August 17, 2013
Young Victorian food and fibre producers and agribusiness professionals have committed to taking action on the image and perception of agriculture. Convening at Victorian State Parliament yesterday, four young professionals shared their story and pathway into the industry. “While a number of issues were addressed, ranging from the need for mentors, employment practices and career pathways for young people, the key message to come from the day was centred on the need for a positive image overhaul,” VFF Vice President David Jochinke said. Tom Whitty, VFF’s public affairs officer and also co-founder of digital platform AgChatOZ said that the industry needed to focus on connecting consumers to food and the science behind it. “Instead of looking at agriculture and thinking of one defining image, we should try and connect agriculture to everything else. “Food can create an emotional connection for many people and this is where we can capitalise. “As one commentator said on Tuesday night’s AgChatOZ discussion on this very issue, agriculture is science that you can eat, and there is nothing more awesome than that,” Mr Whitty said. Mr Jochinke referred to another young leader’s story which highlighted the need for local farmers and communities to have a voice, and be positive about their industry. “Prue Addlem, the VFF YAPS former chair spoke about the challenges she faced entering farming at a primary production level. “Prue said she was talked out of being a farmer from the beginning of her career because she was a woman – but that didn’t stop her,” Mr Jochinke said. Ms Addlem said that as a rural community, farmers need to lead from the front and be vocal. She said we need more local farmers to stand up, follow their passions and share the positive side of their story. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Hon. Mr Peter Walsh concluded the day’s proceedings, confirming that we would no longer just talk about change, but be the facilitators. “As a government, we often do a lot of talking. But today and during this entire process it’s about listening to you, the industry and empowering you to be the facilitators of change. “We have identified clear problems with the image, perception and pathway towards careers in agriculture, and you are here to fix it. Let’s achieve the deliverables,” Mr Walsh said. The Generation F campaign, launched in May 2012, looked at developing practical policies and strategies on how to get – and keep – young people in agriculture, by running a series of events and forums that utilised the ideas and opinions of those currently in the food and fibre supply chain. The “Grow your food and fibre future forum” serves as a precursor to next month’s YAPs conference which will address the issues of image, opportunity and gateways into farming.