Young farmers advisory council
The 2020 Young Farmers Advisory Council from left to right: James Hawkins, Jennifer Zappia, Nicholas Blandford, Jessica Knight, Joe Boyle, Clay Gowers, Mitchell McNab, Sarah McLean (Chair), and Sophia Christoe.
The Young Farmers Advisory Council provides a strong voice for young people in Agriculture. The Council also serves to develop the sector leaders of tomorrow.
The Council is a group of dynamic and motivated young people from various agricultural industries and regions, who advise government on issues affecting young people in agriculture and on program delivery. Council members also act as young ambassadors to attract new entrants to the state's vibrant agriculture sector.
The Council meets two to four times per year to assist government to better understand the needs of young people in agriculture. Council members may be called upon to engage and consult with other young people in agriculture, with industries, communities and networks, and to consider research opportunities.
In August 2020, the Young Farmers Advisory Council welcomed the following members for a three-year term:
Chair – Dr Sarah McLean, Beef Farm Owner/Manager and Neuropsychologist, Purnim
Sarah is a returning member to the Council, serving as Deputy Chair the previous term, now offering her leadership experience to this Council as Chair.
Sarah is a neuropsychologist and beef farmer from the Great South Coast of Victoria. Sarah purchased her own farm in 2014 and is passionate about sustainable farming practices and climate change.
You can hear from Sarah herself, on our ‘Ag Vic Talk’ podcast channel, available on your preferred podcast platform and at the AgVic Talk podcast series web page.
Deputy Chair – Mr Clay Gowers, Cropping Farm Manager, Carwarp
Clay has managed his family’s broadacre cropping business in the Millewa for the past ten years, recently moving to Wangaratta. While Clay seeks new farming opportunities in northern Victoria, he returns to the Millewa each harvest.
Clay has a special interest in agriculture technology such as aerial mapping using drones.
You can hear from Clay on our ‘Ag Vic Talk’ podcast channel, available on your preferred podcast platform andat the AgVic Talk podcast series web page.
Mr Nicholas Blandford, Meat and Wool Farm Manager, Meerlieu
Nick co-manages his family’s sheep farm in East Gippsland, returning to farm five years ago after working in research at CSIRO in Canberra.
Nick has a keen interest for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
He is involved in local groups and networks including the:
- Bengworden Landcare Group
- BestWool/BestLamb Groups
- Farmers for Climate Action
- East Gippsland Climate Action Network.
Mr Joe Boyle, Sheep and Cropping Farmer, Birchip
Joe grew up on a family farm in the Victoria Mallee and has lived and worked in a range of agricultural areas across the state. Most recently Joe was a Senior Agribusiness Relationship Assistant with Rural Bank in East Gippsland, but has decided to return to the farm.
Joe is engaged with his community through his work and local sports.
Ms Sophia Christoe, Organic Dairy Goat Milker and Cheesemaker, Trentham
On top of her part-time role as Regional Food Activation Coordinator at Open Food Network, Sophia is co-managing a small goat herd after honing her skills on an organic goat dairy in Victoria’s Central Highlands in recent years.
Sophia values natural resource and environmental management, transitioning from her role as Stallholder Coordinator at Melbourne Farmer’s Markets to an on-farm role with an organic producer.
Sophia is engaged with her local farming community and industry through the small-scale and craft agricultural industries.
Mr James Hawkins, Director of Pork, Meat and Wool businesses, Charam
James has a strong focus on innovative solutions and entrepreneurship, establishing a 5000 outdoor pig farm in the Wimmera area of western Victoria, to service an Australian-owned pork supplier.
James was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 2018–19.
James is actively engaged in his local community through sport and community groups. He is the President of the Lake Charlegrark Country Music Marathon.
Mrs Jessica Knight, Dairy Farm Owner/Manager, Stratford
Jessica owns and manages a dairy farm business in Gippsland.
Jessica has skills and expertise in strategic planning, management and law.
Jessica is involved in various formal groups and networks in her local area including the:
- East Gippsland Young Dairy Network
- Tinamba Focus Farm support group
- Women in Dairy East
- Macalister Irrigation District discussion group.
Mr Mitchell McNab, Orchard Manager, Ardmona
Mitchell has been managing the family orchard in the Goulburn Valley since 2012 and has transitioned the family business from a canning and processing grower to a fresh market producer.
Mitchell was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 2016.
Mitchell is the current Chairman of Fruit Growers Victoria and the Goulburn Valley Emerging Leaders Program for Fruit Growers.
Mrs Jennifer Zappia, Table Grape Farm Manager/Owner, Mildura
Jennifer is a returning member to the Council, bringing a wealth of experience to this term of Council.
Jennifer is currently establishing arable land into a table grape vineyard in Victoria’s Mallee, while also working as on her family’s vineyard.
Jennifer is a member of several community and agricultural groups including:
- Northern Mallee Leaders
- Horticulture Innovations Advisory Group
- Young Farmer Business Network’s Community of Practice.
Young Farmers Advisory Council video
Here is a video recorded in 2017 when the Young Farmer Advisory Council was known as the Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council.
Title: AGRICULTURE VICTORIA - The journey so far - Working with government to support young farmers
Vision: Aerial view of sunrise over farmland
Caitlin Scholfield — Chair, Business Manager, Geoffery Gardiner Dairy Foundation:
'My name is Caitlin Scholfield and I'm the Chair of the Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council.'
Vision: Farmhouse — aerial view of sheep grazing
'And here we are in my woolshed of my family farm near Dunkeld in south-west Victoria. So we're a small sheep grazing property.'
Vision: Caitlin speaking:
'The Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council was an election promise of the current Labor Government.'
