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Young Farmers Connect – Working Towards Bright and Prosperous Futures for Next Generation Farmers

Joel Orchard, Young Farmers Connect

The average age of an Australian farmer is now nearly 60, vast amounts of our soils have been degraded by industrial agriculture and a changing climate threatens the quality and the security of our food and health.

Young Farmers Connect (YFC) has responded by creating a collaborative group that works to ensure collective success for new, young and aspiring farmers and empowers people to connect; with the land, their food and each other. We are a community for farmers by farmers that provides a national framework for peer support and a network that facilitates opportunities, land sharing, collaboration, education, mentorship & industry support throughout Australia.

Last year we set out to aggregate the collective impact of a number of regional young farmer groups and launched Young Farmers Connect as a national not-for-profit organisation. We now have a growing number of chapters that exist throughout Australia, with active membership groups currently in Northern NSW, South East QLD, Mid Coast NSW, and Greater Sydney that facilitate networking events, workshops, field days and information sharing. We also hope to have chapters develop and emerge this year in the Melbourne food bowl, Coffs Coast region, SE NSW, Southern Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

Young Farmers Connect has been working to understand the barriers and challenges for new farmers and advocate for resources & supportive pathways to mobilise young farmers into the agricultural sector, revitalise our rural communities and transform the way we produce, supply and consume nutritious clean food.

We are committed to being stewards of the land, soil and sea and creating sustainable food systems for all. By empowering a community of regenerative and ecological farmers we can create dynamic, nourishing, vibrant and engaging careers in agriculture. We are an alliance that believes in a bright and prosperous future for our next generation farmers.

Over the last 12 months since our inception Young Farmers Connect has delivered 13 Field Days and opportunities for over 500 young farmers to come together, to meet and network, to explore different farming operations, share ideas and connect. We supported and participated a range of research projects, contributed to and guided local food policy and industry development and connected with young farmer organisations around the world.

Young Farmers Connect will now seek to ensure the growth and support of new regional chapters and will continue to develop a portfolio of resources, to gather and distribute opportunities to our members and amplify the messages and activities of our allied projects and strategic partners. Most importantly we will celebrate the stories, the success and share the lessons learnt to foster a culture of collaboration, to mitigate risk and nurture new innovation and successful enterprise.

Young Farmers Connect supports practices and policies that will sustain young, independent and prosperous farmers now and in the future. Our regional chapters, members and supporters stand by a shared set of guiding principles that inform our work:

  • Independent farming enterprises: for the future resiliency and viability of our food system, and for healthy rural communities, it is critical that we continue fostering an independent network of farms throughout Australia.
  • Sustainable farming practices: farmers maintain the vast majority of the Australian land mass and are some of the best land stewards there are. We want to ensure that our food system and economy supports farming practices that sustain healthy soil, water and air, that will protect our climate for the next generation.
  • Affordable land for farmers: farmers must have access to high-quality, affordable and secure farmland. While long-term leases remain critical, land ownership allows farmers to make capital improvements and build equity for long-term financial security, as well as offering personal satisfaction. We will support endeavours that aim to improve farmland security for our members and advocate for new models of farmland trusts.
  • Fair labor practices: all farmers should receive a fair living wage, proper care and support when sick or injured. We want to be part of fair labour discussions to support the basic rights of young farmers to enjoy this deeply satisfying and necessary work and ensure that the livelihoods of farmers is sustainable.
  • Farmer-to-farmer training: much farming knowledge is passed down or learned through experience. We support mentorship, skills sharing and apprenticeship models and believe farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities should be supported for young farmers.
  • Farmers of every gender, race and sexual orientation: inclusiveness and diversity among farmers is critical to maintaining a vibrant agricultural sector.
  • Cooperation and friendship between all farmers: we support collaboration between all producers regardless of production philosophy or sector and seek to facilitate a healthy community that ensures the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of farmers.
  • Knowledge Sharing: farmers of all types and ages and backgrounds are are essential to passing down knowledge to the next generation. But the responsibility should not be theirs alone. We must create supportive pathways for knowledge exchange.

Young Farmers Connect are an alliance that believes in a bright and prosperous future for our next generation farmers. #TogetherWeGrow