AUSTRALIA'S Year of the Farmer campaign organisers want to cash in on city goodwill which emerged for their initiative by getting the "big end of town" to help foster business innovation in the bush.
The year's series of education and awareness events celebrating the economic and social dividends generated by farming and agribusiness careers has just culminated in the launch of a mentoring program to help young Australians excel in the farm sector.
"So many people were impressed with the message and achievements of the past year we felt we had to keep the momentum rolling," said Australian Year of the Farmer (AYOTF) chairman, Philip Bruem.
He said the mentoring scheme would be part of the One Country Program which planned to build on the education strategies established during 2012.
It would provide young Australians with access to information on professions in the agribusiness sector and encourage investment in agricultural innovation and development.
The mentoring program would identify future leaders and establish a schedule tailored to their career pursuits, linking them with city businesses and business leaders who could help guide their decision-making and growth.
"We haven't had time to map out much detail yet, but there's a lot of goodwill in metropolitan areas and we want to encourage the city to be part of developing agriculture to meet the big challenges ahead," Mr Bruem said.
"A lot of people would be surprised at the level of city support and respect for farmers. It's been a refreshing experience for me to encounter during the year.
"I think we're often a bit too quick to say 'they don't understand us', but we should give city people a bit more credit for their interest and support of farmers' achievements."
In fact, he said, half the jobs in the agri-food sector were in metropolitan areas so many urban dwellers had direct ties with farming.
Another key goal of One Country would be encouraging awareness of the need for agricultural innovation and technologies to lift farm productivity and expand employment opportunities.
An on-going communications program would highlight the importance of agriculture to the nation's well being and everyday life.
He said young participants in the mentoring program would be aged 25 to 35 and drawn from farm backgrounds, rural manufacturing, retailing or banking backgrounds - anywhere in the agribusiness chain.
Business mentors or partnering companies would be asked to volunteer their services which were envisaged to involve sharing time in their own city work environment and in the bush.
Mr Bruem said many companies already ran similar mentoring schemes for their own staff or students.
He hoped they would like to open their doors to help foster excellence and creativity in agribusiness youngsters who had already demonstrated leadership qualities.
"Our long term goal is to build greater appreciation of Australian grown produce and ensure our agriculture sector is in good economic health to cope with the business and production challenges that come with feeding and clothing a much bigger global population with less available land," he said.
AYOTF's One Country card - launched to help generate funds for the campaign and reward shoppers for supporting Australian product initiatives - would continue to give everyday Australians the chance to support the One Country program.
Governor General Quentin Bryce told last weekend's One Country Ball in Sydney that as patron of the AYOTF she had encountered "contagious momentum and enthusiasm" for promoting agriculture and the economic value of country communities.
But without the next generation of farmers to run the farms Australia could not adequately cope with the opportunities it was being offered to meet the demands of a 70 per cent rise in global food needs in the next 40 years.
"The future of agriculture is bright, exciting and profitable and the need to encourage young people to choose it as a career is urgent," she said.