Sally honoured for agriculture advocacy

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack congratulates Sally Downie, the first AgriFutures Agriculture Student of the Year. Photo supplied.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack congratulates Sally Downie, the first AgriFutures Agriculture Student of the Year. Photo supplied.

Sally Downie has just been named the first Agriculture Student of the Year.

Fresh from the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit, Sally travelled to Canberra for the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.

Kondinin Group General Manager of Research, Ben White, said Sally was an aspiring young leader with an optimistic outlook on farming, studying and supporting farmers in rural and regional Australia..

"Sally is passionate about agriculture and is already having an incredible impact on her fellow students, industry and community," Mr White said.

"Through her studies, I am confident that Sally is going to achieve big things in our industry."

Sally has been studying her Bachelor of Agriculture part time for two years, but is also busy as a voice in her industry.

"Founding Grassroots Blueprint was about recognising a real need for people to talk about their mental health... especially in an area of Australia facing the worst drought on record," Sally said.

"It's about building human connections despite distance and remoteness and knowing that someone is there to listen or provide guidance when you need it most."

Sally was named Forbes Showgirl and second runner up at Sydney Royal, was part of the ABC's Trailblazer project and Forbes' drought coordinator.

Sally Downie was named the first Agriculture Student of the Year and congratulated by AgriFutures Belinda Allitt. Photo supplied.

Sally Downie was named the first Agriculture Student of the Year and congratulated by AgriFutures Belinda Allitt. Photo supplied.

Being named the first Agriculture Student of the Year came as a surprise, backing on to UNICEF's Youth Drought Summit at Lake Macquarie.

There, Sally gathered with about 100 young people sharing her passion for agriculture.

With many of them facing continuing drought, the Summit was an opportunity to share ideas and look to the future - and participants did.

"They were very enthusiastic and brought a lot of energy," Sally said.

"It might be negative topics we discussed but it felt positive because it felt like we were able to do something about it."

The Summit was an opportunity to get away for a few days and meet new people in similar situations, making the same tough business decisions, and those connections will last.

What comes next is just as critical.

As many of the Summit attendees return to daily stock feeding, confronted by drought daily, it will be important to know they've been part of something that can make a difference in similar events in future.

"We've got a call to action, we've got these recommendations and we've got to keep it on their (the politicians') minds," Sally said. "The biggest thing is ensuring something happens."