Innovative program gives city teens a taste of farming life
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Bridging the urban-country divide – innovative program gives city teens a taste of Tas farming life

Last week, 10 city teenagers – from Prospect High School in Launceston – were given a taste of farming life as part of an innovative program to help bridge the ‘urban/rural’ divide.

Developed by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, the Farm Experience (FX) Program provides the opportunity for city teenagers to stay with a farming family to learn about life on the land and food production.

The FX Program resulted from a national survey undertaken by the bank that showed 77 per cent of city-based teenagers know little or nothing about farming and food production.

Concerned by this ‘urban/rural’ divide, a group of Rabobank clients who form the bank’s Tasmanian Client Council headed by Central Midlands farmer Scott Colvin, initiated the introduction of the FX Program to Tasmania – following its successful roll-out in other parts of the country.

“We want to try and show that agriculture is more than the droughts, floods and fires that we see on our TV screens,” Mr Colvin said.

“Whether it is real or perceived, there is a knowledge gap that exists between urban and rural Australia, and this FX Program tries to bridge that gap by showcasing agriculture as a profitable and rewarding industry to be part of.”

Year 9 students, Breanna Franklin and Esther Badcock were two of the Launceston teenagers who ‘jumped at the chance’ to spend a week on farm.

Travelling to Mr Colvin’s prime lamb and mixed cropping enterprise “Nosswick” near Blackwood Creek, Breanna and Esther immersed themselves in country life – mustering sheep, spraying weeds, checking the irrigation pivots, helping with the fencing and feeding the animals.

For Breanna it was her first ‘hands-on’ experience on a working farm. “While I have a couple of friends that live on farms, I have never had the chance to delve into the details,” she said.

“And it was so interesting and better than what I expected, as there is so much to do and the work is really varied.”

Esther agreed, saying she wanted to attend the program to learn about different farming practices.

“While I live on a cattle property near Westbury, it opened my eyes to the running of a sheep and cropping enterprise,” she said, “and I enjoyed shifting the sheep in the gator and watching the sheep dogs at work.”

Mr Colvin said Breanna and Esther were not only involved in the day-to-day running of his enterprise but were also able to visit Ashgrove Cheese and Tasmanian Berries at Christmas Hills.

“Both these operations opened their eyes to the size and scale of agricultural enterprise, and the contribution these businesses make as a major employer in the community,” he said, “as a big aim of the program is to showcase the range of career opportunities in the industry.”

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.

The Prospect High School students were given an insight into the range of occupations outside the farmgate by attending an agri careers opportunity forum which included discussions with local agribusiness professionals. The session also provided the opportunity to discuss food wastage and the role consumers’ play to reduce that wastage.

Both Breanna and Esther said it opened their eyes to the range of other professions in food and agribusiness, outside of farming itself.

“I hadn’t considered a career in agriculture before participating in this program,” Breanna said, “but now I am, as I realise there are so many careers aside from the farm.”

Esther said a big motivator for her participation in the FX Program was to see the career paths that existed in the industry.

Mr Oostdijk said the FX programs were 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 Scott is the chair of in Tasmania, give our farming clients the opportunity to canvas the big issues facing the sector, and the challenge of retaining and attracting youth into agriculture is one of their four key objectives, he said. "The FX Program is a great example of how big challenges can be tackled on a small scale to make real, long-lasting differences.”

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Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group 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 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group 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
Head of Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 

Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103