A young farmer embracing change and heritage

STUDY: Rural Bank and Rural Finance chief executive and managing director Alexandra Gartmann awards James Kirkpatrick his scholarship earlier this year. Picture: Supplied.

STUDY: Rural Bank and Rural Finance chief executive and managing director Alexandra Gartmann awards James Kirkpatrick his scholarship earlier this year. Picture: Supplied.

For young Beaufort farmer James Kirkpatrick, the future of farming is a healthy one – and one he wants to be involved in.

The sheep farmer is one of nine Rural Finance scholarship winners for 2016. As an undergraduate scholarship recipient, James will receive $6,000 per year over three years to help fund his studies at Marcus Oldham College, Waurn Ponds.

Now in its 25th year, the Rural Finance Scholarship program supports the education and development of Victorian youth.

It has committed more than $2.7 million to supporting students who hope to pursue new careers in Victorian agriculture.

James attributes his success to his love for farming.

“I’m passionate about the industry and I enjoy the occupation,” says James.

“I don’t see it as a job. The whole world is your office. I’m mainly interested in sheep but I like to keep up with everything that's going on. The key is to have a passion while maintaining a good knowledge of all the areas – and being able to get it across.”

James hopes to educate farmers on the benefits of individual sheep management for commercial flocks.

“I’m interested in radio frequency identification or RFID,” he says.

“Jaala Pulford, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, says it’s going to be incorporated in the next five years as part of the National Livestock Identification System.

“It’s great for traceability, both nationally and for exports. All the data that’s stored can have the parentage, the lineage of the animal; also its vaccination and drench history; the location of where it's been, if its been bought and sold over numerous properties. It’s easily accessed and I think it’s the future.”

In an industry that’s seen a decline in numbers over many years, James Kirkpatrick is proud of his heritage and sees it as a strength.

“I’m off a 3,000 acre property just near Beaufort. I’m the sixth generation; we’ve had the property for 154 years,” says James.

He sees the changes and challenges of modern farming as something he can help other farmers to embrace.

“Since I started paying attention, since I was a kid riding around in the ute with my dad – there are different management practices. There are incremental changes, but if you look at the last 50 years you can see how far we’ve come,” says James.

“Just like the introduction of Tri-Solfen for pain management and recovery after mulesing. That’s enabled sheep to heal a lot quicker. And chemicals have helped the industry get on top of flystrike. 

This year’s Rural Finance scholarship program granted students more than $120,000.