WA teachers to head on-farm with innovative, new program

In a bid to help bridge the urban-rural divide, a new program will give educators from across Western Australia the opportunity to spend time on-farm, learning first-hand from some of the state’s most innovative farmers about technology advancements in food and fibre production.

Developed to enhance the knowledge, practical skills and networks of those teaching agriculture, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital technology subjects at high school, the Teacher Farm Experience Program (TeacherFX) is open to educators across the state who are keen to adopt the latest learnings in food and fibre production into their teaching programs.

TeacherFX is a joint initiative of Rabobank’s WA Client Council – a group of the bank’s farming clients who meet to discuss issues and implement initiatives to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities – and CQUniversity Australia (CQUni). It will provide the opportunity for up to 50 educators to take part in a two-day professional development program from July 23 to 24 this year.

Staying with farming families in the Narrogin region, the teachers will visit horticulture, broadacre cropping and livestock enterprises, with each farm showcasing their uptake of new technologies and sustainability practices. The second day of the program will extend on-farm learning with hands-on workshops run by industry professionals on various digital technologies, including the use of GPS in the livestock sector.

Rabobank regional manager for Western Australia Crawford Taylor said by immersing the teachers in farm life and giving them a look at the latest advancements in food and fibre production, it was hoped their interest, passion and understanding of agriculture would increase and rub off on their students.

“One of the big challenges for the ag sector, and an issue that has been identified by Rabobank’s Client Councils, is bridging the urban-rural divide and attracting youth into agriculture,” Mr Taylor said. “To address this, Rabobank has been running a Farm Experience Program since 2014, which has seen more than 150 city teens from across Australia spend a week living with farming families to learn about food and fibre production.

“We are now taking this one step further with TeacherFX, with the goal being that each teacher attending the program will return to school and share the learnings and insights with the 30 or so students taking their class.

“We are also planning to showcase the technological advancements being made in the agricultural sector, as technology makes agriculture a very exciting and savvy industry for the next generation of farmers, scientists, conservationists, ag engineers, consultants, innovators and other agribusiness professionals to be involved in.”

CQUni senior research officer in agri-tech education and innovation, Dr Amy Cosby said the university was excited to be providing professional support for the program’s development, the materials and resources to apply the learnings into the classroom, and evaluation measures to record the success of the program.

“We hope that by equipping teachers with the practical tools and skills to incorporate the learnings into the Western Australian digital technology and STEM curriculum, it will see students increasingly take up these subjects and perhaps stimulate their interest in studying these fields at university or college,” Dr Cosby said.

The program is the first of its kind for teachers in WA and there are plans to roll it out in other parts of Australia, said Rabobank WA Regional Client Council co-chair Veronica Davies.

“Once we have the first TeacherFX up and running we are aiming to roll out the program more broadly, both geographically but also in terms of the material covered, so it can focus on technology and innovation in specific sectors such as wine grapes, beef or grain,” Ms Davies said.

Ms Davies urged all teachers, regardless of what stage they are in their career, to take the opportunity and apply for a place in the inaugural TeacherFX.

“In WA, TeacherFX will be a valuable contribution towards each teacher’s personal development plan and we see this has great potential to build the capacity of educators across the country,” she said.

Funded by Rabobank’s WA Client Council, Ms Davies said there is no charge for teachers to attend the two-day program, with meals, accommodation and return bus transport from Perth included.

Applications are open until June 15, 2018 via www.teacherfx.com.au or by contacting Dr Amy Cosby on 0405 824 112 or a.cosby@cqu.edu.au

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading 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