Agriculture Scholar – In Honour of Lord Forress
2021 BBM Pilot Scholar
“I care deeply about Mental Health as it affects all facets of your life; increasing access to various types of mental health services supports healthy, thriving communities and a safer, kinder world.”
Lottie Lawler is one of our 2021 BBM Pilot Scholars. In 2020 she was awarded a BBM Global Industry Scholarship in Agriculture, but when COVID shut down all international travel, Lottie took the opportunity of one of four spots in our 2021 pilot program.
This pilot offers scholars the same amount of money to pursue professional and personal development opportunities in Australia or abroad. The condition is that those opportunities support our scholars to become practical, holistic leaders of the future who are aligned to the United National Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), supporting our vision of a sustainable, significant Australia.
“My purpose is to address the issue of inadequate access to quality mental health services in rural, regional and farming communities, via Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy.”
“I am also passionate about organic agriculture; increasing access to affordable, safe, nutritionally-dense food reduces flow-on illnesses (and associated costs) from harmful chemicals and poor produce nutrient profiles.”
As part of the pilot program Lottie and her peers receive a professional personal Strength Profile, training in the UNSDGs through UN Youth Australia, a mentor who supports them to set and pursue their scholarship and career goals and a cash payment of $6,000 to support them during their chosen industry placement.
“The SDG that underpins all I value in ag and mental health is Goal #3 – Good Health and Well-being. I believe from a foundation of good health all else can be sustainably built upon. If all our commercial, cultural, societal and political decisions were made with this being the non-negotiable primary goal, we would live in a different world.”
Lottie will be working with her mentor to chose the ideal industry placement for her to build a network of like-minded professionals and get a head-start in her field of expertise.
“One of my goals to work on with my BBM Mentor is to build my confidence and rekindle my grit.”
We look forward to supporting Lottie on her journey to becoming a leader for purpose in her field.
“I hope to make an impact to the health and well-being of others during my BBM scholarship and in life beyond.”
I have always lived rurally, but didn’t grow up on farm. I was selected to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in 2016 and realised during an excursion to a regenerative agricultural farm that I was scratching the surface of something that was really exciting to me. I wanted to learn everything I could about agriculture.
I was fortunate to spent 7 months in France following NYSF. During the school holidays, all I wanted to do was visit the local farms, so I took myself around the countryside (on a bike borrowed from my host mum!) and met with goat farmers, olive growers, and orchard owners. It was quite an education in French and agriculture!
After year 12, I spent the year working and doing as much voluntary work experience with farmers around the state as I could. I learnt from sheep and livestock farmers, mixed enterprise farmers and finally, from Wattle Organic Farms, where I was offered a position as Assistant Manager after just 7 days of work experience.
I took up this position and deferred a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne and a $37,000 scholarship to learn more from the people who overcome challenges day after day to get food on Australian plates. I will attend university when the time is right, but my education at the farm to date has given me knowledge and perspective that I could never have appreciated in a lecture theatre. I can now pinpoint where the issues lie and have a clearer picture about where I can contribute to the industry. In the 15 months I have been living and working on one of Victoria’s biggest and most innovative horticultural farms, I have:
- Introduced and implemented a farm business improvement initiative onto farm, involving whole team training on site, with an emphasis on culture.
- Created this year’s broccoli programme involving 16 different planting dates, each involving 60,000 transplanted seedlings, with multiple varieties, to ensure a consistent broccoli harvest volume for our growing season.
- Reinvented the website and public image of the farm business.
- Started a local Produce Box delivery business, servicing three of the local towns with our produce to assist vulnerable people during COVID-19 restrictions.
- Assisted with one of the farm’s development projects to import 12 French apricot varieties. This will allow us to offer a consistent supply of very high quality, truly organic and flavoursome apricots to our customers for an entire 4 month window.
- Created training videos to allow for more transparency across the farm and empower all members of our team.
- Learnt to use all implements and machinery on the farm to assist with daily farm work.
- Attended numerous industry events, including Australian Organic, VFF, NFF and local seminars held in our growing area, where I was able to network with various leaders within these organisations.
I am in my final year of a Certificate IV in Agriculture and have just started an Advanced Diploma in Agribusiness. While I continue my studies, both academically and on the farm, I have several targeted courses planned, including a Certificate in Nutrition farming in Queensland. I aim to be a farmer, farm owner and manager. Being a farmer is committing to lifelong learning and gives credibility to anything you do within the broader industry. In later years, I see myself contributing to agriculture through leadership, being an executive on a peak representative body such as the VFF or the NFF.
I have loved giving back, and the people I have met by serving in leadership roles and volunteering in the community stay with me, and I know each interaction has “nudged my ship” and changed the course of my life by just a couple of degrees.
From volunteering at aged care facilities, to a 12 day volunteering trip to Thailand to assist disadvantaged children, to Relay for Life and Riding for the Disabled, I had many opportunities to give back to my community. In year 12, I volunteered each Wednesday evening as an assistant/instructor with the organisation E.motion21, which provides weekly fitness classes for young people with Down syndrome. It was a wonderful weekly reminder of how resilient and courageous Australians are.
Community is so important and that has been underscored to me in the rural agricultural community in which I now live. The mental health of our farmers is declining and the agricultural community does not currently foster a supportive, open and growing space for agricultural discussion. Rural people need support in many areas of their lives. Conscious of this, I completed my Youth Mental Health First Aid training last year and am now an Accredited Mental Health First Aider.
When COVID-19 broke out in our community, I set up our produce box delivery service, to help those who are vulnerable access safe, healthy, fresh, local produce. The appreciation coming back to us as a local farm is heartening and through these brief face-to-face interactions, I have met many other local farmers! My network is ever growing.
You have to walk before you run and I know my career is going to be a long and diverse one!
Before I can have a truly powerful impact I need to invest in my education. My BBM scholarship will propel me along this journey and the professional and personal development that will come from travelling and learning from those experienced in the field will be uniquely useful and invaluable.