Wool Young Farming Champions announced

A journalist, a PhD student, a budding auctioneer and a qualified wool classer.

The latest crop of talented Art4Agriculture Wool Young Farming Champions (YFC) prove variety is the key to engaging the next generation.

Sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation, these young people are a living proof that there is nothing boring or conventional about the future of their industry.

Former television news journalist, Victorian-born Bessie Blore has been farming in far west NSW with her husband for two years. Approaching agriculture with fresh eyes, she admits to learning on the run.

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Her number one lesson?

“There is really no such thing as a stupid question or action,” she said.
“That’s the only way you can learn about something you know nothing about. Ask, ask, ask. And give a big cheeky grin when you make a mistake, say sorry, and move on.”

“There is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today,” Bessie said.

A thirst for learning and a passion for sheep took city-girl Jo Newton to Armidale in NSW to study agriculture.

Jo Newton

Photo Matt Cawood

Now studying a PHD focusing on the environmental and genetic factors influencing early reproductive performance in sheep, Jo proves that studying agriculture can lead to a world of opportunities and she shares her story at any opportunity.

“As important a job as farming is, there are many different jobs in our sector,” she said. “That’s something many people don’t fully understand.”

“I am proud of the agricultural sector and my small role in it and am happy to share my story with as many of city friends as I can.”

Rounding out this year’s YFC’s are Cassie Baile, a fifth generation sheep farmer from Bendemeer in the New England region of NSW and Adele Offley from Crookwell in NSW.

Twenty-two-year-old, Cassie now lives and works in Sydney, employed by Elders as a wool technical support officer at Yennora Wool Selling centre.

Cassie Baille

Qualified Wool Classer Adele has a lifelong passion for wool stemming from the fascination of watching the sheep being shorn and the wool sorted in the shearing shed growing up on the family farm.

Dr Jane Littlejohn, Head of On-Farm RD&E at Australian Wool Innovation agreed that the wool industry is in good hands.

“AWI is proud of the achievements of the younger generation and believe that their stories will inspire other young people about the wool industry and its opportunities,” she said.

“The industry needs young advocates who are passionate and can relate to students. AWI is delighted to be involved again in the Young Farming Champion program for 2013.”

Young Farming Champions will start visiting the 42 schools participating in the 2013 “Archibull Prize” in coming days.

Team Wool

The 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions caught up with Wool YFC 2011 Melissa Henry at the recent workshop at NSW Farmers

Want to connect with our Wool Young Farming Champions

Bessie Blogs at http://journobessatburragan.blogspot.com.au/

Melissa Blogs at http://baalissa.wordpress.com/

Twitter

Adele @AdeleOffley

Jo @JoNewton89

Bessie @BloreBess

Melissa @baalissa

Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any wool

Todays guest post is by 2011 Young Farming Champion Melissa Henry who is crazy about wool and her flock of sheep and living and working in rural and regional Australia 

This is Melissa’s story

I’m Melissa Henry from Boorowa in South West NSW.

I’m a Young Farming Champion representing the sheep and wool industry. I’m not from a farming background, I grew up in the Hawkesbury District of Western Sydney.

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My ram “Mr Wright” – Grand Champion Ram Royal Canberra Show 2013

My first introduction to agriculture was at high school showing sheep and beef cattle and I loved it! Agriculture has opened more doors for me than I ever knew existed. I have been very fortunate to travel and look at the diversity of agriculture both in Australia and overseas. I’ve seen farming systems in Canada (Quebec and Alberta), South Africa and New Zealand. 

I completed a Bachelor of Animal Science (Hons) at the University of Western Sydney (Hawkesbury) and a Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Consulting at the University of New England.

At home I have my own flock of naturally coloured Corriedales which is very much a niche market. I established Quebon Coloured Sheep in 2004 which gave me the opportunity to learn first hand what it takes to be a farmer – even if it is at a small scale.

