Tonight I am speaking at the Zone 3 finals of the RAS of NSW The Land Showgirl finals
Now it has been said that is this competition is out-dated and is no longer relevant.
Whilst the name of the competition makes me and a lot of other people cringe I can assure you this competition, the opportunities and doors it opens has never been more relevant
I know this because at least 90% of our female young farming champions have been involved in this competition and they tell me the process of preparing for this competition builds their knowledge and confidence and inspires a desire to take the next step and share the positive stories of agriculture with the wider community.
So I am relishing the opportunity to share my story, the Young Farming Champions story and the launch of latest Art4Agriculture’s initiative the Picture You in Agriculture Foundation with the audience tonight and having conversations with the people in the room.
Let me take this opportunity to share with you what I will be saying tonight ……….
Showgirl finalists, ladies & gentleman,
Tonight, I am asking you to ‘Picture You in Agriculture’ –
What does that look like for you?
What does it look like for your family and friends and
What does that picture look like for every Australian out there who relies on Agriculture?
For the showgirls here today, your picture is one that shows your pride for your local community here in Crookwell and the surrounding districts
Its shows a desire to stand up and say we are passionate about agriculture and our rural community.
This is a passion I share with you and I would like to share my story today and what my picture in agriculture looks like.
I was a partner in a family farming operation that proudly provided the milk for breakfast for 50,000 Australians every day.
I have learnt a lot and have grown from the challenges and experiences along the way
I now want to use my learnings to assist young farmers and new entrants into the industry to do the same type of things that I have been able to do.
I want to help them learn what I have learnt. I want them to be proud to share their story.
There is no denying that farmers are the ones feeding the world – they are the body and soul of food production and rural communities.
But farmers cannot do this alone. This is a shared responsibility between farmers and consumers right across the globe,
Every minute the world population grows, adding another 158 more mouths to feed.
More food will need to be produced over the next 4 decades than has been produced during the last 10,000 years combined
We all know these facts we have heard them before but the issue is more complex than economies of scale
The issue that is much more challenging is
how we get the next generation of farmers involved, when farming is becoming more complex, high investment, hard work and there is a perception that it is a low return business?
Moreover becoming a farmer is no longer a birth right but a conscious choice by rural entrepreneurs
So I am going to ask that question that everyone is asking
how do we attract and retain the next generation of rural entrepreneurs and young people to live and work in the rural communities that support them?
Trust me THEY ARE OUT THERE
I WORK WITH THEM EVERYDAY
It can be done AND it is my generation’s role is to invest in them
Since the turn of the century, the amount of land we can grow food on has been decreasing by about 1% a year
So obviously the majority of the additional food needed by 2050 is going to have to come from increasing yields per ha
On top of this according to the WW Fund, today our global footprint exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate by 50%
So if we continue consuming as we do today we will need the equivalent of two planet earths by the mid 2030’s and we know we only have one
So another very important question
How we reduce waste and produce more food with less water, chemicals and fertiliser?
I know this can be done too – because there are many amazing farmers doing this in Australia everyday
Take my industry as an example
Today’s dairy production requires
• 10% of the land
• 25% of the feed &
• 35% of water used per litre of milk produced than it did in 1940
Wow that is something we can all be proud of
But identifying the problems and challenges around global agriculture and feeding the world is one thing, looking for solutions is definitely more challenging
Perhaps women are the key?
We live in a world that is increasingly social, interdependent and transparent and in this world feminine values are ascendant
Powered by these values – like cooperation, communication and inclusiveness – institutions, businesses and individuals are breaking from masculine structures and mindsets to become more flexible, collaborative and caring
Feminine values are the operating system of the 21st century but women have traditionally lacked the confidence factor
And this is why our show societies are so important.
Every showgirl participant, finalist and winner I have met tells me the process of preparing for this competition builds her knowledge and confidence and inspires a desire to take the next step and share the positive stories of agriculture with the wider community.
And this is where I come in
I am obsessed with identifying talent, and with the development of talent, and with the nurturing and celebrating that talent.
I am obsessed with ensuring that farming, and farmers male and female, are able to take their rightful place in the full global value network available to them.
I also recognise the need to take many stakeholders with me on that journey
So I looked at agriculture’s “leadership programs,” and was disappointed that our young people were too often forgotten about when they had finished their formal training.
I knew that if we were going to build a team of young rural influencers and leaders then what was needed was strategic vision for driving these programs so they would deliver consistent and high quality results for agriculture.
To be brutality honest too often our “leadership programs” are developed as a way to appease agricultural R&D levy payers without being able to articulate or deliver REAL outcomes and benefits for industry.
To me it is imperative that we identify, engage, nurture and support our young people in an environment that allows each individual to build and enhance existing knowledge and skills
We want them to dare others to be different. At times they will need to be fearless.
But they needn’t stand-alone: if we find and elevate these champions, we can leverage their impact and catalyse an even greater change.
More importantly, MY generation will leave behind capable people, who can do it all again, and again…
even backwards and in high heels!
But do it they will…because of us.
As I said earlier THEY ARE OUT THERE
I WORK WITH THEM EVERYDAY
If we invest in them – it can be done
It is incumbent on all of us in this room to be loud and clear to our industries that they must invest in our young people.
Show societies have been doing this for generations, why aren’t some of our industries?
In 2011, 1 invited young people working in agriculture to participate in a program that would not only develop their capabilities to farm with confidence, but also to confidently engage with consumers and everyone along the supply chain.
