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Sophie takes on the Rural Achiever Program
Recently C7EVEN Account Manager Sophie Wood was selected among hundreds of applicants to take part in the Royal Agricultural Society’s Rural Achiever Program.
In this blog Sophie shares her experience about this incredible opportunity.
After an early start on a Tuesday April morning, I hopped in the car and drove to Sydney Olympic Park for the 2023 Sydney Royal Easter Show.
It was not my first time attending the show, having attended as an exhibitor, spectator, and volunteer in the past. It would, however, be my first time attending as one of the R.M. Williams Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Rural Achiever finalists. I arrived at my accommodation for check in, and very quickly started to meet the other seven finalists. Following check-in and parking we started on what would be a jam-packed, experience of a lifetime.
The afternoon started with a welcome to the program and an ice-breaking professional development session. In a room with 14 Ag Shows NSW Young Women finalists and 8 Rural Achiever finalists we soon started to get to know one another and what we were passionate about. That evening, the eight Rural Achiever finalists ventured down to the Woolworths Dome and met with RAS Councillor David Davidson, chair of the Agriculture Committee, who spoke to us about the District Exhibits. We were then treated to a behind the scenes look into the development of the displays and the judging that is conducted in the week leading up to the show. The dedication of the volunteers involved was unbelievable, from hand picking corn kernels from a cob to come up with three kilos of corn for judging or spending ten hours individually placing peas into a jar for the preserves judging.
Day two saw us don our official R.M. Williams uniforms for the first time as we piled onto buses and headed into the city to Government House, where we met Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, the 39th Governor of New South Wales. A formal ceremony was carried out, and this was when we were presented with our sponsored Akubras. Following the morning tea, the Young Women and Rural Achiever finalists walked down to the harbour and were surprised with a lunch time harbour cruise. The cruise was an opportunity to bond with the overall cohort, while enjoying a divine three course meal and the Sydney Harbour.
The following morning, we presented to our first stewarding rotations. I was fortunate enough to have been rostered onto the Horse section and spent the morning stewarding the Australian Stock Horse led classes. After lunch, alongside three other inspirational ladies in the Ag industry, I met with Dom Knight from ABC Radio Sydney who interviewed us as part of a women in Ag segment they were running. A quick tour of the grounds that afternoon, quickly rolled into the Ag Shows NSW Young Women celebration dinner in Council. Being the first official day of the show, it was exciting to see the show come alive having been considered a ‘construction site’ only 12 hours earlier.
My stewarding rotation the following day was in the Howie Pavilion (dog pavilion), where I assisted with the judging of the Terriers. I learnt about the different classes and process that is taken to select the overall group winner who then goes onto represent the group in the Advance Dog Best in Show. Following lunch, the eight Rural Achievers met at the R.M. Williams stand, ‘The Hut’ for the start of our official photos that were to be taken that afternoon. At the completion of official photos, we were treated to a tour of the Royal Agricultural Society’s Heritage Centre, where the theme was the 70’s. With the postponement of the first grand parade due to the weather that afternoon, we settled in to watch the Official Opening of the Show from the Council Stand. This was then followed by the Official Opening dinner with Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, the RAS President and RAS Councillors.
Left: C7EVEN’s Sophie Wood with her fellow Rural Achiever Award recipients – middle row, far right
Right: Sophie meeting Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, the Governor of NSW
On Saturday morning the eight Rural Achievers each had an interview with our four judges, tailored to our applications. The remainder of the day was spent stewarding in the Sheep pavilion, assisting Gunnedah Show Society as they hosted the Big Bush BBQ and exploring around the grounds. On Saturday evening, we met with the South Australian Rural Ambassadors, who were at the Show as part of an exchange program. We had dinner with one another, followed by drinks with the RAS Youth Group committee members and Ag Show NSW Young Women Finalists.
We started Sunday morning in the Schmidt Arena, with a briefing for the 2023 Young Farmers Challenge. For the challenge, we were split into two teams of four and competed against other teams across a series of Agricultural based activities that tested out team work, communications skills and Agricultural knowledge. Although we came a spectacular second (out of two) to the South Australian Rural Ambassador team, we certainly provided the crowd with the most entertainments as we struggled to completed one particular task with smiles on our faces. That afternoon was the highly anticipated Young Women presentations and the Rural Achiever speeches. Our speech topic was ‘What is the value of money to you?’, we were tasked with speaking for two minutes and to ensure that we shared our opinion across in that time frame. It was insightful to hear how each of us value money and to discover more about our perspective on the topic.
Monday saw our last two rotations for stewarding. In the morning I stewarded the Production classes in the Sheep pavilion, where ewes and rams were assessed on their commercial value, where their wool and body scores were taken into consideration before determining the final winner. The afternoon had a change of pace, as I discovered the world of woodchop. With an event every 10 minutes, the stewarding team were kept busy ensuring accurate handicaps were given and safety procedures were adhered to. Following stewarding at woodchop, I raced down to the stables, where I was quickly given a helmet and a horse to compete in the Judges and Stewards class, having only been approached hours earlier to take part. With a quick trot around on a Green Coats horse, those of us competing made out way out into the main arena. The annual class is to demonstrate to both competitors and spectators that the stewards in the main ring are involved in the equine industry and are well equipped to be keeping competitors safe. After an individual workout, the placings were announced, and I was lucky enough to take out second place. The day finished with dinner in the Council stand with the RAS President and our judges. It was another divine three course meal featuring the award-winning produce placed at this year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show.
When Tuesday morning approached, we were all a little weary, following some early mornings, late nights and long days on our feet. Despite all this, we all ventured up to the broadcast box, where we were interviewed by the delightful Lyndsey Douglas, the final part of our official judging. Interviews were followed by lunch with the judges, and then some rostered sessions at the RAS Foundation’s Ag Bag stall, where we were raising money for regional and rural communities with the sale of the Ag Bags or raffle tickets. That evening, we met with our invited friends and family, for our Farewell Dinner. We each spoke one last time on the highlight of our show, before being presented with our R.M. Williams RAS Rural Achiever Finalist awards. We then stood with anticipation for the announcement of the R.M. Williams RAS Rural Ambassador winner. The announcement was made, and Keiley Nobel from Narromine was announced as the winner for 2023.
Following an action packed week, and an exciting night of celebration, the eight Rural Achiever finalists packed their bags and started their journey’s home.
The Rural Achiever experience saw me step out of my comfort zone, whether it was working on interview technique, making small talk with the Governor or jumping onto a horse I hadn’t ridden before. It was a whirlwind experience, and the experiences and connections made during the week and the program will be invaluable in the future both personally and professionally on client projects.
You can learn about the Rural Achiever Program here
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