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Articles and stories about the RAS Foundations and its grant and scholarship recipients

Articles and stories about the RAS Foundations and its  grant and scholarship recipients

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9 Apr 2017

Five motivated rural leaders are a step closer to achieving their goals of advancing their local communities thanks to a share in $96,000 from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RAS Foundation) Community Futures Grant Program. Read more

The Showbag that gives back

8 Apr 2017

Showgoers have an exciting opportunity to make a difference in country NSW by purchasing an Ag Bag at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the only Showbag where 100 per cent of proceeds directly support rural and regional communities. Read more

Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship awarded to Elizabeth Tonge

23 Mar 2017

Elizabeth Tonge, a veterinary student from Casino, will help shape the future of the NSW dairy industry as the winner of the 2017 Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship awarded by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF). The scholarship supports tertiary students who are passionate about pursuing a career in the dairy industry and fosters the development of future NSW agricultural leaders. Ms Tonge received the $5,000 scholarship awarded in partnership with the Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Committee to support her career aspirations in the NSW dairy industry. She is studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology and Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and is looking forward to assisting farmers in optimising herd health. “I plan to move back to a rural area at the end of my studies to support dairy farmers in disease management and prevention. I want to help improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms,” the third-year student said. Dairy is the third largest rural industry in Australia valued at more than $13 billion and directly employs around 38,000 people. “The dairy industry is exciting and multi-faceted, offering a lot of educational opportunities. If you’re prepared to jump in it can really take you anywhere,” Ms Tonge said. Growing up on a northern NSW dairy farm ignited the 21-year-old’s passion for the industry and the people in it. Included in the scholarship was the opportunity to steward at the 2017 Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Produce Show earlier this month where world-class producers benchmarked their product against competitors. “It was an eye-opening opportunity to learn about the end products of milk and the link from farm management to what the consumer receives,” Ms Tonge said. RAS Foundation Executive Officer, Kate Ross, said the calibre of applicants was exceptional and applications were received from students representing a variety of educational pursuits. “Elizabeth came up against some very tough competition but impressed us with her passion for the industry not only at a local level but much more broadly in terms of her overall involvement. "Elizabeth showed us that she really is a future leader who is actively and enthusiastically striving for a career which will contribute to the positive future of our dairy industry,” Ross said. The Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship is made possible by a donation from Country Valley, a long-time Sydney Royal award-winning producer. The RAS Foundation is a charitable foundation that encourages educational opportunities and helps build strong and sustainable rural and regional communities through a range of targeted community grants and scholarships. Visit to learn more about the charitable RAS Foundation. Read more

Community Cattle call

13 Jan 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016 A 19-year-old university student is seeing her hard work come to fruition after being awarded a Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant in 2015. The RASF Community Futures Grants provide financial assistance for community projects to encourage rural youth leadership. Since the program’s inception three years ago a $510,000 in funds making up 23 grants has been awarded to help community projects come to life. Helen DeCosta applied for funding to replace the show cattle yards at her hometown of Braidwood in the Southern Tablelands. The local cattle yards were in dire need of repair, which limited the number of animals that could be housed and the number of events that could be held there. Helen grew up on a farm and has been showing cattle for around 10 years, so the project was very close to her heart. “I felt that if we could rebuild the yards that it would help everyone in our community,” she says. “But I knew it was a big project to take on and that I would need a lot of help.” Once the funding was granted, Helen worked closely with the S355 Committee, organised a group of volunteers, and revised the plans for the yard before embarking on the six-month project. “We had to tear down existing buildings, but we kept the original gates and latches to keep the heritage feel as much as possible. It was amazing to see the community come together,” Helen says. “I’ve spent my whole life at Braidwood and the people there have helped me go further in the agricultural industry than I ever thought I would, so it’s a really good feeling to give something back.” Helen plans to continue showing her cattle and eventually wants to have her own property one day. “The biggest accomplishment and the most satisfying feeling was walking onto the showground and seeing the amount of cattle we have back in the show,” she says. “I can’t thank the RASF enough, and have already encouraged others to apply for the Community Futures Grant – there is nothing to lose and so much to gain.” In 2015 David Ryan and Katie Rowe were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities. Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants .  Read more

