Todays guest blog comes from Rebecca Freeman another young agribusiness professional who has made the most of all the opportunities a career in agriculture has opened for her.
“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation”
As you will seen Rebecca is also a great story teller
This is Rebecca’s story ……
I’m Bec Freeman and my agricultural background reads like a farmer driving her header blindfolded backwards without autosteer through the hilly block.
I was born into a mixed broadacre cropping and livestock family that through the years became more broadacre than livestock, moved from being a four son operation, to a husband and wife team, to a two generational partnership.
I learned to ride a motorbike at 5, drive a car at 10 and a tractor not long after. I grew up knowing in summer you itched of barley dust and rain was the best smell and sound in the world. Winter was a time of gumboots and raincoats and the sting of cold air on your cheeks as you checked the ewes or monitored the crops.
I knew everyone in town and had 24 friends at school – the whole school. Saturdays were for sport and dinner at the local pub and holidays were yearly trips to the beach. Dogs were your first work tool you owned and the last mate you had left when things got tough.
By age 14 I wanted out. Surprised? My folks weren’t. Some spirits are meant to roam free and they saw that in me and trusted that the love they had given me of farming, rural Australia and the land would guide me in the right direction, wherever that was to be.
Boarding school and three years doing a degree in Sport Science landed me still not knowing where I wanted to head and keen to swap the city for the country again. After eight years away I found myself back at home working in the local vet clinic as a vet nurse and helping out on the family farm with my Dad and brother. I had good communication skills and so helped out on the farm mostly with brokering discussions and facilitating brainstorming (or just storming) sessions. Off farm I continued to work in customer service over the years, as a barmaid, in administration and in sales.
Fast forward a decade and I’m still here in the Mid North, but wow my career in agriculture has been anything but traditional. Back then I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer long term, I am too restless and people orientated to be committed to the routine and dedication to seasons required of a grain grower. However, I loved farmers and I understood their passion. My passion wasn’t farming; it was the farmers themselves – the people behind the business. I admired all the qualities of these amazing people and I had skills that I knew, if I could just find some way to apply those skills to farmers lives whole communities would benefit.
I had an incredible opportunity to work nationally as the Executive Officer for the Future Farmers Network. This was perfect for three very simple reasons – I got to meet hundreds of young people in ag, I got to travel all over regional Australia and I could raise my three children from tiny, little Koolunga because I could work from home in the industry I loved (and still drive the odd tractor or drench the odd sheep).
It was during this time I had three encounters that shaped where I am today. The first was meeting some key people in the network. They opened my eyes to the variety in careers in agriculture. Until that point my exposure had been very traditional – farmers or service providers from banks, dealerships, chemical companies and the like. Then I discovered capacity building careers, like consultants and facilitators, job titles are a lot less defined but to me so appealing! I found out that people without agricultural backgrounds are some of the most successful people in the industry, because they think creatively about how to help the passionate people on the ground.
The second encounter was attending a grains conference and meeting people developing mobile technology for farmers. This was when I realized my true potential wasn’t in a job that was already out there waiting for me to find it. My future lay in taking my ideas for improvement, mixing them with varied experience in the industry I loved, adding the right knowledge from different sources and applying it back to my passion – farmers. I created my own job in agribusiness and haven’t looked back.
The third encounter was my experience with the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award and discovering what a difference good leadership could make in rural Australia. This award caused me to embark on a journey to develop my own natural ability, in work or as a member of a rural community, to lead others to achieve their own success. I realized that by developing myself constantly, there would always be a place for my career to develop too.
I currently live in Clare, South Australia with my three children. I am the Yorke and Mid North Regional Manager with the Department for Primary Industries and Regions, and have the goal here of developing my knowledge of all aspects of the rural sector and the relevant industries, to better lead and guide farmers in the future. I am also a Director in an agribusiness that is passionate about capacity building for the ag sector and a partner in my family farm. I know what I don’t want from my career too, which is as important as knowing what you do want.
Best of all I am still only a short drive away from my family farm and enjoy watching the sixth generation look in awe at their Grandpa as they occupy the little seat next to him in the header, like I did, and realize they are a part of feeding the world. I call them holistic farm kids because I’m teaching them about agriculture from the tractor right through to my office in a government department and every step I’ve taken on the way…so far.
“A career in agriculture isn’t mapped out in stone. It’s as diverse and changing as the different cropping systems used across the nation’
My key message to young people looking at agriculture as a career path is don’t pigeonhole yourself or the industry. If I can go from being a fifth generation farmer, to a first generation agribusiness partner, having developed an iPad app, experienced the national not-for-profit ag sector and increased my knowledge of government agency operations in the space of ten years, where could I be in another ten?
For me, the common thread in all I’ve done has been the passion I have for the people who produce food and fibre.”
Follow Rebecca on twitter @rusticbecca