Illawarra’s young farmers named best in State

The state’s best young farmers have been identified after the completion of the Royal Agricultural Society Young Farmer Challenge, a four-day competition where teams competed in a series of on-farm challenges.

Zac Ruddock, Maddy Hayes, Kara Edwards, Riley Tisma, from Albion Park, were the winners of the four-team state final held at the Sydney Royal Easter Show on Saturday, April 10.

SafeWork NSW Director of WHS Services Regional, Lisa Foley, said the competition was a way for agriculture industry to celebrate, support and recognise Australia’s future leaders in one of the state’s largest industries.

“These young people are the future of the industry and it is essential they have safety as the basis of their working lives. In this competition, teams lose points or get a time penalty for safety breaches,” Ms Foley said.

“The Young Farmer Challenge is a test of ability, with young farmers assessed in on-farm tests ranging from animal handling, to driving side-by-side vehicles and setting up irrigation systems.

“Through SafeWork’s sponsorship of the event, we are spreading the farm safety message to young farmers at events like this is one of the ways we aim to change people’s attitudes to health and safety on farms,” Ms Foley said.

Ms Foley said the NSW’s farming sector was critical not just to the state but the Australian economy, with the 2018-19 gross value of agricultural production $11.7 billion.

“This industry is also inherently dangerous. While only employing around 2.6 per cent of the Australian workforce, farming accounts for one-in-every-five worker deaths,” Ms Foley said.

“And we are seeing that young people are greatly affected by injuries, with the 20–29 year age group responsible for 29 per cent of all workers compensation claims in the sector.

“This industry is continuing to evolve as old technologies are replaced with new, and while it is exciting to see so many people seeing their future in agriculture – we need to ensure the foundation of the industry continues to be around safety,” Ms Foley said.

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