Western Sydney University pairs with Mr and Mrs Cheese to deep dive into the delights of dairy

Our guest blog today comes from Chris Vella and his partner in crime April Browne who are the Science Education and Engagement Coordinators at the Western Sydney University School of Science and Health


Chris Vella (left) and April Browne (right)  with the award they won in partnership with Therese McGillion (project officer, School of Science and Health) for nurturing individualised, student-led scholarship, bringing agricultural education to the daily dinner table, and collaborating with genuine joie de vivre towards a better food future.

Chris and April recently paired with MKR contestants Jason and Annie Chesworth ( Mr and Mrs Cheese) to run a dairy engagement activation at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in March


Chris shares with you the team’s motivators and drivers

Food is something that we, at Western Sydney University, believe everyone has opinions on. People think, talk, write, and post about food every day. But, how often does the average consumer have the chance to  receive information about where their food comes from, directly from the source? This insight is incredibly valuable for urban-based audiences, and we, as an agricultural education institute, feel that part of our job is to help facilitate these discussions in the community about issues surrounding our food system- plus we just love talking about all things food!

SRES Dairy 1.png

(From https://www.instagram.com/p/BS5Et2-hNKB/)

The chance to help people get a bit deep with their food is one reason why we enjoy being a part of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This year, the Western Sydney University stall was in the Downes Pavilion during the long weekend. With the dairy cattle surrounding and a space across from Dairy Australia, we could think of no better people to partner up with to create our stall than Jason and Annie Chesworth from Hunter Belle Cheese.

Focused on continuing the dairy conversation with eager visitors to the cattle sheds, Jason and Annie designed an incredible, Price is Right-style game called ‘an Udder Day an Udder Dollar’ (the Hunter Belle team get full credit for that pun) that we ran throughout the long weekend. Each session drew a huge, diverse crowd of people, giving them the chance to ask those burning questions they might have about the dairy industry.

In the following video Annie has captured Jason hosting the game. This was an opportunity to bust myths and pass along information about what goes into the dairy products that we all know and love.


“It was great to be able to interact with our consumers in a way they could connect, by taking it back to basics of what they spend weekly at the supermarket on dairy products and then aligning that with the production process. It was heart warming the amount of people that commented about how they didn’t realise this or that, so to think that we made a small difference to how these consumers view the value of the Australian Dairy industry was a very good outcome.”-Jason Chesworth

At Western Sydney University we are passionate about creating a more food literate society through our teaching and research. Our Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security equips graduates with the professional skills to lead a new era of agricultural conversation between producers and consumers. It is our hope that these kinds of activations (as well as the many others we offer in our school programs) can inspire the next generation to pursue a career in agriculture and lead a more sustainable food system.   

SRES Dairy 3.png

(From https://www.instagram.com/p/BS7t0XqBHRT/)

Thanks Chris

Good grief now coffee cups are destroying the planet – how did I not know this?

Don’t we all wake up to be a better person that we were yesterday.

One great way to do that is to reduce our footprint on the planet. Yet it appears we are all so misinformed and as the ABC brilliant new show “War on Waste” showed last night far too many of us (including me) are under the misconception coffee cups can be recycled. If they can it sure as hell isn’t happening in our country.  OMG the dairy industry would go broke ( or even broker) if our love affair with coffee was impacted

coffee cup left on footpath.jpg

A recent Choice article informed us

The well-intentioned caffeine lover who tries to do the right thing and recycle their cup may be doing more harm than good. The plastic waterproof lining of many paper coffee cups means they can’t be recycled with collections of paper and cardboard and may actually contaminate a load, causing the whole lot to be sent to landfill.

Factor in the hefty use of resources that goes into producing them, and coffee cups are landing a triple blow to our environment.

Now I do have a Keep Cup – in fact I have had half a dozen of them. I am paranoid about washing them up ( because I know refrigerated milk even little bits of it go off very quickly) and I leave them places – well at least they can be recycled or the glass bits can


Now we all know about disposable nappies. At least I dont have to feel guilty about this one. I soooooo remember all that soaking and washing and drying and folding of nappies that just having one child demanded. So totally understand the appeal of disposable nappies BUT here’s a staggering number – every day 5.6 million nappies are used in Australia.

