The 2013 Grand Champion Archibull Prize winner is

There is no denying 2013 has been a big year for me with the highlight yesterday being the Award and Exhibition Ceremony that revealed the Winner of the Grand Champion Archibull for 2013


Sharing the highlights from Art4AgricultureChat

The judges have travelled over 4500km to talk to the students and view their artwork. They have spent 1000’s of hours reading blogs and reviewing PowerPoint and video entries and now the points have been collated.

The awards venue has been found, the finalists have been announced, the herd rounded up and loaded, invitations sent, community fund raising events have been held to fly rural students to Sydney, Young Farming Champions have packed their bags to take the road trip, special guests will be there and tension is mounting    .

Now in the spirit of building that tension even further before we make the big announcement lets take a quick reflection on why it all began  

Everybody has to eat, everybody needs to wear clothes, everybody needs to have shelter. Yet like many other people around the world Australians tend to give very little thought to the origins of where our food and fibre comes from let alone the people who grow and produce it.

As passionate producers and loud and proud producer AGvocates the team at Art4Agriculture found this sad but also exciting.

We saw this disconnect as a great opportunity to jump in and join the next generation mosh pit of bright minds and ideas for unbridled thinking and questioning and come up with new ways of having powerful conversations and forging new boundary-busting connections between producers and consumers.

What better way to do this than tap into areas that agriculture wouldn’t normally reach through art and multimedia and leverage off Australia’s most famous art prize

Hence the Archibull Prize was born.

Each year the Archibull Prize Awards and Exhibition Ceremony brings bright young Australian minds and their big ideas together to share agriculture’s story through art and multimedia

Each year the ideas get bigger, the innovation seems apparently unparalleled and the technology mind-blowing

Without further ado it gives Art4Agriculture great pleasure to introduce the winners in all three categories and the Grand Champion Archibull for 2013

1.The  Champion Primary School Archibull Prize Winner is Gwynneville Public School Gwyneville Public School with Claudia Whythes-001l

The Gwynneville team with Claudia Wythes  from AWI


Gwynnevill PS

Gwynneville Public School, Wollongong  artwork entry Baa Baa Bovine

Visit their amazing blog Moo2Ewe 


2. The Winner of Champion Archibull Prize (Program B) is Trangie Central School


L to R A/G Director General Dept. of Primary Industries Michael Bullen, Richie Quigley Team Trangie Central School with Sara McGrath

Trangie Central School

Trangie Central School with their artwork masterpiece combination of technology and innovation

Trangie Central School John Bull (30) 

Visit the Trangie Central School blog here

Watch their video entry here



The winner of the Champion Archibull Program A and the Grand Champion Archibull Prize for 2013 is Shoalhaven High School

Michael Bullen Sara McGrath Shoalhaven High School

Shoalhaven High School with A/G Director General of Department of Primary Industries Michael Bullen and Sara McGrath


Visit the Shoalhaven High School Blog here

Watch their award winning video here


To view the event video and see all the action


Once we have all the official photos we will load all the results

Congratulations to all the schools and students involved you have all done agriculture very proud

Some great pix by Sally White from The Land can be found here

To see the winner of the People’s Pick visit here

A salute to the people who feed and clothe us

When I was 18 I fell madly in love with this guy who was my blind date to the Jamberoo Footballers Ball.

He had bypassed a chance to play with Penrith to follow his parents to a Jamberoo dairy farm .

We did the long distance thing for three years with me at Uni studying to be pharmacist Michael Crop 1and him playing first grade football and doing odd jobs during the week.

When I graduated we did what all young people madly in love did in the 70’s we got married.

michael & Lynne Strong

Everybody has their dream career and for him it was being a policeman. Really I was flabbergasted. Policeman, what an undervalued career that was and so many risks. So the in-house joke was if you become a policeman I am going to be become a nun   

Six months into our marriage he comes to me and say I have been offered an opportunity to go back to my roots and be a dairy farmer.

I was mortified. I grew up on a farm ( 6th generation) I knew how tough it was. Of all the careers out there, for me only crazy people farm.

But dairy farm he did and I did what so many women who support the people who produce our food and fibre do, I took my expertise and worked 24/7 to support the people who feed and clothe us.

In 2001 I decided those people who feed and clothe us deserve better than this and bought 22 years in marketing back to the farm.

That has morphed into the Archibulll Prize and the Young Farming Champion’s programs.

This week the Archibull Prize 2013 entries flowed in.  I have taken a back seat this year and have only seen the entries at this point via their blogs and already the tears are in my eyes. Wow so many young people from non farming backgrounds who truly get how important our farmers are to them, to so many people overseas, and to the health, wealth and happiness of everyone in Australia and I couldn’t be more proud. I salute them all.

