When Julie Aldous became aware that her local farming community was struggling to attract young people into local industries, she acted.
Now, as the winner of the Victorian Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award, the Mansfield food and fibre teacher is glad she did.
Aldous has single-handedly developed and implemented an agri-business program which aims to connect schools with their communities through the formation of sustainable partnerships, so that students gain direct exposure to the types of work offered by the industry.
“I think the first aspect of inspiring students is actually opening their eyes to what’s out there,” she tells Australian Teacher Magazine.
“Prior to this course being offered, the students were very unaware of the range and the depth of options available in agriculture.”
“I look at these country kids with a wonderful learning environment just outside the door, and in many cases the partnerships are not as developed as they could be.”
Aldous believes there is no need for schools to try and run their own mini-farms.
“They get the best coaching and the best learning environment with a farmer rather than with a teacher in their little back paddock,” she says.
And certainly the awards’ $10,000 bursary prize will help to implement her vision for the future of agricultural education.
Aldous is working with advisors to explore ways of expanding and marketing her program to other schools across the nation.
“My first thought is that it needs to be branded and packaged, it needs to have a sophisticated online presence so that people don’t have to re-invent it, they can just adopt aspects of it that suit their environment,” she explains.
So how did it feel to be announced as the RIRDC rural woman of the year?
“I was shocked, it was quite nerve-racking really, we were at parliament house and there were four finalists … it was a big tension build up. It’s a great honour and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”