Cooktown students inspired through ‘Ag Inspirations’ tour of fruit, mushroom, cattle and seed properties

The TNQ Drought Hub in partnership with the AgForce School to Industry Partnership Program ran an Ag Inspirations tour of properties around Cooktown in April. Building Human Capacity Program Lead, Jane Oorschot said “the purpose of the three-day tour was for students to learn about careers in agriculture and explore some of the innovative practices that are occurring in their area. We wanted them to see that there are many different opportunities and career paths within the agricultural industry.”

15 very keen Year 11 and 12 Cooktown State School students participated in the three-day tour that started with activities to get them thinking about where their food came from, and the jobs associated with that process.

The first farm visit was to Lily Creek Farm, a seventy-acre property that produces Dragon Fruits, Lychees, Jackfruit and Passionfruit. The students got to learn about how the fruit was grown and harvested and also got to taste some home-made fruit treats. The owners shared how they put solar panels in 15 years ago and have recently transitioned to all electric vehicles making their whole operations run on solar.  

The second stop was out in the Lakelands region to Red Valley Farms, where the business is constantly evolving their farming practices to ensure the long-term sustainability of their operations. The students first saw a Swiss inspired state-of-the-art mushroom growing and processing facility. The family shared the journey of how they built the 1-hectar facility and that that first batch of mushrooms to be grown in this fully automated facility will be sold in the next few weeks. Students were then shown how the business has adapted a Colombian approach to banana production using a cable cart picking system that significantly reduces banana damage and in turn wastage.

The group then went to Mt McLean, a cattle station with around 1,000 head, that has in recent years built a 27-meter dam to help guarantee their water supplies. The family run farm has also diversified through external contracting. The students learnt about grazing practices including fertility, breeding and behavioral management and processing and best practices for handling cattle.

The final visit was to M&M Farms, a 200-hectare seed cropping property that harvests and sells to commercial seed companies. The seeds range from legumes through to sunflowers as well as hybrid varieties that can’t be replicated.  Students got the see crop harvesting equipment and learn about broadacre farming.

To end the tour, the students revisited their initial discussions around food production jobs and explore their newfound knowledge of the agricultural industry and appreciation of their region. The students said, “there was lots of different jobs in agriculture and on farms that I didn’t know about”, and ‘there are more job opportunities than I thought’.

Learn more about the Building Human Capacity Program.