Over the next ten days art judge Wendy Taylor and I will get up close and personal with these fabulous artworks and the bright young minds who created them and I cant wait to share them with you.


For Bessie Thomas life in the outback is often Clear as Mud

Today’s guest blog comes from the very talented Bessie Blore city girl and journalist and now wool producer and Australian Wool Innovation Young Farming Champion.
Bessie writes the very popular and often very funny blog  Bessie at Burragan. Bessie recently attended her first YFC workshop


Whilst Bessie

anticipates many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.”  I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that to share my farming stories with the world.

IT IS EASY to feel isolated when you live 110 kilometres from the closest small town – or even if you live in those small towns. It’s true that things like phones and Facebook combat the loneliness, solitude and other mental aspects of isolation. But as one of the 11 percent of Australians who don’t live in “urban areas” – that’s cities and towns of more than 1,000 people, according to ABS – it’s still reality to sometimes feel as if you are out of sight, out of mind, and out of touch.
Of all the various issues surrounding living on a relatively remote sheep station, when Shannan (ST) and I first moved to Burragan I was most constantly anxious about the possibility of being “rained in.” There’s about 35 kilometres, give or take, of dirt road between the Burragan house and a bitumen highway, and although 35km isn’t much in the scheme of things, the thing about dirt is that when it rains it turns to mud. And the thing about mud is that it’s pretty much impenetrable by man… or woman. So when it rains you either get out quick (not always an option), or bunker down at home in preparation for a period of house and shed-bound jobs.
ST always alleviated my fear by telling me that if we ever simply had to get out after rain, we could take the motorbike cross-paddock to the highway. Over time my anxiety eased as I became used to this plan, and when people asked what happened when we were rained in, I simply answered, “We really could get out on the motorbike, across the paddock, if we needed to.”
In my mind this was acceptable. I would never be totally trapped. Obviously I hadn’t given it much further thought. You know, about, like, exactly what happens when we get to the highway and only have a motorbike to travel on and are still 80 kilometres from the closest town? Yeah, that bit… hmmm… interesting you bring that up… I hadn’t really thought about that bit.
So it was part traumatic and part wild adventure last month when we had 50 millimetres (that’s 2 inches for the oldies out there) of rain overnight and I was due to catch a flight out of Broken Hill. Then the true physical issues behind the motorbike-cross-country plan finally became clear… much clearer than mud – yet still with the exact same colour, consistency, and chemical structure. So yeah, pretty much as clear as mud – except actually clear. Are you with me?
I was due to catch this flight to Sydney because of my #3 Super Exciting Amazing News that I’ve been busting to tell you about for months now. I’ve been chosen as a 2013 Young Farming Champion to represent the wool industry as part of theArt4Agriculture and Archibull Prize programs! (Insert claps, cheers and wolf whistles here!!) If you haven’t heard of this, then let me explain…

Art4Agriculture is the brain child of Illawarra based dairy farmer Lynne Strong. At its heart Art4Ag aims to bridge the divides between food and fibre producers and consumers, through awareness and participation. Just one aspect of the program is the Archibull Prize, where participating schools are provided with a life-size fibreglass cow statue to decorate in the theme of a particular primary industry (think cotton, wool, beef, dairy etc). The Archibulls, along with blogs and video projects, are then entered in the annual Archibull Prize competition against all the other schools. Part of the program – and this is where I come in – is to train up young farmers as champions for their industry, and partner each school with its own Young Farming Champion to help inspire their themed Archibull entry, but also to teach students all about how fun, innovating and exciting Australian agriculture is as a whole. Doesn’t it sound great!!??
So, there I was, at home, due to catch this flight to Sydney for my very first meet and greet with this year’s fellow Young Farming Champions (there’s a few of us –check us out HERE) and our initial training workshop. We’d had a little bit of forecast rain the day before and the usual protocol here, when no more rain is forecast for the immediate future, is to hope for some warm and windy weather to dry out the roads. With 24 hours still to go before I was due to leave for my 4pm flight from Broken Hill, we decided to enact this kind of watch and wait plan. And while I went to bed hoping for a windy night to harden up the muddy track to the highway, ST, I’m sure, was secretly hoping for a heavy 5inch downpour to fill our drying dams.
As I lay in bed I heard the rains tumble down. In June.
Fifty-millimetres had fallen by the time we woke. And it wasn’t warm and windy and dry. It was cold and still and wet. ST was delighted. I was anxious… and a little bit peeved. And feeling extremely traitorous for not being delighted.
But everything would be OK, because we could just push out through the paddock on the motorbike, right? Right. Except, then what? Our bikes are only ever used on the property, so they’re not registered for use on main roads. It would be illegal, not to mention highly dangerous given the amount of fuel (and my luggage) we’d need to strap on for the trip, and too slow going anyway, to take the motorbike all the way to Town. And asking a friend for a casual old lift to the airport is just a fraction more than your average favour when the airport is 330km away.
Plan C? ST braved the freezing rain on his motorbike to check the state of all our roads, to see if there was any possible way of me making it out to the highway in the car. Now that is love; having one billion other things to do and dropping everything, to ride 70km through mud and slush, in awful weather, all to make his new wife hap… Hang on a minute – it has just come to me that all this time I thought he was doing something super-sweet, when really maybe that’s just how much he really, really wanted to get rid of me for a few days!? Hmmmm…
Anyway, ST returned two hours later bearing bad news. The road turned to soup closer to the highway and it was more than likely any attempt to escape by car would end with me stuck not only a long way from the airport, but also a long way from the house.

