By Bessie Blore, 2013 Young Farming Champion
(As featured in The Country Web, Issue 60).
Everything these people do, they do for the health, wealth, and happiness of all Australians. 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 city schools and raising awareness, and by telling their stories on social media. These people are young, and champions of their industries. Most of them are female. They just happen to be farmers.
A few months ago a story about celebrating the achievements of four female American astronauts was doing the rounds of Australian social media. It was shared more than 55,000 times. Following its success, I thought convincing the same audiences of the awesomeness of young farmers would be a cinch. Surely we’re easier to relate to than American astronauts? We’re Australian for starters. We’re enthusiastic and vibrant, some of us are just out of school, some of us have degrees and PhDs, and we’re just as interested in the environment, and what we feed our families, animal welfare, and chocolate, as you are. Yet my recent experience shows that audiences who are often all too happy to jump on the ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ bandwagon still shy away from talking about the other two ‘f’ words that make a farmer a farmer – food and fibre. In fact, uttering those words in the wrong environment can leave me feeling as if I’ve tried to hand out propaganda paraphernalia for a cult. So I’m left asking the question: Why are astronauts more interesting than agriculture?
Wait, don’t answer that. Because I’ve got a story about young people – and yes, most of them are 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.
Let me introduce you to the 2013 Young Farming Champions of the Art4Agriculture program. Now, I am biased, because I am one of them. So I’m already convinced of the benefit and importance of putting my time, energy and effort into being involved with Art4Agriculture. 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.
You won’t see our faces on billboards or bus windows. (Though, let it be known, I am selflessly willing to take one for the team if it comes to that.) 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 Art4Agriculture team, 12 of us are women. Some of us are fifth-generation farmers, and others couldn’t tell a sheep from a goat when they were thrown into the industry by happy coincidence (OK, that second one was me)! 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.
How is this not amazing enough, interesting enough, sexy enough for after dinner conversation as we feed our souls with chocolate mousse/rice pudding/frozen yoghurt, quite possibly produced by Andrew’s cows?
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, or praise the genius who invented naturally sustainable eco-friendly housing insulation on a negative degree morning. We just want you to believe that what we’re doing 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. People who believe in the health, wealth, and happiness of all Australians. People who believe in celebrating diversity, sustainability, creativity and progress. People who believe in supplying the world with trustworthy products that consumers can be confident in. Some of them just happen to be farmers.
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