TAKING agriculture to the next generation is something that young South Australian feedlot manager Tom Green has stepped up to the mark on.
“I don’t think the industry can wait and expect the government or the education department to do this,” he says.
“We have to be progressive and get in front.”
With that in mind, Mr Green, who manages Thomas Food International’s Iranda feedlot at Tintinara, put his idea for a concept called Food Connect into action, effectively bridging the gap between around 50 youngsters and agriculture this year.
His initiative, innovation and passion earned him the title of 2017 Young Lot Feeder of the Year, a prestigious award handed out by the Australian Lot Feeders Association at its annual conference each year.
Iranda, which feeds for both domestic and export markets, has recently undergone an expansion from 3000 to 17,500 and employs up to 30 people.
It was with this team, and the help of Tintinara Area School and Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin, that Mr Green was able to put the ten-week school based program for five to eight year olds into action.
It involved class room sessions, school visits, a field trip to the feedlot and tastings.
“It’s about building a connection between ag and the community,” Mr Green said.
“Ag as a subject in the syllabus is an elective. It’s up to individual teachers or the school as to whether they chose to teach it. So children can go all the way through to secondary school without having any exposure to ag.
“This is about getting the facts in front of those young people and trying to correct any misperceptions they’ve been exposed to.”
The discussions with five-year-olds were incredible, Mr Green said.
“We’d talk about grain coming in, meat going out - they were asking some amazing questions,” he said.
“They were a great audience, so attentive and interested - not afraid to talk about the processing side and there was a lot of emphasis on food.”
The resources and learning material will be on the Iranda website shortly, which means any teacher or parent can get on there and have a look.
“This is repeatable and low cost and already urban schools are contacting us about next year,” Mr Green said.
“We might do 100 plus kids next year.”
Runners up in the Young Lotfeeder award were Lachy Brown, from Pakaderinga Feedlot at Kingaroy and Jeremy Sloss from Mort and Co’s Grassdale Feedlot.