As the pandemic’s grip begins to release its hold on the nation, the urge to reunite and connect with fellow aggies has never been greater.

The Future Farmers Network (FFN) AGM in Roma, Queensland on Friday, 12 November 2021 marked an exciting moment and long-awaited opportunity for FFN members and young beef producers to network and celebrate a changing of the guard.

The FFN welcomed one returning and five incoming Non-Executive Directors with a diverse skillset and far-reaching geographical representation:

·       Caitlin McConnel of Toogoolawah, QLD;

·       Liberty Walker of Moree, NSW;

·       Tom Copley of Anduramba, QLD;

·       Lauren Roellgen of Brookstead, QLD (currently based in Melbourne, VIC);

·       William Burke of Esk, Qld (currently based in Shepparton, VIC); and

·        Angus Stevenson of Dubbo, NSW (currently based in Canberra, ACT).

The FFN also welcome a female majority FFN Executive committee – which is reflective of recent calls to ensure that the agricultural industry has strength and balance of opportunity in managerial and executive levels, not just in primary production:

–     Chair, Caitlin McConnel

–     Vice Chair, Amelia Shaw

–     Secretary, Lauren Roellgen

–     Treasurer, Lachlan Lynch.

As a sixth-generation grazier, highly accomplished lawyer specialising in agribusiness and commercial litigation at Clayton Utz, and former FFN Secretary, Caitlin McConnel brings a nuanced perspective as the incoming FFN Chair.

“The FFN was established nearly twenty-years ago in the belief that it was a shortage of communicated opportunities, and not a shortage of young people, that was the major problem facing rural industries. Whilst the opportunities in agriculture today are endless, and appropriate channels of communication remain vital; ensuring longevity in agriculture is now centred in the ability of individuals, and companies, to evolve and adapt their businesses to withstand economic and climatic influences,” said Caitlin.

“The economic and climatic rollercoaster over the past 18 months has tested us all, including the FFN and its members. “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank outgoing FFN Chair Richard Kohne (WA), who has done a remarkable job guiding FFN through the challenges of COVID-19. Like many organisations, FFN had to find alternative solutions to support its members, and it was through Richard’s leadership, alongside the dedication of our loyal corporate partners, that we were able to continue empowering youth in agriculture during this time.”

Caitlin’s passion and vision for the future of the agricultural industry is mirrored in the recent appointment of FFN CEO, Adele Laughton – whose extensive experience in business development and agribusiness is a welcome asset for FFN’s future endeavours. She looks forward to working with Ms Laughton, and the new FFN Board, as the organisation embarks on an exciting new chapter for FFN, focused on addressing some of the challenges its members have flagged; including a greater need for educational tools, resources and networking opportunities for those in agriculture, as well as emerging opportunities in sustainability, natural resource management and climate risk.

NAB Agribusiness Manager and newly elected Non-Executive Director, William Burke is acutely aware of the risks and opportunities facing young people – and passionate about fortifying the future sustainability and viability of the industry.

William said, “In an ever changing technological and economic environment, the next generation of farmers and farm service providers, need to be constantly adapting new efficiencies to improve the longevity of our existing resources and industry.”

“Strong networks are a vital tool for sharing information and generating support within our industry. The FFN affords young farmers and agribusiness professionals the opportunity to interact and have a voice with various layers of the agricultural industry nationally, from farm gate to the consumer’s home,” he added.

With huge opportunities and headwinds on the horizon for agriculture, newly elected FFN Secretary, Agribusiness Analyst Lauren Roellgen agrees it is critical to maintain the unique calibre of talent which the industry already boasts, while ensuring young rural voices are heard.

“I would love to see the average age of a farmer come down! We have a generation of immensely interested, passionate and skilled young people working in every facet of the sector; and we’re simultaneously seeing the definition and roles of a traditional farmer evolve rapidly,”  said Lauren.

 “I hope to help build on the work FFN already does connecting, empowering and inspiring our future leaders through events, training and other initiatives. You never know where an introduction or experience might lead you, so the more opportunities we can create for our peers, the better the outcome will, hopefully be for our members as well as the broader industry.”

FFN is the only national network that continues to support young people in the industry through strategic corporate partnerships.

If you’re interested in connecting with Future Farmers Network or discussing future partnership opportunities please reach out to Adele Laughton, via email: adele.laughton@futurefarmers.com.au.

By FFN Director, Samantha Noon

Board Director bios are available at futurefarmers.com.au.