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Agricultural education on agenda

The West Australian

Grains industry leader Julianne Hill believes incorporating an agricultural component into the school curriculum is vital to encouraging new entrants into the industry.

The GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Group Network Co-ordinator with the Grains Research and Development Corporation is working towards developing a school project that introduces high school children to the exciting world of agriculture.

"I wanted to develop a project that shows school students the opportunities that are available to them by working in agriculture, not just working on a farm, but also in other associated areas such as grain marketing, consulting and finance," she said.

Ms Hill's proposal, through the awards process, is to develop a program called Grain Game to teach Year 9 and 10 students about grain marketing, based loosely on the popular Stock Market game.

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By using the expertise of a Wheatbelt farmer and a grain-marketing consultant, and run during a real time growing season, students will learn the vagaries of the season and the different grain marketing opportunities available to them throughout the year.

Video and YouTube links will allow students direct access to both the farmer and the consultant, and will give students a hands-on experience in how to run a profitable grain business using a range of different grain marketing products.

"The program will mirror the actions of a real live farm from April through to November," Ms Hill said.

"Within that period, whatever is affecting the farmer, including seasonal conditions, the students will also experience."

Ms Hill said the students would be able to make management decisions about selling their grain.

"(It) might be some up front, some during the season, and some at harvest," she said.

"We'll be teaching them about risk, grain marketing, input costs and application, following the season of an actual farmer.

"As with the Stock Market game used in schools, this project is a tangible learning experience, allowing students to understand the risk involved with grain marketing.

"Hopefully, through this program, they will see agriculture as a little bit sexy."

Ms Hill was raised on a mixed farming business at West River, near Ravensthorpe.

Her parents took on an uncleared new land block and according to Ms Hill, didn't even have a bare place on the property to put a house.

"It was all virgin bush, not a fence or a track on the farm when mum and dad got there. They had to be tough operators," she said.

Ms Hill managed a broadacre property near Bruce Rock after graduating from Muresk and then worked with her parents on their properties in both WA and South Australia before taking up a position as a biosecurity officer with the Department of Agriculture.

She later moved into the farming systems team with the Department of Agriculture where she worked with local farmers and hosted numerous work experience students.

She and her husband purchased their own property in West River and farmed that for many years before moving to the South West, where Ms Hill took on a position with the beef project team at DAFWA, while at the same time co-ordinating the WA Partners in Grain program.

Ms Hill hopes to pilot the grain marketing project with one school next year.

"We are really short on young people coming back into agriculture," she said.

"The reason I'm hoping to target those kids is two fold, firstly to show them the link between the food they eat and where it comes from, and secondly to encourage even a handful of kids to come into the agricultural industry."

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