EUDUNDA farmer Karl Milde may have had a long wait of two and half years but it was a night to remember on Sunday when he was announced as the 2021 Agricultural Shows Australia's National Rural Ambassador at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
It is just the fifth time a SA winner has claimed the national title in the program's 21-year history, with the last individual Jeremy Schultz from Pinnaroo in 2016.
Mr Milde said he was "really honoured and humbled" to be selected from such a high calibre of state winners.
"It has been a pretty surreal week for me, I thought I understood what the program was about and believed I had really grown as a person and used it to its full potential but this week I have had a lot of light bulb moments," he said.
"To spend time around the 10 others really made me see how much being the state winner means to them and how passionate they are about growing young rural men and women in their local communities."
The 25-year-old says the Rural Ambassador program has been a "life changing" experience since being approached to be the Eudunda Show Ambassador in 2018. This was the first time in more than a decade that he had even attended his local show.
From there he went on to win the 2019 state title and is now committed to giving others the same opportunities he has had.
COVID restrictions forced the last minute cancellation of the 2021 Rural Ambassador finals due to be held at the Ekka in Brisbane last year so the finals were rescheduled to Sydney, along with the 2022 award.
This made Mr Milde's title reign brief, less than an hour, before Dione Howard from NSW was announced as the 2022 winner at the dinner.
Mr Milde said he was looking forward to working with Ms Howard to promote youth involvement in country shows.
"It is not about reinventing the wheel but continuing to work with the dozens or even hundreds of fantastic people who have come before me, not just in the Rural Ambassador award but other leaders in other similar programs," he said.
"I want to get around to as many Royals and country shows as I can in the next year, but for me it is not about the next 12 months or even next 4 or 5 years.
"I love that the same people involved in similar programs 20 years or 10 years ago are now right at the top echelon of their rural community."
Mr Milde encouraged other young people to be open-minded about becoming involved in their local show.
Since joining the Eudunda Show he has established an annual Merino ewe hogget competition which was important for getting farmers together when the area was in the grip of a very severe drought.
He has also helped another fellow committee member Kayla Steinborner start up a Merino Young Judges competition and has been working with the local school to get their students more involved.
He is an authentic, community-minded young person who is very relatable.- PETER ANGUS, Judge and SA Rural Ambassador coordinator
"You can ease into the role and just let it happen at your own pace, you don't have to be running a competition at the start, just be a helping hand and see if you connect with the people around you- you may just find your show family," he said.
He believes country shows give people in the community a" strong sense of belonging and purpose".
"The health of a rural community is related to how well their country show is going," he said.
"We don't just need people who have always been in the show movement, we need those with no show involvement too and really encourage their new ideas."
Since returning to the family farm they have grown their flock to 1200 Merino breeding ewes and crop about 730 hectares.
2001 inaugural national winner Peter Angus -who was one of four members of the judging panel- said Karl's authenticity and ability to connect with people from a wide range of backgrounds impressed them.
"He is an authentic, community-minded young person who is very relatable," he said.
"He is passionate about the engagement of youth and working with all levels within organisations to create better outcomes."
Mr Angus- who is the state coordinator of the Rural Ambassador and Young Rural Ambassador awards- said Karl's win would be a great chance to promote the awards in SA and the many opportunities it offers.
"Karl's ability to engage with people will create interest and hopefully encourage other young people to get involved," he said.
Reigning state Rural Ambassador Rebekah Rushton from Stockport represented SA well in the 2022 national finals.
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