Advocacy – getting the best bang for agriculture’s buck

As per my previous posts its not the quantity of advocates we have its the quality of advocates we have that will deliver the best outcomes for agriculture

Thanks to the support of an external body we were able to an extensive evaluation in 2015 of both the Young Farming Champions program and The Archibull Prize

These two programs are the cornerstone of the Art4Agriculture advocacy initiative and use young people under 30 in the farming sector to bring the farm into the classroom

The learnings from this report will help ensure investment in agricultural advocacy at a school and community level get the best ROI for the very limited farmer levies available to be directed into this space

I created these programs to do the following

  1. Identify and nurture young people in agriculture who are willing and have the capability and capacity to be the face of farming in the community
  2. Protect farming’s social licence
  3. Create a buzz around careers in the farming sector.

Like me, I hope that farmers everywhere will appreciate what the Young Farming Champions are achieving on our behalf


YFC Laura Bennett and Alexander Stephens visit Calvary Christian College

These young people are very brave-its far from easy putting your hand up for that often very daunting experience: of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances.

They donate considerable time and effort into preparing for, and going into schools and are selfless in their determination to focus on the greater good for agriculture

The schools who put their hand up to participate in The Archibull Prize are also very brave. Its a very high level program and it gets very high level results. 

Primary school teachers are extraordinarily brave because they are expected to work from the secondary school material

I also want to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart all the wonderful people who support me. This program operates on a shoe string and like me the majority of my support team do it pro bono or at mates rates. This of course is not sustainable and I am very pleased to report that we are talking to a number of corporates who are keen to partner with us

Below you will see the impact the program is having for agriculture, for teachers and the most important people in the world our young people

Extract from The Archibull Prize 2015 evaluation 

The purpose of this report is to determine whether The Archibull Prize Art4Agriculture program has achieved its objectives of using creative arts and multimedia to engage urban and rural school students to:

  1. Consider agriculture related careers;
  2. Expand their understanding of farming; and
  3. Understand the challenges of farming

The findings in this report show that The Archibull Prize successfully achieved these objectives and does far more. It provides schools with an educationally sound and valuable tool for increasing engagement in learning and participation in school and community life. Cohesion within the school community was enhanced through collaboration between Year groups and across key learning areas. Some feeder Primary schools also teamed up with their High Schools. This supports student well-being through improved transitioning to secondary education.

Summary of key findings

This report compares the data from students and teachers as they started their projects and at the end of their learning journeys.

In 2015, The Archibull Prize directly engaged approximately 2,700 urban and rural students from 28 schools. Teachers and students from participating schools provided data about their expectations and experiences through entry and exit surveys. Teams of teachers in each school co-ordinated project-based learning involving a number of key earning areas across multiple Year levels. This effort achieved a significant reach with an additional 16,650 students being indirectly aware of the Archibull taking place in their schools. School communities also became aware of The Archibull Prize through being actively involved in supporting their schools to create their outputs, reporting in school newsletters and local media.

Primary School teachers shared their expertise amongst project tasks and devised age and stage appropriate activities and content so that a number of Year groups or whole of school could participate.

Secondary Schools based their projects from within the Creative Arts KLAs and drew in teachers from other subjects. Other KLAs most involved were Agriculture, Technology, and Science. English, Health and Physical Education, Personal Development and Social Sciences were also involved.

A third of the Secondary Schools partnered with their feeder Primary Schools for some components of the project.

Young Farming Champions (YFC) played an important role in educating students and their teachers about contemporary farming practices and career pathways in agriculture. Student and teacher comments show that this was a highly memorable and significant experience. In educational terms, this equates to strong evidence of emotional and cognitive engagement. Students were impressed in three main ways:

  1. Being able to see and/or appreciate the physical aspects of farming;
  2. Having admiration for the professionalism, knowledge, work skills and ethic as well as personal passion of each YFC;
  3. Gaining insights into farm practices and potential career pathways through hearing the YFC’s story.

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YFC visit Erskine Park High School, James Ruse Ag High School, Gwynneville Public School and Calvary Christian College 

By the end of the competition students were even more positive, in wanting to learn about what farmers do and how food and fibre gets to us; and considering farming or working to produce food or clothes as a good career choice for themselves. Student comments indicated they had gained very positive insights from their meetings with YFC. They were surprised and excited to learn more about farming and very much enjoyed their experiences.

Students and teachers were extremely satisfied with their experiences with their expectations having been met and in many ways exceeded. There is no doubt that students experienced a high degree of enjoyment and that their engagement in learning was significantly enhanced.

Teachers strongly agreed it was a valuable and worthwhile experience that linked well with their school-based curriculum and provided more opportunities for students. They also realised there had been a number of unintended added benefits educationally and socially for students; professionally for teachers; and improvements in whole school cohesion. They described how their students had gained greater appreciation and understanding of farming. The areas of learning that students said they were most excited about related to farming and agricultural processes i.e. what farmers do and the extent to which their products are used (82% of Primary students; 64% of Secondary School students). In this respect, the contact with YFC was considered to be extremely worthwhile.

Students were generous in their comments about what they liked most about learning through doing their Archibull projects. Their perspective is consistent with teacher observations of their learning outcomes. Having a cow (or calf) as a focus of artistic and creative expression was a definite plus in terms of student engagement. The opportunity to develop new skills through an artistic process also excited the students. Students enjoyed learning about biosecurity, sustainability issues or food security.

High school students described the excitement they felt during the creative process from ideas generation to finished product. Social processes and teamwork were important to many students. They enjoyed creatively collaborating with their friends and contributing to a greater result. There is no doubt that using art and multimedia achieves significant leverage in engaging students’ learning about the challenges of farming and agricultural production in Australia.

