Joseph Vile is a young farmer from Burrumbuttock in southern NSW. He has a whole raft of impressive experience from climate change education for farmers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to his volunteer secretary roll with West Hume Landcare. And aren’t we glad we found him and were able to support him through our campaign! Joseph shares with us what he got out of the National Landcare Conference experience, and what he sees as some creative ways forward for the Landcare movement.
Words by Joseph Vile, Burrumbuttock NSW
Being interviewed by abc rural about engaging young farmers in landcare, listen to the interview here.
“We’ve got to tell the Landcare story better” is a comment I heard multiple times during the National Landcare Conference in September 2016. Just how we tell this story is critically important. Countless men and women in their 30s and 40s are inheriting, taking over or buying farms across Australia, as waves of elderly farmers retire. Landcare needs to be a part of this movement, and the time is now. The traditional stories of environmental and social improvements don’t resonate strongly enough with young, productivity focused, tech-savvy farmers. So how might we engage this group?
- Speak their language. Young farmers live in a world of data and figures. Fertiliser spreading rates, crop yields, pasture budgeting, cattle weight gains. Put relevant, transparent, quantitative information on potential projects up front so it’s more palatable to them. How about creating a ‘Landcare Project Calculator’ app?
- Dollars and sense. At the 2016 National Landcare Conference, Dr Ron Edwards of the National Landcare Advisory Committee stressed the importance of showcasing the national economic benefit that 30 years of Landcare has brought. We need to downscale this into accessible economic case studies for farmers. For example, What is the cost/benefit analysis of protecting my paddock trees?
- Integrate with grower groups. Young farmers with families are ‘time poor’. We need to appreciate that while they may be interested, they aren’t always able to get to Landcare meetings and events. Regional Landcare Facilitators (RLF) could attend cropping group meetings to make connections and see where Landcare can fit into their objectives.
South Gippsland field trip, VIC, inspecting agroforestry trials
Since returning home from the conference Joseph helped organise this drone field day for West Hume Landcare members in NSW
From speaking to young volunteers, farmers and Landcare employees at the conference, I developed ideas for Intrepid Landcare to improve engagement with non-farming youth:
- Landcare Gap Year. So often school leavers choose to travel overseas for their gap year. This proposal sees them move to rural Australia to work on Landcare projects. Engaging with indigenous landholders in an arid rangelands regeneration project could be a powerful cultural experience compared to that of a standard gap year destination like England.
- Landcare International. Partner with Landcare International through a partnership with DFAT to support an AVID volunteer assignment in the Asia Pacific, which aims to build skills of foreign staff in Landcare International groups.
- Exclusive national park access. After a day of volunteer tree planting, participants are rewarded with a camping trip to a national park wilderness area not typically open to the public.
Left: Joseph shakes hands with Costa! Right: Joseph discussing drought-tolerant rice varieties with Erika Heffer from Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia
I’d like to thank Intrepid Landcare for organising my conference experience, and the generous crowdfunders and Rob Novotny from Landcare Australia for their support in getting me there. Also to Murray RLF Edwina Hayes at Holbrook Landcare Network for supporting my field trip and travel logistics. I’ll be taking this positive energy back to my local West Hume Landcare, in order to move our planned projects forward and propose new ideas to engage young farmers.