Spreading ag's sustainability story

14 Apr, 2014 02:00 AM
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Dairy Australia's Amy Fay.
In the future there is going to be greater scrutiny on where food comes from and how it is produced
Dairy Australia's Amy Fay.

AMY Fay can recall the exact moment she ditched her meteorology course to study agriculture.

It was a decision that eventually triggered a career in the sustainable agriculture sector - a space the young agribusiness professional (and member of the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 list) is hoping to make a big difference in.

"I was sitting at home on my parents' farm when it hit me," she said.

"I realised I was going back to Melbourne to study something I wasn't interested in."

And in her third year of study at the University of Melbourne, Amy opted to make the switch the very next day to a Bachelor of Agriculture Science at Melbourne.

Two days later she had embarked on a brand new career path that she will never regret.

"I guess I became interested in agriculture at a young age, because I grew up on a farm," Amy said.

Apart from helping out on her family's cropping farm in Victoria's Western District, she and her sisters also spent their summer holidays doing casual work at grain silos at Lake Bolac and Dimboola.

After completing the degree in 2008, she quickly landed a position with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) where she worked on a panel that helped to set research priorities.

The job offered her a great opportunity to witness research happening on a national level, she said.

After the 18-month stint at GRDC, Amy switched to the Department of Agriculture where she was able to play a role in formulating sustainable agriculture policies.

The role fuelled a passion for the area, and helped to redefine her career goals.

"The sustainable agriculture space will only become more and more important for farmers in the face of changing markets and climate - and in the future there is going to be greater scrutiny on where food comes from and how it is produced."

After a couple of years, Amy decided to expand her international knowledge of agriculture, spending six months in Canada.

"I did harvest in Saskatchewan and Alberta driving headers, and then did some backpacking," she said.

"It was a great experience and I really got back to my roots…I was out in the paddock again and it was really hard work."

But apart from the workload, the experience offered Amy an understanding of the different global markets Australian farmers were up against, but see the opportunities too.

"The Canadian grains industry is huge and very successful," she said.

"But I also realised how innovative our own farmers are and how we deal with challenges they don't have."

She said Canadian farmers had access to beneficial tools such as multi-peril crop insurance, while other advantages included the fact that melting snow provided water for crops.

On return, her next role was at Dairy Australia in Melbourne as program development manager in natural resource management, working in research, development and extension, which encompassed areas such as climate change, irrigation and soil.

"Dairy Australia has a great reputation in sustainable agriculture, and that was an area I wanted to keep working in," she said.

Today, the 27 year-old is still working within the organisation.

And while the bulk of her experience has been in the grains sector, Amy said she's enjoyed the new challenge.

"It's been a steep learning curve, but I also think it's been useful to have a fresh perspective."

In the future, she is hoping to continue working in the sector.

"There is a real need to develop resilient farming industries that can adapt to what consumers want," she said.

"But at the same time we have to communicate with consumers about the innovation and efficiency of our industries to help direct their demand."

She said the loop was closing in on integrating the message of profitability and sustainability to farmers and consumers.

"We need to continue to work on developing profitable farming businesses that can adapt to an increasingly variable climate and look after the environment too," she said.

During her time in the agribusiness sector, Amy said she was also grateful for the experienced and accomplished women she'd been able to call mentors.

"They have generously given me honest feedback -sometimes not always what I wanted to hear - which has been crucial to what I have been able to achieve," she said.

Amy is currently studying her Masters in the Science of Agriculture at the University of New England, as well as holding a graduate certificate in sustainable agriculture and is a graduate of the Australian Future Grain Leader's Program.

The Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 is a joint initiative of Emerald Grain and Fairfax Agricultural Media supported by Syngenta.

Read more of our 100's stories here

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StockLand
Louise Preece

Louise Preece

is a journalist for Stock & Land
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

John Newton
14/04/2014 6:52:38 AM

Good on Amy. we need more farmers like her to show that sustainability can be profitable. And good on The Land for providing counterpoint to Mr Leyonhjelm's slash and burn approach.
Ringer
14/04/2014 3:46:01 PM

An absolute asset to the Dairy Industry. Well done Amy!

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