Perth teens spend week on-farm in the eastern Wheatbelt
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Perth teens spend week on-farm in the eastern Wheatbelt



For city kids, spending time on the farm with country cousins is largely a thing of the past, however in a bid to bridge this urban/rural gap, 11 Perth teens spent a week on-farm in the Merredin and Bruce Rock regions earlier this month.

Their visit was part of an innovative Farm Experience (FX) Program, developed by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank to give urban teenagers the opportunity to spend a week living with a farming family and learning about life on the land and food production.

Zavier Harrison and Zarrina Hancock were two of the year-10 students from Perth’s Kiara College who ‘jumped at the chance’ to spend a week on farm.

Travelling over 250 kilometres to Owen and Kate Hayes-Thompson’s mixed farming operation “Daraining Springs” near Bruce Rock, Zavier and Zarrina immersed themselves in country life – mustering sheep, marking lambs, partaking in crop tours, visiting the piggery and a myriad of other day-to-day tasks associated with running a farm.

“The farm stay really opened our eyes to the amount of work farmers do to get food on the table,” Zavier said. “Before this week, I took ‘what we eat’ for granted, but now I realise how much work goes into producing our food.”

Zarrina agreed and said it was evident that “farmers really enjoy what they do and are happy working on the farm”.

With the FX Program signifying both Zavier and Zarrina’s first time staying on a working farm, they said they not only learnt about farming practices but also the importance of communication and patience when running a family farming operation.

“Kate and Owen work closely together and speak on the phone multiple times a day so they always know where the other is at,” Zarrina said. “Their kids Darcy, Sterling and Patterson also seem to really like helping out and being involved in the farm work.”

This differed from work in the city, Zavier said, where parents don’t usually work together in the same business.

Farm host, Kate Hayes-Thompson said her family wanted to be involved in the FX Program (as one of the regions’ six farm hosts) to “show young people what farming and agriculture is like”. And it was particularly important to engage with high school students, who are considering their Year 11 and 12 subjects and future careers.

“Both Zavier and Zarrina were open to learning new things and were very capable young ladies,” she said. “And we need smart and knowledgeable people like them in our industry.”

Mrs Hayes-Thompson said “it is was not ignorance stopping city kids from getting a job in the country, but lack of opportunity”.

“When students look through the book with all the list of jobs in it, there is not enough ag jobs in that book,” she said.

“While it is hard for kids not from a farming family to get a start on a farm, there are lots of jobs in rural areas, so I took them into Bruce Rock and we talked about the different jobs in town such as a teacher, council worker or natural resource officer.

“Bruce Rock is a very progressive town, with an award-winning district high school and the hockey turf opening this week – and there really is no limit to what you can do in this area.”

Rabobank Merredin branch manager Murray Carlson said the FX Program was not only designed to give the students an insight into where their food and clothing comes from, but also the range of careers in agriculture.

“On the first day of the program, the students attended an agri careers opportunity day to give them an overview of some of the occupations outside the farmgate,” he said.

“This included visits to CBH and the Hutton and Northey machinery dealer in Merredin as well as discussions with local Rabobank staff.”

Both Zavier and Zarrina said it opened their eyes to some of the jobs available in food and agribusiness, outside of farming itself.

“Because I live in the city, I hadn’t really considered ag as a career choice,” Zavier said, “as you assume you will do something like your parents and work in a hospital, at the airport or as a lawyer.”

But being in Year 10, Zavier said she was currently looking at the different subjects for her final years at school and agriculture was offered as an elective at Kiara College.

Zarrina, who is thinking about being a vet, said she is now contemplating working in a rural area.

“It would be more appealing and much more interesting to work in a country area, as there would be different types of animals and more hands-on work,” she said. “And in the city there is lots of competition for jobs, whereas you can come out here and work outdoors in the fresh air.”

Mr Carlson said the FX initiative, which has held programs in Geraldton, Narrogin, Moora and Albany as well as other parts of Australia, 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.

“The challenge of attracting young people into agriculture is one of the key objectives of the councils, and the FX Program is an example of how big challenges can be tackled at a local level to make real and long-lasting differences,” he said.

For more information visit www.farmexperienceprogram.com.au.


Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 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 agricultural 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 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com  


Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103
Email: skye.ward@rabobank.com