through a paddock to check the veggie garden, the whole class would be pulled up to get a 5-minute rundown on a weed she’d just walked past and it was amazing to see someone so passionate, confident and knowledgeable; and it wasn’t just one weed, it’d be two or three on the way down and at least another one on the way back. I suddenly wanted to know about all the ins and outs of crop production and with cotton being so widely grown in the area, it was hard not to become involved. I soon was topping my Agricultural class in year 10 which resulted in me receiving the Dallas Parsons Memorial Award, which is given to students who have worked hard and been identified as having a bright future in Agriculture.

Years 11 and 12 saw me add Primary Industries to my studies and then I really saw my future opening up, I was topping the classes again and I couldn’t wait for every Ag and Primary Industries lesson. Although both the classes weren’t very big (with only 5 girls sitting the HSC Agriculture exam and me and one other boy sitting the Primary Industries one) I  had so much fun and learnt so much about the important industries that feed, clothe and house us from doing the subjects. I got to the point where I wanted to do nothing else as a career, and Agriculture was my soul focus.

Hard work, passion and commitment delivers cotton to my door

Coming towards the end of year 12 I set my eye on winning the Auscott Scholarship.Every year the local Auscott cotton ginning company awards this scholarship to a local Moree year 12 student who has worked hard and has persistence and enthusiasm for the career that they want to take. The scholarship is worth $11,500 for every year of study for 3 or 4 years. After a long process of waiting in anticipation I was shortlisted and then had a phone call to say that I had been chosen to be the recipient. The scholarship will be a massive aid for helping to pay for my accommodation and textbooks as well as giving me a contact network as I go forward to a career in the cotton industry.

Cotton Scholarship

Auscott “Midkin” farm manager Sean Boland with the recipient of the award Tamsin Quirk, and her parents Shayne and David Quirk –  Photo courtesy of Moree Champion read the full story here.

Learning, learning…

As my knowledge for agriculture grows, so does my passion and I realise and appreciate how lucky I was to have grown up in a community underpinned by the cotton industry. Our local cotton farms are family run businesses and cotton is the economic and social lifeblood of our community

I realised that not everybody had highways that looked like some-one had just busted a thousand pillows open all over the side of the road, and trucks all loaded up with wheat and cotton weren’t a regular thing in the main streets of other towns.

Cotton Cotton Everywhere

Does it get more beautiful than images like this?

The most important thing growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.

The cotton industry is very lucky indeed to have Tamsin don’t you think?