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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Youth Voices Matter

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Young people are in a unique position as they face the reality of an uncertain future but potentially they are bestplaced to push for and define the long-term societal response to the planet they envision. They are also the most vulnerable to the legacy of decisions made by older generations. Although young adults arguably have the most to gain and the most to lose their voices are not prominent, and too often engagement with this crucial demographic is in many ways limited. The Archibull Prize seeks to enable and empower students to make decisions and take actions that contribute to creating a sustainable future. To assist the students on their journey we pair them with young professionals (Young Farming Champions) from the agriculture sector.

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Young Farming Champion and keynote speaker Anika Molesworth  explains why Youth Voices Matter is this excellent post  “Restless Development”  from her Climate Wise Agriculture blog

Around half the world is under 30 and nine in ten of these young people live in developing countries.

Some are calling it Peak Youth – never before have there been so many young people in this world.

Due to this, their voices are going to be heard, and their actions are going to be felt. Their presence in global to local issues will be known. Why do I think this? Because the young generation are now more educated, tech-savvy and connected than ever before. And they care about their future.

This is why youth coalitions are growing and hashtags like #YouthVoices18 matter.
Young people restless for change are striving for fair, just and ecologically-sustainable development.

The youth today are going to face challenges like never felt before in history.
Climate change, forced migration and ecological degradation to name a few.
When natural environments cease to function as they should, and communities fracture and disperse, young people are caught in the wave of consequences from past actions and inactions.

But the youth also play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

Youth voices are particularly powerful.
Their smart-phone megaphones and global cyber-networks mean ideas and information are shared instantaneously. They see the injustices, they hear of the biological-plundering, and they are motivated to speak up, knuckle down and swipe-left on the status-quo.
For instance, young people in many parts of the world are calling on their governments to do more to prevent harmful climate change impacts. They say the failure to protect their future by slow or inadequate action violates the rights of young people to life, liberty and property enjoyed by previous generations. The idleness to set in place policies and structures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions exacerbates the risk and intensity of droughts, bushfires and floods – severely impacting those setting out on a career in agriculture.

Young people pursuing farming have no small task on their hands. Striving for high quality produce and global food security whilst reducing our environmental footprint is one of the most significant challenges of our time. Many experts predict that by 2050, population demands from nearly 10 billion people will require a 60% increase in global food production or a significant change to the global distribution, storage, consumption and access to food. Education and empowerment of young people in agriculture is critical.

When planning a brighter future, we need to be guided by young people, drawing upon their energy, creativity and skills for positive change. There are so many exciting young people working in genetics, soil science, irrigation engineering, carbon capture research, etc. – powering ahead in research, technology development and sharing their stories. Our leaders must not only acknowledge their interest, but seek the input of the youth, to implement measures that effectively protect young citizens from the foreseeable impacts of the ‘mega-challenges’ like climate change, and provide the platforms for young people to rewrite the narrative.

Young people in agriculture are taking a seat at the solutions dining table.
Their restless desire to change the trajectory should serve us all food for thought.
As the people who will be most greatly impacted by climate change, social upheaval and ecological unravelling, they need to be armed with the skills and knowledge to face these head-on, and they need to be part of developing the global redesign.

When given the capacity, support and trust – these restless young people push the boundaries and become a force for ambitious positive change.

 

_2017 Supporting partners Capture