Inspiring and ambitious youth leaders are being recognised for their contributions as the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) announces the eight deserving finalists in the 2024 RAS Rural Achiever Award.
Beginning in 1989, the state-wide program celebrates the achievements of young people, aged 20-29 years, who are excelling in their chosen endeavours and helping to shape the future of rural and regional NSW.
Yvette McKenzie, RAS lead councillor for the program, says being selected as a Rural Achiever finalist provides an incredible opportunity for future agricultural leaders to further develop their skills and grow their personal and professional network.
"The RAS Rural Achiever Award is designed to reward young rural advocates for their hard work, passion and contributions to rural NSW, while also providing a platform for professional development and enhanced leadership skills," Ms McKenzie said.
"This year's finalists have already demonstrated excellence within their local communities and proven themselves as exceptional rural ambassadors.
"We have no doubt the Rural Achiever program will help to transform them into powerful voices for rural and regional Australia, while hopefully inspiring an even younger generation to follow in their footsteps."
The 2024 finalists have demonstrated innovation and initiative across a range of areas, from their professional careers to advocacy in education, mental health, the agricultural show community, and the wider agricultural industry.
Grace Pearce, Queens Pinch, Mudgee
A qualified artificial insemination technician, Grace owns and operates ACE Genetics.
Grace is extremely passionate about her local community is an active member of the Mullamuddy Bush Fire Brigade and vice-president of the Gulgong and District Campdraft.
Grace Collins, Armidale
Grace currently works across two school farms, supervising and assisting during agricultural shows and excursions as well as showing cattle on weekends throughout NSW.
She is currently completing a Bachelor of Agriculture and aims to complete a Master of Teaching, as she sees the need for accurate and transparent education about farming practices to be taught in schools.
Joel Maguire, Parkes
Holding both a Bachelor of Agriculture and Bachelor of Business with a major in marketing, Joel has recently established Byng Livestock as co-principle, striving to provide reliable, consistent and profitable genetics to commercial producers, whilst also holding an animal health advisory role for AgriWest Rural.
Shanelle Pescud, Ashtonfield
As a marketing and communication officer for a charity and NDIS provider, Shanelle uses her numerous qualifications to empower people with additional needs by supporting inclusion, while also striving to maintain the relevance of NSW agricultural shows and societies.
Sally Lea Downier, Trundle
Holding a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, Sally operates a sheep and cropping farm alongside her husband, while also assisting primary producers and landholders across Western NSW affected by flooding, as a recovery officer for the Regional Recovery Support Service.
In 2018, Sally founded The Top Paddock, a mental health service which delivers programs to rural communities.
Rebecca George, Nyngan
After completing a Bachelor of Criminology in 2018, Rebecca moved home to the family farm where she unexpectedly developed a passion for agriculture.
Rebecca is now involved with the family business and works closely with her local show societies to ensure rural communities stay alive and connected.
Kathleen Webster, Mattama
Holding a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours, Kate is improving the skills of workers in the meat industry as a project manager for MINTRAC, while also championing youth programs for the Wagga Wagga Show Society and raising her family.
Kate strives to encourage young women with children to continue chasing their goals and continue their own professional development.
Emma Godsell, Young
As president of the Young Pastoral and Agricultural Association, Emma is able to share her passion for rural communities with thousands of people though the Young Show.
When Emma is not using her certificate III in Engineering Trade - Metal Fabrication overseeing the operations within her family's transport company, she is working hard to empower women in agriculture through various forums.
As part of the finalist program, RAS Rural Achiever finalists will receive an eight-day, behind the scenes experience at the 2024 Sydney Royal Easter Show, as well as a share in $17,000 prize money, a complimentary one-year RAS Membership, and an official Rural Achiever uniform provided by R.M. Williams and Akubra.
One of the eight Rural Achiever finalists will be announced as the 2024 RAS Rural Achiever at next year's Sydney Royal Easter Show and will go on to represent NSW at the National Rural Ambassador Competition in 2025.