There has long been a persistent view about agriculture that it is a space for people with a personal connection to farming.
This view has continued even though most of our population, and many of our agricultural science and business roles, are based in urban areas.
For the future of our society and economy this view must change.
If you say you want to be a nurse or an accountant, nobody assumes your parents or grandparents were also nurses or accountants.
But if you want to work in agriculture, there is an immediate assumption that you must have a farming family or rural sector connection.
It's a feature of Australian culture that in building trust we seek proof of technical competency, and this sometimes manifests as both a polite curiosity, and a challenge.
In the agriculture sector though, it can become an unnecessary barrier to entry.
If you have family history on the land, your interest is considered justified and your expertise assumed.
Don't believe me? The next time you speak to an ag student from a metropolitan area, I guarantee they will volunteer detail about a family connection to farming, tell you about their school holidays on a farm, or when they rode a horse.
They do it to pass an unspoken, but powerful test of credibility.
Why does this persist in a country where most of the population lives in urban areas and so many ag science-related jobs are off-farm?
Why, when somebody says that they want to work in agriculture, do we not just say "Great! How can I best help you?"
Whatever the reason, it needs to change. This globally important industry is competing for talent with every other industry.
Ironically, it is agriculture's breadth and diversity of careers which are both the industry's superpower and its kryptonite.
Look closer and the opportunities are everywhere- Sarah Hunter
The industry group defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as agriculture, forestry and fishing employed just three per cent of our working population in 2021-22: quite the niche.
Look closer though, and the opportunities are everywhere.
After mining (18pc), the second largest sector (11pc) is professional, scientific, and technical services.
Scientists, accountants, marketing specialists, lawyers, vets, management consultants, photographers, architects, engineers and computer system designers are the examples provided by the Australian Government at business.gov.au.
All of those jobs can, and do, have a presence in agriculture, along with all those professionals working in insurance and banking.
Let's move down to industry number four, manufacturing (8pc).
On the face of it, not much tractor-sitting or calf-pulling there.
Closer examination reveals, however, that the leading manufacturing sector categories include food product processing, beverages and pharmaceutical products.
The first two are obvious, and with veterinary pharmaceuticals essential to animal health and welfare, agriculture can claim another industry sector right there.
I could go further referencing retail and wholesale trade, transportation, real estate, information media and telecommunications, but you get the drift.
Far from being niche, careers in agriculture are hard to avoid and don't need to have, as a prerequisite, any hereditary determinism.
We also need to take a closer look at our Australian tendency to discount training and experience gained in places around the world.
Formal recognition of overseas qualifications is a justifiably rigorous process for many professions - and is not the issue here.
Rather, it's the openness to welcome, employ and bring into the fold any mid-career professionals with relevant qualifications and a desire to work in our industry.
It's those later career changers wanting to find a place in agriculture - those with skills and experience whose best work is realised in a supported and accessible environment.
Ag Institute Australia has a mission to build the capability and influence of Australian agricultural professionals.
It supports ag scientists and natural resource managers through mentoring, peer networks and accreditation to chartered level, including a recurring examination on ethics.
It is critical to our profession that practitioners are made to feel welcome, fulfilled and able to do their best work.
This is also an important conversation to be had on National Ag Day, when attention turns to the sector that delivers much to our economy, our dinner tables and national identity.
As well as an exhortation to "Grow you good thing" let's also keep in mind the need to "Give it a go, you good thing".
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