(As featured in The Country Web: Our Farmers – Our Future, Number 56 Autumn 2012
“Telling agriculture’s story has never been so important and it’s our young people who are best placed to reconnect with urban communities.” Lynne Strong, Jamberoo dairy farmer & National Program Director – Art4Agriculture.
This year has been a critical year for agriculture with issues such as the live export ban, milk price wars, climate change legislation, an expansion of Coal Seam Gas mining and consultations around the Murray Darling Basin Plan having a huge impact on farmers’ images as ethical food and fibre producers.
Lynne Strong believes we need to start a dialogue between urban and rural Australians about what is important to all of us in balancing affordable and ethical food and fibre production.
‘Never before have we been further apart from our consumer base. 86% of Australians now live in cities or within 80 km of the coast and modern supply chains have isolated farmers from their customers,’ says Lynne.
In a bid to bridge this gap Art4Agriculture added a new component to its Archibull Prize competition with 10 Young Farming Champions providing the fresh, female face of farming to around 3000 urban students participating in the competition. The Archibull Prize invites students in suburban primary and high schools to use art and multimedia to explore agricultural themes.
This year schools researched the theme ‘What does it take to feed and clothe Sydney for a day sustainably?’ Each school was provided with a life size fibreglass cow or calf on which the students created an artwork about their allocated food or fibre industry, the farmers who produce it and how it is being produced sustainably.
Supported by the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation and Woolworths Ltd, 10 Young Farming Champions not only provided information to students about the industry they were allocated to study, they also shared their farming journey with
the students. These Champions are breaking down stereotypes of farmers and agricultural careers while helping to bridge the rural-urban divide.
The impact of these young women on students is immense and immediate. Past surveys have shown figures as low as 0.2% of children thought women were farmers. After meeting the Champions the students understand that not only are women farmers but perhaps just
as importantly, farmers can be young, vibrant and have exciting careers.
For some students meeting a Young Farming Champion was life-changing. Many had never met a farmer and the realisation that they were real people with similar interests and dreams galvanised them to take action to support farmers. The student feedback demonstrated how direct engagement between farmer and consumer can build confidence in agriculture.