Plan D? Call all the neighbours for a road report on all possible access points through their properties – perhaps I could make it the back way? But as I rang around the neighbours, the time was a-ticking. With at least three and a half hours of travel between Burragan and Broken Hill I was going to have to leave soon, or risk missing the flight altogether. Of course, the neighbours were just was rained in as we were…
Plan E? Helicopter? Ours was still at the mechanic, being serviced. Damn! (Hahaha, I wish!)
Plan F? As it slipped passed midday and I lost my window of opportunity to reach the departure gate in time for take-off, I was left with no other option but to call the Art4Ag crew in Sydney and apologise in advance for missing my flight. I disappointedly began dialling.
Plan G? Plan H? Plan I, Plan J, PlanKPlanLPlanPlanPlanlanananannnnnnnnnaaaarrrggghhh!!! Plan Z?
There was ONE other option ST and I could come up with. Every night a bus stops at the local roadhouse on the highway about 50km away, journeying from Sydney to Broken Hill. If my flight could be changed to the following day, there was a possibility I could somehow catch that bus and make it to Broken Hill, stop over at a friend’s place for the night and be at the airport early the next morning.
It was going to be risky, first relying on the possibility of changing the flight at such late notice, then relying on the availability of seats on the bus, then being able to make it all the way to the highway on the quad bike – with my luggage – without being covered in mud by the end of it, and then the dilemma of making it a further 15km on the highway to the roadhouse, given the aforementioned dangers and illegalities of riding on the road. It would be a battle of determination and strength, a test of will and cross-country quad riding skills, a trial of friendship and mud-proof luggage wrapping abilities, a journey of epic proportions, a story of courage and undying lo… Oh, have I gone too far?
Following the all clear for the flight to be changed with the proof of road closures from the Road Traffic Authority (easy done!), I rang the bus company to see if they could make an exception for me and stop at our turn off on the highway. They said no. I didn’t argue the point. Instead, I calmly hung up and I may, or may not, (but most likely may) have cried at this point. It was beginning to look like the universe was trying to tell me something, and that I was not supposed to make it to Sydney.
But I had one final card up my sleeve, or more accurately, business card stuck to my fridge door. I phoned the owner of the local roadhouse and begged for a favour. If she wasn’t too busy, if it was not too much trouble, only if she had the time, would she please, pretty, pretty please be able to meet me at our turn off at sundown and take me back to the roadhouse in time to catch the bus? I’m fairly certain I heard angels singing in the background as she said yes.
And so ST and I prepared for battle, fuelling up the quad, donning 70 million layers of winter clothes, and wrapping my luggage in plastic bags, before setting off through the paddocks, highway headed.

True to her word, the lovely roadhouse owner ferried me to the warmth of the roadhouse, where she fed me delicious cappuccinos and hot chips as I waited for the bus for two hours.
And then I sat on the bus for three and a half hours while my feet numbed from the cold, arriving in Broken Hill around midnight.And then I sat in the airport for three hours the next morning while my flight was delayed and eventually diverted via a longer route.
Oh Sydney, you tried to avoid me, but ain’t nobody gonn’ stop me! You can attempt to delay me for approximately 24 hours, but you will never evade me completely! I showed you! So I eventually made it to Sydney, and loved my first training weekend alongside a fantastic group of fellow Young Farming Champions. I am really looking forward to my time with them and in schools across the country.

This is an opportunity I am embracing with both hands, not only to excite urban audiences about Australian agriculture, but also to break down the barriers between those who grow our nation’s food and fibre and those who eat and wear it…
To traverse that gulf, between you and I…

And to fade that feeling of isolation, for the 11percent. It can take us a little longer to make it to where the action’s at, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying hard to get there.
I anticipate many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II (because I think we can all agree the original Matthew Wilder version is just a little too weird), “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.” And I warn you, I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that.

Are we clear?

