It has been a turbulent year for Queensland's agricultural sector, with extreme weather conditions, changing legislation and attacks from animal rights activists taking a toll on primary producers.
The need for outspoken advocates has never been more important and thanks to the support of industry leaders, the next generation is picking up the mantle.
Queensland Country Life caught up with well-known identities Andrew Meara and Senator Susan McDonald as well as rising stars Liam Kirkwood, Myles Newcombe and Clare Webb about leadership and encouraging the next generation.
Andrew Meara grew up on a mixed cattle and sheep family farming operation on the Condamine River, Darling Downs. After completing boarding school in Toowoomba, he attended Longreach Pastoral College.
He began his agency career with Dalgety's in Dalby, Charleville, Cunnamulla and Murgon. He went on to work for Elders Stud Stock in Queensland and following the Primac Elders merger, transferred to Goulburn to work for Elders Stud Stock NSW. After a number of years he returned to his current role with Elders Stud Stock based in Toowoomba.
Q1. How important is it for the agricultural industry to have strong leaders?
Like all industries, agriculture is no different and the need for strong leadership is vital. For any industry to be taken seriously it needs to have strong leaders who will not only discuss the issues at hand but also give voice to the direction the industry needs to head.
Q2. What role can mentors play in supporting the next generation?
I believe one of the main ideals for any mentor is to be approachable and to be available to be a point of contact for the next generation.
Q3. What changes need to take place to encourage young people to become involved in the agricultural sector?
The rural sector is a very rewarding, interesting and challenging industry to be a part of, but very heavily influenced by factors out of anyone's control like the weather and market fluctuations.
For any industry to be taken seriously it needs to have strong leaders
Q4. Who has been one of your mentors and what are some of the biggest lessons they have taught you?
Having worked across Queensland, NSW and Victoria, I have had the privilege to work alongside and against some of the greats of the stud stock world.
But the biggest influence in my career has been Blake Munro who has always been a level-headed, diplomatic and hard working colleague, who has always led by example. I would say the biggest lesson I have learned is to be upfront and honest with whatever you do.
Q5. What piece of advice would you give to rising leaders in agriculture?
One piece of advice I would give is to have the capacity to ask and to listen, to take others opinions on board and to have the ability to absorb this knowledge.
Susan McDonald grew up on her family's cattle property 70km south of Cloncurry. She was educated by correspondence school and the Mount Isa School of the Air before heading to boarding school in Brisbane.
She studied accounting at the University of Queensland and worked as an accountant before becoming Chief-of-Staff to former Natural Resources and Mines Minister, Andrew Cripps.
The McDonald family own the Super Butcher chain, which Ms McDonald ran for six years before being elected as a Senator for Queensland in May 2019. She is now based in Townsville and has three teenage children.
Q1. Agriculture is a key economic pillar of our regional and rural communities and that means that strong leadership is crucial to ensure the future success of the industry and for our people. It is critical that we have practical and pragmatic leaders to ensure government and our customers can hear our message.
Q2. The next generation of leaders are not born ready, and need our time and encouragement. In particular we need to encourage them to join industry and community groups and be part of the conversation.
Importantly, as I travel around the state, it is clear to me that many young people are not quite sure how to contribute and they need us to make the pathways clearer as they find their voices. Young farmers are embracing technology and advocating more sustainable practices, and this is being accepted and encouraged by the older generations.
Q3. They need to see a future on the land and that means having access to fast internet and reliable phone services. Profitability and sustainability needs to be there so young people aren't lost to office jobs in the city.
The next generation of leaders are not born ready, and need our time and encouragement
I also think education/extension of research is crucial. Too many kids don't know where their food comes from, but they should be taught it and encouraged to pursue careers in it. Personally, I think a job in the fresh air producing our country's food and fibre is about the best thing you can do.
Q4. I have always looked up to my parents and value what they've taught my siblings and I, particularly around hard work and getting involved in the community.
Q5. Speak up. Get involved. Take an interest. If you don't speak for the industry, who will?
Born and raised in Maitland, NSW, 23-year-old Liam Kirkwood completed a traineeship as a cattle buyer with JBS Australia under industry stalwart Lance Loveday at Dinmore, before going on to purchase cattle for the Scone, Dinmore, Rockhampton and Townsville processing facilities.
At the beginning of 2019 he became the licensee of Ray White Livestock Townsville and Charters Towers and won the 2019 ALPA Queensland Young Auctioneer title at the Ekka.
Q1. It is very important for the industry to have strong leaders. Their strength, leadership and support motivates young people to do their best and instills a sense of confidence in their ability. They promote a positive approach to any challenges that may be encountered throughout your journey in the industry.
Q2. Leaders and mentors play a big role through offering support, giving advice and sharing stories from their own past experiences, which helps the next generation combat any challenges they may face and keeps them focussed on the end goal.
Q3. The agricultural sector is a hands-on industry, therefore I think there needs to be more hands-on training and exposure to how things work out in the field for young people.
Through this exposure young people will meet leaders and mentors, which will keep them motivated throughout any theory they must undertake to gain industry qualifications and will also encourage them to better themselves. Without this support and encouragement some young people lose interest and move away from the industry.
