Twenty-five of agriculture’s best and brightest young people from across Australia and NZ are gathering this week to take part in an innovative program designed to boost rural and regional career prospects.
The annual Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship Program offers participants experience of the entire supply chain from farmer to customer, as well as giving them an insider’s view into Australia’s largest supermarket chain.
The $150,000 program, which includes presentations from the National Farmers Federation, Deloitte, Elders and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, is free to all course participants.
This year’s intake, all of whom are under 35 years of age, includes men and women drawn from every state and across agricultural professions, including agribusiness managers, bankers, farmers and agronomists.
Woolworths general manager of fresh food, Ziggy Kwarcinski, said the program aimed to help stem the tide of young people leaving agriculture by building careers in regional and rural Australia.
“The average age of the Aussie farmer is now more than 52 years. We have created this scholarship program to help attract and retain younger people in agriculture to help future-proof the industry,” he said.
More than 150 young people have graduated from the program over the last seven years, many of whom are now well on the way to becoming the future leaders of Australian agriculture.
“I welcome this year’s class of 2013 and look forward to the contribution they will make in years to come,” Mr Kwarcinski said.
Course participants will hear from experts on subjects as varied as rural accounting, sustainability, marketing and social media, as well as taking part in guided tours of Woolworths supermarkets, distribution centres and Sydney’s Flemington Markets.
The students will also have the opportunity to meet and question senior Woolworths business leaders, including Woolworths Ltd’s chief executive, Grant O’Brien.
Here’s a snapshot of participants involved in this year’s program:
Kirstie Olive, Ogmore, Central Qld
Kirstie is the Central Queensland Territory Manager for Elanco Animal Health, as well as working on her family’s cattle property. Outside of work, Kirstie is heavily involved in the industry, as a past chair and current member of the Future Directions Committee of the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.
Beau Surawaski, Rockhampton
Beau is livestock manager for Teys Australia's Lakes Creek meatworks – one of the largest beef processing facilities in Australia. Beau grew up on a mixed enterprise farm, and has a passion for judging cattle, which he finds a useful way of meeting other exhibitors and producers.
Samantha Bartels, Mt Macedon, VIC
Samantha works as a farm hand for a commercial cattle operation and recently completed an agricultural science degree at the University of New England, majoring in animal production. Despite being a born and bred Melbourne girl, Samantha has had a burning passion for agriculture from a young age. Her long-term goal to give Australian agriculture a stronger voice by pursuing a career in politics.
Jane Weir, Charters Towers
Jane hails from Amelia Downs, a 20,000ha cattle station in North Queensland which prides itself on maintaining a true balance between agriculture and environmental sustainability. Jane has spent a number of years working and travelling overseas which, she says, has given her a healthy respect for the potential for Australian agriculture and insight into the business models of family operated farms across the globe.
Anna Campbell, Spring Hill
Anna works in the agri-political sector as cattle policy director for AgForce Cattle, the peak lobby group for Queensland beef producers. Anna is looking forward to the scholarship program expanding her commercial acumen and understanding of the value chain, supply chain and logistics. Anna calls Blackall in Queensland home, where her family runs a breeder cattle enterprise.
Tania Rains, Naracoorte, SA
Working with Elders in a network improvement role, Tania is in her third year of a Masters in Agribusiness at the University of Melbourne. With her husband Fred, Tania has established a working kelpie stud and is heavily involved with the SA Yard Dog Association, which endeavours to foster excellence in stockmanship skills. Tania is looking forward to meeting other agribusiness professionals and gaining an insight into the ‘farm gate to plate’ food supply chain.
Sasha Lanyon, Mawson Lakes, SA
Sasha developed a passion for the beef industry after becoming involved in cattle shows when she was at high school. Her enthusiasm continues today through her work with the SA Limousin Society, Cattle Council of Australia and the National Farmers Federation. Sasha is undertaking a PhD at the University of Adelaide on the mitigation of losses caused by Bovine Pestivirus. She is looking forward to meeting other like-minded young people during the program.
