Australia’s agricultural workforce is aging. The median age of farmers is 53, compared to 39 for other workers. Our agricultural workforce is also shrinking, declining 22% in the last 12 years.
Agriculture is facing more than a skills shortage; we need a ‘Generation F’ – the next generation of educated, ambitious young people to ensure Australia’s role as a food-producing nation into the future. But where will they come from?
A recent survey showed that Australian school students knew little about agriculture; 75% thought cotton socks were an animal product and 45% could not identify that everyday lunchbox items such as bananas, bread and cheese originated from farms. Students who know little about agriculture are even less likely to consider it as a career path.
Farming is usually portrayed in the media as a tough gig. Farmers work longer hours and are at the mercy of the weather and economic factors that are largely beyond their control. Why would our best and brightest want to go into agriculture when so many industry stories focus on ‘doom and gloom’?
Making agriculture compulsory in schools would not only improve food knowledge, but also highlight the role of business skills and specialised technical knowledge in modern agriculture, revealing the opportunities for young people in this vital and dynamic industry. But with so much already crammed into the school curriculum, do we need to be prepared to lose something to attract more people into agriculture?
So, should we be exposing all school students to agriculture and encouraging our young people into the sector with the promise of a brilliant career?
Or is it really up to the agricultural sector itself to make the industry more attractive to young people and remove some of the barriers that prevent them from entering it more easily?
This debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, RiAus, will explore all these issues, as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.
Team for the Affirmative:
Associate Professor Amanda Able, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide
Mr Ian Joseph, Chair, Agribusiness Council of Australia
Mr Nick van den Berg, Second year student, Bachelor of Agricultural Science, University of Adelaide
Team for the Negative:
Professor Derek Leinweber, Head of School, Chemistry and Physics, University of Adelaide
Ms Lynne Strong, National Program Director, Art4Agriculture and Farmer
Dr John Willison, School of Education, University of Adelaide
When: Thursday 18 October 2012, 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Where: Lirra Lirra Cafe, Waite Road, Waite Campus
Finger food provided. A cash bar will be open throughout the event.
Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
To register to attend the event go to http://waitedebate-school.eventbrite.com/
To join the debate on Twitter, follow @waiteresearch and use the hashtag #agchatoz
The Waite Research Institute is a proud supporter of the Australian Year of the Farmer