Jaime Manning had no idea her love of animals would turn into an adventurous, rewarding and successful career in agriculture research. 

Key points:

  • CQUniversity and AgForce team up to host an “AgVenture” day in Rockhampton
  • Young students learn about fibres, fruit, livestock technology and the importance of the industry 
  • Research shows promising results, with many students gaining a better understanding of agriculture

The CQUniversity (CQU) lecturer is now showing the next generation the possibilities are endless.

“We are getting kids out of the classroom, on farms and learning about the range of different jobs and activities and opportunities that there are in agriculture,” she said.

Dr Manning has worked in the industry for several years, mostly researching how technology can be used to solve issues for producers.

“It’s really nice to now take that technology and showcase it to students around some of the cool things that are happening in ag, to show them some of the possibilities.

“There’s a lot more out there than just becoming a farmer.”

Jaime Manning standing with her arms in front, hands clasped, smiling, trees, grass and fence behind.

Jaime Manning wants students to know there are many different career opportunities in agriculture.(Supplied: CQUniversity)

Her engagement with ag started with a desire to work with animals, but the only related career she knew of was being a veterinarian.

“I guess a lucky thing for me was that I didn’t get the marks and it really forced me to look at other opportunities of what’s out there.”

Dr Manning had her “light-bulb moment” while completing an animal science degree.

“[I thought] this is really cool to be able to bring all the things I like in terms of animal behaviour, technology and research, and actually having day-to-day activities that are very different.”

Yellow and white sheep wool in the foreground, students and hands behind.

The primary school students participate in a range of hands-on activities.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Kids have an ‘AgVenture’

The CQU Agri-tech Education and Extension team and AgForce this week hosted an AgVenture in Rockhampton for National AgDay.

About 160 central Queensland students learnt about everything from fibres, fruit and livestock technology to the general importance of the industry.

Primary school student Oden (Odie) MacDonald said he liked the idea of farming.

“We are looking at sheeps (sic) eating, I fed the sheeps right on the concrete ground,” he said.

“My favourite thing is looking through the microscope because I really love microscopes.”

Anderson Hayes said learning about technology made him think about jobs involving cattle.

“We are looking at the cow collars and how they work,” he said.

“They have this accelerometer in them that tracks the movement of the cow.

“I might become a cattle farmer when I’m older.”

Students gathered around, one holding a bright pink cow collar.

The Fitbits for Cows session involved students learning about tracking collars.(Supplied: Megan Hendry/CQUniversity)

Amalia Butterfield said the event helped her understand the industry and made her curious about future opportunities.

“Just learning about all the things on the farm and about agriculture,” she said.

Zac Fisher said he was also considering agriculture careers.

“Being on a farm will be hard work but also one of the easiest jobs and fun.”

Spruiking a career in ag

Project officer Aimee Snowden said the Commonwealth-funded day was also about showcasing farming innovation.

“We need the brightest young minds coming into our industry that are excited about the industry; there’s so many careers for them to get excited about,” she said.

“Tech is exciting, kids love using technology.

“We need kids coming up with really cool ideas that we can use later down the track that will have really impactful careers in our industry.”

A student leaning over, looking through a microscope at cotton.

About 160 students attended the AgVenture day in Rockhampton.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Dr Manning said making the industry accessible to everyone, including young women, was important.

“We have a saying in our team that you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” she said.

“The more that kids can see that there are women doing these jobs, the better that they can picture themselves in these opportunities rather than just saying I’m sure you can do it.”

Overwhelming success

The Kids to Farms project has run in schools across the state and Dr Manning said research from surveys taken before and after the experience showed it was an overwhelming success.

“We ask them some simple questions at the beginning: ‘Do you look after animals at home? Where do you get your food from? Have you ever considered a job in agriculture?’

“Just by exposing students to these different activities and giving them hands-on experiences, [it] actually opens up their eyes.

“They think, ‘Hey, while I might not want to definitely work in agriculture, I’m definitely not saying no anymore, I might be considering it’, which is what we need.”

Kids standing behind a gate, a woman holding sheep food in front, a sheep in the foreground.

The Kids to Farms program has been run in towns across Queensland.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Dr Manning said working with such an engaged and enthusiastic group of students made her excited about the future of the industry.

“I think that’s really important in agriculture.

“If you’re happy to give it a go and give it a shot, there’s definitely a place for you.”

‘There’s a place for you’: Ag professionals give students a taste of the industry
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