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Central Queensland farmers bridge the ‘urban-rural divide’

May 22, 2015

Keen to broaden their minds and experience life on the farm, 12 students from Corinda State High School in Brisbane will head to Central Queensland to spend this week learning about food and fibre production on properties in the region.

With a focus on bridging the ‘urban-rural divide’, agricultural banking specialist Rabobank has introduced a project connecting its farming clients with city-based youth – the Farm Experience (FX) program – giving urban teenagers the opportunity to spend a week on a farm, living with a farming family and learning about life on the land and food production.

Rabobank’s head of Sustainable Business Development Marc Oostdijk says the Rabobank Farm Experience initiative aims to build agricultural awareness among the next generation.

“Through Rabobank’s Client Councils, we work with groups of clients who are passionate about attracting and retaining youth to the agricultural industry,” Mr Oostdijk says.

“Working with the up-and-coming generation of Australians, educating and involving them in the agricultural industry is a great place to start in order to broaden their awareness of what life in a rural agricultural community is like.”

Mr Oostdijk says the program is a direct outcome of a survey of city teenagers that Rabobank commissioned which found that 77 per cent of those questioned knew only ‘a little’ or ‘nothing at all’ about farming and food production.

“Rabobank had conducted the research as the bank – and its farming clients – had a genuine concern that the younger generation of Australians may not understand or appreciate the role of agriculture in the nation’s economy and future,” Mr Oostdijk says.

Conducted by House of Brand, the Rabobank Farm Experience Urban Youth Research surveyed 600 students aged 15 to 18, from major Australian capital cities – including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and currently attending government and non-government schools.

Mr Oostdijk says the “very limited exposure” many young people in Australian cities have to farming and where their food and agricultural produce comes from was clearly identified in the bank’s research, with the survey showing two thirds of city teenagers have had very limited direct farm access, and some none at all.

“A third of the teenagers surveyed did not know how food ingredients and produce were packaged and got to the supermarket, whereas those who had visited farms five or more times in their lives reported being considerably more knowledgeable about food production,” he says.

And so the Farm Experience was born. This week, year 11 students will be hosted on properties near Emerald, Dysart, Clarke Creek, and Middlemount.

About to take place in Central Queensland, the Rabobank Farm Experience first began in 2014, with students from Western Sydney aged between 15 and 18, being hosted in the Western Riverina district in NSW, and students from Perth being hosted by farmers in the Geraldton and Narrogin areas in the WA wheatbelt.

Throughout the week, the students will spend a week on-farm with their host families, learning about crop preparation, crop rotation, planting diversity and the machinery and technology associated with farming.

They will also learn about the beef supply chain, livestock management for cattle production, undertaking specific compulsory units of competency such as animal husbandry, yard-work, OH&S hazards and safety procedures, livestock recording, veterinary chemical application and labelling requirements, and the use of technology and computers for enhancing efficiencies on-farm.

Time will also be spent at the Emerald Ag College and students will have the opportunity to visit a local cotton gin operated by Queensland Cotton, as well as a family-owned vertically-integrated citrus orchard.

Looking forward to the Farm Experience program, are fourth-generation graziers Iain and Anneli Day of Clarke Creek, who will play ‘host’ to several students this week.

The Days started their own beef production enterprise in 2000 and currently run a beef grazing operation of predominantly Brahman cattle with 4,500 head across approximately 50,000 acres.

Anneli believes “a country up-bringing has many advantages for children”.

“We think it’s great that we can all be together doing what we love and sharing our knowledge with our children as we enjoy the freedom and tranquillity of living where we do,” she says.

“Life on the land gives you a freedom that enhances creativity, a love and respect for animals and nature, and practical skills that can be transferred into life. We are very proud to be associated with agriculture and believe that it offers an extensive array of exciting career paths for young people.”

Actively involved in the preparation of the week-long itinerary, Rabobank Rockhampton branch manager Gavin Baartz said he was thrilled to be involved in such an exciting initiative, collaboratively with the bank’s clients and the Corinda State High School.

“We hope to see some positive results for everyone involved and believe the wider impacts of this initiative have the potential to be quite meaningful and transformative for rural Australia,” Mr Baartz said.

“Rabobank has always maintained a strong connection with the communities in which it operates. This unique approach to engaging with rural communities has been further strengthened by an initiative that brings together progressive producers across the area for open discussions on their concerns in agriculture.”

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world's leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years' experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 41 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 10 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1600 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia's leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region's food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 

Jess Webb
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 07 3115 1832 or 0418 216 103