Seed of light illuminates highly respected grower network coordinator

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22 February 2022, Australia: A highly respected independent rural consultant who has fostered deep connections with Western Australian grain growers is the winner of the 2022 western region Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Seed of Light award.

Project coordinator and facilitator Julianne Hill received the prestigious award today at Western Australia’s premier annual grains research forum – the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth, which is being held virtually across two days.

The Seed of Light award is presented annually to a person making a major contribution to communicating the outcomes of grains research and development in WA.

Presenting the award, GRDC Western Region Panel chair Darrin Lee said Ms Hill had a longstanding commitment to understanding the needs of WA grain growers and contributing to grains research, development and extension (RD&E).

“Julianne has over 30 years’ experience in the sector and has contributed more than a decade of work establishing and maintaining grower network groups across the state,” said Mr Lee.

“She is highly respected by growers and industry as an excellent facilitator, who has made a considerable contribution to grains research communication at a regional level.

“Julianne was instrumental in establishing the GRDC Regional Cropping Solution Network, now the National Grower Network (NGN), which defines the key issues that are impacting grower and industry profitability.

“Over the past 11 years, Julianne has expertly and efficiently coordinated hundreds of forums, panels, meetings and events, reaching growers, agribusiness and researchers across WA’s five port zones.

“More than that, she has forged meaningful, genuine, long-term connections with growers, and is dedicated to helping them achieve the best on-farm outcomes.

“In her own unique, but always respectful and enthusiastic manner, with a beaming smile, booming sheep-yard commanding voice, she’ll say ‘righto you mob, enough bloody chatter, time to do some work!’

“Julianne always extracts the best from her audience, be they young or old. Her rapport with growers is bold and insightful but always delivered in a trademark style that is so ‘Julianne’.”

Ms Hill described receiving the award as a totally unexpected pleasure, stating that while over the years she had been recognised for different awards, the Seed of Light award holds a special significance for her personally.

“The people who have been awarded this honour in the past I consider to be just fantastic in extension and communications and talking to growers, they really are the pinnacle in the industry,” said Ms Hill.

“To be recognised amongst this incredible group of people is such an honour.”

Ms Hill counts farm and grower study trips amongst her list of career highlights, having led more than 10 groups of WA growers on trips interstate and overseas, some via GRDC Grower Study Tours.

“They are just the best and most rewarding thing you can do with a mob of farmers. Tours like these are so important for mental health and for developing social networks. I enjoy seeing what growers learn on tour and bring back to their farms. Developing the itineraries and taking farmers on those trips is very fulfilling for me.”

Mentoring young people in the grains industry is a further passion, which has been integral in how Ms Hill has shaped her role in the NGN.

“As part of the Regional Cropping Solutions Network (now NGN), up to 35 young people joined me on the road, often first or second-year university students. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see these students connecting with growers and advisors who could mentor them and help them get further in their agricultural careers.

“But for me, the most rewarding part of this role is creating a good connection with growers, and then becoming the bridge between them and others who are in a position to support them.

“It’s really important to communicate what farmers want in a way that decision makers understand, and then deliver on results to make a difference on the ground.”

“Not just working for GRDC, but working for, and with, farmers to support them to achieve their goals.”

During her well-rounded career, Ms Hill has worked for many public and private organisations, taking on roles in grains, dairy, beef and farming systems and biosecurity and farm management. She holds a Master of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Business in Farm Management, and an Associate Diploma in Agriculture.

Ms Hill is currently working part-time as the Regional Manager at Western Dairy, managing the research, development and extension hub, which oversees dairy science projects integrated with dairy extension and communication.

She is Vice President of the Brunswick Agricultural Show and participates in several agricultural career expos, and only recently stepped down from the Harvey College of Agriculture’s Agricultural Advisory Council. Throughout her working life she has been a champion for careers in the primary industries sector.

Ms Hill began her career in roles as a jillaroo, stockman, farm hand and farm manager, before working in positions addressing biosecurity, farming systems and then high rainfall beef at the Department of Agriculture from 1993 to 2011.

From 2007 to 2011 she coordinated Partners in Grain, which is now Rural Edge, a professional development and training organisation for WA farming businesses.

In 2011, Ms Hill was awarded the contract to facilitate the role of Regional Cropping Solutions Network Coordinator for GRDC in the Western Region, which became the National Grower Network in 2021.

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