Sydney Royal Easter Show – a career maker

Today is the last day of the Sydney Royal Easter Show and this blog will highlight just how influential a Sydney Royal Easter Show experience can be on Next Gen agrifood sector entrants

Background

We all know young people are the key to success for the agriculture sector and those involved in the sector also know that agriculture has talented young Australians ready to take on the challenge of new and emerging job roles set to dominate the industry.

In my role as National Program Director for Art4agriculture our network is committed to identifying and engaging these exciting young people We are also grounded in the conviction that investing in our young people needs to be made a top priority and we take every opportunity to providing a vehicle to give these young people the profile they deserve

I was introduced to Sharna Holman via the Twitterverse when I noticed her tweeting about the School District Exhibit display. She was obviously a proud supporter of the winning school Muirfield High and she was including people of influence (like pollies) in her tweets.

Having judged the school district exhibits it appeared from Sharna’s tweets she may have extensive insights into the behind the scenes development of a school district exhibit I contacted her and found an amazing young woman with a great story to tell about many things but in particular the influence of the Sydney Royal Easter Show has had on her career pathway

So of course what did I do I asked her to share her story with you as today’s guest blogger

The Sharna Holman story…. 

Hi, my name is Sharna Holman, and I am currently in my first year of a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney. I am your normal ‘city girl’ having had no real experience on a farm but from an early age I loved animals.

It wasn’t until starting high school when I chose to study agriculture as an elective that my passion for agriculture sparked.

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I attended Muirfield High School in Western Sydney The school has a 4 hectare farm which allowed us to have cattle, sheep, alpacas, pigs, chicken, bee hives, and of course the obligatory vegetable patches. I soon found I loved learning more about the links between farming and food, and all about agricultural production. I particularly enjoyed  Years 11 and 12, when our teacher Ms Heap took our class on excursions and camps to Camden and Bathurst, and we had a chance to go onto working farms.

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The school agricultural camp to Bathurst is an opportunity for year 12 agriculture  students to see some working farms and have hands on experiences of some examples of the issues we study at school such as erosion. We also went to the livestock saleyards, and saw how sheep and cattle get sold. We helped draft the sheep, and give vaccinations. On another sheep property we visited they were shearing the sheep, so we were able to see how that was done and how they handle the wool once it was shorn.

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As element of the HSC agriculture is a product case study, from the farm to the supermarket. Our class studied milk. As we had already seen the dairy at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, our teacher organised a tour of a goat dairy. The owner of the goat dairy was able to explain more about the niche market she was in, and sampled the products which was an experience in itself as many of us had never tasted goat milk products before. The camp is great as it is one thing to study something in a classroom; it is so much more powerful and increases knowledge retention rates by seeing and participating in a real life situation.

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When I was in Year 10, I was a volunteer at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which was an amazing experience on so many levels including providing insights into consumers knowledge ( or lack of) of paddock to plate production

I loved working at Australian Egg Corporation Ltd area in the Food Farm. This area has changed for 2012 show but when I volunteered here kids could come in and paint eggs.

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It was a lot of fun being a volunteer; I was able to see more of the show as I was in there for most of the days. I think that year I saw nearly every event. Also I found that volunteering at the Easter Show helped boost my confidence in talking to people because you speak to all sorts of people at the show.

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It was my Sydney Royal Easter Show experiences from volunteering and then competing as part of Muirfield High School Show Team and then the opportunity to steward at the show that sparked my interest in agriculture as a career and all the doors and opportunities that it opened up.

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I was part of the Muirfield High School Show Team that competed in the Schools’ District Exhibit Display Competition, which began in 2010. It was this competition that really helped me decide that agricultural career was the path I wanted to take.

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Everyone you talked to at the show had a story to tell, and they were all so different and interesting. The thing that resonated for me was that everyone loved what they did and they were living a life that made a real difference.

The big ideas for the Muirfield High School District Display Exhibit always come from something that is relevant to agriculture in the 21st century. We know our display gives us the opportunity to tell an important story and engage the audience and prompt discussions about the importance of farmers and farming.

