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Beyond the Bale : December 2015
"W hether it’s the smell of freshly turned earth or the hum of handpieces in the shearing shed, there’s something irresistible about agriculture.” So says Dione Howard, the latest Young Farming Champion promoting the wool industry to students participating in Art4Agriculture’s school program. Co-sponsored by AWI, the initiative helps young farmers like Dione promote positive images and perceptions of farming to young people who might have never considered a career in agriculture. Dione is a 21-year-old mixed farmer from near Lockhart in NSW and has been involved in the family farm from a young age, contributing to all areas of the enterprise including the family-owned Illawarra Merino Stud in particular. “I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural community in the heart of Australia’s beautiful Riverina region. We rode on the back of the ute when Dad fed sheep, sat on the sidekick seat in the header and played hide and seek as the canola flowers towered above us. “I’m the sixth generation on our family farm which operates sheep and winter cropping enterprises. Illawarra Merino Stud was started by my great-grandfather Ernie Howard 80 years ago and today is run by my grandfather Ken and father Graeme. I’ve inherited their enthusiasm for sheep and wool and I am completing my woolclassing certificate so that I can better understand the intricacies of Merino breeding and trait selection. “I think I realised how important this ‘farming’ business was when I was sinking my teeth into agriculture during high school at St. Paul’s College, Walla Walla. I travelled far and wide with the sheep and cattle show team, agricultural tours and participating in competitions such as the Dubbo Speech Spectacular. In doing so, I met other young people like me. These people loved everything that the land was about – whether it was what they ran on it, grew from it or put back into it.” Dione began studying Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University in 2013 which has a large focus on agriculture. Dione says extra-curricular activities in which she has participated while at university have given her some of her most memorable experiences. “I’ve been involved in AWI’s annual National Merino Challenge since its inception in 2013, travelling to Dubbo, Melbourne and Adelaide to compete and was a member of the champion tertiary team in the 2014 Challenge. It enables youth with varying levels of experience to engage with almost all aspects of Merino production. I’m excited for the future of this event as it’s been able to establish itself as a key date on the calendar for youth in the Merino industry. “I have also assisted with recording for the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge and the current MerinoLink Sire Evaluation program.” Dione says she joined the Young Farming YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS BRIDGING THE DIVIDE Meet two AWI-sponsored Young Farming Champions who are sharing their knowledge of agriculture and the wool industry with school students across the country. Sixth generation young farmer Dione Howard from the Riverina is the latest Young Farming Champion, while Bessie Thomas, who became a Young Farming Champion in 2013, is proof that you don’t necessarily have to be born on the land to try your best to make a positive difference to the agricultural industry. NEW CHAMPION DIONE HOWARD STARTS OUT Dione Howard from Lockhart in NSW is the latest Young Farming Champion representing the wool industry. 28 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2016