Farming has a reputation as been traditionalist. According to long held traditions farming is a man’s world and the men inherit the earth and the women become farmer’s wives. Well not everybody is doing what their grandfather did.
Here is a great guest post from Dee George whose family is bucking the stereotype
My name is Diana George, I am a Bachelor of Agriculture Student at UNE. I am a fourth generation farmer and my sister and I will be the first girls to inherit our property. I come from a mixed farming enterprise two hours West of Dubbo near the small town of Nevertire NSW.
On our family farm where I have lived all my life, we run Beef Cattle, Meat Sheep and dry land cropping enterprises. We have also previously been Cotton Irrigators. Agriculture is in my blood, my mother is a farmer, my father is a farmer, my older sister is a female shearer and my younger sister shows cattle and loves machinery as much as I do!
Our first cotton crop was picked in April 92, and I was born in March 92. So it’s safe to say that the obsession I now have with cotton and agriculture started from there, in dad’s arms when I was one month old. .
Dad and me in one of our cotton crops.
I basically went everywhere with dad, in a little carrier he had strapped on his chest. And when I was old enough to walk there was no way I was missing out on any syphon changes even the ones at 2am in the morning! Much to my mother’s protest. With cotton in its prime articles were being written of bumper crops all over the state. The Land Newspaper approached mum and dad about doing an article on our seasons and crops. I featured in The Land Newspaper with dad in one of our cotton crops at picking time. And still to this date I have the picture on my desk.
Did I always want to be in agriculture? No. when I was a little girl in primary school, I was going to live in the city, drive a convertible and be a dance teacher.
Agriculture was just where I came from and I didn’t realise how dearly I treasured it and needed it. But when I had to quit dancing as it was becoming too far to drive for lessons three times a week, I discovered my love for cattle and tractors. The rest just fell into place. Unlike most farm children you see I didn’t own a horse and couldn’t (and still can’t) really ride one!
When I was in year five in 2002, we picked our last cotton crops. After 8 years of drought and no water allocations we turned to dry land cropping, even sowing wheat and barley into our irrigation blocks. Often our crops wouldn’t get to harvest due to the lack of water, and we were hand feeding our sheep and cattle day in and day out. Only one year in the middle of the drought was there enough water in the irrigation scheme to allocate water to famers, we choose to plant and irrigate forage sorghum to bale into hay to sell and feed for our stock..
My love of Agriculture extended throughout high school where I studied as much Ag related subjects as possible. I attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange. Here I was a part of the Cattle team, and after much encouragement from our neighbour and stud owner Steve Chase I learnt to show cattle and joined the KWS Cattle team. My love for cattle grew even more. Showing cattle opens up so many opportunities that linked into everyday life, which may surprise you. By showing cattle with the school I was exposed to the stud industry at all levels. We showed at all our local shows and also at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This also helped me achieve numerous awards for Judging Cattle and Handlers Classes, including winning RAS NSW Reserve Champion Junior Judge. All of these experiences gave me a new sense of confidence in myself. Showing cattle enabled me to make friends and contacts for life, helped develop many life skills the main one being public speaking and also allowed me to apply for scholarships to do things I’d only dreamed of doing. I don’t show cattle as much anymore, but I am still involved by helping out with junior heifer shows as well as I am a part of the Dubbo Show Society.
Showing cattle at Blayney Show.
Even with the drought and lack of funds my parents did everything they could to ensure I had the education I needed and ensured I stayed at Kinross. It is at times like these you can see boys and girls that have grown up before their time, accepting responsibilities and helping their parents as much as possible. My little sister and I were like this, as much as mum and dad didn’t want us to worry about how tough things were at home we always did, it was always on our mind. And due to this every holidays we would come home and set to work on the farm to help dad out as much as possible. The main gesture I remember offering dad was I opted out of going to schoolies after finishing my HSC to come home and sit on a header for dad over harvest. In 2009 my HSC year, dad purchased a header of our own to ease the costs of sourcing contactors. At that time I never even thought I’d get to drive it but at the first chance dad jumped at teaching my sister and I all the bits and pieces. This didn’t just include driving it, we also learnt how to service it, because as dad says if you drive it you must know how to fix it (this included cars to!).
Me Driving our Case 2388 Header.
Many times over the years my father has been asked if he would rather boys to help instead of girls, my father’s response is simple, I wouldn’t trade my girls for the world!
As dad has always ensured that both my sister and I are capable in handling stock and driving machinery, proving to many that we can do just as much as any boys ( and as Ginger Rogers once said ‘even backwards and in high heels’)
Me sowing our Wheat.
In my year off in 2010, between school and Uni I had planned to travel or head north to work on a cattle station, but instead headed home for most of the year. Helping dad plant, spray and harvest our crops. One of my greatest achievements was being accepted to University of New England (UNE). This was also the year that the drought eased for us, giving us a year average of 704ml! ( Our rainfall yearly averages had gone from 665ml in 1998 to 346ml in 2002, and hit a low of 201ml in 2006)
I am currently at UNE in my last year of study for my Bachelor of Agriculture. During this time I have participated in many subjects which have given me a better understanding of Agriculture, how to improve aspects of our farm and have been given hundreds of opportunities to do things which I didn’t even know where available. In my 2nd year at Uni I applied for an Angus Youth Scholarship and won a trip up to the Rockhampton Beef week, to learn about northern producers and to meet with some great people. I also became involved in the annual Farming Futures Dinner and Careers Fair that UNE run, I was the dinner coordinator for two years, gaining so many contacts through this experience, which have allowed me to line up summer jobs as well as give me an insight to where I would like to go with my degree.
In my 3rd year, I applied for a MLA and Live Corp Scholarship to travel over to Freemantle to undertake a Stockman’s Accreditation Course, which enables me to work on a Live Export boat as a Stockman. To be fully accredited I have to do two practice voyages where I am assessed and then am given the ok to be fully accredited. I am hoping to get on two voyages this year. I also gained my certifications for Pregnancy Testing and Artificially Inseminating cattle. Now in my 4th and final year of study I was lucky enough to be the 2013 recipient of the Rob Seekamp Memorial Scholarship, and have also just been informed I have received an RAS Scholarship.
In my 1st year of Uni in 2011, the government’s water buy back scheme finally went through, at this point we sold our water licence as along with many other properties we were in an area which wasn’t viable to move water to. Our irrigation channels and dams were decommissioned and we can no longer grow cotton, which saddened me as it was such a big part of my childhood,
There is an upside to the decommissioning as we now have more area to put to dry land cropping than before. We are now solely dry land cropping with our sheep and beef enterprises. I enjoy just as much as I ever did heading home and helping dad with our commercial herd of Angus cattle, our small mob of Dorper sheep and the preparation, sowing, spraying of our crops, but most of all you can’t beat getting on the header during harvest especially when you have a great season.
My summer jobs have always been agriculture related and I have just come back from working on a cotton property in South West QLD. Taking me back to my love of cotton and irrigating. As well as this harvest just gone I gave the header driving a rest and worked for our local Grain Corp receiving and unloading grain trucks.
Agriculture is a part of who I am, I wouldn’t be the same without it. I don’t have a favourite industry within Agriculture I love them all, after all I am a farmer’s daughter and very proud to be part of the next generation of female farmers!