One of the saddest things about the state government’s decision to stop funding AgForce’s School to Industry Partnership Program is that I will never again see the wonder on a kid’s face when they hold a lamb in their arms or ‘drive’ a tractor for the first time.
Or when a student looking to the future engages with agriculture and it suddenly clicks.
I can tell you that never gets old. The primary school kids from suburbs, cities and towns across Queensland who participate in SIPP have a wondrous, natural curiosity about farming. They are excited about learning, they question everything around them, and they visit the farm with few preconceived ideas – ideal qualities to nurture understanding of an industry that is so vital to their every day lives.
It is a tragedy that children will no longer have the opportunity to experience agriculture and the people who work in it ‘up close and personal’. It will also be a great loss for secondary school students considering their future careers.
There has always been a distance between city and country Queenslanders and unfortunately, I can only see that widening as programs that could bridge the divide are discontinued. One resource that will be especially missed is the ‘home-grown’ Food, Fibre and Agricultural Educators Conference that supports educators to provide a richer, more genuine, more memorable experience for students.
My fellow school to industry liaison officer, Kellie Cooke, and I have built up the conference bit by bit over time to provide a practical, meaningful resource for teachers. It is gutting that this week’s conference will be the last – a sentiment echoed by many of the teachers here who have asked us “Well, what now?”.
It will also be devastating for the many people who have given so much to make SIPP not only possible, but an unqualified success: teachers who volunteered their time to lead farm visits, communities who hosted barbecues to welcome us to town, farmers who brought livestock and farm equipment for kids to experience, agribusinesses who have opened their doors to us.
I would like to assure them that their efforts are appreciated and have not been in vain – if only you could ask the hundreds of thousands of children and thousands of teachers whose lives are so much richer as a result of your efforts.