Sowing Seeds Magazine, in partnership with Young Farmers Connect, are thrilled to launch this special issue on young farmers. Featuring stories from a new generation flocking to the agricultural sector with a passion for regeneration and a determination to bridge the gap between growers and the people who eat.
The extraordinary circumstances that have shaped 2020 have meant we have all had to adapt. Whether it’s the way we work, whether we work, how we socialise and even how we shop, everything has had to be questioned and tested. Australian food producers have also been subject to this adaptation. Some have seized this as an opportunity. Enter – the REKO ring!
If your family is anything like the FutureAg Queensland family, the festive season is centred around friends, family and food. Hence farmers for your festive feed! We are already salivating at the thought of what December – January holds in store: so many long lunches around long tables, picnics at the beach or in the bush… In line with the festive spirit, we wanted to use seasonal preparations combined with our passion for sustainability to share some exciting producers we have discovered in the last 12 months.
It’s International Rural Women’s Day! Pamela Greet had the opportunity to chat with Rob McConchie, creator of the Postcards From the Bush podcast. With a wealth of experience and knowledge as a previous ABC journalist, Rob shares some stories of rural women.
I have the sweetest job with Tropical Pines: quality testing pineapples before they are packed to ensure our high standards and best quality are maintained. Sweet and ready to eat: that’s how we like to supply them. In dispatch I make sure our products are correctly labelled and sent on their way to destinations right across the country.
My life has been spent either driving tractors, stacking hay, showing cattle at a local show, or somewhere in QLD, NSW or VIC with harvesters. I grew up on a Lucerne farm as well as my parents running brahman cattle and operating a team of headers. Because of this, the last term of the majority of primary school was spent on the road and I was homeschooled. But this upbringing had some real benefits; it built an appreciation for hard work, it allowed me to grow resilience and perseverance, all whilst developing my passion for all things agriculture, and love of rural and regional people.
Farmers aren’t stupid people. When it comes to the land, no-one knows the place better than the farmer. In my work as an agronomist, I give producers advice about what fertilisers or chemicals they may need to apply to improve their crops, or what they might consider to improve their soil. Often someone will say to me ‘What about that corner over there?’ They know the variations and deviations of every corner over thousands of hectares. Some people don’t even know what’s in their backyard.
I’m May, and I run a market garden in Meringandan, just outside of Toowoomba. It’s here on the family land I grew up on where I operate Full Circle Farm; growing specialty crops like microgreens, edible flowers, salad greens and other leafy vegetables. This is fitting as it’s also originally where my love for backyard gardening and composting, grew to be a love for farming.
I currently spearhead the PR, Marketing and Social Media of QCamel; a family owned and operated Camel Dairy. And that family… is my family. Safe to say, I grew up just a little embarrassed that my parents are camel farmers, and my mum especially, is some level of camel mad. However despite my own embarrassment and a seemingly bad reputation, it can’t be denied that camels are in fact loving & lovable animals, and frankly, we love our camels.
The backyard of my ¾ acre family home on an urban residential block doubles as my farm, located in one of Queensland’s fastest growing areas; Moreton Bay. I grow culinary herbs and edible flowers both hydroponically & organically on approximately 900 m², and pride myself on these being completely pesticide and insecticide free.
Right now I work on my family’s conventional farm (Koala Farms) which produces various kinds of lettuce, broccoli. spinach, rocket which is sold in major supermarkets. I work in the tight knit spinach crew which harvests spinach & rocket twelve months of the year. I have also worked on some aspects of our family businesses branding and marketing, which I love – it’s our face to the community.
It has only been 21 years to build a career currently focussed on carcass fat content. Those years have taken me from a beef station 100km NW of Longreach via a local 5-pupil primary school, further schooling in Longreach and Brisbane, to a role as Hardware and Operations manager for an AgriTech startup in South Australia.
Future Ag Queensland’s Agri-Phoenix campaign for young farmers is up to day 20, so I thought it was time to hear from the old bird who started it. That’s me. I mostly farm ideas, and weeds, and worms.
The mythical Phoenix represents regeneration and renewal as it rises from the ashes and is born again. I dreamed up this campaign after going to EvokeAG in Melbourne in February 2020, where there was much discussion about ag regenerating after the horror summer fires. That conference was on fire too, with the next generation of farmers – inspired and inspiring with their passion for looking after the environment, as well as their myriad of abilities to innovate & apply new tech to solve old and new problems.
I have been given an important opportunity to learn from my elders about looking after the land in traditional ways, and to learn from scientists about non-traditional scientific approaches to the challenges of looking after our place.
This garden is our droplet of inspiration which ripples out into the wider regeneration of both our community and indigenous biota. Our 1 acre ‘Closed Loop’ market garden puts into practice what we have learned about bio-intensive and regenerative methods.
We are custodians of the land with a responsibility, inherited and to be passed on, to care for the land for now and for future generations. That’s the belief system I grew up with on a sheep and cattle station in Western Australia.
We, as humans, need not destroy our natural environment in order to survive. Damaging, factory-scale food production can be replaced by a new generation of farmers doing things differently. My small fruit and vegetable farm, where I also live with my wife and daughter, reflects a desire for self-sufficiency.
My main focus is in the soil, because once that is in balance and alive, my job is easy. When things are in balance, I watch birds perch on nearby trees and scoop up the bugs that eat crops. I love the feeling of being part of the system that supports us.
When people think of tropical Far North Queensland, buffalo are probably not the first creature that comes to mind. But for me, these two are inextricable. I am lucky enough to have been raised on fresh buffalo milk products and have sampled more versions of gourmet buffalo mozzarella, ice-cream and ricotta than most celebrity chefs.
