February 11, 2013
“Yoghurt doesn’t grow on trees, but 27 per cent of primary school students think it does,” Young Agribusiness Professionals chairman Aaron Sanderson said. Countering this and other “rural” myths will be one of the core issues debated at the YAPs conference in Lorne on April 12. The conference titled Yoghurt Grows on Trees: Image and opportunity in the food and fibre sector will discuss how to build a positive image of agriculture and attract young people into the industry. Mr Sanderson said the conference was the culmination of a year’s work on the YAPs Generation F campaign to secure the next generation of food and fibre production in Victoria. The Gen F campaign has brought together more than 300 young farmers, bankers, consultants and students from across the state to develop a blueprint on promoting and rebuilding the image of agriculture. “We’ve got a great future, the lifestyle is awesome and there’s heaps of opportunities,” Mr Sanderson said. “It’s not just farming, it’s working as an accountant, scientist, grain trader or banker. So many kids and students have no idea just how many job opportunities there are in food and fibre.” Mr Sanderson said industry self-promotion and increased government investment in agricultural education would help secure the next generation of food and fibre producers. But we need government support. The conference will focus on a raft of issues identified by the campaign, including: – The need to see more agriculture in the national curriculum and increased government investment in agricultural training. – Re-branding agriculture to sell a more positive image. – Alternative pathways to farm ownership – financing, leasing, share-farming and other options. – Innovative and sustainable farm practices. Mr Sanderson said all sides of politics can help raise awareness of the benefits of the agricultural sector in the lead up to the September 14 Federal Election by laying out policies that support the next generation of food and fibre producers. “It’s all well and good the state government saying we need to double food and fibre production by 2030, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard wanting Australia to become Asia’s food bowl, but we need the resources and producers to feed and clothe so many people,” Mr Sanderson said. A part of this government investment would be to help provide alternative pathways to farm ownership, according to Mr Sanderson. “Young farmers coming into the industry are being put off by sky high start-up costs. We need to offer financial incentives for young farmers and offer alternative pathways to farm ownership,” Mr Sanderson said. The problem with lack of agricultural awareness among young people was highlighted by a Primary Industries Education Foundation study of 900 rural and urban students last October. Results of the study, which questioned children from years 6 to 10, showed that 75 per cent of year 6 students thought cotton was an animal product while 27 per cent of students believed yoghurt grew on trees.