 

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Quebon Coloured Sheep, Boorowa NSW

My fleeces are sold to hand-spinners and textile artists. My wool colours range from light to dark grey, fawn to chocolate. My ram and ewe lambs are sold to other breeders of coloured sheep, and the wether lambs are sold into the meat market.

Melissa Henry

I love my sheep!

I show my sheep as well, which is a great way of benchmarking the flock and to meet other breeders.  I was very excited to recently win the Grand Champion Ram in the Black and Coloured Sheep section at Canberra Royal Show . 

What I have learnt from having my own flock is:

  • You don’t need to own land to own livestock
  • There are so many people out there who are willing to help you learn – joining a breed or show association is a great starting point
  • No matter what size your flock is – the management requirements are the same

I wear another hat and that is Catchment Officer for the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority. My role is to deliver natural resource management projects, such as revegetation, waterway protection and farm planning to farmer and rural landholders in the Boorowa and Upper Lachlan region. I also work with community groups such as Landcare and the local fishing club to run local events and field days. The most rewarding part of the job is to work with farmers to achieve their production and sustainability goals by helping them along the way with matched federal and state funding. This funding assists with on-farm works such as fencing and tree planting as well as formal and in-formal training opportunities.

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Best part of the job – Boorowa NSW

As a Young Farming Champion going into Sydney schools for the Archibull Prize and talking with others in the city community, a common question I am asked is “what is it like to like in a country town?”

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Melissa with students from St Michael’s Catholic School in Baulkham Hills

I have found there are a lot of negative misconceptions in the city about what life in a rural community is like.

I love the open spaces, the quiet, the birds, seeing wildlife almost daily, recognising people when you walk down the street, watching the weather fronts as they move across the landscape.

I admire the values of country people: genuine, friendly, open, family focussed, dedicated, innovative, passionate about what they do and their communities.

I am inspired by the community spirit, particularly in times of extreme weather events such as floods and fire. Individuals pull together at the drop of a hat to help others in need, from moving stock to making sure that there is food in the fridge.

This year I am again joining the 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions and visiting  schools participating in the Archibull Prize

Melissa Henry and the 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions

Jo Newton, Bessie Blore, Melissa Henry, Adele Offley and Cassie Baile 

This year I am excited to have the opportunity to visit rural schools in both my hometown of Boorowa as well as Junee. You can visit the Boorowa Central School blog here

Junee High School

Meeting with the Junee High Art4Agriculture Archibull team – what a fantastic group that are so keen to share the positive story of sheep and wool.

Our Australian sheep and wool producers hold a special place in my heart. They care for some of our most diverse farming landscapes and our scarce natural resources. They also underpin our wonderful rural communities like Boorowa. It is an honour to be able to utilize my project management and communication skills to support sustainability within rural businesses and ensure our sheep and wool producers have a profitable future.

 

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Melissa and her oldest ewe ‘Baabra’

I am also very grateful for the opportunity to live in a location where I can fulfil my passion – owning a small sheep stud. I am also grateful for the lifestyle that I am now living. I have previously blogged about why I love Life in a country town here

And this winter when you are putting your scarf on, think of me and my girls.

Melissa’s website is www.QuebonColouredSheep.com

You can follow Melissa @baalissa on Twitter.

Meet Bessie Blore loving the man, the land and her career in wool

Todays guest blog by journalist turned farmer Bessie Blore comes to us with these words of wisdom

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… there is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today…

Bessie story is a fascinating and very entertaining tale.indeed. I don’t know about you but when I read this I thought to myself this must be one handsome man and one special girl.

Now we’re the only two human inhabitants of “Burragan,” 70,000 acres of grazing land, more than 100 kilometres from the closest town of Wilcannia. And over the past 24 months I have developed a passion for life on the land, and wool growing in particular, that borders on crazed and psychotic at times, I’m sure most of my city friends think I’m far too enthusiastic about dirt, sheep, and isolation.

