13 February 2023
As I prepare to head to Canada for the Contemporary Scholars Conference in Vancouver, I have been reading lots of Nuffield Scholar reports, international and Australian reports on agriculture education, engagement, and career development, as well as researching different initiatives, ideas and programs. Agriculture education has been the focus of other Nuffield Scholarships (Ian Beecher Jones, 2006, UK; Becky Parker, 2016, Canada; Karol Kissane, 2018, Ireland; Clare Peltzer, 2019, Australia), and has been a theme and recommendation through others (Ali Undorf-Lay, 2008, New Zealand; Daniel Kahl, 2017, Australia; Jamie Heinrich, 2017, Australia; Olabisi Oladele, 2018, Australia; Daniel Eb, 2021, New Zealand).
It is also interesting to reflect on the history of Nuffield, and how the Nuffield Scholarships came to be. When Nuffield Australia Scholarships were first awarded in 1950, Australian Scholars were sent on the boat to England and upon their arrival given a bicycle to undertake their research and travels. Seems very fitting when you learn of the history of Lord Nuffield.
Lord Nuffield, born William Morris in Worcester in 1877, founded the Morris Motor Company in 1910 in Oxford which went onto launch some 25 different models of Morris cars including the popular Morris Minor. But before Lord Nuffield was a car manufacturer, he was a bicycle maker and avid long distance cyclist. Morris Motor Company was the first car manufactured to offer a customer satisfaction guarantee with the inclusion of a spare tyre, lights, insurance and an owner's magazine. By 1968, Morris Motor Company had become Morris Garages and came under the umbrella of British Leyland.
Lord Nuffield used his business networks, capital and knowledge to invest in other enterprises including guaranteeing the British health scheme BUPA in 1941. In 1945, the Nuffield organisation was approached to produce a British built tractor, and by 1946 the first prototypes of the Nuffield tractor were being tested, with production beginning in 1948 when steel supplies had improved.
The Nuffield Farming Scholarships commenced in 1947 in the UK with the Nuffield Crest included in the logo. The crest includes a bull from the Arms of the City of Oxford and a wheel representing Lord Nuffield's significant contribution to the motor industry. Lord Nuffield died on 22nd August 1963.
With thanks to Caroline Nixon for writing Nuffield The Man and Nuffield Crest - Keeping the Record Straight which provided such a great insight into Lord Nuffield.
28 October 2022
Entry signage to Paradise Country on the Gold Coast
When I came across the Village Roadshow Theme Park Paradise Country, I knew I needed to visit as part of exploring existing agriculture engagement initiatives in Australia. Advertised as an "authentic Aussie farm experience" the theme park is not only open to the public, and part of the Village Roadshow Theme Park Passes, but also hosts school excursions as part of their education program.
Students watching the Ranger Talk at Paradise Country
The Education Team at Village Roadshow Theme Parks organised for me to join a Year 3 excursion at Paradise Country with a school from Brisbane. Visiting Paradise Country with the students gave me a great insight into the Theme Park and how it was engaging students, schools and tourists. The students visited the Farm Yard Nursery with sheep, goats and chickens, watched arena shows on Stockmen, Working Dogs, Stock Horses, and preparing Billy Tea, had a presentation from a Ranger, met a Koala, went on a Wildlife Walk with lots of kangaroos, and finished the day with 'Shaun's Tractor Ride'.
The students were super engaged with the Ranger Talk and enjoyed the short live shows and presentations. The park itself is a mixture of old farm machinery together with Shaun the Sheep statues and references. For those visiting the park, there was a strong focus on wildlife, particularly with the additional experiences including Meerkat and Koala Encounters, and Wildlife Photos.
Paradise Country offers school excursions on a daily basis for Primary Schools across Queensland and northern NSW. The excursions are curriculum linked with the programming focusing on science outcomes such as living things and caring for the environment, and history outcomes such as knowledge of how technology has changed people's lives. In discussing the excursion with the visiting teacher, she shared that it was their second year visiting Paradise Country and the program was part of their Science Unit.
