Raising the Profile of Agriculture: 'We are not just farmers'

This article originally appeared on NSW Farmers.

“We need to strongly use our language and technology to help improve agriculture’s perceived reputation, to dress it up in a hypothetical suit and tie – take off the work shirt”. Inspiring to see young farmers leading the change to overcome industry stereotypes and show that farmers can be astute, innovative and forward-thinking.”

Young farmers are leading the pack to overcome age-old stereotypes to help lift the image of the industry.

Young farmers Callan Daley and Emma Moss at the EvokeAg conference in Melbourne.

Callan Daley and Emma Moss spoke passionately about the future of agriculture at the evokeAg conference in Melbourne in February. Photos supplied by evokeAg.

IT was one of those moments when the hair on your neck stands up – an awe-inspiring display of courage and passion when young leaders tackled the big questions about agriculture.
Callan Daley’s show-stopping performance and smooth on-stage costume change – he arrived dressed as an unkempt cocky but transformed his attire into a smart businessman – caught the hearts and the minds of the crowd at the evokeAg conference in Melbourne.
He raised provocative questions about the subconscious degradation of the industry and what is causing it, such as, why is agriculture no longer seen as a valid profession? “This is a question I’m sure everyone has heard – that’s been an echo chamber for years and I’m only 20 and I’ve heard it my entire life,” Callan said.
He had travelled from his family cattle station 100km from Longreach in Queensland to share his views.

“I believe it’s high time that we use our language and improve our language to stop subconscious, unintentional degradation of an entire industry,” 

“We need to strongly use our language and technology to help improve agriculture’s perceived reputation, to dress it up in a hypothetical suit and tie – take off the work shirt.

During Callan’s performance, he began as an unkempt cocky but transformed his attire into a smart businessman – capturing the hearts and the minds of the crowd.
“When I’ve said to someone, ‘I’m thinking of just doing a degree in ag science, or my family are just farmers, cockies’ – it’s that subconscious lack of pride that I’m addressing.
“In my short time, I have had to face some of the fundamental challenges that are actually adversary to a career path in agriculture. Living 100km from my nearest town, 1,200km from the nearest state capital – it’s a quite remote and isolated childhood. Partner this with intermittent floods and a seven-year drought currently, it does not paint a pretty picture.”
With such dire circumstances, he said it’s understandable why his parents did not openly encourage him and his brother to work on the land.
“Luckily I have developed that passion again and realised why I want to work within agriculture but it’s a shame that a lot of young Australians don’t get that chance and don’t realise it,” he said.

With a powerful ending, Callan urged the crowd and himself: “In the coming years to recognise the change the world is going through and not be dragged along behind it, but be the industry that leads it.”

A career in agriculture is more than just farming

Fellow future leader Emma Moss raised the importance of education and collaboration as key drivers for industry change. “Agriculture is not just farming,” explained Emma, who grew up on a small farm near Pittsworth in Queensland.
The eloquent 20-year-old is no stranger to media, having established a social media following of 17,000 from her days working as a jillaroo in the Kimberley and taking photos for her Instagram page, @life_on_a_station.

Emma (fourth from left) with nine other future young leaders in agriculture (who were chosen to share their thoughts at the event) at the evokeAg conference. 
Now Emma is studying for a Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and visits primary schools across Australia to inspire and educate kids about agriculture in the hope of bridging a disconnect between farmers and consumers.
“I think this comes down to a large portion of people being disconnected from agriculture but also not being taught that eating is an agricultural act, engineering, marketing – there are so many aspects to agriculture. It’s so diverse and there are so many diverse minds who are part of it,” Emma said.
The conference was fruitful in connecting industry players with investors, start-ups and young minds like Emma whose ambitious drive scored her three job offers over two days.
John Harvey, managing director of AgriFutures Australia, who spoke alongside Emma on the panel, said our greatest assets are our young emerging leaders under 35, who have grown up with technology and are passionate about agriculture.

Young farmers have grown up with technology, and recognise how it can help with agriculture. Source: Getty Images.
He noted that during a national workshop tour for agricultural innovation, held 18 months ago, 70% of the attendees were female.
“They’re not interested in traditional ways of doing business, they want commercial and business outcomes, they are passionate and can see a lot of interesting opportunities online without necessarily having to take on the family farm,” John said.
“To me, that group and their interest is our greatest asset for agriculture going forward.”

Community education is key to the future of agriculture

When asked what the future of agriculture may look like, Emma spoke of automation, processing and a closer connection between consumers and the farm.

“As an industry, we will need to be more agile. We will need to be producing our food in a way that our consumers want it, which serves as incentive to be the best farmers and producers that we can be.”
The ability to think beyond the present environment will come more naturally to the Millennials and future generations. To highlight this, Emma said only 50% of today’s jobs will be a thing when current school children graduate – the rest don’t even exist yet.
John Harvey stressed that we need to focus on attracting new people from the city to the land. “We need data analysts, artificial intelligence and it doesn’t matter where they come from – there are some fabulous careers in agriculture regardless of what your background is.”