Agriculture has so many remarkable success stories and we need to keep talking positively about our sector – to our customers, to each other, to the world, and to the young people who have the power to shape the future of our sector. For customers, giving them the information they need and being open and genuine about food safety, food security, provenance and traceability is so important. For the next generation, exposure through education is critical.
Agricultural education, particularly in primary school, is one thing I’m passionate about. Perhaps it comes from having been surrounded by agriculture education from a young age myself – I quite literally grew up amongst the students and lecturers at what was then known as Wagga Wagga Agricultural College – and being married to a primary school teacher means the importance of early education is hammered home to me.
I see a natural fit for school primary students to be learning about agriculture at the same time as they learn about food and clothes. If we’re savvy about it agriculture can be integrated into so many other subject areas too, especially science and engineering. It’s up to us in the sector to make sure we connect with children in a way that makes it exciting.
I also see education as one of our best opportunities to increase agriculture sector diversity for the future. By getting young audiences engaged about agriculture we will naturally bring in new people and new perspectives all of which will help shape our industry for the better. By sparking passion in young people for this sector, we will help secure its future.
Organisations like the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), which is supported by AgriFutures Australia as well as other industry groups and research corporations, are critical to getting this done. They engage with students, teachers and the broader community to talk about Australian agriculture. They work to embed agriculture in curriculums, facilitate partnerships between schools and the industry, and provide all sorts of useful tools and information about the sector that are tailored to school students and designed to get them excited.
George the Farmer is another brilliant initiative, and a National Agriculture Day ambassador, designed to get young children excited about agriculture and educate them about life in the country. He is also the brainchild of AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award 2017 national runner up Simone Kain. George is the ultimate mascot for Australian agriculture, telling fun and factual stories from across our sector, through all the channels – social media, books, events, toys, apps, online and more. The success of George is also a sign that there’s a real appetite in the community for down-to-earth, fun and factual information about agriculture.