Q4. Edward Throsby was and still is one of my biggest mentors. He showed me that the more you put in to anything, the more you will get out of it.
He showed me how to buy cattle and I enjoyed that, but he would say, "it's not just about going to the sale and going yip, yip, yahoo, waving your hand around then going home, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, too".
Things won't always work out as planned, just persevere and when they do work out as planned, remain composed enough to keep bettering yourself
So out of interest I went on to learn what sort of stock was required for specific orders, what they would yield, what we could pay and how many were required to fill an order.
We would muster and handle cattle of a weekend either at home or at the meatworks; horses, dogs and trucks made for a good day, but he would say, "it's okay to have fun playing Cowboys and Indians during the day, but remember there is still work to be done afterwards".
I went on to learn that while you might not always be in the office doing paperwork, it will still be there waiting for you at the end of the day and you need to be efficient enough to make sure it's completed and missed phone calls are returned so that you are ready to start afresh tomorrow.
Most importantly he taught me patience and composure. Things won't always work out as planned, just persevere and when they do work out as planned, remain composed enough to keep bettering yourself. A recent example was being selected as a finalist in the ALPA Qld Young Auctioneers competition. I was very excited to be chosen, however I tried to keep composure so that I didn't get nervous leading into the final. I was lucky enough to win the competition and was celebrating at the bar with Terry Nolan who was on the phone, he then handed me the phone and it was Edward, he gave his congratulations and said, "you know why you won? Because you didn't panic, and my friend, he who panics last, wins".
How's that for support from a mentor!
Q5. What piece of advice from your Ekka journey has had the greatest impact on you?
Some advice I'll never forget, which has helped me get to where I am today was from the following mentors.
David Payne: "Keep your powder dry, and your nose clean" which I interpret as be ready to fight if you're right, but don't be stubborn and burn bridges in the process.
John Norris: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice" which I interpret as it's nice to celebrate when you're successful at something but it's most important to stay humble in doing so.
Edward Throsby: "He who panics last, wins" which I interpret as remain calm in your approach to things and there will be a good outcome.
Myles Newcombe is completing an apprenticeship in plumbing as well as overseeing his family's stud and commercial Charbray operation with his fiance in the Gympie district.
He has spent time contract mustering in north, western and central Queensland and worked in a feedlot on the western Darling Downs.
The 26-year-old won the Marsh Queensland Rural Ambassador award and enjoys breeding Australian Stock Horses and Border Collies.
Q1. The importance of strong leaders in the agricultural industry is imperative, we need to have a public voice, we have to keep striving to better the industry all of the time. Not only to help our producers but for the economic growth of our country.
Q2. Leaders and mentors can assist the younger generation by continuing to promote, involve and educate young people of the industry.
Q3. I believe the opportunity for young people to become involved in the agriculture sector is already there. If young people want to become involved they need to seek out the opportunities just like they need to in any other profession.
We need to have a public voice, we have to keep striving to better the industry all of the time
Q4. My biggest mentor has been my father, he is an accomplished cattleman and pastoralist. He has taught me about agricultural sustainability, livestock handling and so many other skills relevant to the agricultural industry.
Q5. One piece of advice that sticks to my mind most, which came from the morning we were fortunate enough to spend with David Hanlon from The Right Mind is: "Be kind upon yourself and others and always keep an open mind".
Clare Webb is a fifth generation primary producer and grew up on a cattle property near Thangool.
She studied a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in animal production at the University of Queensland and has worked for the Australian Mungbean Company and Elders.
Ms Webb currently works for the Goondicum Pastoral Company has been named the 2019 Queensland Country Life Miss Showgirl.
Q1. It's so important for our agricultural industry to have strong leaders, without them the next generation of producers wouldn't have role models or mentors, and as well as this, we wouldn't have strong leaders standing at the front of our industry representing our best interests and expressing our concerns.
Q2. In order to support the next generation, I think leaders and mentors need to completely understand where we are coming from and put themselves in our shoes.
I do believe that a lot more young people are becoming involved with this great industry
This is already happening in a lot of situations where we have committees being formed specifically to include the next generation, however I think functions need to be held where these younger people are able to meet and connect with leaders and mentors in order to spark an interest and encourage involvement, and even more specifically within rural and remote areas.
Q3. I think there is no perfect answer to this question as so many organisations, businesses and groups are trying something different in order to engage the next generation or young people to become involved with the agricultural sector.
However, I do believe that a lot more young people are becoming involved with this great industry due to communication, whether that be via word of mouth, social media or events, which are being promoted at events such as the Ekka, which raise such a great awareness for this industry as a whole.
Q4. As cliche as it may be, my biggest mentors would be my parents, they have worked very hard for everything that they have today and they have been patient in the process of striving for their goals.
I love the motto, "it may take a year, it may take a day, but where there is a will, there is always a way", and that speaks volumes to me about people being patient in the pursuit of dreams.
Q5. The best piece of advice (if I had to pick just one) would be that the Showgirl journey ends when you choose, this is a program that allows so much opportunity and where it takes you is full of endless possibilities.