Tushar Ramesh may have been born into a city with more than 20 million people, but when he moved to Australia it was a curiosity about his new backyard that led him to an adventure into the regions and to pursuing a career in agriculture.
He was one of the Australian and Chinese university students who swapped pavement for paddocks for the China-Australia Youth Agriculture Program, an immersive experience for the students to dive into agriculture and the bush.
Along with gaining insights into a diverse range of farms and the supply chain, the group gets to experience true blue regional Australian hospitality.
Tushar Ramesh has shared his experience in the weeklong tour across New South Wales, delivered by the National Farmers’ Federation in partnership with GrainGrowers.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Mumbai in India in pretty much the polar opposite to a rural life, a giant metropolis of 20 million people. We then migrated to NZ and then Australia when I was still a child. I am based in Victoria, where I’ve lived most my life, but moving to Australia granted me an opportunity to appreciate the outdoors. It has imbued me a love for the endless horizons of Terra Felix – the Lucky Country, be it the rainforests of the Territory or the peaks of the Victorian High Country.
What sparked your interest in ag?
This love for the outdoors led to me explore both the state and further around the country, and I thought before exploring the world I should explore our “backyard.” I ended up packing my belongings and travelling around the country on a motorbike.
In that time, I had countless engaging and memorable interactions with farmers and people from rural and regional Australia – ranging from a lady who ran an emu-farming enterprise in the shadow of the Warrumbungles, a mango orchard out of Atherton, to meeting a friend working for GrainCorp out of Gilgandra. He mentioned to me that I should think about agronomy as a career – and I thought to myself, what’s agronomy? That really started the ball rolling, and when I got back to Melbourne, I had a long think about agriculture as a career. The more I learned, the more my curiosity grew.
What are you studying, where do you hope it will take you?
It ended up with me studying a Bachelor of Agriculture with the University of Melbourne. I have been fortunate enough whilst in the degree to be exposed to a wide variety of grower groups, research organisations and farmers.
I’m hoping to be involved with research agronomy or agribusiness in some capacity – and to get the chance to work towards solving some of the challenges facing the industry. Australian agriculture supports millions of people around the globe, and fundamentally, agriculture is the bedrock of civilization and an integral part of the human journey – it’s preceded the formation of civil society in our history as a species.
What was your exposure to agriculture before the paddock to port tour?
A lot of it was limited to enterprises in Victoria, so more winter-dominant dryland and irrigated cropping and dairy. Coming from an urban background, I do have a relative lack of experience with hands-on ag so I’m always happy to take the chance to get out on a farm.
What did you learn from it, what did you find surprising, and what were your highlights?
The chance to join the tour in NSW exposed me to irrigated and dryland broadacre cotton and sorghum summer crops – which I found interesting coming from down south. One thing that strikes me about cotton is how efficient the utilisation of water is in dryland cropping systems.
A running theme through the program was the sheer depth and breadth of knowledge of the farmers had. This is a vast pool of inter-generational knowledge – hard won and passed down, and for all of us early in our careers to absorb some of that wisdom was invaluable.
It’d be hard to pick just one or two highlights, as the breadth of operations – from beef and dairy, to cotton, to oyster farming all provided their own unique story and storyteller. These narratives put a human face on our food production systems. I think it is critical rural-urban connections continue to be developed.