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Rural Ambassadors Fly the Flag for SA

Agriculture is the key economic driver in many regional communities. SA Country Shows are the beating heart that keeps the community spirit flowing throughout South Australia.

Courtney Ramsay

Jeremy Schutz

Two young achievers from country South Australia continue to lead the way since representing their Country Show Associations and winning coveted Rural Ambassador Awards.

The awards, run by SA Country Shows in conjunction with the Royal Adelaide Show, highlight the importance of young people in agriculture and the country show movement.

Supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, the Awards celebrate young people, aged 20 to 30, who are involved in their local community or agricultural show. 

The winners of the district Rural Ambassador Awards then go onto compete at the Royal Adelaide Show, and the SA winner then vies for the national title.

Courtney Ramsey, 34, and Jeremy Schutz, 28, were state winners of the Rural Ambassador Award and went on to win the national awards in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Courtney says she was encouraged to apply by the Kimba Show committee while working at her family’s sheep and cereal property in Buckleboo on Eyre Peninsula.

Since the awards, Courtney’s been a political advisor in Berri and a corporate affairs officer in Canberra before landing her “dream job” as a grower relations manager at the Grains Research and Development Corporation in Horsham, Victoria.

“I’ve progressed to a role in an industry that I love, and I feel like I’m having a great impact,” Courtney says.

“The Rural Ambassador program helped me to develop a lot of the skills that got me to this position, as well as more personal skills in public speaking and thinking about big-world issues.

Finalists are provided with opportunities to travel locally, nationally, and overseas, and to represent their show societies at various events. (There’s also a Young Rural Ambassador Award for those aged 16-19.)

“The best thing, of course, is the networking and the people that you meet who are so driven and like-minded.”

Along with prize money, Courtney won a “once-in-a-lifetime” study tour in New Zealand, including visiting a goat dairy and a deer antler velvet farm – the latter product used in Chinese medicine.

Her love of country shows continues too. She can see the Horsham one “being part of my future”.

“Country shows provide an opportunity to get together as a community that’s not just based around sport, showcasing the things that people are passionate about. It’s such a family day, as well, and a real celebration.”

As part of Jeremy’s state win, he was given the opportunity to do a study tour of the UK. Now, he’s transitioning to taking over his family’s property Birrallee, near Pinnaroo, which runs Merino ewes and Border Leicester lambs. He’s also since had children of his own with wife Elise – Harper, 2, and newborn Jed.

“I was a fitter-turner and boilermaker and always wanted to come back to the family farm,” the fifth-generation farmer says.

“But I wanted to have a trade behind me just in case the tougher times came again.

“I saw Mum and Dad go through some pretty tough times during the wool and sheep crashes in the 80s.

“The plan is to be able to run the farm for the next generation. Hopefully, Harper or Jed want to take it on one day.”

Jeremy was encouraged to apply for the program by the Pinnaroo Show and Field Day committee. He was its president for five years and still lends a helping hand.

“I think country shows have probably been more important the past few years with the drought,” Jeremy says.

“It’s just a great time to come together, celebrate what we’ve got to offer, and have a bit of fun. Probably the best thing in Pinnaroo is the whole town shuts down. Everyone shuts their doors at 12pm and everyone’s at the Show. It’s a real community event.”

For those interested in getting involved in the Rural Ambassador Awards, Jeremy couldn’t be more enthusiastic. “It’s opened up so many different areas for me. The networking’s amazing and I’ve made lifelong friends.”

Both Jeremy and Courtney have also gone on to be presidents of the South Australian Agricultural Shows Next Generation Group, which aims to encourage young people to get involved in country shows.

State Rural Ambassador Award Coordinator Peter Angus said like everyone else during COVID-19, many young rural people relied on technology to keep connected.

“In the absence of being able to regularly meet in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, young rural people are relying technology to stay connected with phone calls, social media platforms and video conferencing important ways of communicating.

“It has also led people to explore new ways of sharing information through the increased uptake of online workshops and training.”

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AG SHOWCASE QUIZ

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