The Young Farming Champions (YFC) are identified youth ambassadors and future influencers working within the agriculture sector. The YFC promote positive images and perceptions of farming and engage in activities and innovative programs including The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas to get these messages across to wider audiences. The YFC demonstrate passion for their industry, while providing real life examples to young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Because they are young they can relate to students and are adept at breaking down stereotypes of farming and agricultural careers.
Taking part in the YFC two-year induction program Cultivate-Growing Young Leaders involves undertaking a series of immersion workshops and complementary activities under the mentorship of some of Australia’s finest communication, marketing and professional development experts.
The program’s focus is developing confident, independent, reflective thinkers who can share their story and their personal experiences, while voicing their own opinions about agricultural issues in their industry and more broadly.
The program equips and prepares the participants for that often very daunting experience: of standing up to be counted, even in difficult circumstances. The YFC leadership development model is providing the rock-solid foundation and pivotal stepping stones as part of a journey to lead agriculture’s next generation.
Through these workshops and the program’s lifetime mentorship opportunities, the YFC are also equipped with unique insights into all aspects of the agricultural supply chain as well as consumer attitudes and trends.
The Young Farming Champions are focused on the big picture and have shared interests in mobilising movements that influence policy, practice, and culture.
From Orange to Asia Jessica Fearnely knows a career in agriculture can take her anywhere. With a degree in rural science from UNE Jessica works as a development officer with temperate fruits for the NSW DPI and her role here, amongst apples and cherries, is strengthened by her varied agricultural experiences in the past.
Not afraid of a challenge Jessica has worked with government researchers, farming advocacy and education groups and software development companies. She has participated in agricultural tours of Cambodia and Laos, competed in meat judging competitions and has been an active member of university clubs and groups. “All of my study and work experience have led me to my current role, which focusses on developing the horticultural industry to help growers and associated people remain competitive in markets, as well as to supply Australians with quality fruit.”
Forbes Corby is showing agriculture has a diverse range of opportunities and has expanded his aspirations from farmer and auctioneer to a career involved with international trade. Forbes was born and raised on a sheep property before attending the University of New England where he is now in his fourth year of a combined agriculture/business degree majoring in international business. Forbes is an active member of UNE serving on the Rural Focus committee for Robb College and chairing the 2019 UNE Farming Futures committee.
“I have begun to understand the broad scope of the agricultural industry and particularly I have found a realization of the importance of international trade and the role it plays in the economy.”
Sally Downie grew up on a dairy farm near Forbes. Sally recognised early on her career would be in agriculture, and she initially envisioned this as on the farm. But life has a way of throwing curve balls and after being diagnosed with an eating disorder, spending time in hospital and battling the resultant mental health issues, Sally has found her own path.
“I took a job with my local council as Drought Coordinator. I had no idea what to expect and it was strange to not milk cows every day. But I love it. It’s diverse. It’s meaningful. It’s challenging. It allows me to live out my visions. I saw my new paddock, a new life; a life where I was me, who I am meant to be and not who I thought I had to be. This paddock will change but my passion will not.”
Matt Cumming owns and operates his own contracting business, a one-stop shop for all shearing needs from mustering to wool pressing. He employees a core team of six, under the age of thirty, and encourages them to reach for the stars. “I am very proud of my team for their workmanship and the pride they take in their work and I especially enjoy the moment when they reach personal milestones, which enables them to build confidence in themselves and their work.” Matt and his team compete in shearing and wool handling competitions, and believe Australia’s reputation for high quality wool demands a high-quality shearing and wool clip preparation.
“I have been mentored by many Australian and World Champions and it is important I pass on my knowledge and experiences and continue to be an advocate for professional standards within the sheep and wool industry.”
Rebecca George grew up on a farming property near Nevertire in central west NSW immersed in agriculture and always felt supported and encouraged by the industry. Throughout her school years Rebecca participated in the local agricultural show and in multiple cattle showing events. Now, in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE, Rebecca is paying that goodwill forward. She volunteers on committees for the National All Breeds Junior Heifer Show, the Angus Youth Round Up, the Dubbo Show Society and UNE Robb College’s Rural Focus committee.
“I appreciated those who put in the time and effort to invest in the next generation of agriculture [in me] and in the last two years I have found my own passion to support and inspire the next generation of #YouthinAg.”
Tom Squires grew up around sheep in Tasmania and owned his first mob by age sixteen. He completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce in New Zealand and is now living his dream job as a shearer. “There’s an incredible feeling of excitement as you hear sheep hoofs trotting down the ramp into your stockyards, knowing they’re your sheep. But the true thrill comes when you stencil your name onto your first bale of wool. There’s that sense of achievement in seeing a fleece being packed into a bale, knowing someone will benefit from what you produced.”
Tom wants consumers to understand the entire wool supply chain and to realise the true pride farmers have for their produce.
“It’s a long road to this destination but I want to be a part of the change: One voice, one education, one person at a time.”
Emily May brings a unique perspective to Young Farming Champions, as she has witnessed first-hand Sydney’s urban sprawl impacting on agriculture.
Emily grew up on the outskirts of Sydney in the Hawkesbury district. Her first job was working at a local orchard. She has since worked with numerous small farms and market gardens in the area, developing a passion for agriculture along the way. She has also watched as, in a short period of time, these farms have given way to housing developments. Now studying a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of New England Emily is determined to find a way to balance these conflicting land uses.
“I believe that in order to keep agriculture on the outskirts of Sydney we need to utilise innovation and technology to compete with this urban sprawl, and it is this understanding that drives me in my university studies.”
Ruby Canning is using hard-won life experience to combine agriculture and mental health awareness as she studies a Bachelor of Business at UNE. Ruby’s family has been associated with beef cattle for six generations and Ruby continues this legacy as the owner of Mavstar Simmentals. Ruby has also established Mavstar Photography specialising in rural and livestock photography. It was the passing of her beloved grandfather and a devastating car accident, which left her with a fractured spine that focussed Ruby’s attentions on mental health. Today Ruby is well down the road of recovery.
“I am where I am today because of the amount of support and opportunities within agriculture. I have found happiness in an industry that is so close to my heart and I am beyond grateful to be part an industry that feeds the globe. I aim to follow in the footsteps of my family to produce top quality beef year after year.”
Haylee Murrell first joined the Picture You in Agriculture family when she won the senior section of the inaugural National Agriculture Day Careers Competition in 2017 and in the following year interned with PYiA at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary Preview Day. Haylee has since consolidated this agricultural zeal by embarking upon a Bachelor of Rural Science at UNE. Haylee takes every opportunity to learn more about agriculture and credits those who have assisted her on this journey.
“People have not only been encouraging, they are enthusiastic and excited about the fact that youth are involved in agriculture and that they want to know about the industry. These people have inspired me and helped pave my way in the agricultural sector and made me realise you can never stop learning about Australian agriculture.”