Meet Sam Wan – who was destined to work with sheep and has come a long way since she met her first lamb

sam-wan-1Mill owner’s daughter. Foreign exchange student. Victim to the lamb-is-a-poodle scam. These are my favourite and most amusing cases of mistaken identity.

Hi there, I’m Samantha Wan and I’m a Technical Officer and Auctioneer for Elders Wool, based at the National Wool Selling Centre, Melbourne. I haven’t always been a passionate advocate for the wool industry and agriculture but I am where I am today because I’ve been shaped by the experiences and people met on the way.

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Sheepvention (Hamilton, 2016)

I’m a first generation Australian-born Chinese. My Mum is from Hong Kong with Macanese heritage and Dad is Chinese Malaysian. I’m the eldest of 2 and from the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, 35kms west of the Sydney CBD. Looking back, I didn’t know what lamb tasted like until I was around 10 and I have a not so fond memory of Dad putting it into a herbal Chinese soup. I’d always thought corned beef came from a can – and I only knew it in a congee (rice porridge).The closest thing I had to seeing agriculture in action was Fairfield City Farm, more a petting zoo that showed me how to milk a cow and feed chickens.

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A go at shearing (Yass, 2010)

A career in agriculture never seemed an option so I continued on my merry way expecting to be something (anything) in the Information Technology race.  That wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to Agriculture while it was being offered at school. A great teacher, keen classmates and a mixed bunch of black Corriedales opened up the world of ag shows, sheep classes and junior judging. Even though I was quietly sure this was the start of something bigger, my family weren’t sure what to make of the pieces of satin I hung so proudly and if the fun and enjoyment would ever amount to anything.

Wool broker doesn’t quite make the top three careers your Chinese child should be (see; doctor, lawyer and accountant) so it’s a good thing my parents didn’t fall too hard into stereotypes. After all, my first car would have been my grandma’s old Corolla hatchback instead of a Commodore ute and I’d say it takes a bit of willpower to let your firstborn journey off to places like Yass, Hay, Dubbo, Molong and Warren after you have only had them pointed out on a map.

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Mustering (Warren, 2009)

As was expected, I went to university. The University of Sydney for Science in Agriculture. I also did cross-institutional Wool units with The University of New England. There was more than a bit of alarm when I decided to take a break for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at Richmond TAFE. It was different to say the least and I relished the opportunity for a more hands on go at animal husbandry, including halter breaking in steers. I did eventually go back to complete my Honours with a project on “Vitamin B12 Response Trial in Merino Ewes Incorporating Iodine Supplementation Pre-lambing”.

Through my Wool units at UNE, I was accepted into a short term student research position with The Australian Wool Testing Authority in Melbourne “The Measurement of Colour on New Zealand Wool using NIR.” The industrial training gave me a huge insight into the processes and innovation associated with wool testing.

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Research in progress (AWTA)

To date, I’ve been with Elders for 4 years and 8 months. Each day has something a bit different to deal with – putting AWEX ID’s on wools from across the country, seeing the wool in the shearing shed and now as samples in boxes on the showfloor, analysing and valuing clips, lotting wools for sale, discussing markets with clients and keeping an eye on the dollar. The challenge of assisting with benchmarking events such as Ovens Valley Wether Trial, Gippsland Sheep Breeders Wether Trial and the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial through data calibration, wool valuing and AWEX-ID’ing wools also adds another dimension to the work.

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East Gippsland Field Days valuing for the Gippsland Sheep Breeders Association wether trial (2014)

Volunteering as a sheep steward while studying allowed me to network, seek out opportunities and be on the front line of hearing what judges discussed and favored. Now working in the industry, the advantages are still the same but with a stronger sense of being part of the chain.
Agriculture has allowed me to see truly stunning areas of Australia, add to my experiences and meet amazing people, most of whom I still list as my mentors today. I get to tell the best stories to bewildered aunties and uncles while my sister envies how soft lanolin makes my hands. I love how dynamic the industry is. The limitless recounts of individual perceptions, about how the industry used to be, how many generations have been farming the same land and hearing them come to life rather than just reading it from a book.  It has taught me life skills as well – ones that are second nature for some but are hard work for me. Observation, sense of direction and distance, using landmarks, logic and problem solving all can be tied into more than just a few stories of my own!

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Shearing calls (Omeo, 2014)

The teachers and mentors in my life didn’t just give a suburban kid a glimpse of a world outside the city. They enriched my life. From them I drew direction into an incredibly rewarding, constantly evolving industry. If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them.

Note from the Editor

Its is obvious Sam Wan was born to tell stories and we all know how powerful stories can be. They can make you fall in love, they can be an antidote to bias, they can heal rifts, they can be an antidote for bias and a catalyst for change.

Sam didn’t include this adorable little pix  in her blog post but I spotted it on Facebook and just had to share it

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