Today’s guest post is by Kylie Stretton one of the founders of Ask an Aussie Farmer– “An idea grown by real Aussie farmers so you can have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you”.
This group are
“passionate about Australian farming, with expertise and first-hand knowledge across a broad expanse of agriculture in Australia, including access to experts and professionals. We reside all over this country and some even live far away from our shores but are still involved in the diverse industries of Australian agriculture. The reason for hosting this page is so those that live, breath, know, and are enthusiastic about Aussie Ag can answer your questions and tell their stories…”
Well done Kylie and Team
We first met Kylie when we partnered with MLA to roll out the Archibull Prize at the Ekka in 2011. The winning school as part of their prize got a visit from a Beef farmer and Kylie was that farmer
The Kylie Stretton story …….
Planting Those Seeds of Excitement
In 1820, Hertfordshire, England, my Great-Great-Great- Great Grandfather, George Hobler decided to add farming to the list of his family’s noble professions. His Grandfather was an eminent watchmaker; his Uncle a tenor who performed at Westminster Abbey; his father was the Chief Clerk to the Lord Mayor of London for 50 years and written about by Charles Dickens on more than one occasion; and his brother a Barrister and Author.
After spending five years working on various farms in England, George was lured by the prospect of growing super fine wool in Australia. So in 1825 he, his wife Ann, their two children (nine more were born in Australia), ten stud Merino sheep and one of Australia’s first purebred Devon heifers boarded a ship and set sail to Van Diemen’s Land.
Add in different lines of the family tree which contain pastoralists from Cameron’s Corner, young stockmen, soldiers, my Grandmother who ventured from Sydney to Boulia, in outback Qld to be the first female bookkeeper on that particular station (pretty rare in those days), even a Spanish Princess and the result is seven generations down the track, we’re still raising beef. Although each generation has moved a bit further north, and we now Brahmans in North Queensland.
I grew up on a cattle station near Charters Towers, battling drought (I wrote a blog about it here) for most of the time we were there.
When I got to Grade 12 I wasn’t sure what to do; but I knew I loved station life and I loved kids so I scoured the ads in the Queensland Country Life, answering many hoping to become a governess. I was very excited when I got offered a job in the Northern Territory (until I realised I had to go on a plane for the first time).
Farmer Gets a Wife
I staggered off that mail plane a little worse for wear, to clap eyes on my future husband (another blog about it here). I hope future generations tell that story in years to come!
So fast forward twelve years and my husband and I with two young children have just started a new business; he’s a livestock agent in North Queensland, our market’s underpinned by live export.
We also have a small but growing herd of Brahman steers.
I’m floating around, not sure what I want to do with my life, happy to be a part of the business but still feeling something lacking within myself.
Then along comes the Live Export uproar. Tips our world upside down, along with many others. I’ve always been passionate about rural Australia, but was never sure what to do about it. All of a sudden I knew what I could do. The world was opening up with social media, but that was not working in our favour. So I dived in head first and starting advocating for the live export industry via Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Along the way I “met” many other farmers, and realised it wasn’t just us that there was misunderstanding about. It was food and fibre production as a whole.
How social media changed my life
Once I started looking into it, there were already amazing people doing amazing things when it comes to teaching our future generations about feeding and clothing the world. In September 2011, I was given a great opportunity by MLA, to fly to Brisbane and speak to school children about growing up on a cattle station (yet another blog here) which helped bring me out of my shell and made me realise that what I had to say was interesting.
I now even have the confidence to approach tourists who come out to have a look at our weekly cattle sale; they appreciate getting a little tour of the saleyards, with explanations and interesting statistics thrown in.
I have learnt so much in the last twelve months, so many interesting, quirky and exciting facts about agriculture. I am more excited and proud than ever to be a part of such an innovative industry. Technology has changed the face of Australian Agriculture. The industry has advanced from the images of “Farmer Joe” in the dusty paddock to images of young men and women from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of professions. Images now range from a hands-on job in the dusty red centre to an office job in inner city Sydney. So many opportunities, so many choices.
Australia really is the lucky country with 2.15ha of arable land to each person of our population. That’s one of the highest ratios of any country in the whole world. But only 3% of our employed population work in Agriculture. That’s not many people looking after a huge landmass. Incredibly 54% of our land is used for some sort of agricultural enterprise. We produce 93% of the food used domestically while still exporting a whopping 60% of what we grow to other countries which is so important with the world population growing bigger and bigger. However mass production isn’t everything. We are doing these amazing feats on the driest inhabited continent on Earth.
So Australian Farmers are world leaders when it comes to farming efficiently and sustainably. It’s vital that we continue on this track and getting better and better with advancing technology. It’s a difficult juggling act producing enough food and fibre for a rapidly expanding population while still caring for the environment in the best way possible. Without a healthy environment we can’t grow such high quality produce.
Young people are the future – lets work with them
Today’s children are tomorrow’s decision makers. Kids are like sponges, if you’re excited about what you’re teaching them, it’s contagious. It’s so important to get them involved or at the very least give them an understanding about all sorts of agriculture so they are equipped to lead further generations into a future which has a secure supply of food. And that starts with us.
We need to start planting those seeds of excitement in children from all walks of life right now. Australian agriculture has such a fascinating history and promising future. I’m proud that my family has played a part in it for nearly two hundred years, I love that I’m a part of the present and I’m excited about my children being a part of it in the future. I hope that seven generations down the track my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandchildren are still a part of agriculture, and look back on my generation and are as inspired as I am when I look back on previous generations.