Today’s guest blog comes from Max Edwards who lives, breathes and wears wool
Spend a week with my family and you’ll soon realise wool is truly woven into my DNA.
G’day, I’m Max Edwards, a 4th generation famer born and raised near Wellington in central-west New South Wales. Growing up in rural Australia has definitely defined me as a person and all my best memories are based around the family farm “Catombal Park” and the many stories that came with being the second oldest of five. Since I could crawl, I have always been heavily involved in all activities at the farm, which in early days mainly consisted of endless hours sitting at my dad’s side in vehicles and tractors, trailing his shadow in the paddocks and sheep yards, or trying not to fall asleep in the long heat of days spent rocking in a baby swing in the shearing shed. Whatever was happening on the farm, I was always surrounded by wool.
Rolling in wool from a young age
As a 4th generation sheep and wool producer I quickly found my feet and as my brothers followed, dad’s workforce was growing fast. But dreams of being a farmer like dad were halted when I was dragged to town and left crying and trying to escape from pre-school; a habit which was hard to break, ironic given my mum is a school teacher. With a little more size, I soon became an addition to my father and grandfather’s team spending endless weekends and school holidays in sheep yards at either our own or my grandpa’s property. Show and tell was always my favourite part of school; every week having a new story for my class or more experiences to share about farming. This desire to share my background and passion for agriculture is something that has never left me and I doubt it will any time soon. Growing up working in mixed-enterprise operations including sheep, cattle and cropping gave me an interest in the way different systems could complement each other to improve resource utilisation and productivity and allowed me to gain essential experience in a wide range of operations.
But once again, my farming goals were strained when I was shipped off to the “big smoke” to board at St. Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill. I think it’s safe to say the local Joeys boys’ heads were quickly put into a spin when the country boys would tell stories of their holiday activities. Meeting people who had never swam in a dam or tipped a sheep gave me a deep appreciation for my background and I jumped at every chance to drag my city friends out to the farm for a visit so I could share my world with them and see their excitement. My father even got involved further by bringing a little bit of the country to the city, organising a shearing a wool display at our St Joseph’s College Spring Fair.
St Joseph’s College Agriculture class of 2011
My great love of country living can also be attributed to my parents always ensuring we maintained a close relationship with our country roots, even though we were so far from home , by taking every opportunity to have the five of us participate in our local show, various field days and community activities when we were at home. During my school terms away from home I learnt that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, and I would often sit and daydream; missing the rolling green hills of home or excitement of mustering stock on horses or motorbikes. But battling through the urges to once again escape home came with many enjoyable experiences as well as giving me my first taste of studying agriculture, which has left an unstoppable hunger to learn more.
Post-HSC I was eager to get out into the industry to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. Over the past years I have been fortunate in being exposed to many different production systems including different farms within the central-west, “Glenwood” Merino Stud, various grazing management field days and working with stock and station agents at the local Dubbo sale yards. It was in my gap year when I quickly noticed how important the relationship is between producers and community networks. When the excitement of no longer being fenced in by schools had finally worn off I soon realised I still wanted to learn more and find a way I could contribute to agriculture and the sheep and wool industries that raised me. It was now ME deciding to leave the farm yet again, but this time with high anticipation for what was to come.
Now in my 4th year at The University of Sydney completing a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience I can honestly say I haven’t regretted the decision once. It was during this degree I further strengthened my interests in extensive livestock production systems, particularly sheep and wool. Over the course of the last 3 years I have enjoyed once again being able to share my background and experience with the mostly unfamiliar students, especially during practical sessions where many laughs were shared. I endeavoured to find opportunities to extend my knowledge of the sheep industry and was able to gain vital experience through excursions, placements and also by taking on Sheep and Wool units offered by The University of New England. I was also privileged to attend the 2016 Spatially Enabled Livestock Management (SELM) Symposium where I was invigorated to further my interests in the field of remote monitoring and applying precision livestock management, a key field that will no doubt be crucial in years to come.
Sharing farming experience has always been a passion
My honours research project currently running on my family farm will also be in this field and involves remotely weighing sheep in the paddock and recording daily weight changes to help make better management decisions. This year will also present many exciting opportunities for me including representing The University of Sydney competing in the National Merino Challenge and also the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association’s program later this year. Although I am extremely eager to return to the land, I also have a burning desire to further develop farming technology and ensure it reaches the producers it would help the most. Along the way I plan to continue sharing my passion for wool production and inviting everyone I meet to come and see the world of Australian farmers.
I hope when I am 86, like my Grandpa, I will be ringing my son and grandson to check “that everything is ready for shearing tomorrow”, still with great enthusiasm and always with the desire to improve the quality of our sheep and their wool.
Cheers, Max Edwards
Check out some of the high tech procedures in the Wool Industry you will get to be part of of you do an animal science degree at Sydney University