As part of our series on Young Women in Wool meet today’s guest blogger Katherine Bain
Growing up surrounded by agricultural history has instilled in me a passion to ensure agriculture, and particularly wool, is a valued industry for the future.
I am a 6th generation farmer. Old family photos and the physical remains of my ancestors’ homes have shown me how important this land has been to people, and has helped me decide I want my career to be in agriculture.
Shearing time at home is always an important time of the year, with most events and holidays being discussed as pre-shearing or post-shearing. In my early days, I would often be found shadowing dad as he filled pens up with woolly sheep, and I would then count them out freshly shorn. Living on very red soil I always thought this colour transition from red to white in the sheep quite magical. At smoko time, I would often run off and have a quick nap in the wool bins before getting back on the bike to bring in the next mob.
I’ve never been one to hang back and watch from the sidelines so whenever an opportunity presents itself I take it with two hands. I’ve always been Dad’s right-hand woman on the farm but when I was 14 I became more invested in agriculture when, after much discussion, we bought 50 Coopworth ewes and a ram and I started the St Enochs Coopworth Stud. The Coopworth is renowned for its maternal instinct and high weaning percentage (not so much its wool), which were the genetics the farm was missing at the time.
Delving into the world of sheep genetics was very new to my father and me but it opened my eyes to the wider world of agriculture. It’s not all just driving around paddocks, drenching and shearing. Since founding the stud I’ve been able to expand my knowledge of the sheep industry by attending sheep judging workshops (where I learnt what to look for in terms of sheep confirmation) and volunteering at ram sales.
It wasn’t until 2012, when I did a Rotary Exchange year to Japan, that I really began to understand the global interest in Australian wool. My time in Japan was fascinating. I found a society with similar technology to Australia, but with a strong sense of tradition and appreciation for quality. Wool clothing is a staple in their wardrobes – they wear it almost daily and value its warmth and comfort.
As a girl from an Australian sheep farm the Japanese people were excited to speak to me about wool and learn about what I did on the farm. It was a great conversation starter. I learned what our Japanese consumers value in the end-product and so came to understand the importance of ensuring our Australian products meet consumer expectation.
Since Japan I have worked hard to understand the different facets of the wool industry. I have worked with a wool brokerage firm to gain insight into how wool is traded on the global market, seen the scouring process and toured the Australian Wool Testing Authority, and completed my wool classing certificate so I can work in sheds, which I feel is a great grounding for a career in the wool industry. Heading into my second year at Marcus Oldham College I am directing my study towards a career in commodity trading with my main interest being in wool.
I am excited to be a part of the rapidly expanding and evolving wool industry. It allows me to pursue my passion, gain knowledge and share my experiences of Australian wool production on a global level.