Erika’s achieving her rural ambition

January 05, 2018

Deniliquin’s Erika Heffer has been named as one of eight 2018 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achievers.

Now in its 28th year, the program recognises the positive contribution young people make to their local rural communities and the agriculture sector more broadly.

Mrs Heffer has worked with the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) since 2015 and said she had enjoyed her role as a local Landcare co-ordinator.

‘‘My biggest passion is doing things for the public good and it’s really what I believe in. Any opportunity to help local farmers, I’ll jump at it,’’ she said.

‘‘I just love sharing the story of agriculture.’’

Mrs Heffer attended secondary school more than 330 kilometres away in Gundagai, and the 25 year-old said she had little experience in agriculture and didn’t grow up on a farm but was inspired by her high school agriculture teacher.

She went on to complete a degree at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and accepted a graduate position with RGA.

‘‘At the time getting involved in the rice industry was about the opportunity to do the graduate program; I hadn’t seen anything like it before,’’ she said.

‘‘I spent 12 months with 10 different organisations that mentored and hosted me and that really meant it wasn’t an issue that I was not from a rice background.’’

Mrs Heffer works with RGA members and is also involved with the Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council, Deni Beef Group, Southern Growers Inc and Central Murray Ag Group.

Her work includes providing communication, grant writing and on the ground support for events.

She is also a Deniliquin Lagoon Restoration Project committee member and helped oversee the development of the new Werrpanakata Fish Park, which is part of the lagoon system, along with Deniliquin High School students and other local organisations.

‘‘I wanted to help make this lagoon system more attractive and accessible to the community,’’ she said.

‘‘The committee hopes to install a covered outdoor learning area, a barbecue area and toilets (at the Fish Park).

‘‘We’re also removing all the carp, which will improve water quality.

‘‘Once the carp are removed we can then restore natural habitats for birds, fish and Eastern long neck turtles,’’ she said.

As a ‘Rural Achiever’ Mrs Heffer will participate in a 12-month program which provides a range of networking and professional development opportunities, including a seven day behind-the-scenes experience at the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show and a number of official functions.

One Rural Achiever will also be selected to represent NSW at the 2018 National Rural Ambassador Awards.

The overall winner will be announced during the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Mrs Heffer said she was pleased just to be named a finalist.

‘‘I was so excited when they called,’’ she said.

‘‘Basically it’s quite hard to find leadership programs where it’s based on your passion, but with this program it doesn’t matter what industry you’re from,’’ she said.

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