It is very hard to put a square peg in a round hole. Similarly, it is challenging to think we, the rural industry, can educate children from the city about agriculture when we have a government that, to date, has not had agriculture high on its social or financial agenda.
So often I read articles about Australia sending out foreign aid, and ponder; why we don't look after out own backyard first?
Once upon a time, school holidays for city kids were spent with their country cousins. They returned to the neon lights with a spring in their step for another school term, with a sock and singlet tan, a few cuts and bruises, a handful of loose paddock words that made mothers and teachers cringe, and some seriously cool stories to tell about life on the farm. There is far more to life than city lights, lattes and loot.
Now I know the city/country divide is ever-increasing, almost to the point where the horse has bolted, but I question whether we, the rural industry, would get more runs on the board if our focus was on looking after our own backyard - encouraging bush kids to seek careers in the bush, over educating city folk on paddock to plate?
We need to create a culture around looking after our people first. We need to invest in our own, to have resilient thinking, and we need a diversified approach towards this. There is no cookie cutter solutions to harnessing creativity.
There are many great initiatives in rural and regional areas to encourage young people to seek a career in agriculture, and loads of people willing to support them on their journey.
Shannon Landmark and Luke Evans are the latest recipients of the prestigious Zanda McDonald Award, an award that harnesses the drive and dedication of young agriculturalists passionate about making a difference in the industry and supports them to be our up-and-coming industry leaders.
It is programs like the Nuffield Scholarship, junior judging competitions at local shows and the leadership for women mentorship that support young adults coming through, in what is becoming, a more and more regulated industry. But have we put the chicken before the egg?
We need the government to put more funding and resources back into the bush to support primary and secondary schools in teaching ag and encouraging kids to take up careers in rural and regional areas. It doesn't matter whether it's English, science or maths, teachers can relate any subject to agriculture if they have the resources to support them.
We need to harness kids' interest and passion for farming at a young age, as this is where dreams are started and are not constrained by limiting beliefs that develop with age. Parents and teachers have the biggest influence on kids when they are considering their tertiary education so we need to support them to support kids.
A first step has been made by wheat magnate John Nicoletti who is giving back to schools by donating 2000 sets of The Grower books to help teach kids about the opportunities available to them in the rural sector and show them what a wonderful industry it is to be a part of. There is another value set, in that it draws people to stay in the bush.
Any school in Australia is eligible for the free book series and will only be required to pay postage. If you'd like to get the book series for your school, email your school address and details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Alice Mabin, Asia Pacific BEFA Female Entrepreneur of the Year