Spirit of Excellence in Agriculture Awards presented to Barossa women

A Barossa Valley goat meat visionary and an aspiring ag sciences teacher from Mount Pleasant have been recognised as future leaders of South Australian agriculture at the 2017 Spirit of Excellence in Agriculture Awards announced tonight.

The calibre of applicants for this year’s awards from the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia was exceptionally high, according to organisers.

Supported by the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources and Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA), the awards offer young farmers and rural youth the opportunity to pursue personal and professional development to benefit their local communities.

Tracy Bonython from Nuriootpa is the recipient of the new DEWNR Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship for Young Farmers.

The $8000 scholarship is for a young farmer (aged 18-35) to pursue further study, take a study tour or run a special project.

The new scholarship is in memory of the late Peter and Wendy Olsen to recognise both of their contributions to agriculture and land care in SA.

Sponsored by DEWNR for the first time, the scholarship focuses on sustainability of the natural resources that underpin primary production.

Tracy and her husband Owen started their “paddock to plate” goat meat business from the Barossa Valley family farm operated by Tracy’s parents in 2013.

Tracy will use the scholarship to complete a study tour in Victoria, and to investigate sustainable feed and fencing options to grow their business vision.

Tracy Bonython with MC Leigh Radford at the awards night on Thursday.

Tracy Bonython with MC Leigh Radford at the awards night on Thursday.

“My husband and I knew that traditional farming was an option for us, but we also knew that diversifying and doing something different could really help us to secure our place in agriculture and build a future on the family farm,” Tracy said.

“We love the principles behind paddock to plate and we want to offer people quality goat meat that they can trace from the farm to their plate.”

Tracy is keen to learn from other business operators who have “been where we are now and managed to push forward and grow their sales” – both for the sake of her own business and to encourage other young farmers.

“Farming is hard, traditional farming is really hard, but there are opportunities to make it happen and I want young people to know that trying new things and sometimes thinking outside of the box can really work,” she said.

Kayla Starkey from Mount Pleasant was awarded the 2017 Rural Youth Bursary sponsored by PIRSA.

Kayla is studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Adelaide and aims to go on to complete a Masters in Teaching.

Kayla Starkey receives the 2017 Rural Youth Bursary award from PIRSA's Alison Lloyd-Wright.

Kayla Starkey receives the 2017 Rural Youth Bursary award from PIRSA's Alison Lloyd-Wright.

She also co‐manages two sheep studs with her father.

The Rural Youth Bursary consists of a $5000 grant from PIRSA for rural young people (aged 18-30) working in a rural community, not necessarily in agriculture, to pursue further study, undertake a study tour or develop a special project in their chosen career.

Passionate about educating young people to pursue success in agriculture, Kayla will use the grant to attend the 2018 National Association of Agricultural Educators conference in Launceston, Tas, in January.

“I am highly passionate about teaching youth about the agricultural sector,” Kayla said.

“I see this as a fantastic opportunity to broaden my current outlook on the agricultural horizon, increase my skills in public speaking and networking, and learn more about the agricultural educator role in society.

“This will not only be a short term benefit to my local community, but a long term benefit as I further extend myself into the wider community as an agricultural teacher.”

Agricultural Bureau of SA chair Mark Grossman said the bureau is proud to encourage and support rural youth who are working not only in primary production but in careers that sustain rural communities.

Agricultural Bureau of SA chair Mark Grossman.

Agricultural Bureau of SA chair Mark Grossman.

“Going by how challenging it was for the judges to decide on the winners this year, the future of agriculture in our state could not be brighter,” Mark said.

“The standard of applications was the highest we’ve seen and we congratulate all the finalists on their accomplishments.”

Tonight’s ceremony also saw Greg Cock of Mount Barker recognised with the 2017 Services to Primary Production Award.

Greg’s contribution to agriculture over more than 30 years includes leadership roles with PIRSA and the Ag Bureau.

He has fostered strong relationships with Ag Bureau members through roles such as leading PIRSA’s Regional Advisory Group for the 2006 drought response.

Greg has an ongoing interest in rural financial services, natural resource management and sustainable agriculture.

He is a firm believer in empowering others to identify their own priorities and support them in achieving them.

This story Barossa home to future ag leaders first appeared on Barossa & Light Herald.