24 August 2023

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

There are no shortage of reports finding their way into the public sphere in any given week.

They often serve as a mirror held up to the face of society to show how things are, where potential problems lie, and hopefully consider a way toward a better future.

Inevitably they can make for some pretty grim reading at times.

Not so for one report brought to my attention, which provided a very welcome outlook on agriculture.

It left me feeling both energised and optimistic for the future of this industry, which can sometimes struggle for positive news.

It’s a report from AgriFutures Australia titled ‘Listen up: Young people’s perspective on the future of Australian agriculture and rural industries‘, commissioned after discussions at the 2022 AgriFutures Stakeholder Summit, involving 42 university horizon scholars, their industry sponsors, 30 regional high school students, AgriFutures board members and other industry stakeholders.

One of the things that jumped out for me was the motivation behind today’s young people choosing agriculture as a career path.

The three factors highlighted by the report were: social satisfaction – the desire to enjoy what you do; financial considerations – the money to make a comfortable living; and environmental issues – the need for clean and green industry practices.

It’s interesting because these were not necessarily the considerations for previous generations of Australians when it came to finding a job.

Sure, making ends meet has always been a motivation, but the need to enjoy what you do and find a job that doesn’t harm the environment – not so much.

For many older workers in today’s workforce, and our parents and grandparents, it usually came down to keeping the roof over their heads and for farmers, the need to pay off farm debt and always have the goal of ‘buying out the neighbours’ for future farming generations.

For the workforce of the future, the priorities have changed and that’s OK. It’s up to the agriculture industry to take this on board with recruitment and retention strategies.

The report outlines the need to redirect the narrative of agriculture, bringing a “new vision of sustainability, innovation, and inclusivity to the sector”, by telling the positive stories to counteract the negativity that is too often played out in the media.

In line with this, the report also captures the suggestion of a “peak body to raise awareness, rebrand the sector, and recruit and attract skilled workers”.

Making agriculture part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools, strategies for increasing diversity in Australia’s ag workforce, greater investment in leadership opportunities for young people, looking to other industries for inspiration, to name just a few of the ideas in the AgriFutures report.

It really makes for great reading and for anyone with a passion for this industry, it’s refreshing and helps to dispel the doom and gloom that can overshadow positive stories.

It’s all very well to say young people are the future of our industry – that goes without saying; there is no future without our youth – but what this report underlines is their enthusiasm about the future and their desire to be involved in that future, right now.

Not when they’ve left school or when they have experience – they want to be a part of the conversation now and what’s even more exciting, they have some amazing ideas, too.

To read this article in The Land newspaper, visit  The future of agriculture is now and our young people want a seat at the table: Robbie Sefton | The Land | NSW