By Anika Molesworth
17 August 2016
Australian Young Farmer of the Year (2015), Anika Molesworth grew up riding horses and motorbikes on the family sheep station in outback Australia. It was there that she gained her love for the farming life and kindled her passion for sustainable agriculture. After spending time as a jillaroo on beef properties in outback Queensland, Anika earned a Bachelor of Science degree and later a Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture. Her research took her to South East Asia, where she studied the farming techniques of other cultures and worked with Lao farmers on a Charles Sturt University and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project focused on crop and livestock systems. She is currently undertaking a PhD with Deakin University and supporting another ACIAR project on water and nutrient management in Laos and Cambodia.
Young people are sometimes referred to as the leaders of the future. But I disagree. On some of the biggest issues that the world faces, the youth are the leaders of today.
Striving for sustainable agricultural systems is perhaps a broad and audacious goal, yet the need to redefine the way we produce food and fiber is undeniable. Farmers are being asked to produce more with less right now, and we cannot tackle these expectations with old-fashioned thinking and technology. We need to continually seek new information, new ideas, a better understanding of how our world works and human interaction with it.
Young farmers have the energy and the drive to make real change. They belong to a generation with entrepreneurial flair, creative and critical minds, and a goal not only to better their own lives, but better the lives of those around them and across the globe. As the world faces unprecedented obstacles, we need people like this facing them head on. Not only because young people with new ideas and perspectives can help come up with the solutions, but it is the younger generation, and the following generations, that will be most greatly impacted by the decisions we make today.
Agriculture is an exciting and dynamic industry, and we need to encourage young people to look beyond the city skyline and explore what opportunities lie in rural and regional locations. Because those involved with the improvement of this industry are making a meaningful contribution to food security, the protection of natural habitats and wildlife, and the vibrancy of rural communities.
Young people who have grown up with technologies like computers and smart phones, who communicate daily with their peers across the world, need the platform to help shape this industry, because they have a vested interest in designing truly sustainable production systems. What amazing things we could achieve if older mentors with experience and in-depth system knowledge fostered the development of the next generation of farmers. An open dialogue between generations, leveraging off each other’s skills and capabilities.
Young farmers are the land managers of the future, and they need a seat at the decision making table, their voices heard, and their visions embraced.
When I was born – a mere 28 years ago – there were 5 billion people on this planet. If I live to 80 years old, I will be sharing it with 9 and a half billion others. For young farmers like myself who are getting involved in the agricultural industry – who will be managing natural resources, feeding and clothing the world, and doing this in unparalleled times – we have great challenges on our hands, and a great responsibility to face them, defiantly, so that they are overcome.