Fraser looks to ag future

29 Nov, 2014 02:00 AM
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FROM his vantage point at university, 24-year-old Toodyay student Fraser Stewart can see a swing in young employment from mining back to agriculture.

With the fortunes and opportunities in the ag sector experiencing an up-swing, he sees a bright future for himself and other young graduates in the industry.

Fraser grew up on a mix enterprise farm at Toodyay, and though it is difficult for him to see a succession pathway there he still has his sights set on the agribusiness world.

"My parents manage a 4000 hectare farm," Fraser said.

"Normally there is an opportunity for succession on family farms.

"As we manage this farm, this is only remotely possible, so I am hoping the skills from my degree will enable me to work in the agricultural industry.

"If there was ever an opportunity to manage - I would seriously consider it."

Fraser has just completed his last semester as a science honours student at the University of Western Australia.

"I chose to do the NRM Natural Resource Management degree because of the agricultural component and it has economics in it as well," he said.

This year, Fraser focused his research for his thesis on a topic affecting agriculture in the Wheatbelt.

He investigated the economic, social and environmental opportunities and challenges associated with foreign investment through a series of face-to-face interviews with WA farmers.

The study revealed that foreign investment is not having a detrimental effect on farmers and rural communities where the interviews were conducted.

Fraser said the research, which meant going out and speaking to farmers, confirmed his passion for agribusiness.

"My passion has come from working on the farm, but this last year's experience definitely confirmed 'this is what I want to do'," he said.

Fraser received the Sir Eric Smart Scholarship, through UWA's Institute of Agriculture.

"The scholarship helped my research - I couldn't have done it without it,'' he said.

"It's all finished so I am waiting until Christmas for my results, but I am confident.

"I had some really positive feedback from my professors and some of the farmers that I worked with."

Fraser, who is currently helping out with the harvest at the Toodyay property, has been offered a National Australia Bank agribusiness traineeship.

"It would start in Perth, and then I would be going out into the Wheatbelt," he said.

"There are a lot of opportunities for young people trying to get into agriculture.

"There seems to be a shift from mining into the ag world - which will create a lot more opportunity for young people.

"Young people are the future of the industry."

Fraser said he has been seeing a trend of young people moving back to the farm, and "getting back into it".

"I feel positive about the industry," he said.

"I think a lot of young people are moving back and I think there are a lot more opportunities and even more to come."

Fraser said a passion for farming is in the blood.

"My dad's family farmed at Lake Biddy," he said.

"Mum's family had stations down the line and were the original settlers of Toodyay - so it's a bit of a loop back.

"When the opportunity came to get back into farming, it was a no brainer for Dad, and a great lifestyle for my brother, sister and me.

"My parents have managed the farm for 19 years.

"We run more than 5500 Merinos and about 450ha of cropping.

"I hope I can get some good training with NAB, I think it will be a great opportunity and I will be able to develop my skills.

"I want to keep in touch with farm life but have a balance.

"I don't want to sit on one side of the fence, and not understand how both sides work, I think that would be a beneficial choice."

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