Seriously 100 km from the closest town!!!!. You would want to pay close attention to detail writing the grocery list.

Bessie is part of the dedicated Ask an Aussie Farmer team and just fell in love with a man she met on a bus who you guessed it just happened to be a farmer.

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Hi! I’m Bess,……………….

Two years ago I knew nothing about farming. I don’t come from a farming background; in fact I’m actually a journalist. But five years ago I fell in love with a handsome traveller, who turned out to be a farmer’s son. And two years ago he convinced me to move from the tropics of North Queensland to the deserts of far-western New South Wales to join his family running Merino sheep and Angus cattle on their little slice of outback paradise.
In the last two years I’ve gone from wearing heels and skirts to work writing the television news, to wearing boots and jeans to work, helping my partner and his family run up to 20,000 head of Merinos across three properties – and I’m loving it!

My partner’s family has run Merinos on the same property for many generations. He grew up like a typical station kid – riding motorbikes from the day dot, completing primary school through School of the Air, and then moving hundreds of kilometres away from home to attend boarding school. I, on the other hand, have always lived in town, attended a high school with 3,000 students, and started my university education living in the city suburbs of Brisbane – catching trains and buses alongside its 2 million other inhabitants on a daily basis.

Now we’re the only two human inhabitants of “Burragan,” 70,000 acres of grazing land, more than 100 kilometres from the closest town of Wilcannia. And over the past 24 months I have developed a passion for life on the land, and wool growing in particular, that borders on crazed and psychotic at times, I’m sure most of my city friends think I’m far too enthusiastic about dirt, sheep, and isolation.

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With livestock across the three properties, about 90 kilometres apart from each other, “busy” is an extremely understated description of our day to day life. To break things up among the properties, we shear and crutch twice a year – all up it can go for up to 12 weeks! In between those times we are lamb marking (my favourite job), fencing, fixing broken troughs, tanks and dams, improving the properties’ timeworn infrastructure, joining rams, preg scanning, undertaking months of natural resource management such as spraying weeds and chipping burrs, as well as the day to day checking of water points and stock. On top of the wool side of things, we run Dorper rams to cross over the ewes and sell the first cross meat lambs (…listen to this farming jargon flow like I know what I’m talking about!). We also have a couple of hundred head of Angus beef cattle. And, just to keep things totally hectic, when we do get a chance, we also muster and sell feral rangeland goats.

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Most days I don’t have a clue what I’m doing out here! But I quickly learnt that there’s no better way to pick things up than to just jump in and have a go. This is also the best way to earn respect from those who’ve been in the industry since birth.

I’ve managed to ask every conceivable stupid question under the sun… from, “Do sheep eat meat?” to “WHAT is WRONG with that THING!? THAT! Over THERE! The one with the Mohawk!” (The answer to that one was that nothing was wrong with it, it was just a Dorper Ram rather than a Merino Ram). And, “Why are there so many goats on the driveway?” (Wrong again! They were the neighbour’s Damaras… *hangs head in shame*)

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And I’ve done almost every stupid thing possible in the playbook… from jumping in the work ute and driving away with a flat tyre (a big no-no when the tyres are worth $400 each!), to riding the quad bike 20 kilometres in the wrong direction to muster the sheep in the wrong paddock on the wrong side of the property.

And the number one lesson I’ve learnt from all this is that there’s really no such thing as a stupid question or action. That’s the only way you can learn about something you know nothing about. Ask, ask, ask. And give a big cheeky grin when you make a mistake, say sorry, and move on!

I’m by no means an expert on wool growing, but I have been blessed with the tenacity to ask questions without worrying about whether people are going roll their eyes at me. I’ve learnt about microns and vegetable matter percentages, shearing and baling and loading, mustering and drafting and marking, stocking rates and rainfall rates and spray rates and every kind of rate. Most importantly of all, I’ve not just learnt about how things are done, but also why they’re done.