Editor’s Note: Yes, I am aware the next line of the song is, “Nobody’s gonna slow me down,” and that that contradicts my previous statements about delays/interruptions/lags/minor hold ups etc… But for the sake of me really needing to end this blog, can we allow some poetic licence and let it slide?

Its time agriculture stepped up and defined the “pull”

On Friday I am participating in the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture Forum. The Blueprint will map out where we as an industry want to go and how we are going to get there.

The big ticket question participants are being asked to answer on Friday is   

What do you see as the most pressing issues and therefore the most important goals for us to focus on right now?

I have given this a lot of thought and I believe the elephant in the room is the most important issue  – its people. Agriculture is yet to acknowledge before we do anything else we must build the capacity of agriculture to nurture our people and we must start with our young people.

As a farmer, as someone who engages with industry, trains young farmers and runs awareness programs in schools, I work within the fragmented structure that is agricultural capacity building, every day.

Like our individual food and fibre industries, we need a better “supply chain” for young people to develop skills that enable them to engage, grow and take charge of their industries.

We have to start with our young people. But long term capacity is not going to result from engaging with them through government and industry programs in the usual way.


Currently, we see a number of programs aimed at developing individuals at various stages in life, but many lack the mechanisms to support and mentor and galvanize these people into roles that have meaning within our industries, in the medium to longer term.

At Art4Agriculture, an important part of our mission is to link our Young Farming Champions alumni with further opportunities within their industry to continue the journey of growth and leadership.  There is no point training young people if we then abandon them; believing our job is done after holding workshops and camps for them. If we don’t continue to develop our young people, we lose a generation of leaders, innovators and workers as they seek opportunities elsewhere. There will be no-one to take over the farm, or work in our agribusinesses.

Because of the skills sets our Cotton Young Farming Champions have gained through the program we have been able to include them in a number of events to engage the community well beyond the school students participating in the Archibull Prize.

They are young, smart, articulate, passionate, from a variety of backgrounds, living in a range of locations, involved in interesting, rapidly changing fields of agriculture, taking advantage of the plethora of exciting opportunities available to young people – they don’t just tell the message we want current students and teachers and the community to be taking on….they are the message. Sophie Davidson Cotton Australia

A range of factors make it difficult for farmers to employ staff on farm. This lack of opportunities for farmers and young people will only be exacerbated by climate change, exchange rate issues and farmer returns and agriculture’s reputation for not being an employer of choice .

Therefore, we have to ensure the skills and capacity we are providing our young people align with industry identified needs. I’ve met too many young people who found themselves trained or developed for roles that just don’t exist in our industries.

We need to position agriculture/agrifood as the career of choice for Australia’s best and brightest.  But this cannot simply be a “push” situation by industry and government, it needs agriculture to step up and define the “pull”

Further, it’s not enough to simply develop our young people, but we must create opportunities for them to engage with consumers and supply chain participants.
They must understand and feel confident to engage along all the full breadth of the supply chain, if we are going to build creative and sustainable agricultural industries.

Mike Logan says it all in this comment below

The Blueprint is a work plan.

We need a vision.

The Blueprint tells us what we are going to do.

Not why.

The ‘why’ question is integral to our own understanding of our role in society, but also in society’s understanding of us.

Why have agriculture?

To feed and clothe a portion of the world?

With healthy food. Full of nutrition.

From healthy environments?

By people who care?

If we can develop messages like that, then we earn a social licence to operate for agriculture.

The question is engage or educate and why it matters?

If we want our children to know where their food comes from; if we want them to be motivated to care about the lives and livelihoods of farmers; if we want them to take seriously the environmental impacts of their food choices; and if we want them to know more about how their health is affected by the way food is made, perhaps we need to rethink the place of food production

This knowledge has been lost since we all became so reliant on the industrial agriculture system; we should talk to the experts – the farmers – so we can get it back. We don’t just need more urban agricultural initiatives, including food-producing back, front and median-strip gardens, school kitchen gardens, community gardens and city farms. We also need a transfer of knowledge from rural farmers. We need Australia’s farmers to be intimately involved in the development of innovative and efficient urban agricultural practices to assure our future food security.

The Conversation

Art4Agriculture has taken up this challenge through the Archibull Prize. The program uptake this year has been phenomenal with 40 plus schools participating in this fun and engaging initiative that uses art and multimedia to tap into a whole new generation of young people

Art4Agricultre Archibull Prize

Original landscape image by Peter Dalder

Our ability to reach more schools particularly in NSW where the program has been running for 3 years has only been limited by funding.

Queensland has been a little more challenging, but experience tells us word of mouth amongst schools, teachers, friends and parents will mean Queensland schools will be queuing up in 2014 at the same rate NSW schools are.

