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 

6 thoughts on “Meet Bessie Blore loving the man, the land and her career in wool

  1. Thankyou for this blog post. I’m just about decided to make the move to country qld after 35 years in Melbourne. I’ve been worried I won’t be able to make a ‘real’ contribution, but now I see my teritary background and life skills will be of use, as well as a good attitude and sense of gratitude and wonder at having the chance to live in such a remote and beautiful part of the world with the one I love.

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