These young people christened this program the Young Farming Champions program
The young farming champions have grown to be a network of young people who share a passion to tell others about the important role Australian farmers play in not only feeding the world but also providing the knowledge and skills sets to help developing countries to grow the capabilities of their agricultural sectors.
They believe in celebrating diversity, sustainability, creativity and progress.
They believe in supplying the world with trustworthy products, that consumers can be confident in.
They do this by bringing consumers and producers together, by visiting schools and raising awareness, and by telling their stories on social media.
These people are young, exciting and champions of their industries.
They are making a unique and vital contribution to the sustainability of our industries.
Vitally important they become part of the Art4Agriculture family and we are always there for them even after they finish our programs.
We continually find them opportunities to build their confidence, use their skills, share their stories, build their networks and create their careers.
In the beginning our trailblazers were all young women
That needs to be celebrated.
Because it is awesome that these mums, daughters, sisters, and wives believe in leaving a lasting, positive legacy on an industry that affects and supports every single Australian, every single day of their lives.
But this story isn’t about me. It’s about the dreams and beliefs of this program and every young person who has put their hand up to be involved, and the thousands of other Australians immersed in their industries.
Let me introduce you to the 2013 Young Farming Champions of the Art4Agriculture program, including your very own Jasmine Nixon and Adele Offley.
And I would like to do this by sharing part of a story written by 2013 Young Farming Champion Bessie Blore that will appear in the next edition of Country Web
Bessie Blore was a city journalist who met a farm boy and followed him back to the farm
In Bessie’s words
You won’t see our faces on billboards or bus windows.
You will find us in the paddocks of our farms, the lecture halls of our universities, the labs of our local research facilities, or the factories of our food and fibre processors.
And when we’re not there, we’ll be visiting schools in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra (and maybe one day Australia wide), talking to primary and secondary students through our roles as Young Farming Champions.
We’ll be opening their eyes to the diverse, exciting and innovative career opportunities obtainable through agriculture.
Of the 16 people selected to represent the 2013 Art4Agtricultre team, 12 of us are women.
Jasmine Nixon, Hannah Barber, Danille Fox, Naomi Hobson and Kylie Schuller represent the beef industry;
Kirsty McCormack and Liz Lobsley are on team cotton;
Cassie MacDonald a young vet is representing the dairy industry and
Cassie Baile, Jo Newton, Adele Offley and Bessie Blore are flying the flag for wool.
Some of us are fifth generation farmers, and others like me couldn’t tell a sheep from a goat when they were thrown into the industry
And given the average Australian farmer is a 52-year-old male, we’re kicking the stereotype of a weathered, middle-aged farmer, leaning against an old, wooden fencepost with his Akubra dipped to the sunset.
These days the face of farming is just as often female.
Although I’ve focussed on the achievements of women in a typically male industry, the young men involved are no less notable, stepping out of their comfort zone and into city classrooms to share their passions and dreams.
This year alone there is Martin, who flies planes, and writes blogs from his tractor cab;
Ben, who grows enough cotton each year to produce more than 1million pairs of jeans;
Billy, who grows almost everything you’d find in a box of fibre packed cereal;
and Andrew, whose dairy farm is partly staffed by robots. ROBOTS! I’m serious.
We don’t want to be thanked.
We don’t want you to think of us every time you eat a meal or get dressed,
We just want you to believe that what we’re doing – growing food and fibre is as cool as being an architect, or lawyer, or teacher, or doctor, or astronaut…
We think it’s cool, because agriculture is not about farmers. It’s about people.
My work with Art4Agriculture and in particular the Young Farming Champions’ program has allowed to me to realise it will not be me who shapes and changes the face of agriculture but the quality of young people I can deliver for agriculture and their communities through these social enabling programs like the Young Farming Champions
• I’m now devoting my time to creating a Foundation to provide ongoing funding so that we can secure and expand these activities.
• I want to make a difference; the young people I work with want to make a difference. In fact I know we’ve already started to make a difference. And I want to make certain that with the support of my generation we can continue to do this.
• Enabling the next generation of farmers to feed the world sustainably requires knowledge, adoption and implementation of both existing and new technologies, and paddock to plate collaboration and training. Enabling people in this way will help produce the leaders of tomorrow and shape the future face of farming in this country.
The call to action for my generation is
By investing in our young people, and joining me and focusing our time on these activities we can use our time and energy and $ in the best way we can contribute to future of the farming communities that we hold so dearly.
Young people such as our Showgirls here tonight who have shown us they want to make a difference.
Your farmers. Your future. By Bessie Blore
In the future… you will have health.
In the future… you will be valued.
In the future… your world will be even more beautiful than today.
How do I know this?
Today I am planting the healthiest seeds, to grow the best crop.
Today I am tending my flock, to harvest the highest quality fibres,
Today I am nurturing the next generation of calves to produce delicious nutritious milk
Today I am sowing water efficient pasture for my cows to provide the best value proteins.
Today I am using the most advanced technologies in the world, to ensure a flourishing environment, and happy healthy animals.
Today I am a farmer.
And in the future – all this becomes yours.
To the showgirl finalists, be fearless, tell your stories and continue to Picture You in Agriculture
Thanks for the inspiration
The Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions
Professor Shaun Coffey
The Future of Farming – The Rise of the Rural Entrepreneur – A Rabobank publication
Bessie Blore – Visit Bessie at http://journobessatburragan.blogspot.com.au/
Sacha Bonsor – “Do nice girls really finish last” – SundayLifestyle.com.au