Young farmers win scholarships
Wimmera farmers Megan Cooper of Glenorchy and Robert Staehr, Laharum, will use Victorian Young Farmers Scholarships to improve skills and development opportunities.
The pair was among 13 award recipients statewide, announced at a presentation ceremony in Melbourne last week.
The Young Farmers Scholarships program provides primary producers under the age of 35 with money for training and development, as well as on-farm assistance.
Successful applicants received up to $10,000, up to $5000 for study and up to $5000 to invest on-farm or in professional development activities.
Ms Cooper, 33, has worked on her family’s farm at Glenorchy for several years after returning to the land after a lengthy stint in the hospitality industry.
An animal enthusiast, she will use her skill-development money to gain a wool-classing certificate at Longerenong College and the investment money to build a shelter over sheep yards to protect animals from the weather during shearing.
“I originally studied hospitality and did for several years and then decided to move back onto the farm because I enjoy the outdoors and working with animals,” she said.
“I’m more involved in the stock side of the farm than the cropping and this funding has allowed me to pursue the wool-classing certificate sooner than expected and now I hope to start that as soon as possible. We had also been thinking about building the shelter and now that’s possible. The scholarship is certainly welcome.”
Mr Staehr, 32, who with his family runs a mixed farming enterprise, will put his scholarship money towards diversifying into viticulture.
Mr Staehr, who already has a Bachelor in Business, and family members have bought a small vineyard next to their property as well as a Mt Stapylton label.
Mr Staehr has also started studying viticulture and winemaking at Go TAFE in Wangaratta.
“The scholarship is a huge help in starting this new business. It helps pay for study and provides a building block,” he said.
“We’ve had the expense of buying the business and making necessary changes and the course is part of that. It’s part of diversification and perhaps capitalising on visitors to the Grampians.
“The hope is to expand the vineyard in the next few years.”
In other scholarship developments, Anthony Close of Culla, south-west of Harrow, is among 17 Nuffield scholars for 2019.
Mr Close, supported by Australian Wool Innovation, will use his scholarship to investigate ways the merino sheep can become a prominent feature of the Australian farming landscape.
Each of the scholarship winners, announced at a ceremony in Melbourne, will receive a $30,000 bursary to travel the globe to research cutting-edge production techniques and technologies across a wide range of industries.
The 2019 cohort of scholars has selected wide-ranging study topics, from regenerative practices in wine production and the impact of livestock wellbeing on productivity, to alternative fuel sources and energy solutions for Australia’s agricultural sector.