Cooktown Ag Inspiration Tour Inspires Next Generation

Key takeaways

  • AgInspiration program aims to highlight diverse career opportunities in agriculture
  • Cooktown’s remoteness often means students are not afforded the same sorts of opportunities experienced at other schools
  • TNQ Drought Hub and Cape York NRM facilitated the program and farm visits

Eighteen students from Cooktown State High School have recently completed a three-day tour through North Queensland’s key agricultural industries, as part of an initiative delivered by the Tropical North Queensland Drought Hub (TNQ Drought Hub) and the AgForce School to Industry Partnership Program (AgForce SIPP).

The AgInspiration program, which was run previously in Cooktown in April 2023, aims to highlight the diverse opportunities in agribusiness and provide insights into various career paths for high school students.

TNQ Drought Hub Building Human Capacity Program Lead Dr Jane Oorschot said it enabled Year 10 and 11 students to interact directly with agricultural experts, inspiring them to envision and explore both new and existing interests within the industry.

L-R Student Ecardre, Teacher Mr Chris La Rosa, Student Jaihric, AgForce SIPP Emily Kenny, Student Ellie, TNQ Drought Hub Jane Oorschot
“The agricultural industry is evolving rapidly, offering new and diverse career paths,” said Dr Oorschot.

“These workshops provide students with invaluable insights directly from farmers, inspiring them to explore and pursue their interests further.

“It really makes students aware of the multitude of possibilities within the sector, spanning from production to cutting-edge technology and beyond.”

On the first day, students participated in a workshop exploring how their unique skills could unlock opportunities across various industries before visiting Red Foot Flats to observe the inner workings of a thriving passionfruit enterprise.

The second day included visits to a banana plantation in Lakeland and a tour of a state-of-the-art mushroom facility to see its advanced agricultural technology, before concluding at Red Valley Farms, where they learned about sustainability practices like recycling banana plants for mushroom cultivation.

During the final day, students gained insight into organic farming practices and sampled various fresh fruits and an assortment of jams and chutneys.

Luca, a student from Cooktown State High School, shared how the program broadened his awareness of the career opportunities in agribusiness.  “Seeing the way the mushrooms were grown, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be,” said Luca.

“Seeing all the different opportunities in farming – from the farm machine operators to the people packing in the sheds – there was so much to see within one farm.”

Emily Kenny, School Industry Liaison Officer at AgForce Queensland, highlighted how these workshops cultivate creative thinking and problem-solving skills, enhancing students’ innovation and personal development.

“Workshops provide invaluable opportunities for enhanced learning, professional growth, and personal development,” said Ms Kenny.

“They bring together diverse knowledge and expertise, allowing participants to gain in-depth understanding and hands-on experience.

“Workshops provide networking, enabling attendees to connect with peers and industry leaders, which can lead to future collaborations and career advancements.”

Chris La Rosa, a teacher at Cooktown State High School, acknowledged the importance of the experience for his students, emphasising the crucial role that such exposure plays in their education and in shaping their future opportunities.

“Our remote location often means students are not afforded the same sorts of opportunities experienced at many schools,” said Mr La Rosa.

“Agriculture is a big employer in the region and yet students in school here might not get the exposure to the industry one would expect.

“These farm visits and the discussions they foster, enable students to delve into the career opportunities, employment pathways, training and skills that can assist them in their future.

“Our students have really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes tours, meeting the farmers and investigating how the farms operate. I have already had a number of students approach me asking whether they will be able to go next year.

“We at Cooktown State High School are really appreciative of this event and hope it is able to continue in the future.”