The Archibull Prize is not about ‘educating’ people per se about agriculture. We believe it is the only program in the world allowing young people in the agrifood sector to go into schools and engage with the next generation of consumers and decisions makers to build an understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints

I have created this program for two reasons

1. We ALL have to eat so farmers are important and as farmer I know it’s challenging to produce food and fibre in the current climate

2. Young people are our future and its important we invest in them

Personally I am not particularly worried that 27% of kids think yogurt grows on trees or that cotton grows on sheep.

  • What is important to me is that young people think farmers are committed, professional and caring
  • That the next generation of consumers, decision and policy makers think responsible agriculture is a legitimate user of Australia’s land and water
  • That young people don’t hear agricultural intensification and automatically think “factory farming”
  • That young people have the knowledge to make informed decisions about genetic modification
  • That young people think that farmers like everybody else are entitled to use technology
  • That young people want to work not only on my farm but see the agrifood sector as the place they want to be

And it’s working. We know this because the programs outcomes are measurable. Visibly through the artwork the students generate and the blogs, videos and PowerPoints they create. Quantitatively though program entry and exit surveys

What is exciting is our students are very receptive to putting their thinking hats on not only through the progression of their big ideas for their artwork design and also when we pose blog questions like:

  1. Why is food production so important for us nationally and globally?
  2. Choose one of the challenges faced by farmers and discuss the possible solutions.
  3. Why are regional towns and centres so important to the farming community? How will they be affected if changes to farming practices occur?
  4. Why is it so important for Australia to produce food for people outside of the country? What do you think would happen if we only worried about ourselves?
  5. Why do you think so much food wastage occurs? What actions will you take to help this problem?
  6. What does sustainability mean and how can you contribute to the cause? What different choices may you take as a consumer?
  7. What is natural resource management? Why do you think it is so important to get right? Think about some of the consequences if we don’t manage these resources properly.

For all those people who are concerned about students’ lack of paddock to plate knowledge our beef, wool, cotton and dairy industry resources our industry bodies send them do an amazing job of sharing this story

Just to prove we have got our strategy right the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries released the results from the Victorian Attitudes to Farming survey in 2012

In summary they found

It is clear that among the Victorian public there is widespread support for farmers and sympathy towards them for the difficulties they face, but also a level of unease about some aspects of the industrialisation and corporate control of agriculture, especially among particular segments of the population.

There is substantial public concern about:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Environmental sustainability
  3. Farmers’ ability to make a living from farming.
  4. Food safety (along with healthy, nutritious and good-tasting food) was viewed by the public as being more important than all other factors.

The research literature shows that concerns about environmental and animal welfare, and about certain other ‘credence attributes’ of foods, have grown among consumers in industrialised countries. In part, this trend stems from the success of industrial agriculture—and of modern distribution systems—in fulfilling western consumers’ basic food needs, by making affordable food abundantly available to most consumers in industrialised nations (though not to the consumers of all countries). Yet the dramatic increases in agricultural productivity achieved during the 20th century have not come without some costs to environmental sustainability, to animal welfare, and to other ‘ethical’ dimensions of food production (even though the severity of these consequences is contested). It appears that, as consumers become more food-secure, wealthier and better educated, many become concerned with addressing these negative consequences.

Our survey indicated that 31% of survey respondents had taken some action—such as protesting or, more often, altering their shopping habits—that could be interpreted as being critical of conventional agriculture (‘critical activism’).

The survey also indicated that 32% of Victorians valued environmental sustainability or animal welfare (or both) highly, and had a relatively low level of trust that farmers would address these issues without coercion.

Most of the individuals surveyed made expressions of unease about some aspects of contemporary agriculture, and such latent concern creates the potential for agriculture to experience periodic controversies or even crises of ‘social authorisation’, as has occurred previously with GM foods, mulesing and (in Europe) Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and in Australia Live Export

The paper then asks and answers the questions

  1. How should government interpret and respond to those segments of the population that are critical of current farming practices?
  2. Are these individuals’ uninformed and forcing unnecessary and costly restraints on farming practices, or are they well-informed drivers of much-needed progress?

Where do Art4agriculture and the Archibull Prize come in? It would appear that these researchers strong agree with our philosophy

A number of agricultural stakeholders have aspired over the years to resolve controversies over farming issues by educating and engaging the public. The research in this project indicates that while this can make a contribution to resolving such controversies, it will not be sufficient.

The rationale for solving farm controversies by educating the public is premised on the assumption that farm controversies are waged between an ignorant public which needs to be educated and knowledgeable experts who can do the educating. The findings presented in this report show that individuals’ professed levels of knowledge about farming issues are relatively independent of their viewpoint about the issues.

