Meet Emma Polson a young dairy farmer with a passion for cows and education

I love educating the youth in the dairy industry and the youth about the dairy industry.

Let me introduce myself, I’m a dairy farmer with a passion for education.

Yes, that’s right, I milk cows on my family farm, 10 minutes from the beach on the mid-north coast of NSW, and I’m about to commence my career as a teacher.

My name is Emma Polson, I’m 24 years-old and I love being a farmer.

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Every day I get to milk beautiful cows, in a beautiful area, spend most of my time outside and work alongside my family. Add to this a rewarding career supplying quality milk and I’ve got plenty to smile about.

Growing up on my family farm has given me the best opportunities anyone could ask for.

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Me and my family

Some of my fondest memories include my brother Mathew and I getting-up to mischief on the farm. We would make our own “play farm”, basically all our farm toys with pasture grown for the cows from grain collected at the dairy.clip_image006

But life as a farm kid had its responsibilities and helping my father and grandfather in the business provided me with vital skills I still use today.

At home, the cows are my passion.

My family has two herds of registered Holsteins, the “small” herd of 180 head and up the road we lease another farm and milk 300 head.

Our family stud is Blue Silo Holsteins, but there are still cows in the herd that can be traced back to my grandfather’s stud Thistleglen.

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My dad John manages both farms and my grandfather has retired.

His idea of retirement is still getting the cows in each day at 2pm, but we love him for that.

My whole family lives on the farm, including my 2.5 year old niece Miley.

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She is the fifth generation to farm at Oxley Island.

I cherish working with my family and my drive comes from wanting to make a difference in the family business.

I’m proud of our farm and I used to love nothing more than showing my city cousins around when they came to stay. We jumped on the silage bales and camped-out under the stars, eating far too many marshmallows.

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After high school, and during my gap year, I completed an agricultural traineeship through Tocal Agricultural College. During this time I was lucky to visit and learn about a variety of commercial farms, including the college property. We studied topics such as calf rearing, cattle health and breeding. Studying at Tocal was one of my best learning experiences. I met many great people I am still friends with today.

Showing cows has always been a passion of mine. I can remember sitting at my Grandma’s house admiring all the trophies my Dad had won showing cattle in his youth. I knew this was what I wanted to do and started working towards that goal straight away.

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I was always tying-up calves to prepare them for shows. As I got older I attended industry youth camps and major shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was there, in Sydney, that I had a crash-course in showing. I was helping my friend’s family and can remember thinking ‘I didn’t know anything’ but they didn’t care. They taught me so much about showing and welcomed me into their family. Showing at Sydney was nerve-racking but one of my best experiences of my life.

Today my role in showing is a little different. Showing has been a great vehicle for teaching the next generation. I still show our stud cattle, but my primary focus is on up-skilling the local youth.

I am secretary of the Manning Dairy Youth. It’s an association supported by the Manning Holstein sub-branch and includes members from the age of 2 to 25. Part of my involvement includes organizing youth events within the region, including the annual calf day. The group has also been involved in a photo-shoot at my farm to help with promoting its activities. Taking countless photos was loads of fun.

Here’s a link to the photographs which were later used for a group promotional video.

Supporting the Manning Valley is important to me. I was supported locally and welcomed into the show circuit, so I want to ensure other young people have the same positive experience.

Improving my cattle judging is a personal goal of mine. Last year I was reserve champion in the junior judging competition the Sydney Royal Easter Show, representing the Manning Valley-of course.

I have just finished a primary teaching degree at the University of New England. Throughout my university studies I have embraced the fact that I am a dairy farmer. During my last year of study I helped the Taree Christian Community School with their Cows Create Careers Program. I also produced an educational video about where milk comes from for one of my assignments. It has been an invaluable classroom resource. I love educating the youth in the dairy industry and the youth about the dairy industry.

Recently I spoke as part of a careers day at a school. The most important point I stressed was that anyone can be involved in the dairy industry, you just need to have the passion. I told them to find someone who is prepared to invest their time in them and help develop their dairy farming skills. I grew up on a farm, but I have found you can never stop learning.

If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact me epolson@myune.edu.au.

Cows Create Careers

Wow what exciting group our 2012 Young Farming Champions are. Tom Pearce is the latest addition to #teamdairy. We cant wait for our next workshop to meet the team. Just talking to them on the phone inspires me

This is the Tom Pearce story ………..

I live in Bega on the far south coast of NSW, and whilst some may say we are a little isolated I have a different perspective. I am 25 minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the snow, 2.5 hours from Canberra, 5 hours from Sydney and 7 hours from Melbourne and 5 minutes from the nearest fishing spot. There are not too many places that can boast that combination! Top that off with the international reputation of Bega Cheese, I’m proud to say I live in Bega and that I am one of the farmers whose cows supply the milk that goes into cheese!

Narelle Norm and Tom Pearce photo by Simone Smith Weekly Times

Narelle, Norm and Tom Pearce on the family farm – photo Simone Smith The Weekly Times

Growing up on the farm I soon realised this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Everywhere the farm beckoned me, the green pastures, the sound of a calf bellowing, the love of the clean crisp morning air, riding “shotgun” in the tractor with dad. I was born and bred a dairy farmer and being the 4thgeneration to farm here I had dairy farming in my blood.

