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The return of the family farm

AGRICULTURAL HUB: Principal of Alstonville High School David Silcock discusses the school’s agricultural trade centre plans with Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan.
AGRICULTURAL HUB: Principal of Alstonville High School David Silcock discusses the school’s agricultural trade centre plans with Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan. Graham Broadhead

DAVID Silcock reckons the future of farming in Australia is heading away from the family-owned operation and into corporations.

He is the principal of Alstonville High School, in the rural hinterland of the Ballina Shire.

The school recently received a Federal Government grant of $1 million for a new agricultural trade training centre, and Mr Silcock will oversee the education of future farm workers and farm managers.

He said it was getting too expensive for young people, who wanted to work on the land, to buy into farming and the future lay in corporate ownership.

But that didn't mean there wouldn't be job opportunities.

Mr Silcock said the Agricultural Trade Centre, which he hoped would be completed for next year, would give students the skills to pursue work on farms in both labouring and managerial positions.

The Alstonville Trade Centre will offer Certificate I qualification in Agri Food and Certificate II in Agriculture.

Alstonville High School has about 120 enrolments in agriculture studies in Years 9 and 10, with enrolments in the senior primary industries studies in Years 11 and 12 varying from year to year.

The agriculture facilities at the school are quite basic at the moment, with what is essentially a storage shed, an aquaponics pond and a paddock for crops and to run a few cattle.

The students have to move back into a standard classroom for the theory work, and head across to the gym for a shower, after working in the field.

The new trade centre will have two classrooms (with wi-fi and facilities) for plant propagation, and showers - all attached to the existing facilities.

Mr Silcock said he hoped the new centre would open up partnerships with local agricultural groups.

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, who inspected the site for the trade centre, said the centre aimed to encourage young people to get into farming.

"This is great news for high school students, who are interested in vocational training," Mr Hogan said.

Topics:  rural lifestyle