Youth need seats at ag industry table

24 Feb, 2016 01:00 AM
Laura Grubb said the growing world population has placed extra pressure on the industry to take action to change the face of agriculture and gain and retain youth in the sector.
Laura Grubb said the growing world population has placed extra pressure on the industry to take action to change the face of agriculture and gain and retain youth in the sector.

LAURA Grubb is a young agriculture leader who has some answers on how to get young people involved in the sector.

Having considered the pressing issues facing modern agriculture and food security, Ms Grubb has recognised the "face" of agriculture and farming needs to change.

"To the consumer and the uneducated, this is a farmer; he works hard, it doesn't look like he has a very good life, he is a guy who isn't going to earn much, he is going to be struggling, and with the average age of a local farmer at 58 years old - no one is going to come into our industry with an image like that,'' she said.

"By 2050 we need to feed a population that will exceed nine billion people.

"Agriculture is going to have to step up and increase it's production by 70 per cent to feed these people - that's huge.

"We can't get new people into agriculture with our current image."

Ms Grubb has been a strong voice for youth in agriculture, being the 2013 Angus Youth Australian Illinois Scholar, the 2015 Angus Youth Beef Australian Scholar and Youth Ag-Summit delegate, has travelled to Canada and America for cattle judging and represented youth in agriculture in the developed world, on the world stage and at the United Nations Committee on World Food Focus in Italy.

Ms Grubb shared her insights on how the industry can capture the youth demographic at last week's WAFarmers annual conference.

"Everyone is experiencing the same youth issues across the world, in the US, in Canada, Europe and Asia," she said.

"We don't have many youth groups here in WA, although AgConnectWA is trying to make some headway, but we are a long way behind the east coast.

"We need mentoring opportunities.

"The youth in the agriculture region are already migrating to the city, they are not being presented with different avenues to get them involved.

"This issue has become my passion."

Ms Grubb was one of the 100 delegates aged 18-25 years from 33 countries that met at the second Global Youth Ag-Summit in Canberra last year.

The conference delegates realised the industry had to act promptly, she said.

"We need to have a direct impact on youth now," she said.

"People in agriculture need to boost education in the sector and its skills. We need to get people up and ready to have a positive contribution to agriculture.

"We need to communicate the value of agriculture, careers and farming, not only bringing youth into agriculture, but also increase the value of food and ensure consumers value food again and are not bargaining for $1 a litre milk.

"We need to look at promoting socially acceptable and responsible consumption, as 25pc of the food produced is wasted.

"We need to innovate sustainable intensification and new production systems. This is where youth really comes into it, as we need to utilise youth to get creative new ideas. As we all know, we have excellent production systems, however there is always room for improvement.

"Youth see things with new eyes and therefore have some interesting and sometimes quite out of the box ideas. By supporting the development of these ideas we can make some pretty cool changes in efficiencies.

"We need to foster personal organisational leadership, we need to double the numbers of people under 35 at conferences. We must call upon all businesses to step up and foster those new youth, to give them a foot in the door and invite them to events and give them a voice."

"We want to promote the inclusion of youth in committees, in not only industry bodies, but local government and national projects. A lot of what is being discussed is our future, and we want to be involved in the conversation, be included in committees and decision making, with the guidance of experienced mentors, allow us to learn and grow in a constructive environment."

Ms Grubb said mentoring is the important link that industry is missing.

"It's not necessarily the 'foot in the door', it's the seat at the table we are looking for," she said.

"We need to step up now to create a positive image and attract our youth."

Ms Grubb said it was up to the industry and each individual to show the general public the true face of agriculture.

"We need to show them young women running businesses, getting hands-on at the farm, we need to show them the ground-breaking laboratories that are coming up with new discoveries, the use of technology such as drones and precision agriculture, and how we are being sustainable," she said.

"We need to show them that it is an exciting future, with so many different avenues and the huge breadth of careers available."

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly


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