Space to grow

12 Jan 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016 Two years ago a teacher had a vision to create a natural play space for her rural community and thanks to funding from an RAS Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant in 2015 her goal has been achieved. School teacher Katie Rowe was inspired to create a play area for young children at her local café, Two Eight Two Eight, in her adopted home of Gulargambone in the central west plains of NSW. The building was purchased by the local community in 2002 and has been renovated slowly over the years, evolving to encompass a visitor’s centre and café. “As the building took shape, I felt it needed something to engage the school children and help them feel proud of their community, and that’s where the idea for a natural play space came about,” Katie explains. The RASF Community Futures Grants encourage rural youth leadership by providing financial assistance for community projects. The program has been running for three years, and in that time, 23 grants have been awarded, with a total sum of $510,000 in funds distributed to help community projects come to life. When Katie learned about the Community Future Grant, she felt it was the perfect fit for her project. She put together a very detailed proposal but says the hardest part of the process was keeping it a secret once she knew the application had been successful. “I knew about it for three weeks before the announcement at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show, it was hard to stay quiet!” On receipt of the grant, volunteers spent five months building the new play area, which includes a herb garden that provides for the café kitchen, and an interactive leisure and learning space for local kids aged up to seven years. “There was a lot of work to do,” Katie says. “We cut down trees, replaced the shed and put in a new drainage system – and you’d be amazed and how much dirt it takes to fill a space like this too,” she laughs. Local school children helped out by creating beautiful handmade stepping stones for the space. “It was a lot of work, but when it all fell into place it was worth every second. In April we had a launch party and Kate Ross from the RASF came down for it. The place looks amazing now – it’s so colourful, with plenty of shade and a beautiful garden.” Katie had only been living in Gulargambone for a few years when her vision for the play space began to take shape, but she had a strong desire to give back to her local community. “It’s so nice to be able to do something significant and it’s lovely that the kids have somewhere safe to play,” she says. “I love rural living for the sense of community, the fresh air and open spaces. But it’s also a beautiful environment for kids. Country living also gives them a lot of resilience and teaches them that when people work together, that’s how things get done. “The Community Futures Grant is a great initiative because even going through the process of application gets you thinking about what you would like for your community and the skills you would like to learn. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their community and themselves.” In 2015 David Ryan and Helen DeCosta were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities. Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants . Read more

Growing a better future

11 Jan 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016 Two years ago market gardener, David Ryan, applied for funding to lead a project in his rural community. In 2015 he was awarded an RAS Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant and is now seeing his hard work come to fruition. The RASF Community Futures Grants encourage rural youth leadership by providing financial assistance for community projects. The program has been running for three years, and in that time, 23 grants have been awarded, with a total sum of $510,000 in funds distributed to help community projects come to life. For David, the funding and his project has improved his community. David has a passion for sustainable living, land regeneration, food production and natural building. He has been involved with the Uralla Community Garden since its inception in 2014 and saw the Grant as an opportunity to take things to the next level. “We had been seeking grants for the community garden for a while and I felt this was the perfect opportunity,” he says. “I was in the right age bracket, it was a strong, community-based project and a unique idea. I put the effort in and was thrilled when we were told our application was successful.” David’s vision was to create an environment where young and old alike could enjoy the gardens, learn about sustainable food production and alternative building practices. He proposed to build a new shed and pond, plant fruit trees and build a compressed earth brick machine. “Community cohesion was a really important outcome for the project too,” he says. The Uralla Community Garden has been flourishing thanks to the RASF Community Futures Grant. Working bees are carried out regularly to help build and nurture the space. David has built a compressor and although it is still in the prototype stage he says it has helped him and other volunteers to build up their skills, and eventually hopes it will become an asset that can be hired out, generating an income for the garden. “So far we have built a wall using the machine and now we’re doing a small shed on a property,” he says. “We’ve also been talking to Adam Blakester from Starfish Initiatives, a charity which supports rural and regional sustainability, to see if we can work together. “Personally, I’ve come from quite a troubled background and doing good in the community has been very beneficial to me,” David says. “But inspiring people from a gardening and building perspective has been a really big thing for me too. It’s the conversations I have with people when I’m working in the garden that make it all worthwhile.” In 2015 Helen DeCosta and Katie Rowe were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities. Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants . Read more

