Last week it gave me great pleasure to present on the Future of Landcare with a focus on engaging youth at the Australian Landcare Conference in Melbourne.
Thanks to Peter Piggot who snapped this shot of me on the stage
In today’s post I would love to share with what I had to say in words and pictures. I hope it gives you food for thought and I welcome your feedback
I do what I do because I love this country
I care deeply about the farmers who look after 60% of its land mass
I am very proud that those farmers produce 93% of the food that Australians consume.
I am however very concerned that in this country we waste a whopping 4.5 million tonnes of food a year yet 2 million people can go to bed hungry every night. That is almost 10% of the population
Most of us take for granted that Agriculture feeds, it clothes us and it puts a roof over our heads
Yet very few people are aware of how challenging it is to do this when every year you have
1. Declining natural resources – less land and less water and on top of this
2. Increasing consumer expectations about how food and fibre should be produced
As a farmer I am very concerned that so few people recognise the ramifications of this country being the hottest and driest continent
AND the consequences of scarce water resources and poor soils meaning the other statistic that really worries me is less than 6% of this country is suitable for growing crops.
I am also passionate about youth. Some people would say I am almost obsessed about youth, identifying talented youth and engaging them and nurturing them.
There is a pool of great young people keen to play their part in Landcare.
I know this because I have the pleasure of working with a number of these wonderful young people every day
We need these young people and we must value their contribution
We need to work at developing new and exciting opportunities where these young people can make a positive and expanding contribution.
This may mean a rethink of how Landcare operates and what Landcare is and does.
I believe Landcare can have a pivotal role in regenerating communities at the same time as regenerating the land.
To do this we need to support our young people
If they are to continue stepping up to the challenge and putting themselves out there and we do not support them when they have a negative experience then we may lose them.
It we get it right it’s not just the environment that benefits – our people our communities – the health, wealth and happiness of this great country – are the big beneficiaries
To get it right our young people need training, mentors and supportive networks if this is to be a success
Today I want to share with you one such success story
The Young Eco Champions project was funded by Caring for our Country support in 2012
The project saw us saw shining the light on a highly innovative and exciting partnership of young farmers and young people in natural resources management who were working together.
Together they undertook
- Self and Professional development
- Project development and implementation of on ground works
- Community engagement activities
- Developed multimedia communications strategies and delivered them to share the story with the community
What did this look like?
We bought together Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions and provided them with training including high level media training, leadership and communications skills to deliver their story to community audiences.
They delivered Landscape scale conservation activities through a mentoring partnership between Young Eco Champions and farmers.
They promoted conservation information to wider community through:
· visiting Schools
· holding Field days
· Creating Case studies
· Writing Blogs
· Writing scripts and starring in videos
· And putting masterpieces on the web like this
But wait there is more
The Young Farming Champions and the Young Eco Champions were then able to go into schools as part of the Archibull Prize which uses creativity to teach sustainability
The aim of the project was to
1. Raise awareness of, and a passion for landcare principles in young farmers, in schools and in the community and equally
2. Raise awareness and understanding amongst young landcarers and the community of the challenges and constraints of modern agricultural systems
What we hoped do achieve was threefold
1. Firstly we wanted to cement the idea that sustainable food & fibre production is reliant on collaboration between farmers and landcarers and the community
2. Secondly we wanted to secure innate/inborn partnerships between NRM professionals & our food and fibre producers.
3. And thirdly we wanted to increase the participation of young people in managing natural resources.
DID WE SUCCEED – OF COURSE WE DID
As Eve Sawyer said ”Never underestimate the power of passionate people”
Now as I said at the beginning – Most of us take for granted that Agriculture feeds us, clothes us and puts a roof over our heads
Yet very few people are aware of how challenging it is to do this
As you have seen the Young Farming Champions and the Young Eco Champions program in partnership with the Archibull Prize is an innovative and fun way to bring together our farmers and school students to work together to
- address the challenges of today and
- develop a road map for a bright future
Increasingly in the future IF our farmers are going to be able to continue to supply safe, affordable, nutritious food and quality fibre – agriculture has to be a partnership with the community.
We all want to lead a life that matters but we also want to enjoy the process and feel a connection and feel like we belong.
I am a passionate believer that Landcare is a wonderful role model of a community with that essential fabric, heart and soul
If Landcare is to have a solid foundation and to retain its share of budget it too has to have strong community partnerships and broad support.
It’s time to prioritise theses connections. We can’t afford to let them get lost in the crowd.
Like a lot of Agriculture it is time for Landcare to marshal its troops and start telling its story more often and in new and exciting ways.
And the best people to start this conversation are the young people in Landcare who may not be fully engaged in traditional activities.
Each of us needs to ask ourselves the question
If I do nothing different now, what will be the result in a year from now….. And is that okay?
My vision for agriculture
I have a vision for agriculture I hold so strongly and I am totally unwilling to accept defeat.
Would you agree with me that if we are going to attract the best and the brightest young people we have to find innovative and creative ways of doing it?
Would you also agree if we are going to retain these people we have to deliver value for them?
The good news is as you have seen there is a solution
I would invite you all
- Everyone in the room
- Everyone right across Australia
To join me in investing in the people of the future!!!!!!!.
I enjoyed the following Q&A panel session and being on the stage with some of the wonderful people who have supported Art4Agriculture from the beginning ( PIEF and Landcare Australia)
Thank you to Landcare Australia and the committee for giving me the opportunity to showcase some of agriculture and the natural management community’s wonderful young people. They are definitely out there and its my generation’s role to invest in them