Meet Naomi Mulligan part of the growing numbers of young women choosing a career in the cotton industry

Today’s guest post comes from Naomi Mulligan part of the growing numbers of young women choosing a career in the cotton industry

Food is a necessity, farmers are a necessity, and it is true that every family needs a farmer.

Hi, my name is Naomi and for me, agriculture is life.

Naomi Mulligan

My journey in agriculture started the day I was born. Proud to be a third generation cotton farmer, I grew up on a cattle and cotton property west of Moree, NSW.

I spent much of my childhood visiting dad in a tractor or moving cattle around. There is a special connection between my family and the land, especially when all three generations are out irrigating the cotton together. My grandfather is a cotton farmer, as is my dad. Dad is passionate about cropping, soil health and optimum management. I have learnt a lot from him over the years and credit much of my knowledge to him.

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My Grandfather and uncle after buying the first four-row picker in Moree

Brought up on the land, I was surrounded by all things agriculture and I felt as though it was my obligation to start working in the cotton industry from a young age as a farm hand. But at 11 years old, I had to move to Brisbane for boarding school. The contrast between the planes of western NSW and the bustling high rises of Brisbane was a major change. After graduating, I was excited to be back home, irrigating the cotton. Cotton is an amazing plant and fibre, being one of the world’s most used natural fibres. Yes, we grow your clothes!

My role in agriculture is all practical work. It often involves long hours in a tractor or fixing planters and other implements. It’s not common to see a girl as young as myself driving tractors, but I love it. I began my first tractor shift work at the ripe old age of 12! Now I have the ability to do most of the crop ground preparation and achieve such things as planting this year’s 500ha of cotton.

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Tractor maintenance work

Every task comes with its challenges. Some are small and others big, such as the severe drought in last couple of months. It’s particularly difficult to plan for such circumstances and still come out on top. This year I’m working full time on a cattle and cropping property at Croppa Creek, NSW. The property grows feed for cattle including corn and sorghum, but also cotton and wheat.

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Heads of sorghum

Every season changes, depending on what we plant and the rainfall we receive. Growing both irrigated and dryland crops means that water availability is vital. This year we have both irrigated and dryland cotton planted as we we are hopeful to have a high summer rainfall.

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Me and my cousins during cotton picking season

My family also has a Piedmontese cattle stud where my main job is to feed and look after  the livestock. This involves mustering, maintaining fences, maintaining water systems and any other challenges that the cattle manage to throw at me.

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A Piedmontese Bull

This year I’m studying agriculture by correspondence while working on the farm. It is a fantastic and rewarding lifestyle. Education is important and is the key to moving forward within the industry. One of the great things about my agriculture studies is that I can still work full time, while also gaining new knowledge and skills to benefit my practical work. I believe this gives me an advantage over many of my peers who aren’t able to put their learnt skills into practice as early in their careers as me.

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One of the many challenges we face, including jumping from a window.

I would really like to lift the profile and image of agriculture, particularly among young people. There is more to agriculture than a lot of Australians realise, even in more urbanised areas.

It’s easy to see why people who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up the way I did often struggle to understand the role of agriculture in today’s society. But I believe my firsthand experience and knowledge, from growing up on the front line, gives me the ability to educate and inspire others.

Food is a necessity, farmers are a necessity, and it is true that every family needs a farmer.

Working in agriculture is full of challenges, rewards and opportunities – it is not yesterday’s industry. I am proud to be part of the younger generation inspiring everyone to appreciate agriculture!

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