Six years since Young Farmer of the Year


It’s been six years since dairy farmer and marriage equality advocate Jason Smith won Young Farmer of the Year at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.

“Has been a huge day at Parliament House but I gotta get home to calving cows now!” Smith had posted on Facebook.

A fifth-generation Victorian farmer and strong advocate for LGBTI rights, Smith was quick to point out that his award win was for his work in farming, rather than advocacy.

“Being gay has only ever hurt my chances/possibilities in agriculture in the past, not helped it,” Smith had written on Facebook at the time.

In a 2017 interview with The Age, the south-west Victorian farmer said legalising marriage between same-sex couples would go a long way to breaking down the prejudice and hurdles LGBTI people still face in Australia.

“It’s another barrier to young gay people feeling OK,” he said.

Smith was the first gay person he knew of in his small town, and experienced homophobic discrimination when he came out 11 years ago.

“When I first got a partner—we were together for eight years—when he first came to town there were people who wouldn’t shake his hand,” Smith said in The Age article.

“It was just a matter of proving that there’s no difference and we were just farmers like everyone else.”

On 9 December 2017, the right to marry in Australia was no longer determined by sex or gender after Australians voted in favour of marriage equality.

In his dairy farm in south-west Victoria, Smith listened to marriage equality passing in parliament on headphones while milking cows, The Standard reported.

“I just got this feeling of being equal and being okay and having the rest of the country accept me.”

He said marriage equality represents acceptance and support for the LGBTI community.

“It knocks you for six. It’s just going to make life so much easier for rural LGBTI people to come out and be more accepted,” he said.

Six years later Jason is still working in the industry he is so passionate about and in a recent interview with Skills One shared some insights to the industry. “Australia is leading the world in dairy technology and genetics. The world is looking to Australia for technology, information and workers.”

And that’s not just in the dairy industry, advancements are being made across the whole agriculture sector. More that $5million is being invested by Food Agility CRC and its partners in AI and Robotics to develop technologies to manage supply chain issues and extreme weather challenges. Technology can unlock previously hidden avenues for productivity gains and efficiency, along with improved prospects for key issues such as sustainability and animal welfare in farming management.

Food Agility is working with The Yield Technology Solutions, Yamaha, UTS and Treasury Wine Estates in a project combining robotics and micro-climate weather services to improve the accuracy of wine grape harvest predictions. This will improve the accuracy of decision making both on-farm and in post-farm processing, contributing to a more efficient and sustainable wine sector.

Some advancements occur quicker than others and as the LGBTIQ+ community and their straight allies celebrate Sydney WorldPride 2023 festivities this month it serves as a marker to see how far we’ve come and how much more we need to do for climate change, inclusion and food security.

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