Smithton teacher, Josh Smith, has traded the paddock for the classroom and brought his love of the dairy industry into the school.
Before turning to teaching, Josh was born and raised on a dairy farm near Tasmania’s Legendairy Capital, Smithton.
He has never lost his love for the land and wasn’t about to forget his dairying roots when he took up his new profession.
Now the Grade 9 and 10 coordinator and maths and science teacher at Smithton High School, Josh has integrated Dairy Australia’s Cows Create Careers program into the Grade 9 science program. Its success was one of the reasons Smithton earned itself the title of the Legendairy Capital of Tasmania.
The program is a hit with students and has inspired new respect for the local dairy industry.
As part of Cows Create Careers, students discover the various career opportunities in dairying, while learning about biology, by raising a calf, and science, from growing pastures.
The program is linked to priorities in the Australian education curriculum and has been highly successful in engaging students.
“It’s a huge success,” Josh said. “The practical component and the animal factor engage more students than would normally be engaged in our science program. An issue facing teachers is inclusion and catering for every student’s needs and this program fits that perfectly.
“It allows some students to shine where they might not normally,” Josh said. “Students off farms have that practical knowledge and feel like they’ve got more to contribute to class discussions.”
The program has also given students living in towns a better appreciation of farmers.
“I grew up on a dairy farm so I know that good farmers are extremely highly skilled people who are prepared to take on lots of risk,” Josh said. “I think most town kids under-value the type of knowledge needed to be a good farmer.”
Josh says community support, particularly from local farmer Leigh Schurring who has provided calves and professional assistance, has made the program a success.
“It’s difficult to get off the ground because not every teacher is suited to being responsible for calves, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s created something for Grades 7 and 8 students to look forward to; there’s a feeling of excitement that we’re doing something really cool and worthwhile at school.”
Josh says Smithton deserves its Legendairy Capital title.
“The community revolves around agriculture,” he said. “If agriculture didn’t exist there wouldn’t be a town here. My wife Renee and I both grew up on dairy farms 30 kilometres west of Smithton and still have a passion for the industry.
“You ask anyone: is dairy important to Smithton? And they’d say yes, of course it is. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without my dairy background.”
Being named the Legendairy Capital has brought extra attention to the industry. “It’s created a buzz that we’re a bit special and we should respect our farmers,” Josh said.
“If I walk up the street and have a conversation about what’s going on in the school, Legendairy always comes up – and that’s nearly 12 months later. It’s done great things for the town and came at a really good time for the industry.”
Josh plans to continue playing his part in educating the broader community about dairy.
He introduced Cows Create Careers in his previous school at Circular Head Christian School in Smithton and knew it would work at Smithton High.
“Our school has embraced it,” Josh said. “Prior to this, there was no agriculture being taught here but now everyone sees the value in it.”
Although Cows Create Careers is officially a six-week program, the school has kept the calves and has expanded to include a new optional paddock-to-plate subject that brings a broader agricultural perspective.
“It gives students the whole picture,” Josh said. “You need to know where your food comes from.”