I grow Cotton and you wear it – Meet Richie Quigley

My name is Richie Quigley and farming is in my blood and I couldn’t be happier about that

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Growing up on our family farm in Trangie, the Macquarie valley, Central Western NSW I have been involved in agriculture as long as I remember.

Our farm “Muntham”, has been in our family for 125 years and my brothers Tom and George and I will be fifth generation farmers

We are lucky enough to have both an irrigation and dryland farming business and grow 500 Ha of cotton as well as about 2200ha of winter crops which include wheat, canola, and chickpeas. We also have 1500 breeding ewes and 150 breeding cows.

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Most of our childhood photos are of my two brothers and me outside playing in the dirt and the mud pushing around toy tractors (more often than not with no clothes on), maintaining our miniature interpretation of our family farm in our veggie patch. The fence still bears the scars from when we cut it as we ‘bought’ more land (much to mums delight). As we grew older, our passion for farming grew when we were able to move from our “Tonka” farm to outside the fence with dad.

A typical busy week on the farm can include spraying to keep fallow paddocks weed free, sowing crops, spraying for weeds in the crop with selective herbicides, spreading fertiliser, harvesting, ground preparation for cotton, irrigating cotton, planning crop rotations, animal husbandry, and general farm maintenance and mechanics.

All of us had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. This opened the doors to so many opportunities and experiences (considering the local school had about 6 students in each year), but was often seen as an inconvenience as holidays and harvest never seemed to line up completely!

A highlight of my school life happened in my final year when I was lucky enough to be selected and represent Australia in the “Australia A” Schools Rugby Union. This was an amazing opportunity that I am confident may not happened if I didn’t have the chance to attend boarding school.

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After finishing school, I had a gap year working at home before heading to university.

I made this choice to gain strong foundation hands on experience that would allow me to relate my future studies back to practices and principles that are currently used or could possibly be used on our own farm. My gap year reinforced that my future lay with farming and how much agriculture has to offer and working outside is so much better than a class room or an office.

There are so many career options available, and so many job opportunities. I am currently studying Science in agriculture and will major in agronomy – which the link between scientific research and primary producers, and am very much interested in the production side of agriculture. I want to grow it.

To assist with my university studies and access a diverse array of opportunities I applied for and was lucky enough to win a Horizon Scholarship.

My sponsor is Woolworths, and as part of the program the students spend two weeks of industry placement with their sponsor. My placement saw me spending two weeks in Woolworths head office, working with the fresh food department. It was an eye opening experience to see what happens to our produce after it leaves the farmgate and the sheer volume of food that is distributed by one of our major supermarkets as well as their commitment to quality.

Woolworths is also a major sponsor of the Australian Year of the Farmer, and I was invited to the launch of Australian Year of the Farmer last October as representative of the young farmers of our nation. This was an experience I will never forget. One which saw me meet and mix with a number of very influential and inspiring people including Andrew Forrest, the Governor General and Glenn and Sara McGrath to name just a few

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Australian Year of the Farmer launch October 2011

In particular I found the following excerpt from Quentin Bryce’s speech compelling

The Year of the Farmer purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed – to our rich rural history. In doing so, it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes in the process.

In the world of the 21st century farmer, we find people who are environmentally-aware, innovative, tertiary-educated, global, entrepreneurial and collegiate.

Primary producers today are a different breed to their parents and grandparents.

The love of the land is still deeply ingrained, but to make money – and they must be profitable to survive – they have become masters of numerous skills, and technologically adept.

They understand land and water management, laser levelling, remote sensing, GPS management, conservation agriculture, organics, biodynamics and, overall, their role in national and global food security.

Perhaps these are new labels for traditional concepts, but today’s farmers employ cutting edge technology that would baffle office workers in the cities.

Technology is powering Australia’s farming future.

I encourage all Australians to join in the celebrations next year; to take the opportunity to leave the cities, and learn how our farmers underpin our economy.

They are leaders, and we can learn much from that leadership.

The Year of the Farmer is a wonderful opportunity for all Australians to better understand, and value, the part farmers play in our health and well-being and prosperity.

Each and every day. We simply couldn’t live without them!

Another highlight of my Horizon Scholarship has been the recent opportunity to attend the 16th Australian Cotton Conference thanks to the generosity of Cotton Australia. The conference was a great opportunity to meet a large number of people in the cotton industry and hear a number of presentations from leaders in the industry on current issues and new innovative ideas for the future of the industry.

Agriculture is an easy choice for me, as it is a lifestyle as well as a job. It’s the feeling of having an office outside, and every day working with natural elements to produce food and fibre, feeding and clothing the people all around the world.

I challenge you to have a look at a career in agriculture, as the people anywhere in the agricultural industry will give you a go if they can see you’re interested in learning. It’s dynamic industry that is constantly evolving and changing trying to continue to feed and clothe the growing hungry world.

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