Nuffield Australia Farming Scholar Clare Peltzer is passionate about getting more Tasmanian kids interested in agricultural education and careers.
In 2019 she travelled to 16 countries in search of the answers to attract youth into agriculture.
Ms Peltzer said one of her key learnings was to increase 12 to 16 year old kids' exposure to quality interactions with agriculture, not just in schools but also in the home, in the cities and their wider community.
For her Nuffield report Ms Peltzer also came across scientists in the UK who found that kids aged 12 to 16 pursued a career in science because of their everyday engagement with it.
"So if we ensured that this same age group [in Tasmania] had increased experience with agriculture then these kids - with both farming and non-farming backgrounds - might start to say 'I like the idea of agriculture, I know people in the industry, I can see myself working in it, it looks like a good career'."
An issue of perception exists where people believe that agriculture just equals farming, standing in a paddock with cows, and so, a lot of people say 'I'm not going to be come a farmer so why study agriculture?'Nuffield Farming Scholar Clare Peltzer
Ms Peltzer said a first step was for the industry to start "mythbusting" the simplistic images attached to farming and the primary industries.
She said people saw farming as a hard job with long hours working in regional isolation when in fact 80 per cent of agricultural jobs are not on-farm, and of that more than half were located in the city.
"An issue of perception exists where people believe that agriculture just equals farming, standing in a paddock with cows, and so, a lot of people say 'I'm not going to be come a farmer so why study agriculture?'
"There is a need to broaden the definition to show that many other career options come under the umbrella of agriculture."
A second step is to start offering programs or activities that bring agriculture back into the mainstream Tasmanian landscape, getting kids exposed to agriculture through their social media consumption and on their weekends.
"So we start sharing all the different aspects of agriculture in large agricultural events, open farm days, a strong ag-presence on social media, events for kids and their families to see a shearing shed in operation, virtual events.
"And we do it often enough during that 12 - 16 year-old time frame for them to then choose agriculture in their post 16-year-old studies."
Ms Peltzer said the disconnect in Tasmania, despite the primary industries being one of the largest industry sectors in the state, came from a historical move away from agriculture.
She said now was a significant time to turn that around, especially given the Covid-19 pandemic and the renewed focus on the importance of food and fibre production and distribution.
"In the nineties you had low commodity prices, you had high interest rates and it was just really difficult for parents to sit there and tell their kids to pursue a career in agriculture," she said.
"We all pushed away from agriculture because it was hard, and it continued to be perceived as hard, but now we have science and technology that has come into it. There is a real drive and momentum in agriculture."
PERFECT way forward
In an attempt to increase an understanding about the wide range of jobs available in agriculture Mr Peltzer said we need more people to associate themselves as working in agriculture.
For instance, a person who makes policy about agriculture works in agriculture, or a person who designs technology for farms works in agriculture.
She said Tasmania should be led by the acronymn PERFECT which was coined by South African Dr Hlami Ngwenya, highlighting the breadth of careers found in agriculture.
It stands for Policies, Education and training, Research, Farming and Finance, Extension and rural advisory, Communication, Technology and Trade.
"It is saying that there are so many jobs in each of these categories and if we broaden the definition of agriculture so it is not just food and fibre production but also encompasses the distribution of the food, creating policies for agriculture, developing technology for farms and production and so on, it means that more people can associate themselves with agriculture, and we can help reduce the perception that it is simply on-farm."