Eight city teenagers – from Kiara College in Perth – earlier this month got a taste of ‘life on the land’, spending a week with eight farming families near Geraldton.
The visit was part of an innovative Farm Experience (FX) Program, developed by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank to help bridge the ‘urban/rural divide’, giving city teenagers the opportunity to spend a week on-farm, living with a farming family and learning about life on the land and food production.
The FX Program resulted from a national survey undertaken by the bank that showed for city kids, spending holidays on the farm with their country cousins is largely a thing of the past, with three-quarters of city-based teenagers knowing little or nothing about farming.
Year-10 student, Harley Downey was one of the city teenagers who “jumped at the chance to spend a week on farm”, travelling 500 kilometres to Bob and Kerry Preston’s 7000 hectare broadacre cropping property, “Muranda Plains”, 80 kilometres east of Geraldton.
Immersing himself in country life, Harley spent the week learning about the Preston’s farming operation - from understanding their cropping cycle, to learning to identify the different winter crop varieties and seeing the scale of their plant and machinery.
Harley also spent a day on another farm host’s cattle property, weighing and drafting mobs of cattle to group them for market specifications.
For Harley the program was a real ‘eye-opener’ as he “had never been to a working farm before.”
While Harley is studying agriculture at school, he said he now has a greater appreciation of how wheat and barley is grown, and how that ends up as a key ingredient in our food such as, bread.
Not only was the cropping side of the business of interest to Harley, but he also “couldn’t get over how massive their farm was”, “how quiet it was” and “how far they were from the closest town.”
Farm host, Bob Preston was one of the five hosts in Western Australia that participated in the pilot FX Program last year and said he had jumped at the chance to be involved again to help “chip away at the country-city divide.”
“We got so much out of the program last year, and we are hoping last year’s student, Nathan will return to the farm later in the year to see harvest in full-swing,” he said. “And having Harley with us this year, gave us the opportunity again to take that step back and see the farm anew ‘through his eyes’.”
Rabobank’s head of Sustainable Business Development Marc Oostdijk said the FX Program not only gave “city students the opportunity to discover first-hand where food and clothing comes from, but also opened their eyes to the range of exciting careers in agriculture”.
“We hope that by experiencing rural life, students will take back to their families, as well as their schools and communities an understanding of farming life. And that they will then take it one step further by considering a career in agriculture,” Mr Oostdijk said.
Kiara College's Principal Anne Robinson said that since the students had returned home it was like "light bulbs had been turned on everywhere."
"They all returned so enthused about their week in the country - about the scale of the farms and how different it all was - and they were able to share their experiences by presenting at the school assembly," Mrs Robinson said.
Mrs Robinson said the students experience was also shared with the wider school community through the school's website and newsletter.
To give students an insight into the range of occupations outside the farmgate, they spent a day off-farm in Geraldton – touring CSBP Limited’s fertiliser facility, speaking with an agronomist at Landmark, meeting with the Rabobank team from the Geraldton Rabobank branch, visiting the Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-Op to see the processing of live crayfish and taking a boat tour of the fishing harbour with a local fisherman.
Harley said that while he had already considered pursuing a career in agriculture due to his love of the outdoors and animals, the experience had helped him “realise what it would be like to be on a farm.”
Mr Oostdijk said the FX initiative, which also held a program in Rockhampton in May, and in New South Wales near Griffith earlier this month, was a direct initiative of Rabobank’s Client Councils, groups of the bank’s farming clients around Australia who meet to discuss issues and implement ideas to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities.
“Our Client Councils, which Bob is a member of, give our farming clients the opportunity to canvas the big issues facing the sector, and with our help we are starting to address some of these issues,” he said.
“The challenge of retaining and attracting youth into agriculture is one of the four key objectives of the councils, and the FX Program is a great example of how big challenges can be tackled on a small scale to make real, long-lasting differences.
The FX Program will run in Kadina from the 12 to 18 October, and there are plans afoot for a program to be held in Narrogin later in the year.
For more information visit www.farmexperienceprogram.com.au.
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.
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
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