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.