The published literature indicates that differences in individuals’ views on ‘technical’ issues such as environmental sustainability and animal welfare derive not only from their level of attentiveness to scientific or expert knowledge, but also from partially subjective and social judgements about which sources of expert knowledge to trust, in the face of contested expertise

It also shows that cultural perspectives influence experts as well as the lay public, and that such perspectives can become institutionalised.

This suggests that divisions in public opinion cannot be reconciled without some engagement and conciliation between different experts and stakeholder groups. As well as educating the public, agricultural groups in government and industry will also need to listen and respond to concerns raised by the public and by other stakeholders groups (including lobby groups and other branches of government).

Testimonials to the way Art4Agriculture is listening and responding


“At the [school] environmental club, the students were really interested in the environmental impacts and challenges the beef industry faced and their questions reflected this rather well. I found myself answering a lot of questions about the need for feedlots, waste management from processors and feedlots and how we can manage beef systems to ensure they are sustainable. The students were very switched on.”

Steph Fowler, Beef Young Farming Champion, 2012

The students had quite a few questions regarding different areas of cotton production – some science questions, some general farming, and others from the teachers that just wanted to know more. I loved the questions I was asked and they weren’t afraid to fire them at me!”

Tamsin Quirk, Cotton Young Farming Champion, 2012

“The school visits were great!  I really enjoyed talking to the students and the teachers.  Everyone was so excited about their Archibulls and I loved having the chance to look at what they were doing and listen to things they had discovered about agriculture. I also enjoyed being able to talk about my university course and I hope I was able to encourage some of them to think about a career in agriculture.”

Sammi Townsend, Wool Young Farming Champion, 2012


“I had this idea in my head that genetic modification is this horrible idea and agriculture should just go back to the way it was in the ‘50s and after talking about it with our Young Farming Champion and learning about it I cannot love it more, I think science and technology have a definite future in the industry.”

Laura Bunting Student feedback, 2012

You can see Laura talking her school’s experience here

We rest our case

A tornado of a week Part 1


I was offline most of last week bunkered down in Sydney with some bright minds looking at innovative ways to fund Art4Agriculture over the next 5 years but more about that later

Lots of Archies

The week started with an early morning call from ABC Illawarra to do some press generated by this story in the Illawarra Mercury on the roll out of the Archibull Prize on the South Coast,

Archibull Prize Illawarra mercury

I for one m very excited to have local schools involved this year   

From there it was off to Sydney to NSW Farmers HQ for the official opening of their new offices in St Leonards and a great night was had by all. On show at NSWFA HQ are two of our Archies and wow did they spend some time in the spotlight


‘Sweetie Pie’ with NSW Farmers CEO Matt Brand

Smiling Faces NSW Farmers opening Katrina Hodgkinson Fiona Simson and Andrew Stoner

Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP Fiona Simson President NSW FA and Hon Andrew Stoner Deputy Premier cut the ribbon

Jules 2

Jamison High “Jules” on display in the foyer

Lots of controversy

Then there was the controversy around the results at the Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show

the big cheese 2

Having spent three days as a steward at the show the previous week what I can say is the judges take their roles very seriously. The addition of iPads to tally the results was very impressive and certainly added a new dimension to the judging process

Cheese Judging Ipads

If anybody doubts the RAS dedication to the process of getting it right just come and watch the Haloumi judged. Each piece is cut to exactly the same size and fried for exactly the same amount of time and three stewards on hand to ensure each entry is presented to the judges in perfect continuity. I must admit I felt a bit under pressure for that one  


Getting ready for the judging of the best non-bovine dairy product


For all cheese lovers check out Channel Cheese TV here

About Channel Cheese

Join cheesemonger Alison Brien as she goes behind-the-scenes and under-the-rind of the cheese world.

Alison was one of the judges at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Show and I noticed she had her videographer there so you should see some insights into the judging process loaded on Channel Cheese TV shortly.


The week just continued to get more ‘interesting’ with the ACCC announcing it was launching an investigation into Coles and Woolworths over possible misuse of their market power and indications of “unconscionable conduct” in relation to deals with their suppliers. and on top of this a mini tornado hit our region last weekend with some devastating consequences  more on this in my next post

Coles Please remember real people farm

Today I am re-blogging below  this post from Milk Maid Marian which highlights the heartbreaking issues in the Australian dairy industry. Marian makes some very powerful and insightful comments and puts forward some thought provoking and very doable solutions. The question are the right people listening and most importantly will they act?

In my neck of the woods  I spoke to my Parmalat Farm Services Officer yesterday who I know has been feeling the strain of working with dairy farmers for the past six months and struggling to deal with the devastation she is witnessing in the Australian Dairy industry. She asked me how our cows handled the heat. I said surprisingly well but then we had learnt from our past mistakes and put in 48 hours with almost no sleep to assist our dedicated team to hose our cows down (and other mitigation strategies) in the 43 degree heat to ensure they were as comfortable as possible and so far it has worked .

