Young farmers’ network finding out ‘what’s app’
Article & Photography I Rosie O’Keeffe
Whilst Ryan Jennings might be a 5th generation farmer on his family’s Coolamon property, he is still taking every opportunity to explore new and emerging farming practices and form conversations with other young farmers.
The local concept of the young farmers’ group was first introduced five years ago by Delta Agribusiness agronomist Glenn Dyason, who says as more young people were working within farming businesses, he believed there was the opportunity to create a local network and extend their range of knowledge through on-farm field events, seminars and social media conversations.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic somewhat restricted communications, the group of more than 20 young farmers, aged between 18 and 32 years, are beginning to come together again to share information.
“As more older generation farmers were retiring, I thought it was important to offer as many opportunities to enhance younger farmers forward thinking and innovative ideas, so I started to arrange a series of events to enable them to gain new insights and information, while socialising with other farmers nearby,” Glenn, who has more than 20 years’ experience as an agronomist in the Coolamon region, says.
“A lot have been able to connect through the internet and social media, but being able to visit other farms and seeing how these enterprises are run, the farming practices undertaken, and any challenges being faced seasonally is very different and has been beneficial to them.”
It is not just Glenn involved in facilitating the group, other Coolamon Delta Ag team members, branch manager Jake McDonnell, and agronomist Harry Wakefield and Sarah Hillier, also contribute to discussions in agronomy and animal health topics.
Already several events have been held with a highlight being a workshop in conjunction with Rabobank to inform farmers on financial management and chemical supply companies offering facility tours. The formation of the group has also been another platform to disseminate information on government grants and programs available within the agriculture sector.
Jake says conversations are started through WhatsApp with photos and information shared which then generates further comments too.
“We try to regularly publish new information in the group chat that might be relevant within the growing season, and we are aiming to host more monthly breakfast meetings,” Jake says.
Ryan Jennings farms with his parents Stuart and Wendy on a 2,700-hectare mixed farming operation at Coolamon, with further farmland at West Wyalong. The cropping focus is on growing wheat, barley and canola, with multispecies crops also in the rotation. The sheep run are self-replacing flocks Meat Plus, Dorsets and Dohne breeds, with Aussie whites run in the more remote properties.
Ryan says being involved in the group has offered an opportunity to gain information on developing farming niches and diversification too.
“The idea has brought the young farmers in the community closer together. I think these days it can be easy to become quite introverted on the farm as everyone is busy in their own right, but networking is also really important and it has many mental health benefits too…” Ryan says.
“There is still so much I can learn, either through my own research, or to be involved in this young farmers’ project to look at different ideas you may not have considered trying before.
“The events have been a broad range of workshops so far from looking at different forms of sowing equipment and new technology available, new chemicals and financial management.”
Jake says it’s not just the Coolamon group that is increasing, he comments that the concept of the group has now been replicated in other Delta Ag areas.
“Other branches have been establishing their own groups, with interest in other Delta areas such as Trangie, Nevertire and Tottenham, Henty and Yerong Creek, Cowra, and the Cox Rural business in South Australia is also looking into opportunities,” Jake says.