Jo Newton’s day job as a dairy genetics research scientist plays an important role in the growth and improvement of the industry.
But when you put it together with her accomplishments in what she refers to as her “spare time”, it’s no wonder she was recently awarded the 2018 RASV Emerging Leader in Victorian Agricultural award.
Dr Newton is the inaugural chair of the Youth Voices Leadership team, a new mentor and support group for youth in agriculture.
“It won’t come as a surprise that I have two passions – one is that the research that is happening in laboratory’s, computers and field trials actually gets translated into real benefits for Australian farmers,” she told the New Breed forum at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo on the weekend. And the other is supporting young people in agriculture.
“What I think that we could do a lot better than we currently do is look outside industries other than our own for inspiration.
“I was at a dairy conference this week and there was a panel discussion…and on the panel there was someone who had 30 year’s experience in advocacy in the oyster industry; a pig farmer; the ABC rural reporter; and the chair of the Country Woman’s Association of NSW, and so there were so many different views and insights we were able to get by hearing from industries other than our own.”
Dr Newton said collaboration, from both inside and out of the industry, was a common theme at the New Breed event.
“One of the other things that was encouraging to see was how many people in the audience had questions they wanted to ask the panel – and there was a strong theme coming through on how to get young people in agriculture, particular from urban areas but also questions about young people about farm finance and wanting to get on the land,” she said.
“The agricultural sector has warmly welcomed a city convert and supported my growth and development, but the support has definitely been a two way street.”
In 2013 she became a Young Farming Champion, and has since undertaken regular school visits and speaking engagements promoting agriculture, and that same year she was a Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever.
In her day job, Dr Newton has won the 2017 Dairy Research Foundation Emerging Scientists Award and a 2018 Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and she will use the $10,000 prize money from the RASV award to extend her fellowship research in Ireland. Starting in November, she will work with leading animal geneticists and extension specialists at Teagasc: The Agriculture and Food Authority.
“One of the areas that is of interest to me is the translation of research into practical, tangible outcomes to deliver a benefit to farmers,” Dr Newton said.
“(The Agriculture and Food Authority) has a strong reputation to do that, so that is why I was so keen to go and spend some time with the group.”
Dr Newton, an alumna from Tintern Grammar, acknowledged the effectiveness of the school’s working farm, Tinternwood, in introducing and empowering students for a career in agriculture.