I also want to share this video with you.

It is powerful for a number of reasons, but mostly it highlights something Coles seems to have forgotten and that is real people farm and a lot of them are in pain because of Coles marketing strategies.

michael strong Photo Sylvia Liber

Coles remember real people farm – Photo by Sylvia Liber

Woolworths on the other hand are getting smart and recognising how important their farmers are and doing something about it . See article here. As Marian warns don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg Coles.

The video also highlights farmer should never underestimate the impact of building direct relationships with their customers which is the very reason why I instigated Art4Agriculture  and the Archibull Prize 

Back to Marian –  this is what Marian had to say this morning ……..

Dairy farmers gathered in their hundreds in south-west Victoria last night for a crisis meeting. What makes it a crisis? Very simply, dairy farmers are working seven days a week for free and petrified of losing our shirts.

Local agribusiness bankers tell me they are busy refinancing and arranging extra debt but land sales are at a standstill around here. Reporting on last night’s dairy crisis meeting, Simone Smith of The Weekly Times, described a “dire picture”:

“Warrnambool-based Coffey Hunt farm accounting specialist Garry Smith said across his client-base, farmers milking mostly between 450-500 cows, average feed costs were up 15 per cent – a $150,000 rise – with the cost of power for the first quarter of the year up 50 per cent.”

“He estimated across his client-base earnings would be 10 per cent down on last year with a combination of cash-flow and income down $260,000.

“Charles Stewart real estate agent Nick Adamson said better quality farms had dropped in value between 8-15 per cent, while others were up to 45 per cent down on peaks of several years ago.”

None of this is pretty and astonishingly, Peter Reith decided to appear on ABC’s The Drum website with a six-point plan that, at first, I thought was a spoof. Take a look and make up your own mind.

It’s not as simple as cutting petrol taxes and municipal rates. It’s tricky because of this conundrum: milk and dairy foods are considered so important that nobody wants to pay what they are worth to produce.

Every day I read comments on Twitter that go something like this: “My kids drink three litres of milk every two days, so I can only afford to buy $1 milk”. I know first-hand how tough it is to feed a family when you’re on struggle street, so I have a lot of sympathy for people in this predicament and it’s impossible to respond with anything other than compassion.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that there is no political appetite for an increased milk price. But the truth is this: dairy farmers should not and cannot fund an ersatz Australian welfare system by subsidising the cost of food. Welfare is the role of government.

So, while my dander is up, here’s a simple list of five tricky things that would make a big difference to this dairy farmer:

1. Deal with the supermarket duopoly
Down, Down, Down is not about you, dear milk drinker. The real reasons for the supermarket war are expressed in corporate ROIs rather than family budgets. At the end of the day, it will be the little people with the least market power – you, the shopper, and me, the farmer – who will pay.

2. Level the global playing field
Julia Gillard announced that Australia would be Asia’s food bowl but guess what? Unlike the world’s most powerful dairy exporters, the Kiwis, we do not have a free trade agreement with China, putting Australian dairy at an immediate 15% disadvantage. Nor do we receive the government subsidies that support our European and North American competitors.

3. Assist with the impact of the carbon tax
Australian dairy farmers are suffering a double whammy under the carbon tax. First, processors are passing the extra cost onto us in the form of lower farm gate prices (because the consumer won’t pay extra and nor will global commodity markets), reducing our incomes by around $5,000 each per year. At the same time, our costs – especially electricity and refrigerants – are rising in quantum leaps each quarter.

4. Support smart farming
Long exposed to the blow-torch of global export markets without subsidisation, Australia’s dairy farmers are among the most efficient in the world, according to research body, Dairy Australia. We can produce very high quality milk at a very low cost because we have invested in research and development. No longer. We are spending less and less on R&D and the Victorian government has just made massive staff cuts to our brains trust, the Department of Primary Industries.

5. Remember, I am the goose that lays the golden egg
I will not be able to continue to deliver high quality milk at such a low price while enhancing the environment and caring for our cows without sacrificing the basic wellbeing of my family and that, I refuse to do.

We can and should be proud and loud of our farmers

I am the National Program Director for Art4agriculture and one of our signature programs the Archibull Prize is currently rolling out in NSW schools.

So we can get an understanding of where we should be focusing our efforts and whether we are achieving our objectives we conduct entry and exit surveys 

The Archibull Prize has a number of objectives and those which specifically relate to this blog are

  • To provide a platform for farmers and students to connect, share stories and improve understanding of modern farming practices and work through potential solutions together.
  • To communicate to students, schools, teachers and parents that Australian farmers are professional and caring and committed to working towards sustainable farming production systems.
  • To provide a vehicle for urban communities to understand that our farmers must be able to innovate, achieve efficiency gains and intensify their businesses where necessary in order to continue to deliver affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food for Australians and many other people around the world.

