Northern Victorian agriculture educator Leon Carter doesn’t just want students to become good farm workers; he wants to inspire them to be community leaders.

Leon was sponsored by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation to participate in the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership 2018-19 program and is keen to pass on his learnings to a new generation of potential leaders.

He says the new knowledge will help to get the best out of agricultural students while potentially helping him to expand his program across Victoria.

The Wangaratta-based trainer’s Ag Schools Victoria program in conjunction with Wodonga TAFE is now in 23 schools between Echuca, Castlemaine, Euroa, Wodonga and Bright and has grown substantially over the past four years.

Leon, who has a small farm at Tarrawingee, says the leadership program gave him a fresh perspective for his career, his farm and for his students.

“I want to try to get the best out of students in a different way; not just to be a farmer but to be a leader in what they do,” he said.

“You can have all the passion in the world but it’s no good if you don’t have focus and direction and the leadership program has been really good for that.”

Leon said that through the leadership program he learned more about what is happening in the Alpine Valley region while being inspired by the personal stories of speakers.

“A lot of the speakers came from nothing but had that determination and could find their direction, and that helped me focus and channel my passion,” he said.

Leon hopes to show students the importance of “one-percenters” and being involved more in the community and sporting clubs and getting off the farm.

“It’s amazing what a difference something like working in the canteen after football makes,” he said.

After working in the thoroughbred breeding industry for 10 years and coming from a farming background, Leon saw the need for more agricultural studies in schools.

“I want to get them interested before they leave school and make sure schools and students see the value in ag training. The challenge is to change people’s opinions and show there can be quality ag training available.”

Leon said the school-based agriculture programs to Year 10-12 students were having a positive impact.

“We’re seeing students come along in leaps and bounds. Some of the quieter students are coming out of their shells and proving to be really good at the agricultural pursuits, and schools are seeing the results with students staying longer at school.”

Now, thanks to the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership program, Leon hopes to take that to the next level.

“I’ve always seen the value in education. Since I left school there have only been two years that I haven’t studied. I’m pleased the Gardiner Dairy Foundation saw the value in what I was doing with kids in schools and provided this scholarship.

“It’s definitely changed my life for the better and helped me to focus on what’s important,” he said. “I’d recommend the program to anybody.”

Applications are currently open for the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program and close on May 24. Visit https://avclp.org.au/

For media enquiries, please contact Richard Meredith at the Gardiner Dairy Foundation on 0438 553 052 or richard.meredith@gardinerfoundation.com.au