University agriculture students had the opportunity to get their hands dirty at the first WA Crop Camp.
A stimulating new concept in practical on-farm learning is opening up new opportunities to Western Australian agriculture students.
Crop Camp, the brainchild of Erin Gorter from agVivo Events, enables eligible university students to spend a weekend getting their hands dirty in WA’s Great Southern soils.
The camp concept originated with the successful Sheep Camp program, first run by agVivo Events in 2015.
Seventeen students – from Murdoch University, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia – spent a weekend at a community farm, ‘Rylington Park’, in Boyup Brook, WA, value-adding to their in-class curriculum.
According to Ms Gorter, while some agricultural students have an on-farm background, many students would otherwise be learning about the agricultural industry from textbooks.
She says the Crop Camp gives students a chance to participate in the practical aspects of farming, which often cannot be taught in a university environment.
“We organised the program around the practical experiences of the various facets of a cropping business,” she says.
“Some students don’t have access to this practical learning, and even those students that do have access to it all on their home farms often learn many different skills from experiencing it in a new and different environment.”
During the intensive two-day program, students were able to participate in plant-tissue testing, grain identification, investigating crop growth stages and considering weed-management strategies.
“As an example, we had them physically putting a soil test together, and looking at the results of the soil test, and then hearing from the grower how they use this information to improve soil nutrition,” she says.
“As a result of this experience, they will now understand the science of soil nutrients in direct relation to a farm business.
“We told them to expect to get dirty and they certainly did that.”
As part of the program the students got up close with machinery, including a harvester and a sprayer. Ms Gorter says a machinery-shed tour left a lasting impression on several students.
“These are the practical parts of farming that you need to experience firsthand to really understand,” she says.
The weekend agenda included a chance for students to hear from growers and industry representatives about the business of farming.
“We had a number of growers come to talk to the group about managing the farm as a business, including discussions on the importance of technology and the use of office-management strategies,” Ms Gorter says.
She believes hands-on learning has served the industry well and that opportunities such as Crop Camp – an accredited course – will only encourage more students into the industry.
“This camp was a way to value-add to their university courses and we hope to run this as an annual event for students studying agriculture in WA,” she says.
“If we are going to encourage people into the agricultural industry who come from non-farming backgrounds, these types of opportunities are critical.”
GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Network co-ordinator Julianne Hill, who was a presenter and group leader at the camp, believes opportunities such as Crop Camp are paramount to encouraging future leaders into the industry.
Ms Hill says capacity building is an important investment component for the GRDC: “The students who participated in Crop Camp were incredibly dynamic and are the types of people we need in our industry in the long term,” she says.
Erin Gorter, agVivo Events,
0429 833 752
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