Cheese-making, food production, pasture improvement, tropical expertise and irrigation are just some of the skill-building projects being implemented in Atherton Tablelands schools.
As part of the Gateway to Industry Schools Program, the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) has appointed four “champions” to help young people make a successful transition from school into further education and careers in agribusiness.
Senior agri-industry development officer Peter Holden (Mareeba State High School), beef extension officer Kiri Broad (Atherton State High School), senior agri-business development officer Greg Mason (Ravenshoe State High School) and senior project officer Tim McGrath (Malanda State High School) are proud to be part of the program.
Mr Holden is introducing a suite of activities to give Mareeba High students a balanced understanding of agricultural industries, particularly how they relate to the environmental sciences and global sustainable development.
“I especially want to focus on the vital contribution agriculture makes to society and highlight to students, teachers and career advisers that agriculture is so much more than cows and ploughs,” Mr Holden said.
“I’m sure the students will find the diverse science disciplines behind agriculture interesting and stimulating.
“It will get them thinking and encourage them to aspire to the various agriculture-related career opportunities that lie before them and how we must continually devise and adopt innovative practices to remain internationally competitive."
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Mr Mason will help guide the Ravenshoe students through the development of a small cheese-making enterprise to complement their 40-head dairy.
“This value-adding, processing project will provide hands-on skills training as well as agribusiness studies,” Mr Mason said.
“The school is in the box seat for such a project because it has a commercial kitchen, commercial refrigeration, storage and a fully-equipped home education facility on site.
“They will make feta, quark and ricotta cheeses to order to ensure supply and demand could be made within the school term.”
Ms Broad’s project with Atherton High is to improve tropical pastures to boost cattle nutrition.
“The students will learn about pasture varieties, fertiliser use, irrigation, farm and land management, grazing practices, soil testing and other activities involved in tropical pasture management,” Ms Broad said.
Finally, Mr McGrath and Malanda High students will establish an irrigation system to improve the quality of school farm pastures and to ensure the continuity of supply of pasture feed.
“This will involve fertilisation of the pastures and the rotation of grazing between the paddocks,” Mr McGrath said.
“New pasture varieties will be resewn to increase the diversity of pasture.”
The Gateways Schools agribusiness manager, Mandy Lindsay, said the project encouraged partnerships between schools, training organisations, universities and industry to provide career opportunities for young people.
“Gateways Schools provide opportunities for students and school communities to engage in the diverse range of careers across agriculture-related disciplines and businesses,” Ms Lindsay said.
More information on the Gateway Schools initiative can be found on the Gateway Schools website.