Location Penola, SA
What part(s) of the industry do you work in? Agricultural media, communications and public relations.
Job title Freelance agricultural journalist
What does your company/ business do? As a freelance agricultural journalist, I write about all sectors of Australian agriculture – from aquaculture to broadacre farming, livestock, the dairy industry, viticulture and more.
I also write about issues and policy impacting agriculture, such as water, rural investment and infrastructure, RD&E, foreign ownership, food security, rural property and property rights, state and federal agricultural policy, rural health and rural mental health for a range of publications.
In addition to writing about agriculture, I also create tailored communications, marketing and public relations solutions for agricultural companies, groups and individuals.
Describe your job on the average day Working from my home office in South Australia’s rural South East, I write technical, news, feature and promotional articles for a range of publications, including the Weekend Australian, the Stock Journal, the Stock and Land, the Australian Farm Journal, Dairy News Australia and Small Farms Magazine.
Most of my interviews for stories are conducted over the phone, but I love getting in the ute and heading to talk to farmers about the latest piece of machinery, innovation or productivity pathway and technique being utilised on-farm.
I also attend industry events, government forums and community events to talk to farmers and key industry identities about issues impacting the agricultural sector.
Writing articles about the many innovations and efficiencies being achieved in agriculture is uplifting and I am honoured to have the opportunity to tell such stories. I am also honoured to talk to those facing adversity and battling tough times, whose strength is empowering and whose message can help so many in rural and regional communities. Being able to put their voices to a wider audience and spreading their message is a privilege and if in doing so, we can make a difference to the life of one other person, than it is a job worth doing.
How did you get involved with agriculture? Growing up on a small, mixed farming enterprise near the Barossa Valley and spending time on family livestock and cropping operations in SA’s west coast and pastoral mid-north, I developed a love for agriculture at an early age.
At the city girls’ school I attended however, agriculture was not a career path that was explored for women. Despite this, I found my way into the office of SA’s only rurally residing Senator as a media and communications adviser, working on federal and state agricultural issues.
From here, I studied online at Deakin University to achieve a Graduate Diploma of Journalism. My goal, once the Senator had retired, was to live in the country and work as a freelance agricultural journalist, with my now-fiancee Tom, an agribusiness banking manager.
From my experiences, the agricultural community at large is welcoming of anyone with a genuine interest in agriculture. I didn’t know very much at all about crop rotations, EBVs, robotic dairying or aquaponics before setting up as an ag journo, but over a cup of tea in many a farmhouse kitchen, I can now say I’ve come a long way thanks to the kindness, passion and enthusiasm of the farmers and agricultural professionals I’ve met.
2010 Graduate Diploma of Journalism, Deakin University
2006 Bachelor of Arts, Flinders University
SACE Stage II
If you studied/ trained in agriculture, why did you choose that degree/ certificate? Did not study ag
What are/were you plans after school/TAFE/university? After finishing school, I wanted to further my communications and media abilities and ultimately, work in the agro-political sphere.
Freelance agricultural journalist @ Liz Cotton Agricultural and Rural Media Communications
Media adviser, Office of Senator the Hon Alan Ferguson (retired June 2011)
What are your interests? Farming (and learning more about it!), politics, horse riding, skeet and trap shooting, hunting, trail bike riding, camping and exploring the great Aussie back yard.
What is your favourite thing about the industry? This may sound cliche – but the people!
Best experience in agriculture? Meeting and talking to farmers across all sectors.
Worst experience in agriculture? Getting bogged on a farmer’s beautifully manicured front lawn and leaving huge, deep tram lines as I slid my way out! I promise my 4WD-ing has improved since!
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of the agricultural industry in the future? Attracting and retaining young people and new farmers.
Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture? I believe inflexible working environments and arrangements contribute to less people being employed in – and choosing to live in – country areas. I would like to see companies and government departments base more people in regional centers, which would lead to more investment and infrastructure to support country areas and residents.
I believe ag education and raising awareness about the multitude of career options in agriculture at an early age, continuing right through until matriculation, would also lead to more students considering careers in agriculture.
The government also needs to develop a thorough, strong vision and plan for primary industries to encourage people to invest and work long-term in agriculture. Australia is a bit of a quarry at the moment, but agriculture and food production is surely the most valuable commodity for the long term and ensuring Australia’s food security, as well laying the foundations to supply other countries with food and fibre, is imperative for our future growth.
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into agriculture? I would encourage anyone thinking about getting into agriculture to absolutely go for it! we need enthusiastic, creative, hard working people with a diverse background and skill set. Australian agriculture has an overwhelmingly positive future and despite our challenges, we live in a lucky country where anything is possible with determination and hard work.
How important do you think an agricultural background is to become involved in the industry? Having not grown up on a large-scale farming operation or family farm, or studying specifically in agriculture, I do not think it is imperative at all to have a background in agriculture in order to work in it. I think the agricultural sector at large requires diversity of talent for strength.
As in any industry; passion, determination and hard work is, in my opinion, what is required to make a positive contribution to Australian agriculture.
What do you think is the most common misconception about agriculture? There are a few, but I think that when a lot of people think about agriculture they think that being a farmer is the only career option – but of course there are many, in fields such as science, food preparation and manufacturing, farm management, statioengineering, consultantancy, extenion, corporate ag, health and media (to name just a few).