Ag education a key focus at Moree Secondary College despite drought and dry times

WHILE most of Stafford Burey’s learning may have taken place in the paddocks north-west of Moree, this progressive young farmer does not underestimate the value of a good classroom education.

Tireless in his work ethic and enthusiasm, Stafford says farming was always in his blood – and the Moree district, despite the current drought-ridden season, is the heartland of the industry.

As such, when it came to education, staying local was a priority.

“I always wanted to come back to the farm, so being able to continue working with, and learning from, my father on weekends and maintaining that farming lifestyle was really important to me,” Stafford said.

The Moree Secondary College 1998 graduate believes there is nowhere better to gain a formal high school education, while remaining fully immersed in agriculture.

“My education was two-pronged, I was able to learn the ‘tools of the trade’ farming in a district that is world-renowned, plus gain a quality education from teachers who really knew and cared about us,” he said.

Former Moree Secondary College student Stafford Burey at work on the family property Rosedale.

“The contacts I made and opportunities to be a part of the community during my time at MSC have been invaluable and I genuinely loved my time at school.

“It really was one of the best times of my life. I had great mates and great teachers and really enjoyed school – which not many people admit to.

“In fact most days I wish I was back at school. Life is a bit trickier in the real world,” he grinned.

After completing school Stafford returned to his parent’s broad-acre farming and sheep-grazing operation, Rosedale.

As progressive as he is ambitious, Stafford has successfully grown the operation, now leasing and share-farming a further 6000 hectares.

Last year he continued to innovate, growing cotton for the first time on the family farm, and realised early the opportunity for hay during the ongoing dry.

A new baler, purchased in 2018, has proven a worthy asset.

Stafford remains confident in the region, despite the current drought.

“I was looking back at photos of 2015 and 2016 recently and they really were great years,” he said.

“It’s easy to lose sight of what a powerhouse of production this region is during times like this, but those days will come again.

“I think success comes with identifying opportunities, and I believe there are still plenty of opportunities on the horizon within the district.

“We’ve got quality soils, a great community and there are still plenty of young blokes keen to have a go, once it rains I’m excited to see what the future holds and to be a part of it.”

Moree Secondary College is looking to further capitalise on, and complement, the region’s rich agricultural sector thanks to a five-year MSC Agricultural Education Plan.

MSC deputy principal Belinda Bagshaw says the plan aims to provide an outstanding facility for students to enhance their educational, and eventually career, opportunities in agricultural production, marketing and sustainability of farming systems.

“We’re excited that thanks to this plan, students will be able to be involved at a greater level to appreciate the theoretical aspects of agricultural subjects taught at MSC through necessary practical learning strategies and current industry experiences,” Mrs Bagshaw said.

The re-focus on agriculture curriculum aims to improve curriculum delivery and school agricultural plots, while strengthening connections with local industry experts.

Already a re-organisation of the Albert Street Campus and Carol Avenue agricultural plots, soil tests and equipment upgrades has helped ensure students are able to access practical delivery to current industry standards.

An adjustment of Year 9 and Year 10 elective programs now also incorporates a focus on cropping and livestock enterprises relevant to the Moree district.

However, Mrs Bagshaw believes the greatest point of difference and strength MSC Ag Department enjoyed was its direct access to some of Australia’s top rural talent and enterprises.

“We’re connecting students with local producers, agronomists and stock and station agents and have enjoyed various industry excursions including AgQuip, Weebollabolla MLA Beef Industry Workshop, Brighann Farm Case Study and Gin Tour, Moree Saleyards and class presentations by local experts,” Mrs Bagshaw said.

“You certainly can’t get this sort of access in many of the city-, or even regional-based schools and we’re really excited to continue growing our agriculture facility and providing our students with genuine and meaningful career options.” 

Words and Image: Georgina Poole