Judging can be a tough gig

Yesterday I judged the Schools District Exhibit Display Competition at the 2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show.  The competition has the dual purpose of showcasing talented young people and their team work from NSW schools as well as identifying, encouraging and mentoring young people to feed into the iconic District Exhibit Display teams.

Currently 4 of the 5 District Exhibit Display regions are represented in the School District Exhibit display (lack of space is currently the limiting factor)

Woodenbong Central School is the trailblazer in this field and I understand has been winning the Queensland version of this competition regularly for a number of years. Woodenbong won the first Sydney Royal School District Display competition in 2010. I didn’t judge that year but remembered I had a picture.  How could I forget that chest that opened and closed so effectively.

Woodenbong 2010 P1090373

Woodenbong Central School winning display from 2010

This year the big idea had a celebrating Australian Year of the Famer theme. The students’ vision is to connect city people with the farmers who produce their food and fibre. In their words “ the start of a new day, an opportunity to start new relationships and take agriculture forward together”


The school had a six student team representing Yr, 7, 9 and 10 who all come from farming families. Their skills are honed by also studying wood technology, metal technology and art as well as agriculture and having watched them put the display together for the last two years under their agriculture teacher’s eye they are very dedicated to their art.

Woodenbong Central School 3rd Prize

I even learnt  something new from talking to them. Have you heard of Adzuki beans. They are the red colour on their version of the AYOF logo.

Woodenbong Central School is a feeder school for the Northern District display and I understand they have a great mentor/mentee relationship.

Northern District Exhibit

The Northern District parent display in 2012

Menai High School has been competing now for 2 years. This year their display was also an acknowledgement of Australian Year of the Farmer. The display used millet, chick peas, niger, (don’t worry I had to look that one up too) canola, lucerne chaff, wheat and faba beans to give a three dimensional feel to their display. Belinda (seen in the front) is a tribute to women farmers and the display features pumpkins and wool grown by the school.

Menai High School 2nd Prize

Menai High School falls into the Southern District and as you can see from the Southern display (below) at this year’s Sydney Royal which is a tribute to women in agriculture, Menai High School made a fitting link to their mentor display and achieved a very worthy second placing. Menai will also be thrilled to know they took out the Students Choice Award.

Southern District.

Southern District Exhibit 2012 showcased women leaders in agriculture making a difference.

Calrossy Anglican School falls in the region known as Central and have the genius of Architects Craig and Wendy Taylor who have been designing the Central District Exhibit display for over 23 years to tap into if they chose. Calrossy is Wendy’s old alma mater and she is looking forward to sharing her years of experience with the students going forward.

Central District

Central District display takes out Best Design Award at Sydney Royal Easter Sow 2012

The Calrossy display was a tribute to the life blood of their region the Peel River. The display showcased the major food and fibre industries which include the poultry industry, the feedlot industry, olives and lucerne farms. The display also featured plots growing ryegrass and wheat.  The two young men who talked me through the “big idea”  were from Yr8 and Yr9 coming from a dorper sheep stud and a horse, cattle and cropping farm respectively. They both did themselves, their parents and their school very proud and impressed all the judges with their eloquence and passion.

Calrossy Anglican

Muirfield High School falls into Western District and this is their 3rd year in the competition.

Winning the competition in 2011 from Woodenbong by if I remember rightly by just one point last year with this magnificent display (below) highlighting the innovation and science in the agriculture sector in the 21st century.

iMuirfield High School  (2011)

Muirfield High School actively work with and tap into the team from Western District for support, knowledge and produce

Western District Exhibit 2012

Western District won the People’s Choice Award in 2012

Muirfield High School have taken out the blue ribbon again this year with their “one world one plate” theme. Reminding the viewer that the world doesn’t spin without farmers, their  world map is made out of a beach ball that is covered with paper maché. You will note the map of Australia is coloured very brightly which the students said is to highlight that Australian farmers lead the way in innovation (BTW a microwave oven motor drives the spinning ball). The Muirfield team was made up of students from Y8 to Y12

1st prize Muirfield High School

I found the judging task much harder this year with the competition very even and this was reflected in the scores. My two fellow judges Andrew Barnum and Nicole Punt are both well known in the art and design world and I benefited immensely from their broad experience and expertise .

I approached the judging from a farmer perspective being highly appreciative that all of these wonderful young people were helping me tell farming stories to my urban customers – the lifeblood of every farmer’s business. Like the Archibull Prize  judging the highlight is talking the students and finding out the big idea and how it developed and the emotional connection they have with their theme, their study of agriculture and their artwork.

When the judges had all spoken to the students and viewed the displays we sat around the table and chief steward Geoff Bell added up the points to find out the overall winner Ultimately it came down to how well the students had caught your eye and taken you on the journey of their big idea and how they had glued it all together

As Andrew said a “great artwork has a simple clear message that takes a viewer into the artist’s world and holds them there, makes a connection and leaves a lasting impression “

You definitely did that Muirfield. Brilliantly done and this farmer thanks you. In fact I thank each and every student, teacher, parent and community member involved in the preparation of the School District Exhibit displays

You can see the School District Exhibit Showcase in the Woolworths Dome Foyer’s Centre for Agricultural Excellence. It is most definitely worth a look

Special thanks to George Davey for taking the pictures of the winning entries today for me – bit of a superstar with his iPad

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

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