Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) is excited to be working with new partners this year and we welcome the Northern Territory Farmers Association to the fold. NT Farmers sent the call out for local early-career professionals with a passion to lead and advocate for NT agriculture. Here we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Borden who NT Farmers have selected to participate in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program.
If you can picture a female incarnation of John Williamson’s Mallee Boy crossed with Crocodile Dundee then you may have a notion of the adventurous soul that is Olivia Borden. One can just imagine her barefoot and racing through paddocks on her family’s farm on the Wimmera/ Mallee Border in north-western Victoria. Her family are fifth generation farmers with an intensive piggery, crops of wheat and barley and a contracting business.
“I started working on the farm as soon as I was old enough to lift a bucket, and I went up north to Queensland with my father contract harvesting. It was there I fell in love with large northern properties.” Olivia says
Olivia attended a 12-student primary school before transferring to Donald for the rest of her schooling.
“On the school bus I used to read the country newspapers and I’d flick straight to the job section, reading the station hand advertisements over and over again.”
Post high school she studied at Longerenong Agricultural College.
“The day after I turned 21 I fed the pigs for the last time, packed my ute and headed north. I rang a phone number off the back of a shearing singlet I’d been given and got a job just south of Ivanhoe the very next day. I threw fleeces, crutched sheep, lamb marked and occasionally, when we were down a shearer, got on a stand. I loved the back country – I still think they are the best sunrises I’ve ever seen – but I was hungry for the real north.”
So to the north she went and landed her first job on the live-cattle export cattle-yards in the Territory.
“I vomited every day chasing cattle through the hot mud, in torrential rain and intense humidity loading road train after road train. Working in 45 degree shearing sheds was nothing compared to the heat and intensity of the export yards.”
From the export yards she moved onto stations,
“Where I found what I had been looking for; living out of a swag and off a fire for months at a time, aboriginal stock crews, buffalo, scrub bulls, helicopters, motorbikes and horses, rocky escarpments and flood fencing and untamed country.”
It wasn’t until Olivia spent wet seasons working in Katherine that she was exposed to the horticultural industry and realised the opportunity to make real agricultural change through agronomy.
“I didn’t think I would be capable of being an agronomist but my bosses believed in me enough to convince me to try. Then they threw me in the car and introduced me to the world of tropical pastures, watermelon and mango growers but it was the developing the northern cotton industry that won my heart over. I found every day incredibly challenging and stimulating I signed on as a trainee agronomist. I haven’t looked back.”
Olivia’s love of the diversity of Australian food and fibre production has seen her experience many of agriculture’s facets, an experience she sees as both a blessing and a curse and she has turned to PYiA to address this.
“It’s taken me a long time to settle into a career and being out bush for a lot of years has set me back in terms of professional development. I am looking to the YFC program to cultivate skills and attributes that will help me go from being an average employee at the risk of getting lost in the business world, to being a humbly confident, supportive agronomist and business woman, who can advocate for NT agriculture, build strong community rapport and encourage other young people to join agriculture and be part of the fast pace of its future development.”
Welcome to the Young Farming Champions family Olivia
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