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Feeding the world: Bec’s passion for training tomorrow’s farmers

Training and skills case study

“I think a lot of the time, people forget that agriculture feeds the world,” says Rebecca Toleman.

Bec is the teaching education manager for the agriculture department at South West TAFE in Warrnambool. Before stepping into this role she was South West’s lead agriculture teacher, having come from an extensive background in dairy farming.

Bec Toleman case study

“When I was lead teacher, I worked hard to drive the department, but now I actually have the steering wheel,” says Bec.

Her pivot into teaching was inspired by the impact having the right mentor can have, alongside the need to grow the agriculture industry.

“Training can change someone’s life. If I have the opportunity to support our future farmers, what a joy!”

Bec champions the essential work that all farmers do, highlighting the industry as one of the cornerstones of our society.

“It takes a village to get a farm moving,” she explains. “You have agriculture, agribusiness, agronomy, and they’re all different streams leading into the same body.”  

“I don’t think people realise just how big this industry is and how many different pathways there are into it.”

The tireless work of farmers all across the state is varied. Having worked in Warrnambool most of her career, Bec describes it as the heartland of the dairy business.

“We work 365 days a year, through drought and frost. What keeps us going is how much we love what we do.”

Bec also understands the practical elements of farming as well as the importance of training new farmers.

“Agriculture can set you up for so much,” she says. “There’s educational elements, nutrition, animal welfare. When we’re training, 80% of it is outside – we say our classroom is the paddock.” 

Bec Toleman case study

In her various roles over the years, Bec has observed more representation and opportunities for workers in the sector.  

“One thing I’ve noticed is a shift to more women. In one of my last classes, out of 40 students, only 6 were men.”

Bec’s own daughters have followed in her footsteps and are studying qualifications in agriculture, allowing the work to be something they can share as a family.

What she loves most about working in agriculture is the sense of community – different people all working together to achieve a common goal that can literally put food on the table.

As Bec puts it, “it’s one of those industries where we all get in and do it. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s an amazing industry that needs and has passionate people.”