After they’re used, 5.6 million nappies go to landfill where they sit and release greenhouse gases for approximately 500 years until they break down. The plastics, the fibre, the super absorbent polymers (SAPs) they contain that could be recycled are buried as well.

But as I approach that age where incontinence may become a problem it appears my footprint could go up considerably

With incontinence products, that number jumps to 7 million a day – Note to self Lynne remember to keep working on those pelvic floor exercises

Aged care centres estimate that a massive 40 per cent of their waste is absorbent hygiene waste (AHW), and with our aging population, tonnages are growing fast. Often this waste also contains medications that have passed through the body.

Then there is the evil wet wipes – I must admit I thought these were the bees knees until I heard people were flushing them down toilets. Green star for me I have never done that

Just how bad are they – a report by the Marine Conservation Society revealed that wet wipes have become the fastest growing cause of pollution on our beaches. Its volunteers are picking them up from our coastline at a rate of 35 filthy wipes per kilometre.

If there’s a part of our body or house that might harbour dirt, we’ll happily buy a wipe marketed specifically to sweep it away at the flick of a wrist

Wet wipes have grown in popularity – from kitchen and toilet wipes to moistened towelettes for keyboards.  Meanwhile they are clogging up our sewers, creating floods of noxious waste, and also triggering outbreaks of serious allergies. Read more here 

Now the Relivit people are on a mission  to find a better solution.

As they acknowledge disposable nappies are here to stay and it’s easy to see why – they’re convenient, effective and require no washing. Let’s also make them sustainable by reclaiming the materials and reducing waste by more than 95 per cent.

If you would like to see nappies, incontinence pads and feminine hygiene products reclaimed from landfill and recycled please pledge your support on the Relivit  Facebook page.

Goodness gracious me its time  somebody made being good a lot easier than it is now


An opportunity to create my autobiography – mmmh

Peta Bradley

Peta Bradley – young women in wool going places

Today I was invited to share my story in a forum that would see me follow in the footsteps of people who certainly don’t mix in my regular circles

As a I read down the list of people they had interviewed in the past Tara Moss’ name hit me in the face. Déjà vu I just happened to be staying in the same hotel I was five years ago when I found myself standing next to Tara Moss. Can you believe it she is even more beautiful in real life?

So, somebody gives you an opportunity to share your life story in 45 minutes in an international forum. 45 minutes is quite a long time – what do you say or my case what do you not say. Here I am, self-identified non-role model driven to provide young people in agriculture with the life skills necessary to thrive and NOT make the same mistakes I have.  I will have to give this opportunity a lot of thought – not sure I am brave enough to talk about the person, the pivot points and the drivers behind the facade.

Speaking of role models it has certainly been rewarding to be part of this three part series in The Land newspaper. It has been said you are a product of the people you learn from. What a pleasure it has been to to invite Max Edwards and Peta Bradley to talk about the role models that have helped shape them.  Next week The Land will feature Dwayne Schubert whose story first inspired the series. I look forward to this being  one of many features in The Land on young people leading transformational change in agriculture


Are vegans taking over the world?

I was recently in charge of ordering the catering at an event for a highly environmentally aware group of young people from non livestock agriculture backgrounds, only to discover that, that all important question for caterers (dietary requirements) was left off the survey. We will blame SurveyMonkey it should be a given in every survey

So there was a last minute guessing session for the caterer. Highly environmentally aware/non livestock farmers = 60% vegetarian, 20% vegan, 10% gluten free, 10% meat eaters.

We got it all wrong (no vegans, no gluten free) but we all got stuck into the Vegan Chocolate Balls.

Vegan Chocolate ball

 The vegan chocolate ball 

No-one likes to be put in a box and no-one should ever assume. After all I get cheesed off when people are surprised when I don’t wear gumboots all the time.

This got me thinking, if we had time to do call Dr Google what would she have said?  What percentage of the population is vegan/vegetarian and why have they chosen this dietary lifestyle?

Did you know Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world?   Data from market researcher Euromonitor International has shown Australia’s packaged vegan food market is currently worth almost $136 million, set to reach $215 million by 2020. Read the article in the SMH here

And there is a slow but steady rise of vegetarianism in Australia.

Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people (or 9.7% of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2%), the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal. While it is a nationwide trend, the shift towards vegetarianism has been most striking in New South Wales, where there has been a 30% growth in this kind of diet.

As of March 2016, 12.4% of people living in NSW agreed that ‘The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian’, up from 9.5% back in 2012.  There was also a solid increase in Western Australia, with 10.9% of adult Sandgropers adopting a meat-free (or meat-minimal) diet (up from 8.7% in 2012), and in South Australia (10.4%, up from 8.5%).

As it did in 2012, Tasmania leads the nation with the highest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat (12.7%, up from 12.2%), while Queensland (9.2%, up from 8.3%) retains the distinction of being the state least inclined towards vegetarianism.

Where Australia’s vegetarians live: 2012 vs 2016


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2011-March 2012 (n=19,167); April 2015-March 2016 (n=14,380)

Australia’s vegetarians (and those who eat an almost vegetarian diet) are more likely to live in capital cities than in regional or rural areas. Given NSW’s vege-friendly status, it’s hardly surprising that Sydney is the capital with the greatest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat (14.4%); ahead of Hobart (13.3%) and Melbourne (12.7%). Source 

And its not all about the ethics of eating meat

As Roy Morgan Research has explored in the past, many Australians adopt a vegetarian diet for health and/or weight-loss reasons – and this hasn’t changed. Nearly half (48.7%) of Aussies 18+ who eat little or no meat agree that ‘A low-fat diet is a way of life for me’ (well above the population average of 31.9%) and 36.7% agree that ‘I always think of the number of calories in the food I’m eating’ (compared with the 25.2% national average).

Interestingly while 60.7% of Australian adults have a Body Mass Index that qualifies as overweight or obese, this figure drops to 45.4% of those whose diet is mostly or totally vegetarian.

And these insights and future predictions from Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research

“Whether people are embracing a less meat-heavy diet for health, environmental or animal-welfare reasons, the fact remains that this trend looks set to continue. Not only has there been an increase in near or total vegetarianism across Australia, but almost 9.9 million Aussie adults (53.4%) agree that they’re ‘eating less red meat these days’.

“If they have not already, supermarkets and eateries would be wise to revisit their vegetarian-friendly options to ensure they are catering adequately for this growing – and potentially lucrative — consumer segment.

“Of course, to do this successfully, an in-depth understanding of the segment is crucial: which is where the power of Roy Morgan Single Source data comes in. For example, Australians whose diet is largely or completely vegetarian are 20% more likely than average to spend more than $40 per week on fruit and vegetables, 93% more likely to buy organic food whenever they can, and 14% more likely to try new types of food.

“Roy Morgan’s ground-breaking consumer profiling tool Helix Personas allows businesses in the food industry to identify the country’s vegetarians with unprecedented accuracy, enabling them to create marketing campaigns and branding that are relevant and appealing to their target audience.

“For example, nearly 30% of people who fall within the Fit & Fab persona eat little or no meat. Based primarily in inner-city neighbourhoods, Fit & Fab tend to be young, sociable, sporty and always on the go. While they’re not averse to some serious partying, they are also careful to balance their action-packed lifestyle with a healthy diet – which is where vegetarian food would come in.

“In contrast, vegetarianism is frequently a cultural choice for the segment known as New Australians, nearly one third of whom follow a diet free of or low in meat. Comprised largely of Indian, Chinese and other Asian immigrants living in outer suburban areas, New Australians are well educated, socially connected and in the early stages of their careers. They enjoy domestic life – even grocery shopping, where they would certainly take an interest in vegetarian products on offer.” Source 

#youthinag Leadership Search a tough gig

Its been a tough week. Too many important decisions to make.

employee recruitment

The Leadership Search – a tough gig

One in particular is causing some major pondering with applications now closed for the inaugural 2017 Picture You in Agriculture Scholarship  Fifteen applicants have been invited to move to the next round which is writing a blog post for Art4AgricultureChat . As you can see from the quality of #youthinag blog post content the applicants are nothing short of phenomenal

The committee is so torn. One scholarship so many great people. Who to choose?

