UNFORGETTABLE memories and invaluable mentors are what the New England’s Rural Achievers have taken away from the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Gunnedah’s Cameron Ward and Narrabri’s Bec Cope spent a week behind-the-scenes, which included attending VIP dinners, helping with stewarding, and taking part in the grand parade.
Although the honour of being NSW’s representative in the National Rural Ambassador Award went to Emily Clapham of Ilford, Miss Cope and Mr Ward said their time at the event had been “a privilege”.
“The experience was unbelievable: backstage passes, basically, to everything … quite exhausting but a very good experience,” Mr Ward said.
He said he’d now been to the show as an exhibitor and as a special guest – never just as a showgoer – but the week had only increased his belief in the importance of agricultural shows.
“I think everybody should get down to their local show or the Royal; they’re excellent promotions of local produce and everyone there is only too happy to help out if you want more information about anything,” he said.
“They’re great promotions of agriculture and very educational, but I feel they’re sort of dwindling and the separation between city and country is becoming a massive divide now, and nobody is aware of where their produce comes from.”
Mr Ward, who has his own specialty poultry business, has been paired with another poultry expert, Uralla’s Graham Sharpe, for a mentoring relationship.
Miss Cope said the highlight of her week at the show had been helping to steward some sections, such as horses and canines.
“That was really good fun; I like the hands-on aspects of the show: being down there helping with some stewarding, learning bits and pieces about judging different breeds,” she said.
“There’s obviously quite an art to it, and many different things are taken into consideration.”
Other favourite events were dinners with the governor-general and with Rural Achievers patron John B Fairfax and wife Libby; and a Q&A with the ringmaster in the broadcaster’s box.
”It was definitely more than what I expected, and some,” Miss Cope said.
“To be afforded those kinds of opportunities to network with such influential people was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“If I had to do it all over again, I most certainly would.
“It was just a wonderful opportunity and you get to experience so many different aspects behind the scenes of the show …
“It was a privilege to be afforded those sort of opportunities the general public don’t often get to see.”
Miss Cope’s mentor is Michael MacCue, a cattle producer from Bellata.