National Agriculture Day: Why education and positivity are the key to our sector’s success


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By Michael Beer, General Manager, Research and Innovation, AgriFutures Australia

AgriFutures Australia’s new General Manager, Research and Innovation, Michael Beer says there’s a lot to celebrate on National Agriculture Day and the future of the sector is bright indeed. Read about why he thinks a positive approach and education focus is so important and bringing people together from across the sector to have productive conversations about agriculture is something we should do all year round.

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.

Alongside our outreach to young people and school students, communication within the sector and collaboration is changing as the next generation of agriculture leaders come through. Technology absolutely has a role to play in this, it provides tools that make online collaboration and information sharing easier than ever. Social media has also broken down some of the isolation and geographic barriers that used to go hand in hand with working in agriculture.

Farm Table is one notable example of how technology and a little innovation can bring our sector together and it is connecting producers to students, the agricultural service sector and most importantly to each other. Supported by AgriFutures Australia, PwC and AMP, Farm Table launched on 9 November 2017 and is the result of a young leader thinking outside the box and taking a risk on an innovation that has the potential to positively impact our rural industries.

Supporting the next generation of agricultural leaders and fostering passion in the young people within our sector is another core tenet of AgriFutures Australia’s strategy that I feel strongly about. We know how important it is that our rural industries be equipped with skilled people and have leadership that enables them to grow and prosper. To maximise the opportunities ahead for our sector and overcome the challenges, the next generation will need new skills and will have to keep pace with a rate of change and an innovation culture that is very different to the status quo.

For me, it all comes back to a positive approach. Being positive in how we present Australian agriculture to the world and being positive in how we look ahead to our future. At the centre of our sector’s success are people and at AgriFutures Australia we know one of the most important things we can do is bring people together; to listen to each other, support one another, connect, collaborate, learn and share positive messages about agriculture. It goes hand in hand with encouraging the emerging leaders for our sector and making sure people stay excited about Australian agriculture.

On National Agriculture Day, we can all come together to acknowledge that we’re doing a fantastic job and working towards the same outcome – feeding and clothing the world. The future for agriculture is bright and #AgDay is our day to let everyone know about it.

AgriFutures Australia are joining forces with RDA Riverina and the Riverina Ag Network to celebrate National Agriculture Day with a breakfast event in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 21 November. Register via Eventbrite.

National Ag Day Breakfast

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