Having applied for many things in my lifetime. Sometimes being successful and other times not. What I have learnt from being on the other side and sitting on the selection committee is often selection is a matter of luck, being that person who ticks all the right boxes at that point in time.


It has been highly rewarding to know that we are not the only ones who are excited by the quality of applicants and in typical cotton industry style (never miss an opportunity to nurture potential best and the brightest cotton industry advocates and professionals) Nellie Evans has now been offered a CRDC Young Farming Champions position in the program. We are now in talks with two other organisations to see if we can ensure some more of these amazing young people don’t slip through the cracks.

Nellie Evans .jpg

Congratulations to Nellie Evans who has just received an opportunity to enter the Young Farming Champions program as a Cotton YFC thanks to the generosity of CRDC 

The expression of interest process has also elicited some fascinating insights from #youthinag into the questions.

  1. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the agriculture sector?
  2. Why you believe it is important for the agriculture sector to build relationships with the community

The biggest challenges that face the Australian agricultural industry is maintaining reality in a virtual orientated world. Providing the opportunity for people to touch, feel, smell and experience the reality of farming. Empowering people to experience the magic of sustainable harvesting of country and building a genuine ownership of the physical world where we live and what’s around us.

Not only is it a social obligation to build relationships with your customers, from an economic stand point it is highly beneficial to foster positive community relationships to ensure ongoing support, markets and consumer appreciation of value in products and financial resilience in the Australian agricultural sector. All good businesses are built on solid relationships and secure and profitable channels to markets to drive on farm profitability.

I look forward to introducing you to the inaugural Picture You in Agriculture scholarship winner


#youthinag taking financial literacy support program FARMECCO to the market place

Young Farming Champions Geoff Birchnell and Felicity Taylor are very excited so see FARMECCO, the software program program that they have been working on with rural entrepreneur and visionary James Walker  reach the market place

The program aims to help Australia’s 70,000 beef producers improve their business skills and take control of their beef enterprises and finances.

‘I have been involved in some of the platform testing . It’s a great feeling to be involved with something that will shape farm management as well as seeing the hard work behind how it came together. 

Farmecco is user-friendly, forward-looking and encourages farmers to innovate financially. I see several useful applications for my own business, both presently and as I plan for the future. I’m so fortunate that products like this will be available to farmers of my generation for the lives of our businesses.  said Felicity 

Felicity Taylor .JPG

Felicity Taylor Beef Producer and FARMECCO Reviewer

The program is based on the concept of producing a level of meaningful insight into a user’s business that will directly drive improved performance. Users can typically input all elements of their business within 30-40 minutes and the program will then prepare a 12 month forecast for the business. This forecast is rich in information and provides a level of insight and analysis that is not commonly practiced in small-medium business. The results of this insight and analysis facilities more meaningful engagement of internal & external stakeholders of the business. When everyone intricately understands the business strategic plans and better decisions are readily made.

Some of the features of the program include;

  • Instant 30-40 page report containing a detailed overview of the business and personal aspects of the user;
  • Increased user awareness of business performance including cashflow requirements, livestock production, sales revenue, business equity and household wealth;
  • Increased financial literacy for users including benchmarking business performance against regional and national peers;
  • Live valuing of livestock based on daily market data;
  • Unrivalled simplicity of data entry to calculate key financial metrics;
  • Ability to run scenarios of change in business structure – particularly beneficial for young farmers with expansion aspirations or older farmers looking to succeed their business to family;
  • 12 month forecasting of business cash flow;
  • Detailed information inc Cashflow Budgets, Asset/Liability Summary, Livestock on Hand Schedules etc are instantly generated for financial focussed external stakeholders;

According to Geoff Birchnell who accountancy background was instrumental in fine-tuning the  program over 80 users have reviewed FARMECCO and they have been overwhelmingly positive. 

To start with a vision and work to see this materialise is immensely fulfilling. When you then see your effort generating real benefits to beef producers it is beyond satisfying. In agriculture, challenges are all too common, but I truly believe beating these challenges and achieving dreams is now within reach. 


Beef Producer and accountancy guru Geoff Birchnell 

The program is being launched via a webinar on Wednesday March 10th 2017. You can registered for the webinar here

Want to know more check out  this Beef Central wrap up