My visit to Paradise Country was certainly enlightening. And probably left me with more questions than answers... how do we balance entertainment with education? What is the role of entertainment and tourism venues to represent agriculture? How do we celebrate our history whilst still portraying an industry that is innovative and diverse?
And on the topic of entertainment, and celebrating an innovative and resilient industry, in the evening I headed to the Australian Outback Spectacular's Heartland show.
Scene in the Australian Outback Spectacular's Heartland Show
The show was amazing! A great storyline highlighting the resilience of Australian farmers, and respectfully acknowledging the toll of drought on their mental health and communities. I loved that it also touched on Climate Change, farmers adapting through technology, and the ideas of the next generation. The production, animals, set and cast were all very well done. And unforgettable with a real helicopter suspended from the roof for 'mustering'!
30 October 2022
View from Oaky Creek Farm Harvest Café overlooking their farm with fields of garlic and an orchard with lemons, limes, grapefruit, finger limes, and more!
The Scenic Rim Farm Gate Trail is an easy one hour drive from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast and provides an opportunity to meet farmers, shop locally and go home with a basket full of local produce and goodies! I was super excited to be in the area when one of the twice-yearly trails were running and had a hard time selecting which farms to visit! But I worked out an itinerary that made the most of the day, finished me up heading south, and took in the diversity on offer.
Cheese plater from Towri Sheep Cheeses (left), in the garden at Elderflower Farm (centre), and cookies by Scenic Rim Cookie Co which had a market stall at Tommerup's Dairy Farm (right)
My first stop was to Tommerup's Dairy Farm where there was an array of market stalls, live music, a farm walk feeding the animals, the cutest homemade cookies, and their farm larder was open selling their divine dairy products. I recommend the ice cream! Tommerup's is a family Guernsey dairy that regularly opens up for visitors with a farm stay, long lunches, open days, farm gate markets, school excursions, and participating in the Scenic Rim Farm Gate Trail. Their set up was very well done and informative.
Next stop was to Oaky Creek Farm & Harvest Café in the heart of the Scenic Rim custom built as a one-of-a-kind destination. I loved that as part of the Farm Gate Trail they had a map of their farm with the crops and items of interest noted. It was cool to see just how many different fruits, vegetables and herbs were grown on their land and used in the café. Next on the itinerary was a quick stop into Bee All Natural Honey in Jimboomba to take a look at their honey products from hives located across South East Queensland.
I was blown away by the set-up at artisan sheep dairy and cheesery, Towri Sheep Cheeses. The 300-acre farm has a purpose built dairy to milk 350 sheep, which they open to the public every Saturday kicking off with a milking demonstration. The farm set-up was so well done, had the best farm shop (hello cute sheep things), and cute real sheep, plus delicious cheeses!
Summer Land Camels is a camel farm producing camel milk, cheeses, gelato, and a range of skin and hair care products, as well as a farm café and shop. They are a popular tourist destination throughout the year hosting tours on most weekends and school holidays, as well as school excursions and camel rides. They sold out during the Farm Gate Trail and had additional market stalls and live music. I loved their passion to connect visitors with Australian camels and the industry.
The Scenic Rim Farm Shop was a hive of activity during the Farm Gate Trial. Not only is it home to a bustling café under towering Jacarandas which were just beautiful, but it also is home to the Elderflower Farm, and the Scenic Rim Farm Box. The Scenic Rim Farm Box is a collaboration between farmers and the local council to connect producers and consumers by delivering fresh, healthy produce into Brisbane every week.
My final stop on the Farm Gate Trail was Scenic Rim Mushrooms. And it blew me away for ingenuity! The town's disused Bowling Club is now home to a mushroom farm, producing an array of mushrooms for locals and restaurants, and providing growing and cooking classes. Again, there was additional market stalls on site, opening the opportunity for more businesses to be involved in the Farm Gate Trail then just those with a farm.
The day was great insight into the diversity of produce from the Scenic Rim (and I didn't get to every open farm)! I was very fortunate to be travelling through when this event was on, and to see how as a collective they're engaging and inviting the public on-farm.
