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Winning a prestigious state or national Landcare Award has had a deep impact on two growing organisations for young farmers and friends of the environment.
Farmers are the custodians of the land on which they produce food for the nation and the world, and so it is fitting they be rewarded for the sweat equity that goes into their sustainable practices.
The work of one national, not-for-profit organisation that shares the farming love and attracts newcomers to the land has paid off in spades - literally.
Young Farmers Connect is dedicated to supporting and connecting young farmers across Australia.
Through its initiatives, it provides educational platforms, community connections, and resources to empower young agrarians in sustainable agriculture.
The network is focussed on the diverse small-scale farming sector and has several chapters around the country committed to bringing new farmers together to share skills and offer peer support.
Through the network members have sought to understand and address the many barriers to entry and challenges faced by new, young and first generation farmers.
It's evolved since 2015 in the Northern Rivers region of NSW and now the national network has spread across the eastern and southern states, and into Western Australia, in 12 chapters that have attracted thousands of participants in activities and field days.
The group was heavily involved in local communities after the widespread 2019 bushfires.
After the massive floods in the Northern Rivers caused a hiatus in activity, the network is refreshed and experiencing a resurgence with a new committee of co-ordinators and informal co-ordinators.
Young Farmers Connect won the NSW Young Landcare Leadership Award in 2021 and was a finalist at the National Landcare Awards in 2022.
The prestige of the award has helped attract new members to the organisation and consolidated its direction.
Gourmet mushroom grower Joel Orchard, near Barmah in the Northern Rivers, is one of the network's national volunteer co-ordinators.
"Young Farmers Connect is important to me because it plays a crucial role in fostering the next generation of farmers and promoting sustainable agricultural practices," Mr Orchard said.
"Local food economies and sustainable farming practices are becoming increasingly recognised as necessary elements of our national food security and for the range of holistic benefits they provide to community health and wellbeing.
"From Australians today, I would like to see more engagement and support for initiatives that promote environmental sustainability, community resilience, and social equity.
"By becoming more engaged, understanding our local food supply chain and coming together to take collective action, we can create a more inclusive and sustainable food system that can address some of the pressing challenges of climate change, food waste and inequality.
"It is inspiring to see some of the great ideas and organisations around our country that are out there making a difference and it is great to be part of this fantastic movement that is landcare supported by Landcare Australia.
"I encourage anyone who is passionate about their work and sharing their story to nominate for a Landcare Award.
"Your dedication to caring for our land and communities deserves recognition. Take pride in your work, and know that your actions inspire positive change."
Mr Orchard said the Landcare Award the group received was "fantastic recognition and a real endorsement of what we do".
"The awards are fantastic and have enabled a lot of young farmers to get in touch.
"We will nominate for an award and are excited about the opportunity of taking part again."
Great minds thinking alike helped the formation of another group of young landcarers creating a positive environmental footprint called Intrepid Landcare.
The movement, which has its roots in the Illawarra in NSW and the Gold Coast of Queensland, was established as a standalone organisation to encourage young people to get involved in Landcare.
"It is run by young people as an initiative to inspire, connect and empower other young people to get involved by ensuring they do stuff that matters to them," Intrepid Landcare co-founder Naomi Edwards said.
Intrepid Landcare's core ideas and projects such as dune care and land restoration might not have immediate appeal to young people, she said, so the organisation gives them space to allow for creativity, such as "plant and dance" whereby people planted 10,000 trees on a farm but they involved DJs playing music.
"The strength of Intrepid Landcare is to connect other youth initiatives with Landcare on a regional and local level that can involve just a handful of people to get things done or from one person to 100 people," she said.
Just four initiatives a year could be enough to get young people involved and give them a voice on the environment.
With a science and communications background, Ms Edwards is now a director of Landcare Australia and at Intrepid Landcare she now acts as a mentor to the young team.
The idea for Intrepid Landcare came after years of work and a discussion with previous Landcare award winner Megan Lee, who had set up Illawarra Youth Landcare in 2009, later evolving into Intrepid Landcare in 2014.
"We decided to create Intrepid Landcare together to enable young people to participate," Ms Edwards said.
The collaboration paid off when Intrepid Landcare won a Landcare Award in 2015/16.
"It's great for a national platform to acknowledge Intrepid Landcare and the people involved," Ms Edwards said.
"It builds more credibility as a young person and gives more weight to your voice.
"It gives you a moral boost to keep going and share your key messages.
"The awards program builds credibility for the finalists and overall winners, and builds a stronger network.
"I'm also excited about the advocacy piece. Thousands of volunteers around Australia are doing great work and the Landcare Awards celebrate all those people."
Landcare Australia CEO Dr Shane Norrish said the youth aspect of the movement was just one arm of Landcare's success.
"Landcare represents the strength of people from all walks of life working together for a common purpose - to protect and manage our vital agricultural lands and natural environment," Dr Norrish said.
"The 2023/2024 State and Territory Landcare Awards shine a light on Landcare's greatest asset - the diverse range of people involved in landcare activities responding to local issues.
"Whether it's their dedication to preserving the natural landscape, their commitment to their communities, or their leadership in the agricultural sector, these accomplishments remind us that the spirit of hands-on environmental stewardship that underpins the landcare movement is stronger than ever before.
"For over 30 years, the distinguished Landcare Awards program has honoured the unwavering dedication and efforts made by individuals and groups from rural and urban communities."
The 2023/2024 State and Territory Landcare Awards have opened to honour individuals, groups and organisations that are making outstanding contributions within their local community to care for the environment.
In each state and territory, the Landcare Awards will be granted to recognise the achievements that encompass climate action, environmental leadership, sustainable agriculture, First Nations, Women in landcare, youth, children and Coastcare.
Nominating is free. You can nominate yourself, or you can nominate someone you know who should be recognised for their work to protect the environment in their local community.
The winners of the nine national Landcare Award categories will advance as finalists to the 2024 National Landcare Awards.
Now in its 32nd year, the State and Territory Landcare Awards stand as a prestigious biennial national Landcare Awards program.
The State and Territory Landcare Awards help to increase people's understanding and awareness of landcare activities, so they are inspired to get involved in their community. This is an opportunity to:
If you know an individual, a local community group, a farmer, landholder or organisation dedicated to protecting the environment and supporting others to get involved, nominate them for a Landcare Award or you can nominate yourself.
You don't have be in a Landcare group to nominate. The Landcare Awards are open to anyone working for a better future of our environment.
Landcare Australia encourages nominations from individuals, groups or organisations involved in protecting and improving their local environment. These include:
The 2023/2024 State and Territory Landcare Awards close on March 1.
Be rewarded for helping the local environment.
As Junior Landcare Ambassador Costa Georgiadis said: "Nature depends on people. Nature needs you."
This is branded content for Landcare Australia