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In 2011 we used the Agriculture Higher School Certificate Syllabus as our inspiration with the theme for the display ‘Australian Agricultural Research, Stepping up to the Challenge’. During 2011, it was predominately the Year 12 Agriculture Class working on the display, and as our elective for the HSC was ‘Farming in the 21st Century’ we decided all the research we did for the HSC would make the perfect “big idea” for a display featuring a large rotating DNA double helix. The aim was for people to walk away from our display reflecting on the science underpinning agriculture productivity and innovation and where it will go next.

This year’s display involved students from Year 8 to Year 12 and was themed ‘It all starts with us, Australian Farmers; One World, One Plate’ with the big idea coming from the Australian Year of the Farmer, The display provided a timely reminder that each and every one of us is linked by our need to feed and clothe ourselves

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Teamwork is the key and a diverse number of people and skills are needed to design and create a School District Exhibit display. Art students are needed to help with the painting and designing of the backboard and the arrangement of the display. While Design and Technology students are needed to assist with mechanics of moving elements in the display, of which Muirfield High School has a running tradition of recycling microwaves to make things rotate. A large amount of time is involved in creating the backing boards which are covered in seeds. It is also very important that the judges see only the best examples of Australian produce.

Muirfield High School is extremely lucky as they have an amazing support network coming from both the local community and the Western District Exhibit Display.

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It is common to see parents on the Sunday before the show starts parked out the front of the school with trailers attached to cars to help transport all the backboards and display gear to the show without even having to be asked. The teachers are also wonderful with many teachers giving advice on how things look, such as the art teachers sharing that bold and clear lines are best. Teachers also give up their time throughout the holidays to assist students in manning the display. The team at the Western District are fantastic! They are always keen to share advice and tips. Something that I learnt from them in the first year that the school participated in the competition was that you use hairspray to get the fruit to shine. Western District also supplies Muirfield with majority of the seeds and produce used in the display. It isn’t unusual to see Muirfield High School students walking up and down the Woolworths dome with pumpkins, apples, and bags of seeds in their hands.

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Muirfield and Western District have developed a close relationship over the past few years being involved in the School’s District Display Competition. Often students take breaks from working on their display to go down to Western and see if they need a hand with their display. Students also get invited down to have lunch and hang under the display with the team from Western as well. If you ask the Muirfield students who were part of putting together the display, most are keen to move up to the bigger league and help out Western District once they have finished school!

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The Sydney Royal Easter Show is where as a ‘city girl’ I can go and see the work of our farmers in their cattle or sheep, or the work that goes on to get the horses ready for their classes. But being involved in the show, and knowing the hard work that goes on months before the gates open has changed how I see the show. Farmers and exhibitors don’t just stop working once the show is over, the Sydney Royal Easter Show gives them an opportunity to be proud of the work they have done over the past year, and proud of everyone, in all parts of the agricultural industry.

After speaking to agricultural professors and students at the University of Sydney I knew a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture was for me and was excited by diverse areas of speciality and careers that it would open up for me.

At the moment my passion is biotechnology and genetics, but with all the different areas of specialisation you never know what direction you will follow.

What excites me is I know I part of new generation of young people in agriculture working on important issues that affect not only us in Australia but everyone around the world and I can’t wait to get out there and play my role.

I’m also a big believer in getting young people involved with agriculture at schools and at their local shows. Getting students involved at local shows and on school farms is a way of showing what agriculture really is; fun and exciting! The more students get involved with agriculture, the more myths can be dispelled and show that the agricultural careers are wide ranging and interesting, dealing with things that are important and relevant in our future.

Wow see what I mean – impressive isn’t she

BTW Muirfield High School also competed in 2011 Archibull Prize and their Archie (below) was on display in the Food Farm

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One thought on “Sydney Royal Easter Show – a career maker

  1. Wow! What a fantastic story! It is great to see how much the Sydney Royal Influenced Sharna’s decision – and great to see a city girl getting amongst it studying Agriculture! Fantastic job!

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