The preliminary results of the entry survey are in.  We did not ask questions about the students’ knowledge of the paddock to plates process or whether they thought yogurt grows on trees or not. We knew this wasn’t necessary as we are very confident  the program will provide them with excellent knowledge of where their food comes from.

What we wanted to find out is if the students had the necessary knowledge to enable them to value all services that Australian farmers provide including ecosystem services, healthy food and quality of life.

We readily admit we asked questions we only knew the answers to because we are in this space and what we discovered is what we already knew and that is agriculture has done a very poor job of telling its story.

We asked questions that would help the students think about food security. Scary isn’t it whilst 93 per cent of the food we consume is produced in Australia our young people thought it was more like 45%.and I wonder how many adults think the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if its a very similar proportion.    


When asked the question how much of Australia’s land is suitable for food production?  The most popular answer was 61% when in fact less than 6% of Australia is suitable for food production.


When asked about the cost of food as you can see the students overwhelming thought food spend as percentage of income was higher than it has ever been and everybody who reads my blog knows that food has never been cheaper in this country.

In relation to organically produced food our surveys have always found myths abound. Now I admire immensely anyone who can produce food organically and get a premium for it but no way in the world does it have a lower carbon footprint than conventionally produced food. But as you can see from the graph below the students overwhelming think it does. What was heartening is the students do acknowledge the massive farming productivity gains in Australia in the last 60 years     


This year the ‘Archibull Artwork’ will embrace the theme: “What does it take to sustainably feed and clothe your community for a day?”
The program will cover issues like
1. The role of Australia’s food and fibre industries in sustainably feeding and clothing our  communities.
2. Understanding the challenges our farmers face to feed and clothe people sustainably in a world with a declining natural resource base.
3. The disconnect between consumers and farming practices – how do we find common ground?
4. Understanding the disconnect between the food we buy and the impact that it has on the environment when we throw it away.

Other issues the students will explore include the future of farming and what direction the students see farming going in a social media world as well as looking at the faces of farming and how to personalise farming in a globalised society.

This will be enhanced by visits from young farming champions from rural NSW who will come to the school and talk to the students and share their farming experiences.

We believe this program not only helps turn the light on to the wealth of opportunities that careers in agriculture delivers but also highlights the valuable role our farmers play in the health, wealth and happiness of Australians and many people around the world.  


My family has been farming for 180 years. 180 of great farming stories waiting to be told. But how, but where and to whom. My family aren’t alone farmers across Australia have great stories to tell.  So I decided to fill this gap and what better audience than our future, our school students, the next generation of consumers, decision makers and our workforce.

So Art4Agriculture was born. Our signature program is the Archibull Prize and now we have paired the Archibull Prize with the Young Farming Champions program which I hope will be my ongoing legacy.


The Archibull Prize Awards and Exhibition Day is the highlight of the Art4Agriculture year 

It was yesterday and it was huge. Woolworths rolled out the red carpet and hosted the event. The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson not only presented the winners she spent considerable time viewing the artworks and talking to the students  


I love the Archibull Prize. Every entry gives me one of those ‘feel good’ moments.

It reminds me that young Australians are interested and positive about the future and they are filled with hope.

Don’t believe what you read in the papers – our school students are engaged, they are talented and they are truly inspiring!

And this competition proves it!

This year was second time we have rolled out the program in Western Sydney with 5 primary schools and 15 secondary schools participating.

20 bulls have made their way to the judging ring and today we found out which schools have triumphed in each of the categories and who is the Grand Champion Bull


Once again it has been an outstanding success

I thought the entries last year were impressive – but the schools who participated this year have taken things to a whole new level.

  • We have some amazing examples of fine art
  • We have discovered digital technology we didn’t no existed
  • We have entries that have astounded the heads of the food and fibre industries our schools have showcased

World class is the only way to describe the efforts of the teachers and the student participants in the 2011 Archibull Prize

and the winners are ?

Announced by the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson Minister for Primary Industries and Small  Business


Primary Winner

Secondary Winner


Macarthur Anglican School


Caroline Chisholm College



Macarthur Anglican School


Model Farms High School



St Michaels Catholic Primary School


Colo High School ($250.00)

Model Farms High School ($250.00)


Schofield Primary School


Caroline Chisholm College


Overall 2012 Archibull Prize Winner

Caroline Chisholm College ($1,000.00)

“Moobiks Cube”

Artwork Award of Excellence

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Quakers Hill High School

Richmond High School

Innovation in Technology Award of Excellence

Windsor Public School


See all the picture from the Awards and Exhibition Day on Flickr