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During my first 12 months at Burragan I was still working full time from home as an online rural journalist. I was interviewing expert wool brokers about the highest wool prices in 30 years, and contractors about the shortage of trained shearers, and growers about changes to drought and flood disaster funding and financial planning services… and all the while I was looking out my office window and living these exact same stories in my everyday life. Once 5pm hit I’d be out in the paddock, enjoying the world I’d just spent all day reporting about.

Throughout this time, I became heavily involved in social media and kind of “fell in” with a crowd of farmers who were extremely active in the online world of promoting agriculture. I become friends with the team behind the Ask An Aussie Farmer (AAAF) page before it was launched, and later on I joined them as an admin. AAAF started as a Facebook group and twitter service where Australian consumers could have their food and fibre questions answered by real Aussie farmers, who know what they’re talking about because they’re living and working in the industry every day. With almost 4,000 followers the page plays a powerful role in connecting communities and building relationships between agriculture and consumers.

AAAF has also morphed into an online community for farmers to make contact with other farmers, sharing ideas and practices, and learning more about not only their own farming sectors, but all farming sectors within Australia. The thing that impresses and inspires me the most about AAAF is that it encourages people to take control of their own education and knowledge, with just one simple step: Ask A Question. Instead of just accepting what you’ve heard, read, or seen somewhere else, why not go direct to the source and ask? As a journalist that’s something that resonates with me greatly.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve moved into full time farm work and part time journalism – loving the opportunity to spend more time outdoors getting my hands dirty. There’s an incredible satisfaction to be found from a hard day in the sheep yards where I’m achieving things that two years ago I had no clue I could do. But I still hold a great passion for telling the stories of rural people, and I continue to do this through freelance work for various magazines and newspapers.

There are countless amazing stories of farming families who have been on the land for many hundreds of years. I love those stories and those types of families…I’m neighbours and friends with these types of families, I’m about to marry into one of these families! But although those stories are impressive and inspiring, they can also be just a teeeeny bit intimidating for anyone on the other side of the fence.

I am proof that you don’t have to be born on the land to love it, and you don’t have to be born into a farming family to try your best to make a positive difference to the industry. You don’t need have grown up riding horses or motorbikes, or know how to drive a tractor, or know the difference between lamb, hogget and mutton; all these things you can learn.

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(That’s me! Attempting to shear a sheep! I wasn’t that crash hot, so I like to leave it to the professionals 😉

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I love the stories of our pioneers who walked out into the deserts of our country to start modern agriculture from scratch in Australia. These men, women and children had to build every fence post, yard railing, horse stable, dam, and their own homes from nothing. These were true explorers and adventurers. These are the families that have built our farming history.

But there is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today…

Of all my lessons over the last two years, one of the things I have come to appreciate the most is that, despite the preconception that farmers are very ‘black and white’ people – there’s actually very little black and white in the agriculture sector. Australia covers such vast physical distances that farming techniques are different the country over, to suit climate, geographical location, and the availability of natural resources. When it comes to agricultural issues, I think the most important thing we can learn is that the exact same practices that work for a woolgrower in New South Wales’ southern highlands aren’t necessarily going to work for a woolgrower in Western Australia’s arid drylands. We need to educate consumers about the diversity of agriculuture in Australia and reasons behind why we do what we do.

Communities and the agri-sector have a symbiotic relationship, one cannot thrive without the other, and I believe there could be a lot more understanding and appreciation for both. Building bonds between the two will ensure the continued survival and success of our agricultural industries. This is most easily achieved through sharing our everyday, human stories of life on the land. I personally am seeing this life with the same eyes as those we are trying to educate and believe I can help tell our ag stories in a way that’s relative to those who have also never experienced farm life before.

The first, and perhaps simplest, step is teaching people in urban communities to ask questions.

Follow Bessie on twitter @BloreBess

You can read more of Bessie’s journey in this feature on Leading Agriculture