Whist being tagged a farm boy at school may have been a little disheartening at the time I now realise it wasn’t all that bad. While others finished school without a clue in the world where they were headed, I knew what I wanted to do! While school definitely wasn’t my favourite place to be, I stuck it out realising the importance of bringing as much knowledge as I could back to the farm

Every afternoon I raced home, had a quick snack and then headed straight to the dairy to see where I could help! No spending hours indoors playing video games for me, I was always on the motorbike moving cows, helping dad in the dairy or in the calf shed!

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I finished school in January 2005 and how pleased was I to see the end of those language textbooks and the beginning of the real world! No assignments, no exams just plenty of time to spend on the farm and not to mention the countless hours of free time to spend fishing! University wasn’t for me. My father had generations of knowledge and expertise to share with me and I had a 940 acre textbook to study. I was happy with that and I reckon I’ve done alright since!

My interest in cows really got a kick along when Michael Boyd invited me to attend International Dairy Week (IDW). “Boydy” has always been quick to spot a keen kid and give them a helping hand on their journey to build up a high genetic meritherd of show cattle. So in 2005 this very keen kid attended his first IDW, a week of hands on experience; working with the best of the best in the stud cattle arena to help prepare elite Holstein cows for the show ring. IDW is the largest exhibition of dairy cattle in the southern hemisphere with 3500 people attending in 2012 and all talking cows in the one location. I became addicted after my first show and haven’t missed a year since!

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The Mecca for all dairy cattle enthusiasts is on the other side of the world. World Dairy Expois held in Madison, Wisconsin, USA for one week every year and features some of the best dairy cows in the world. I attended my first Expo in 2007. That was 5 years ago and I have been back every year since! The 24 hours’ worth of travel time all seems irrelevant when you’re hanging around these awesome creatures and spending time with like-minded people. Over the years I have made so many great friends and industry contacts both locally and abroad all through a mutual love and respect for dairy cows!

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I was keen to get involved myself and join all these young people out in the ring showing their cows. You quickly learn success doesn’t come overnight and getting to the top of the class and staying there is easier said than done! It’s very rewarding to see your own show successes improve and start to be competitive at the highest level.

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Over the last few years in local competitions we have achieved a number of supreme champion awards. The last 2 years our family has achieved 2 first place ribbons at the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show, and that was pretty exciting and recognition that you are breeding good cows and continuing to lift your standard. Working our way from the bottom of the class to be now mixing it with the “old hands” of the show ring is quite rewarding!

Have a good eye for cattle is essential and being able to pick out a “good one” is the key to winning in the show ring. To hone my skills I have been to numerous judging schools and participated in many judging competitions.

A highlight was winning the National Junior Dairy Cattle Judging Competition in 2008. I have been invited to judge at numerous shows around the country and most recently at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It was quite the honour to come back and judge the dairy youth competitions that I once competed in myself!

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In 2009 I was named as one of the seven RAS Rural Achievers, or as we called ourselves “the Top 7 in the state” This competition identifies highly motivated young people all with keen interest in promoting agriculture. It was a jam packed week of fun and learning at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which gave me new friends and great memories for life.

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In July 2009 I was hit with the travel bug and after pooling my resources and contacts I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This 6 month sojourn featured time in both North America and Europe. I did the tourist thing and saw the sights, but the majority of the time was spent working voluntarily on dairy farms, attending dairy shows and honing my craft. I learnt so much from the people I worked with, they appreciated my willingness to work hard and they noticed my eagerness and were only too happy to share their knowledge. Its one thing you’ll discover about the dairy industry and I guess it applies to all forms of agriculture; farmers love to promote and teach young people. If you show you are interested and motivated and prepared to listen farmers are only too happy to give advice and point you in the right direction .

On returning home I have put my new found knowledge and enthusiasm into practice on the farm, and shared my knowledge with anyone willing to listen. I have taken our breeding program to the next level, incorporating imported embryos from North America and using the best dairy sires available to mate over our herd. I have actively marketed our cattle in breed magazines, exhibited at major shows and sold heifers at elite dairy sales. My family’s stud Warwick Farm Holsteins and my own Progressive Holsteinsare I hope on their way to becoming household names within the Australian dairy industry.

Something else I am also ardent about is my involvement with the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp. This event is designed to nurture the future of the Australian dairy industry. I am one of a handful of camp leaders who eagerly share their knowledge with the young participants. My passion for the dairy industry has also landed me in a number of positions including Cows Create Careers presentations, the Holstein Australia Youth Committeeand the RAS Dairy Youth Committee all involve fostering and encouraging the next generation of farmers.

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My interest in exhibiting dairy cows has taken me to various dairy events and royal shows around the country where I am often bewildered by the lack of basic agricultural knowledge shown by our city counterparts. I have been asked all types of questions and in most cases I’m only too happy to answer but there a couple of times and I think it’s out of frustration I may have been guilty of leading a few city folk astray answering particular questions they ask!, Yes it was good for a laugh but it sheds light on a bigger issue. The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate.

It also saddens me in this age of technology and innovation in agriculture that farming is too often brushed aside as too much hard work and long hours with little financial return.Yes it is hard work and more often than not it’s not a 9-5 job but there is an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you watch something grow and produce something that provides society with its most important needs!

If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.

I believe a great start to communities valuing what farmers do and giving them access to the tools to do it would be to make Agriculture a compulsory subject at school. Today’s youth are the next generation and they have many decisions to make about how best to feed an ever growing population with many third world countries still struggling to feed themselves. If we are going to tackle these complex issues we not only need these young people to support our farmers we also need these young people to see the great career opportunities in agriculture that lie outside the big cities! I can assure them all there is no more rewarding career