Community kitchen connects Narrandera

20 Dec 2016

WORDS: Alexandra Malfroy Article first appeared RAS Times November 2012 The community of Narrandera, in southern NSW, benefited from a community kitchen thanks to the initiative of resident Ashley Murphy and support of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation. In 2011, 21 year-old Ashley Murphy, a farm labourer from Narrandera, had an idea.  Greatly involved with his community in the Riverina district, he had visions of restoring their town's community kitchen to create a healthy, positive environment for the people of Narrandera. "Having grown up in the community and been involved with the local youth group for some years now, and more recently in a leadership role, I became aware of some of the needs in the community - especially for our youth and children," says Ashley. Among some of the social problems facing Narrandera are a higher than average level of single parent families, financial hardship for many in the community and a lack of basic life skills among many of the youth, which Ashley says he has seen first-hand through his youth work. "The Community Kitchen idea came about as a way to address poor nutrition and irregular meal patterns, while instilling positive family values," says Ashley. "Simple things like sharing a meal as a family, working together to prepare meals for one another and basic cooking skills are important for children and young people to learn." Narrandera's old community kitchen, housed in the town's old cinema as part of the local Christian Community Church, was out-dated and not compliant with health and safety standards. Demonstrating initiative beyond his years, Ashley applied for a Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant. His application was successful and he was awarded $25,000 dollars to kick-start his project. Then Ashley was dealt another positive surprise. Bunnings, the supplier of the 2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show exhibition kitchen in the Woolworths Fresh Food Dome, generously offered to donate the kitchen to a rural community. There was clearly no better home for it than the Narrandera Community Kitchen project. "I was overwhelmed with Bunnings’ generous offer and the quality and size of the kitchen," says Ashley, who inspected the kitchen with his father Trevor, at the Show. The donated kitchen included all of the cabinetry; cook tops; a sink, oven and microwave; and a smaller outdoor kitchen. Shortly after the 2012 Show, the kitchen was packed and freighted to Narrandera where it has been installed. "The kitchen, with its shiny red and grey exterior, has a modern and stylish look about it," says Ashley. "It's such an improvement of what we had before; it just looks so great." With the kitchen in place, new lighting and the new floor in progress, the kitchen and hall are set to be officially opened later this year. With the RASF's $25,000 grant Ashley and his committee were able to replace the rusty roof on the hall that houses the kitchen, as well as re-line the walls and install lighting and a new floor. Despite the project idea coming from Ashley, the humble man is quick to point out it has been a team effort. He says the project has brought many people from across the community together, from the youth group, local flooring company and electrician and the entire church community. "So many people have lent a hand and hammered a few nails, painted a wall, wired in new lighting and maneuvered the new kitchen cupboards and appliances into place.  Everyone has donated their time," says Ashley. Ashley has big plans for the kitchen, including a weekly 'soup night' to provide a healthy meal for families facing financial hardship, as well as cooking classes for young people to learn basic skills. He also says the community has plans to use the new facility for other events, such as functions, dance classes and art festivals. "In a small rural community such as ours, to have programs and activities that provide safe, family-orientated activities is important," says Ashley. "I really hope some of the programs we can now run for our youth and children will develop skills so they can have a brighter future." The project has also taught Ashley new skills and increased his self-confidence. "It's a really good feeling to do something for your community that you know will benefit so many people," he says. "I encourage other young rural people to think about what they could do for their community and have a go. It's amazing what can be achieved and the difference you can make." Read more

New kitchens rule

11 Jul 2016

People in the far western NSW town of Bourke are showing off their culinary skills thanks to $20,000 worth of kitchen cabinetry and appliances from Euromaid and a $5,000 cash grant from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF). Read more
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