I am a third generation farmer and I have been on the farm for 26 years. Because I never wanted to be doing just one thing I was attracted to farming – it gave me the diversity and challenges I craved. I’d always managed the farm for my family, but it wasn’t until 2007 that my wife and I leased the farm as the first step to becoming our own entity. In 2013 we took the big step of purchasing it outright.
We take a waste product, in our case coffee grounds, and save it from landfill, recycling the chemical goodness of the coffee grounds to feed our produce: gourmet & medicinal mushrooms. After the harvest we turn what is left into mushroom compost which goes into the ground as a beneficial, rather than a harmful product.
I’m Peta Zivec and I am in the final year of my PhD at the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University.
My grandfather came to Australia as a refugee from Italy after WWII and established a vegetable farm on the outskirts of Brisbane, near to Forest Lake. I guess in that sense, the land is in my blood.
I’m Hayley Wolski, 27. I was born in Chinchilla, went to primary and secondary school there, and I still live there now. I love to help my dad out on our family farm. He works so hard. It’s pretty much a case of ‘all hands to the pump’ – if you are around and there is work to be done, you don’t really get a choice about pitching in.
The land and I have been connected since my childhood, spent exploring the wild places around my hometown in South Western Australia. A patchwork of happy days; climbing trees, finding frogs, building cubby houses and birdwatching. I moved to Brisbane 8 years ago and felt like my connection to nature disappeared. I found it harder to find undisturbed wilderness in the suburbs.
When I was about five years old my dad would take me to check the irrigation. That’s when I fell in love with farming and from that moment, I knew I wanted to be a farmer.
My wife and I moved back to Home Hill in 2017 to lease one of my parent’s cane farms. I’m a 4th generation cane farmer and still use much of the equipment my grandfather used. Our farm is only 118 acres so we both work off farm as well to supplement our income.
Nestled in amongst the towering cane fields of Home Hill is a micro flower farm. The primary goal is to grow seasonal, local flowers in a natural setting, so they have the uniqueness of field grown flowers: curvy stems, discoloured petals and so on. Growing flowers in an open field is challenging – in an open field in North Queensland it’s even more challenging. The last year or so has been a steep learning curve and there is no sign of that curve flattening anytime soon. My main focus is soil biology and insects (bees and beneficial insects).
Young Farmers Connect is an alliance that believes in a bright and prosperous future for our next generation farmers. We are a national not for profit organisation committed to cultivating networks, resources and community for young farmers. Through our network we provide educational platforms and community connections that encourage our young agrarians to farm #4futureag , supporting the use of regenerative, holistic & sustainable agricultural practices. YFC is a community that provides a national framework for peer support and a network that facilitates opportunities, land sharing, collaboration, education, mentorship and industry support to new, young and aspiring farmers throughout Australia.
Central Queensland, this place: it’s the only place I’ve ever really known and it’s the place where I am happy, so why wouldn’t I want to look after the land? Earlier this year I went to a Land Restoration Fund workshop in Biloela and that was pretty exciting – there were a lot of new ideas in the room. People talking seriously about recognising what we producers contribute to looking after the land, that we may not wear the environmental badge, but we do the right things as much as it is possible within the system as it works now.
There’s some guy who’s almost certainly dead, who started the whole thing, probably the great-grandfather. He did things the way they did them then – clearing pretty much everything, putting on as many head as he could afford. People moved great mobs across the country to get them to better pastures.
I guess you’d have to say those first farmers didn’t have much of a clue about what we call the environment, or the ecosystem. They were just trying to survive. Back then clearing was the way to go. It’s too easy to look back now and say they were doing the wrong thing. Don’t blame the farmers – they’re just trying to run a business, to stay afloat and keep the banks off their backs.
A feed of misinformation doesn’t feed us Agri-Phoenix Feature: Doug Evans Name: Doug EvansPlace: Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast I find myself constantly jumping to the defence of the fishing industry: battling misconceptions and misinformation. Having worked in the industry for years, I see that commonly this misinformation feeds myths about the environmental impact of fishing on the …
I’m not sure what people think about when they look at agriculture or the beef industry from the outside. I grew up smack inside of it on a cattle property in the north-west, near Richmond. The thing is, at the end of the day this industry is as much about the people as it is about the land and the cattle.
On my family cattle property as a general station hand, I muster cattle on horseback, handle foals, process and treat cattle, test for pregnancies, check fences, waterpoints, lick runs and do weed control. A commercial and stud cattle operation; our key focus is breeding quality Droughtmaster bulls, and quality Droughtmaster fat cattle that are fertile and quiet. Working for family, contrary to some beliefs, is one of the hardest things – expectations often exceed what you think is reasonable. Character building.
I was brought up on my family’s cane farm and went on to complete a trade in boiler making, allowing me to move away to see more of the country. I was never too interested in the farm after I completed my trade, however I have always had an undeniable entrepreneurial streak from a young age.
Lonely conservationists: I fell in love with a giant stick insect A kerosene tin of cane-toads was one of the things my grandfather carried with him from Babinda in Queensland when he moved his young family to the Burdekin to start his own farm in 1920-something.They had to clear flood plains to plant their first …
evokeAG 2020 – food farm future: looking back / looking forward Over the last decade Australia’s agriculture sector has been white papered, it has been roadmapped, it has been problematised and statistic-ised. So what can the two days of plenaries and panels of evokeAG 2020 contribute to set a winning (and clearly, therefore, also sustainable) …