By AgConnectWA President Wes Lefroy
Throughout 2016, AgConnectWA continued to break into new ground, cementing itself as the largest network of young farmers and agri-professionals in Western Australia. This year, we built on the strong foundations of previous years by consolidating the networking aspect of the group, while also shifting our focus into promoting leadership, education and advocacy within our industry.
The year started off with a bang for AgConnectWA, with over 150 attendees at our annual River Cruise in January. AgConnectWA Members, and non-members were treated to a night of drinks, canapés, dancing and terrific views on board the Crystal Swan as it made its way around the Swan River.
As agriculture in our state diversifies, a greater emphasis is being placed on the relationships we hold with other industries and in particular the consumers of our produce. To this end, we teamed up with Perth Young Professionals Group in March to host ‘Rural Roots to City Suits’, an event aimed at bridging the gap between agriculture and business in the city. The keynote speaker was Richard Goyder, Managing Director of Wesfarmers, who highlighted the importance of a successful agriculture sector for big business to over 200 attendees.
In July, we were honoured to co-host Innovation Generation with Grain Growers Ltd at the Rendezvous Hotel in Scarborough. The conference saw over 150 delegates from around Australia listen to a wide variety of topics, under the theme of The eXport factor: Australia on the world stage. We also held our AGM where some new committee members were elected. Wes Lefroy, Maddison McNeil and Mari Takla were elected as President, Vice President and Secretary, respectively, while Henry Gratte, Hayley Goad and Georgia Reid were all elected onto the committee for their first term. The new committee would like to thank Kallum Blake, Katie Pole and Nick Hardie for their significant contributions and dedication to AgConnectWA over the past few years. They all demonstrated outstanding commitment to the betterment of AgConnectWA during their tenures and played key roles in the development of the organisation.
Heart of WA was once again the marquee formal event in the AgConnectWA calendar. Many of our members attended and looked the part in their gowns and bow ties, while sharing in the successes of the state’s diverse agricultural industry throughout the year. During the formalities, Wes Lefroy also took part in couch-side chat with WAFarmers President Tony York and MC Chayce Creedy, and highlighted the successes of AgConnectWA throughout the year.
As always, AgTiki was a highlight of the AgConnectWA social calendar and, for the first time, the event ventured into the Perth Hills, where local wines and ciders were enjoyed. The major highlight was the Core Cider House which put on a fantastic lunch and outstanding tasting pallets featuring their products. The night concluded with a sundowner back in Perth.
Once again, AgConnectWA has enjoyed the wonderful support of WAFarmers throughout 2016. Without the support from WAFarmers staff including Megan MacNeill and Melanie Dunn, our group would not have made the progression it did in 2016. We also appreciate the exposure and training provided by WAFarmers to our group.
Ultimately, the role of AgConnectWA is to invest in the development of young people in agriculture to create a sustainable future for the industry. We are of the strong belief that by empowering young people in agriculture, our members will play an important role in shaping the future of our sector as a part of organisations such as WAFarmers. This is already starting to happen, with AgConnectWA Members playing a role in the WAFarmers General Section and Zone Councils. In the past our members have also presented at the WAFarmers Annual Conference and other key WAFarmers events. We look forward to working closer with WAFarmers and its members in 2017 and beyond.