Christopher Cusick, Nugent, TAS
Chris works with his brothers running the family Hereford cattle and sheep farm. Chris also works as a farm hand for Stroud Dairy at Bream Creek, and is studying for an Arts and Business degree at the University of Tasmania. Chris is looking forward to the program informing him of the ways in which he can develop his farm, work and studies.
Tom Newton, Port Fairy, VIC
Tom has a diverse agricultural background, including primary production, consulting and dairy commodity trading. He is currently a sales manager in the animal nutrition division of Maxum Foods. Tom hopes the course will help him better understand the supply chain and improve the connection between primary producers and consumers.
Matthew Ruskin-Rowe, Sydney, NSW
Matt discovered his love of agriculture through working on his family’s sheep and cereal properties. After spending three years in the Northern Territory working as a stockman, Matt currently works at agricultural finance provider Rabobank, and has a Bachelor of Business in Farm Management.
Josh Gilbert, Nabiac, NSW
With his family, Josh runs a Braford cattle stud two hours west of Newcastle. Currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at Newcastle University, Josh has also undertaken a Finance Cadetship at the ABC. He is looking forward to meeting new people, applying his legal knowledge to agriculture and learning how to start his own successful cattle enterprise.
Jo Newton, Armidale, NSW
Jo left suburban Melbourne at 18 to follow her dream of pursuing a career in agriculture. With a Bachelor of Rural Science and the University of New England’s Edgar H Booth Memorial Medal for the most distinguished academic record under her belt, Joanna is currently undertaking a PhD researching reproductive efficiency in sheep. She is looking forward to meeting others who share her vision for the future of Australian agriculture.
Dwayne Schubert, Gunnedah, NSW
After completing his degree at Charles Sturt University, Dwayne began working with merchandise distributor, Landmark. Dwayne is looking forward to growing his business acumen during the program.
Claire Walker, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Claire, an agribusiness manager with the Commonwealth Bank, says she is looking forward to meeting other like-minded young people within the agricultural industry and is hoping her time in the program will help with her goal of assisting young farmers return to the land.
Kate Mason, Kojonup, WA
With her husband Rhyce, Kate runs a diversified farming operation alongside a grain cleaning business called Kojonup Seed Enterprises. Currently, Kate is value-adding to the farm by marketing free range eggs under the Katie Joy's brand. Kate is also undertaking a Nuffield Scholarship and hopes the program will teach her more about global agriculture trends.
Robert Arvier, Penguin, TAS
Rob works as an agronomist for Botanical Resources Australia, which produces more than 60pc of the world’s pyrethrum product. The pyrethrum industry is relatively new and Rob is keen to learn about being competitive in international marketplaces. Rob achieved a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with the University of Tasmania and Colorado State University and operates a smallcropping farm in Tasmania’s north-west.
Diana Ellis, Bothwell, TAS
Following the completion of her Masters of Management (Marketing) in Mexico, Diana has now returned to her home state of Tasmania. She works in the product development and marketing team for Houston’s Farm, specialising in baby leaf salad products. Diana is looking forward to getting a better understanding of the supply chain and networking with other young people to help her identify new and innovative opportunities in retail.
Georgia Clark, Wyee Point, NSW
Currently studying to obtain a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience at the University of Sydney, Georgia runs a Huacaya alpaca stud and manages a purebred poultry production unit. She is looking forward to the program helping her further the productivity and sustainability of her business.
Rebecca Scurr, Wamuran, Qld
Rebecca is a fourth generation fruit grower. Her family’s business, Pinata Farms, grows pineapples, strawberries and Honey Gold mangoes. Rebecca is looking forward to the program giving her a more holistic view of the industry as well as gaining new skills and ideas to help in the future success of the family farm.
Samantha Holmes, Bacchus Marsh
Sam is currently studying for her Masters in Agricultural Business Management while working as an agronomist and acting as a business consultant for her family dairy farm located in the Bega Valley. She is looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the agriculture value chain as well as meeting young people who are passionate about the industry.
Anthony Single, Magometon, NSW
Tony is a third-generation farmer from Central West NSW, where he works in the family farm business as a broadacre cropping manager. His experience allows him to be an effective board member of the industry-funded research organisation, Grain Orana Alliance.