The teacher ratings of their student’s skill development show a general increase (i.e. from ‘somewhat’ to ‘a lot’) across all areas for all students, both Primary and Secondary School. Benefits were achieved in the areas of,

  • self-management
  • a range of learning styles
  • communication
  • using technologies
  • initiative and enterprise
  • active citizenship
  • planning and organising
  • teamwork and cooperation
  • creative problem solving

Teachers noticed that their students had developed skills in other areas such as,

  • Fine motor art and craft e.g. hand sewing, wool swirling / wool craft, fine brush work
  • Multimedia, graphic communication and creative arts e.g. music- videos related to beef, ICT technologies- blogging speaking with adults within the community, blogging, research skills, co-operation, interviewing and note taking, uploading images and photo documentation; use of multiple sources and ICT technologies to learn and display their learning. Research and Presentation of professional work
  • Leadership and public speaking e.g. when presenting workshops to the Primary school students.
  • Literacy and numeracy skills improved, because students were highly engaged in the learning experiences
  • General behaviours improved because student had a higher respect for our learning environment

All students’ attitudes to farming and the processes involved in agricultural products increased over the time of the competition. Secondary School students’ attitudinal change was far greater (almost double) than for those in Primary School projects.

Significantly, teachers reported having changed the way they now think about agriculture. They explained what has changed for them in terms of a greater respect for farmers due to first-hand knowledge and experiences. Those who had previously done the competition mentioned having benefited by further expanding their knowledge Their comments indicate deep learning had occurred in order to significantly shift attitudes.

Secondary students attitudes to farming

Teachers attitudinal changes related to the following four main themes,

  1. Increased understanding of agricultural systems from farm to final product;
  2. Revitalisation of passion as an Agriculture specialist teacher;
  3. Technology and innovation involved in contemporary farming to increase sustainability;
  4. Extension of rural background to a broader understanding of farming.


Teachers consistently mentioned the same positive aspects of The Archibull Prize. These related directly to the use of project-based, cross-curricular and Year level approach through a focus on visual arts creative processes. Students were challenged and extended in their ability to interpret researched knowledge and apply graphic communications skills. Teachers were surprised at the high degree of engagement in learning and resultant deep knowledge of students. Their experiences reflect an holistic approach to teaching that fits well with the NSW Quality Teaching model (QT)[1]. This indicates that undertaking The Archibull Prize is pedagogically sound. The following quotes from teachers have been analysed for the elements from the QT framework they represent,

It was an authentic learning experience that encouraged the development of deep knowledge and engaged our students in higher order thinking. Students were able to demonstrate this learning in an inclusive and fun way. (Primary Teacher)

QT Elements: Deep knowledge, Deep understanding, Problematic knowledge, Engagement, Student directed

 (I liked) Watching students collaborate their ideas and socialising with others. (Secondary Teacher)

QT Elements: Substantive communication, Problematic knowledge, Engagement, Students’ self-regulation, Student directed

A broader impact on the whole school community cohesion including parents was noticed. Teachers’ professional capabilities were extended in new ways that included public speaking, cross-faculty collaboration, and undertaking project-based arts and multimedia teaching and learning.

Three main concepts of Climate Change, Biosecurity, and Food Security were an important part of the learning incorporated into The Archibull Prize. The entry and exit surveys asked students whether they had heard of these terms, what they thought they meant, and what actions they could take to mitigate the effects of Climate Change; prevent breaches in biosecurity; and ensure improved food security for Australians.

Awareness of the term ‘Climate Change’ was very high both before and after the competition. Students struggled to explain what it meant despite a significant majority reporting they had discussed it throughout the project. This highlights the complexity of the concept and why the Australian Curriculum builds knowledge on this topic progressively from Primary to Senior Secondary levels. The Archibull Prize is more concerned about giving students and their teachers an appreciation of the impact of Climate Change on the sustainability of farming and agriculture. Through the qualitative data it was evident that this had been achieved. Much of this knowledge had been gained from talking with the YFC.

Secondary students achieved a significant shift in awareness of biosecurity and its importance to Australia’s primary industries as a result of participation in The Archibull Prize i.e. from 38% to 94% knowing about it and 100% choosing the correct definition.

An awareness of food security has significantly increased amongst Secondary students. However, facts about food waste and how many Australians go hungry are still not well known. By comparison to the start of their projects, 10% more Secondary students attempted an explanation of food security i.e. from Entry 74% to Exit 84%

Back to me

Some important  key leanings from the evaluation are

  • We can change the community’s attitude to farming
  • The correct language to use when we talk to the community needs to be reevaluated. For example we naively thought we could make agriculture more sexy by talking about “food and fibre’ instead of using the word agriculture. Wow how wrong we were . Our work in schools and that of the RAS of NSW shows that what comes to mind when you say the word fibre to the community “its the stuff you have for breakfast to stop you getting constipated”. If we want to reach our audience we should talk about “farming and farming communities”
  • If we want to maintain our social licence the survey showed young farmers are our best advocates
  • if we want to encourage careers in the farming sector young people with off-farm careers are our best advocates
  • Whilst the phrase “Climate change” and the word “sustainability” are very much misunderstood by community you can show farmers commitment to both
  • The Archibull Prize is a great vehicle for getting our key messages out and the NSWDPI will be very proud of their involvement in the program. Almost 20,000 people now know “Biosecurity is a shared responsibility” and  they can actually define accurately what ‘biosecurity” is
  • Effective advocacy takes time and money – lets spend our limited dollars on where we can get the best bang for our buck




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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