Did you know that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the National Rural Ambassador Award? To celebrate, we’ve been catching up with the 19 individuals who have held the prestigious title since 2001.
It may have been 18 years ago but Rikki Foss still remembers the judging process and rural ambassador program in 2003 like it was yesterday.
Her year as national rural ambassador was action-packed, with overseas travel for work, events, her own wedding, travelling to agricultural shows throughout WA, and a study tour to NZ.
She looks back on the whirlwind 12 months with awe.
“I was with a great group of people from all areas of agriculture, who had a passion for rural communities,” Rikki says.
“ I was a guest to the NZ RAS and attended the Palmerston North Royal Agricultural Show. Part of the study tour allowed me to visit the Hastings region and be hosted at a farm that specialised in AI for horses.
“The highlight of that trip was frost flighting at night in a helicopter over a vineyard to save the grapes. At the time I didn’t realise just how dangerous that job can be.”
At the time Rikki was living in Northam, WA. The Northam Show was thriving and had a strong committee at the helm, who Rikki thanks for giving her the push to enter the rural ambassador program.
“The committee encouraged me to be part of the program as I was a young ag professional who had previously judged the grain section. Mr Norm Roe was the main reason I entered the program,” Rikki recalls.
In 2003 Rikki was recently married and travelling to her new home on the weekends to the farm in Bruce Rock. She was working for the Grain Pool of WA as a regional manager and she and her husband had recently started farming with his family.
When she moved to Bruce Rock, Rikki became the show coordinator – an experience she says opened her eyes to just what it takes to run a show.
“It really gave me an appreciation of what was involved, the hundreds of stakeholders required and hours and hours of labour to get a show up and running year in and year out,” Rikki says.
“It also makes you appreciate that it can be really difficult to get external attractions to these events and what pressures regional areas are under.”
These days Rikki and husband Anthony live in Perth with their two children, Jude, 16, and Stella, 14. Rikki works for Plum Grove (grain trading company) as its general manager.
She has always been involved in agriculture but has also enjoyed the opportunity to work on some great community projects, especially in the field day space. Two favorites are a community cookbook and an art project in regional areas.
Rikki says she has nothing but gratitude for the many experiences the rural ambassador program gave her.
“It was such a great program that provided many opportunities and best of all it was fun!” she says.
“It all increased my network and I was able to meet so many wonderful people. Thank you RAS! It was a fabulous time in a chapter of my life and I will be forever grateful.”