By Kirra Grimes

A YOUNG South Gippslander’s passion for the beef industry has been recognised by the Cattle Council of Australia with a nomination for a major national award.
James Campkin-Smith, 23, of Pound Creek was last week named Victoria’s finalist for the 2019 NAB Agribusiness Rising Beef Industry Champion Award.
He’ll now have the chance to compete against six other state and territory finalists for the national prize, to be announced at an awards ceremony in Canberra in August.
Speaking to the Sentinel-Times last week, James said he was “really surprised” to have been selected as a state finalist, but excited about the career development opportunities the Rising Champion program would bring.
Having grown up around cattle on his parents’ Pound Creek farm, James said he’d “always” had a passion for farming, particularly genetics and selective breeding, and started building up his own breeding herd at the age of 16, using earnings from part-time restaurant jobs.
He’s now established a self-replacing herd of black angus cattle on agisted land at Tarwin Lower and recently graduated from Latrobe University with a double degree in Agricultural Science and Business (Management), with the ultimate goal of buying his own farm and becoming a top beef producer.
As a state finalist for the Rising Champion Award, James will travel to Canberra in August for four days of professional development workshops and networking with some of Australia’s key beef industry leaders, an opportunity he said would provide a great head start for the next phase of his career.
“Now that I’ve graduated, and I’ve started a little bit on my own, I’m really keen to just continue to learn and grow my knowledge base and implement things that I learn into my own herd and career going forward,” he said.
“I’ve got a real hunger to work for the best and learn from the best, and those opportunities are out there but they’re not always easy to find.
“Not everyone just wants to take you on. So this Rising Champions program has come at a great time.
“Just being able to meet likeminded people and learn from people who’ve been down this path of growing a business before – it’s a really awesome opportunity.”
The winner of the national Rising Champion award will travel overseas for the 2019 International Beef Alliance Conference.
And while James said such opportunities progress and develop as a young farmer “really mean a lot”, he gets a lot of satisfaction simply from seeing results in his own herd.
“Farming is hard work, but it’s incredibly satisfying. I enjoy working with my hands and being out in the fresh air, achieving something worthwhile. To see growth – whether it’s in my herd at calving time, trees that I’ve planted or general improvement to the property – I really get a sense of achievement out of that.”