26 October 2022
Strawberry ice cream from Tinaberries (left), entrance to Macadamias Australia (centre), and farm history inside the Visitor Experience at Macadamias Australia (right)
It was time to begin the move back to southern NSW and what better way to explore some ideas then to take the scenic route via the East Coast of Australia and look at how some agritourism ventures are engaging and sharing the story of agriculture.
As I drove around Bundaberg two things stood out to me:
This reinforced that a connection is key. Once we have a connection our curiosity and interested is sparked. And once a connection is formed further connections form and spin from that. So how do we, as a wider agricultural industry, continue to form connections?
One way is to have engaging and authentic interactions through farm gate experiences. Two great farm gate experiences in the Bundaberg region are Tinaberries and Macadamias Australia.
Tinaberries is a strawberry farm 15min from Bundaberg offering fresh strawberries, a pick your own experience (in season), and delicious strawberry ice cream all year round! The family farm is beautifully set up with plenty of space to relax and enjoy your ice cream in the garden.
Macadamias Australia provides an on-site café and Visitor Experience just a stone's throw from their processing plant, and 10min from Bundaberg. Nestled in the family's original orchard, the Visitor Experience provides an interactive display on the history and story of macadamia farming in the Bundaberg region from orchard to plate. It is well set out, beautifully presented, and details the processes in growing this delicious Australian nut (which you can taste and enjoy at the complimentary tasting or café)!
Another way we can form a connection is through signs. Maybe slightly random, but as I was driving around Bundaberg, and heading further south, I was in awe at the diversity of produce grown. Some of it I recognised; sugarcane, macadamias, avocados, sweet potatoes, and strawberries. But there were other crops and trees that I did not recognise. And I wanted to know (cause I was curious). And I wondered if others were curious too. Did others drive past and wonder what was growing, and what this was that would ultimately end up on our plates? Could we simply add signs to forge a greater connection?
8 October 2022
When I moved Central Queensland over eighteen months ago I was impressed by the number of festivals and shows in the local region... Beef Australia every three years, Rockhampton River Festival, Capricorn Food & Wine Festival, Rockhampton Agricultural Show, The Village Festival, Capricon, Oktobest in both Emu Park and Rockhampton, Tropical Pinefest, Yeppoon Show, SoCal Music & Arts Festival, Capricorn Film Festival, Emu Park Festival of the Wind, and many more!
On Saturday 8 October two festivals were on with the Tropical Pinefest in Yeppoon and the Rockhampton River Festival. And I went to both!
Yeppoon main street (James Street) is packed ahead of the Pinefest Grande Parade which
included the Queensland CWA knitted caravan (right)
Tropical Pinefest is an initiative of the Yeppoon Lions Club to celebrate the local community across events over two weeks culminating in a Saturday Family Day including beachfront markets, 'Running of the Bulls', Grande Street Parade with pineapple themed floats, and fireworks. Other events throughout the week include a progressive dinner, cocktail party, exhibitions, movie nights, and local business promotions. Local pineapple growers, Tropical Pineapples under the Pure Gold Pineapples brand, sponsor the event and during the street parade give away free pineapples!
Audiences interacting with the 'Song to the Earth' at the Rockhampton River Festival
The Rockhampton River Festival is a three-day festival held along the city's riverside precinct to celebrate art, music, culture, food and entertainment. The festival is hosted by the Rockhampton Regional Council after being established in 2014 to celebrate the area's beautiful surrounds and built heritage. There's plenty to do with multiple stages for music, workshops across the weekend, roving entertainment, street art, food trucks, plenty of free activities for the kids, and fireworks to cap off each night.
So, what can agriculture learn from the arts?
14 & 15 September 2022
As a new scholar, the Nuffield Regional Tours, provide a short taster to being on tour with Nuffield. They showcase the rich agricultural diversity of a region, highlight leading local businesses, provide the opportunity to visit local scholars on-farm, and there's always a dairy farm visit!
The travel time between stops allows one to sit next to a new person each time, to reflect on visits, discuss new ideas and learn about research topics, backgrounds and passions. And as was evident across the two-day regional tours in Tamworth, one could apply the framework shared by Dan Richards from the Irish CSC.
Genetics creates the potential
Management realises the potential
Disease destroys the potential
The key was seeing where management had realised the potential; what processes and systems they had put in place, and what were they doing to make them stand out from the rest, to build the business, and to define success.
Inspecting cattle for sale at the historic Goonoo Goonoo Station
Wednesday kicked off with a visit to the historic sale ring at Goonoo Goonoo Station ahead of the 3R Angus & Ultra Black Bull and Females Sale. Goonoo Goonoo Station, owned by the Haggarty family, south of Tamworth is also home to luxury accommodation and a stunning restaurant on this working cattle station. For the first time in 37 years the historic selling ring at the station was back in use with the 3R Sale on 14 September. Before the buyers arrived, we had the opportunity to learn about 3R's vision to "produce cattle with genetics with superior function in a real-world production environment, producing a beef product that consumers enjoy", and inspect the sale animals.
For those interested, the 2022 Sale results were a 100% clearance for both the bulls and Pregnancy Tested in Calf (PTIC) females. The bulls averaged $14,588 with a top price of $30,000, and the females averaged $3,642 with a top of $4,400.
Our next stop was to Killara Feedlot owned and managed by Elders. Killara is west of Quirindi providing great access to not only livestock for finishing but also grain and feed supplements. The feedlot is licenced for 20,000 head with a range of cattle to suit both domestic and export markets on both grain feeding programs from 70 to 500 days depending on markets, as well as grass feeding programs.
Visiting the property of 1998 Nuffield Scholar, Dave Brownhill, was a highlight. Merrilong Pastoral Company is run by the Brownhill brothers across 8,000ha and includes irrigated and dryland farming with wheat, sorghum, mungbeans, chickpeas, fababeans, cotton, and Angus cattle. Their corporatised approached to family farming has seen many efficiencies gained, strengths built on, additional investment and increased diversity. Interesting to note that due to their crop diversity there's only four weeks of the year they're not sowing!
Upgraded ginning machinery operating in the Carroll Cotton Gin
The Carroll Cotton Gin has been servicing the Liverpool Plains for over 20 years after being established in 1995 by the Davies family. It is one of the few family-owned cotton gins in Australia with Scott Davies, together with his wife and Mum, still running the gin today. Their mission is simple; "to work closely with growers to deliver a customised ginning service through world's best practice and market expertise". And it's that world's best practice that we saw in touring the gin after recent upgrades which have increased the ginning capacity. Not only are they using the best in American ginning equipment, the Cherokee, but they are experimenting with the old ginning equipment to process hemp and hemp/cotton blends in industry trials.
Thursday saw two completely different visits, and very different to Wednesday's! First on the agenda was a tour of Thomas Foods Lamb Abattoir. Thomas Foods is a vertically integrated global food business growing, processing and supplying quality meat and seafood. We were given a full tour beginning at the automatic robots that sort, pack and move the cartons based on barcodes, through the processing floor, the holding pens, the rendering plant and biogas facility. With 900 staff across two shifts, Thomas Foods is a major employer in the wider Tamworth region.
Before we all headed to Tamworth Airport to take the afternoon flights across the country, we called into Peel Valley Milk's processing factory. The Wilson's began dairying more than a 100 years ago, and today they bottle 23,000 litres of their own Jersey cows' milk under their own label producing whole milk, reduced fat, three flavours, and unhomogenised milk. And the milk just so happens to be coming from a top performing herd with an Australian Grand Champion!
As someone who has organised countless school excursions and tours, there's no denying the time and effort that it takes to organise a tour, particularly one that visits multiple farms and agriculture businesses, and has a wide range of participants. Huge thanks to 2013 Nuffield Scholar Guy Hebblewhite, the Nuffield NSW State Committee, and Nuffield Australia team for their work in pulling this together!
Aimee Snowden is currently undertaking a 2023 Nuffield Australia Scholarship to explore immersive education and engagement models around the world.
My Nuffield Scholarship would not be possible without the generous support of Nuffield Australia and AgriFutures Australia who have invested me.
|Little Brick Pastoral