Young farmers look to the future

ANZ Seeds of Renewal
Walgett, NSW

“I think the project was successful because we had a very dedicated group with diverse interests and could learn from each other’s situations, experiences and ideas.“

Walgett is a small rural town 700 km north-west of Sydney in New South Wales. The average age of its residents is 32 - five years below the Australian average. The relative youth of the community was an important factor in the development of a program that looks to the future of farming in the region.

The Walgett area is a regional hub for wool, wheat and cotton industries, and many of its farmers are under 40. The Lower Pian Pagan Creek Conservation Group is a local organisation focused on the uptake of sustainable farming practices and the promotion of natural resource conservation. The group is run by local community members, who assist in developing a sound understanding of community needs and education gaps. They received an ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant of $3,375 in 2011 to sponsor 15 young farmers to participate in a 16-day ‘Holistic Management’ course, run by Western Institute TAFE.

This was a small part of a broader Walgett New Generation Project, a mentoring and education program that aims to create a network of young farmers and to develop a succession framework to transfer knowledge and best management practices.

The timeframe for the program was pushed out a few months, following a major flood in early 2012, which saw 65% of the district underwater, making roads inaccessible, and meaning farmers in the region had extra work to do to catch up. The program started in April 2012 and ran through till September. It included a series of training courses and seminars, as well as seminars where local ‘mentors’ and external speakers discussed practices and techniques. Various field trips were organised, and one of the practical exercises involved holding a field day, which attracted an additional 30 people from across the region.

The program also involved a few over 40’s, which was a great benefit. Regional Landcare Facilitator, Tanya Slack-Smith, said, “Those (over 40’s) who were included had many years of Holistic Management experience which they could relay to the group with working examples.”

Since the course finished, attendees have instigated their own grazing BMP group and have organised several catch ups, developing a support network. Some participants have also accessed funding or have paid out of their own pocket for projects that assist in implementing their holistic plans.

These ongoing impacts will have a part in improving production practices and sustainable farming activities in the future. Mrs Slack-Smith said new skills and knowledge attained from the course will also create employment opportunities.