“Why do farmers farm”, ………and always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. They like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.” Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
Never was this quote truer than when I asked one of our Young Farming Champions (who we will call Emily for this story) what she wanted to achieve from her school visit this week .
“I want the students to love my farm as much as I do. I want them to love wool just as much as I do”
Emily is visiting a primary school in Sydney with 300 students who are studying the wool industry for The Archibull Prize.
Emily lives on a farm whose scale I can’t even comprehend. She is sharing her story via a PowerPoint that has beautiful pictures and no words until you reach the last slide and how powerful are those words on the last slide .
(Please note I have rounded off the numbers in this story as Emily has done to make it easy for the students do the maths)
Emily’s presentation starts and ends with the same beautiful picture
Emily asks the students her name. If no-one remembers, she invites all the girls in the room whose name starts with the letter E to stand up and she asks them one by one what their name is. Then she invites all the Emily’s in the room to be her helpers. When the students go home and tell their parents Emily’s story. They will say Emily told us this and when the students make their career choices they will remember Emily’s story
Emily tells the students it takes her 10 hours to travel to Sydney. She tells them her family farm is 250,000 acres and their school would fit 125,000 times into her farm. She tells them she has 25,000 sheep on her farm and if they all took some of Emily’s sheep home to look after each student would have 95 sheep in their backyard.
Emily is part of a family of five and she tells the students that her family look after the sheep. That means each family member has 5000 sheep each to look after.
Emily tells them when she was their age there was only 6 people at her school. She was the only girl and her family made up half the school and she could play every sport that needed a team member.
There was no high school anywhere near Emily’s farm and she travelled 10 hours to boarding school in South Australia and only saw her family every three months. She now travels 10 hours to university.
It takes Emily’s family 3 hours to get to their closest supermarket. They go once a month. To ensure they can store enough food they have a cool room.
Then she shares with them a year in her family’s life and it all revolves around the sheep. She talks about the rams being with the ewes for 6 weeks and after the rams come out her favourite time of the year starts 5 months later when the lambs start being born
Around 6 weeks later they bring the lambs and the ewes to the yards where the lambs are drafted from their mums. Then each of the lambs get an ear tag because they cant tell you how old they are. So each year the lambs get a different colour. The female lambs have their tags in the opposite side the males. Emily tells them that one person puts in 25,000 ear tags. I said you must be joking Emily say no I am not.
The lambs then all go back to their mums and the next big event on the calendar is shearing. Emily explains when the first sheep came to Australia they had 1.5kg of wool on their backs and modern sheep have 8 kg. To help the students put this productivity gain into perspective one of the teachers had filled up 8 of the students water bottles and put them in a back pack so they can see how heavy 8 kg of wool is. Emily then shows them a pix of the shorn sheep coming out of the shearing shed all jumping for joy to get the wool off their backs.
Each bale of wool weighs a 195 kg and as you can see 25,000 sheep produces a lot of wool. Which then travels six hours to Melbourne to be sold
Emily then talks about the sheep’s health checks and show the students how they are sprayed ( jetted) for lice. The spray is yellow to make sure none of the sheep are missed
Emily then talks to the students about how much planning goes into looking after 25,000 sheep and 250,000 acres
She talks about the things they cant plan for, The big one being rain.
This much rain provides grass for 25000 sheep for six months. If it doesnt rain they buy corn to feed their sheep.
I couldn’t stop thinking that would be truckload after truckload of corn coming in to feed 25,000 sheep. I hate to think what that costs. I can see why Emily’s family calls rain liquid gold.
Emily tells the students it takes two days to drive around the farm to check the sheep have enough water to drink and they do that every three days. When the weather is really hot they check the troughs every day
Emily tells the students the number one rule on their farm is Never Skip a Water Run Day
Emily goes home as often as she can. As she said there are usually five family members to look after the farm but life has dealt the family a tough blow
It’s how cancer affects husbands, wives, children, mates, cousins. It’s the community who are always there for any family within it. It’s for the amazing, tough, resilient members of my community who have defeated cancer, it’s for the ones who are currently under going treatment & it’s for the ones we’ve lost to cancer.
Emily is running 10km around Uluru because
I love to run & it’s how I cope. I want to do something. I’m running to make a difference not just to myself, but spread that it’s okay to talk to people about it. I’m running for reason ✨
This is her post from Facebook
I’m not the fittest, the fastest or the smartest – but I’m pretty darn determined. I am determined to raise funds & awareness for cancer.
Determined to spread that it’s okay to have bad days & good days. That some days you’ll cope & some days you’ll break down. That’s just how it is, it’s your parents doing that 14 hour round trip. It’s not being there. It’s toughening up & getting on with it. It’s brave faces & doctors & staying strong. It’s the reality that so many rural Australians face because there’s just no other option. So I am determined to run for a reason. To run around that big red rock in the middle of the desert in the aim to get people to talk about it, so make it a dinner conversation. Make it a coffee chat, make it a phone call. Donate a dollar or 2. Spread the awareness of how difficult it really is to seek treatment – rural Australians can’t just “pop down” to the hospital for chemo or radiotherapy. It’s not a day trip. It’s not a “quick visit”. It’s being away from family, from your home. Its isolation. It’s good days & bad days – and I’m determined to make every day a good day. If my run makes two people have a chat about how they are going, if it makes someone feel that it’s okay to not be okay. If it gets someone else to know it’s not just their family, then I would’ve succeeded. I would’ve made a tiny difference. It’s how cancer affects husbands, wives, children, mates, cousins. It’s the community who are always there for any family within it. It’s for the amazing, tough, resilient members of my community who have defeated cancer, it’s for the ones who are currently under going treatment & it’s for the ones we’ve lost to cancer.
This is one very special young lady who shared her story with 300 young people from the city who i am confident now love her farm as much as she does and I guarantee they know her name