Vision: Council members
'And the council is made up of 11 passionate young people from around Victoria.'
Vision: Caitlin speaking — grading wool — inspection lettuce:
'It's really exciting to be involved in such a collaborative group of young people in agriculture.'
Vision: Sunrise and farmer in paddock with his dogs — cattle in mil shed — Council members at meeting — Caitlin speaking — Caitlin driving vehicle — sheep grazing — Caitlin discussing farm
'We represent different industries, different regions, different experiences and come together once every six months to build some recommendations that we can present to the minister later this year in 2017, that we hope will provide opportunities and actions for this government to consider in support of young farmers and young people in regional areas around Victoria.'
Vision: Caitlin speaking — Jaala Pulford:
'So back in February 2015 we sat down with the Agriculture Minister, Jaala Pulford, and she directed us to come up with two priority areas impacting young people in rural and regional Victoria.'
Vision: Caitlin speaking:
'We went away and came up with two priority areas, one social and one economic.'
'And those priority areas are upskilling young farmers in business management; and the second priority, which is the social priority, is around networking and connecting young people in a social capacity in rural areas.'
Sarah Thompson — Engagement and Workforce Development Officer, Murray Dairy, Shepparton:
'So my name is Sarah Thompson and I'm a Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council member.
I live in Shepparton and I grew up here.'
Vision: Cattle — milking shed
'The Young Farmer MAC is engaging with a number of young farmers around the state.'
Vision: Sarah speaking:
'We've held consultation meetings to get people together to discuss those key issues and challenges that people are facing.'
Vision: Farmer in milking shed - Council members at meeting - Sarah speaking:
'What we're doing with that information is pulling it together into some key recommendations, and they will be presented to the Minister for her consideration about initiatives and policies in the young farmer space going forward.'
Vision: Calves being fed - Sarah speaking:
'Working with young farmers on the ground, I really wanted to ensure that young people had a voice and that their opinions, challenges and ideas were heard by government, and being on the Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council allowed me to do that.'
Vision: Sarah walking and talking at meeting:
'Another aspect of why I wanted to be on the Young Farmer MAC is because I guess I wanted to improve and develop my leadership skills.'
Vision: Sarah speaking:
'I saw this as an opportunity to continue my learning, to gain new networks.'
[Vision: Aerial view of farmland]
'I wanted to be an advocate, not only for young people in agriculture, but Victorian agriculture state wide.'
Gregor Knight — Part Manager, Golden Wattle, Quambatook:
'Hi, I'm Gregor Knight.
I farm at Quambatook Victoria with my dad.'
Vision: Aerial view of farmland:
It's a family farm with a mix of sheep, wheat, barley, canola and veg.
Vision: Gregor speaking:
'This is a fourth generation family farm.
I'm the fourth.'
Vision: Sunrise over farm Gregor, dog and sheep:
'And the farm has really come a long way since then.'
Vision: Gregor and Malcolm walking over farm:
'My dad, Malcolm's, done a lot of work in that area really sort of trying to keep on the edge of technology and new ideas in some respects.'
Vision: Tractor being driven on farm — monitor showing corn coverage — ute:
'And the MAC has really helped with that and sort of given me a challenge and go outside of my comfort zone and try and improve and learn in other areas that I wouldn't otherwise have on the farm.'
Vision: Gregor speaking:
'I feel like the MAC has really given me an opportunity to improve my public speaking.'
Vision: Aerial view of dam and farmland — Gregor speaking at meeting:
'Being in a small rural area you can really get bogged down in what you're doing day-to-day, and you don't often get a chance to meet these sort of people.'
Vision: Gregor speaking:
'And so the networking that comes with the Young Farmer MAC is really valuable and really exciting as well.'
Andrew Bulmer — Managing Director Bulmer Farms, Lindenow
'Hi, my name is Andrew Bulmer, I'm Managing Director of Bulmer Farms here in Lindenow.
Our business predominantly focuses on salad production.'
Vision: Aerial view of farm
'And we're a family run business.'
Vision: Andrew speaking — Andrew walking with apprentice:
'Every year we bring in at least one production horticulture apprentice into the business.'
Vision: Andrew inspecting lettuce — Andrew speaking:
'And at the moment we've got four or five apprentices working across different aspects of the business.'
Vision: View of farm and crops
'We see this as really important.'
Vision: People working on farm picking lettuce
'We want to encourage as many young people to come back in and be passionate about agriculture and horticulture.'
Vision: Andrew speaking:
'And I think a lot of other industries need to get on board with this approach too, to provide pathways, real job pathways and employment opportunities back into industries for people to flourish and go forward.'
Vision: View over farm and crops — Andrew speaking:
'It's been a fantastic opportunity to come together, to network and to learn with other like-minded individuals right across the state in different industries.'
Vision: Andrew driving tractor — Andrew speaking:
'It's been great to be a part of it and I've met some real exceptional people along the journey.'
Vision: Aerial view of sunrise over farmland — Caitlin speaking:
'So the process has not only helped to inform the recommendations to make sure that they truly represent the needs and the opportunities for young farmers in regional Victoria, but it's also been a fantastic leadership opportunity for each of the 11 council members that form the Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council.'
[Vision: AGRICULTURE VICTORIA — Join the next phase of the journey. Expressions of interest now open]
In 2017, the Council presented a Recommendations Report to the Minister for Agriculture following two years of research and consultation with young farmers, industry, communities and networks.
The Victorian Government is working to address the recommendations in the report.
- Young Farmers Ministerial Advisory Council Recommendations Report (PDF - 988.0 KB)
- Young Farmers Ministerial Advisory Council Recommendations Report (WORD - 346.8 KB)
For more information about the Council please contact: