Meet Sam Wan – who was destined to work with sheep and has come a long way since she met her first lamb

sam-wan-1Mill owner’s daughter. Foreign exchange student. Victim to the lamb-is-a-poodle scam. These are my favourite and most amusing cases of mistaken identity.

Hi there, I’m Samantha Wan and I’m a Technical Officer and Auctioneer for Elders Wool, based at the National Wool Selling Centre, Melbourne. I haven’t always been a passionate advocate for the wool industry and agriculture but I am where I am today because I’ve been shaped by the experiences and people met on the way.

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Sheepvention (Hamilton, 2016)

I’m a first generation Australian-born Chinese. My Mum is from Hong Kong with Macanese heritage and Dad is Chinese Malaysian. I’m the eldest of 2 and from the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, 35kms west of the Sydney CBD. Looking back, I didn’t know what lamb tasted like until I was around 10 and I have a not so fond memory of Dad putting it into a herbal Chinese soup. I’d always thought corned beef came from a can – and I only knew it in a congee (rice porridge).The closest thing I had to seeing agriculture in action was Fairfield City Farm, more a petting zoo that showed me how to milk a cow and feed chickens.

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A go at shearing (Yass, 2010)

A career in agriculture never seemed an option so I continued on my merry way expecting to be something (anything) in the Information Technology race.  That wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to Agriculture while it was being offered at school. A great teacher, keen classmates and a mixed bunch of black Corriedales opened up the world of ag shows, sheep classes and junior judging. Even though I was quietly sure this was the start of something bigger, my family weren’t sure what to make of the pieces of satin I hung so proudly and if the fun and enjoyment would ever amount to anything.

Wool broker doesn’t quite make the top three careers your Chinese child should be (see; doctor, lawyer and accountant) so it’s a good thing my parents didn’t fall too hard into stereotypes. After all, my first car would have been my grandma’s old Corolla hatchback instead of a Commodore ute and I’d say it takes a bit of willpower to let your firstborn journey off to places like Yass, Hay, Dubbo, Molong and Warren after you have only had them pointed out on a map.

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Mustering (Warren, 2009)

As was expected, I went to university. The University of Sydney for Science in Agriculture. I also did cross-institutional Wool units with The University of New England. There was more than a bit of alarm when I decided to take a break for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at Richmond TAFE. It was different to say the least and I relished the opportunity for a more hands on go at animal husbandry, including halter breaking in steers. I did eventually go back to complete my Honours with a project on “Vitamin B12 Response Trial in Merino Ewes Incorporating Iodine Supplementation Pre-lambing”.

Through my Wool units at UNE, I was accepted into a short term student research position with The Australian Wool Testing Authority in Melbourne “The Measurement of Colour on New Zealand Wool using NIR.” The industrial training gave me a huge insight into the processes and innovation associated with wool testing.

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Research in progress (AWTA)

To date, I’ve been with Elders for 4 years and 8 months. Each day has something a bit different to deal with – putting AWEX ID’s on wools from across the country, seeing the wool in the shearing shed and now as samples in boxes on the showfloor, analysing and valuing clips, lotting wools for sale, discussing markets with clients and keeping an eye on the dollar. The challenge of assisting with benchmarking events such as Ovens Valley Wether Trial, Gippsland Sheep Breeders Wether Trial and the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial through data calibration, wool valuing and AWEX-ID’ing wools also adds another dimension to the work.

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East Gippsland Field Days valuing for the Gippsland Sheep Breeders Association wether trial (2014)

Volunteering as a sheep steward while studying allowed me to network, seek out opportunities and be on the front line of hearing what judges discussed and favored. Now working in the industry, the advantages are still the same but with a stronger sense of being part of the chain.
Agriculture has allowed me to see truly stunning areas of Australia, add to my experiences and meet amazing people, most of whom I still list as my mentors today. I get to tell the best stories to bewildered aunties and uncles while my sister envies how soft lanolin makes my hands. I love how dynamic the industry is. The limitless recounts of individual perceptions, about how the industry used to be, how many generations have been farming the same land and hearing them come to life rather than just reading it from a book.  It has taught me life skills as well – ones that are second nature for some but are hard work for me. Observation, sense of direction and distance, using landmarks, logic and problem solving all can be tied into more than just a few stories of my own!

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Shearing calls (Omeo, 2014)

The teachers and mentors in my life didn’t just give a suburban kid a glimpse of a world outside the city. They enriched my life. From them I drew direction into an incredibly rewarding, constantly evolving industry. If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them.

Note from the Editor

Its is obvious Sam Wan was born to tell stories and we all know how powerful stories can be. They can make you fall in love, they can be an antidote to bias, they can heal rifts, they can be an antidote for bias and a catalyst for change.

Sam didn’t include this adorable little pix  in her blog post but I spotted it on Facebook and just had to share it

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Calling youth in agriculture. Together we can achieve greatness

Joshua Gilbert Art4agriculture Cattle and Sheep Young Farming Champion ( sponsored by MLA ) and chair of the NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council had the opportunity to inspire young people in the audience at the inaugural Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball to be the change that agriculture must have

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Charles Sturt University students (from left) Albert Gorman, Eliza Star, Mikaela Baker, Brittany Bickford, Hannah Powe, Alex Trinder, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Leigh O’Sullivan are organising an agricultural networking event. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Today I share this wonderful speech with you

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 Josh Gilbert -photo thanks to Hannah Barber

Tonight, I want to challenge your thoughts on how we communicate as an industry. It starts with a few facts, and how a shift in these completely changes how we are viewed and operate as an industry.

  • In the next 30 years, 50% of the world’s farming land will change hands.
  • We are faced with the oldest average age of workers, running in at around 56.
  • There are 135,000 farm businesses across Australia which means we have 135,000 farmers who are CEO’s.
  • One Australian farmer on average feeds an impressive 600 people on less land, compared to one farmer feeding 20 people 70 years ago.
  • Our great nation is said to have been ​founded on the sheep’s back.

To me these statistics can only mean one thing- there is and will continue to be opportunity for youth in agriculture. But just like our machinery improvements and technology gains and the different styles of farming we see today, we too need to move with the times and change the way we communicate and market Australian agriculture, both here at home and of course overseas.

I expect the Wagga Agricultural Industry Ball will become an annual event for us to discuss these changes. That we will have the opportunity to meet back here each year and challenge our ideals and ways of thinking, so we can best move forward as an industry. I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event and also recognise my NSW Young Farmer colleagues in the room.

Recently someone close to me told me that I can’t need something. That I can’t use this word to try and change things. And while at the time I argued until I was blue in the face that I knew better, I was wrong.

This got me thinking about our marketing strategy for agriculture and how we bombard ourselves and our consumers with statements such as ‘every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’ or that we should ‘ thank our farmers because we ate today’. And while you and I understand the rationale behind this, I think we’re sending the wrong message out to people who don’t necessarily share our enthusiasm or knowledge of our industry.

So this poses the next question. Why is it that we use this language?

Is it because we feel we are the forgotten ones?

Is it out of fear of losing something that means a lot?

Is it because we feel undervalued?

Is it out of insecurity that we have our “right to farm” and at times our farming practices being questioned?

Whether we like it or not there will always be consumers who don’t care where their food comes from as long as its affordable and nutritious. And in reality this is a good thing and our role as farmers is to maintain or enhance the underlying faith those consumers have in the food and fibre we produce.

There is however up to 10% of the population who care very much about how their food and fibre is produced and are questioning modern farming methods. It is imperative we acknowledge that part of our role as a farmers and members of the agriculture sector is to actively engage and build honest and transparent relationships with these consumers. It is imperative that agriculture offers them access to real farmers and the opportunity to ask questions even the difficult ones. Its is imperative that our farmers not get defensive and have the skills sets and knowledge to engage  with non farmers audiences in a language that resonates with them.

It is essential that each of us be prepared to tell our stories, that we put a face to and share our values of why we farm the way we do to help ensure the community has the confidence that our farmers are committed to producing affordable, nutritious, safe food and quality fibre. This is the greatest opportunity and most effective way we have to connect with our consumers.

Trust, respect, pride and faith in farmers and farming practices are developed through positive messages and transparency, through messages that build a connection and pride  Playing the sympathy or the you “need me” card on the other hand only polarises the very people it is so important we build these connections with. The truth is farmers and consumers need each other.  We must rise above this ‘them and us’ mindset and focus on sharing with the community that Australian farmers are committed to being leaders on the world’s stage in safe, affordable nutritious food and quality fibre production.

To ensure that we get the ball rolling tonight, I’d like for you all to pull out your phones. I have a tweet here that will link to my Facebook that states ‘The future ag leaders at #WACAgBall14- we all love what we do, we are all proud of what we do,so let’s share it with the world’. What I’d like you to do is this- retweet, share, like, comment, favourite the message and start sharing your stories. If we are to create this change- we need to start working on it now.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to keep the conversation going. Think about why you’re involved in agriculture, the impact that you play and what you want the future to look like. Then plan and share- because together we can achieve greatness.

Together, we can show that Australian agriculture has deserves the respect, pride and idolisation that we received decades before and still does.

 

Thanks Josh very inspiring indeed

Agriculture can take you anywhere you chose

Recently Victoria Taylor asked in the Flourish Files AgScience and the Shrinking Work Force  “Why can’t we retain students in Agricultural Science courses?” Victoria suggested that one of the reasons was the lack of clarity about the highly diverse careers in agriculture and if a student decides at the end of first year that they don’t want to be an agronomist or farmer anymore, how do we let them know there are a number of other career options open to Agriculture Science graduates?

Art4agriculuture have taken up this challenge and will be posting a number of blogs written by exciting young people who have completed agriculture degrees and now work in the agrifood sector or are doing exciting things whilst completing their agriculture related degree

We recently featured Melissa Henry – Life in a country town and today we hear Hollie Baillieu’s story

This blog post has been adapted from the presentation Hollie gave at the Careers Advisors Conference in Liverpool, Sydney in November 2011.

Where can an agricultural degree take you?  by Hollie Baillieu

The answer is – anywhere you chose!

I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have a strong future in agriculture.

I think that most people have the perception of agriculture as being a male dominated industry. To put it simply, the Agricultural sector wants females, they are encouraging us and they are employing us and more and more I see no hesitation when a woman enters a room looking for a job in agriculture.

This is my story.

I am currently working in Sydney for the Australian Year of the Farmer, I am the Chair person of the NSW Young Farmer Council, I am an ambassador for Agrifood Skills Australia and I am a Young Farming Champion for the Art4Agriculture school programs.

I grew up on a small property in Exeter, in the Southern Highlands only a couple of hours south of Sydney. Here we had cattle, sheep, goats and for a time – meat rabbits. I have always been surrounded by dogs, horses, ducks and geese, chickens, and more often than not I would have a lamb or kid close on my heels thinking I was its mum.

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I went on to study Agriculture at high school by correspondence as one of my subjects for the HSC which gave me just a taste for what was to come.

After school I took a year off from study so after travelling to India, the UK and parts of America I started the season in the Northern Territory on a cattle station called Newcastle Waters.

The station is 3.5 million acres, holding 50,000 commercial cattle and 5000 stud cattle. Newcastle Waters was special to me because my grandfather had once owned it. The fact that I was there, where my grandfather had been meant a lot to me, however it didn’t really help me adjust to the work ahead.

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Dare I say it but most of the men had more ego than brain. This gave me a challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing, I wasn’t rough and blokey, I was tentative, shy, and most of the time I was just nervous I was going to mess it up.

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During the day we were on horse back mustering the cattle from their paddocks to the yards. This was a full days ride and at the start of the season we were up at 3.30am, in the saddle by daylight and walking the cattle in until 10 or 11pm at night.

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It was blistering hot, my lips doubled in size and my hands peeled from sunburn. We were tired, thirsty and so too were the cattle. The next day would be a day in the yards, sorting, culling, weaning and pregnancy testing. Another long dusty dry day and then we would turn around and do it all again the next day.

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I don’t think words could explain exactly what it was like. As I said it was a challenge. I had one thing on my side in that I could ride. There were some jackaroos who had never ridden a horse and I’ll tell you they learnt pretty quickly.

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In this environment particularly, a purely physical environment, as a girl you have to prove yourself. A couple of months in I was gradually doing that. At one point I was the only girl in a camp of 10 guys; once again it was a challenge. But I persisted, there was no way I was quitting and by the end of the year, I had gained lifelong friends and I didn’t want to leave.

However it was time to move on and I started a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Sydney University and later transferred to the same course in Wagga. Hollie 4 Blog 0007

When I started uni I gave myself choices. I also signed up for the Army Reserve. I knew I loved agriculture but I didn’t know where I could really go with it and I had always been interested in the Army so I thought if I do this and if one doesn’t work out, I have options.

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I loved being involved in the reserves and I always felt proud when I put my uniform on, but in the end Agriculture has taken me on and it’s consumed my life really. I think that there are a lot of links between the sort of people that are in the army and those in agriculture. In fact during the interview process they loved that I had a rural background. They mentioned it couple of times that country people can often do very well in the army. Apparently it’s the practical nature and easy going personality that really works in the army.

My involvement in the wider agriculture industry really began when I signed up to the NSW Young Farmers Council late in 2009.

It started with just a phone call to see how I could be more involved in the NSW Farmers Association and from that I went along to the leadership forum. It was fantastic and in 3 months I became the vice chair and in March this year I was voted in as the Chair of the Young Farmer Council. It all happened very quickly and I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am and I would not have had the opportunities that I have had if it wasn’t for the NSW Farmers Association and our Young Farmer Council.

Which university?

You have those people who are perhaps more practically minded and hands on and those that are more management focused and perhaps corporate based. The great thing is that the agriculture industry can incorporate all of these people

We need practical people who want to be hands and the vocational educational training (VET) courses through TAFE are a fantastic system and can work very well. A few of my friends at university did VET courses while still at school and universities are recognising these qualifications and giving credit points towards a degree.

And the second group of students are those that are more corporate and management focused or just more suited to a university degree.

My experience tells me it is imperative that the correct educational institution is matched to the student. I fell into the trap of choosing a degree at a university that all my friends were going to. I didn’t look into what suited me and hence why I didn’t stay there very long.

When I started my agriculture degree off at Sydney University I did this for a number of reasons. It had the highest UAI acceptance, it had the best name, it was exciting and all my friends were there. I didn’t even look into other uni’s because I had made up my mind Sydney was the uni for me.

Sadly it didn’t work out for me. What I found was that Sydney unis course focused heavily on research. If I was into laboratory work and research I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It had an extremely high level of expectation and achievement and produces phenomenal graduates. What it lacks is the practical component that I love so much. The first year and some of the second I believe – we are put in classes with the med students and vet students. Us aggies didn’t get UAI’s of 99 so the standard was incredible and for me I wasn’t dedicated enough to really push myself and go through with it. And sadly there many who felt the same.

So I transferred to Charles Sturt Uni (CSU) in Wagga and I haven’t looked back since. At Sydney we wouldn’t have done the practical stuff until 4th year but in Wagga we were living within a working property so we were constantly surrounded by it, we lived and breathed it and loved it.

At CSU, they know every individual – you are not a number, you are a person. The courses are so relevant and the lecturers are so in tune with what the students want from the course

CSU have just started a really interesting element to the agriculture degree. It is now a four year course but in that 4thyear – half the year you are actually employed by an agribusiness. So you are out in the work force experiencing what its like. Which I think is really good especially if you don’t know what area you want to go into – its not so good for those people who do know where they want to be but it will be interesting to hear from the group for 2012 how it is and what they got out of it.

The other uni’s on the east coast are UNE in Armidale, Gatton in QLD and Marcus Oldham in Victoria. I have had friends at each of these with both UNE and Gatton and they say similar things to what it is like at CSU. The courses are called slightly different things but basically very similar and hands on. Marcus Oldham is a little different because it is a private university. It’s quite expensive but the courses tend to be shorter and they are jam packed rather than being so spread out like the other uni’s often do.

One thing that I have learnt over the past few years is the importance of being involved in the industry before you enter it. So at university get holiday work and jobs that fit your industry. Over the years I have worked in many areas of agriculture including an alpaca stud, a vineyard, cattle stud, a dairy and the cotton industry

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You must have an interest and want to get involved in it or when you start your first job – you are behind the eight ball.

I have found that my involvement with NSW Young Farmers Council has helped with my knowledge of the industry, I am more knowledgeable about the issues that are important to farmers in all primary industries and I have a broader understanding of agriculture and its politics in general. I used to get so frustrated at people in my own course who had no solid opinion about the live export ordeal or what was happening with grains, international trade, the price wars, competing against countries that have large subsidies – I could go on. It frustrated me because they had no interest and this was the industry they were entering into. It is so important to know your industry, to soak up all the info out there and grasp a really strong handle on what is happening and get involved.

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The way I see it we need to get a broader understanding of agriculture and how it’s related to our every day lives. I love hearing of people who combined degrees. Engineering with agriculture. Architecture with Agriculture. Agriculture with economics. All those people to feed and clothe and house. Innovation and technology – nano, GPS, VRT, GM. I could go on all day saying how I love this industry and how passionate I am – its not just some crazy whim – there is such huge potential, it is incredible and I love it.

Life in a country town – Young farming champion Melissa Henry shares her story

Today’s guest blog is by Ar4agriculture Young Farming Champion Melissa Henry who lives and works at Boorowa in Central NSW

As a Young Farming Champion going into Sydney schools for the Archibull Prizeand talking with others in the city community, a common question I am asked is “what is it like to like in a country town?” There are a lot of negative misconceptions about what life in a rural community is like. In this post, I will share with you my perspectives and what I love most about country living.

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Melissa with the students from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Baulkham Hills.

I grew up in the western Sydney suburbs of the Hawkesbury District. My first introduction to rural Australia was through my agricultural education – having the opportunity to show livestock and do project-based work in rural enterprises. I fell in love!

I moved to the Boorowa/ Harden area in November 2010. Boorowa is approx. 1.5hrs west of Canberra and 3.5hrs south west of Sydney.

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.

I am 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.

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Flopsey and her twin lambs

So what is in the town of Boorowa with a shire population of 2500 people? Bakery, cafes, butcher, gift shop, a fibre & textile studio, newsagency, post office, IGA, chemist, small hospital, emergency services, rural supply stores, Ex-Services Club, pubs with great meals and accommodation, Chinese restaurant, real estate agents, banks, mechanic, hairdressers, hardware stores, library, schools, recreation park, sports fields, race course, golf course, swimming pool, showground, caravan park, Council, Tourism Information, and the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority office (where I work). I find that it is everything that I need on a week to week basis.

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Boorowa’s main street – proud of its wool products

One of my favourite events in the year is Boorowa’s Irish Woolfest – a celebration of the town’s Irish heritage and the fine merino wool that is produced in the region. The event is made famous by the “running of the sheep” down the main street – Boorowa’s response to the Spanish running of the bulls!

Running of the Sheep

The town is a buzz for this October long weekend each year. In 2011 there was an estimated 18,000 people who came to see everything that Boorowa has to offer. Will I see you there this year?

For more information about Boorowa and the Irish Woolfest, visit http://www.irishwoolfest.boorowa.net/

For more information about the NSW Regional Relocation Grant, visit http://www.osr.nsw.gov.au/benefits/rrg/

You can see the video (and her gorgeous sheep) Melissa created for her in school visits here

and access her PowerPoint Presentation Baa Baa Black Sheep here

Don’t miss this one St Michael’s Primary School share their appreciation of Australian farmers

and their excellent  video entry for Archibull Prize

Wool Can do amazing things

and their prize winning PowerPoint presentation

http://www.slideshare.net/art4agriculture/st-michaels-catholic-school-archibull-prize-2011-entry-wool